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Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Essayist, poet, and naturalist, was born in Concord, Massachusetts. His father, from Jersey, was a manufacturer of lead-pencils. He was educated at Harvard, where he became a skilled scholar. Subsequently he became a competent Orientalist, and developed a deep interest in the history and manners of the Red Indians. Careless of any kind of regular job, he spent 10 years after leaving College reading books and contemplating nature. Though not a misanthropist, he basically appears to have preferred solitary communion with nature to human society. “The man I meet” he said, “is seldom so instructive as the silence which he breaks;” and he described himself as “a mystic, a transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher.” He earned a living by building boats or fences, agricultural or garden work, and surveying, anything close to a wild character that didn't feel like taking up conventional engagements. In 1837 he began his diaries, records of observation and a lot of other writings that have been collected in 10 volumes. In 1845, he published A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers, based on an excursion made in 1839. Two years later, in 1841, Thoreau moved to the household of Emerson, where he stayed for two years, and in 1845, after some teaching in New York, he retired to a hut near the solitary Walden Pond to write his Week on the Concord, etc. Later works were Walden (1854),The Maine Woods (1864) and Cape Cod (1865), accounts of excursions and various observations, both published after his death. Thoreau was an enthusiastic of the anti-slavery cause, the triumph of which, however, he couldn't celebrate, as he died on May 6, 1862. The deliberate aim of Thoreau was to live a life as nearly approaching naturalness as possible; and, consequently, he loved spending time in complete solitude, in the open air. As he says, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” Two of the most peculiar aspects of his writings are immediateness and individuality in his descriptions of nature, along with a remarkable skill at providing the purest and most evanescent mental impressions with formal coherence.
From Biographical Dictionary of English Literature - the Everyman Edition of 1910


- Thoreau at Northern Illinois University (U.S.A.)
- The Walden Society

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