Henry David Thoreau

Topics: Henry David Thoreau, Concord, Massachusetts, Ralph Waldo Emerson Pages: 13 (4415 words) Published: October 2, 2010
Henry David Thoreau


Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian , philosopher andtranscendentalist. Henry David Thoreau was a complex man of many talents who worked hard to shape his craft and his life. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay, Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state. Henry's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. His literary style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore; while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity.He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time imploring one to abandon waste and illusion in order to discover life's true essential needs.[1] He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending abolitionist John Brown. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau is sometimes cited as an individualist anarchist.[2

Thoreau's stance was always much less extreme than many of his individual, sometimes inconsistent statements suggest. Theoretically he believed that that government was best that governed least and that the ideal was no government, yet in practice he wanted the state to foster culture and education, build good roads, prevent crime, and protect wildlife. He was a pioneer ecologist and conservationist, one of the first Americans to perceive that the country's resources are not inexhaustible. Mistrustful of institutionalism, Thoreau disliked churches and ignored most aspects of Christian theology, but he believed that "man flows at once to God when his channel of purity is open." He was a "panentheist," believing that though the entire universe exists in God, God transcends the universe and possesses consciousness and benevolence.

In appearance he was homely, with a nose that he called "my most prominent feature of his face.Thoreau was ugly , long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty .Thoreau wore a neck-beard for many years which he insisted many women found attractive.

Early life and education

He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, to John Thoreau (a pencil maker) and Cynthia Dunbar.David Henry was named after his deceased paternal uncle. He had two older siblings, Helen and John Jr., and a younger sister, Sophia.[10] Henry grew up very close to his older brother John, who taught school to help pay for Henry's tuition at Harvard.Thoreau's birthplace still exists on Virginia Road in Concord and is currently the focus of preservation efforts. The house is original, but it now stands about 100 yards away from its first site. Uncle and Thoreau's aunt each wrote that "Thoreau" is pronounced like the word "thorough", whose standard American pronunciation rhymes with "furrow". Thoreau studied at Harvard University between 1833 and 1837. He took courses in rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science. The traditional professions open to college graduates—law, the church, business, medicine—failed to interest Thoreau,[18]:25 so in 1835 he...
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