The greatest writer of American history, Henry David Thoreau! The highlights of his life, views, quotes, and writings!

Facts of Henry David Thoreau

Full Name: Henry David Thoreau
Age: 206 years 2 months
Birth Date: July 12,1817
Horoscope: Cancer
Lucky Number: 2
Lucky Stone: Moonstone
Lucky Color: Silver
Best Match for Marriage: Taurus, Pisces, Scorpio
Death Date: May 06,1862
Birth Place: Concord, Massachusetts, United States
Father's Name: John Thoreau
Mother's Name: Synthia Thoreau
Marital Status: Not Known
Gender: male
Profession: essayist, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, and historian.
Education: Concord Academy, Harvard University, Harvard College
Height / How tall? : 5 feet 6 inches (1.70m)
Nationality: American
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Quotes: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
All good things are wild and free.
It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.
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Henry David Thoreau was one of the greatest intellectuals of the 19th century. He was an essayist, poet, philosopher, naturalist who was also a tax resister and against slavery. He was also a critic of development and could be considered a historian as well as a land surveyor.

Henry was also a leading transcendentalist who penned the famous book ‘Walden’ which talks about simple living in natural surroundings. His essay called Civil Disobedience is an argument and justification for disobedience to an unjust state.

Source: NYPL (Henry David Thoreau)

Henry was born on 12 July 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts. One of America’s most famous writers, Henry was raised in the same place as his birth. He had two older siblings; John and Helen and a younger sister Sophia. Her father had a local pencil factory while his mother used to try to boost the family’s income by renting out part of their house to boarders.

The school was easy for Henry as he was a bright student. He joined Harvard College and studied Greek, Latin, and German. He completed his college graduation in 1837. During his time, it was a norm that most of the intellectuals would join law or medicine or do education. Henry took the latter course and with his brother, John opened a school in 1838. Few years down the lane, John took ill and this project failed. Henry then worked at his father’s pencil factory for some time.

Henry David Thoreau Writings

His meeting writer Ralph Waldo Emerson was fruitful giving him exposure to the beliefs of Transcendentalism-which believes in empirical thinking and emphasizes the spiritual world. In the 1840s, he commenced writing nature poetry. In 1845, he began his famous 2-years-2 months-2 days stay at Walden Pond which led to his masterwork Walden which was published in 1854.

Source: Birchbox (Henry David Thoreau and His Walden Pond House)

Henry strongly supported Civil Disobedience and was a staunch abolitionist. He refused to pay the poll tax and was jailed for 1 day and released when his aunt paid the sum, much against his wishes.

This incident had a strong impact on his mind and he began his series of lectures on “The Rights and Duties of the Individual about Government”, which were well-attended and praised. He wrote an essay on a similar topic termed ‘Resistance to Civil Government’ which was published in the Aesthetic Papers in May 1849.

Source: YouTube (His treatise on Civil Disobedience)

This has served as an inspiration to several world leaders and its non-violent approach to political and social resistance has influenced American civil rights movement activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, who helped India win independence from Great Britain, and others.

In 1846, he took a short trip out of Walden Pond to Mount Katahdin in Maine which was later chronicled in The Maine Woods. It is now considered a literary masterpiece. In 1848, he moved out of Walden Pond. In 1850, he traveled from Boston to Montreal to Quebec City. Henry also opposed slavery and the Mexican-American War. He wanted people to realize that one has to act on one’s conscience and not blindly follow laws and government policy. He aptly wrote:

“The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right,”

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Henry David Thoreau later works

Since 1851, he was drawn to travel and expedition. He incorporated his studies of Botany into his writings. He turned a land surveyor and wrote extensively and in detail about the natural history of his town. He talked about the death of various species of plants. His later works showed his supremacy in terms of analysis and philosophy.

Source: JSTOR Daily (Thoreau)

His essay “The Succession of Forest Trees” revealed his vast thinking and understanding of natural science wherein he used experiments and analysis to explain how forests regenerate after fire or human destruction, through the dispersal of seeds by winds or animals. His extensive travels were documented in his later works. Thee also included cultures and natural history of the lands he visited.

Henry’s key speech A Plea for Captain John Brown aided to revive the abolitionist movement and restarted praises for John Brown whom people had relinquished before. It also played a major role in the American Civil War movement.

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Henry David Thoreau relationships

Henry had never married nor was he in any relationships with any female. This continued until his death. Over the years, various theories have been made regarding his sexuality with some putting it as heterosexual, some as homosexual, and others as asexual. He had no children. He had tried to always portray himself as an ascetic puritan.

Source: Dr. Alvin (Thoreau’s quotes)

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Henry David Thoreau death

In 1835, Henry contracted tuberculosis which troubled him intermittently. In 1860, he fell ill with bronchitis. There was no complete improvement and he became bedridden. He did some writing in his last few days and his friends were astonished and admired his tranquil acceptance of death.

Source: Motivation Mentalist (Thoreau)

His answer to his aunt’s question as to whether he had made peace with God, Henry answered:

“I did not know we had ever quarreled.”

He died on 6 May 1862 at the mere age of 44.

Henry David Thoreau famous quotes

  1. It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
  2. Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me the truth.
  3. All good things are wild and free.

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