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Henry David Thoreau

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A man of many talents, Henry David Thoreau marked his name in history as a writer, poet, essayist, philosopher as well as a naturalist. His extremely diverse writings offer an in depth view into a variety of subjects including Economy, Reading, Winter Animals, and Solitude to name some specifically.

Born on 12 July 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau was the son of John Thoreau, a pencil maker. For most of his life, Thoreau stayed in Concord but travelled to other states including New York and Maine. These travels inspired some of his works such as The Maine Woods (1864). His trip to Canada became an inspiration for An Excursion to Canada (1853). As a child, Thoreau was very close to his older brother who taught at schools to pay for Thoreau’s tuition fees at Harvard. In 1837, Thoreau graduated from the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he undertook a scheme of study in classics, Latin, Greek, grammar, composition, science, English, history, philosophy and mathematics. His years at Harvard exposed Thoreau to the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who later became a close friend and mentor to Thoreau. Upon graduation, Thoreau spent some time working as a school teacher and tutor. However, by 1839, Thoreau realized he should build a career in writing and specifically poetry on nature.

From 1841 to 1843, Thoreau lived in the Emerson household where he worked closely with Ralph Waldo Emerson assisting him to edit and contribute poetry and prose to a magazine entitled, The Dial. In 1845, Thoreau moved to a house he built himself in a forest around the shores of Walden Pond. The purpose of this shift was to concentrate on establishing himself as a mature writer. Thoreau spent two years at Walden Pond spending a lot of his time to an excessive amount of reading, writing and strolling in nature.

Some of Thoreau’s noteworthy writings include A Natural History of Massachusetts (1842), Sir Walter Raleigh (1843), and Thomas Carlyle and His Works (1847), Civil Disobedience (1849), Walden, Or Life in the Woods (1854) and A Yankee in Canada.

Pursuing his interest in nature, Thoreau became a land surveyor in 1850s. The job required him to take long walks which allowed him to engross himself in the natural surroundings and collect both information and ideas for his writing projects. Thoreau wrote excessively. He maintained diaries and journals in which he wrote detailed accounts of his travels. Some interesting examples of these accounts are A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849), a description of a trip he took with his brother. In 1861, Thoreau wrote Walking which was followed by Cape Cod (1865), an account of a trip he took to the town to study its people, flora and fauna. Thoreau’s literary career produced a great deal of work ranging upon countless essays, anecdotes and poems.

Although Thoreau was never able to make a substantial living out of writing, his works have been found to fill more than 20 volumes. On May 6, 1862, Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis at the age of 44. His body rests in a family plot of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

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