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Henry David Thoreau

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Interior: Walden Pond

Henry David Thoreau Concisus Genus

Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist and historian, best known for his social protest essay “Civil Disobedience,” his experiment living close to nature documented in “Walden,” and his 14-volume Journal. Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817. Unlike most leading writers of his time, he came from a family that was neither wealthy nor distinguished. His father made pencils and mother took in boarders. Thoreau graduated from Harvard College in 1837. He soon met fellow Concord native Ralph Waldo Emerson, who encouraged him to write, gave him useful criticism, and employed him as a gardener and handyman. Emerson also taught Thoreau the philosophy of transcendentalism. Thoreau’s belief in passive resistance influenced such reformers as Leo Tolstoy, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law and defending John Brown. Thoreau appealed to people to simplify their lives, and elevated Mother Nature into a deity. He marched to the sound of his own drum, as he said in one of his most enduring aphorisms. Thoreau died of consumption in 1862, at the age of 44. His eulogy was written by Emerson, who said that “his soul was made for the noblest society.” Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. All of his works are still in print.