Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist. 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.

Thoreau'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, and "Yankee" love of practical detail. 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 he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life's true essential needs.

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 later influenced the political thoughts and actions of such notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thoreau is sometimes cited as an anarchist, and though Civil Disobedience seems to call for improving rather than abolishing government—"I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government"—the direction of this improvement points toward anarchism: "'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." Richard Drinnon partly blames Thoreau for the ambiguity, noting that Thoreau's "sly satire, his liking for wide margins for his writing, and his fondness for paradox provided ammunition for widely divergent interpretations of 'Civil Disobedience.'"

Read more about Henry David ThoreauEarly Life and Education, Return To Concord: 1836–1842, Civil Disobedience and The Walden Years: 1845–1849, Later Years: 1851–1862, Death, Personal Beliefs, Social and Political Influence, Contemporary Critics, Works

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Famous quotes by henry david thoreau:

    We have advanced by leaps to the Pacific, and left many a lesser Oregon and California unexplored behind us.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    Who shall describe the inexpressable tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be midwinter, is ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    The inhabitants of St. John’s and vicinity are described by an English traveler as ‘singularly unprepossessing,’ and before completing his period he adds, ‘besides, they are generally very much disaffected to the British crown.’ I suspect that that ‘besides’ should have been a ‘because.’
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    New York has her wilderness within her own borders; and though the sailors of Europe are familiar with the soundings of her Hudson, and Fulton long since invented the steamboat on its waters, an Indian is still necessary to guide her scientific men to its headwaters in the Adirondack country.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)