Henry David Thoreau Biography: Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts to a “modest New England family” of David Henry Thoreau, John Thoreau, a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar.
Henry David Thoreau Biography
Henry David Thoreau grandfather was born on the Crown Dependency Island of Jersey in the UK. His grandfather, Asa Dunbar, led Harvard’s 1766 student “Butter Rebellion”, the first recorded student protest in the American colonies. Henry David Thoreau was named after David Thoreau, the uncle of the recently deceased.
After finishing college, Henry David Thoreau began to call himself Henry David. Henry David Thoreau never filed a petition to change the legal name. Henry David Thoreau had two older siblings, Helen and John Jr., and a younger sister, Sophia.
Henry David Thoreau Early Life
Thoreau’s birthplace still exists on Virginia Road in Concord. The house has been restored by the Thoreau Farm Trust, a non-profit organization, and is now open to the public.
Henry David Thoreau studied at Harvard College between 1833 and 1837. He lived in Hollis Hall and took courses in politics, classics, philosophy, mathematics and science. Henry David Thoreau was a member of the 1770 Sansthan (now Hasti Pudding Club).
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According to legend, Thoreau refused to pay a fee of five dollars (equivalent to about $123 in 2017) for a Harvard diploma. A promising student, Thoreau eventually went to Harvard College (now Harvard University). There he studied Greek and Latin as well as German.
According to some reports, Thoreau had to take a break from his schooling due to illness. Henry David Thoreau graduated from college in 1837 and struggled what to do next. At that time, educated individuals like Thoreau could pursue careers in law or medicine or the church. Other graduates went on to college, a path they briefly followed. With his brother John, he founded a school in 1838. The enterprise collapsed a few years after John became ill. Thoreau then briefly went to his father’s work.
After college, Thoreau befriended author and fellow Concord resident Ralph Waldo Emerson. Through Emerson, he came into contact with Transcendentalism, a school of thought that emphasized the importance of empirical thinking and spiritual matters over the physical world. It encouraged scientific inquiry and observation. Thoreau knew many prominent figures of the movement, including Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller.
In the early 1840s, Thoreau formally took up the profession of poet. Under Emerson’s leadership, the Transcendentalists started a magazine called Dial. The early July 1840 issue included Thoreau’s poem “Sympathy” and his essay on the Roman poet Aulus Pers Flexus. Dial published further poems by Thoreau, then in July 1842, the first of his external essays, “The Natural History of Massachusetts”, although disguised as book reviews, reflected the nature of the distinction made by the author. ,
This was followed by more songs and good songs, such as “To the Maiden in the East” and another nature essay, remarkably cordial, “A Winter Walk.” Dial ceased publication with the April 1844 issue, which published a richer variety of Thoreau’s writings than any other journal.
Friendship with Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson settled in Concord during Henry David Thoreau‘s sophomore year at Harvard, and became friends by the autumn of 1837. Emerson felt a true disciple in Thoreau—that is, one with such self-sufficiency of Emerson that he would still be a man of his own.
Emerson attracted others to Concorde with his magnetism. Among his major speculations and positives came New England Transcendentalism. Looking back, it was one of the most important literary movements in 19th-century America, thanks to at least two world-class writers, Thoreau and Emerson. Essentially, it combined romanticism with improvisation. It celebrated the individual instead of the masses, emotion instead of reason, nature instead of man.
Transcendentalism recognized that there are two modes of knowledge, through the senses and through intuition, but held that intuition goes beyond teaching. Similarly, the movement held that both matter and spirit exist. However, it claimed that the reality of the soul is beyond the reality of matter. Transcendentalism strove for reform, yet insisted that reform begins with the individual, not the group or organization.
Henry David Thoreau Career
Thoreau’s hopes of becoming a poet with Emerson were not only reasonable, but also feasible. In late 1837, at Emerson’s suggestion, Henry David Thoreau began keeping a journal, consisting of thousands of pages, before scrutinizing the last entry two months before his death.
Henry David Thoreau soon refined some of his old college essays as well as composed new and improved essays. He wrote some poems for many years—very good indeed. A canoe trip he and his brother John took in 1839 along the Concord and Merrimack rivers confirmed his opinion that he should be a poet of nature, not a schoolmaster.
As the 1840s began, Henry David Thoreau formally took up the profession of a poet. Under Emerson’s leadership, the Transcendentalists started a magazine, The Dial.
In its inaugural issue of July 1840, Thoreau’s poem “Sympathy” and his essay on the Roman poet Aulus Perseus Flaccus were published.
Dial published more of Thoreau’s poems and then, in July 1842, his first external essay, “The Natural History of Massachusetts.” Although disguised as a book review, it appeared to indicate that a specific nature author was in the process of becoming.
More songs followed, and best songs, such as “To the Maiden in the East,” and another nature essay, notably awarded, “A Winter Walk.” Dial ceased publication with the April 1844 issue, publishing a richer variety of Thoreau’s writings than any other magazine.
In 1840 Henry David Thoreau fell in love and proposed marriage to Alain Sewall, a charming visitor to Concord. Henry David Thoreau accepted her offer but then immediately called off the engagement on the insistence of his parents.
Henry David Thoreau remained a bachelor for the rest of his life. During two periods, 1841–43 and 1847–48, he lived mostly in Emerson’s house. Despite Emerson’s hospitality and friendliness, Thoreau became restless; His condition was exacerbated by grief over the death of his brother John, who died in January 1842 from tetanus after his finger was amputated.
Later that year Thoreau became a teacher at the Staten Island home of Emerson’s brother William, while trying to cultivate the New York literary market. However, Thoreau’s literary pursuits remained indifferent and attempts to conquer New York failed. Confirming his distaste for city life and frustrated by his lack of success, he returned to Concord in late 1843.
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