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Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862; born David Henry Thoreau) was an American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, pacifist, tax resister and philosopher who is famous for Walden, on simple living amongst nature, and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, on resistance to civil government and many other articles and essays. A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
I am sorry to think that you do not get a man's most effective criticism until you provoke him. I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.
I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business. I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer.
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.
If I seem to boast more than is becoming, my excuse is that I brag for humanity rather than for myself.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours. If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.
It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes. It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart; it being much more sensitive. Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.
Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes. Only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him. Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. Our moments of inspiration are not lost though we have no particular poem to show for them; for those experiences have left an indelible impression, and we are ever and anon reminded of them. Politics is the gizzard of society, full of grit and gravel, and the two political parties are its opposite halves - sometimes split into quarters - which grind on each other. Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence. The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius, whether of man or Nature. The Brahmins say that in their books there are many predictions of times in which it will rain. The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. The fibers of all things have their tension and are strained like the strings of an instrument. The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time. The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.
The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.
There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living. There is no rule more invariable than that we are paid for our suspicions by finding what we suspect. There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.
To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any other exercise which the customs of the day esteem. Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.
Visit the Navy-Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts - a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniments. We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn. We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success. What is human warfare but just this; an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party. What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. What you get by achieving your goals is to as important as what you become by achieving your goals.
1817 Henry David Thoreau (christened David Henry) is born on July 12 in Concord, Massachusetts, to John and Cynthia (Dunbar) Thoreau. 1821 Envisioning a planned industrial community for efficient textile manufacture, entrepreneurs establish Lowell, Massachusetts, on the Merrimack River. 1823 After attending a private preschool and then public school, Thoreau attends the newly founded Concord Academy and prepares for college. 1826 Foundation of the Massachusetts General Colored Association, advocating immediate emancipation and racial equality.
1831, January: In Boston, first issue of William Lloyd Garrison's weekly antislavery paper The Liberator. 1833 Despite "barely getting in" to Harvard College, Thoreau maintains above-average grades, continues classical literature, and studies French, Italian, and German, as well as math, geology, zoology, botany, and natural and intellectual philosophy. 1837 He meets Emerson, who becomes his mentor and friend: "'What are you doing now?' he asked. 1837 Thoreau accepts a teaching position at Concord's public school but, unwilling to administer routine corporal punishments, he resigns after two weeks. 1837 Thoreau's mother and sisters are among the founding members of the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society.
1839 Henry and his brother John take a boating trip on the Concord and Merrimack rivers -- the source of Thoreau's first book -- and both court 17-year-old Ellen Sewall.
1839 Educator Horace Mann establishes the first public teacher-training facility in Lexington, Massachusetts. 1839 Lowell, Mass., with its enormous complex of mills, has become New England's second largest city and the industrial center of America. 1841 Brook Farm is established west of Boston "to combine the thinker and the worker in the same individual." The utopian community, which Thoreau visits once but never joins, will last until 1847. 1842 The Thoreau brothers close their school due to John's poor health; Henry moves into Emerson's home as protege and resident handyman. 1843 The sudden death of brother John from lockjaw is a traumatic experience for Henry, who succumbs to a psychosomatic or "sympathetic" lockjaw even though he is not infected.
1844 Thoreau assists in his father's pencil factory, where he makes profitable improvements in the manufacturing processes. 1844 On a midsummer excursion to northwestern Massachusetts, Thoreau climbs Mount Saddleback (Greylock) and hikes into the Catskills.
1844 Slicing through Walden Woods, a new railway runs four trains a day from Boston to Concord, making the town a suburb. 1845 He begins to write journal entries destined for some literary work based on his life at Walden. 1846 While living at Walden, Thoreau drafts A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers as a memorial to his brother. 1846, June: Thoreau spends one night in jail for refusing to support slavery by paying the poll tax: "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? 1846, August: The Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society holds its annual fair and rally in a grove at Walden Pond. 1847, Autumn: After two years, two months, and two days, Thoreau abandons the house at the pond, accepting an offer to live with the Emerson household while Ralph Waldo lectures in Europe. 1848 Emerson returns from Europe; advises Thoreau to risk underwriting the publication of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, himself. 1849 "Resistance to Civil Government" (later known as "Civil Disobedience") is published by Elizabeth Palmer Peabody in the first and only issue of Aesthetic Papers. 1849 Thoreau begins to mark a lightly revised Walden for printing, expecting publication soon. 1849 Thoreau adopts a more intense, professional approach to nature study, beginning to sketch out a life's work in this field. 1849 Gold, discovered in California, triggers a massive westward rush: "That so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society! 1850 Thoreau works frequently as a surveyor; visits Canada (Quebec), reads natural history of Alexander von Humboldt. The bulk of Thoreau's writing -- more systematic, more detailed observations -- is now done in the Journal, which Thoreau shapes into a distinctive vehicle for multiple purposes, composing long entries from notes gathered during walks. 1850 Thoreau increases his gathering of scientific and technical data during walks in the woods; he begins to read Darwin. 1852 Publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly, a best-seller that crystallizes wide public sentiment against slavery (but is criticized by Garrison in The Liberator).

By developing the cycle of the seasons into the book's primary structure, Thoreau transforms Walden into the story of his quest, passing through various changes marked by the progress of the seasons and advancing towards self-knowledge.
1854 The Fugitive Slave Law is reaffirmed in Boston with the the arrest, trial, and rendition of Virginia refugee Anthony Burns, amid widespread protests. 1855 First Cape Cod essays published in Putnam's Monthly; Thoreau takes a second trip to Cape Cod. 1859 Publication of Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, a strong influence upon Thoreau's nature studies. 1860, September: Thoreau reads his lecture "The Succession of Forest Trees," his major contribution to science, in Concord. 1860, December: Thoreau aggravates a severe cold while counting tree rings in Walden Woods, the onset of his fatal illness. 1860 Thoreau's research notes on American Indians reach eleven volumes; declining health forces him to suspend plans for a book.
1861 As his tuberculosis deepens into consumption, Thoreau visits Minnesota in search of drier climate. 1862, May 9: Thoreau is laid to rest in the New Burying Ground, his casket covered with wildflowers. He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending the abolitionist John Brown.
For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. Moreover I have tried it fairly and, strange as it may seem, am satisfied that it does not agree with my constitution. They are the only oracles which are not decayed, and there are such answers to the most modern inquiry in them as Delphi and Dodona never gave.
We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. Soon the ice will melt, and the blackbirds sing along the river which he frequented, as pleasantly as ever. I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object.
It will gain slow acceptance, replacing "natural historian" or "natural philosopher" only after Thoreau's death.
Henry's family's precarious finances will stabilize only with the success of John Thoreau Senior's pencil-manufacturing business. Their private school, featuring nature walks and reasoned discussion instead of rote learning and corporal punishment, is a success.
He has no luck with New York publishers, but newspaper editor Horace Greeley offers help and the two become friends. In April, he and a friend accidentally start a fire in Walden Woods that consumes 300 acres.
Immigrants begin trickling to America, including the Irish railroad workers, serving-girls and shanty-dwellers Thoreau meets around Concord and will depict in Walden and his Journal.
Here, Thoreau will bond with the Emerson children and experience an intense platonic affection for Lidian (Mrs.
He begins an intermittent career as a professional lecturer, enjoying a small wave of celebrity. This early version of Walden, driven by Thoreau's satirical criticism of contemporary values and false reforms, still lacks many nature passages now considered central. Virginia refugee Shadrach Minkins, arrested in Boston, is spirited into safety by African American activists led by Lewis Hayden with the support of an antislavery crowd. Hayden leads an attempted rescue of arrested fugitive Thomas Sims, but pro-government forces are too vigilant this time. He develops Walden with less insistence on outward social reform and on displaying his alternative life style as a counterexample, and more as a personal journey involving uncertainty and discovery.
With less editorializing in the new sections, he writes less explicitly about himself, relying more on the perfect correspondence between man and nature to give his descriptions human significance.
He publishes the first parts of A Yankee in Canada, as well as pre-publication excerpts from Walden, in Putnam's Monthly. Thoreau notes only two words about it in his Journal, yet is seen walking through the town "in a tremble of great expectation, looking like the undoubted King of all American lions" (Emerson). Supreme Court finds against Missouri slave Dred Scott and declares citizenship impossible for African Americans, a decision sharply denounced in Northern antislavery groups. 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. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. The same everlasting serenity will appear in this face of God, and we will not be sorrowful, if he is not. So you can not get out of all the books that contain the best precepts the smallest good deed. He reads Coleridge on using natural history to discover laws of creation, learns taxonomy, and buys botanical and zoological reference books. Hayden conceals Minkins and brings him to an Underground Railroad safe house in Concord, en route to freedom in Canada. The top floor of the family's new house in Concord will become Henry's combination bedroom, study, and museum for specimens.

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