Re: Prologue - A Letter To Thoreau
A little about Thoreau...
Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in the village of Concord, Massachusetts. Under the influence of his brother John, an amateur ornithologist, he developed an early interest in nature and spent much of his youth exploring the town's ponds and woods.
Thoreau began his formal education at Concord Academy and continued his studies at Harvard College, which emphasized the classics. An avid reader and notetaker, Thoreau was interested in subjects as diverse as Greek mythology and English ballads.
While Thoreau attended Harvard, Ralph Waldo Emerson moved to Concord to begin his career as a writer and lecturer. Thoreau admired Emerson's 1836 essay, "Nature," which advanced the then-unique idea that each individual should seek a spiritually fulfilling relationship with the natural world.
After graduating from Harvard in 1837, Thoreau returned to Concord, where he taught school, improved and expanded his family's pencilmaking business, and engaged in carpentry, stonemasonry and gardening. He began his lifelong friendship and association with Emerson, who introduced him to other writers and nonconformist thinkers who were making Concord the center of new ideas. Among them were Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Emerson, who valued Thoreau's practical talents and companionship, invited him to live in the Emerson household. Grief brought them closer together. The Emersons' first son died just two weeks after the death of Thoreau's beloved older brother. Three years later Thoreau, still suffering from this loss, wanted to live in the woods and embark on a career as a writer. When Emerson offered him the use of a newly purchased woodlot at Walden Pond, Thoreau gladly accepted.
Walden Pond was surrounded by one of the few remaining woodlands in a heavily farmed area. In March of 1845, Thoreau began planning and building his one-room house. On July 4 of that year, he took up residence at Walden. He studied natural history, gardened, wrote in his journal, read, and drafted his first book, A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, about an 1839 trip with his brother. He also made the first accurate survey of the pond. By no means a hermit, he frequently walked to the village, entertained visitors at his house, and hired himself out as a surveyor.
In September of 1847, Thoreau completed his experiment in simplicity and became "a sojourner in civilized life again." Walden, the book that describes his experiences at the pond, was published in 1854.
Thoreau and Emerson agreed that the vacant house should not remain on the site. Thoreau gave the house to Emerson, who sold it to his gardener. Two years later two farmers bought it and moved it to the other side of Concord, where they used it to store grain. In 1868, they dismantled it for scrap lumber and put the roof on an outbuilding.
After his Walden experience, Thoreau plied his skills as a surveyor and pencilmaker to earn what little money he needed for the things that he could not "grow or make or do without." He spent his free time walking, studying and writing. He also lectured at the Concord Lyceum and elsewhere in New England, and once traveled as far as Philadelphia.
Thoreau became increasingly involved with the social and political issues of his time. He often spoke out against economic injustice and slavery. With other members of his family, Thoreau helped runaway slaves escape to freedom in Canada. His 1849 essay, "Civil Disobedience," eventually brought him international recognition.
On May 6, 1862, at the age of 44, the "self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms" died after a prolonged struggle with tuberculosis. He is buried on Authors' Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandella