Growing up in the countryside, Henry would have come to know every bug, bird, berry, and beast, every fruit and flower. Would they had been better told, or better remembered! For my memory is as poor as was her talk perennial.
He was always a thoughtful, serious boy, in advance of his years, — wishing to have and do things his own way, and ever fond of wood and field; honest, pure, and good; a treasure to his parents, and a fine example for less happily constituted younglings to follow. Thus Mr. Thoreau had a knack for mechanics and construction. According to Channing, when sudden rain storms would threaten his walks in the woods, Thoreau could build a makeshift shelter in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a knife.
In addition to boats, Thoreau also made pencils, built fences, finished barns and built bookcases.
Henry David Thoreau Biography
After finishing his final year at Concord Academy in , Thoreau reluctantly began to prepare to go to Harvard University. Although his father suggested he become an apprentice to a carpenter or cabinet-maker, his mother insisted that he get the best education he could. He took the entrance exams that summer and barely passed.
This was more than his parents could afford so his entire family, including his siblings and two aunts, pitched in to help. While at Harvard, Thoreau studied multiple languages and sat in on lectures on German literature by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At the time, Harvard allowed students to take 13 weeks off from school in order to teach and earn money for tuition.
In May of , Thoreau became ill with what historians now believe was his first bout of tuberculosis.
Henry David Thoreau (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
He spent the summer building a new boat, which he named Red Jacket, and took a trip to New York with his father to sell their pencils to local stores. Thoreau returned to college in the fall but was frequently plagued by illness. He made it through his senior year and graduated with a bachelor of arts on August 30, After graduating, Thoreau returned to Concord and took a job as a teacher at the public grammar school he attended as a child.
The job only lasted two weeks though because he refused to use corporal punishment to control the children in his class. After being pressured to punish some of the more unruly children, he did so and then promptly quit his job that evening. Thoreau tried to find work in other schools but an economic depression had begun in the U.
Some sources say Thoreau first met Emerson in February of at Harvard where Emerson was giving a lecture, but the two were not close friends yet. In the fall of , Thoreau became more casually acquainted with Emerson, whose book, Nature, Thoreau had read at Harvard and greatly admired.
Henry D. Thoreau Biography
This casual acquaintance would soon develop into a close friendship, according to the book Henry David Thoreau: A Biography:. It was to Emerson that Thoreau looked for guidance. They shared books and the ideas opening out from them. It was in October of that Emerson suggested to Thoreau that he keep a journal. He continued writing in his journal for the rest of his life, writing over two million words that eventually filled up about 14 volumes. These journals were later published after his death. In the fall of , Thoreau opened his own private school with his brother John.
It was first held in their own home but then moved to the deserted building of the Concord Academy. It was a coeducational school made up of local students as well as children from out of town who boarded with the Thoreau family. One of its many students was a young Louisa May Alcott who began attending the school in when she first moved to Concord with her family.
Henry taught language and sciences while his brother John taught English and math. The Thoreau brothers took their students on frequent field trips to the local fields, woods and ponds as well as to the local businesses, such as the newspaper office and the gunsmith, to learn how they operated. The school earned such a great reputation that there was soon a waiting list to enroll. The two slept on buffalo skins in a cotton tent, hiked in the woods and climbed Mount Washington.
The trip made such an impact on Thoreau that it became the basis of his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, which he published in That summer, the Thoreau brothers also met a young woman named Ellen Sewall, whom they both fell in love with, according to the book Henry David Thoreau: A Biography:. He lost his heart to Ellen Sewall, the sister of his pupil Edmund Sewall. In July , when Ellen was seventeen and Thoreau twenty-three, she visited Concord, staying with the Thoreau family for two weeks. Both Henry and John were charmed by the beautiful girl. She went walking and boating with the brothers, and by the time she left, they were both in love with her.
The following year, in November of , they both proposed to her, first John and then Henry. Henry then proposed and, upon conferring with her father, a minister who disapproved of both Thoreau brothers as a suitable match, she informed Henry that she could not marry him. A few years later, Sewall married a young minister named Joseph Osgood. Various sources say that both Ellen and Henry still had feelings for each other for the rest of their lives. Thoreau soon began to publish his writing more and more around this time.
Henry David Thoreau was invited to live with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family at their house where Thoreau did odd jobs in exchange for room and board. On New Years day in , John Thoreau cut his finger while shaving and soon became sick with tetanus and lock jaw. He recovered a few days later but was depressed for months.
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Many historians believe he was exhibiting symptoms of a psychosomatic illness. Hawthorne mentioned meeting Thoreau in his journal the following day:. Thorow [sic] dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character—a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own.
He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know. Thoreau and Hawthorne quickly became friends and Thoreau sold him one of his rowboats for seven dollars and took him out on the Concord River to teach him how to operate it.
The fire occurred when the two came ashore to make a camp fire and cook some fish they had just caught when a stray spark from the fire set the dead grass on fire. The flames quickly spread up the hill and were soon out of control. The two men ran for help but it was too late.
More than acres burned resulting in two thousand dollars worth of damage to three local landowners. Thoreau began building his cabin at Walden Pond in March of and moved in a few months later on July 4. The cabin was built on the edge of 14 acres of land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson on the northwestern shore of Walden Pond. Thoreau built the small cabin himself. He was highly skilled at construction and had recently gained some house building experience when he helped his father build his house on Texas road the year before, according to Channing:.
Two was one too much in his house. It was a larger coat and hat — a sentry-box on the shore, in the wood of Walden, ready to walk into in rain or snow or cold. As for its being in the ordinary meaning a house, it was so superior to the common domestic contrivances that I do not associate it with them. By standing on a chair you could reach into the garret, a corn broom fathomed the depth of the cellar.
Others have been curious to learn what portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some, who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men's lives; I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
Recent criticism has accused Thoreau of hypocrisy, misanthropy, and being sanctimonious, based on his writings in Walden ,  although this criticism has been perceived as highly selective. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.