Monday, 3 January 2011

D.H.Thoreau, another great American.

David Henri Thoreau was born in Concord Massachusetts in 1817. His father was a pencil maker of French descent. He studied at Harvard University between 1833 and 1837.  He joined the Faculty of the Concord Public School but resigned after a short time because he refused to administer corporal punishment.
With his brother John he opened a school where he introduced several progressive concepts but closed this when his brother died in 1842. He returned to Concord and  met R.Waldo Emerson and resumed work at the family pencil factory. Here he rediscovered the process of mixing graphite with clay (the Conte process), and later converted the factory to produce graphite which was used for typesetting machines.
In 1845 he embarked  on a two-year experiment in simple living in a small self-built cabin on the shores of  Walden Pond on land that belonged to Emerson.Here he spent an incredible amount of time reading and writing. He had a brush with the tax man in 1846 when he refused to pay poll tax because of his opposition to the Mexican-American War, and slavery, and had to  spend a night in prison. This incident had a strong impact on him, and in 1848 he delivered an important  lecture on the "Rights and Duties of the Individual in Relation to Government".
He left Walden Pond in 1847 but worked for several years  continuously revising his  manuscript "Walden, or Life in the Woods". This book had mixed reviews  but Robert Frost said of it - "In one book  he surpasses everything we have in America".
Thoreau became increasingly fascinated by natural history and travel, he admired Darwin, became a land surveyor  and wrote  very detailed natural history observations on fruit trees  and the migrationary habits of birds etc.  He believed  that one should "Live at home like a traveler".  He was a life-long abolitionist. He died  of tuberculosis at 44  in  1862- "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". Thoreau.     Wise words.

1 comment:

  1. Another great and interesting being who saw the human race was about .Unfortunately he died young. It's a pity death doesn't take a hand earlier on in some of the dictators and leaders lifespans.The list is too long but a few examples spring to mind .Mao Stalin Hitler Napoleon Blair .The lives the have cost ,Because they believed it was the right thing to do ? Monsters every one .Give people power and most will misuse it at our cost.