Henry David thoreau

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Henry David Thoreau was an American Poet and essayist who was widely recognized for having lived the doctrines of transcendentalism that he also recorded in his masterwork, Walden (1854). Additionally, he is also recognized for his continuous for his brave action of championing for civil liberties as evidenced in the essay he wrote about civil disobedience in 1949.

Early life, Education and Career initiation

Henry Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1817 as a third born in a family of a small scale businessman named John Thoreau and Dunbar Thoreau. His family moved from Concord in 1818 but was later to return in 1823, when Thoreau was five years old. Later in 1828, he joined the Concord academy where he impressed his teachers granting him the privilege of preparing for college. He later joined the Harvard University in 1833 where he took courses in classics, rhetoric’s, philosophy, mathematics and science. He later graduated in 1837 with a grade that saw him being placed in the middle ranks of the class of 1837.  After the graduation, he started looking for a job and luckily he landed a teaching job at his former grammar school in Concord. The experience, however, led him to the realization that he wasn`t a disciplinarian hence he opted to quit after two weeks as the environment did not meet his expectations. As part of remaining productive, however, he joined his father in the family pencil-making business until June 1838 where he finally decided to start a small school with the help of his brother John. The school showed significant progress, but unfortunately, it did not last for long. Three years after its initiation, Thoreau's brother, John, Fell ill leading to the closure of the school.

The turning point of Thoreau from a schoolmaster to a poet began with the settling Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord at a period when Thoreau was a second-year student at Harvard. The interaction between Emerson and Thoreau saw Emerson realizer the potential of the young man and continuously develop it for better utilization. Being an influential man, Emerson attracted more people to settle at Concord.  With most of them sharing heady speculations, New England`s Transcendentalism was realized in the area.

 Transcendentalism was later to become one of the most significant literary movements in the 19th –centurty America where two authors, Emerson and Thoreau recognition for perpetrating and explaining its actions. The movement was unique in its way as it sought to combine romanticism with reform. It gave a new approach to life that sought to celebrate the individual rather than the masses, nature rather than man, and emotion rather than reason. According to Transcendentalism known is not only limited by sense but rather includes intuition, which on the other hand transcends tuition. Furthermore, the movement also entailed to reconcile the existed of both the spirit and matter by arguing that the reality of spirit transcended the reality of the matter.

Literary Career

Thoreau formally started being a professional poet in the 1940`s. His work was first published in 1840 in transcendentalists’ magazine. The first version of the magazine had featured his poem named “sympathy” and an essay he had written on a Roman Poet Aulus Persius Flaccus. As magazine grew and increased publications, more of his poems were published, and in 1842 he had his first outdoor essay “The Natural History of Massachusetts” published. This was followed by the publication of more remarkable lyrics such as “a winter walk” and a “maiden in the East” which saw him evolve from a simple school head to a major poet.  In April 1844 however, the magazine ceased its publications although Thoreau`s work had been greatly appraised during the publication period.

Thoreau was a robust and principled man who valued his opinions and thought above everything else. In 1840 for example, he fell in love and proposed marriage to one of the attractive young visitors at Concord named Ellen Sewall. Although she accepted his proposal, the engagement was soon broken after her parents insisted that Thoreau was not the perfect match. Having invested emotionally in the relationship and turned out frustrated, Thoreau decided to remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Two years later, a more depressing act occurred in Thoreau`s life. His beloved brother, John died due to Tetanus leaving him with no significant companion. He, however, tried to cultivate the New York literary market with the help of Emerson`s brother (William) who offered him a tutoring job at Staten Island. His efforts were yet again frustrated when he realized that the new market offered no hope for the promotion of his literary work. This made home to return to Concord in late 1843.

Just like before, Thoreau would not be satisfied with helping his father to grind granite and make pencils. This time around he decided to build a small house at Walden pond where he would spend his life enjoying the naturally existing food and doing small-scale farming. The experience also allowed him sufficient time to meditate and come up with more literary ideas. Out of the activity, he wrote a series of 18 essays that described his experiment on basic leaving and his intimacy with the environment and animals that he survived within such an alienated region.

After the experience at Walden Pond, Thoreau moved to Emmerson`s house where he lived with Emerson's family for the rest of his life. During this time, however, he once got arrested for not paying poll tax only to be saved by his aunt. After the experience, however, he started a campaign against the civil government that was quick to collect tax and adamant to support human rights. He was so resented by the government's action of endorsing slavery. This led him to write his most famous essay “civil disobedience” that was first published in 1849 under the title “resistance to civil government”.

Later life

Thoreau`s transcendence did not last his entire lifetime. After passing the peak of his career, his life lost much illumination to the point that he at one point served as a surveyor to support himself. He however later took up his father`s business and continued with his poetry career but this time as more of an activist. His most famous work at old age was a lecture titled “Slavery in Massachusetts” that was delivered in 1954. During this time he also found a new father figure, John Brown, an abolitionist who was willing to employ any radical means to see the government respect human rights. John Brown, however, tried a raid attempt at the Harpers Ferry but ended up being arrested and hanged. His death made Thoreau suffer a psychic shock that hastened Thoreau`s death in 1862. He died as a great artist who had used his talent to reconcile the American culture with the environment as well as making sure that humankind is respected.

November 13, 2023



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