Thoreau was actually born David Henry Thoreau but began calling himself Henry David after finishing college, although he never legally changed his name. Jean Thoreau was born at St. Helier, Isle of Jersey, in and immigrated to America in A close friend of Henry David Thoreau, fellow writer William Ellery Channing, wrote in his biography of his friend, titled Thoreau: The Poet-naturalist, that Thoreau sometimes spoke with a faint French accent, which Channing suggested was due to his French ancestry:.
Helier Isle of Jersey , in May, Thus near to old France and the Church was our Yankee boy. The Thoreau family left the farm where Henry David was born when he was about a year old and moved to Chelmsford, Mass for two years and then moved to Boston for three years before finally returning to Concord. After this last achievement, as after some others, he had a singular suspension of breath, with a purple hue in his face, — owing, I think, to his slow circulation shown in his slow pulse through life and hence the difficulty of recovering his breath.
Perhaps a more active flow of blood might have afforded an escape from other and later troubles.
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The pencils were high acclaimed and won awards for their high quality, bringing the Thoreau family financial stability. Thoreau attended an overcrowded public grammar school in Concord before entering Concord Academy with his brother John in According to the book Henry David Thoreau: A Biography, Thoreau was a bit of a loner as a child and spent most of his time outdoors:.
He stood aside and watched when the others played games. Even when the townsfolk turned out for street parades and the rollicking music of bands, he would stay home. He liked to watch the canal barges move along the Concord River, loaded with bricks or iron ore, and was thrilled when the boatmen let him leap aboard for a short passage.
A special treat came when his mother asked him to stay home from school to pick the huckleberries she needed for a pudding. With her love of nature, she tried to open her children to its delight. 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.
Life and Legacy
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. 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. This casual acquaintance would soon develop into a close friendship, according to the book Henry David Thoreau: A Biography:.
11 Simple Facts About Henry David Thoreau | Mental Floss
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.
Thoreau And Transcendentalism
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. Although he was a minimalist, Thoreau wrote an abundance of notes and ideas in his journals, essays, and letters. He jotted down his observations of nature, writing in detail about everything from how plant seeds spread across the land to the changing temperature of Walden Pond to animal behavior. The plants were pressed and numbered—there were more than species—and the Native American antiquities included stone weapons that Thoreau had found while walking in Concord.
As a big fan of both Thoreau and Transcendentalism, musician Don Henley of the Eagles started The Walden Woods Project in to stop 68 acres of Walden Woods from being turned into offices and condominiums. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.
And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a issue of Life :. If, with the literate, I am Impelled to try an epigram, I never seek to take the credit; We all assume that Oscar said it. Publishers weren't very optimistic about the future of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when they printed it in Only first edition copies were made, of which were donated to libraries.
As anyone who's been to a bookstore, movie theater, or theme park in the past two decades knows, that prediction couldn't have been further off. Book one of the Harry Potter series spawned one of the most successful literary franchises of all time and earned millions for author J. The sellers, an anonymous couple from Lancashire, England, had stored their copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone —along with a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets —in a code-locked briefcase for safekeeping.
The plan wasn't to wait for the books to accrue value over time; originally, they had wanted to protect them and pass them down as family heirlooms. That turned out to be a smart move. By locking it away, they managed to preserve one of the best first edition copies of the book experts had seen. The book also contained two errors that made it an even more appealing item for collectors.
At the auction, however, bidders blew past those numbers. That's a significant amount to pay for a book, but it's not even the highest figure that's been bid for the title. BY Suzanne Raga.
Henry David Thoreau
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