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The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Thoreau, Henry David

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THOREAU, Henry David, an American author, born in Concord, Mass., July 12, 1817, died there, May 6, 1862. He graduated at Harvard college in 1837, and after teaching school for a short time became a land surveyor. In this pursuit he worked no more than was necessary to gain the means for his simple wants, and devoted most of his time to reading, writing, pedestrian excursions, and study. Emerson says of him: “Few lives contain so many renunciations. He was bred to no profession; he never married; he lived alone; he never went to church; he never voted; he refused to pay a tax to the state; he ate no flesh, he drank no wine; he never knew the use of tobacco; and, though a naturalist, he used neither trap nor gun.” In 1845 he built a small frame house on the shore of Walden pond, Concord, and lived in it alone for two years, working and studying. He published “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” (Boston, 1849), and “Walden, or Life in the Woods” (1854). After his death were published “Excursions in Field and Forest,” with a biographical sketch by R. W. Emerson (1863); “The Maine Woods” (1864); “Cape Cod” (1865); “Letters to Various Persons,” with nine poems (1865); and “A Yankee in Canada,” with anti-slavery and reform papers (1866). — See “Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist,” by William Ellery Channing (Boston, 1873).