Henry Thoreau, American writer and philosopher

He was born in Concord, Massachusetts. With the exception of four years at Harvard University (1833-1837) and six months at Staten Island in 1843, he spent his entire life in Concord.

After graduating from Harvard University, Thoreau briefly taught school and then took casual jobs, not wanting to pursue a career like other university graduates.

His first publication was in Dyel magazine. The only thing he wanted to do was to create, but by the age of 28 he had no position or money, and Thoreau embarked on his famous venture: on the shores of Walden Lake near Concord, he lived for more than two years all alone in a log cabin he built with his own hands.

This experiment led to a remarkable book, Walden, or Life in the Woods.

Thoreau’s first published book was A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. His other book, The Forests of Maine, described three hikes on the Cape Cod Peninsula. Both books were published posthumously, though parts were published in magazines during Thoreau’s lifetime.

Thoreau wrote a pamphlet, Civil Disobedience, in which he expressed the beliefs for which he was imprisoned overnight in July 1846: he refused to pay taxes to a government he disapproved of.

Many years later this essay had a great influence on Gandhi in his struggle against British rule in India. “Slavery in Massachusetts,” “In Defense of John Brown,” and “Life Without Principles” also express Thoreau’s uncompromising stance and his rejection of government interference in people’s lives.

The writer died in Concord on May 6, 1862.

Henry Thoreau’s Aphorisms and Quotes

  • I know of no more inspiring circumstance than the irrefutable ability of man to advance toward a lofty goal by conscious effort…If you strive confidently to realize your dreams and try to live the life of which you have dreamed, you will achieve success that cannot be expected with ordinary behavior.
  • Success usually comes to those who are too busy to seek it.
  • Consciously, we only have to walk part of the way to our goal–and then leap into the unknown, toward success.
  • Why should we be so desperate to chase success, so desperate to try? If a man steps out of step with his companions, it may be because he hears a different drumbeat. Let him follow the music he hears.
  • If you need to convince a person that he is doing the wrong thing, do the right thing. People believe what they see.
  • Those who devote themselves wholly to other people are considered useless and selfish, and those who give themselves only partially to people are proclaimed benefactors and philanthropists.
  • Take not one who does a job for money, but one who does it out of love for it.
  • The richest man is the one whose pleasures cost the cheapest.
  • He who travels alone may set out today; but he who travels with someone else must wait until his companion is ready.