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In September 1842, Nathaniel Hawthorne noted this social encounter in his journal: "Mr. Thorow dined with us yesterday. He is a singular character---a young man with much of wild original nature still remaining in him; and so far as he is sophisticated, it is in a way and method of his own. He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty. On the whole, I find him a healthy and wholesome man to know." Most responses to Thoreau are as ambiguously respectful as was Hawthorne's. Thoreau was neither an easy person to like nor an easy writer to read. Thoreau described himself as a mystic, a Transcendentalist, and a natural philosopher. He is a writer of essays about nature---not of facts about it but of his ideals and emotions in its presence. His wish to understand nature led him to Walden Pond, where he lived from 1845 to 1847 in a cabin that he built. Though he was an educated man with a Harvard degree, fluent in ancient and modern German, he preferred to study nature by living "a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." Knowing this, we should beware of misreading the book that best reflected this great experience in Thoreau's life: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). It is not a handbook of the simple life. Though there are elements in the book of a "whole-earth catalogue" mentality, to focus on the radical "economic" aspects of Thoreau's work is to miss much in the book. Nor is it an autobiography. The right way to read Walden is as a "transcendental" narrative prose poem, whose hero is a man named Henry, a modern Odysseus in search of a "true America." Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1846, exactly two years, two months, and two days after he had settled there. As he explained in the pages of Walden: "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went to live there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." Growth, change, and development were essential to his character. One should not overlook the significance of his selecting July 4 as the day for taking possession of his residence at Walden Pond, a day that celebrates the establishment of a new government whose highest ideal is individual freedom. In terms of Thoreau's redefinition of the nation-idea, "the only true America" is that place where one may grow wild according to one's nature, where one may "enjoy the land, but own it not." Thoreau believed that each person should live according to individual conscience, willing to oppose the majority if necessary. An early proponent of nonviolent resistance, he was jailed briefly for refusing to pay his poll tax to support the Mexican War and the slave system that had promoted that war. His essay "On Civil Disobedience" (1849), which came from this period of passive resistance, was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi (who read it in a South African jail) as the basis for his campaign to free India. Martin Luther King, Jr. later attributed to Thoreau and Gandhi the inspiration for his leadership in the civil rights movement in the United States. Thoreau contracted tuberculosis in 1835 and suffered from it sporadically afterwards. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly The Maine Woods and Excursions, and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He died on May 6, 1862 at age 44. (Bowker Author Biography) — biography from Walden… (more)
Walden (Author) 13,308 copies, 173 reviews
Walden / Civil Disobedience 7,201 copies, 49 reviews
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays 1,686 copies, 11 reviews
Civil Disobedience 1,498 copies, 30 reviews
Walden and Other Writings 1,418 copies, 9 reviews
Walking 847 copies, 19 reviews
The Portable Thoreau 819 copies, 4 reviews
Cape Cod 751 copies, 11 reviews
Walden and other writings 731 copies, 5 reviews
The Maine Woods 728 copies, 5 reviews
Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition 591 copies, 7 reviews
Thoreau: On Man and Nature 399 copies, 1 review
Collected Essays and Poems 337 copies, 2 reviews
Walden and Other Writings 315 copies, 5 reviews
The Journal, 1837–1861 277 copies, 5 reviews
Letters to a Spiritual Seeker 133 copies, 3 reviews
Excursions 125 copies, 2 reviews
Henry David's House 124 copies, 2 reviews
Works of Henry David Thoreau 95 copies, 1 review
Civil Disobedience / Reading (Author) 94 copies
Wild Apples 60 copies, 1 review
Autumnal Tints 55 copies
Men of Concord 50 copies
Friendship and Other Essays 43 copies, 1 review
The Illuminated Walden 40 copies, 1 review
Canoeing in the Wilderness 40 copies, 2 reviews
A Yankee in Canada 33 copies, 1 review
Thoreau's Wildflowers 31 copies, 1 review
Thoreau's animals 30 copies, 2 reviews
The River 25 copies
Un paseo invernal 21 copies, 1 review
Summer 15 copies
Ktaadn 15 copies
Friendship 11 copies
Musketaquid 8 copies
A Winter Walk 7 copies
Volar : apuntes sobre aves 6 copies, 1 review
American Fields and Forests 3 copies, 1 review
Poems of Nature 3 copies, 1 review
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The service 2 copies
Til naturen 2 copies
Poemas 2 copies
Essais 2 copies, 1 review
Primavera 1 copy
The moon 1 copy
Mosbindja Civile 1 copy, 1 review
Thoreau's Journals (Author) 1 copy
The Angle of Dazzle 1 copy, 1 review
Spring 1 copy
An Ideal 1 copy
No title 1 copy
Passejades 1 copy
Yürümek 1 copy
On Water 1 copy
Woodshed 1 copy
Desobeir 1 copy
On Land 1 copy
The Art of the Personal Essay (Contributor) 1,308 copies, 8 reviews
American Bloomsbury (Featured Artist) 641 copies, 32 reviews
Essays: English and American (Contributor) 576 copies, 1 review
The Assassin's Cloak: An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists (Contributor, some editions) 528 copies, 8 reviews
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology (Contributor) 369 copies, 3 reviews
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (Contributor) 265 copies, 4 reviews
The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Volume 1 (Contributor, some editions) 246 copies
The Literary Cat (Contributor) 232 copies
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (Contributor) 227 copies, 2 reviews
American Religious Poems: An Anthology (Contributor) 156 copies, 1 review
A Comprehensive Anthology of American Poetry (Contributor) 126 copies, 2 reviews
The Anarchist Reader (Author, some editions) 121 copies
The Anarchists (Contributor) 105 copies
The Standard Book of British and American Verse (Contributor) 105 copies, 1 review
Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (Contributor) 104 copies, 2 reviews
American Sonnets: An Anthology (Contributor) 64 copies
Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (Contributor) 56 copies, 2 reviews
Range of Philosophy (Contributor) 47 copies
The Signet Book of American Essays (Contributor) 36 copies
The Book of the Sea (Contributor) 36 copies
The Seas of God: Great Stories of the Human Spirit (Contributor) 24 copies, 2 reviews
Classic Essays in English (Contributor) 22 copies
The Penguin book of the ocean (Contributor) 18 copies
Trees: A Celebration (Contributor) 13 copies
Christmas Classics: Stories for the Whole Family (Contributor) 12 copies, 1 review
Favorite Animal Stories (Contributor) 12 copies
America's Great Wilderness (Contributor) 5 copies
A Reader for Writers (Contributor) 2 copies

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Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience" (originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government"), an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry amount to more than 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions are his writings on natural history and philosophy, in which he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern-day environmentalism. His literary style interweaves close observation of nature, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and attention to practical detail. He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life's true essential needs.

He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending the abolitionist John Brown. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience later influenced the political thoughts and actions of such notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoreau is sometimes referred to as an anarchist. Though "Civil Disobedience" seems to call for improving rather than abolishing government—"I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government"—the direction of this improvement contrarily points toward anarchism: "'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."
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