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XI

Henry David Thoreau

I

HIS LIFE

P

HILIPPE THOREAU, of the parish of Saint

Helier in the Isle of Jersey, had a son John who emigrated to America and opened a store on the Long Wharf in Boston. He married Jane Burns, daughter of a well-to-do Scotchman from the neighborhood of Sterling. John's son John, a lead-pencil maker of Concord, Massachusetts, married Cynthia Dunbar, daughter of the Reverend Asa Dunbar, of Keene, New Hampshire. Of their four children Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden, was the third. He was born at Concord

, on July 12, 1817.

After his graduation at Harvard in the Class of 1837, Thoreau taught school, learned surveying and the art of making lead-pencils, and began writ

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R. W. Emerson: Thoreau' in the Atlantic Monthly,' August, 1862.

W.E. Channing: Thoreau: the Poet Naturalist, 1873.

F. B. Sanborn: Thoreau, · American Men of Letters,' 1882. A. S. Salt; Thoreau, Great Writers,' 1896.

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ing and lecturing. The episode in his life which gave him more than a local reputation was his camping out by the shore of Walden Pond. He spent two years and two months there studying how 'to live deliberately.' His hut, built by himself, might have seemed bare and cheerless to a victim of civilization. There was no carpet on the floor, no curtain at the window. Every superfluity was stripped off and life 'driven into a corner' in the hope of discovering what it was made of. Thoreau sturdily resisted the efforts of friends and neighbors to burden him with trumpery, refusing the gift of a door-mat on the plea that it was 'best to 'avoid the beginnings of evil,' and throwing a paper-weight out of the window because it had ito be dusted every day.'

He raised his own vegetables in a patch of ground near by, made his own bread, and spent his leisure time in recording his observations of nature and in writing his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. When he was satisfied with this taste of life 'reduced to its lowest terms,' he went back to civilization.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack was a failure, as publishers say; meaning that it did not sell. Having published at his own expense, Thoreau was financially embarrassed when seven hundred and fifty copies of an edition of a thousand came back on his hands. He said to a friend : I have added several hundred volumes to my library

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