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THOREAU, Henry David

Born: July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts, United States

Died: May 6, 1862, in Concord Massachusetts, United States

Henry David Thoreau is, today, considered one of the best writers of his time. As part of the Transcendentalist movement, he is also considered a great thinker. However, his genius was recognized only after his death. During his lifetime, only two of his novels were published.

Thoreau was the second son of John Thoreau and Cynthia Dunbar. He spent his childhood in Concord and attended Harvard College at the age of sixteen. He graduated four years later having concentrated on languages and writing.

Thoreau, unlike many of his literary peers, didn't prepared for a specific career. After graduation, he taught for three years in Concord. His teaching career ended when he developed tuberculosis. He spent the summer of 1839 canoeing with his brother, John. It was the experience of being affected during this trip by the beauty of nature that caused him to become a writer.

During his writing career, Thoreau supported himself by working in his father's pencil making business and other labor-intensive jobs. While working as a gardener, he met Ralph Waldo Emerson, who acted as a mentor for the younger writer. In Emerson's household, Thoreau met many social reformers of the day, such as Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller. Out of these meetings emerged the New England Transcendentalist movement.

The Transcendentalists founded The Dial, a magazine in which Thoreau's poems were published. These poems included Sympathy and Natural History of Massachusetts. After The Dial closed in 1844, Thoreau started writing with more emotion. It has been thought that the basis of these works lies in his one romantic endeavor. In 1840, he asked for the hand in marriage of Ellen Sewall. Although she accepted, her father refused to allow the marriage.

In 1845, Thoreau moved to a small house near Concord where he supported himself with a small garden. Out of this experience, he wrote Walden, his best known work. Published in 1854, this book is often referred to as the "nature book". The only other book published during Thoreau's lifetime was A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, but this work was much less successful than Walden.