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Thoreau, Henry David. (1817 - 1862).

L i f e

- received uniersity education (Harvard) x but: most appreciated self-education

- acquainted with R. W. Emerson, shortly lived with his family as a handyman

- claimed he never needed to leave the little village of Concord (Massachusetts) x but: saw all worth seeing in the world

- claimed that on the miniature scale of the place where one happens to be one may read all worth knowing in life

- isolated himself from the outside world, spent 2 years as a hermit on the shores of Walden Pond

W o r k

- preoccupied with the life of the spirit

- also concerned with the political and social controversies of the time: the utopian plans for communal living, socialistic societies, the Fugitive Slave Act, John Brown (celebrated him), etc.

- developed public addresses against the materialist society x but: included also wit and nature lore

- retained his indifference to style: often crabbed and inartistic

- insisted on the strongest thought, sought to express himself unreservedly and spontaneously x but: brought his bookishness into his narrative (learned allusions)

- wrote especially journals and essays (“Resistance to Civil Government”)

- over his grave R. W. Emerson praised his exceptional character x but: lamented he had failed to be all he should have been

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849):

- an account of a canoe excursion with his brother

- nature observations, histories of the region, and observations on the clash of nature x human inhabitants

Walden: or, Life in the Woods (1854):

- set out for Walden Pond on the Independence Day = symbolical for his 1st major undertaking as a writer

- mingles common fact x personal experience, the world without x the world within

- resists on the development of the individual in the place where one happens to be, and on the avoidance of all influences except the common ones of nature

- his philosophy is often shrewd, strained, and arbitrary x but: the greatest value in his disclosure of the common facts of the world about one

> “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”, one of the opening explanatory chapters

The Maine Woods (1864), Cape Cod (1865), and A Yankee in Canada (1866):

- accounts of his next trips


(Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Henry David Thoreau. (1817 - 1862). American.
  • Work

    Philosopher. Essayist. Author of Walden (1854).
  • Genres

    Romanticism. Transcendentalism. Essay. Autobiography. Travel writing.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived".

From Walden (1854).


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