Thursday, 6 May 2010

On this day...

American writer Henry David Thoreau died in 1862, at the age of 44. Born David Henry, Thoreau was described by Hawthorne as, 'as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners', indeed, it was said that his facial hair would 'most assuredly deflect amorous advances'. Having studied at Harvard, in fields ranging from philosophy to maths, Thoreau decided that he was not suited to the inevitably career path that was to follow, and instead founded a grammar school with his brother.

It was on his return home, that Thoreau met Ralph Waldo Emerson, who introduced him into a circle of literary talents and local thinkers and encouraged him to contribute to periodicals, and indeed, Thoreau's first essay, 'Aulus Persius Flaccus' was publihsed in 1840. Although his first works were based around a transcendentalist philosophy. Thoreau turned increasingly to civil disobedience to fight an environmentalist cause, and his most famous novel, 'Walden', stimulated by the eponymous woods, became a reflection on nature's simple living. His second best known work, 'Civil Disobedience', is said to have inspired such figures as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, J.F. Kennedy, and Leo Tolstoy.    

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