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HENRY DAVID THOREAU
Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, on a farm outside of Concord, Massachusetts. He was the third of four children born to an average family that claimed little social recognition. Although his grandfather had been successful, his own father lost most of his inheritance. He finally became a pencil manufacturer, a business that adequately provided for the family.
A bright and eager child, Thoreau was educated first at Concord Academy and then at Harvard. There he read extensively and prepared himself to be a representative of the Transcendentalist movement.
Thoreau's education at Harvard trained him to become a lawyer, a minister, a businessman, or a teacher; however, none of these professions appealed to him for long. He tried for a while to teach in Concord, but found that he was against any system that allowed corporal punishment and prevented an individual from growing creatively. As a result, he resigned and opened his own private school with his brother John. In 1841, the school was closed, due to John's poor health. Although Thoreau's teaching career was over, he never stopped teaching himself. He acquired a great knowledge of literature from Greece, Germany, and Elizabethan England; he also gained a working knowledge of Hindu classics. Because of his interest in literature, Thoreau met Ralph Waldo Emerson, who had just come to Concord from Boston. While Emerson inspired Thoreau, Thoreau impressed Emerson. The two became fast friends, to the degree that Thoreau moved to Emerson's household and became his handyman. He lived there from 1841 to 1843.
Thoreau worked regularly and with commitment on a journal that he maintained until the end of his life. Although he preferred writing to any career, whenever he needed money he earned it by making pencils or surveying land. Since he was easily satisfied with the barest essentials of life, he never felt compelled to seek a regular career for himself in order to amass a fortune. His first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, was based on a boat trip that he had taken with his brother John; the book was finally published in 1849, ten years after it was begun. Thoreau also helped Emerson to edit the Transcendentalists' magazine, The Dial; he also helped his friend in the publication of his early works. Despite the great regard Thoreau had for Emerson, he managed to remain independent in his thought and action. When Emerson made some attempts to introduce Thoreau to high-society, Thoreau made no effort to join in.