He spent his life in voluntary poverty, enthralled by the study
of nature. Two years, in the prime of his life, were spent living in a
shack in the woods near a pond. Who would choose a life like this?
Henry David Thoreau did, and he enjoyed it. Who was Henry David Thoreau,
what did he do, and what did others think of his work?
Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts on July
12, 1817 ('Thoreau' 96), on his grandmother's farm. Thoreau, who was of
French-Huguenot and Scottish-Quaker ancestry, was baptized as David Henry
Thoreau, but at the age of twenty he legally changed his name to Henry
David. Thoreau was raised with his older sister Helen, older brother
John, and younger sister Sophia (Derleth 1) in genteel poverty (The 1995
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1). It quickly became evident that
Thoreau was interested in literature and writing. At a young age he began
to show interest writing, and he wrote his first essay, 'The Seasons,' at
the tender age of ten, while attending Concord Academy (Derleth 4).
In 1833, at the age of sixteen, Henry David was accepted to
Harvard University, but his parents could not afford the cost of tuition
so his sister, Helen, who had begun to teach, and his aunts offered to
help. With the assistance of his family and the beneficiary funds of
Harvard he went to Cambridge in August 1833 and entered Harvard on
September first. 'He [Thoreau] stood close to the top of his class, but
he went his own way too much to reach the top' (5).
In December 1835, Thoreau decided to leave Harvard and attempt to
earn a living by teaching, but that only lasted about a month and a half
(8). He returned to college in the fall...