Henry David Thoreau

(1817 – 1862)

Biographical Sketch

Henry David Thoreau (Concord, MA, USA, July 12, 1817 – Concord, MA, USA, May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay Civil Disobedience, an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state.

Thoreau’s books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. Among his lasting contributions were his writings on natural history and philosophy, where he anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism. His literary style interweaves close natural observation, personal experience, pointed rhetoric, symbolic meanings, and historical lore, while displaying a poetic sensibility, philosophical austerity, and “Yankee” love of practical detail. He was also deeply interested in the idea of survival in the face of hostile elements, historical change, and natural decay; at the same time he advocated abandoning waste and illusion in order to discover life’s true essential needs.

He was a lifelong abolitionist, delivering lectures that attacked the Fugitive Slave Law while praising the writings of Wendell Phillips and defending abolitionist John Brown. Thoreau’s philosophy of civil disobedience later influenced the political thoughts and actions of such notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more about Henry David Thoreau on Wikipedia.



  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
  • Walden (1854)
  • Excursions (1863)
  • The Maine Woods (1864)
  • Cape Cod (1865)
  • A Yankee in Canada (1866)
  • Faith in a Seed (1993)
  • Aulus Persius Flaccus (1840)
  • The Service (1840)
    – First published 1902.
  • Natural History of Massachusetts (1842)
  • Homer, Ossian, Chaucer (1843)
  • Sir Walter Raleigh (1843)
    – First published 1905.
  • A Walk to Wachusett (1843)
  • Dark Ages (1843)
  • A Winter Walk (1843)
  • The Landlord (1843)
  • Herald of Freedom (1844)
  • Thomas Carlyle and his Works (1847)
  • Ktaadn and the Maine Woods (1848)
    • The Wilds of the Penobscot
    • Life in the Wilderness
    • Boating in the Lakes
    • The Ascent of Ktaadn
    • The Return Journey
  • Resistance to Civil Government (1849)
    Published in 1866 as Civil Disobedience.
  • Love (1852)
  • Chastity & Sensuality (1852)
  • The Iron Horse (1852)
  • A Poet Buying a Farm (1852)
  • An Excursion to Canada (1853)
  • A Massachusetts Hermit (1854)
  • Slavery in Massachusetts (1854)
  • Stage Coach Views (1855)
  • The Plains of Nanset (1855)
  • The Beach (1855)
  • Chesuncook (1858)
  • The Last Days of John Brown (1860)
  • A Plea for Captain John Brown (1860)
    – In Echoes of Harper’s Ferry.
  • Remarks at Concord on the Day of the Execution of John Brown (1860)
    – In Echoes of Harper’s Ferry.
  • The Succession of Forest Trees (1860)
  • Walking (1862)
  • Autumnal Tints (1862)
  • Wild Apples (1862)
  • Life Without Principle (1863)
  • Night and Moonlight (1863)
  • The Wellfleet Oysterman (1864)
  • The Highland Light (1864)
  • Thoreau: On Man and Nature (1960)
  • Huckleberries (1970)
  • Reform Papers (1973)
  • Early Essays and Miscellanies (1975)
  • The Natural History Essays (1989)
  • The Essays of Henry David Thoreau (1992)
  • Wild Fruits (1999)
  • DIED…Miss Anna Jones (1837)
    – Obituary.
  • Paradise (To Be) Regained (1843)
    – Book review.
  • Wendell Phillips Before the Concord Lyceum (1845)
    – Letter to the editor.
  • The Shipwreck (1855)
  • Transmigration of the Seven Brahmans (1972)
    Translation of Langlois’s Harivana.
  • Poems of Nature (1865)
  • Thoreau: Poems (1920)
  • Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau (1943)
  • Collected Poems of Henry Thoreau (1964)
  • Henry David Thoreau: The Poet’s Delay (1992)
  • The Poetry of Henry David Thoreau (1979)
Correspondence and Journals
  • Letters to Various Persons (1865)
  • Thoreau: Journals (1920)
  • The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals (1960)
  • Selected Journals of Henry David Thoreau (1967)
  • Correspondence (1974)
  • Consciousness in Concord: The Text of Thoreau’s Hitherto “Lost Journal,” 1840-1841 (1981)
  • Sweet Wild World: Selections from Thoreau’s Journals (1983)
  • Some Unpublished Letters of Henry D. and Sophia E. Thoreau (1985)
  • Thoreau’s Minnesota Journey (1985)
  • The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau (1991)
  • A Year in Thoreau’s Journal: 1851 (1993)
  • Selections from the Journals (1995)
  • New Suns Will Arise: From the Journals of Henry David Thoreau (2000)
Collections and Compilations
  • Library of America Thoreau Edition:
    • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers / Walden; Or, Life in the Woods / The Maine Woods / Cape Cod (1985)
    • Collected Essays and Poems (2001)
  • The Winged Life: The Poetic Voice of Henry David Thoreau (1992)
  • Thoreau: Political Writings (1996)
  • Thoreau on Birds (1998)
  • Elevating Ourselves: Thoreau on Mountains (1999)
  • Uncommon Learning: Thoreau on Education (1999)
  • Material Faith: Thoreau on Science (1999)
  • Thoreau on Water: Reflecting Heaven (2001)
  • Thoreau on Freedom: Attending to Man (2003)
Online editions of Henry David Thoreau’s works:


A Selection of Quotes

Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.”

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

“If a man does not keep pace with his companion, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.”

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations. Books, the oldest and the best, stand naturally and rightfully on the shelves of every cottage. They have no cause of their own to plead, but while they enlighten and sustain the reader his common sense will not refuse them. Their authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind.”

“We need the tonic of wildness … At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

“Friends… they cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.”

Familiar Letters

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

Journal IX

What sort of philosophers are we, who know absolutely nothing of the origin and destiny of cats?”
[Entry for December 12, 1856.]

Find more quotes by Henry David Thoreau on Wikiquote and Goodreads.