Henry David Thoreau Turns 200

Henry David Thoreau is an American essayist, philosopher, naturalist, abolitionist, teacher, tax resister, poet, and historian. 

He was born to a family of modest means who made pencils in a factory behind their home in Concord.   He worked for a time as a teacher, and always struggled to support himself with his writing.   He was befriended by many of the famous Transcendentalists of his day, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller.

His 2-year experiment in living simply (on land loaned to him by Emerson) yielded the ever-popular Walden, and his brilliant and powerful essay Civil Disobedience is as relevant today as when he penned it in 1849 (after spending a night in jail for failure to pay the state poll tax).

Following Thoreau’s death in 1862 at the age of 44, Ralph Waldo Emerson opined in his eulogy: 

“No truer American existed than Thoreau. The country knows not yet, or in the least part, how great a son it has lost.”  

How right he was.   

Mr. Thoreau was born 200 years ago this week, and the WFPL is pleased to join communities across the state in celebrating his life and work.   

Henry David Thoreau* will visit the library to discuss his life, work, and views on the role of man, nature, and governments. He will honor us with a reading of portions of Civil Disobedience.

Legend has it that he has a bit of a sweet tooth, so we’ll provide a birthday cake for all to share. 

Please come celebrate the 200th Birthday of the remarkable Henry David Thoreau. Thursday, July 20th at 1:00 PM.

* Historian Richard Smith has been portraying Thoreau for over 18 years.

Photo: Liz West


“For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms, and did my duty faithfully, though I never received one cent for it.”  


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