Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Happy 200th Birthday to Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau was born on this day in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 in 1862.

Thoreau was a bit of a fraud, as well as an economic basket case. He nearly starved, bought almost all his food in town (which he visited often), and he was never in the wilderness at all -- he was camping in a borrowed hut at the edge of town!

The 1850 census shows the 33-year old Thoreau living with his parents at their home.

David Henry Thoreau (his real name) worked for most of his life for his father in a pencil factory, apparently being unable to hold a job anywhere else.  He moved to Walden Woods the year after he and a friend accidentally burned 300 acres of it to the ground.

Thoreau operated out of romantic theory rather than practical reality, and he was emotionally volatile and not too intellectually stable.  Not terribly good-looking he appears to have lived an asexual life, producing a book that is sometimes quoted, and frequently mooned over, but almost never actually read.

In Walden, Thoreau spouts off about fish and woodchucks, hunters, trappers, and woodchoppers, but there is never a sense he actually knows anything about any of it, because he almost certainly did not.

His was a cotton-candy mind -- full of bright words, but without much thought, substance, or self-discipline behind them.

But have I quoted Thoreau before?  Oh yes!  He wrote some beautiful stuff, if only we could understand what it meant.

"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."

2 comments:

Chas Clifton said...

He looks better in the portrait at this site, and he sounds ore knowledgeable about forestry too!

JL said...

That picture makes it look like HDT was an early proponent of the man-bun. If not that, what is up with his hair?