Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862)was an American author,
Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862)was an American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, 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 imploring one to abandon 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 influenced the political thoughts and actions of such later figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.Thoreau is sometimes cited as an individualist anarchist. Though Civil Disobedience calls for improving rather than abolishing government – "I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government"– the direction of this improvement aims at anarchism: "'That government is best which governs not at all;' and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."
Early life and education
He was born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts, to John Thoreau (a pencil maker) and Cynthia Dunbar. His paternal grandfather was of French origin and was born in Jersey. His maternal grandfather, Asa Dunbar, led Harvard's 1766 student "Butter Rebellion", the first recorded student protest in the Colonies.David Henry was named after a recently deceased paternal uncle, David Thoreau. He did not become "Henry David" until after college, although he never petitioned to make a legal name change.He had two older siblings, Helen and John Jr., and a younger sister, Sophia. Thoreau's birthplace still exists on Virginia Road in Concord and is currently the focus of preservation efforts. The house is original, but it now stands about 100 yards away from its first site.
Portrait of Thoreau from 1854Amos Bronson Alcott and Thoreau's aunt each wrote that "Thoreau" is pronounced like the word "thorough", whose standard American pronunciation rhymes with "furrow". Edward Emerson wrote that the name should be pronounced "Thó-row, the h sounded, and accent on the first syllable." In appearance he was homely, with a nose that he called "my most prominent feature." Of his face, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: "[Thoreau] is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior. But his ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion, and becomes him much better than beauty."Thoreau also wore a neck-beard for many years, which he insisted many women found attractive. However, Louisa May Alcott mentioned to Ralph Waldo Emerson that Thoreau's facial hair "will most assuredly deflect amorous advances and preserve the man's virtue in perpetuity."Thoreau studied at Harvard University between 1833 and 1837. He lived in Hollis Hall and took courses in rhetoric, classics, philosophy, mathematics, and science. A legend proposes that Thoreau refused to pay the five-dollar fee for a Harvard diploma. In fact, the master's degree he declined to purchase had no academic merit: Harvard College offered it to graduates "who proved their physical worth by being alive three years after graduating, and their saving, earning, or inheriting quality or condition by having Five Dollars to give the college." His comment was: "Let every sheep keep its own skin",a reference to the tradition of diplomas being written on sheepskin vellum.
Civil Disobedience and the Walden years: 1845–1849
Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living on July 4, 1845, when he moved to a small, self-built house on land owned by Emerson in a second-growth forest around the shores of Walden Pond. The house was not in wilderness but at the edge of town, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from his family home.On July 24 or July 25, 1846, Thoreau ran into the local tax collector, Sam Staples, who asked him to pay six years of delinquent poll taxes. Thoreau refused because of his opposition to the Mexican-American War and slavery, and he spent a night in jail because of this refusal. (The next day Thoreau was freed, against his wishes, when his aunt paid his taxes.) The experience had a strong impact on Thoreau. In January and February 1848, he delivered lectures on "The Rights and Duties of the Individual in relation to Government" explaining his tax resistance at the Concord Lyceum. Bronson Alcott attended the lecture, writing in his journal on January 26:Heard Thoreau's lecture before the Lyceum on the relation of the individual to the State– an admirable statement of the rights of the individual to self-government, and an attentive audience. His allusions to the Mexican War, to Mr. Hoar's expulsion from Carolina, his own imprisonment in Concord Jail for refusal to pay his tax, Mr. Hoar's payment of mine when taken to prison for a similar refusal, were all pertinent, well considered, and reasoned. I took great pleasure in this deed of Thoreau's.
—Bronson Alcott, Journals (1938)
Thoreau revised the lecture into an essay entitled Resistance to Civil Government (also known as Civil Disobedience). In May 1849 it was published by Elizabeth Peabody in the Aesthetic Papers. Thoreau had taken up a version of Percy Shelley's principle in the political poem The Mask of Anarchy (1819), that Shelley begins with the powerful images of the unjust forms of authority of his time – and then imagines the stirrings of a radically new form of social action.At Walden Pond, he completed a first draft of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, an elegy to his brother, John, that described their 1839 trip to the White Mountains. Thoreau did not find a publisher for this book and instead printed 1,000 copies at his own expense, though fewer than 300 were sold.Thoreau self-published on the advice of Emerson, using Emerson's own publisher, Munroe, who did little to publicize the book. Its failure put Thoreau into debt that took years to pay off, and Emerson's flawed advice caused a schism between the friends that never entirely healed.In August 1846, Thoreau briefly left Walden to make a trip to Mount Katahdin in Maine, a journey later recorded in "Ktaadn," the first part of The Maine Woods.
Thoreau left Walden Pond on September 6, 1847.:244 Over several years, he worked to pay off his debts and also continuously revised his manuscript for what, in 1854, he would publish as Walden, or Life in the Woods, recounting the two years, two months, and two days he had spent at Walden Pond. The book compresses that time into a single calendar year, using the passage of four seasons to symbolize human development. Part memoir and part spiritual quest, Walden at first won few admirers, but today critics regard it as a classic American work that explores natural simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural conditions.
1817年7月12日，亨利·大衛·梭羅（Henry David Thoreau，1817-1862）出生於麻塞諸塞州的康科特城（Concord, Massachusetts），1837年畢業于哈佛大學，是個品學兼優的學生。畢業後他回到家鄉以教書為業。1841年起他不再教書而轉為寫作。在拉爾夫·沃爾多·愛默生（Ralph Waldo Emerson）的支持下，梭羅在康科特住下並開始了他的超驗主義實踐。這時期，梭羅放棄詩歌創作而開始撰寫隨筆，起先給超驗主義刊物《日規》（Dial）寫稿，其後各地的報紙雜誌上都有他的文章問世。 梭羅除了被一些人尊稱為第一個環境保護主義者外，還是一位關注人類生存狀況的有影響的哲學家，他的著名論文《論公民的不服從權利》影響了托爾斯泰和聖雄甘地。1845年7月4日梭羅開始了一項為期兩年的試驗，他移居到離家鄉康科特城（Concord）不遠，優美的瓦爾登湖畔的次生林裡，嘗試過一種簡單的隱居生活。他於1847年9月6日離開瓦爾登湖，重新和住在康科特城的他的朋友兼導師拉爾夫·沃爾多·愛默生一家生活在一起。出版於1854年的散文集《瓦爾登湖》（Walden）詳細記載了他在瓦爾登湖畔兩年又兩個月的生涯。雖畢業于世界聞名的哈佛大學，但他沒有選擇經商發財或者從政成為明星，而是平靜地選擇了瓦爾登湖，選擇了心靈的自由和閒適。他搭起木屋，開荒種地，寫作看書，過著非常簡樸、原始的生活。 在不同時期，梭羅靠教書與務工過活。他曾經在他家辦的鉛筆廠工作過，還發明了一種可以簡化生產、降低費用的機器。 梭羅是拉爾夫·沃爾多·愛默生的學生和朋友，受愛默生的影響，梭羅也是一位先驗主義者。
梭羅曾經旅行到過科德角（Cape Cod）、阿基奧科楚科（Agiokochuk）和緬因州的卡塔丁山（Mt. Katahdin）。其中的緬因州之行到過卡塔丁（Ktaadn）、車桑庫克（Chesuncook）和培諾伯斯科特河（Penobscot River）的東支。 梭羅因患肺病1862年5月6日(44歲)死於他的家鄉康科特城，並被葬于馬薩諸賽州康科特城的斯利培山谷公墓（Sleepy Hollow Cemetery）。 1845年7月4日美國獨立日這天，28歲的梭羅獨自一人來到距康科特兩英里的瓦爾登湖畔，建了一個小木屋住了下來。並在此之後根據自己在瓦爾登湖的生活觀察與思考，整理並發表了兩本著作，即《康考德和梅裡馬克河上的一周》（A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers）和《瓦爾登湖》（Walden）。 在瓦爾登湖生活期間，因為梭羅反對黑奴制（Negro Slavery）拒交“人頭稅”而被捕入獄。雖然他只在獄中蹲了一宿就被友人在未經他本人同意的情況下，替他代交了稅款保其出獄，但這一夜卻激發他思考了許多問題。出來後曾有一些市民問他這樣一個問題，為什麼有許多人寧願坐牢也不願意交稅。為解釋這一問題，他結合自己的親身體驗，寫成了著名的政論《抵制國民政府》（Resistance to Civil Government，後改名為Civil Disobedience）。他所宣傳的這種依靠個人的力量，“非暴力抵抗”的鬥爭形式對印度的甘地和美國黑人領袖馬丁·路德·金產生了很大的影響。 1947年，梭羅結束了離群索居的生活，回到原來的村落。他仍然保持著自己簡樸的生活風格，將主要精力投入寫作、講課和觀察當地的植物動物。有時候為了得到極其微薄的生活費用，才偶爾離開村子到父親的鉛筆廠工作一些日子。梭羅卒於1862年5月6日，時年44歲。當時在同時代人的眼中，他只不過是一個觀念偏執行為怪異的人，一個愛默生的追求者而已。一直到世紀之交他及其著作才得到了廣泛和深刻的認識。 梭羅於1837年剛進大學時就曾言，他要將聖經中關於一周工作六天休息一天的教義，改為工作一天休息六天。他在瓦爾登湖的生活經歷實現了這一願望。在那裡他僅花28美元多一點兒就建成起了自己的棲身的小木屋，每星期花27美分就足以維持生活。為維持這樣簡樸的生活，他一年只須工作六個星期就可以掙足一年的生活費用，剩下的46個星期去做自己喜歡做的事情。他沒有將這寶貴時光浪費掉，而是把它奉獻給寫作和自然研究。也許有人會說梭羅太懶，終其一生也並未做出任何驚天動地的事業，但是如果你能注意到他在短暫的一生中創作了二十多部一流的散文集時，就會對他的才華和勤奮發出由衷的讚賞。 19世紀美國最具有世界影響力的作家、哲學家;梭羅在生前只出過兩本書.第一本是他在1849年自費出版的《康科特河和梅裡麥克河上的一星期》,此書是他在瓦爾登湖邊的木屋裡著寫的,內容是哥兒倆在兩兩條河上旅行的一星期中大段大段議論文史哲學和宗教等等.雖精雕細刻,卻晦澀難懂,沒有引起什麼反響,印行1000多冊,售出100多冊送掉75冊,存下700多冊,在書店倉庫放到1853年,全部腿給了作者,作者本人梭羅曾還詼諧地說:"我家裡大約藏書900多冊,其中自己著的就有700多冊".第二本就是《瓦爾登湖》了,於1854年出版,150年來風行天下，不知出版了多少個版本。他強調親近自然、學習自然、熱愛自然，追求“簡單些，再簡單些”的質樸生活，提倡短暫人生因思想豐盈而臻于完美。他投入數十載的時間對野生果實、野草及森林演替進行觀察研究，寫出了《種子的信念》一書。