Henry David Thoreau' Individualist Anarchism is revealed
demonstratively in his famous Robinsonade adventure in _Walden Pond_.
Thoreau is left politically in many practices, but his theory is shown
to be at least partly in the great bourgeois individualist tradition
by that book and activity.


Civil Disobedience and the Walden years: 1845–1849
Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau in June 1856 (aged 39)
Appletons' Thoreau Henry David signature.jpg
Core works and topics[show]
Civil Disobedience
Herald of Freedom
The Last Days of John Brown
Life Without Principle
Paradise (to be) Regained
A Plea for Captain John Brown
Reform and the Reformers
Remarks After the
Hanging of John Brown
The Service
Sir Walter Raleigh
Slavery in Massachusetts
Thomas Carlyle and His Works
A Walk to Wachusett
A Week on the Concord and
Merrimack Rivers
Wendell Phillips Before the
Concord Lyceum
The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau
Thoreau Society
Related topics[show]
Abolitionism · Anarchism
Anarchism in the United States
Civil disobedience
Concord, Massachusetts
Conscientious objection
Direct action · Ecology
History of tax resistance
Individualist anarchism
John Brown · Lyceum movement
Nonviolent resistance
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Simple living · Tax resistance
Tax resisters · Transcendentalism
The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail
Walden Pond
v · d · e
“       I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front
only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it
had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not
lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear;
nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so
sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to
cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and
reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then
to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness
to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be
able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.         ”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" [28]

Thoreau needed to concentrate and get himself working more on his
writing. In March 1845, Ellery Channing told Thoreau, "Go out upon
that, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of
devouring yourself alive. I see no other alternative, no other hope
for you."[29] Two months later, 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 in "a pretty pasture
and woodlot" of 14 acres (57,000 m2) that Emerson had bought,[30] 1.5
miles (2.4 km) from his family home.[31]

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.[32]) 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"[33] 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)[34]

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.[35]

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.[23]:234 Thoreau
self-published on the advice of Emerson, using Emerson's own
publisher, Munroe, who did little to publicize the book.

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.[23]:244 At Emerson's
request, he immediately moved back into the Emerson house to help
Lidian manage the household while her husband was on an extended trip
to Europe.[36] 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 later critics have
regarded it as a classic American work that explores natural
simplicity, harmony, and beauty as models for just social and cultural

American poet Robert Frost wrote of Thoreau, "In one book ... he
surpasses everything we have had in America."[37]

John Updike wrote in 2004,
“       A century and a half after its publication, Walden has become such
a totem of the back-to-nature, preservationist, anti-business,
civil-disobedience mindset, and Thoreau so vivid a protester, so
perfect a crank and hermit saint, that the book risks being as revered
and unread as the Bible.[38]    ”

Thoreau moved out of Emerson's house in July 1848 and stayed at a home
on Belknap Street nearby. In 1850, he and his family moved into a home
at 255 Main Street; he stayed there until his death.[39]

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