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Henry David Thoreau
(July 12, 1817 - May 6, 1862) U.S.A.

Henry David Thoreau

Author, philosopher, naturalist, peace activist


Born at Concord, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harward (1837), and after graduation he taught in Concord. After closing his school, he lived with Emerson (1941-43), serving him as general handyman, althought their relation was also one of master and disciple. Later he formed a close friendship with the younger William Ellery Channing whith whom he lived one year. He also became increasingly involved in the anti-slavery movement.

He is best known for Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854), which stimulated the back-to-nature movement. His later works are some thirty volumes based on his daily nature walks. His essay Civil Disobedience (1849) advocating paceful resistance to unjust laws, was widely influential. His lover was Edmund Sewall. He was ill with tubercolosis, which gradually weakened him and finally caused his death.


"No word is oftener on the lips of men than Friendship, and indeed no thought is more familiar to their aspirations. All men are dreaming of it, and its drama, which is always a tragedy, is enacted daily. It is the secret of the universe. You may thread the town, you may wander the country, and none shall ever speak of it, yet thought is everywhere busy about it, and the idea of what is possible in this respect affects our behavior towards all new men and women, and a great many old ones. Nevertheless I can remember only two or three essays on this subject in all literature.
To say that a man is your friend, means commonly no more than this, that he is not your enemy. Most contemplate only what would be the accidental and trifling advantages of friendship, as that the friend can assist in time of need, by his substance, or his influence, or his counsel; but he who foresees such advantages in this relation proves himself blind to its real advantage, or indeed wholly inexperienced in the relation itself.
What is commonly called Friendship is only a little more honor among rogues. But sometimes we are said to love another, that is, to stand in a true relation to him, so that we give the best to, and receive the best from, him. Between whom there is hearty truth there is love; and in proportion to our truthfulness and confidence in one another our lives are divine and miraculous, and answer to our ideal. There are passages of affection in our intercourse with mortal men and women, such as no prophecy had taught us to expect, which transcend our earthly life, and anticipate heaven for us."

Henry David ThoreauBiographers remain undecided about Thoreau's sexuality. He never married. He proposed to Ellen Sewall in 1840, but she rejected his offer. Some believe he was a "repressed" homosexual and others that he was asexual and remained celibate all of his life.

But his Journals, his essay "Chastity and Sensuality," and the long discourse on "Friendship" in A Week are prolific expressions of the beauty, and the agony, of love between men.

Some of these discussions are said to refer to two men whom Thoreau found particularly attractive: Tom Fowler, whom Thoreau chose as a guide on a trip to the Maine woods; and Alek Therien, the Canadian woodchopper who visited Thoreau at Walden Pond.

The passion evident in his discourses on love and friendship, and the utter lack of reference to women in his writings, has made Thoreau of great interest to scholars of gay and lesbian literature.


Quote source: Henry D. Thoreau, On the Concord River

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