HENRY DAVID THOREAU was a real person who lived in Concord, Massachusetts, more than 150 years ago. He loved to take long walks through the woods and fields and write about the plants and animals he saw there. In his pockets he carried a pencil and paper, a jack–knife, some string, a spyglass, a magnifying glass, and a flute. He could easily walk thirty miles in a day with an old music book under his arm for pressing plants and a walking stick that was notched for measuring things.
These quiet walks gave Henry time to think, and he shared his ideas with other friends and writers who were his neighbors in Concord.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a famous thinker who traveled and spoke all over the country. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote one of America’s best-known novels, The Scarlet Letter. Bronson Alcott started a school to show people new ideas about learning that are still used today.
Henry thought people could live happily without big houses, lots of furniture, and high–paying jobs. They could spend less time working to earn money and more time doing things that interested them.
Henry tried out these ideas. He built a small cabin at Walden Pond and for two years lived there alone. The book he wrote about it is called Walden. This is what he wrote:
One says to me,“I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.”
But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, “Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents... Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night;...
You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrived there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day.”