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Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau Bookmark Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint."
-Henry David Thoreau

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau was 20 years old when Ralph Waldo Emerson came to speak to his class at Harvard. In his speech, Emerson urged the students to be not just scholars, but American scholars: unburdened by the traditions of Europe, as much at home in the woods as in a library, as comfortable with manual labor as with reading and writing.

What Emerson preached, Thoreau practiced. At two different times Thoreau boarded with Emerson, doing odd jobs and helping him to edit The Dial. When Emerson traveled to lecture, Thoreau stayed with the family and sent him news. When Thoreau wanted to escape society, he built a shack on Emerson's property.

On the surface, they couldn't have seemed more different. Emerson was an internationally renowned poet, philosopher, and lecturer. Thoreau was a lay-about intellectual who kept a voluminous journal and eked out a meager living as a land surveyor. But they developed a unique literary partnership. In Thoreau, Emerson found the embodiment of his ideals. In Emerson, Thoreau found a champion, a patron, and a link to respectability. Together they became the foremost voices of the Transcendentalist movement. "No truer American existed than Thoreau," Emerson said.
Emerson (1803-1882) & Thoreau (1817-1862)