Henry David Thoreau

Quotations

The poet will prevail to be popular in spite of his faults, and in spite of his beauties too. He will hit the nail on the head, and we shall not know the shape of his hammer. He makes us free of his hearth and heart, which is greater than to offer one the freedom of a city.

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.

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.

"Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essentials 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.

The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.

"Economy"

The student who secures his coveted leisure and retirement by systematically shirking any labor necessary to man obtains but an ignoble and unprofitable leisure, defrauding himself of the experience which alone can make leisure fruitful.

The heroic actions are performed by such as are oppressed by the meanness of their lives. As in thickest darkness the stars shine brightest.

Attributed

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet drink and botanical medicines.

Journals, entry for Aug. 23, 1853

There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages.

Essay on "Love" in letter, September 1852, to Harrison Blake

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance: they make the latitudes and longitudes.

Letter to Mrs. E. Castleton (22 May 1843)

He could not have been tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers did not exist.

"A Plea for Captain John Brown" (1859)

Any fool can make a rule
And every fool will mind it.

Journals, entry for Feb. 3, 1860

These beginnings of commerce on a lake in the wilderness are very interesting,-these larger white birds that come to keep company with the gulls.

"Chesuncook" (1858)