Henry David Thoreau Quotes

It is not easy to make our lives respectable by any course of activity. We must repeatedly withdraw into our shells of thought, like the tortoise, somewhat helplessly; yet there is more than philosophy in that.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, August 9, 1850, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 186, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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I always see those of whom I have heard well with a slight disappointment. They are so much better than the great herd, and yet the heavens are not shivered into diamonds over their heads.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, June 8, 1843, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 82, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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We visited Whitman the next morning ... and were much interested and provoked. He is apparently the greatest democrat the world has seen. Kings and aristocracy go by the board at once, as they have long deserved to. A remarkably strong though coarse nature, of a sweet disposition, and much prized by his friends. Though peculiar and rough in his exterior, his skin ... red, he is essentially a gentleman. I am still somewhat in a quandry about him,—feel that he is essentially strange to me, at any rate; but I am surprised by the sight of him. He is very broad, but, as I have said, not fine. He said that I misapprehended him. I am not quite sure that I do. He told us that he loved to ride up and down Broadway all day on an omnibus, sitting beside the driver, listening to the roar of the carts, and sometimes gesticulating and declaiming Homer at the top of his voice. He has long been an editor and writer for the newspapers,... but now has no employment but to read and write in the forenoon, and walk in the afternoon, like the rest of the scribbling gentry.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Letter, November 19, 1856, to Harrison Blake, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 6, p. 291, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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If you would get money as a writer or lecturer, you must be popular, which is to go down perpendicularly.... You are paid for being something less than a man. The state does not commonly reward a genius any more wisely. Even the poet laureate would rather not have to celebrate the accidents of royalty. He must be bribed with a pipe of wine; and perhaps another poet is called away from his muse to gauge that very pipe.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Life Without Principle" (1863), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, pp. 458-459, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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It is one of the signs of the times. We confess that we have risen from reading this book with enlarged ideas, and grander conceptions of our duties in this world. It did expand us a little.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Paradise (To Be) Regained" (1843), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 280, Houghton Mifflin (1906). The book in question is J. A. Etzler's The Paradise Within the Reach of All Men, Without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery. An Address to All Intelligent Men, Part I (London, 1842), which Thoreau is here reviewing.
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But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you: "Home is home, be it never so homely."
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "The Allegash and East Branch" (1864) in The Maine Woods (1864), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 3, p. 310, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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When you get out on one of those lakes in a canoe like this, you do not forget that you are completely at the mercy of the wind, and a fickle power it is. The playful waves may at any time become too rude for you in their sport, and play right over you.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "The Allegash and East Branch" (1864) in The Maine Woods (1864), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 3, p. 266, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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It is not enough that our life is an easy one. We must live on the stretch, retiring to our rest like soldiers on the eve of a battle, looking forward to the strenuous sortie of the morrow.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "The Service: Qualities of the Recruit" (1840), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 279, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Walden, "Conclusion," (1854). The expression, "music of a different drummer" has entered general usage, for example, Vice President Hubert Humphrey's address to the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, Detroit, Michigan, June 29, 1966: "The great challenge which faces us is to assure that, in our society of big-ness, we do not strangle the voice of creativity, that the rules of the game do not come to overshadow its purpose, that the grand orchestration of society leaves ample room for the man who marches to the music of another drummer."
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What is chastity? How shall a man know if he is chaste? He shall not know it. We have heard of this virtue, but we know not what it is.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Walden (1854), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 2, p. 244, Houghton Mifflin (1906).
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