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On this day in history, August 9, 1854, influential 'Walden' by Henry David Thoreau is published

On this day in history, August 9, 1954, the influential "Walden, or a Life in the Woods," by Henry David Thoreau was published, about the virtues of simple living in a modern world.

Henry David Thoreau’s nonfiction classic "Walden, or A Life in the Woods" was first published on this day in history, on Aug. 9, 1854. 

"Walden" is about the virtues of simple living and self-sufficiency in a modern world.

It was inspired by the two years and two months Thoreau spent living in a small cabin in Concord, Massachusetts, at the edge of Walden Pond in the 1840s, as the History of Massachusetts website indicates.

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The American transcendentalist author’s work explores his views on nature, philosophy and politics, according to History.com.

"One of the most influential and compelling books in American literature, ‘Walden’ is a vivid account of the years that Thoreau spent alone in a secluded cabin at Walden Pond," says the Princeton University Press.

Thoreau was a 27-year-old Harvard graduate when he moved to Walden, says History.com

The site he picked for building the cabin was on land belonging to his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He and Emerson had already discussed Thoreau's plan to live on the land, which Emerson had recently purchased, according to The University of California, Santa Barbara Library. 

This quote from Walden captured his book’s messaging of both material necessities and human existence, according to multiple sources: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential 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." 

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Thoreau’s only income source came from the labor of his own hands: He farmed the land, eating and selling his crops, which included beans, potatoes, corn, peas and turnips, says History.com.

His goal was to conduct an experiment in simple living, to lead a life according to nature and to determine the real necessities of life, said Smithsonian Magazine. 

"It would be some advantage," Thoreau wrote in "Walden," "to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization."

The initial print run of "Walden" was 2,000 copies, with each book priced at $1, noted History.com. 

It took five years for that book run to sell out. 

The work didn’t receive much attention during Thoreau’s lifetime; however, Walden achieved tremendous popularity in the 20th century, Britannica.com pointed out. 

Thoreau’s description of the physical act of living day by day at Walden Pond gave the book authority, while his command of a clear and straightforward but elegant style helped raise the book to the level of a literary classic, cited the same source. 

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Quotes that have been woven through American society and often repeated, according to multiple sources, include: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation"; "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes"; and "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."

The author was born in 1817, the third of four children of a pencil manufacturer in Concord, Massachusetts, says the New Yorker. 

In 1833, after graduating from Harvard, Thoreau worked as a schoolteacher, then helped run a school until its co-director, his older brother John, died of tetanus. 

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When the school became too much for Thoreau to handle alone, he closed it and returned to work in the pencil factory, according to the Thoreau Society. 

He was soon invited to work as a live-in handyman in the home of his mentor, neighbor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the same source said.

Thoreau was also an activist. He gave speeches and organized meetings to protest slavery, to work for the Underground Railroad, and to defend abolitionist John Brown. 

He was also inspired to write the work, "Civil Disobedience," said Smithsonian Magazine. 

Thoreau’s legacy is perpetuated through the Thoreau Society, which promotes continued interest in and research on Thoreau and his work. 

The Thoreau Society is the oldest and largest organization devoted to the American author; it aims to promote Thoreau’s life and works through education, outreach and advocacy, according to the Thoreau Society. 

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Only after Thoreau’s death — and due to vigorous championing by his family members, Emerson and later readers — did "Walden" become a cornerstone work of American nonfiction and its author an American hero, recounted the New Yorker. 

Thoreau died of tuberculosis in 1862. 

He was just 44 years old.

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