Henry David Thoreau 1817-62 was born in Concord, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard in 1837, became a teacher in Concord, and lectured. He gave up teaching, and in about 1839 began his walks and studies of nature which became his main occupation. In 1839 he made the voyage described in his Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849). In 1845 he built himself a shanty in the woods by Walden Pond, near Concord, where he wrote much of the Week, his essay on Thomas Carlyle, and the classic, Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). The remainder of his writings were published after his death. He then had various jobs, lecturing now and then, and writing for magazines, and his 1850 trip to Canada produced A Yankee in Canada (1866). He kept a daily journal (from 1835) of his walks and observations, from whose 30 volumes were published Early Spring in Massachusetts (1881), Summer (1884) and Winter (1887). Other publications are Excursions in Field and Forest, with a memoir by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson (1863), Cape Cod (1865), Familiar Letters (1894) and Poems of Nature (1896), and a celebrated essay, Civil Disobedience (1849), provoked by his opposition to the Mexican War.
Christmas Day 1860
How different are men and women, e.g. in respect to the adornment of their heads ! Do you ever see an old or jammed bonnet on the head of a woman at a public meeting? But look at any assembly of men with their hats on; large a proportion of the hats will be old, weatherbeaten, and indented, but I think so much the more picturesque and interesting! One farmer rides by my door in a hat which it does me good to see, there is so much character in it, - so much independence to begin with, and then affection for his old friends, etc., etc. I should not wonder if there were lichens on it.
Think of painting a hero in a brand-new hat! The chief recommendation of the Kossuth hat is that it looks old to start with, and almost as good as new to end with. Indeed, it is generally conceded that a man does not look the worse for a somewhat dilapidated hat. But go to a lyceum and look at the bonnets and various other headgear of the women and girls, - who, by the way, keep their hats on, it being too dangerous and expensive to take them off! Why every one looks as fragile as a butterfly's wings, having just come out of a bandbox, - as it will go into a bandbox again when the lyceum is over. Men wear their hats for use; women theirs for ornament. I have seen the greatest philosopher in the town with what the traders would call `a shocking bad hat' on, but the woman whose bonnet does not come up to the mark is at best a`bluestocking' .