American Transcendentalism Essay Research Paper TranscendentalismHenry David

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American Transcendentalism Essay, Research Paper Transcendentalism Henry David Thoreau and his friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson helped form the Transcendental movement which, in turn, changed America in the nineteenth century with lasting effects into today s society. The Transcendental period in the nineteenth century was truly unique. It is not considered a religion, a philosophy, or a literary theory, although it has elements of all three of those items. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the father of Transcendentalism, himself often times referred to Transcendentalism as idealism. While Emerson was considered Transcendentalism s father, Henry David Thoreau was one of the very few people that actually lived out, to the fullest extent, the ideas and teachings of Emerson. There were

many key figures that made the transcendental movement work, but one of the more important was Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was born in 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts as David Henry Thoreau, his christened name. His father, John, was a shopkeeper in Concord before he moved the family to Boston in search for more business opportunities. In 1823, John moved his family back to Concord where he established financial stability as a pencil manufacturer. Prior his father s success in pencil manufacturing, Henry lived his childhood in poverty. His mother, Cynthia, would take in boarders to make ends meet. Thoreau s older siblings were both schoolteachers. Helen and John Jr. contributed funds to help Henry pay his tuition at Harvard, just as their grandfather had done. Henry s total

expenses at Harvard were about $179 a year. At Harvard, a heavy emphasis was placed on classic works. Henry studied Latin and Greek grammar or composition for three of his four years. He also took courses in mathematics, English, history, and mental, natural, and intellectual philosophy. Modern languages were voluntary, and Thoreau chose to take Italian, French, German, and Spanish. Thoreau never stood higher than the middle of his class. Henry was never happy about the teaching methods used at Harvard, but he did appreciate and take advantage of the lifelong rights to the library at Harvard for which his degree qualified him. He read a great deal of metaphysical poets such as Donne, Vaughan and other British authors such as Carlye. Despite his dislike for the teaching style of

Harvard professors, Henry did meet naturalist Louis Agassiz and a rhetorics professor Edward Tyrel Channing, both of which were great influences on the young Henry. After his graduation from Harvard, Henry returned home in 1837 and took up the profession of teaching. He started out at a district school and he later taught at a school he opened with his brother John Jr. At their school, Henry and John Jr. used the progressive educational tactics of Amos Bronson Alcott. While teaching with his brother, Henry began writing. In 1841, Henry and John Jr. had to close down their school, but not all bad came from this event. After the closing of the school, Henry was offered by the Emerson family to live with them and earn his keep as a handyman while he concentrated on his writing. From

the time Henry graduated from Harvard, he knew himself to be an accomplished writer. At Harvard, he was a chronic reader of Hindu Scripture and this helped form the habit of keeping extensive journals. He had been writing poetry even earlier than that. He published essays and reviews, but due to the harsh criticism from James Russell Lowell, an influential critic, Henry s success was limited and he was forced to try to earn a living by means other than writing. Henry was regarded as a second-rate imitator of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry returned home to the family business of pencil manufacturing for a steady income and stability. Henry quickly became an asset to the family business when used his engineering talent to improve their product. He invented a machine that ground the