Thoreau graduated from Harvard and started a school with his brother. But in 1839, he decided while on a canoe trip that he wasn’t cut out for teaching. Instead, he decided to devote himself to nature and poetry. Deeply influenced by his friend Emerson’s poetry and essays, Thoreau started a journal and began publishing essays in the Transcendentalist journal The Dial. At age 25, Thoreau left Concord for New York, but detested city life and returned after a year. Two years later, at age 27, he decided to live by Transcendentalist principles, spending time alone with nature and supporting himself with his own work. He built his home and lived off his garden for two years while reading and writing. In 1854, his collection of essays, Walden, or Life in the Woods, was published.
During his time at Walden, Thoreau spent a brief time in jail for refusing to pay taxes to support the war with Mexico. He later wrote Civil Disobedience, one of his most famous essays, based on the experience. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would later be inspired by his writings. After Thoreau’s time at Walden, he wrote magazine articles and became an avid abolitionist, working to smuggle escaped enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. He died in 1862.