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In 1859, following a late night excursion to count the rings of tree stumps during a rain storm, he became ill with bronchitis. His health declined over three years with brief periods of remission, until he eventually became bedridden. Recognizing the terminal nature of his disease, Thoreau spent his last years revising and editing his unpublished works, particularly Excursions and The Maine Woods and petitioning publishers to print revised editions of A Week and Walden. He also wrote letters and journal entries until he became too weak to continue. His friends were alarmed at his diminished appearance and fascinated by his tranquil acceptance of death. When his aunt Louisa asked him in his last weeks if he had made his peace with God, Thoreau responded quite simply: “I did not know we had ever quarreled.” He died on May 6, 1862 at the age of 44.
Henry David Thoreau moved to a small hut by Walden Pond 160 years ago today. Wishing to lead a life free of materialistic pursuits, he supported himself by growing vegetables and by doing odd jobs in the nearby village. He lived there alone for two years, spending most of his time observing nature, reading, and writing, and he kept a detailed journal of his observations, activities, and thoughts. His journal was published as Walden, or a Life in the Woods in 1854.
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