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Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) by Henry David Thoreau is an American novel. The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, and manual for self reliance.
Published in 1854, it details Thoreau's sojourn in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. However, Emerson's lack of enthusiasm for the project can be seen in this thought delivered during Thoreau's funeral:
I so much regret the loss of his rare powers of action, that I cannot help counting it a fault in him that he had no ambition. Wanting this [that is, lacking ambition] instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry party. Pounding beans is good to the end of pounding empires one of these days; but if, at the end of years, it is still only beans!"
Thoreau did not intend to live as a hermit, for he received visitors and returned their visits. Rather, he hoped to isolate himself from society to gain a more objective understanding of it. Simple living and self-sufficiency were Thoreau's other goals, and the whole project was inspired by transcendentalist philosophy, a central theme of the American Romantic Period. As Thoreau made clear in his book, his cabin was not in wilderness but at the edge of town, not far from his family home.