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Walden, and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience
Henry David Thoreau
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Some have asked what I got to eat; if I did not feel lonesome; if I
was not afraid; and the like. Others have been curious to learn what
portion of my income I devoted to charitable purposes; and some,
who have large families, how many poor children I maintained. I
will therefore ask those of my readers who feel no particular
interest in me to pardon me if I undertake to answer some of these
questions in this book. In most books, the
, or first person, is
omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the
main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after
all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so
much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as
well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness
of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer,
first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not
merely what he has heard of other men's lives; some such account
as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has
lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me. Perhaps
these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students. As
for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply
to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the
coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits.
I would fain say something, not so much concerning the Chinese
and Sandwich Islanders as you who read these pages, who are said
to live in New England; something about your condition,
especially your outward condition or circumstances in this world,
in this town, what it is, whether it is necessary that it be as bad as it
is, whether it cannot be improved as well as not. I have travelled a
good deal in Concord; and everywhere, in shops, and offices, and
fields, the inhabitants have appeared to me to be doing penance in
a thousand remarkable ways. What I have heard of Bramins sitting
exposed to four fires and looking in the face of the sun; or hanging
suspended, with their heads downward, over flames; or looking at
the heavens over their shoulders "until it becomes impossible for
them to resume their natural position, while from the twist of the
neck nothing but liquids can pass into the stomach"; or dwelling,
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