50 Brilliant Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Last updated on Jul 11th, 2016

50 Brilliant Henry David Thoreau Quotes

Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817, Concord, Massachusetts, U.S. – died May 6, 1862, Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.) was an American author, poet, essayist, and practical philosopher.

Although he was not a professional philosopher, Thoreau is recognized as an important contributor to the philosophical movement known as New England Transcendentalism. He was a lifelong abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, historian and vigorous advocate of civil liberties.

Thoreau is best known for his book Walden (1854) and his essay Resistance to Civil Government (1849). His overall work, including books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry, counts over 20 volumes.

Thoreau’s work and philosophy influenced the political thoughts and actions of many notable figures as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.


The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
(Also known as: It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.)The Journal (August 5, 1851)


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.Walden (1854)


This world is but a canvas to our imagination.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
(Also known as: The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.)Walden (1854)


There is no remedy for love but to love more.The Journal (July 25, 1939)


Things do not change; we change.Walden (1854)


The language of Friendship is not words but meanings.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


The savage in man is never quite eradicated.The Journal (September 26, 1859)


If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.Walden (1854)


Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.Letter to Harrison Blake (Concord, March 27, 1848)


If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


Goodness is the only investment that never fails.Walden (1854)


Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.Life Without Principle (1863)


Thank God men cannot as yet fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth!The Journal (January 3, 1861)


As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.Walden (1854)


What is once well done is done forever.Civil Disobedience (1849)


The Friend does not count his Friends on his fingers; they are not numerable.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.Walden (1854)


Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.The Journal (February 3, 1860)


It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, if indeed you cannot get it above them, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.Letter to Harrison Blake (Concord, April 10, 1853)


Nature is as well adapted to our weakness as to our strength.Walden (1854)


If misery loves company, misery has company enough.The Journal (September 1, 1851)


The law will never make a man free; it is men who have got to make the law free.Slavery in Massachusetts (1854)


Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind.Walden (1854)


True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


Men have become the tools of their tools.The Journal (July 7, 1845)


Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.Walden (1854)


It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.The Journal (March 11, 1856)


Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!
(Also known as: Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.)Walden (1854)


In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.The Journal (March 11, 1859)


If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
(Also known as: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.)Walden (1854)


How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.The Journal (August 19, 1851)


Ignorance and bungling with love are better than wisdom and skill without.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.Walden (1854)


The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.Life Without Principle (1863)


Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves.Walden (1854)


We are not what we are, nor do we treat or esteem each other for such, but for what we are capable of being.Letter to Mrs. Lucy Brown (Concord, March 2, 1842)


There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.Walden (1854)


Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)


Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.Walden (1854)


There is more of good nature than of good sense at the bottom of most marriages.Letter to Harrison Blake (September, 1852)


A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.Walden (1854)


Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.Letter to Mrs. Emerson (Costleton, Staten Island, May 22, 1843)


Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.Walden (1854)


If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.The Journal (September 23, 1838)


The smallest seed of faith is of more worth than the largest fruit of happiness.Letter to Mrs. Lucy Brown (Concord, Friday evening, January 25, 1843)


A man cannot be said to succeed in this life who does not satisfy one friend.The Journal (February 19, 1857)


Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.Walden (1854)