On Independence Day 1845, an idealistic young American (Thoreau was just 28) turned his back on what he saw as his country’s depressing materialism, its commercial and industrial soullessness and took himself off to a life of solitude in a country cabin near Walden Pond, just outside Concord, Massachusetts. In his famous account of this experiment, Thoreau later wrote:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow out of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”