"Walden" is Published
Thoreau was 27 when he took up residence in the cabin by Walden Pond; he had graduated from Harvard 19th in his class, tried teaching, helped his father in the family pencil business, did local odd jobs for a dollar a day, lived with the Emersons for two years as handyman and gardener, left Long Island after a brief spell of tutoring and testing the literary market, and, despite Emerson's sponsorship and a few poems and essays in the Transcendentalist quarterly The Dial, had made no mark. He emerged from the cabin in 1847 as essentially the Thoreau known to literary history.
During his time at Walden, Thoreau spent a night in jail for refusing to pay his poll tax. He withheld the tax to protest the existence of slavery and what he saw as an imperialistic war with Mexico. Released after a relative paid the tax, he wrote "Civil Disobedience" (originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government") to explain why private conscience can constitute a higher law than civil authority. "Under a government which imprisons any unjustly," he argued, "the true place for a just man is also a prison." Thoreau continued to be a vocal and active opponent of slavery. In addition to aiding runaway slaves, in 1859 he staunchly and publicly defended abolitionist John Brown.
At Walden, Thoreau worked diligently on A Week, but he also explored Walden Woods and recorded his observations on nature in his Journal. He entertained visitors and made regular trips to town; friends and neighbors began to inquire about his life at the pond. What did he do all day? How did he make a living? Did he get lonely? What if he got sick? He began collecting material to write lectures for his curious townsmen, and he delivered two at the Concord Lyceum, on February 10 and 17, 1847. By the time he left the pond on September 6, 1847, he had combined his lectures on life at Walden with more notes from his journal to produce the first draft of a book which he hoped to publish shortly after A Week.