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From Where I Lived, and What I Lived For by Henry David Thoreau:

The only house I had been the owner of before, if I except a boat, was a tent, which I used occasionally when making excursions in the summer, and this is still rolled up in my garret; but the boat, after passing from hand to hand, has gone down the stream of time. With this more substantial shelter about me, I had made some progress toward settling in the world. [Emphasis added.]

How can a shelter be about him? I think it should be of mine.

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About, in this sense, means

prep. 1. On all sides of; surrounding: I found an English garden all about me.

American Heritage Dictionary

So his new shelter is around him, protecting him. The shelter is also "of his" (belonging to him), as is made clear in text preceding this excerpt.

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  • Note that this usage is less common in modern parlance, though not completely antiquated yet. It might seem a bit too "poetic" to use in everyday speech. Feb 14, 2016 at 18:06

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