01 September, 2009

A Tour of Literary Homes

This is the home built by R. Waldo Emerson's grandfather, Concord minister, witness to the American Revolution and the battle at the Old North Bridge. Waldo lived here for a time and wrote his essay "Nature" here (the long version). Nathaniel Hawthorne also lived and began his family and early writing here.

This is also where (in the front parlor) our 14 yo son was asked to play the 1760-something Steinway, the only thing that could be touched in the house. Quite out of tune, it was still music to this mama's ears and heart! He did well!

Backyard view of The Manse coming up the trail from The North Bridge. Mrs. Emerson watched the battle from the upstairs window next to the corner. Her second husband (after her first one died) was the minister that was hired to take her late husband's place. They stayed here in The Manse, had more children, and the new preacher planted an incredible orchard. He was criticized for this when he was planting at an older age by nay-saying neighbors, who thought for sure that he was planting in vain, never to eat the fruit from these trees.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in his essay "The Old Manse," '...
there was only so much the better motive for planting them, in the pure and unselfish hope of benefiting his successors--an end so seldom achieved by more ambitious efforts.' The old minister *did* harvest many apples and fruits from his trees, for he lived to be 90 years old.

I loved seeing the hostas along the stones. Many of the great thinkers in what is called Concord's "Second Revolution" visited here, rested here, taught each other here. One woman, known as Smart Mary, even tutored here. Harvard would send potential appicants to be tutored by her to get them up to speed and ready for their Harvard studies. This is only a relative few miles down the road from Cambridge, after all.

The Old Manse Garden ~ Thoreau planted an heirloom garden here for Hawthorne and his new bride, Sophia (pronounced 'So-fy-a' by the historians we talked to) before they moved in. Nathaniel rented the old Emerson estate for about three years to the tune of $100 a year. He had trouble making rent, because it was early on in his writing career. Years later, he made good on his back rent and paid off his debts.

This is the boathouse on the Concord River behind The Manse. The stones at the base are original, but the boathouse itself has been rebuilt. It is smaller than the original. I am standing on the Old North Bridge to take this photo. It was a still and lovely day.

Orchard House! Do you recognize it from anywhere? This was one of the homes of the Alcott family. Here, L.M.A wrote Little Women. Sister Elizabeth had already died when they moved into this home.

Dear daughter and myself, thoroughly enjoying our time of learning at Orchard House.

This is where the little gift shop is located, by which you may enter the home for a wonderful and historical tour. Be prepared to view LMA's collection of favorite books, from Dickens to Jane Austen and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

When Nathaniel Hawthorne lived next door, he did not always want to see or talk to Bronson Alcott, who loved nothing more than to sit out on a bench under their tree and engage passers-by in long conversations. Hawthorne would use a footpath behind the smaller lean-to buildings to avoid Bronson some days, when all he wanted to do was to pick up a few things quickly in town. Hawthorne was a bit shy, and valued his privacy. At other times, he would stop and talk with Alcott. Just not every time!

The School of Philosophy, started by Alcott. It was open for eight years until Bronson Alcott's death. It was reopened for classes in the 1970's and a summer teacher's institute was added sometime later. Sounds like a neat thing to do, doesn't it?

Hostas planted on the walkway here at Orchard House, just like The Old Manse

After our morning at Orchard House, we enjoyed a picnic between two historic homes.

If you enlarge the photo, you should be able to see Wayside in the background.

This is the home of the Alcotts when the girls were smaller. This is where a lot of those adventures LMA wrote into Little Women were lived and played out, including the staircase they'd play "Pilgrim's Progress" on. The Hawthornes bought this home for 1200 dollars from the Alcotts, who had called the home "Hillside." Hawthorne renamed it "Wayside." It is worth doing a little research to find out more fascinating history of Wayside, and how it was the first literary home to be added to the National Park Service list. During that ill-fated day, April 19th, 1775, this home was owned by one of the commanders of the Minutemen, thus its importance to the National Park Service.

The entrance to the home. We are coming out of the garage, where there is a neat display of the three literary giants who lived in this home: Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney (whose real name is Harriet Lothrop) who wrote Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

Love the green doors

Those are some of the memorable highlights of two of our days in Concord, MA.

When we take our next graduate in line for his own special trip, we will go to Emerson's 'Bush' house and Longfellow's home in Cambridge, where some Harvard lectures still take place!

Until next time (And highlights of the Old North Bridge :),


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