Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dead Writers of Concord

Orchard House, Concord
Oh how I enjoyed our three days in Concord! We were excited to see Louisa May Alcott's Concord House. Her classic novel Little Women was set in this house and the sisters in the novel were based on her own sisters. The tour was delightful, and we learned about Louisa May--she was very much like the fictional Jo, but not completely. The house felt welcoming, even after all these years, and it was more than a little thrilling to be in this famous house. Later, we visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery which may sound morbid, but consider this: on a hill overlooking the park-like graveyard, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are buried. If you go, and would like to leave something to honor them, bring some pens and pencils.

Louisa May Alcott's collection of pens and pencils

The Alcott family monument
You remember Henry David Thoreau from Walden Pond, yes?
(That's not him, but that is Walden Pond)
 The Thoreau family is buried next to the Alcotts.

The Thoreau family monument
Henry David Thoreau the naturalist has a nice collection of natural items along with his pencils and pens.

Nearby, we found Ralph Waldo Emerson's grave in a sea of other Emersons.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has a distinctive grave marker, yes?

The Emersons were a big Concord family and there are Emerson artifacts all over town. RW's study has been reconstructed in the Concord Museum, and his house, just down the street from Orchard House, is a museum in its own right...
Ralph Waldo Emerson's house
...and Emerson's grandfather, Rev. William Emerson, was an important minister in Concord whose house is also a museum:

Rev. William Emerson's Old Manse
The Old Manse is important because Ralph Waldo Emerson lived there for a time during which he wrote "Nature," and Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife "rented" the place for a few years although they never paid any rent. They were very romantic and etched notes to each other in the window glass with her diamond ring:
Can you see the Hawthornes' etchings in the glass?
Outside another window we could see the bridge from which The Shot Heard 'Round the World was fired--this started the American Revolution, right here in Concord!

Hawthorne's grave is on Author's Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, too. His wife and daughter Una died in England and were buried there in 1871 and 1877, but were moved home to Concord in 2006 to be with Nathaniel.

Hawthorne's daughter Una was born in the Old Manse!
I came home with many photographs and a car full of books from this interesting, historic town, birthplace of Transcendentalism. But most importantly, I'll have the memories, thrilling memories, of standing in these authors' houses, gardens, and favorite haunts, and paying respects at their graves. It was a different kind of vacation, and a transformative one.