You would be surprised to know that Massachusetts was quite the literary hot spot in the nineteenth century. Well the eastern half of the state anyways. Where all the cool stuff is.
Concord, MA in particular was like the Las Vegas of the nineteenth century writing world. (What happened in Concord stayed in Concord)
Some of the biggest names in literature lived and wrote in Concord. Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne to name the most well-known.
(Yes, yes I know everybody associates Hawthorne with Salem and the House of Seven Gables, and indeed Hawthorne was born in Salem, but he did not live there his whole life and NO he did NOT live in the House of Seven Gables.)
I had the pleasure of visiting Concord on two occasions last year. Once in July because my youngest son wanted to spend his birthday at Minutemen National Park and once in October when I brought my kids there for a night-time reading of old New England ghost stories at the park.
Minuteman National Park is a pretty cool place. For those of you who know your American history, you will know that the Battle of Lexington and Concord was the first battle of the Revolutionary War and you can walk the path that was the main road at the time, that Paul Revere used for his famous midnight ride and that the British troops marched along, and where some of the houses and taverns still stand that the Minuteman army gathered in as they prepared to go to war. If you’re an American history buff, this place is a place you don’t want to miss.
So anyways, back to writers in Concord.
In between exploring the park I was able to visit some very cool places of interest for someone who is a big fan of nineteenth century classic literature, which I happen to be. I did take some pictures of the houses altho unfortunately they don’t allow you to photograph when you’re inside. I did manage to get one photo from inside tho. Our tour guide was very cool about conveniently looking away while we were in that one room. Haha.
I plan to take more trips back to Concord. There are still some more literary landmarks Id like to explore. But for now these are some of the places I’ve visited so far.
Orchard House. The real Orchard House. Not the one from the Little Women movie. This is the house Louisa May Alcott lived in. In her bedroom is the desk where she wrote Little Women. There is a trunk of costumes that the Alcott girls used to dress up in when putting on plays that Louisa wrote. In the trunk are the treasured pair of tall boots that were Louisa’s favorite costume accessory. On the walls and woodwork all over the house are the pencil sketches done by her sister May, who inspired the character of Amy March. One thing about these “little women” is that there was nothing little about them. They Alcott sisters were TALL. Like circus freak tall for women of their time.
The Old Manse, build by Ralph Waldo Emerson’ grandfather in 1770 and used by subsequent generations of the Emerson family until the early 20th century. Emerson himself lived in it, of course, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and his new wife rented the property and lived there for several years. Henry David Thoreau planted a large heirloom vegetable garden there as a wedding gift for the Hawthornes.
Wayside House. A house where Louisa May Alcott lived as a girl and where Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family lived in later years. The house was known as Hillside when the Alcotts owned it. As you may know, Little Women was highly autobiographical, and many of the adventures that the March girls experience in Little Women happened in reality to the Alcott sisters while they lived here. Nathaniel Hawthorne purchased it from the Alcott family and it is the only house he ever owned and where he wrote his last works. He renamed it Wayside and owned the house until he died. Author Margaret Sidney also lived at here and she and her husband and daughter are responsible for much of the restoration and preservation of Wayside House as well as Orchard House (which is right next door).
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing desk, inside his study at the top of the three-story turret of Wayside House. Where he wrote. The desk where Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote. The desk that I was able to touch that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote at. Sorry I still feel a bit faint when I think about it. So, anyways, as you can see, it is a podium style desk, because Hawthorne wrote while standing. He wrote masterpieces while standing. In an attic. With no lights. Or heat. Or air conditioning. With a a quill pen.
Which makes me an even bigger loser cuz I can barely concentrate on writing while laying nestled comfortably in bed on a tempur-pedic mattress propped up on a pile of pillows using a lap-top in a well-lit, perfectly temperature controlled room. Yeah. That’s why he’s Nathaniel Hawthorne. And I’m me.