My Book Cougars cohost Emily Fine and I spent yesterday exploring literary history in Concord, MA. We had a blast! Back when I was a poor graduate student I longed to visit Concord, the birthplace of the Transcendental movement and home to so many influential 19th century American writers.
The main focus of our trip was interviewing author Anne Boyd Rioux at Orchard House for the final part of our Summer of Little Women in August. She was in town for Orchard House’s 2018 Summer Conversational Series and Teacher Workshop. I’ll be sure to share that interview here when it’s live next month.
Our Summer of Little Women has included three readalongs:
- June: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The 150th Anniversary of the publication of Part I of this classic novel is on September 30th. Our discussion was on Episode 53.
- July: March by Geraldine Brooks. Historical spin-off fiction. Pulitzer Prize-winning alternative history of Mr. March, the absent father in Little Women. Discussion coming up on Episode 55.
- August: Meg, Joe, Amy, Beth: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux. Forthcoming from W.W. Norton. Publication date is August 21, 2018. Our discussion will be recorded at the very end of August to give folk’s a chance to read the book.
For today’s post, I’m focusing on the houses we saw.
I imagine writing two most posts about our day, a library/bookstore post and a Sleepy Hollow Cemetery post.
— Orchard House —
Louisa May Alcott
Photography isn’t allowed inside Orchard House. It was awesome to stand in the room and see the desks (there are two) where Louisa wrote Little Women and so many other works.
Orchard House welcomes visitors from around the world and I highly recommend a visit. Emily and I also had the pleasure of sitting down to record with Jan Turnquist, the executive director of Orchard House.
I purchased Transcendental Wild Oats at the gift shop in Orchard House. This is Alcott’s satire about Fruitlands, her father’s experimental utopian society that she lived through in 1843 when she was 10-11 years old. She penned this satire years later and it was first published in 1873.
Years ago I read and enjoyed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithdale Romance (1852), a satirical novel about his experience in 1841 at a similar Transcendentalist utopian society, Brook Farm. Hawthorne was miserable there but his novel, at least as I remember it, is capital F funny if you’re into 19th-century literature.
— Bush —
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Above is the house that Emerson moved into in 1835 after he left The Old Manse. The home was built in 1828 by the Coolidge Family as a summer home. They named it Coolidge Castle. It’s just down the street from Orchard House. Emerson re-named it Bush.
— The Old Manse —
Emerson & Nathaniel Hawthorne
Here I am in front of The Old Manse at dusk, illuminated by the car headlights. After we left Orchard House we headed back to the Concord Bookshop for a quick browse (they closed at 6 p.m.), took a walk through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (more on that in the next post), and had dinner. The Old Manse was already closed for the day when we arrived, but we walked around the beautiful grounds as the sun was setting.
The Old Manse was built in 1770 for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather. In the early 1830s, Emerson wrote the first draft of “Nature” in this house. That essay would become the foundational text of the Transcendentalist movement. After Emerson moved out to Bush, Nathaniel Hawthorne and his new bride, Sophia, moved in. Henry David Thoreau planted a garden for the newlyweds.
I look forward to going back and spending more time in Concord. I’d like to do house tours of both The Old Manse and Bush. AND find Walden Pond. The sun was gone when we turned the car from The Old Manse toward Walden Pond. Our GPS failed us and so as it was now pitch dark, we hit the road home.
Links to these three wonderful homes:
Alcott: Orchard House
Hawthorne: The Old Manse
I still have yet to make it out to Orchard House. I will one day now I’ve crossed the Brontës and Austen off my list, I mean I’m definitely more of an anglophile than American literary reader.
I was so thrilled to finally make it up there. Concord is a lovely town. For the number of tourists they get, the town has done a nice job of maintaining its integrity. Laura and I look forward to seeing some of the Austen sites. We don’t have an England trip planned but one has been percolating for a while.
I used to live in Concord and visited Orchard House quite a few times. It was especially beautiful at Christmas. I had a new baby and loved getting out of the house and walking around downtown Concord and the cemetery. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!!!
How amazing it must have been to live there. I’m happy to know you enjoyed some familiar scenes!
What an adventure! I am envious of the literary heritage that we don’t have in Australia (yet) and the authorial homes with such character.