Monday, August 19, 2013

Literary Tourism: My Trip to Concord


As many of you have probably guessed, I am an anglophile who loves English literature of all sorts. However, there is one time period (besides present day) of American writing history that I truly love. Some call it “The Golden Age of American Literature,” but it’s really the first period of great American writers. These are the days of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and most importantly for me, Louisa May Alcott.

Entering Concord (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

They all lived in Concord, Massachusetts, for awhile at the same time, and their ideas and writing styles shaped our country’s psyche. From time to time, other literary greats joined their circle, including Herman Melville, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and even Edgar Allan Poe.

Downtown Concord (Photo by Ian Britton)

Concord is a tiny town tucked in the Massachusetts countryside, only about thirty minutes or so away from the bustle that is Boston, but worlds away from its frenetic energy. Nestled among woods and hills, it sits pretty much as it was when the Transcendentalists were there. Down the street from Alcott’s Orchard House sits the home of Emerson. One can almost see young Louisa May Alcott, shawl wrapped tightly around her shoulders to protect her from the autumnal breeze, scampering down the road to the Emerson’s to enchant young Ellen with one of her “Flower Fables.”

Walden Pond (Photo by Karen Wojcik Berner)

Walden Pond is a short car ride outside of Concord. Beautiful woods rim what is a secluded swimming hole for locals today, but will always be a literary and environmental sacred space. It was said Henry David Thoreau knew more about the forest surrounding Concord than anyone. He taught local children about the Native American tribes who lived there and could always point out where to dig for a fantastic treasure—a Native American arrowhead! He knew all the birds and woodland creatures. And sometimes, unfortunately, he knew humanity as well after being ostracized by the good people of Concord after accidentally setting a forest fire.

Author's Ridge Marker, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
(Photo by Karen Wojcik Berner)

On Bedford Street, one block east of Monument Square, lies Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the final resting place of many a Colonial leader, including some that fought in the Revolutionary War. I sought out Authors’ Ridge instead, which features the graves of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcott family, linked together in death as they were in life, neighbors yet again.

During the next few weeks, I will be exploring the Transcendentalists and their influence on American literature, sharing some fantastic tidbits I learned on my trip to the Boston area, discussing some of the books I have found. Each day, I will post a different fun fact on my Facebook page that will coincide with that weeks’s blog post.

Here’s the schedule.

Today: Concord
Week of 8/26: Louisa May Alcott
Week of 9/2: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Week of 9/9: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Week 9/16: Henry David Thoreau

I hope you will join me for these discussions and share your own American lit facts, as well as any opinions you have on the Transcendentalists and their work. They definitely are a fascinating bunch!


5 comments:

Kelly Hashway said...

Great pictures! I'm a little jealous.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Concord was beautiful, Kelly. Very inspiring to walk where so many literary greats trod.

Claudine G. said...

'Entering Concord' is such a sight and this sounds like a fabulous trip. Wish I have visited a 'Great Author' birthplace/creative place/museum so I can tell you more. Have a great time, Karen!

Chrys Fey said...

Louisa May Alcott is one of my idols! I would love to go to Concord, Massachusetts! *sighs* I bet you could just feel the inspiration from Concord seep into your veins.

Thank you for sharing!

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Hi, Claudine! Good to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by.

Chrys, you know, I really could. It was amazing to be in Louisa May Alcott's bedroom where she wrote "Little Women." Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.