Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Salem

Originally posted on All Things Literary:

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804, as Nathaniel Hathorne. In 1825 or ’26, he changed the spelling of his last name, by adding a “W”, which his sister also began to use.

Nathaniel Hawthorne as young man

Why would he want to change the spelling of his family name? Well, he had some relatives from generations past from which he wanted to distance himself. One and a half centuries distance was not enough for Nathaniel! He changed his last name’s spelling because his distance paternal grandfather, John Hathorne, was the magistrate of the court during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690’s.

John Hathorne

John caused a lot of innocent people to hang for the “crime” of witchcraft. Of course, these women (and a few men) were not witches or in a covenant with the Devil. They were victims of their environment. Superstition was a deeply held belief and the Puritanism was a covenant religion. Either you…

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A Connecticut Yankee… Part Two

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In my last post, I showed you the Mark Twain house. As I mentioned, the Harriet Beecher Stowe house is across the lawn.

Click on the image to make it larger

The Beecher Stowe house, with gingerbread trim, is a modest size compared to Samuel Clemen’s house:

The home where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Harriet Beecher (Stowe) received her early education in the town of her birth, Litchfield, CT. Her father, Lyman, worked as a teacher of Religion at Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy and Harriet attended the school. She was encouraged to develop critical thinking skills by partaking in vigorous intellectual debates… often during family dinner time!

When she was thirteen, she began attending the Hartford Female Seminary, in Hartford, CT. Her sister, Catherine, founded the girl’s school in Hartford. As Harriet become aware of the issue of slavery, she was determined to bring the issue into the nation’s consciousness. She and her brother Henry often spoke publicly against slavery and its moral degradation. Her brother became well known for his sermons (against slavery), which were delivered at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY.

Harriet was an older woman by the time she moved into the house at Nook Farm, in Hartford. She lived there with her husband and their twin daughters, Eliza and Harriet.

She had seven children, losing at least one to childhood illness. She recalled having used her sorrow (after the death of a son to cholera) as a way to understand what it may have been like when enslaved mothers had to give up their children, which is a theme in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As she wrote, Harriet had her daughters proof read her manuscript. When it was finally ready to send to her publisher, she needed three more copies to be made. Her daughters hand-wrote the three additional copies!

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house is described by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center as follows:

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s home (1871) illustrates the lasting popularity of the gothic-revival cottage and the influences of architects Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux… The house combines architectural details like the steep hip-roof and graceful exterior trim with the balanced proportion of bay windows and porches on each side. Boasting an interior of 4500 square feet, the façade was designed to make the house appear smaller than it actually is, resulting in a welcoming effect. While smaller than other homes in Stowe’s Nook Farm neighborhood, Stowe’s house nevertheless contains 14 rooms.

A Connecticut Yankee visits Mark Twain’s house… Part One

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… OK. So I don’t really label myself a Yankee, but I like the headline!

(Note: all sources will be identified at the end of this post)

One of the things that I like about visiting Connecticut is touring the homes of historic authors. I didn’t have a lot of hours to play, so I only visited places within a 45 minute drive of my Connecticut apartment. So, I visited the homes of Noah Webster, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

My first destination:

Before I write about Noah Webster, I want to tell you why “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” is on the sign. It is Connecticut’s State Motto and it can be translated as, “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.” (dr. delagar… correct me if I am wrong!!) I have read that the vines represent Connecticut Colony and that “He Who Transplanted” refers to God. The transplanted vines are the English people who came to the new land. So… He who transplanted them still watches over them.

You may recall, Noah Webster was the author of many books and spellers, but is most known for publishing the first American English dictionary. The 1828 edition had 70,000 defined words. In this dictionary, he updated (some would say Americanized) the spelling of many British English words, such as changing honour to honor. It was the fifth edition; the first edition had been published in 1806. He lived in New Haven during those years.

A page from the 1828 (first) edition is pictured below:

Note: When you look at the image, check out the word STURK, defined as a “young ox or heifer.” I have never seen that word. I wonder if it is still used, or if the word is obsolete. If you know that the word STURK is still used today, please write a comment. I am curious to know!

Below are some original spellers, authored by Noah Webster. People are most familiar with the McGuffy Readers, but Webster’s spellers came first! They fell out of favor when the McGuffy Readers gain popularity in the schools and among those schooled at home.

A speller was used to help to learn to read and spell. Noah Webster wrote the first three American-English spellers. The Blue Backed Speller was first published in 1783 as Part I of A Grammatical Institute of the English Language.

“…as a writer, he saw a national language as the way to unite the many states into a single culture.”

I presume that this was his writing desk (below.) I know that the trunk was the one he used to transport his belongings between the Colonies, England and France.

He is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, around the corner from where my husband was raised.

In the portrait of Noah Webster, below, I wonder about a few things:

Is that a real skull being used as a paperweight??

Check out the page of the book he is reading. Is that a black man in chains? What is he reading about?

Look out the window. There are slaves outside of his window doing some planting. Noah Webster wrote a book, Effects of Slavery on Morals and Industry, so I wonder what his position was on the issue of slavery. I guess that if I read his book, I might figure it out!

… I also wonder why would he keep books, papers and a musical instrument on the floor??

(Click on the image to make it larger)

I drove over to the Clemens and Beecher Stowe houses. Both houses share a common yard, but they are separate entities. The Clemens family (Samuel, his wife Olivia and their three young daughters, Suzy, Clara and Jean) and Harriet Beecher Stowe lived there at the same time. Samuel Clemens was middle aged and Harriet Beecher Stowe was elderly when they were neighbors. Harriet Beecher Stowe lived with her husband and adult twin daughters.

Their properties were part of an area known as “Nook Farm,” which was a community of artists, writers and activists.

Brothers-in-law John Hooker and Francis Gillette purchased 140 acres of pasture and woodland and founded the community. William Gillette, the actor who played Sherlock Holmes, grew up in the neighborhood. Many suffragettes lived in the “Nook Farm” neighborhood, which is mostly along Forest Street in Hartford. The Houghton-Hepburn family moved there around the time that the Clemens sold their home in 1903. Katharine Hepburn’s mother and father were very active in the women’s rights movement and in educating the public about the dangers of venereal disease. Her father was a urologist at Hartford Hospital and treated many of the prostitutes that lived in the local brothels.

As you drive down Forest Street, the houses are grand. Many of the homes were custom-built by nationally renowned architects. (If you decide to visit the area, keep in mind that the street is surrounded by a ghetto. It is no longer an exclusive neighborhood, although it is still beautiful!)

The Mark Twain house is an architectural masterpiece. The bricks are designed to look like stenciling.  This theme continues in the house. Louis Comfort Tiffany’s company designed and painted the elaborate stencils seen throughout the house, yet most prominent in the grand foyer. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the house, but I will write to the curator and ask permission to use their official photos. With permission, I will add them to this post.

The roof is made of slate. Each individual slate was hand-carved and follows a diamond pattern, as seen below:

The detailed brickwork is awe-inspiring.

Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and his wife Olivia believed in bringing nature indoors. A conservatory was built off of the main sitting room, where the family would gather to play games and present plays. As you can see from the outside, the conservatory is full of lush greenery and some exotic plants and trees. The floor is made of multi-colored slate tiles. If you look closely at the image, you can see a statue through the windows. The garden is beautifully designed and the windows let light into an otherwise dark house:

The open porches face what used to be a beautiful ravine and a little river that lined the property (Park River.) Unfortunately, urban sprawl has devoured the once park-like view. The river has been re-routed and now it flows through a concrete pipe under the ground. The woods are gone; apartment buildings have taken their place. There are still enough woods to imagine how beautiful it must have once looked.

Sources:

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Noah Webster House Museum

Mark Twain House and Museum

The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Estate

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Earlier this year, I drove to Lenox, Massachusets to visit Edith Wharton’s estate. Driving through the Berkshires is always a pleasure. I had never been to The Mount before and it was magnificent. It is just off of Route 7, on a little side street.

From the entrance, one can only see the stable and a small house.

Mount Stable

It is not until you walk down a wooded pathway for about a half mile that you see the Mount gradually appear.

Path leading up to The Mount

The path is very serene, but I wouldn’t suggest taking a leisurely stroll at sunset. The mosquitos are carnivorous and you will be their prey! As I walked further up the path, I saw the Mount! I had envisioned something quite diferent from what I initially saw.

Back of the Mount

This is the actual front of the Mount, although most people think the garden side of the house is the front. As I walked through the whitewashed stone wall, I could see a garden in the distance. Inside the stone wall is a courtyard, which would have been where carraiges parked.  The house is a brick structure, painted white. Although the house was built on a grand scale, the front door is quite plain with straight lines.

Plain door

When I entered the house, I was fascinated with the spaces in which Edith Wharton lived and wrote. Her first book, The Decoration of Houses, which was co-written with Odgen Codman Jr., was about architectural design. The Mount was built 5 years after the book was published. One can imagine, quite correctly, that the Mount is a masterpiece of design.

Edith Wharton collected the finest tapestries from around the world, to adorn the walls. One example is in the parlor:

Mount parlor

One of my favorite rooms at the Mount is the parlor, where the tapestry above is located. Edith Wharton did some of her writing in this room, and I imagine she entertained guests here, also.

Mount Parlor 2

The rooms are adjoined by a hallway (on each floor) called a “gallery” which feature sculptures on pedestals. Artwork also adorns the walls. Here is a photo of one of the sculptures on a pedestal in the first floor gallery.

Gallery Foyer at the Mount

This house is grand and opulent, so it surprised me to see that Edith’s bathroom is quite small and plain. I’m sure that at some point there was a vanity in between the sconces. The view out the window overlooks the landscaped gardens.

Edith's bathroom

The above picture was taken at night.

Below is a picture taken the next day. You can see the landscape outside the window.

Edith's bathroom2

The gardens outside of the Mount are reminiscent of the ornamental gardens of 18th century England. Here are some photos of the landscape architecture and gardens at the Mount:

the_mount_garden

Wharton gardens

These photos are beautiful, but they can’t capture the scents and sounds. I felt very peaceful when walking the grounds. Whatever may have been troubling me in the “real” world escaped my mind. While I was at the Mount, I felt removed from the world and all its problems. That is why I describe the grounds and the pathway leading up to the house as serene.

As the sun was setting, I took a walk down to the Wharton’s pet cemetery. Yes, they cherished their dogs and buried them in graves, with gravestones.

Toto's grave at the Mount

Miza's grave at the Mount

Source: savethemount.org

Source: savethemount.org

Miza is in the center of the photo. Miza’s grave is the one above this picture.

Modele's grave at the Mount

Edith Wharton’s husband was also a dog lover. His favorite dog is said to have been “Jules.” Below is a photo of Teddy and Jule on a horse.

… and here is a picture of Jules’s grave

Jules grave at the Mount

I will end this post by showing a photo of the Mount, taken at night. It has quite a different feel at night. Quite spooky, actually!

Mount in the dark

The time that I spent at the Mount was very enjoyable. I learned a lot about Edith Wharton and her relationships with husband Teddy Wharton and their good friend, Henry James. I will add a separate post about her life and works.

Graduate school… half way done!

The year went by quickly. I learned that I am capable of getting “A” grades at the graduate level, completed my Graduate Assistantship and gained a lot of valuable administrative experience. This degree was not my first choice. I really wanted to get a Master’s degree in English Literature, but was talked out of it by one of my English professors! Seems one can’t find a job with a BA and/or MA English degree…

In my undergraduate degree, the classes were mostly on campus. I am currently in an online graduate program.

Quick note to my readers…

I added a Book List for 2011 tab. Click on it to read the new content that I have posted there. Some books take me longer to finish while others take me a day to finish. Instead of listing them by months read, I’ll list them in the order read. I am trying to blog regularly while in graduate school full time, so please bear with me if posting is sporadic.

Facebook Memoir… bittersweet, but necessary

Getting slightly bummed out. I am taking my sister-in-law’s facebook posts and putting them in order from oldest to newest. So far, I have been dealing with her posts from when she was feeling fine.

From July 2009 to December 2009, she was …feeling normal. She started getting sick on around December 31rst and wasn’t feeling good in general. Laryngitis, sore throats, headaches, exhaustion, body aches. It sucks to be reading these posts because she had no idea that she only had 10 months to live.

The day she died, I looked at her posts on Facebook. I couldn’t stand the thought of her face book page disappearing one day and more than 33,000 words being gone forever. That’s why I am compiling them. They are precious to me… WORDS are precious to me.

It’s just hard to read these newer posts because I know it’s all down hill from here. From January 2010 to May 2010, she felt sick every day, but didn’t know why. That’s the period I’m reading right now. When I’m finished, I’ll be glad I did it, but for now, I feel like I’m reliving it all over again.

Winter reading update

I began to read “Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Before I read a book, I always like to learn a little bit about the author. In doing so, I learned that Jack London had a very rough life. He came to believe that life is an unending struggle against the ruthless forces of nature. At the beginning of Call of the Wild, the dog Buck has a very nice life in a very comfortable home. Soon, he is kidnapped and forced to become a sled dog in the Klondike region of Canada. I read it for about 4 chapters. To be honest, the book depressed me! I decided to stop reading it.

Note: It is OK to begin reading a book and then decide not to finish it.

A while back, I went to Books-A-Million. Outside the front door are some discount book shelves. I found a book for $2.00 and it was quite a find! Claire Tomalin is one of my favorite biographers of late nineteenth and early twentieth century British authors. I have a book she read about Jane Austen. That day, (for $2.00!) I found a biography of Thomas Hardy, written by Tomalin. I began reading it two days ago.

The Winter Reading Challenge list is a recommended list of books to read during the winter months. I will get through most of them, but when I find additional books to read along the way, I can’t resist. I encourage you to find a book that makes you want to pick it up again and again. It’s like visiting with a friend!

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