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I don’t much care for Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I appreciate his contribution to literature and philosophy, so we went to his house.  One thing that was interesting about this tour was that they do continuous tours, which I’ve never seen before.  What that means is, you ring the doorbell like you’re coming to dinner with Ralph, and then you join a tour already in progress.  This is nice because it eliminated all of the milling around in the giftshop waiting for the tour to start.  This was bad because we began the tour upstairs, and did not get all of the background on who all lived in the house.  Then the tour guide would say things like “so and so’s room” without explaining who so and so was, and we did not understand the significance at all.

It wasn’t bad though, overall.  We had two different tour guides.  rwe_concord_ma_06One started with us upstairs, then handed us off to another one in the parlor, then finished up again in the alcove.

Upstairs girl was the better of the two, but they were both rather awkward.  Upstairs, she mostly indicated at paintings and told us who was in them.  She said um a lot, and seemed like she was rushing a bit.  A couple people asked questions, and she said “I don’t know, but the lady downstairs does.  We can ask her.”  at least she didn’t try to make something up.

Downstairs girl was similar to the girl we had at the House of the Seven Gables.  She was awkward, and very hard to understand.  The situation was made more awkward by the fact that when we were on her part of the tour, we were the only two people.  She stared at the ceiling and orated on the life of Ralph Waldo, while we scanned the walls trying to understand her.  I think that there’s a trend among tour guides in New England to not only have a regional accent, but also a speech impediment and a penchant for mumbling– I’m kind of over it.

Fun facts about Ralph Waldo Emerson: In his later years, he was always late to church, and he blamed it on the fact that he could never find his gloves.  Thoreau built a special drawer into Emerson’s chair, so he would always have a place to keep them, but he was still late all the time anyway.  He had also been a minister for years when he was younger– must have been sick of church.

The best part of the tour was the end when we went downstairs and had a lovely conversation with the woman manning the gift shop.  She was a librarian as well, so we complained about the lack of jobs, and made fun of library school.  I kind of want to go back just to hang out with her.

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I mentioned a while ago, that Jewish Friend and I went superfunadventuring to Salem for a trip to the House of the Seven Gables.  More recently, we made a daytrip to Concord, MA to visit Orchard House, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s estate.  The plan is to embrace this summer of underemployment and use this deluge of time wisely– fill it with learning.  The response to my photos from the Concord trip was almost overwhelming, and many people commented on how much fun it seemed to be (and it was!). It occurs to me that maybe people who are interested in this kind of thing, don’t know what all we have at our disposal here in the Northeast.

Since I’m a nerd, and have a lot of time on my hands, I made a list– what I think is the definitive list of literary tourism in this part of the country.  I’m going to hit as many places as I can, and do a little write-up of each.  Since I’ve eaten almost all of the mac and cheese Providence has to offer, I have to have opinions about something.

Here’s the list:

Massachusetts:

Concord:

Orchard House— house where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women and lived for many years.

Ralph Waldo Emerson House— self-explanatory.

Walden Pond— Pond where H.D. Thoreau camped out and wrote smug essays.

Wayside— Another home occupied by the Alcott family, and the only home that Nathaniel Hawthorne lived in outside of Salem.

The Old Manse— Place where R.W. Emerson lived before settling in his later estate.  Also, Mosses from an Old Manse by Hawthorne…

Amherst:

Emily Dickinson Museum— Self explanatory

Fall River:

Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast— Not exactly literary, but a lot of books have been written about Lizzie.  If you stay there overnight, which is grossly overpriced, you must vacate your room at 11, 1, and 3 so the proprietors can run tours through it, but they serve you a breakfast similar to the one the Borden’s consumed on that fateful day– hilarious.

Pittsfield:

Melville’s Arrowhead-– You can find Melville stuff all over this area, plus there are two annual marathon readings of Moby Dick, one of which allows you to stay on an actual whaling ship (if you book early).  Arrowhead is the estate where Melville and his family settled and lived for 13 years, during which time he wrote extensively.

Springfield:

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden— Awesome.

Connecticut:

Hartford:

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center— I really don’t care for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I have no idea what else Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, but what better way to learn?

Mark Twain House and Museum— My parents have find memories of Twaining in Hannibal, MO, but all they have there is his boyhood stuff.  In Connecticut, you get Twain as adult, and can view his beautiful 19-room Victorian estate.

Lenox:

The Mount–Edith Warton’s country estate– huge, beautiful, designed by Edith Warton.  Sassy Redhead has visited this place already, and seems very happy in pictures.

Cambridge:

The Longfellow House–occupied by H.W. Longfellow from 1837 to 1882.

New York:

Tarrytown:

Sunnyside— Home of Washington Irving.  I’ve wanted to visit Tarrytown since I was about 9-years-old and first read Otherwise Known as Sheila The Great.  In that particular book, Sheila Tubman, menace to Peter of Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing Fame, leaves NYC for a summer in Tarrytown.  A friend of hers lives in Washington Irving’s old house (which is clearly not true, but really cool, I thought).  This was the first time it dawned on me that you could go to places where authors had lived and wrote, and I’ve been desperate to go ever since.  The fact that I’ve lived this close for a year and a half is something that I’m not very proud of, but it is what it is.

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery--I’m not terrifically excited to go to a cemetery, but these old ones can be pretty cool. Also, you can’t do a literary tour without Sleepy Hollow– for reals.

Cooperstown:

Fenimore House--Just what it sounds like.  Apparently, there’s a Cooper house in New Jersey too…

Vermont:

Dummerston:

Naulakha (Kipling House)-– Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while living in the mountains of Vermont.

Shaftsbury:

Robert Frost Museum–Just what it sounds like.  I don’t care much for Frost, which is why this is last on the list.