25 May 2011

Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Mount Auburn Cemetery is a huge area in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was established in 1831 as the US's first landscaped cemetery, with several lakes and many impressive trees, shrubs and flowers. People seem to come here as much for the plants and birds as the famous graves, and it's even considered a wonderful place for a first date. For fifty cents you can pick up a map showing the site of the graves or memorials of the most famous people here, or you can find lesser known ones on a computer in the visitor center. Unfortunately, we arrived here just as it was threatening to rain, and that threat established itself as a major torrent for the rest of the afternoon, so we had to return the following day. Needless to say, virtually all the graves below are of writers or people with assocations with writers.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was a Unitarian preacher who had a profound effect on the Transcendentalists. There is a statue of him in Boston Public Garden.

This grave is of two poets: James Russell Lowell (1819-91) and his wife Maria White Lowell (1821-53), who was a member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society who before their marriage persuaded James to become an abolitionist. They lived at Elmwood, James's birthplace not far from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's home. One of his books written at Elmwood and published anonymously, A Fable for Critics: A Glance at a Few of Our Literary Progenies (1848), satirized a number of literary figures of the day.

Poet and novelist Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and his widow Lilian turned their house into a memorial to him, which in 1979 became part of the much larger Strawbery (sic) Banke Museum. He spent most of his youth in the South with his father, and later in New York. Between these two periods, though - from to 1952 - he went back to Portsmouth to live with his grandfather.

On marrying in 1865 he moved to Boston, where he began writing by drawing heavily on his years in Portsmouth with his grandfather, and the result was the novel The Story of  a Bad Boy (1870). It was the first realistic treatment of boys in literature, and was an inspiration to Mark Twain.

Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908) was born in Cambridge, educated at Harvard, and influenced by John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites. He translated some of Dante's work, and edited North American Review with James Russell Lowell. He traveled a great deal in Europe and was friendly with Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin (whose literary executor he became), and Edward FitzGerald. He is perhaps best known as an art historian, and until his retirement was for more than twenty years professor of the History of Art at Harvard.

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was an abolitionist and a poet who is undoubtedly best remembered for her patriot song 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic', which is set to the tune of 'John Brown's Body', which became very popular during the Civil War on the Yankee side. She later devoted herself to women's welfare. Her autobiography, Reminiscences: 1819–1899 (1899) is here.

The polymath Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), or 'Bucky' as he is usually more affectionately remembered, is noted - along with his sense of humor, tremendous energy, etc - for his popularization of the geodesic dome, one of which became his home during his stay at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale, which I believe I've mentioned elsewhere. 'Call me Trimtab'? Please don't ask - it's science, and I'd no doubt get any explanation hopelessly wrong.

Popularly, Margaret Fuller is perhaps best remembered for the effect she created among the sages of Concord, Massachusetts. Here, the memorial speaks in her many abilities, and of the tragedy of her death, along with that of her husband and son on the same occasion:

IN MEMORY OF
MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI
BORN IN CAMBRIDGE, MASS., MAY 23, 1810

BY BIRTH A CHILD OF NEW ENGLAND
BY ADOPTION A CITIZEN OF ROME
BY GENIUS BELONGING TO THE WORLD

IN YOUTH
AN INSATIATE STUDENT SEEKING THE HIGHEST CULTURE

IN RIPER YEARS
TEACHER, WRITER, CRITIC OF LITERATURE AND ART

IN MATURER AGE
COMPANION AND HELPER OF MANY
EARNEST REFORMER IN AMERICA AND EUROPE

AND OF HER HUSBAND
GIOVANNI ANGELO, MARQUIS OSSOLI
HE GAVE UP RANK, STATION AND HOME
FOR THE ROMAN REPUBLIC
AND FOR HIS WIFE AND CHILD

AND OF THAT CHILD
ANGLELO EUGENE PHILIP OSSOLI
BORN IN RIETI, ITALY, SEPT. 5, 1848
WHOSE DUST REPOSES AT THE FOOT OF THIS STONE

THEY PASSED FROM LIFE TOGETHER
BY SHIPWRECK JULY 19, 1850
 
It's always heartening to find a personal touch on a grave, however ephemeral it may be. But the note here has survived the long downpour of the previous day: 'Oh Robert! How I miss your advice, help, emails, letters, and your New England /yet Southwestern voice on the phone! 4.30.11'. That tells us a thing or two about Robert Creeley (1926-2005).

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was born in Brookline, now part of greater Boston, and came from a wealthy family whose money derived from cotton: the Massachusetts towns Lowell and Lawrence are named after the two industrialists John Amory Lowell, her paternal grandfather, and Abbott Lawrence, her maternal grandfather.

She didn't begin writing poetry until 1902, when she was inspired by the great Italian actress Eleonora Duse. In 1912 she published her first book of poetry - A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass - and met actress Ada Dwyer Russell. Poetically, Lowell identified herself with imagism, although Ezra Pond disparagingly called it 'Amygism'.

Lowell began a 'Boston marriage' with Russell and wrote poems that clearly concerned the love of women. When Lowell died, Russell, both Lowell's executrix and her heir, destroyed personal correspondence accordingly to Lowell's instructions.

Fanny Merritt Farmer (1857-1915) was born in Boston and grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, but due to illness in her teens was forced to stay at home and do the cooking for her family and boarders her family took in, which she later developed into a career. She studied and graduated from the Boston Cooking School, and within four years was Principal.

Farmer detested vague, unscientific cooking instructions such as 'heaping cup' and 'rounded teaspoon', and the hard-earned publication of the clumsily named Boston Cooking Book Cook Book - latterly simply known as Fannie Farmer - was a huge success. 

The Longfellow plot is large and impressive. As repetition is pointless, I shall make no comments now because I shall speak more of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82) when we visit his house and grounds - but alas, not the interior (we were out of season) - in a later post.

Francis Parkman (1823-93) is most noted The Oregon Trail (1849), and maybe that's the best entry into his work: his life just seems too bizarre for me to take in at the moment, so the book's here.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-94) was so impressed by the publication of a newspaper article revealing the impending scrapping of an 18th century frigate, the USS Constitution, that he wrote the poem 'Old Ironsides' in 1930 as a tribute to the ship, and the great publicity caused by it led to the ship being preserved: it is now a tourist attraction. And although he's mainly remembered as a poet - he was often called upon to write commemorative verse - it was in the medical profession that he devoted most of his energy, first as a doctor and later as a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879) was the architect of Mount Auburn Cemetery, and the photo below gives an idea of how impressive it is:

This is Halcyon Lake, with Egerton Swartwout's monument to Mary Baker Eddy to the cente right reflected in the water.

A close-up of the monument. Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) was the founder of Christian Science, and has briefly been mentioned below in relation to the Mary Baker Eddy Library on Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. She wrote a number of religious books.

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