30 May 2011

Authors' Houses: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the Alcotts in Concord, Massachusetts

The Old Manse on Monument Street, Concord, was built by Ralph Waldo Emerson's grandfather, Rev. William Emerson, in 1770. William's widow married Rev. Ezra Ripley, and Emerson stayed with his ageing step-grandfather at the Old Manse in 1834, where he wrote a draft of Nature, (1836), which set the foundations for transcendentalism.

In 1842 Nathaniel Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody and moved to the Old Manse, which was not in fact named 'The Old Manse' until Hawthorne  came along, and was where Thoreau had prepared the garden for the pair to move in.

Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse (1846).

Originally named 'Coolidge Castle' after the family that owned it from its construction in 1828, Ralph Waldo Emerson bought this house, at the junction of the Cambridge Turnpike and Lexington Road, in 1835: the tragic death of his wife Ellen at the age of twenty had left him wealthy, and after a period of turmoil (in which he left both the church and academia), he visited Europe and returned to New England with many new ideas, and to Concord in particular with a new wife - Lydia (he preferred 'Lidian'), née Jackson.

A number of notable people visited Emerson in this house, and a few stayed here for a short time - significantly Henry Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller.

The utopian Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), the founder of the unfortunate Temple School in Boston and the father of Louisa May Alcott, moved to Concord. Aided by the ever-generous Emerson, the Alcotts purchased 'Hillside' in 1845, although Bronson's wife Abigail (usually called Abby) was unhappy with the move, and the family rented the home out and moved on in 1848.

In 1852, the Hawthornes moved back to Concord and purchased the house, renaming it 'The Wayside'. 

Harriett Mulford Stone Lothrop - mentioned in my Sleepy Hollow Cemetery post as the writer of the Five Little Peppers children's stories as 'Margaret Sidney' - and her daughter Margaret preserved The Wayside.

The Alcotts returned to Concord and bought Orchard House, next door to 'Wayside' (or 'Hillside' as Bronson still insisted in calling it) in 1857.  Louisa wrote Little Women here.

The Concord School of Philosophy is at the side of the house and was run by Bronson from 1880 until a short while before his death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These homes are some of the most wonderful places I've been. I think of them often and can't wait until I can visit again. My wife and I have made two visits to Concorde. Highly recommended for literary types. Nice write up.