Summer lends itself to reading and vacations, so why not combine the two into a literary trip?
The homes and studies where many great writers toiled over their prose have been preserved. See original manuscripts, often in the author's own handwriting. Walk about the communities where they strode, often so preoccupied with their plots and characters that they didn't even speak to the neighbors they met. Travelers can do that and more on a trip to the places where ideas became literature.
Printers Row Journal presents six trips for literature lovers of all genres.
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Several 19th century American literary giants made their homes in Massachusetts, including Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau.
Concord, Mass., was home to Alcott, Emerson and Thoreau, and is a 45-minute car ride from Boston, making it an easy day trip from the city. The first stop for many literary travelers is Walden Pond; much of its land was saved from development, and visitors can walk the same woods that inspired Thoreau's "Walden." The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods contains not only manuscripts and other documents related to the writer, but many other special collections, including that of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society. A replica of Thoreau's home is also on the property.
From Walden Woods, take the Emerson-Thoreau Amble trail to Emerson's home and see where Emerson wrote most of his important works. Guided tours take visitors through the house, which is much as it was when he lived there. While the furniture in the study is a replica, the original furnishings are in the Concord Museum across the street.
Emerson hosted many meetings on Transcendentalism, and Alcott often joined the discussions. Known for "Little Women," Alcott's home is where she wrote and set her story of the March family, based on her own kin. The house itself dates back to 1690.
For those with more time, a trip to Dickinson's home in Amherst and Melville's farmstead in Pittsfield is worth it. Docents lead guided tours of both Dickinson's residence and her brother's family's home, with the focus on her life, family, and other influences on her writing. Most of the houses are open to tours, including her bedroom, and the "Emily Room" at her brother's home.
West of Amherst and located in the Berkshires is Arrowhead, the 45-acre farmstead where Melville wrote "Moby-Dick" and spent his most productive years. Several parts of the house are open to visit, including Melville's study, piazza and the barn where he and Nathaniel Hawthorne would discuss their work.
Suggested reading: "Walden" by Thoreau, "Nature" by Emerson, "Little Women" by Alcott, "The Poems of Emily Dickinson" edited by R. W. Franklin and "Moby-Dick," by Melville.
Oxford and Jackson, Miss.
No writer captures a town like William Faulkner. The author lived and died in Oxford, Miss., and his fictitious Yoknapatawpha County is a stand-in for Oxford and the surrounding area. Faulkner lived at Rowan Oak for more than 40 years and did most of his writing here. The home is now owned and maintained by the University of Mississippi, which allows self-guided tours of the property. A favorite room of visitors in Rowan Oak is his study, where on the walls he wrote out the draft of "A Fable." He's buried in St. Peter's Cemetery where visitors still leave him bottles of whiskey. But Oxford is more than just Faulkner. The J.D. Williams Library at Ole Miss has a treasure trove of archival material of not only Faulkner, but other famous Mississippi writers as well as an extensive blues music archive. Stop in one of three locations of Square Books and you might see other Oxford-based writers, such as Richard Ford and John Grisham.