In the quiet town of Concord, Massachusetts lies a treasure trove of history. Something many do not realize is that much of it has nothing to do with the American Revolution! Concord was the home of some of the most prolific writers of the mid-to-late 19th century. There are so very many one could name, but 4 stand out in my mind: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa May Alcott is most famous for her novel “Little Women” (which is set at Orchard House, a museum on Lexington Road that you can visit even today!), but there is far more of her work available here at the library. Some of her other books include “Little Men”, “Jo’s Boys”, “Eight Cousins”, “Rose in Bloom”, and “Hospital Sketches” (this one was originally published under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard). Her very first novel, “Flower Fables”, was published in 1854, and dedicated to Ellen Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson; both families were extremely close.
One reason they may have been so close is that they lived only a 5 minute walk away from each other! Ralph Waldo Emerson (whose home, Emerson House, can also be toured in the summer months) is known far and wide for his philosophical and “transcendental” writing. The Transcendentalist movement swept through the region, and soon Emerson was leading the charge for this new way of thinking with his work. You can find many examples of his introspective and far-reaching thoughts here. Why not see what this Transcendence is all about?
Next door to Orchard House sits Wayside, the home of another friend to the Alcotts and Emersons; the Hawthornes. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s haunting (and sometimes gruesome) tales are read by nearly every student of American Literature. While “The Scarlet Letter” is his best-known work, this is the mere tip of the iceberg. His novels and short stories are more than enough to keep the mind occupied for at least a year. Some of my favorites include the novel “The Marble Faun” and the short story “Rappacini’s Daughter”. Give them a spin and save a few for Halloween!
Of course, Henry David Thoreau’s life in Concord runs like a ribbon through the entire town, connecting everyone. Thoreau spent time with all of these writing families, as a tutor, confidante, and friend. His work “Walden” is a must-read for many nature, philosophy, and Massachusetts enthusiasts. Thoreau experienced the outdoors and simple living for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days on Walden Pond. You can go here to find many other works from both before and after his time on the Pond.
There is so much wonderful writing to be discovered just by coming to the library and trying out even one book on this list! Check out one of Alcott’s novels, and read it with your children. Enjoy a walk in the sunshine and bring along a copy of essays by Emerson or Thoreau. You could even take a stroll through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord and have a haunted experience of your own with a good Hawthorne story. The possibilities are endless.
~written by Laura Sanscartier