For three weeks during one summer, we camped at the Gateway to Cape Cod RV Campground south of Boston, Massachusetts. One day trip we thoroughly enjoyed was going to see the origins of the American Revolution along Boston’s Freedom Trail. We have a friend who lived in Concord, Massachusetts, 40 minutes from Boston, at the time. He invited us to his house to see the part of the Revolution that played out there.
That’s where we found out that while the political revolution was significant, after independence from the British was finally won, the newly independent Americans went through another revolution, this time of a literary kind. Here’s the New England literary tour we went on to take, stop by stop.
First Stop: Concord, Massachusetts
After a visit to the Minute Man National Historical Park, our friend brought us to The Authors Ridge at Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It is the final resting place of five great American authors. One was the essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, The American Scholar, Nature), who was born in Boston but later moved to Concord. Another was the philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1863, Walden, Civil Disobedience) who was born in Concord, where he lived by Walden Pond on Emerson’s land for some time. And third was Romantic novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864, The Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables), who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, but later moved to Concord at the same time as Emerson and Thoreau.
Our friend also took us to see The Old Manse, a home of the Emerson family where they often congregated and which became the center of their Transcendentalist Movement. The educator Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888) joined them in what became known as the Concord Quartet, which fanned the ideals of individual liberty and equality. They heavily influenced the abolitionist sentiment in the North, presaging the Civil War. The group also inspired Amos’s daughter, Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888, Little Women), toward becoming a great author herself. She is the fifth author on that ridge, and her presence helped me decide to turn my then little journal into the blog that I now publicly share.
Second Stop: Salem, Massachusetts
About 40 minutes from Boston is Salem, Massachusetts. It’s known as the site of the infamous 1692 witch trials, so there is plenty to see, including the Witch Museum, the Witch House (a trial judge’s house), and the Trial Memorial. But we were also happy to see Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, which was relocated to a spot near the only living colonial home in North America, the House of the Seven Gables. It was the inspiration for Hawthorne’s classic novel of the same name and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Third Stop: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Just 20 minutes west of Boston is Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was great to visit the city campus of Harvard University, the Ivy League school established in 1636. Luckily, we discovered that the famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882, “Paul Revere’s Ride”) served as a professor there until he retired into full-time writing. He was very happy that he was able to own and live in what was later called the Longfellow House. We visited the house, a national historic site, which George Washington used as his headquarters during the start of the American Revolution.
Fourth Stop: Hartford, Connecticut
From our campground, Hartford, Connecticut, was only two and a half hours away. The lovely Mark Twain House is located in the city, so we happily continued our growing literary tour of New England as a day trip. The famous author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn thought that Hartford was the most beautiful city in the U.S., so he made it his home. And that was where he wrote many of his masterpieces. Unfortunately, it was also there that he saw much of his wealth disappear due to poor investments in the printing industry.
The most amazing thing we found, however, is that the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center sits beside the Mark Twain House on the same small block. Her landmark novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War that followed. Both Stowe and Twain provided scathing looks at entrenched racist attitudes, particularly in the South. As with the Authors’ Ridge, our time in Hartford showed us how literary genius can come together to make a lasting impact.
Fifth Stop: Derry, New Hampshire
After our stay in Massachusetts, we brought our RV north to Chichester, New Hampshire, where there was a branch of Camping World. We had to camp there for a couple of repairs. While waiting for them to be completed, I discovered that the home of Robert Frost (1874-1963), called the Frost Farm, is in Derry, New Hampshire, just 40 minutes south of Chichester. He did not quite make it as a farmer there, however, so he relocated to Great Britain until the breakout of WWI, when he bought another property he fondly called Frost Place, in Franconia, New Hampshire, up in the beautiful White Mountains.
In these two homes, he wrote most of his poetry. The following are the most famous of his lines in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” They are evocative of feelings travelers like us experience when, even if we still have to travel great distances, we pause because of the beauty we suddenly find.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Even though it only started by chance, our New England literary tour became a most memorable trip. Of course, many more authors call the area home — Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and Stephen King, to name a few. A literary tour of the region will be a special kind of trip for book lovers and writers — and maybe even more so if you go during fall when the region blazes in bright autumnal colors.
Want more inspiration for a New England getaway? How about a stay in one of these nine wonderfully quaint bed and breakfasts in New England?
You’ll also want to read up on where to visit the U.S. homes of some of your favorite authors. Yes, Longfellow’s, Twain’s, and Dickinson’s homes made the list!