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The writing on the window panes

Posted by Jan Gardner  September 19, 2007 10:38 AM

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Concord is full of literary treasures with two of the most popular sites being Walden Pond and Louisa May Alcott's house. But the Old Manse has its stories, too. And like so many places in Concord it circles back to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson wasn't a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne's work -- "[Bronson] Alcott and he[Hawthorne] together would make a man,'' he once said -- but in 1842 he arranged for Hawthorne and his new wife Sophia to move into the Old Manse, an old Emerson house, on the Concord River by the Old North Bridge. (Henry David Thoreau dug and planted a garden for the Hawthornes as a wedding gift.)

When Emerson lived in the house, he situated his writing desk so he could look out on the river. Hawthorne got too distracted looking out the windows so he built a small writing desk facing the opposite wall. (Emerson drafted his essay, "Nature,'' here; Hawthorne wrote the short stories in "Mosses from an Old Manse.'')

The Hawthornes apparently were thoughtless tenants and eventually were asked to leave, but not before they scratched lines of poetry on the window panes using Sophia's diamond ring, as we found out from our tour guide. Susan Cheever's "American Blomsbury,'' just out in paperback, does a nice job of setting the scene.

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