Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Punch

Sometimes Christmas cheer can be a little grating, we admit. So we've cooked up a batch of Christmas punch for you this year:


An Evening of David Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice
featuring actress Debi Freund, 
actress Angie Joachim, 
The Hartford Courant's Frank Rizzo, 
WNPR's Chion Wolf 
and special guest TheCutMag.com's Tracy Wu Fastenberg

Directed by Jacques Lamarre

Tickets - $15 / $10 MTH&M Members & Let’s Go
(860) 280-3130 for tickets

The Mark Twain House & Museum spikes your Christmas punch with four tawdry tales from the semi-twisted mind of humorist David Sedaris. Drawn from Sedaris’ collection "Holidays on Ice," this one-night-only event will feature the Hartford Courant’s Frank Rizzo reading “Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol,” a vicious theatre critic’s reviews of children’s Christmas pageants. WNPR’s Chion Wolf will play a highly competitive gift giver who gives a whole lot more than he bargained for in "Christmas Means Giving." Debi Freund read's the story of a slick Hollywood mover and shaker shaking down a church full of country bumpkins called “Based on a True Story” rounds out the quartet. New Orleanian actor Angie Joachim tells the tale of a holiday homemaker turned into a homicidal hausfrau with an assist from Tracy Wu Fastenberg, a.k.a. "Asian Persuasion."

Chion Wolf is a voice actress, producer, photographer, songwriter, and is best known for her hijinks on Connecticut Public Radio’s “The Colin McEnroe Show.”

Debi Freund is a local actor and director, most known for her long-standing association with the Little Theater of Manchester. She appeared as the lead in Jacques Lamarre’s play "Gray Matters" and in 2009 was named to Manchester, CT’s Arts Hall of Fame for her dramatic work.

Angie Joachim is an actor recently transplanted from New Orleans to Connecticut. She has appeared in Market Street Theater's "The Clean House" and Hole in the Wall's recent "Jacques Lamarre Has Gone Too Far."

Frank Rizzo is the principal theatre reporter and critic for The Hartford Courant, where he has written on various arts beats for almost 3 decades. He is also the New England theatre critic for Variety and has contributed to American Theatre Magazine.

Tracy Wu Fastenberg is a contributor to the online journal of all things wack about Connecticut, thecutmag.com, as well as an occasional guest on The Colin McEnroe Show on WNPR.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sherlock Holmes

Of all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries, we love this one best: how did the brilliant actor William Gillette have such an incredible impact on our 21st century idea of Sherlock Holmes?

This week at the Twain House we explore that question. The East Haddam Stage Company will perform a "Sherlock Holmes: From Page to Stage" directed by Kandie Carle. It will be performed here at our place, and is presented by The Mark Twain House & Museum and The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

We will find out: how did Hartford’s own William Gillette go from the well-heeled Nook Farm neighborhood of movers and shakers to the New York stage and beyond? How and why did this fine Victorian actor go from farce to historical drama to the defining role of Sherlock Holmes? Follow William Gillette from Hartford to San Francisco to New York and London as he played in and wrote quintessential Victorian comedies. Then hear how the stars aligned for the fateful meeting with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Gillette brought to life the super sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

The East Haddam Stage Company is known for producing original works and their motto of Minimal Set, Maximum Connection, is perfect for the intimate auditorium at the Mark Twain Museum. 4 actors portray 10 characters in the life of William Gillette, from boyhood to the opening of the play that would change his life forever!

Tickets - $20; Call (860) 280-3130

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday House Tours!

The Friends of  The Mark Twain House & Museum Annual Holiday House Tour
Sunday, December 4, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

One of the lovely homes decorated in 2009
Now that you're full up on your Thanksgiving feast, why not get into the holiday spirit with one of our favorite events of the year? Visit the Twain House in its holiday best, and get a unique chance to tour private homes decked out for the season as well.

The Mark Twain House is decorated with garlands and gifts, and area homes are open to your visit in a rare opportunity to savor architecture and décor usually kept behind closed doors. Visit some of the grand houses built by prominent local architects in the late 1800s, when Twain lived here, and the early 1900s; and wonder at a house filled entirely with trees. With music and festivity to go along with it, this event has been a Hartford holiday tradition for more than thirty holiday seasons. Organized to a T by our active Friends of The Mark Twain House & Museum group!
Gorgeous floral arrangements
Advance tickets are $30 each and can be purchased at The Mark Twain House and from several local businesses. Tickets will be $35 each on the day of the tour and can be purchased at the homes. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 860-280-3130 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the continued restoration, preservation, and education programs of The Mark Twain House, which is a National Historic Landmark.
See you there! (Or here!)
The most wonderful time of the year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

We've got puppets!

We've been loving our Steampunk Bizzare: The Unknown exhibit, but our latest exhibit just adds to the thrills of visiting our museum center. We recently installed throughout our beautiful marble building a number of puppets from the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. Guess which Twain work they refer to?

That's right-- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In 1996, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre mounted a large-scale puppet production of this Twain classic. We're lucky enough to host these fellows in our museum all the way until March 5th, 2012. The puppets range from royals to ordinary folks, like pig boy and his pigs.

If you haven't read Connecticut Yankee (and don't feel bad, lots of people haven't-- put it on your bucket list), you might not know that it's rife with familiar characters from King Arthur's Court. Grinning knights and sassy Morgana; and once in a while, Merlin pops up. 

Last Saturday was our "Free Hartford Day," and so we invited the fine folks from Ballard to come and give a live presentation of how the puppets work. They also spoke a bit about the design.

Thank you so much to the fine folks of the Ballard institute paying us a visit. Now we hope you will-- there are way too many amazing puppets to describe here! For more information on the exhibit and the museum, please visit our website.

-- The Mark Twain House

Friday, November 11, 2011


By Jacques Lamarre

Shortly after my arrival at The Mark Twain House & Museum, I started brainstorming ideas for exciting speakers to have come to Hartford. As the Director of Communications and Special Projects, it is my responsibility to program two lecture series: The Clemens Lecture and A Pen Warmed Up in Hell Lecture. The Clemens Lecture series has brought distinguished leaders in the fields of the arts, journalism and letters including Hal Holbrook, Bob Schieffer, Morley Safer, David Baldacci, and, most recently, the legendary newsman Ted Koppel. A Pen Warmed Up in Hell is the bratty cousin of The Clemens Lecture. This series spotlights authors, artists and journalists who use their work and humor to address social issues in a provocative manner.

The title of the series comes from Twain himself. It appears in a letter written shortly after he completed his masterpiece A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:

"Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell."

In time, Twain would abandon such restraint and use his pen warmed up in hell to attack war, politics, hypocrisy, religion, and more. The Pen Warmed Up in Hell Lecture series provides audiences with the opportunity to meet modern day provocateurs who work in this same manner. Past guests include Spike Lee, Henry Rollins, Kinky Friedman, Charles P. Pierce, Andy Borowitz, and Rolling Stone’s national correspondent Matt Taibbi.

To my mind, there was one man I could ask who pretty much defines the spirit of this lecture series: Michael Moore. Has any contemporary filmmaker had a larger, ongoing impact on political discourse in this country? Five of his films - Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Roger & Me – appear in the list of the top 25 highest-grossing documentaries of all time.

When Moore released his first film in 1989, it was greeted with the following review from Vincent Canby in The New York Times:

“A Twainlike Twist for Flint, Mich.” by VINCENT CANBY
America has an irrepressible new humorist in the tradition of Mark Twain and Artemus Ward. He is Michael Moore, the writer, producer and director of the rude and rollicking new documentary feature ''Roger and Me.'' Much in the manner of those 19th-century forebears, Mr. Moore celebrates the oddities of the American frontier, once defined by the historian F. J. Turner as 'the meeting place of savagery and civilization, where democracy is strengthened.'

I started working on getting Moore to Hartford two years ago. We had a close call when he said “yes” at the time he was gearing up for the release of Capitalism: A Love Story. His promotional schedule ramped up and life got hectic for Mike, so he had to postpone. Subsequent attempts to schedule an appearance did not pan out, until recently. Mike emailed me out of the blue; he was book touring to support his new memoir Here Comes Trouble. Little did I know, the title of his memoir would be so apropos.

We knew that many of our valued sponsors would be leery about having Mike come here. We contacted them in advance and felt them out on the opportunity ahead of us. Without exception, they viewed the opportunity to present Michael Moore as a coup for the museum. Of course, we couldn’t expect them to sponsor his appearance, but they wouldn’t withhold their usual support for house preservation and restoration, our educational and other programmatic efforts. For their vision and generosity, we are most appreciative.

Not everyone at the museum is a Michael Moore fan. Some are quite the opposite. Same with our board. Again, without exception, they felt it was important to present him to the public.

When the announcement of Mike’s upcoming appearance hit the Hartford Courant, we received angry calls, letters, emails and comments on the Courant article. When we posted the event on our Facebook page, one MTH&M fan called him a “horrible man.” Many of the comments on the Courant page called him “un-American” and that the MTH&M was making a horrible mistake in bring Michael Moore to Connecticut. An email from a conservative fellow halfway across the United States, made sure that we were aware that he brought our betrayal to the attention of Rush Limbaugh. Many of the derisive comments surrounded Moore's looks, which is petty in the extreme and makes one wonder if the authors find the political views of supermodels more palatable. By far, we have taken more heat for this lecture than any that we have previously hosted (including Kurt Vonnegut, who let loose with his thoughts on the Iraq War only days after it began).

Have we made the wrong move in inviting someone who is so polarizing? Quite simply, Michael Moore is the epitome of our Pen Warmed Up In Hell series. You may not agree with his politics. Or you may believe he is a genius. You may think he is a hypocritical propagandist. Or you may find discomfort in his pointing out things we do not like to discuss. You may think he is a traitor who hates America. Or you may believe that he is a patriot exercising his free speech. But, ultimately, you could say many of the same things about Twain. Like Moore, Twain was no stranger to controversy.  One only need read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Moore's new memoir Here Comes Trouble even mirrors the non-linear approach Twain adopted for his own autobiography.  And both men use humor to set their scorching bonfires. Sure, bonfires produce smoke and make our eyes sting, but they also provide light and much-needed heat. The perfect environment for warming up one’s own pen in hell.

We welcome Michael Moore to the University of Connecticut’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, November 18th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$45 and can be ordered by visiting jorgensen.uconn.edu or calling (860) 486-4226.  The lecture will be followed by a book signing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Meet Mallory Howard

Name. Mallory Howard

Where are you from? New Britain, CT

What school did you go to? Central Connecticut State University

What is your job at The Mark Twain House & Museum? Museum Assistant

Were you initially drawn to the Mark Twain house because of an interest in Twain as a writer? I’ve always been a huge fan of Twain’s work and had visited the house many times over the years. I actually came to the Twain house initially trying to volunteer and perhaps get an internship since I was a history major in school. I ended up falling in love with the place and never left!

How long have you been working at the Mark Twain House? It will be 4 years in January!

What is your favorite part about working at the Mark Twain House? That’s a really tough question to answer. There are so many marvelous things about working at this place since there are always fascinating people to meet, stimulating educational programs or lecture to attend, and amazing events to enjoy. However, my favorite thing about working here are the truly incredible people I get to work with. Some of us are history geeks; some are talented writers, comedians, and playwrights. No matter what our individual strong points are we all respect each other for what we bring to the table. Everyone works together to make this museum a success and I’ve never met such wonderful hard working people.

Do you like Mark Twain more having worked here? I have always been a Twainiac and a fan of the amazing pieces of literature he has produced, but my love for him has drastically increased since working here. I know him more now as Sam. I love his family, his heart, and even his temper. I feel sadness and sympathy for him during tragedy and hard times. I am elated during his triumphs. I get defensive when he is attacked and proud when he is admired. He has become a huge part of my life and I’m lucky to have him.

Do you find yourself talking to friends and family about Mark Twain? I talk about Mark Twain constantly to my friends and family. I’m sure I drive most of them absolutely nuts! I find myself running into friends and the first thing they say is. “How are you? How’s Mark Twain?” He has suddenly become an additional best friend, parent, brother that everyone asks about. I never hesitate to fill them in on the latest and greatest in the Twain world. One of the best things that happened is my Dad’s deeper interest in Twain, his literature, and American history in general. I’ve turned him into a little history geek and that makes me proud!

What is your favorite room in the house? My favorite room in the house is the library. It is absolutely beautiful and there’s something so sweet, innocent and sentimental about it. I love to imagine the family sitting together listening to Twain tell a story, or enjoying a book while looking over the Park river, maybe even watching their butler George have a jungle adventure in the conservatory with the Clemens’ girls.

If you could make one improvement to the house or museum what would it be? I would love to have the mahogany room and 3rd floor guest room restored. Though I love our beloved museum center, I wish we had more noise control!

Based on your knowledge of his personality, do you think you and Mr. Twain would be friends? I truly believe that Mark Twain and I would be the very best of friends. I adore his wit, humor, little eccentricities, brilliant mind, and sarcasm. What else could you ask for in a friend? I often wish I could have one night to hang out with him. The drinks we would have, the conversations, the stories, I would beg him to tell me! I can’t think of anyone better!

What is the museum’s biggest challenge? I think the museum’s biggest challenge is trying to get people to come explore our site during an economic recession. I also think, though we’ve done an excellent job so far, we will have to constantly come up with new and exciting programs to bring in a different audience and to keep those who have been before always coming back.

What would you think Mark Twain’s comments would be on the management of his home and the museum? I would like to think that Mark Twain would be proud of us. Everyone here works extremely hard to make sure we are keeping his legacy alive in the most inventive, educational, and often humorous ways. He would appreciate our passion, dedication, and drive to making this museum a success.

What is your favorite Mark Twain piece? My favorite Mark Twain piece is tricky. I would have to say his personal book collection. We have over 200 books owned by the Clemens family in our archives, several of which have marginalia. Twain would often times scrawl opinions, thoughts, and even grammatical changes on the pages of the books he was reading. This gives us an insightful and personal look into his mind.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Statement from The Mark Twain House & Museum


August  5 ,2011

On June 22, 2010, The Mark Twain House & Museum discovered that a long term employee of the institution, the former controller, Ms. Donna Gregor, had been misappropriating funds for a number of years and shielding these misdeeds from detection by the auditors. 

Ms. Gregor was terminated by the MTH&M that same day.  Jeffrey Nichols, our Executive Director, notified me and I, in turn, notified the other Trustees. We immediately contacted law enforcement and notified the press. Following a review of the matter, we implemented additional controls to better safeguard our assets and put in place new financial reporting mechanisms. We contacted many of our donors and other supporters and are deeply thankful for their understanding and continuing support.

We hired a forensic auditing firm and shared its completed review with law enforcement.

We also filed an insurance claim in relation to the losses which resulted in a payment to the MTH&M of $500,000 which we received in October of 2010. This recovery was reported in the MTH&M’s IRS Form 990 and serves to restore all affected funds since 2008.  MTH&M continues to explore other potential claims and sources of recovery for the $580,000 of unrecovered funds from earlier years.  The total amount Ms. Gregor defrauded the MTH&M is approximately $1,080,000.

Concurrently with MTH&M’s efforts, law enforcement has been investigating this matter and we were advised of a guilty plea by Ms. Gregor today August 5th in the Federal Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We understand her plea includes admissions of wire fraud and tax evasion. We also understand her plea agreement includes restitution to MTH&M.

The Trustees and the staff were devastated by this event, particularly in light of its occurrence during a period when hundreds of supporters and other committed people worked so hard and selflessly to bring the Mark Twain House & Museum from a large structural deficit just a few years ago to a current modest operating surplus.

Despite the significant unrecovered losses from 2002 to 2007, we want to assure everyone that our current financial condition is sound and we recently received an unqualified opinion from our auditors.
Because of the heroic efforts of our staff, a record number of visitors, 71,500, came to the House in 2010 vs. 59,000 the year before. And, we hosted more than 50 successful events to make the institution a key tourism destination in Connecticut.

Our mission is to preserve the home where Twain wrote his most important works and, more importantly, to preserve his place as America’s greatest writer. We are more committed than ever to this mission.
The trustees have noted and are deeply appreciative of the fact that throughout this past painful year, Executive Director Jeff Nichols and his entire staff of full and part time employees and volunteers have kept their single focus on what is good for the institution. They succeeded despite enormous distraction and pain.
Also, I must also commend the Trustees who have stepped up and been a resolute and determined force throughout this ordeal. To a person, they all stayed and supported the institution with funds, guidance and support.

On behalf of the entire Mark Twain House & Museum family, we want to thank our supporters and donors for their understanding and support and we pledge to continue to make the institution stronger for many generations to come.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


On Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th at 8 p.m. at the Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain, Sea Tea Improv will be performing R-RATED TWAIN – an evening of Twain’s naughtiest writings. The texts include speeches, poems and prose that cover such unsavory topics as masturbation, farting, sexual relations, among other unmentionables. We take a moment to consider how “The Lincoln of our Literature” occasionally took the low road…

It should come as no surprise that Samuel Clemens would have in his possession an impressive array of words. As an extremely prolific author with dozens of novels and hundreds of other written works (poems, plays, letters, speeches, articles and short stories), Twain had a prodigious vocabulary. His verbiage could be high-minded and eloquent, endearing him to the cognoscenti and literary elite. His writing also could effectively paint a portrait of the lowest echelons of society. His characters in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pap and Huck being examples, exhibit his masterly grasp of colloquial terms and rough dialects. So, really, it should shock no one that Mark Twain had one hell of a potty mouth.

Twain stated in his Notebook, “If I can’t swear in heaven, I shall not stay there.” Since he was unsure how his salty tongue would be received in the afterlife, the author seemed bent on peppering his phraseology here on Earth. In his letters to William Dean Howells, Twain did not help his case in making it to Heaven when he wrote:

“Sir to you, I would like to know what kind of goddam government this is that discriminates between two common carriers and makes a goddam railroad charge everybody equal and lets a goddam man charge any goddam price he wants for his goddam opera box.”

Phew! Alfred Bigelow Paine’s biography of Twain quotes the vitriolic master as saying, “In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer.” Apparently he was overcome by many desperate circumstances in his home as his daughter Clara quotes him in her book My Father – Mark Twain with the following invective: “By the humping, jumping Jesus!” His lovely wife Livy put his lips on lockdown when it came to swearing, but even she was not able to keep the consummate master of cussing from unleashing his tongue in the house. Paine recounts how Twain, who generally curbed his tongue around his wife, let fly with some scorcher of a curse that occurred within earshot of Livy. She confronted him by repeating his remark to which Twain responded:

“Livy,” he said, “did it sound like that?”

“Of course it did,” she said, “only worse. I wanted you to hear just how it sounded.”

“Livy,” he said, “it would pain me to think that when I swear it sounds like that. You got the words right, Livy, but you don’t know the tune.”

Twain’s potty mouth also translated to a potty pen when he created some filthy fun in some of his private writings. The bawdy burlesque 1601, an imaginary gathering of Tudor England’s elite getting blown away by a fetid odor, was written by Twain for his best buddy Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell. A letter to a group of wealthy men who enjoyed fishing turns into a downright naughty tribute to male endowments. A speech written for a Parisian group, The Stomach Club, goes South of the border with a salute to self-gratification.

Considering his rough-and-tumble Tom Sawyer-esque adolescence, his career on riverboat docks and his time out in the Wild West, it should not be a shock that Twain could be so shocking. To be honest, we love this stuff and we are delighted to take a time to salute the type of things Twain wrote and said that you wouldn’t learn in school. We hope you join us for an evening of R-Rated Twain that would make your mama wash your mouth out with soap.

Tickets for R-RATED TWAIN are on sale now and can be ordered by calling (860) 229-3049. Tickets will also be available at the door at the Hole in the Wall Theater, 116 Main Street in downtown New Britain.  The performance includes West Hartford playwright David Ryan Polgar’s short comedy Mark Twain: Ladies Man. Tickets are $15.  Info and directions:  www.hitw.org.

Meet Beth Miller

Name. Beth Miller

What is your job at the Mark Twain House & Museum? Director of Development

How long have you worked at the Mark Twain House & Museum? A year and five months

Where are you from? Rocky Hill, CT

Where did you go to school? Trinity College, BA ’00 & MA’03

Why did you decide to work at the Mark Twain House? I was attracted to the Mark Twain House & Museum for a few reasons. It's an important local and national cultural institution, and the staff is talented. The leadership at the organization has combined frugality with creativity and invested in marketing and events to increase stability and success. The momentum here is palpable and it is a very exciting place to work.

What is your favorite Mark Twain Book? Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but I have lots more to read still.

How did you become interested in Mark Twain? The wit and satire of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn made me very interested in Mark Twain – that he wrote this book, in the way he wrote it, at the time he wrote it. It is stunning and very, very important.

What is the strangest fact you know about Mr. Twain? That his voluminous moustache and that he seldom smiled were to hide his bad teeth (according to his daughter, Clara.)

Hopes for the future of the House. There are many specific projects I would like to see happen with the historic properties – and all of those projects could be realized if we had a more substantial endowment.  What I hope to see in the future is a $20 million endowment so we have the operating expenses to focus on raising funds for projects in the house.

Favorite room in the house. A beautiful little room: the butler’s pantry.

Favorite Tour Story. I love the story of the Scottish fireplace mantel: it was found because a tour-goer heard the tale of the missing mantel and realized his family had it in their barn.

Have you ever received a question you have yet to find the answer to? What did George Griffin look like?

How did you learn everything you know about Mark Twain, his life, and his house? I am reading, asking questions, and listening all the time.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Mr. Twain? I think because Twain was such a great humorist there is a perception that he had a very jolly and happy life. Parts of it certainly were, but he suffered a stunning amount of tragedy at all stages of his life and from all quarters. For all his fame and notoriety, Twain was very human – he suffered and was as flawed as any of us.

Do you like Mark Twain more having worked here? Yes – getting to know him as a husband, father, and friend has made me admire him even more.

Do you find yourself talking to friends and family about Mark Twain? I think they are all really getting annoyed with all the Twain quotes I lob into any conversation at the slightest provocation.

Based on your knowledge of Twain’s personality, do you think you and Mr. Twain would be friends? Yes, but he might have turned on me at any point.

What do you think Mark Twain’s comments would be on the management of The Mark Twain House & Museum? He would say that we have kept pace with his struggles and success, but he would have said it way funnier than that. 

Meet Jes Silva

Name. Jes Silva

What is your job at the Mark Twain House & Museum? Sales Associate (Tickets & Store!)

Where are you from? Born and raised in Berlin, CT. I currently live in the village of East Berlin, CT. And we all know that Mark Twain said: “Human nature cannot be studied in cities except at a disadvantage--a village is the place. There you can know your man inside and out--in a city you but know his crust; and his crust is usually a lie.”

Where did you go to school? I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Eastern CT State University. Although it’s not a Masters Degree, just like Sam Clemens, “It pleased me beyond measure when [Eastern] made me a [Bachelor] of Arts, because I didn't know anything about art.”

Were you drawn to the Mark Twain house because of an interest in Twain as a writer?
Actually no. I am more of a fan now than I was before working here.

Do you like Mark Twain more having worked here? Yes, since working here, I have developed a great love for Mark Twain. And since I drink a lot of water and his books are like water… I don’t know, I’ve got nothing…

How long have you worked here? 4 years

What makes you come back the following year? Oh-my-god, I love it all; the people, atmosphere, and the history. This is the best place to work. 

Do you find yourself talking to friends and family about Mark Twain? I do! I quote him often! I talk about his family and the house to anyone who is willing to listen!

Hopes for the future of the House. I would love for the house to continue to be successful as well as see the Mahogany bedroom completed.

Favorite room in the house. I love the library. I love the look and the feel of the room. It’s so warm and welcoming that it makes me want to (don’t worry Patti, I won’t) cozy up in a chair by the fire and read, or listen to Sam tell stories.

Favorite tour story. A member of the band, The Doors, was along on one of my tours; I thought his bodyguard was the celebrity from West Coast Choppers, but little did I know that it was a member from the band and the bodyguard was only a bodyguard.

Based on your knowledge of his personality, do you think you and Sam would be friends? Totally! I could see us in the Billiard Room, playing pool and joking around. I think we have a similar sense of humor, since I subscribe to the notion that “the funniest things are the forbidden.”

What do you think is the Museum's biggest challenge?  I think getting the word out that we are here is probably our biggest challenge. No one “vacations” to Hartford, Connecticut. Trying to make Hartford a destination spot is a hurdle to get over.

What do you think Sam’s comments would be on the management of his home and the museum? I think he’d think we are doing a fine job. We are not only educating the young and old about his life and times, but we are preserving his memory, and keeping him alive through that. He would like us to remember (and share with our visitors) “To us our house was not unsentient matter--it had a heart & a soul & eyes to see us with, & approvals & solicitudes & deep sympathies; it was of us, & we were in its confidence, & lived in its grace & in the peace of its benediction. We never came home from an absence that its face did
not light up & speak out its eloquent welcome--& we could not enter it unmoved.”

Favorite Twain piece. I don’t think I can name just one. My first Mark Twain book was A Connecticut Yankee, and I am quite partial to it. The Diaries of Adam and Eve and stories about the McWilliamses are among my favorites, but I also love The War Prayer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Playwright David Ryan Polgar turns Twain into a Ladies Man for R-RATED TWAIN

Late in 2011, actor Michael Eck approached The Mark Twain House & Museum with a script for a short play by his friend, David Ryan Polgar.  We found the comedy, Mark Twain: Ladies Man, funny, but at 10 minutes in duration, a little difficult to build into a full event.  Fortunately, we were already planning an evening of R-RATED TWAIN with Sea Tea Improv in January and Polgar's play was a perfect fit.  When performed in City Steam's Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club, Mark Twain: Ladies Man brought the house down (as did the rest of Twain's smuttiest material).  Because of popular demand, we are re-presenting R-RATED TWAIN on Friday, August 6th and Saturday, August 7th at 8 p.m. at the Hole in the Wall Theatre in New Britain.  As Mark Twain: Ladies Man is back on the bill, we asked the West Hartford native to share the genesis of the play.

The Making of Mark Twain: Ladies Manby David Ryan Polgar

I started writing Mark Twain: Ladies Man for a Connecticut-themed short play contest. When I think of Connecticut, he’s the first thing that comes to mind. If Maine has lobsters and Massachusetts has clam chowder, our residents have a taste for Twain.

After deciding that he would be my “Connecticut theme,” I came up with a title. Truthfully, I love to work backwards. It’s like the new movie Cowboys & Aliens—it’s a novel idea that throws you for a loop. Mark Twain as a lothario just seemed to jump out at me. Maybe it was his wit (which the ladies love), or perhaps it was his mustache. He seemed much cooler than Tom Selleck, and women fawned over him in the 80s. Next I started to imagine scenarios where the author was brought back to life and hanging out in a bar. What would he be like?

That’s the idea I played with and expanded on. What if Twain were brought back to life for the sole purpose of helping men pick up women? Would he be a good wingman or a conniving rascal? To keep the material grounded in some semblance of truth, I decided it would be fun to have every utterance of Twain be words he actually said. It’s remarkable how current Twain sounds. Twisted the right way, he can be both snarky and poetic. Of course, the quotes are taken completely out of context. This is by no means a PBS special; it’s more like a trip down the rabbit hole.

After showing an early version of the script to Jacques Lamarre and Julia Pistell at the Mark Twain House & Museum, I received a great deal constructive feedback that I used to polish up the play. For example, some of the quotes I had used turned out to be misattributed to Twain. In addition, Jacques and Julia helped me clarify how exactly Mark Twain would be wind up in a bar. Instead of spending twenty pages discussing cryogenics (and besides, a lot of times they just freeze your head), I went less sci-fi and more absurdist—he can be rented online. Take that, Craigslist.

I always like to learn something with everything I watch. So do most people, I figure. We have armchair lawyers and detectives watching Law & Order and CSI. People like small bits of knowledge delivered in a non-academic way. While the Twain in Ladies Man is a complete caricature, you do leave with a great taste of his wit. I hope that besides laughing, people also get the urge to dig deeper into Twain’s life and writings (with his recent autobiography, there is plenty to dig). It certainly made me appreciate him more.

R-RATED TWAIN, an "adults only" evening of Twain at his most ribald, is Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th at 8 p.m. at the Hole in the Wall Theater, 116 Main Street, downtown New Britain.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling (860) 229-3049 or at the door.  www.hitw.org

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meet Ross Ariola

Name. Ross Ariola

What is your job at the Mark Twain House & Museum? Tour guide.

Where are you from? Western Connecticut

Where did you go to school? I am still working on it.

What is the most memorable question you have ever been asked on tour? Who the heck is Sam Clemens? And what kind of person was he in private?

What is your favorite room in the house? The billiard room is my favorite. Second is the library. “The library is where my girls and I can be children together.”

Why did you decide to work at the Mark Twain House? I wanted to have a job that made myself and others happy.

What is your favorite Mark Twain Book? Huckleberry Finn and his autobiography.

How did you become interested in Mark Twain? There are a few ingredients which made me interested in Twain. The first was my initial studies of American history and seeing how much he appears in it. Second was my re-reading of Tom and Huck a few years ago. And the final ingredient was a tour I took with Grace a couple years ago.

What is the strangest fact that you know about Mark Twain? Well there are a few that I always remember. One is the fact that his two of his best friends were a preacher and a robber baron. Another is that he predicted his own time of death during Halley’s comet. "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together." But the strangest fact is that there is so much to learn about the man, that people make a career learning about his life.

How long have you been giving tours here? I have been here for about two years.

What makes you come back the following year? I keep coming back because of all the people. The employees, guests, and the Clemens’s make it a special, happy place. And, “You cannot enter it without being moved.”“The average American loves his family. If he has any love left over, he generally selects Mark Twain.”-Edison

What do you hope to see happen to the house in the future? I would like to see the Mahogany room, 2nd floor hallway bath, and the Artist friends room restored.

Do you have a favorite tour story? I like the story of his and Livy’s courtship. But with Twain, you can’t just hear one story. I have different favorites depending on the group.

Have you ever received a question you have yet to find the answer to? Yes. But I can’t think of one off hand.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about Mr. Twain? I think the biggest misconception is that some people think he was a racist. Another misconception is that he was only about Tom, Huck, and the Mississippi.

Do you like Mark Twain more having worked here? Yes, and I think he would have
actually liked the tour guides here, Unlike how he felt about tour guides elsewhere.

Other Thoughts.  I believe he would have liked how the museum is today. He loved this house and management has once again allowed him to be center stage. “I can’t stand the sound of anyone else’s voice but my own.” He would have loved to see that we still love his family and are keeping their happy years alive. One of my favorite quotes is, “The trouble isn’t that there are too many fools, but that lightning isn’t distributed right.” I also like, “Just once I would like to see a Wagner opera done in pantomime.” However, I could go on and on with quotes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


With Independence Day upon us, Mark Twain House & Museum Director of Communications Jacques Lamarre questions whether or not Mark Twain was “the American.”

The quote “I am not an American; I am the American” has been popularly misattributed to Mark Twain. It even trips up the most astute Twainiacs. Ken Burns uses the quote in the superlative documentary that we show in our museum center and on the cover of the soundtrack and DVD of his full Twain miniseries. Twain did write the phrase in a notebook that he took with him on his European travels in 1897, but he was, in fact, quoting his friend Frank Fuller. Over time, the quote has become more and more synonymous with Twain, and that is not really surprising. For many of us, Mark Twain is the quintessential American. A bigger question might be: how American was he? By a lot of modern measures of patriotism, Twain could be called downright un-American.

  • When afforded the opportunity to provide military service for his country, Twain helped to form the Marion Rangers, a group of Confederate irregulars. After two weeks of “service,” he decamped and went westward away from the Civil War fighting that was consuming the nation.
  • He was unreserved in his contempt for politicians. He wasn’t afraid to let fly with snappish quotes like “Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can” (What is Man?) and “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself” (Mark Twain, A Biography)
  • He didn’t hold back in his criticism of President Theodore Roosevelt: “We are insane, each in our own way, and with insanity goes irresponsibility. Theodore the man is sane; in fairness we ought to keep in mind that Theodore, as statesman and politician, is insane and irresponsible.” (letter to Joseph Hopkins Twichell)
  • Many Americans equate patriotism with God-fearing Christianity, but Twain openly questioned God and Man’s ability to relate to the deity: “To trust the God of the Bible is to trust an irascible, vindictive, fierce and ever fickle and changeful master.” (Mark Twain, A Biography). “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.” (Mark Twain in Eruption)
  • He could not maintain allegiance to one political party and openly questioned the two-party system: “Look at the tyranny of party -- at what is called party allegiance, party loyalty -- a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes -- and which turns voters into chattles, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters, and they themselves are shouting rubbish about liberty, independence, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, honestly unconscious of the fantastic contradiction; and forgetting or ignoring that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing their doors against the hunted slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and billies, and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of his Southern master.” (“The Character of Man”)
  • He questioned American foreign policy, particularly our Imperialistic forays into the Philippines: “There were the Filipinos fighting like blazes for their liberty. Spain would not hear to it. The United States stepped in, and after they had licked the enemy to a standstill, instead of freeing the Filipinos they paid that enormous amount for an island which is of no earthly account to us; just wanted to be like the aristocratic countries of Europe which have possessions in foreign waters.” (Interview with The Baltimore Sun).

With all this stacked against him, how could Twain be considered “the American?” Precisely because he enjoyed the freedoms that America provides. He used our freedom of speech to question our leaders, mock hypocrisy and praise those he deemed worthy of praise. He used the freedom of the press to tell the truth, stretch the truth and create his own truth. He created the embodiment of American childhood with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He exposed our institutionalized racism that denied rights to African Americans in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. He was a Capitalist who started his own businesses and earned his own wealth. Twain also, like many Americans, faced debt and imminent foreclosure. He voted his conscience and used his freedom of religion to pursue his own path toward understanding and challenging the Immortal. He embraced the American ability to invent yourself. How else would a Samuel Clemens become a Mark Twain? Of course, he was born in America, but he also represented America across the globe.  In turn, he brought the world back to American shores through his travel writing, helping us become global citizens. He became an internationally-renowned celebrity, something American culture craves.  And finally, his books engendered all of the liberties that we hold dear – books that are widely read in countries where those freedoms are denied. As such, maybe Mark Twain is “the American.” Even if he didn’t say so.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to Plan Tom Sawyer Day: Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me!

Good morning, folks. Everyone get a good sleep last night? Caffeinated? I hope you’re ready, because this morning we’re going to work on tying up all the little bits and bobs of this year’s Tom Sawyer Day—our free family day in conjunction with Connecticut Open House Day.

I’m kidnapping you and making you my first mate so you can help me with every little task associated with this year’s fun and games: Yo Ho, the Pirate’s Life for Me! Yes, pirate themed. The festivities run from 10-4 on Saturday, June 11th.

Now, maybe you came over last year for Tom Sawyer Day, and in that case you will recall the torrential downpours that made our guests want to stay inside rather than enjoy the high seas. Silly landlubbers. But we want everyone dry, so your first order of business is to:

Do a no-rain dance! Maybe that means sitting at your computer quietly, like I am. Whatever it means to you. All I’m saying is, dear Zeus, please let it not rain, because we have three bands who are dying to play outside. So therefore, your second task is to:

Listen to the music of the Red Mollys, Horizon Blue, and Dan Stevens. All three of these bands are really wonderful, and we can’t wait to have them. They are also really nice people, which we like in musicians.

Speaking of really nice people, your next job is to prepare some silly pirate jokes to swap with the Bawdy Buccaneers. They are a roving pirate duo with three levels of bawdiness (it’s going to be at family-level next Saturday).

Also, start doing some finger yoga for our arts and crafts area. You want to make an eyepatch? A flag? Get a tattoo (temporary, of course)? Bloody up some coloring books? You are going to be a blackbeard of terrifying proportions by the time you finish with our Great Hall.

But don’t leave the Museum Center without making testing the stability of your hand-made boat with The Children’s Museum. Their staff will be on hand to show you how to make an unsinkable ship.

Steel up your courage, because you’re also going to meet a real pirate in the form of professional clown and performer Joe Barney. He’s the best. And actually won’t be scary at all, just really fun.

If you’re getting tired from all this, you can also prepare to take a break and watch some or all of the classic film Treasure Island, because we’ll be showing it on loop in our auditorium all day long!

Wait a minute. We forgot to assign you the most important thing! We have animals visiting and we need you to get excited about them! Not only do we have the fabulous Beardsley Zoo bringing Caribbean wildlife, but we’ve also got A Wing & A Prayer Parrot Rescue visiting to demonstrate how amazing parrots are. We’re really excited about both.

Not enough for you? How about the pirate scene from Tom Sawyer acted out by the fantastic performers of Hartford Children’s Theater? All you have to do for that one is sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Once you’ve had enough to walk the plank, you can swim over to our neighbors at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and enjoy their Bicentennial Celebration!

What do you think, mateys? You up for it?

--- The Pirates over at The Mark Twain House & Museum

P.S. And yes, of course, there will be a treasure hunt.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We've got Blue Stars in our Eyes

Hi everybody,

As Memorial Day approaches, we've decided to become a Blue Star Museum: one of more than 1,000 museums nationwide offering free admission for active military personnel and their immediate families from Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, through Labor Day, September 5, 2011.

The free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card, or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active duty military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard), National Guard and Reserve members and up to five immediate family members. Immediate family members include the spouses and children of active duty military.

Spouses of military who are deployed are eligible for free admission with their children, up to a total of five visitors. To receive free admission, spouses should bring a DD Form 1173 ID Card or DD Form 1173-1 ID Card for active duty military family members.

Blue Star Museums is a partnership among Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts and the individual museums. For details on the program, including a list of participating museums, visit http://www.nea.gov/national/bluestarmuseums/index.html.

Enjoy Memorial Day with your loved ones, and come on by for a visit-- we'll be open.

- The Mark Twain House & Museum

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mark Twain vs. James Fenimore Cooper

Last year, when our friend Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone came to visit, he mentioned that Twain’s essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses” was “the greatest literary takedown in history.” We had often read excerpts and heard mention of this essay, and we have decided that it’s time for this smackdown to revive itself into the twentieth century.

Each Wednesday in May, the public is invited to a good-old-fashioned literary faceoff. We’ll be taking Twain’s snark and putting it up against a modern-day defender of the victim. Unlike your usual prizefight, you can see the punches thrown for free. Just show up on Wednesdays at 5:00 for pre-game snacks and a ringside seat. The Trouble Begins at 5:30.

Does this man look tough enough to withstand the eloquent wrath of our Sam?

Round 1: Mark Twain vs. James Fenimore Cooper.

As a teaser, we’ve pulled a few choice moments from Twain’s novella-length rant against Cooper’s literary style and storytelling skills. There are so many hysterical passages to pick from, it was hard to decide, so we’re just going with the ones that tickled us the most. Let’s start with Sam’s opinion on Cooper’s plot devices:

Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series.

Or, my personal favorite, the idiocy of his Native American villains:

There still remained in the roost five Indians. The boat has passed under and is now out of their reach. Let me explain what the five did -- you would not be able to reason it out for yourself. No. 1 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water astern of it. Then No. 2 jumped for the boat, but fell in the water still further astern of it. Then No. 3 jumped for the boat, and fell a good way astern of it. Then No. 4 jumped for the boat, and fell in the water away astern. Then even No. 5 made a jump for the boat -- for he was Cooper Indian. In that matter of intellect, the difference between a Cooper Indian and the Indian that stands in front of the cigar-shop is not spacious.

The object of Twain's fury

And, lest you suspect that Twain is too nit-picky on tiny details, this is the stirring conclusion to the whole shebang:

It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are -- oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

We can’t wait to see what James Fenimore Cooper scholar Dr. Wayne Franklin of the University of Connecticut has up his sleeve. He’ll have to have a good plan in order to get a few blows in.

Let the games begin!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Literary PilgriAs one of the premier destinations of American literature enthusiasts, the Mark Twain House & Museum is not only dedicated to promoting the legacy of Samuel Clemens, but the many other celebrated authors (and their homes) found in New York and New England. From the serenity of Thoreau’s Walden Pond to the quaint garden estate of Emily Dickinson, we offer readers, history buffs and writers a once-in-a-lifetime journey through America’s literary landmarks…all conveniently located between NYC and Boston.

Just a short 45 minute drive from NYC, travelers can begin their literary journey at the Walt Whitman Birthplace in West Hills, NY and over the course of six days (or less, for those who are ambitious), visit the birthplace of Mark Twain’s most famous characters, get inspired by Edith Wharton’s landscape design, and visit the gravesites of Thoreau, Hawthorne, Emerson and Alcott at Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow.

Below, you will find the full itinerary of a New York/New England literary pilgrimage-- offering a unique, inspiring and educational summer vacation. If you should need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit us online at www.marktwainhouse.org.

Literary Pilgrimage Itinerary
Day 1: New York & Environs

Whether you start or end your pilgrimage in New York, there are several literary stops within a short drive of Manhattan.
  • Washington Irving's Sunnyside  Nestled on the banks of the sparkling Hudson River, visitors will find the immaculately restored home of the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.  Located in Tarrytown, NY, you can tour Sunnyside and spend time visiting the sites made famous by Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, including the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow burying ground.
  • Walt Whitman Birthplace & Interpretive Center  Walt Whitman, “America’s Shakespeare” was born in West Hills, NY in 1819. The newly restored farmhouse is a New York State Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Interpretive Center exhibits: 130 Whitman portraits, original letters, manuscripts, artifacts, Whitman’s voice on tape, and schoolmaster’s desk. On the site you can find, guided tours, an audio-visual show, the museum shop and bookstore, and a picnic area.
  • Edgar Allan Poe Cottage is the only house museum in New York City dedicated to a writer.  A small house located in the bustling Bronx, this historic property is undergoing renovations, so be sure to check their website before visiting.  At the nearby Valentine-Varian House, you can check out a special exhibition entitled Edgar Allan Poe - The New York Years which adds depth to your understanding of Poe's turbulent final years.

Day 2: Hartford, CT

  • Mark Twain House & Museum   As you may know, this is home where Mark Twain lived during the time he created his most famous characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. From the infamous billiard room where Twain worked on his writing (and cigar smoking), to unique exhibits in our Museum Center, to educational programs and community events, Twain’s Hartford, CT home is a unique destination for readers and history buffs of all ages.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House  The famous next door neighbor of Mark Twain and the author of the best-selling, anti-slavery book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe believed that her actions could make a difference and her words changed the world. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center connects Stowe's issues to the contemporary face of race relations, class and gender issues, economic justice and education equality. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, a charming Victorian Gothic Revival home (1871), and includes Victorian-style gardens, the Katharine Seymour Day House, a grand mansion adjacent to the Stowe House and the Stowe Visitor Center, with changing exhibitions and the museum store.
  • Wallace Stevens Walk  About one-quarter mile away from Stowe and Twain's homes in Nook Farm, you can take a short literary pilgrimage by following the famous walk poet Wallace Stevens took from his job at The Hartford to his home on Westerly Terrace.  Guiding you along the way are 13 granite markers that sequentially offer Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."
  • Noah Webster House  A short drive into West Hartford, the Noah Webster House offers visitors the opportunity to discover the man behind the creation of the first American dictionary and the "Blue Backed Speller."  Tour his childhood home and learn about life in 18th Century Connecticut. 

Day 3: Lenox and Pittsfield, MA

  • The Mount Estate & Gardens,  The Mount is both a historic site and a center for culture inspired by the passions and achievements of Edith Wharton. Best known for such works as The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, Wharton employed both humor and profound empathy to describe the lives of New York's upper class and the vanishing of their world in the early years of the 20th century. The gorgeous property includes three acres of formal gardens designed by Wharton, who was also an authority on European landscape design. The Mount is a stunning reflection of Wharton’s love of the literary arts, interior design and decoration, garden and landscape design, and the art of living.
  • Herman Melville’s Arrowhead,  Arrowhead is a National Historic Landmark located in western Massachusetts.  Melville purchased this historic farmhouse in 1850. It remained the home of Herman’s large and chaotic family for more than 13 years.  Herman found refuge in the second-floor library where he wrote his most famous novel, Moby Dick.  In the end, he wrote four novels and many short stories in the historic farmhouse.
Day 4: Cummington, MA and Amherst, MA
  • William Cullen Bryant Homestead   As you traverse Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, there are two poetic stops well worth making.  The first, in the hamlet of Cummington, MA, is the summer homestead of poet William Cullen Bryant.  The editor of The Saturday Evening Post for 50 years, Bryant was a passionate environmentalist who celebrated the landscape of America through his words.
  • Emily Dickinson Museum: The Homestead and the Evergreens  The Homestead, where poet Emily Dickinson was born and lived most of her life, and The Evergreens, home of the poet’s brother and his family, share three beautiful acres of the original Dickinson property in the center of Amherst, Massachusetts. The Museum offers guided tours of the houses as well as a self-guided audio tour of the outdoor grounds.  
Day 5: Concord, MA
  • The Wayside: Home to Hawthorne and the Alcott Family  A Historic Landmark, The Wayside was the only home owned by Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, and Twice-Told Tales. Before Hawthorne bought it, the house belonged to the Alcott family, who named it "Hillside." Here, Louisa May Alcott and her sisters lived much of the childhood described in Little Women.
  • Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House Just minutes from Wayside (circa 1690) is most noted for being home to the talented Alcott family, and is where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her beloved classic novel, Little Women, in 1868. 
  • "Authors Ridge at Sleepy Hollow"  Perched on the top-most glacial hill in the cemetery, Authors Ridge gathers together, among others, the graves of Henry Thoreau (1862), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1864), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1882), Louisa May Alcott (1888) and her father, Bronson Alcott (1888). 
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson House  Open to the public, the Emerson House is still furnished with the families’ memorabilia and keepsakes. Emerson lived here most of his adult life, wrote his famous essays "The American Scholar" and "Self Reliance," and died here in 1882.
  • Walden Pond  Situated on 400 acres, Walden Pond is a State Reservation and National Historic Site. Henry David Thoreau lived here from July 1845 to September 1847. His experience at Walden provided the material for the book Walden, which is credited with helping to inspire awareness and respect for the natural environment. Today, visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming and educational and guided tours.

Day 6: Boston, MA
  • Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters  This National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA preserves the home of Henry W. Longfellow, one of the world’s foremost 19th century poets. The house also served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Siege of Boston, July 1775 - April 1776. In addition to its rich history, the site offers unique opportunities to explore 19th century literature and arts. Of course, a visit to Cambridge would be incomplete without visiting Harvard University, home to too many writers to mention.
  • Boston by Foot  Take a walking tour of the homes and haunts of such great American writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Charles Dickens, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
New England welcomes literary pilgrims of all stripes - intrepid readers, history buffs or writers in need of the inspiration you can find when you follow in the footsteps of legends.  For more information about writers' houses, visit http://writershouses.com/