Following in the Footsteps of Hawthorne, Melville, and Thoreau?

Corrie and Joey-AppalachiaThis post is dedicated to our family’s radiant and clear-sighted history lover, hiker, and nature lover, Mrs. Corrie Priola Dickinson–our eldest grandson Joe’s bride of 18 months.  We don’t get to see them much these days because they are stationed in Monterey, California, but we think of them daily and wonder what great adventures they must be creating together.

Monument Mountain Great Barrington MACorrie, originally from Chicago, is such the avid hiker that she may have already hiked through the hills and woods or skied the same mountain paths as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry Thoreau.  In fact, 165 years ago, on August 5, 1850, these famous authors first met at a picnic in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in the affluent Berkshire Hills and together they climbed to the top of Monument Mountain.

Here are a couple more scenes of this beautiful area:

Berkshires MA

Our family’s connection to Hawthorne, as mentioned in my post of about two years ago, Mother of Modern Hospice Movement…, goes back to my maternal 4th cousin, another author, who met National Hawthorne’s daughter, Rose, while in Europe in 1871.  George and Rose married shortly afterward, making Nathaniel Hawthorne father-in-law to my cousin George Parsons Lathrop.   As for George Parsons Lathrop, in 1875 he became associate editor of The Atlantic Monthly, an American magazine, founded in 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts, now based in Washington, D.C. and still up and running.  The Atlantic was created as a literary and cultural commentary magazine that has notably recognized and published new writers and poets, encouraged major careers, and has won more National Magazine Awards than any other monthly magazine. Lathrop remained as associate editor for two years, leaving for newspaper work in Boston and New York. His contributions to the periodical and daily Press were varied and voluminous. And, in 1883 he founded the American Copyright League, which finally secured the international copyright law.   Lathrop also edited (1883) complete and standard editions of Hawthorne’s works, and adapted The Scarlet Letter for Walter Damrosch’s opera of that title, which was produced in New York in 1896.  After George’s death, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop went on to do great things and became known as “Mother Mary Alphonsa,” an American Roman Catholic religious sister and social worker.

The World Renowned Authors From Massachusetts

It was Herman Melville who grew up in The Berkshires, in and around the Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Hawthorne in 1850 had recently published The Scarlet Letter and was living in nearby Lenox. Melville was visiting Pittsfield. The two writers met that day in 1850 for the first time. As a young man, Melville joined the Merchant Marine and U.S. Navy and soon after returning from the Pacific Islands he met his new pals, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

An inspiration for a whale of a story

1Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, authors of two of the greatest American novels of all time, began a warm friendship on that August day in 1850 during a passing storm that drenched them.  Thereafter, they often hiked for the amazing views or just to hang out and talk; and like a lot of young men back then, they shared some wine in caves as thunderstorms passed. They weren’t looking to make trouble or avoid reality. They were looking to be creative and they really helped each other out. Their conversations and the physical nature of The Berkshires, and in particular Monument Mountain, inspired their writing. Herman started forming great ideas for sea adventures. And from his farmhouse window, he could see his favorite mountain in the world, Mount Greylock, way in the distance to the north. The profile of Greylock reminded him of a whale, and he used it for inspiration to create a great white whale he named Moby Dick. Melville dedicated Moby Dick to Hawthorne, with “admiration for his genius.”  Another example of Hawthorne’s genius was The House of the Seven Gables, published in 1851. Like the Scarlet Letter, it drew on his family’s long history in Salem, Massachusetts.


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