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Literary Landscapes - The Language of Nature


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Literary Trail
Explore the properties that inspired literary masters to craft the language of nature.
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“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Esteemed writers once inhabited what are now Trustees historic houses, and trod the supporting grounds. Authors, poets, journalists, playwrights, and some of our most revered literary masters found many of our Massachusetts’ landscapes to be sources of inspiration and refuge for three centuries. We invite you to join generations of writers and readers by getting out and exploring these special places—perhaps you’ll be similarly inspired, and will find yourself adding your own words to the written landscape.

The Old Manse, Concord
This National Historic Landmark, built in 1770 for patriot minister William Emerson (1743-1776), was the home of authors, artists, philosophers, botanists, intellectual thinkers, and reformers who shaped the nation’s history. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) both called The Old Manse home for a time, and leading Transcendentalists such as Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller discussed the issues of the day here. The sizeable theological library that belonged to the family includes sermons, pamphlets, and books dating to as early as the 1500s.

NOT TO BE MISSED: Read the inscriptions etched onto the windows by newlyweds Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne.

Fruitlands Museum, Harvard
In 1843, a ten-year-old Louisa May Alcott moved with her family to a farm they called “Fruitlands.” Here, a group of idealistic thinkers—co-led by her father, Bronson Alcott, along with Charles Lane—believed that by living off the “fruit of the land” they could improve the world. The experiment only lasted a few months, but young Louisa kept a journal of her time at the farmhouse, which she published thirty years later as a story called Transcendental Wild Oats. The site is preserved thanks to author and collector Clara Endicott Sears who first opened the property as a museum in 1914.

NOT TO BE MISSED: Climb the stairs of the farmhouse to the attic that inspired iconic scenes in Little Women.

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an American poet, editor, conservationist and abolitionist whose nature poetry was inspired by the woods and fields of his native hills in western Massachusetts. A pioneer and progressive voice, Bryant served as editor of the New York Evening Post for many years before returning to the home where he grew up. His homestead still embodies the pastoral landscape and rustic woods of Bryant’s 19th-century childhood home and later summer residence.

NOT TO BE MISSED: Walk in Bryant's footsteps along the Rivulet Trail and experience the old-growth forest that inspired Bryant's nature poetry.

Monument Mountain, Great Barrington
Inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s 1824 poem, Monument Mountain, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne hiked up the namesake mountain on a summer afternoon in 1850 with publisher James T. Fields, poet Oliver Wendell Holmes, and several others. An unexpected storm forced the party into a cave where they waited out the storm with a lively discussion, which inspired ideas for Melville’s new book, Moby-Dick. It is said that while on this hike, Melville looked out at Mt. Greylock and was struck by how the mountain’s shape reminded him of a giant whale breaching the ocean’s surface.

NOT TO BE MISSED: While the hike to the 1,642-ft summit of Squaw Peak can be strenuous, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views from the Berkshires to New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Long Hill, Beverly
Lovely views of the rural North Shore inspired Ellery and Mabel Cabot Sedgwick to buy this property in 1916. Ellery Sedgwick (1872-1960) served as editor of the influential literary magazine The Atlantic Monthly from 1908 to 1938, publishing the works of Ernest Hemingway and his contemporaries. Mabel Cabot Sedgwick (1873-1937) was an accomplished gardener and horticulturist, whose 1907 book The Garden Month by Month was a standard in any gardener’s library in the 20th century. She and Ellery’s second wife, horticulturist Marjorie Russell Sedgwick (1896-1978), transformed Long Hill into the garden oasis you’ll find today.

Ravenswood Park, Gloucester
Ravenswood Park was home to one of our most colorful and unusual authors, naturalist Mason Augustus Walton (1838-1917). Living a semi-hermitic life in the woods, he published several books and contributed regularly to the magazine that would become Field and Stream, writing a column under the pseudonym "The Hermit." Years later Helen Naismith memorialized Walton in The Hermit of Ravenswood, where she committed to paper, “the true story of Mason Augustus Walton and his wild animal friends.” Walton’s cabin burned down in 1948, but a plaque marks its location, one of many sights on the 10 miles of carriage paths and trails that meander through the 600-acre park.

IMPORTANT: Please check opening times and accessibility information for each of these locations on thetrustees.org before venturing out for your visit.