Friday, May 3, 2013

Louisa May Alcott and Orchard House

 Yesterday's trip included Orchard House, the modest house shown here. For twenty years it was the home of the Alcott family.  This was after the ill-fated utopian experiment by Bronson, the pater familias, who moved the family to a farm he called Fruitlands where he lost most of his money, and the family nearly went hungry from lack of success at sustaining an ideal community.  The house looks small - it IS small, yet it has enough rooms, small though they are, to have been a comfortable home for Bronson and Marmie, Louisa and, at various times all three of her sisters or only some.  Ralph Waldo Emerson  generously paid many of their expenses, at least until Louisa had a great success with Little Women and supported the family with her writing--many now forgotten  additional novels.

In the upstairs room on the right (from our perspective) a tiny white desk is built between the two windows.  It is the desk at which we see heI d sitting in this picture. Do not understand how she could have sat there at a very low desk, writing.  Her back must have hurt, or maybe she had somehow learned to write at a surface almost at lap level.

She was not the only talented one.  Her sister, Mary, was an artist so adept at watercolors she copied and sold Turner paintings.  Mary painted in both watercolor and oils many painting, including one in the house of Louisa shortly after she returned from nursing Civil War soldiers, ill, looking much older than she was at the time. Mary also gave art lessons; one of her students Daniel Chester French, the man who did the bronze statue of a Minuteman that stands on Lexington green and has been reproduced in endless history books. He also, most notably, did the Lincoln Memorial statue that is equally well known.

Our docent at Orchard House was one of the most knowledgeable docents I've ever heard speaking -- she had answers to every question.  She did not give us great indigestible globs of facts, but was even willing to look up an answer to a question I had about a table covering.

With Emerson living next door, Thoreau stopping in frequently, Hawthorne on the other side, all of them dropping in often for an evening of checkers or family dramas or a bit of music on the Chickering piano or the melodean and talking -- oh, surely talking and talking and talking, this tiny house was vibrant with a quality of life that is enviable and rare. 

1 comment:


I find it amazing that Hawthorne, Emerson, and Alcott all lived in three consecutive houses next to each other. What a brain trust of folks. The Alcott house is charming. Emerson sounds like a generous man -- barbara