Thursday, November 4, 2010

Old Town Hall lecture series in Salem

Via Bonnie Hurd Smith of HistorySmiths is news of a new lecture series in Salem sponsored by the Gordon College Institute for Public History. The lectures happen on the third Thursday of every month, November through May, at 7:30 at the Old Town Hall (where Cry Innocent is performed).

First up is author and historian Richard Francis discussing his 2005 book, Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience. Samuel Sewall's diary, which he kept for his own reasons and not with an eye to posterity, is one of the most well-rounded pictures we now have of life in Puritan New England and includes charming, light-hearted passages about his romantic courtships. But he is best known for his role as one of the nine judges during the witch trials of 1692, and was one of the only people to publicly apologize for his role in the hysteria. On his blog, Francis writes:
My biography of [Sewall] explores a complex and endearing human being, who participated in an injustice that reflected an essentially medieval view of the world, and who, by the time he embarked on an extraordinary series of courtships late in his life, had taught himself how to be a modern man.
Visit Old Town Hall Lectures for the complete schedule, which includes Smith speaking about Judith Sargent Murray on January 20.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New edition of The House of the Seven Gables

The recent Signet Classics edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables features a new introduction by Marblehead's Katherine Howe, friend of the NSLT and author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Not bad double-billing, Kate!

As she points out, one of Hawthorne's more notable, irascible comments is something he wrote to his publisher in 1855, "America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash..." Sorry Nate, there's no stopping the scribblers.

Brenda Wineapple, author of Hawthorne: A Life, contributes a new afterward as well. (Her more recent book, White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, has been on my impossibly long to-read list for the last year.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Great Boston Poetry Marathon: Monday, October 11

Long time, no update—yikes! Life and work have veered away from the North Shore and away from the literary world over the past year (among other things, some travel writing and a return to school for Tufts University's museum studies program), but I'm still keeping my eyes open for events that north-of-Boston book lovers might be interested in.

Fortunately it's not too late to pass along news of the Great Boston Poetry Marathon, organized by Walter Skold of the Dead Poet's Society. The day-long event starts on Monday in Gloucester with readings of Vincent Ferrini and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, just to pick two poets who are featured in The North Shore Literary Trail. Check out the sunrise-to-sunset schedule here and join them for the long haul, or drop in anywhere along the path from Gloucester to Boston to Concord.

Here's a great post on National Geographic's Intelligent Traveler blog (nice!) about Dead Poets Remembrance Day (October 7) and some of the events organized around it, including the poetry marathon. The events planned at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire for Sunday, October 10, would be a great field trip from greater Boston.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

William Lloyd Garrison, always getting people in trouble

This Sunday at 5 pm, Susan Lenoe and Lani Petersen from Andover perform "The Grimké Sisters, Turning the World Upside Down" at the Rocky Hill Meeting House on Portsmouth Street in Amesbury (map; a freewill offering to benefit local food pantries will be taken, according to the Newburyport Daily News).

The sisters, Angelina and Sarah, grew up in a wealthy South Carolina slave-owning family, but fought against it from an early age. Sarah often told the story that she was so upset at age five at seeing a family slave whipped that she tried to run away to a place where slavery didn't exist.

From the Newburyport Daily News:

Angelina herself was thrust into the spotlight of the abolitionist movement by William Lloyd Garrison who, as publisher of The Liberator in Newburyport, mistakenly published a letter from Angelina that was meant to be private correspondence.

In her letter, she urged the passionate newspaperman Garrison to continue his fight against slavery, stating, "The ground upon which you stand is holy ground. Never, never surrender it ... if you surrender it, the hope of the slave is extinguished."

While the letter resulted in the sisters' being driven from their communities, it also thrust them into the national spotlight, prompting their trip to the North and setting the course of their destinies.

The two ended up in Massachusetts, with Angelina being the first woman to address the state legislature and skillfully debating slavery supporters in Amesbury.

Angelina and Sarah's connection to the NSLT extends beyond Garrison. Their nephew Francis Grimké eventually married Salem's Charlotte Forten, who was the first black woman to teach white children at the integrated Epps Grammar School in the 1860s and who wrote extensively about her experiences teaching the Gullah-speaking children of freed slaves on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NSLT links

  • Bonnie Hurd Smith on Salem's many self-guided walking trails, including ones about Nathaniel Bowditch and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as women's history and African-American history. Many of these tours are available to download for free from places like the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
  • North Shore Art Throb posts a review of Ralph Maud’s new biography, Charles Olson at the Harbor.
  • The Boston Globe on the symbiotic marketing of Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader and Salem tourism. (This is from last summer, but just turned up in RSS feeds today and is still an interesting tidbit.)

The Pioneer in Women's Rights Who Was on the Wrong Side of History

George Mason University's History News Network has an article about Gloucester's Judith Sargent Murray by Sheila Skemp, author of a new biography of the early agitator for women's equality: First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence.

Skemp makes the case that Sargent Murray's class bias is a large part of why she remains less known than someone like Mary Wollstonecraft, whose essay "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" receives more credit as an early feminist text than Murray's own earlier essays in The Gleaner. From Skemp's article:
It is no wonder, then, that virtually every historian familiar with her work sees Murray as a modern woman whose failure to achieve the recognition she deserved can be explained by the “fact” that her view of women’s rights was so far ahead of its time. A careful analysis of Murray’s conception of gender and class, however, reveals that her attitudes rested on a distinctly old fashioned intellectual foundation, and were already becoming obsolete. In some ways, she was not a forward-looking character at all—she was someone whom history would soon pass by.
Related: Gloucester's Sargent House Museum

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whittier events at Amesbury Days

The 110th annual Amesbury Days celebrations begin tomorrow. The first event is a guided tour of the Whittier Home, where the poet lived with his mother, aunt, and sister for much of his adult life.

It starts at 2 pm, at 86 Friend Street, and the Amesbury Days kick-off block party starts just a little later at 5:30 at the Huntington Square gazebo (which no one seems to provide an address for, although I'm sure if you're from Amesbury you know it. I think it's on Main Street not far from the Whittier Home.)

Wicked Local Amesbury has the full schedule of events.

Later, on Saturday, June 27 from 2 to 3 pm, the Whittier home hosts one of their monthly teas in the garden. From the Whittier Home website:
Whittier’s love of nature was clearly exhibited in his garden. Today, the descendents of the purple gentian, monarda, and grapevines he wrote about still bloom. Enjoy an elegant tea in the beautiful historic gardens of the John Greenleaf Whittier Home in Amesbury, MA. 2p.m. in the garden. 86 Friend St. $15. Purchase tickets online by clicking our Gift Shop link above, or call 978-38-1337 for reservations.