The Tragedy Of Bridget Such-a-one

A hundred and fifty years ago famine in Ireland fostered a desperate, unprecedented mass migration to America. Neither country has been the same since.

Walking through the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1846, amid his solitary experiment in living close to nature, Henry David Thoreau was driven by a sudden storm to find shelter in what he thought was an uninhabited hut. “But therein,” Thoreau recounts in Walden , he found living “John Field, an Irishman, and his wife, and several children,” and he sat with them “under that part of the roof which leaked the least, while it showered and thundered without.” Read more »

Plain Talk From Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many Americans, Hemingway among them, thought him a solemn prig. But Emerson’s biographer discovers a man who found strength and music in the language of the streets.

In the wake of the centennial year of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s death in 1882, scholars, critics, and journalists in various parts of the country started to take a fresh look at the man and his works. They have found that the prejudices against Emerson expressed by H. L. Mencken and Ernest Hemingway persist to the present day. Mencken said in The American Mercury (October 1930) that “Emerson was always very careful to keep idealism within the bounds of American respectability.Read more »

Fruitlands

The idealists who founded this Utopian colony were singularly well versed in mystical philosophy— and singularly ignorant about farming

On the first day of June 1843, Bronson Alcott drove a large wagon up to his house in Concord, Massachusetts. Onto it he loaded his wife, Abby, three of his four little girls, his books, and enough belongings to sustain them in a new home. Ahead of the wagon walked a sour-faced Englishman, Charles Lane, and the oldest Alcott girl, May. Lane’s son, William, aged ten, found a place on the wagon, where he was entrusted with a bust of Socrates. Read more »

Thoreau’s Vacation

EARLY IN THE afternoon of the last day of August 1839, Henry David Thoreau and his brother John put a homemade dory in the Concord River, not far above the bridge where the Minutemen had fired on British troops sixty-four years before. They traveled light. For food they took melons and potatoes grown in their own garden and a few other provisions. For shelter they had a tent, also made at home, and for warmth a pair of buffalo skins.Read more »

Lexington And Concord

Sixth in a series of paintings for AMERICAN HERITAGE

The first and most unusual battle of the American Revution began in earnest when the seven hundred British regulars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith left Concord and started back for Boston on the afternoon of April 19, 1775. For sixteen bloody miles the king’s troops got their first taste of a kind of fighting in which all their famous discipline and the terrible rolling volleys that could break armies in the formal patterns of continental warfare would avail them not at all. Read more »

‘Twas The Nineteenth Of April In (18)75 — And The Centennial Was Coming Unstuck

On a new bridge that arched the flood Their toes by April freezes curled, There the embattled committee stood, Beset, it seemed, by half the world.

Captain John Parker’s company of minutemen stood in formation, some seventy strong, waiting on Lexington Green in the dim light of early dawn. They had gathered during the night in response to Paul Revere’s warning that the British were coming. Read more »

The Hawthornes In Paradise

Nathaniel was poor and sunk in his solitude; Sophia seemed a hopeless invalid, but a late-flower love gave them at last“a perfect Eden”

There are only a few great love stories in American fiction, and there are fewer still in the lives of famous American writers. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote one of the greatest, The Scarlet Letter . He also lived a story that deserves to be retold—with all the new knowledge we can bring to bear on it—as long as there are lovers in New England; it was his courtship and conquest of Sophia Peabody.

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