For aficionados of classic women authors, there’s nothing like visiting the homes in which they lived and wrote. Fortunately, there are many such homes that are open to the public, keeping the spirit of these authors alive for present and future generations. Many hold public events, and most feature libraries and archives. Here are 5 classic women authors’ homes to visit in England — see where Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, and Vita Sackville-West lived and worked. At right, Beatrix Potter in the doorway of Hill Top House.
Poets House is a must-visit destination for poetry lovers visiting (or living in) New York City. While not at all hard to find, this literary haven far enough off the beaten to make it unlikely that you’d stumble upon it. When you arrive, you’ll be delighted not only by this treasure of a space, but also by its location.
The organization describes itself as “a place for poetry — Poets House is a national poetry library and literary center that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry.”
Their mission is to be “a comfortable, accessible place for poetry — a library and meeting place which invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House seeks to document the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, to stimulate dialogue on issues of poetry in culture, and to cultivate a wider audience for poetry.” Read More→
Orchard House, best known as the home in which Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women, is a literary site that’s a must-do for devotees of this classic American author. It’s a contemplative and rich experience, and a must-do pilgrimage for anyone who loves this iconic American author.
The house, located in Concord, Massachusetts (within an hour of Boston) opened its doors to the public in 1911, some 23 years after the deaths of Louisa May and her father, the noted philosopher, educator (and, it could be argued, ne’er-do-well) Amos Bronson Alcott. Orchard House can be seen via a docent-led tour lasting about an hour. The Alcott family comes to life through the tour guide’s narrative, and questions are cheerfully answered along the way.
Living in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley gives me access to amazing array of day trips within a 2-hour radius, from the frantic energy of New York City, to the bucolic elegance of the Berkshires, where a group of culture-rich towns and villages are set amidst a modest mountain range in western Massachusetts.
As a regular visitor to the Berkshires, one of my favorite places to visit is The Mount in Lenox, the stately mansion designed and built by Edith Wharton, who took possession of it in 1902. Though she didn’t live here long — only 10 years or so — it was during these years that she wrote her breakaway first novel, The House of Mirth (1905) and the haunting classic, Ethan Frome (1911).
Though Wharton designed the home and gardens, a showcase of her love and talent for architecture and formal landscaping, these were not happy years for her, as she was unhappily married to Edward “Teddy” Wharton at this time. Teddy suffered from acute depression and it was during these years that his mental state deteriorated. The couple divorced in 1913. Though Edith Wharton didn’t live for long at The Mount, the years she spent there saw a full flowering of her various talents, and the cementing of her literary reputation. Read More→
Here are 6 homes of classic women authors in New England. They prererve the lives and legacies of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sarah Orne Jewett. Visit them one at a time, group two on a weekend trip, or do them all on a multi-day loop. Make sure to link through to get all the information on visiting, as some of these aren’t open year round.
Literary pilgrimages are inspiring and enlightening. If you can’t get enough of your favorite women authors in print, visiting their homes, preserved for public viewing, is a fantastic way to get to know them better. Getting a glimpse where they lived and worked, and how they extended their creative flair into their homes and gardens is a true privilege.