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Ernest Hemingway was born in July on the cusp of the 20th century, and the summer month would prove to be a pivotal time for the writer throughout his life. Here are some key July moments in the Hemingway timeline:

July 21, 1899 – Hemingway made his debut in Oak Park, Illinois, a middle-class Chicago suburb where he spent the first 18 years of his life. He
spent his early childhood years in a grand turreted, Queen Anne-style home, now the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum.

July 1918 – While driving an ambulance for the Red Cross on the Italian front lines during World War I, 18-year-old Hemingway was seriously
wounded by mortar fire. His shrapnel wounds were tended to by a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, with whom he fell in love. Their relationship inspired his novel about a doomed wartime romance, A Farewell to Arms.

July 1923 – The insatiable traveler attended his first bullfight during Pamplona’s legendary running of the bulls, returning nearly every year for the rest of the decade to witness the death-defying spectacle. His Spanish sojourns inspired his 1925 novel The Sun Also Rises, which takes place during the annual Fiesta of San Fermin and follows a dissolute band of expats who spend their days drinking brandy and absinthe at Café Iruna. (A statue of Hemingway at the bar at Café Iruña is in the photo above.)

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Edith Wharton The Mount

Looking up the back stairs toward the terrace at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate in the Berkshire Mountains. Photo©NovelDestinations

Summer is an exciting time in the literary travel world. Some author houses are only open seasonally during the warm weather, while at others, gardens are in bloom and special events abound. Here are some of the storied happenings taking place in the coming months.

Parlez-vous français?
Enjoy a morning chat with other French speakers at Edith Wharton’s estate, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts. The conversation sessions, which honor her love for France, where she lived for many years, take place on the terrace overlooking the gardens. Attendance is $15, and spots must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance. Thursdays at 9 a.m. from July 4 through August 29.

Tales and Tails
Live readings and guest lectures take place on Sunday afternoons in the Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Tales on the schedule include “The Masque of the Red Death” (July 14), “The Black Cat” (July 21), and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (August 4). Keep an eye out for resident felines Edgar and Pluto, the latter named after a four-legged character in “The Black Cat.” Included with museum admission; no registration necessary. Sunday Reading events begin at 12:30 p.m. and are live-streamed on the museum’s Facebook page.

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Where better to read Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” than in the setting that inspired the author to put pen to paper. Or stand in the cozy study in the house (pictured above) where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow conjured “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Song of Hiawatha.” Whether it’s to learn about a slice of American history, gain insight into the artistic process, or simply to appreciate the power and beauty of great verse, here are eight places to celebrate American poets (along with a few bonus literary locales).

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts
During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson penned some 1,800 poems spanning a wide range of subjects, from spirituality and nature to art and medicine, among them “Because I could not stop for death” and “Success is counted sweetest.” Only a few of her poems were published during her lifetime, while others she shared with family and friends. Much of Dickinson’s verse was penned in secret, recorded in small, handmade booklets discovered after her death. Along with guided tours of two Dickinson family homes, visitors can stroll the grounds where the green-thumbed poet once gardened in her signature white dress (a replica of which is on display in her bedroom). Open March through December.

Robert Frost Farm, Derry, New Hampshire
“To a large extent, the terrain of my poetry is the Derry land­scape,” Robert Frost told a friend. “There was something about the experience at Derry which stayed in my mind, and was tapped for poetry in the years that came after.” Visitors can tour the white clapboard farmhouse, a gift to the newly wed Frost from his grandfather at the turn of the 19th century, where he penned verse late at night in the kitchen cozied up to a wood stove. While hiking a nature trail on the property, keep an out for two particularly notable sites: the stone-wall boundaries evoked in Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” and the stream he immortalized in “Hyla Brook.” Open May through October.

Following Frost: The poet is also commemorated at Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, a farm with views of the White Mountains, where he settled after returning from a stint living in Europe. In Shaftsbury, Vermont, is the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, a hilltop cottage where resided for nearly a decade, and in nearby Ripton is the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, a one-mile wooded hiking loop annotated with excerpts from his poetry.

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“The city that never sleeps is the backdrop for some of literature’s best love stories,” writes librarian Gwen Glazer in the post Finding Love in NYC, Literally on the New York Public Library’s blog. The NYPL’s book experts weighed in with their favorite romantic scenes that take place in the city, across all five boroughs.

Some highlights are the Brooklyn Bridge in Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg, where the main character, an independent young woman, has a passionate moment with her lover—scandalous for the 1920s; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is used as a backdrop in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence; and vibrant Union Square in Pete Hamill’s Forever. The NYPL’s own gorgeous Rose Main Reading Room makes the list, too, for a scene Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

An accompanying red-heart-dotted map marks the locales for bibliophiles who want to explore on Valentine’s Day…or any other time of the year.

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Key West Sunset 2

The Florida Keys: Key West

It’s hard to resist a place that has a nightly sunset celebration in its main square, a tradition playwright Tennessee Williams (cocktail in hand) is credited with inspiring. (The sun sets on the island in the photo above.) The southernmost city in the continental United States, Key West has beckoned no shortage of creative types, from poet Robert Frost to its most famous resident, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway made what was intended to be a brief stopover on the island in the late 1920s and instead ended up living there for a decade, drawn to the rough-and-tumble charm and laid-back lifestyle. The Spanish Colonial-style house he purchased, now the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, is a double delight for cat-loving bibliophiles. Legend has it that a ship’s captain gave the writer a polydactyl, or six-toed, cat, and the 50 or so felines that roam the property today—even sleeping in Hemingway’s bedroom—are its descendants. At the Tennessee Williams Museum, the playwright’s typewriter is on display along with colorful paintings created by the amateur artist.

The South Seas: Samoa

Celebrity writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last several years of his life on Samoa, where he is still considered the island’s most famous expat. After sailing around the South Pacific for a time, Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, built a mansion—complete with library, a ballroom, and the only fireplace on the island—in the hills near the village of Apia. Now the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, the literary landmark has been restored to how it looked at the time of the writer’s death and is show by guided tour. When Stevenson passed away in 1894 from a cerebral hemorrhage, Samoan natives he had befriended—and who gave him the name Tusitala, “Teller of Tales”—carried his body to a hilltop grave overlooking the sea.

The English Channel: Guernsey

Victor Hugo’s four-story house on the island of Guernsey—where he lived for 14 years during self-imposed exile from France for political reasons—has been described as being like a poem and akin to stepping into his imagination. Hugo’s decorating tastes tended toward the dramatic—red damask, tapestries, dark wood furnishings, gilded mirrors—and each room in Hauteville House is individually decorated and includes items he acquired in local antique shops. Crowning Hugo’s domain is a glass conservatory he used as his bedroom and office, with sweeping views of the sea.

The island in the English Channel is also the setting for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The novel, which is told through letters, unfolds the story of a group of Guernsey residents who form a book club as an alibi while the island is occupied by Nazis during World War II.

Check out VisitGuernsey.com for the Potato Peel Pie Experience and Walk in the Footsteps of Les Miserables Author Victor Hugo.

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▫ Some 838 miles of shelves in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., house the Library of Congress’ bounty of books and other materials. Visitors should head for the Thomas Jefferson Building, where a visual extravaganza awaits.

 The Library was initially located in a boarding house after its founding on April 24, 1800, and was later moved to the U.S. Capitol. Its first permanent building—bearing former president Jefferson’s moniker—opened in 1897, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the country.

▫ Why does Jefferson have the honors? After British troops burned the Capitol building and destroyed the library’s core collection of 3,000 volumes, Congress approved the purchase of Jefferson’s personal library—6,487 books bought for $23,950. The volumes that Jefferson originally contributed are on display (southwest pavilion, second floor).

▫ A bibliophile could move in and be right at home in the dazzling, octagon-shaped Reading Room (photo top row, center). It’s spacious (several stories high); gorgeously decorated with golden-color marble columns, statues of writers, artists, and thinkers like Michelangelo and Shakespeare, and a Renaissance-style dome; and has plenty of reading material. The Reading Room can be viewed from an upper level platform called the Overlook. Standing behind a clear plastic partition takes away some of the grandeur, but it’s still an impressive sight.

▫ Let there be light. The library’s light bulb budget is $100,000 a year.

▫ Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, is one of the images adorning the Thomas Jefferson Building’s main chamber. The Great Hall soars 75 feet, rising from a marble floor to a stained glass ceiling. Take some time to soak up the splendor of the Great Hall. Look up, down, and sideways, or you’ll miss its nuances. Woven into the eye-catching display of mosaics, statues, paintings, and decorative details—some of it drawing on the Italian Renaissance style—are themes of literature, music, philosophy, education, and architecture, along with references to the zodiac and mythology and tributes to other countries.

▫ The Guttenberg Bible, on display in the Great Hall, is one of a three-volume set. To reduce wear and tear on the fragile documents, it’s changed out periodically—under armed guard.

▫ Size matters. The collection contains nearly 167 million items, making it the largest library in the world. Of those, 39 million are books (including Novel Destinations) and other printed materials. The rest are films, photos, prints, maps, manuscripts, and sheet music. About half of the books and serials are in languages other than English.

▫ Pick and choose. Every day the library receives 15,000 new items, approximately 12,000 of which are added to the collection.

▫ It’s well worth the time to take a free 60-minute, docent-led tour. It gives a fascinating, more in-depth perspective than strolling through the building on your own (I’ve done both). Learn about the library’s creation and collection, as well as its impressive architectural details. Tours are given several times daily Monday through Saturday, and there’s no need to reserve a spot. Even if 50 or 60 people show up, guides break tour-goers into smaller groups.

▫ Only members of Congress and their staff can check out books. The rest of us can view the digital collection online.

–Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Historic author houses are among the best places to get a fix of nostalgic holiday cheer. Here are some literary sites where you can enjoy the seasonal festivities:

The Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, comes alive with thousands of lights during “Poe’s Christmas Illumination” on December 1 from 5-9 p.m. Along with free admission, enjoy mulled wine and take a holiday-themed tour with the museum’s curator.

A visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, is like stepping into the pages of Little Women. It’s only fitting then that this year’s December theme is “A Little Women Christmas” since the novel opens during the holiday season. Meet Louisa and other costumed figures and participate in Victorian-era activities and caroling. The program takes place on weekends in December, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, hosts the annual “Festival of Trees,” with 29 artists, organizations, and community groups decorating the author’s home. Not only is the holiday finery lush and imaginative, some of it conveys a message, too, carrying on Buck’s legacy as a social activist. Through December 30.

Step back in time at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, which is adorned in the style of a late-19th-century Christmas. The author’s abode is one of several sites participating in the “Friends of the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Holiday House Tour” on December 3.

In Monterey, California, 22 historic homes are open to visitors during “Christmas in the Adobes,” including rare access to the Lara-Soto Adobe once owned by John Steinbeck. At the Robert Louis Stevenson House—now a museum devoted to the Scottish scribe, who lived for a time in the seaside city—shortbread will be served and bagpipes will be playing. December 8 and 9.

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, is celebrating the poet’s birthday on December 9 from 1-4 p.m. with homemade coconut made from Dickinson’s own recipe. Admission is free during the event, and a special guided tour, “Christmas with the Dickinsons,” is on offer.

The Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is hosting a Holiday Open House on December 15 and Holiday House Tours on December 16. Along with touring the poet’s lovely home (previously General George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War), take a stroll through the illuminated gardens and listen to Christmas carols.

In a nod to his debut novel Look Homeward, Angel, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, North Carolina, is putting on “An Angel Christmas” on December 16. Festivities include an exhibition of angel wreaths on the doors and angel figurines displayed throughout the historic 29-room home, where Wolfe’s mother once ran a boardinghouse.

In Salem, Massachusetts, the House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s inspiration for his gothic novel), is presenting “Four Centuries of Christmas Tours.” Walks the halls of the seaside mansion that has stood since 1668, as guides share the history of Christmas in New England. Through December 31.

[Photos © Pearl S. Buck International, Poe Museum, and Orchard House.]

 

The classic literary world includes some curious connections between scribes who lived decades, and sometimes centuries, apart.

Frederick Douglass and Charles Dickens

On the grounds of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., is a tiny stone cabin where Douglass retreated to read and write in solitude. He dubbed the one-room dwelling the “Growlery,” a termed coined by Charles Dickens in Bleak House. In the novel, Mr. Jarndyce speaks with his ward, Esther, in a small room filled with books and papers, boots and shoes, and hat-boxes. “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humor, I come and growl here,” says Mr. Jarndyce. “When I am deceived or disappointed in—the wind, and it’s Easterly, I take refuge here. The Growlery is the best-used room in the house.”

Frederick Douglass’ “growlery,” or writing cabin. Photo: © NPS/Johnson.

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Interested in literary travel tales and trivia? Come hear Shannon speak about Novel Destinations at the New York Public Library’s 53rd Street branch in New York City on October 24 at 6:30 p.m.

This entertaining presentation features photographs of literary landmarks in the United States and Europe, stories about classic writers and the places that inspired them, and some of her own tales from the road. Six-toed cats, volcanoes, Edith Wharton’s library, and more!

Where: The New York Public Library, 18 W. 53rd Street, New York, NY.

When: Tuesday, October 24, 6:30 p.m. in the theater.

Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau’s milieu.

Put on your walking shoes and explore these eight literary trails, following in the footsteps of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jack London, and other writers in the landscapes where they lived, wrote, and found inspiration.

Brontë Waterfall and Top Withens Walk, Haworth, England
The dramatically scenic Yorkshire Moors, where Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights unfolds, is one of the most atmospheric places for a literary hike. A 2 ½-mile walk from the sisters’ former home, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, leads across heather-dotted hills to their favorite destination, a gentle waterfall and stream. Venture on a mile farther to see the ruins of an isolated farmhouse, Top Withens, credited as being the setting of Heathcliff’s domain in Wuthering Heights.

Dylan Thomas Trail, New Quay, Wales
“I walked on to the cliff path again, the town behind and below waking up now so very slowly,” Dylan Thomas wrote in the radio sketch “Quite Early One Morning.” In the Welsh town of New Quay, where the poet moved in 1944, the Dylan Thomas Trail traces the route along the coastal walkway above town he referenced. Other Thomas-related places in the city center are noted as well, like the restaurant and bar at the Black Lion Hotel—a perfect stop for a post-hike restorative.

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond Walks, Concord, Massachusetts
Henry David Thoreau staked out a spot on a secluded piece of land near Walden Pond owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, living there for two years and turning out his most famous work, Walden. To reach the site where the naturalist’s one-room cabin once stood, take the Pond Path for a gorgeous view of the lake he described as “lying between the earth and the heavens.” Return via the Ridge Path through oak and pine woodlands where Louisa May Alcott and her sisters accompanied family friend Thoreau on nature walks. A replica of Thoreau’s abode can be seen near the Walden Pond State Reservation visitor center.

Jack London’s Beauty Ranch Trail, Glen Ellen, California
The adventure writer’s 1,400-acre Sonoma Valley ranch was situated on the site of a former winery and is now Jack London State Historic Park. The park’s trail network ranges from back country hikes to easily accessible pathways, including the Beauty Ranch Trail, which leads through the heart of London’s property past landmarks such as the cottage where he wrote many of his short stories and novels.

Millay Poetry Trail, Austerlitz, New York
Two years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923 (the first woman to do so), Edna St. Vincent Millay and her husband bought a former blueberry farm they named Steepletop in rural eastern New York State. Along with touring the white clapboard farmhouse and sunken gardens landscaped by Millay, visitors can take a walk to the poet’s grave site along the Millay Poetry Trail, located in a forest dotted with white birch trees and signposted with excerpts from her nature poems.

Sir Walter Scott Way, Moffatt to Cockburnspath, Scotland
If you have several days and lots of stamina, this 92-mile cross-country walk winds through lowland valleys and sheep farms, over Borderland hills, and past lochs and rivers as it connects sites associated with novelist Sir Walter Scott’s life and work. Noteworthy stops along the way include the Tibbie Shiels Inn, a 19th-century stagecoach stop that has served up drams to Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Carlyle, and Abbotsford, the turreted, castle-like manor house Scott designed and filled with antique furnishings and historic relics like Rob Roy’s sword.

Stevenson Memorial Trail, Calistoga, California
While in the Napa Valley, newlyweds Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, ran low on money and left a hotel cottage for Silverado, an abandoned mining town. For two months in 1880 they lived in a ramshackle bunkhouse on the slopes of Mount St. Helena, an adventure Stevenson recounts in the memoir THE SILVERADO SQUATTERS. A 10-mile round trip hike in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park leads to the site where the couples’ cabin once stood. At the summit of the challenging trek, stunning views of the San Francisco Bay Area await.

Tennyson Trail, Isle of Wight, England
Lord Alfred Tennyson once said the salty sea air on this English Channel isle was “worth sixpence a pint.” Traverse the Tennyson Trail to emulate the poet, who took long morning walks each day on the isle, where he settled in 1853 and spent the last 40 years of his life. The 15-mile trail runs through forests and above chalky white cliffs with sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and mainland England.

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” —Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad In 1867, a young Mark Twain spied an advertisement for a cruise to Europe and the Holy Land, the first organized tourism in American history. He convinced a California newspaper to fund his passage on the five-and-a-half-month excursion in exchange for weekly columns. Twain later turned the trip reporting into his first full-length book, The Innocents Abroad, which one reviewer deemed “instructive, humorous [and] racy.” An interesting exhibit at the New York Historical Society delves into the story behind Twain’s lively travelogue, published 150 years ago and his bestselling book during his lifetime. The exhibit runs through February 2, 2020. #marktwain #theinnocentsabroad #classiclit #literarytravel #noveldestinations #nyc #nyhistoricalsociety @nyhistory
Giving thanks today and every day for great storytelling and superb novels like this one. ... Rules of Civility follows Katey Kontent, a smart, witty, ambitious young woman, through the working world and into the New York social circle in the late 1930s, beginning with a chance encounter at a Greenwich Village jazz bar on New Year’s Eve. The story is compellingly told, with lovely writing and a vivid New York City backdrop. Not only are there echoes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton, tales infused with glamour and grief, literary lovers will appreciate the abundance of bookish references throughout. “I’ve come to realize,” muses Katey, “that however blue my circumstances, if after finishing a chapter of a Dickens novel I feel a miss-my-stop-on-the-train sort of compulsion to read on, then everything is probably going to be just fine.” ... #happythanksgiving #happyreading #gratitude #greatstorytelling #rulesofcivility #amortowles #booksofinstagram #igreads #bookwormsofinstagram #nycnovels #instabookstagram #booksintheair
Nighttime browsing before meeting up with my book group. Or, holiday shopping for me. 🎁 #strandbooks #bryantpark #wintervillage #nyc #booksofig #bookstagram #bookstores

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