I hope everyone had a good weekend. I’m sorry about the lack of posts recently but with the semester in full swing things have been busy. This past Saturday I was up and out of the house at 6:00 am to meet a friend at Grand Central, from where we took the train to Hartford. There we were met by a friend who was our guide for the day. We visited the Mark Twain house and adjacent Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Literally they are right next each other. Both tours were distinctly different but uniformly excellent. I love to watch interpreters perform their craft. Twain’s house was obviously an anchor for a man who traveled so extensively, both as a younger man finding his way and later as a famous writer supplementing his income on the lecture circuit. Twain often lived out of a suitcase and the house there in Hartford was the place to which he and his family, who often accompanied him abroad, could return. He did most of his writing on the third floor. While up there I mentioned his publishing Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs. The guide turned to his immediate left and pointed out a beautiful bust of Grant on the mantel. I so wanted to take a picture but photography was not permitted in the house.
I had never been to either site before. The one that seems to have undergone the most change in recent years has been the Stowe Center. They used to give a more conventional overview of the house itself and Stowe’s time there later in her life. This is what friends of mine and I call a “furniture tour,” in which a guide focuses more on the make and model of a home’s accoutrements instead of the historical figures who lived there. The Stowe Center, thankfully, has changed its interpretive model to discuss not only Stowe’s life and times but the social and cultural issues that faced our nation then and now. We were even told beforehand when buying out tickets that it would be such. Apparently people have gotten angry during tours in the past.
Our guide was so generous. I had mentioned a few days earlier that perhaps we might go to Cedar Hill Cemetery, to which none of us had ever been before. It is one of the old garden cemeteries and among other Connecticut luminaries is the final resting place of Joseph Roswell Hawley. We got there late in the day, as dusk was about to settle in. We had a great time driving and taking in the scenery. We had some difficulty finding Hawley however but as you can see here we eventually found him. With the Roosevelt Sr. manuscript complete I intend to spend the rest of this year and probably all of 2019 engaged in the Joseph Hawley project. It was so great to see his headstone and gives me the impetus to return to this fascinating topic.
I had not been to Hartford in several decades, when I was a very young child and my father would occasionally take us in on a Saturday to see the phone company building with its big computers and switchboards where he worked. Being there this Saturday was almost like coming home in a way. Here is to good friends who through their kindness and generosity help make our lives more meaningful.