The Merrimack Valley was home to several famous authors. Their works still enchant and educate readers today, centuries after publication. Whether they spent their lifetime in Merrimack or simply passed through, they are still an important part of the local history and influenced American culture with their literary contributions.
If you’re a fan of literature and history, Merrimack Valley is the place to make a pilgrimage. Discover the authors who visited or resided here. Read on to find out where you can go to learn more about them and what influenced their works.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American novelist and short story writer most famous for The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. His works primarily focused on history, religion, and morality. He lived all over New England throughout his life and career. However, the only house he ever owned was in Concord, Massachusetts.
The Wayside (Author’s Home)
The Wayside, also known as Author’s Home, is a National Historic Landmark as it was the only house that Hawthorne ever owned and where he wrote his last works. However, it has the distinction of also having been home to other authors. Louisa May Alcott’s family later lived in this house, as did Harriett Lothrop (Margaret Sidney). You can check out the Wayside while visiting Minuteman National Park and learn about Hawthorne and the other authors who called this house home.
Lousia May Alcott
One of New England’s most famous authors and feminist icons, Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) is best known for her book Little Women. Based around her childhood in Merrimack Valley with her three sisters, this story is beloved the world over. Alcott wrote poems, short stories, and two sequels to her breakout novel. She was also an abolitionist and feminist, being active in reform movements like women’s suffrage and temperance.
Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House
While there are many places that Little Women fans should visit to look into the author’s life, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, MA is a must-visit. The majority of the story was written and set in this house. Stepping inside feels like you’ve become part of the book. You can take a guided tour of the house and learn about the family’s history and see the rooms where so many iconic book moments took place.
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) is an American author and poet beloved by those who appreciate the macabre. He’s regarded as an icon of Romanticism and Gothic fiction in American literature, writing classics like The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, he was a man who earned his living through writing alone. This led to a nomadic lifestyle, and he was known to visit Merrimack Valley.
The Worthen House Cafe
The Worthen House Cafe in Lowell, Massachusetts is the city’s oldest historical bar and tavern, having been established in 1898. It was one of Poe’s favorite bars, and one of the menu’s signature sandwiches is named The Raven after his famous poem. The Raven consists of shaved steak, grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese served on a sub roll or a wrap.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. As an author, he is best known for his works “Civil Disobedience” and Walden. Walden was actually written based on his experience with “simple living” as he resided in a cabin by Walden Pond for two years, two months, and two days. He was a lifelong Concord resident, having even been born there.
Walden Pond State Reservation
Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, MA is a beautiful place open year-round for numerous recreational activities. One of these activities is taking a self-guided walk in Thoreau’s footsteps. You begin your journey at a replica of his cabin. You’ll enjoy an easy hike at your own pace through nature past the original site of his modest dwelling. This way you experience the tranquility he felt as he walked in the woods centuries ago.
The Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond
Open year-round, The Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond in Concord is where you should go if you want products related to Thoreau and other famous Concord authors. The shop’s staff is knowledgeable about him and his contemporaries, being able to recommend literature to interested readers. If you’re a Thoreau fan, you can find books, apparel, artwork, stationary, and other souvenirs. The proceeds of these sales benefit the Thoreau Society, which is the oldest and largest organization dedicated to an American author.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was a 19th-century American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet. He was a close friend and mentor to Thoreau and a leader of the Transcendentalist movement. Emerson wrote essays like “The American Scholar,” “Self-Reliance,” and “Nature” that are still highly regarded today. He, too, was a long-time resident of Concord, Massachusetts. In fact, he owned the land by Walden Pond where Thoreau resided during his “simple living” period.
If you’re looking to learn more about Emerson, look no further than the Concord Museum. It has a distinguished collection of American literary artifacts, including Emerson’s study. While it was originally displayed back at Emerson’s house, it was determined in 1930 that the museum was a better place for visitors to view it. The Study’s contents are an exact reproduction of the room where he wrote and entertained guests. His rocking chair, shelves full of books, and more are all items Emerson owned and used in his lifetime.
There are numerous famous authors that have made their mark on Merrimack Valley. If we’re lucky, there may still be more to come. If you’re a fan of classic American literature, plan a self-guided tour throughout the county to discover the amazing ways the Valley has influenced the books you love.