Ghosts of Authors Past
The leaves are falling and there’s a nip in the air. But before we pull out our sweaters and switch over to a soup-only diet, we have to check in with some of literature’s dearly departed and wish them a happy Halloween. For those of you who don’t commune with dead authors on a regular basis, we’ve decided to check in with a few of our favorites as they showed us around the halls they still haunt.
Mark Twain at The Mark Twain House Museum in Hartford, Connecticut
Admission to the Mark Twain House and Museum includes a guided tour from a living member of the staff, but we had to pull a few strings to get Mark Twain himself to meet with us. The author – who asked us to drop the pseudonym and call him Sam – was thrilled we made the drive up from Philadelphia to meet with him. “I have to show you my Billiards Room,” Sam said. “I stopped writing in there years ago, but I bet I could still beat you in a game.” Sam explained that while he used the billiards table to spread out his manuscripts during the editing process, he was also known to host friends over every Friday evening for a tumbler of hot Scotch and a round of billiards. Sam checked his calendar. Our visit was on a Wednesday. “Well,” he shrugged as he racked up the balls. “A mid-week game never hurt anyone.”
Charlotte Bronte at the Bronte Parsonage in West Yorkshire, UK
The Bronte Parsonage Museum offers a VIP tour with a specially trained guide, but the only guide we were interested in was Charlotte Bronte. While Emily and Anne Bronte also lived most of their lives at the Parsonage, we knew that Charlotte had done some renovations to really make the house a home. She immediately took us to the family dining room, where she blushed when we pointed out her image over the fireplace. “Oh that’s just a commission by George Richard. The original hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London, you know.” Charlotte informed us that she wrote her novel Jane Eyre at this very dining room table and that Emily and Anne had done the same with their own novels. “It was a real space for creativity,” Charlotte said. “So many wonderful characters have breathed this same air.”
Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House in East Sussex, UK
After our visit to the Bronte Parsonage it was just a hop, skip, and a jump – and a five-hour drive – to visit Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House in East Sussex. Virginia was waiting for us when we arrived and happily offered to show us her writing lodge. “Every writer needs a room of their own,” she winked, explaining that she spent at least three hours a day working in the secluded space. “I miss the joy of sleeping here on warm summer nights,” Virginia confided. “I had such colorful dreams here.”