I mentioned last week that our daughter Faith and I had toured the Mark Twain House in nearby Hartford, CT. I think I said something about an event, but I know I didn’t explain what that event was. It was an opportunity to write for three hours in the library of the Mark Twain House. I had mentioned wanting to do that at some point, and Faith bought tickets for us for my birthday. She knew I wanted to go, but she didn’t know exactly why.
The reason I wanted to go was to spend some time in a quiet and inspirational place, to think about writing. As some of you know, I have been interested in writing since I was in fifth grade. Perhaps not so much writing as storytelling. The two things are tangled up in my head, and I thought maybe the spirit of Mark Twain might understand, since he is remembered for being a storyteller and a humorist as much as he’s remembered for the books he wrote.
During the tour, we learned that the writing he did on the books published during the time he lived in Hartford (including: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), he did in the billiard room on the third floor. However, we also learned that it was in the library where he made up and told stories every night to his children. That made writing in the library seem even more appropriate.
We were advised of several conditions before agreeing to attend this event. First, there is no power or WiFi available to the writers. We learned later that there was WiFi, but most of us ignored the offer of the password. Unfortunately, but understandably, no photography is allowed in the house. Flash photography can harm certain artifacts, and people taking or wanting to be in pictures can harm others. In addition, no pens are allowed. If you want to write, you must write with a pencil.
We were allowed to bring laptops or other battery powered devices. I took my iPad. I also took a small notebook. The Editor loaned me several of her special pencils (she loves pencils) and I switched back and forth a few times. Some of the thoughts I wanted to work through were already stored in apps on my iPad, but the new material created in the library was with pencil on paper. I am not ready to share those thoughts, in part because I don’t think I fully understand them yet.
Somewhat similar to touring the Twain House, the following morning I joined friends as we toured the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. The Cloisters is a magnificent building / museum, set in a four-acre park (Fort Tryon) overlooking the Hudson River, a gift to the City / Metropolitan Museum system by John D. Rockefeller. Just as the Twain House, which had been sold several times after Samuel Clemens last lived there, is largely filled with replicas “similar to” what would have been in the house, the Cloisters has the look and feel of a 13th century monastery. It should, it was assembled from pieces of five such monasteries, bought in Europe, moved to New York and painstakingly reassembled. The galleries are filled with 13th and 14th century tapestries and artifacts that were purchased from throughout Europe. This fact prompted my friend to quip, “if you don’t have history, you can buy it and pretend.” It struck me that Samuel Clemons would have chuckled at that remark.
The Mark Twain House and the house of his neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe are decorated for the holidays. There is an annual event in progress where you can tour these houses as well as several of the privately-owned historic houses in the neighborhood. If you ever find yourself in Hartford with a free hour, I would urge you to tour the Twain House. I hope to return in the spring and tour the Harriet Beecher Stowe house and the adjoining grounds. Likewise, if you are ever in New York and have 2-3 hours free, I would encourage you to tour The Cloisters.
Today’s gallery features a few pictures from outside the Mark Twain House, as well as some pictures from our tour of the Cloisters. Tiny but expected spoiler, my Thursday Doors post will feature some doors from the Cloisters. Oh, and if the title made some of my more experienced readers think of a song, that’s included below the gallery.