Exploring Our Literary History

August 1, 2012

As I wrote in last week’s column, summer is a great time to stay active and enjoy the outdoors. It is also a great time to sit back and relax with a good book. With school out for a few months, reading is a great way to keep our children interested and involved in their own education. Luckily, our state has a rich literary history dating back several hundred years and many of these well-known authors actually lived within close driving distance. Today, many of their former homes have become museums and educational centers to better understand their contributions to our literary history.

Their names have gone down in history as some of the greatest writers in our country and their books continue to be read by school children and interested adults seeking to reconnect with our nation’s past. Among other writers, Connecticut was home to Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Noah Webster. Some of them may be more familiar to you than others, but their work has changed the course of American writing and education. This week, I would like to share some of this information with you and your family if you are looking for some fun and educational activities to do this summer.

Perhaps the best known of the three writers, Mark Twain has been called the “Father of American Literature” for his work on two of his most famous novels. Both “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and its sequel, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” have long been required reading for generations of school children. Twain was born in Missouri by the name of Samuel Clemens and later moved to Hartford, where he lived from 1874 to 1891. Filled with history and interesting architecture, the Mark Twain House and Museum offers tours and exhibits about his life and legacy. It is located at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford. For more information, please visit the Mark Twain House website at www.marktwainhouse.com.

As a prominent abolitionist and author, Harriet Beecher Stowe gained popularity for writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a novel about life under slavery for African-Americans. Her work was published shortly before the Civil War and strengthened the anti-slavery movement. Born in Litchfield, Stowe later lived in Hartford for the final two decades of her life. Located near the Mark Twain House, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center consists of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, the Katharine Seymour Day House and the Visitor Center with the museum store, historic gardens and Nook Farm neighborhood. It is located at 77 Forest Street in Hartford. For more information, please visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center website at www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org.

Often called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” Noah Webster was born in West Hartford and wrote spelling guides and dictionaries that helped to teach proper spelling and definitions to generations of Americans. He is perhaps best known for writing what would later become the Merriam-Webster dictionary that we have all relied upon at one time or another. However, his blue-backed speller revolutionized the way children learned how to spell and later inspired the naming of West Harford’s popular Blue Back Square. Also in his hometown, the Noah Webster House is open for tours and has exhibits exploring his life and his contributions to our society. It is located at 227 South Main Street in West Hartford. For more information, please visit the Noah Webster House website at www.noahwebsterhouse.com.

If you are looking for activities to do this summer, these three locations are fun and informative opportunities for you and your family to visit. It is always interesting to keep in mind all of the great contributions that Connecticut residents have made to our country, including these memorable and well-known writings. It is also a great way to keep our children learning during the summer months. If you do decide to visit these attractions, I hope that you have an enjoyable experience!