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Harriet Beecher Stowe in Scotland, Part Two: Glasgow

002Glasgow Cathedral. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Licence:, resized, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0). Also compare the image of the Cathedral from Sunny Memories with a recent photo).

Having arrived in Glasgow the night before, Harriet Beecher Stowe awoke in Scotland for the first time on April 14, 1853. In Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, Vol. I (1854), she describes her breakfast:

The next morning I awoke worn and weary, and scarce could the charms of the social Scotch breakfast restore me. I say Scotch, for we had many viands peculiarly national. The smoking porridge, or parritch, of oatmeal, which is the great staple dish throughout Scotland. Then there was the bannock, a thin, wafer-like cake of the same material. My friend laughingly said when he passed it, “You are in the ‘land o’ cakes,’ remember.” There was also some herring, as nice a Scottish fish as ever wore scales, besides dainties innumerable which were not national.

Later that day, she and her entourage visited Glasgow Cathedral. › Continue reading…

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Harriet Beecher Stowe in Scotland, Part One: Entering Scotland

Sunny Memores of Foreign Lands

Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, first visited Scotland during her European trip of 1853. She wrote about her visit in the First volume of Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands (published in 1854).

She and her party entered Scotland by train on April 13, 1853, passing by Gretna Green. In Sunny Memories, Stowe comments on the famous Gretna Green marriages. As the first town across the Scottish border, it became a popular place in the eighteenth century for English minors to get married under the more liberal Scottish marriage laws. It remains a popular wedding destination today. › Continue reading…

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This post is in honor of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 200th Birthday (she was born June 14, 1811). Back in 2007, I visited Mandarin, Florida, where Harriet Beecher Stowe had a winter home she visited from 1867 to 1884. Her book, Palmetto Leaves (1873), is based on her experiences in Florida. Today, Mandarin is part of the city of Jacksonville, which has grown to become the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. Her cottage, called “Mandarin Home,” is no longer standing, but some other traces of Stowe’s Mandarin survive. › Continue reading…

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Wrights Ferry Mansion

We left Wheatland for our other stop in Lancaster County, in the town of Columbia on the Susquehanna River. Wright’s Ferry Mansion is the restored home of Susanna Wright, an English Quaker settler who never married, but bought property on what was then the frontier and became self-sufficient operating the ferry crossing. She was an intellectual who wrote poetry, taught herself Latin, and corresponded with such figures as Benjamin Franklin. She also grew silk worms and wrote a treatise on the subject. The restored house museum features Philadelphia furniture made before 1750. There’s an expensive but very complete set of two books covering the house and the collection. › Continue reading…

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Sunnyside (1835)

Sunnyside

This past summer, I made a trip to Philadelphia and stopped at two houses in Terrytown, New York (right near where the Tappan Zee Bridge crosses the Hudson River), on the way. The first was Sunnyside, which was the home of author Washington Irving. Although the earliest history of the building goes back to an old Dutch farmhouse built in 1656, Irving completely transformed it into his own home in the nineteenth century, after purchasing the property in 1835. Irving really did put his mark on the property, which is right along the river, with his own landscaping plans. His house, which has many Gothic and Romantic touches, became a famous American landmark as well. I strongly recommended visiting Sunnyside, as it is a home which, more than most, reflects the full spirit of its owner. The house is owned by Historic Hudson Valley, which has other house museums in the region. The gift shop at Sunnyside was also notable, being larger than average. Irving is most famous for Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow, but he wrote a large number of works, including biographies of Mohammad and George Washington. Sunnyside is one of the most evocative homes one can visit, for those with an interest in literature as well as those interested in the Romantic movement in America. › Continue reading…

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Whitman Birthplace

Walt Whitman was born in 1819 in a house in West Hills (in the town of Huntington), Long Island, built around 1810 by his father. It is now a New York State Historic Park and I visited it earlier this year when I went to Long Island to attend a wedding. The house is furnished to reflect the period when the future poet lived there, which was only until he was five years old, so it is not the sort of author-related site where you can see where his works were actually written. However, it serves as a very good monument to Whitman, with a small but informative visitor’s center exhibit which presents the story of his life. The museum is also devoted to featuring current poets, which seems a good way for a museum focusing on a poet of the past to engage the community today. The site forms a little enclosed compound of buildings, but is surrounded by strip malls and major roads. It requires some imagination to recall the time when Whitman lived here and the area was surrounded by farm fields. In the visitor center was a map of Whitman-related sites in the area. I was not able to drive around and visit these, but it would be an interesting excursion and a good way to get more images of historic homes! › Continue reading…

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The Warner House (1836)

Warner House

The Warner House is located on Constitution Island on the Hudson River. The island is near Boscobel and right across the river from West Point. The house is a landmark because it was home, from 1839 to 1915, to the Warner sisters: Susan Warner, who wrote the bestselling novel, The Wide, Wide World, in 1850, and Anna Warner, who wrote the words to the hymn, Jesus Loves Me. In 1916, the Constitution Island Association was formed to protect the house and its furnishings, but the house is currently not open to the public because it has been declared structurally unsound. I was able to visit the house a while back, on the same group tour which then took me to Boscobel for the second time. I hope that, with the cooperation of West Point, this historic house can be restored and eventually reopened to the public. › Continue reading…

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