Today is Independence Day, quite a literary day in America. The Declaration itself is an amazing document – NPR had a reading Friday that was absolutely superb. Thank you Thomas Jefferson, and to every signer who fully understood what doing so meant.
Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died today, but they had reconciled and spent their last years writing letter to each other, which are definitely worth reading for their foresight, their hopes and dreams of our nation. As always, find an history book that David McCullough has written to also thoroughly enjoy the individual (Adams!)
It is also the birthdate of Nathaniel Hawthorne – born in Salem Mass, 6th generation. The Scarlet Letter is one of his better known works, but I like so many of them (House of the Seven Gables) and especially enjoyed visiting the town and houses last autumn. Still a tourist atraction, but also a literary one.
The Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman were published today – singing words of everyday America, of our natural environment, of our hopes and dreams. Emerson had written that America lacked a poet who described the sublime country, and he replied that he had been simmering, simmering, and that boiled him over to write this poetry. Alot of critics thought it absolute rubbish. I can remember being in High School and discovering the ‘edited poems’, going to the Library to find more of his work and being questioned “you do know he is a homosexual? Do you still want to read him?” I can still feel my face go slack at that small town verbiage, to which I replied “do you read Shakespeare?” Emerson also wrote a congratulatory note, which Whitman included in the next edition!
Today is also the day that Walden, by Henry David Thoreau was begun. He moved into his cabin in the woods for 26 months, writing daily notes on his life, the natural history, philosophy, etc. And here too, I can remember the first time I discovered that he went home to his mother EVERY DAY for food and laundry….I would truly like to live in the woods like that!