I had the privilege yesterday of meeting author Amy Belding Brown who as you know, wrote the historical novel, Mr. Emerson’s Wife , based upon the lives of Waldo and Lidian Emerson and their relationships with Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and other famous Transcendentalists.
Sharing lattes together at a local cafe/country store, Amy and I found we have a lot of interests in common, among them being the history of religion in New England. She has researched this subject extensively (specifically Puritanism, aka Calvinism, now the United Church of Christ, or the Congregational Church, and Unitarianism) so naturally I was an eager listener. I’ve blogged several times about wishing to discover more about Transcendentalism and why it had such an impact, given that it is pretty hard to nail down. Learning about what religion was like in earlier times is critical to that understanding.
Receiving her Master’s Degree in Fine Arts in 2002, Amy work for a few years at Orchard House, thus being privy to its many treasures. She now teaches writing to freshmen students at Worcester and Fitchburg State Universities. I appreciated her remarks in this regard, that she felt she could make more a difference in the lives of students from state universities rather than teach at more prestigious private schools. That’s the true heart of a teacher.
She also teaches at the Worcester Institute for Senior Education, and writes in her spare time, having just finished a book on King Philip’s War (find out more about King Philip’s War here).
I had to ask Amy if she favored Thoreau in some way as I felt he came off better in than Emerson did in Mr. Emerson’s Wife; she wouldn’t admit to “liking” Thoreau better (which was what I asked) but admitted that his writings were easier to relate to. I agree.
We discussed how Mr. Emerson’s Wife was far more than a potentially tragic love story between two people who could never get together; it was really a commentary on marriage, both in the 19th century, and now. There are many truths in the married life of Waldo and Lidian that apply to married couples today. This, I believe, is the true and more universal appeal of the book (although the love story is very compelling).
We spoke too about the lost writings of Madelon Bedell who wrote an outstanding scholarly biography called The Alcotts Biography of a Family back in 1980 (I was lucky enough to get a promo copy from the newspaper office I worked for :-)). This was the first of a two volume work; unfortunately she died of cancer before the second book was completed. Harriet Reisen was able to track down Bedell’s papers, specifically the last known interview with the then 96 year-old Lulu Nieriker (the only living person to have known Louisa May Alcott personally) shortly before she died in 1975 (see her grave here). That interview is documented in Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women.
At a later date, I am going to interview Amy more specifically about Mr. Emerson’s Wife; she is buried with school work right now so we’ll have wait until after exams in May.
One of the main reasons why I started this blog was to meet other enthusiasts and this has come true in ways I could never have imagined. After only 9 months on the web, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion has introduced me to many fascinating people and the richness of the written word which I had lost after my childhood. This venture has brought me more joy than I could have dreamed of and we’re just beginning!