Literary Pilgrimages

by Terry Ballard

Mark Twain

Hannibal's two most renowned citizens are immortalized in a downtown park.

I've followed Mark Twain all around the world - it seems like anywhere I've been, he got there first. So far my favorite spots with Twain connections are Maui (He loved the place so much that he couldn't even write while he was there), Lake Tahoe and Paris (which he hated). I went to his boyhood home in Hannibal Missouri when I was on my way across America to take a new job in New York in 1990. The picture below may look the cerebellum of a blue whale, but it is actually a picture taken inside Tom Sawyer's cave - one of the essential visits in Hannibal. The other is his boyhood home, which was being totally refurbished at the time of my visit.

After he grew up, made a name for himself and made lots of money, he built this mansion in Hartford:

Here is the house at Tedworth Square in London where he was living when he spoke the famous lines "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

That visit was strange for two reasons. First, when I was standing outside the Square, looking at the house, a woman and her son were arriving with the key - and they offered to let me inside the residents only square. That kind of treatment of strangers is rare in London. Secondly, the odd lighting in the upper right hand corner of the picture appears in all pictures of Twain houses that I took for years.

His grave in Elmira, New York is the last place you'd want to go when making a Twain pilgrimage.

Cannery Row

Later in the 1970's, we paid our first visit to Monterey, California, and got a good look at Steinbeck's Cannery Row. At the time, the row looked pretty much the way it did when Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts were living there. A few years later, some well-meaning urban developers turned the row into something resembling a theme park. Don't get me wrong - I loved the aquarium, but it just wasn't the Row anymore. I remember eating at a fancy Polynesian restaurant built over the water, and watching a writer agonize over a handwritten manuscript at the next table. Here is Ed Ricketts' lab as it looked in the 1970's:

We also visited Mendocino, which doubled for Monterey in the film East of Eden, but I guess that goes under the heading of cinematic pilgrimages. Salinas, which played itself in the film, is Steinbeck's home town. We found out first-hand that the legendary hatred for the man in his home town ran deep. I was in front of the Steinbeck Library, taking a picture of the author's statue, when a woman walking by to return some books flashed me a look of pure hate.

For more on all of this, check out this great Steinbeck page:

Peter Pan's statue in Kensington Gardens

This was encountered on our first trip to London - we were walking around the parks and found this statue. The children looked like they were planted there just for this picture - it was actually just a happy coincidence.

Walden Pond

Here is a literary pilgrimage we have made lots of times. On our third trip, we found the place (just up the hill form this picture), where Thoreau's cabin was actually located. Near the foundation of the cabin is a great pile of rocks. All of us who loved this man's ideas were encouraged to add another stone. We did.

When we visited Yorkshire, we found ourselves in the Leeds train station one day. The people there told us that we should take the scenic train to "Owth." We said OK, and found out that we were going to Haworth, the home of the Brontes. This graveyard is where most of them are buried - none of the Bronte siblings saw the age of 40.

T.E. Lawrence's Clouds Hill

One day we told our B&B Landlady that we would be back later that evening - we were going to Dorset for the day. This is someone who had never been more than two miles from the place she was born in North Kensington. Upon our arrival in Wool in Dorset, we found the people to be particularly unfriendly. We happened to mention that we were on our way up the road to see T.E. Lawrence's cottage while we were having tea at a local restaurant. Somebody at a nearby table was making loud remarks about anybody stupid enough to do that. It was a pretty walk that took us past a country inn that was a setting for one section of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Just before we arrived at the cottage, I saw a hilly part of the road that must have been the spot where Lawrence crashed his motorcycle. It was. The cottage was bigger than I expected, and the people running it weren't much friendlier than the people back in Wool.

The famous Greek doorway inscription - translated to mean "What care I?"

Finally, we visited Tintern Abbey, famous from the Wordsworth poem, years ago - this is what it looked like then, and likely still does:

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