Emily Dickinson and 5 other literary luminaries from Massachusetts

There's a new movie about the 19th century poet starring Cynthia Nixon - and she isn't Massachusetts' only claim to literary fame

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Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon plays a very different role in her new movie.

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A Quiet Passion chronicles the life of the American poet Emily Dickinson, portraying her loneliness, frustration with gender inequality and creative honesty. 

Dickinson was born in Amherst, a college town in Massachusetts, and spent most of her life there. 

Nowadays she is considered to be one of America’s greatest and most original poets, but this was not always the case. She never achieved fame in her lifetime and had very few poems published.

Today almost 1,800 of her poems have been published and many visitors to Massachusetts head to Emily’s house and museum in Amherst to find out more about her life.

The Emily Dickinson Museum includes the house where she was born, The Homestead, and the home of her brother’s family next door, The Evergreens. The museum opened in 2013 and is dedicated to educating visitors about her life, family and work, amplifying her revolutionary poetic voice.  

Dickinson isn’t the only literary lion born in Massachusetts. Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau all hailed from this corner of New England and are also commemorated with dedicated museums.

Here are five musts for bibliophiles.


1. Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her famous novel, Little Women at Orchard House in Concord, and this was also her home from 1858-1877. Louisa’s house is open year-round for guided tours and special events take place throughout the year. Visitors can get a taste of Louisa May Alcott’s family life and the setting of Little Women.

2. Philosopher, journalist and poet Henry David Thoreau lived in Concord, where today people can visit his birthplace. Thoreau Farm will open for the summer on May 6. The museum is offering free admission and free guided tours on Saturday and Sunday in honour of the bicentennial of Thoreau’s birth.

3. The Dr Seuss Museum is opening in June in Springfield and will be the only museum to honour the life and work of Springfield native Theodor Seuss Geisel. The museum will feature an interactive exhibition, The Amazing World of Dr Seuss, as well as a recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio and an exhibition about the making of the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.

4. Edith Wharton wrote 40 books in 40 years including the classics The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome. Edith designed her first real home The Mount in 1902, which is located in Lenox, in the heart of the Berkshires. Today visitors can tour the house and gardens, have lunch at the Terrace Café, shop in the bookstore or enjoy live music on weekend nights in summer.  The estate opens for the season on 13 May.

5. At the New Bedford Whaling Museum, there are exhibits about Herman Melville and his novel Moby Dick. The museum’s research library, the Kendall Institute, houses the Melville Society Archive. New Bedford was once the wealthiest whaling port in Massachusetts and served as the setting for the scene in Moby Dick where the Essex is preyed upon by a whale in the Pacific Ocean, stranding its crew at sea for ninety days. The museum is open daily from April to December.


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