A view of Jackson Island, Hannibal, Mo., a site famously mentioned in many of Mark Twain's writings. (Cindy Lovell, Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, via Chicago Tribune)
As the famous quip goes, "Hannibal hath no frenzy like an author mourned." Or something like that. Just ask Ron Powers, a native of Hannibal, Missouri, who in his youth noticed a curious influx of out-of-state license plates to his town's historic district:
"None of us had ever been anywhere, but they had come to see us," said Powers, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and historian. "It meant something to us. It added to the majesty of the town. One of our guys made it." (AP via Chicago Tribune)The out-of-towners were paying their respects to the legendary author Mark Twain, who grew up in Hannibal and used the city's environs as inspiration for the classics The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and frequently mentioned its influence in his work. More than 300,000 (!) "Twainiacs" visit Hannibal per year to see the Mark Twain Museum and other relics related to their hero, and Hannibal's hope is that the numbers will spike on the 100th anniversary of Twain's passing.
With enough traction, a relatively obscure town can slow-burn into a must-see destination upon being immortalized in ink and lauded by bookworms. Where else are these literary legions heading to praise their 19th-century heroes and heroines?
Concord, Massachussetts (I've Been Here / I Want To Go here)
rmricci via Flickr
"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live," said Thoreau of one of his most famous muses, the placid Walden Pond, which he later memorialized in Walden; or, Life in the Woods. The pond, situated on land once owned by Thoreau's mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, served as a backdrop for Thoreau's quest to better understand nature and his place among it, and countless visitors have tried to follow in the author's path. The real Walden Pond is now a State Reservation that is fiercely guarded from development by its fans, including Eagles singer Don Henley, who began the Walden Woods Project in 1990 to ensure that no Hotel Californias pop up any time soon.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Paris, France (I've Been Here / I Want To Go here)
Andy Hay via Flickr
So Oscar Wilde's epitaph reads:
And alien tears will fill for himOutcasts of thousands visit the grave and monument dedicated to Wilde's life and draw hearts, verses and lips in red on the stone, commemorating Wilde's declaration that "the madness of kisses" led to his arrest for his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. The vandalism an act reviled by the keepers of Pere Lachaise and some of his relatives, as lipstick contains fats that eat away at the stone. But it hasn't stopped the devoted from paying their rebellious respects in droves. One of the most popular sites in a literary nerd's dream destination, Pere Lachaise is also the grave site of Balzac, Proust, and dozens more masters of the ink and quill.
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
The Brontë Parsonage and Museum
Haworth, West Yorkshire, England (I've Been Here / I Want To Go here)
The Bronte Parsonage. (via Wikipedia)
Not many households can boast the talent and success like the parsonage machine that churned out the sisters Brontë. The area's surrounds became inspiration for the settings for many of the sisters' classic novels, where their father, Patrick, served as Haworth's curator.
Today, the parsonage is a charity and literary society that hopes to put the "muse" in "museum" for aspiring authors, letting the magic of the surrounding moorlands infect writers with the chutzpah to pen another Jane Eyre. Word to those with writer's block: PBS has enough period pieces, so please expand your vision.