Researched and written by Lucy Caplan | August 2013 | Made possible by the Cambridge Heritage Trust
Did you know that Cambridge has been home to a mad scientist who can revive the dead, a teenager who met with George Washington, and a man who can see into his own future? Across the centuries, Cambridge has inspired writers of fiction and poetry as an ideal setting for their literary creations. This tour steps into the fictional worlds that these writers have imagined. From haunted houses to Harvard Square cafes, you will visit a variety of sites featured in works of literature that take place in Cambridge. Come experience the places that have sparked the imaginations of novelists and poets from around the world.The “Cambridge Through the Pages” walking tour was developed during summer 2013, and presented as part of the 2013 Cambridge Discovery Days.
One could say there are as many books about Cambridge as there are ways to write a book about Cambridge. This tour explores the richness and variety of that work.It begins with a poem written 238 years ago and concludes with a novel published within the last four months. In between, it offers the voices of men and women, of native New Englanders and international immigrants, of teenage poets and elderly novelists. Some of the featured authors offer vivid, unsentimental accounts: windows into the city’s history. Others cross into more fantastical territory, imagining Cambridge as a setting for magic and time travel. And still others choose to delve into the lives of Cambridge individuals — their lowest points as well as their highlights and successes.By including a broad selection of literary works, all linked by their common setting in Cambridge, “Cambridge Through the Pages” illuminates the many ways in which the city has served as a source of literary inspiration.
Or explore the stops one at a time using the following (consult the map below the list):
“Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side, Thy ev’ry action let the Goddess guide. A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine, With gold unfading, Washington! Be thine.”Read the complete poem here, and find more of Wheatley’s work here.
Then, indeed, Charlesbridge appeared to us a kind of Paradise. The wind blew all day from the southwest, and all day in the grove across the way the orioles sang to their nestlings. The butcher’s wagon rattled merrily up to our gate every morning; and if we had kept no other reckoning, we should have known it was Thursday by the grocer. We were living in the country with the conveniences and luxuries of the city about us…Read Suburban Sketches online here.
“Under a spreading chestnut-tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.”Read the entire poem here.
“The Vance estate was a spacious house with rambling ells, tortuous chimney-stacks, and corners, eaves and ledges; the grounds were extensive and well kept telling silently of the opulence of its owner. Its windows sent forth a cheering light…
“[The house next door] has been known for years as a haunted house, and avoided as such by the superstitious. It is low-roofed, rambling, and almost entirely concealed by hemlocks, having an air of desolation and decay in keeping with its ill-repute.”
“I began to feel the water before I came to the bridge. The bridge was of gray stone, lichened, dappled with slow moisture where the fungus crept. Beneath it the water was clear and still in the shadow, whispering and clucking about the stone in fading swirls of spinning sky.”A great interactive site for learning more about The Sound and the Fury can be found here.
“It was about ten o’clock in the morning. I sat on a bench facing the Charles River. Some five hundred yards distant, on my right, rose a tall building whose name I never knew. Ice floes were borne along on the gray water. Inevitably, the river made me think about time.”
“It’s your new addiction. You run in the morning and you run late at night when there’s no one on the paths next to the Charles. You run so hard that your heart feels like it’s going to seize.”
“They have lunch at Café Pamplona, eating pressed ham sandwiches and garlic soup off in a corner.”
“One could spend an entire day at Cafe Algiers. It was a tiny, cluttered, semi-underground cafe off Harvard Square that held no more than a dozen tiny, wobbly tables and that looked like a miniature Kasbah about to spill onto the floor.”Read “Monsieur Kalashnikov,” a 2007 short story by Aciman which helped inspire Harvard Square, here.