June 14, 2011

Bicentennial of Harriet Beecher Stowe

200 years ago, on June 14, 1811, Harriet Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut. Later Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, she would earn fame as the author of the highest-selling novel of the century, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

On her 70th birthday, a celebration was held in her honor in the form of a garden party. She gave a short speech and concluded: "Let us never doubt. Everything that ought to happen is going to happen."

In her centennial year, 1911, her son and grandson published what they termed a memoir; they would not use the term "biography." As they wrote in their preface: " It is rather the story of a real character; telling, not so much what she did as what she was, and how she became what she was." They also claimed the town of her birth inspired her lifelong love of nature. As Stowe wrote:

My earliest recollections of Litchfield are those of its beautiful scenery, which impressed and formed my mind long before I had words to give names to my emotions, or could analyze my mental processes. To the west of us rose a smoothbosomed hill, called Prospect Hill; and many a pensive, wondering hour have I sat at our playroom window, watching the glory of the wonderful sunsets that used to burn themselves out amid voluminous wreathings or castellated turrets of clouds proper to a mountainous region.

On the east of us lay another upland, called Chestnut Hills, whose sides were wooded with a rich growth of forest trees, whose change of tint and verdure, from the first misty tints of spring green through the deepening hues of summer into the rainbow glories of autumn, was a subject of constant remark and of pensive contemplation to us children. We heard them spoken of by older people and pointed out to visitors, and came to take pride in them as a sort of birthright.

She died close to home in Hartford, Connecticut about two weeks after her 85th birthday.

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