The Sarah Orne Jewett House Adventures, Pt. 1

Over at Writers’ Houses I have an essay up about my visit to Sarah Orne Jewett’s house. It includes a short defense of writers’ houses, which have come under attack in recent times, because, I don’t know, why not just make fun of everything? Anyway.

To those who mock writers house visits, I can only say, how nice for you, to live a life where you don’t need heroes. How nice that what you wanted to be always came with some sort of imprimatur of approval from somewhere above you so that you could seek it uncomplicatedly, and not feel like a class traitor, or a gender traitor, or a sexual one. Hurrah for you. After all, there’s just so many ways writers are honored in America after their deaths, it really does get hard to choose. It’s not like the French, who really love literature appropriately, went and made Victor Hugo’s house into a museum or anything.

What I have yet to get into in writing about this visit is that it continued past the Jewett House. In my Writers House post I mention a relative Jewett speaks of in her essay “The Old Town of Berwick” that led me to make the visit. Growing up, my mother knew of Hetty Goodwin, an ancestor of hers from the 17th Century, but all she knew was that Hetty had been kidnapped by Native Americans there, with her husband. Hetty is Mehetable Goodwin, and Jewett describes her kidnapping in that essay in greater detail than we knew of, including how she was sold to a French settler and then reunited eventually with her husband.


  1. Alexander: I enjoyed your piece on Jewett. I wonder if my book, A Skeptic’s Guide To Writers’ Houses, might be one of the “attacks” you mention, and me perhaps one of the mockers you refer to above. I really hope not. If so, I would respond that I neither attack nor mock in my book. If you have read it and think I both, I’d love to hear back, and have a conversation with you. If you have not read it, I’d be happy to send you a copy, with an author’s note to underscore that the book is a narrative, one that begins with one attitude and concludes with another.

    All things being equal, I’m a fan of your work.
    –Anne Trubek (

    1. Anne: No, it wasn’t your book. But your book provided fodder for some weird cheap shots that appeared, none of which you’re responsible for. In any case, thanks for saying so.

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