Monday, October 17, 2016

CHARLOTTE BRONTE: An Independent Will at The Morgan: Review By Polly Guerin

Charlotte Bronte 1850 National Portrait Gallery
Charlotte Bronte,  a woman determined to succeed, declared herself "a free human being with an independent will." She was born in the era of The Cult of Domesticity on the desolate moors of Yorkshire, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman. 
   Charlotte and her sisters, and their brother, Branwell,  grew up blighted by domestic tragedy and loss and had to create a world of imagination for themselves. Save for the Parsonage cemetery at their doorstep and monotonous hours exploring the windswept expanses of the moors they were led as teenagers on a path of creative Juveniiia that resulted in plays and hand-made miniature books, illustrated with watercolor images. 
      For Charlotte and her sisters later it was Jane Eyre, Withering Heights, and Agnes Grey that gave the mid-nineteenth century a new concept of women in love and trying to live in society. 
Image Left: Life portrait of Charlotte Bronte, by George Richmond, on loan from London's National Portrait Gallery.
     CHARLOTTE BRONTE: An Independent Will, a new exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum runs through January 2, 2017. It traces the writer's life from imaginative teenager to reluctant governess to published poet and masterful novelist. The exhibition celebrates the two-hundredth anniversary of Bronte's birth in 1816, and marks an historic collaboration between The Morgan, which holds one of the word's most important collections of Bronte Manuscripts and letters, and the Bronte Parsonage, in Haworth, England which lent a variety of key items including the author's earliest manuscript, her portable writing desk and paintbox, and a blue floral dress she wore in the 1850s.
Bronte's earliest surviving miniature manuscript book
THE MINUSCULE BOOKS Reading of the classics, the bible and Milton, Scott, and Lord Byron to name a few,  fueled the Bronte children's imagination and their games informed their writing, and enhanced their stories. The selection of Juvenilia presented in the exhibition highlights the whimsy and imaginativeness of the Brontes' production.  On one view is Charlotte's earliest surviving manuscript, a tiny handmade booklet. I observed, it is no more than two and a half inches by one and a fourth inches illustrated with watercolor drawings. It presents the story of a little girl named Anne who goes on an exciting journey. Best to use the magnifying glass provided in the exhibit hall to try to see the almost indecipherable writing. Bronte wrote it when she was about twelve. Image Right: Charlotte Bronte's story, beginning "There once was a little girl and her name was Anne ca 1828 Bronte Parsonage Museum.
TEACHING and PUBLISHING: In 1836, when she was nineteen, Bronte entered the Roe Head School where she previously had been a student, as a teacher, but chafed in her new role.  A few years later she took a a short-term position as a governess in a private home, caring for what she called the "riotous, perverse, unmanageable cubs."   Relief came with the largesse of an aunt. Bronte and her sister Emily went to Brussels in 1842 to study and improve their teaching credentials.  It was there that she fell under the influence of her inspiring teacher, Constantin Heger and later suffered years of what appeared to be unrequited love for the married professor.  
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      As Bronte biographer Rebecca Fraser wrote, "Working as governesses, teaching school, traveling to the continent, and caring for their volatile and tragic brother, Branwell, Charlotte and her sisters led difficult and fiery lives---lives that electrified their fiction, challenged the Victorian Age, and made them the most distinctive, enduring women---and novelists--of their time."
     In 1846, she and her sisters Emily and Anne self-published a book of poems, which by the record sold but one copy, yet was held in esteem by some of her followers. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights. and Agnes Grey followed. The authors retained the pseudonyms they had chosen for their book of poems the year earlier. Charlotte was Currier Bell, Emily, Elias Bell and Anne, Acton Bell.
 LEGACY:  Bronte published her last novel, Villette, in 1853. The following year, at the age of thirty-eight, she married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate. A mere nine months later, she died, most likely from complications of pregnancy.  Bronte's writing continues to have a profound impact on readers throughout the world, and many find her life story just as compelling as much of what lays within the stories parallel her extraordinary life's experiences. A woman who wrestled with her own independence. Charlotte Bronte's, An Independent Will Gallery Talk takes place Friday November 4 at 6 pm Free with museum admission. For further information about programs and the adult workshop visit  
      Ta Ta Darlings!!!  A reading group on Charlotte Bronte's final novel, Villette, in the historic family rooms of the nineteenth-century Morgan House,takes place on Nov. 1 and Dec. 13. Advance tickets are required. I'm going!!!  Polly loves to receive fan mail at Visit Polly's other Blogs at and check the Blog that interests you listed in the left-hand column  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ROOTS OF KNOWLEDGE: Stained Glass Panorama of History at GSMT October 17 By Polly Guerin

Tom Holdman, Stained Glass Artist and 'Roots of Knowledge'
The most inspiring work of art glass ever created may well be credited to the monumental "Roots of Knowledge" a panorama of history and human drama in stained glass splendor by glass artist Tom Holdman. He was commissioned to create the masterpiece, a series of 80 panels that come together in a vast undulating window that will eventually be 10 feet tall and 200 feet long, and comprising 60,000 pieces of glass.  It begins with fire. The creation of glass, an ancient process re-imagined and relevant today in a new art form, the "Roots of Knowledge" stained glass mural. This behemoth work represents years of painstaking research on the events and people that shaped humankind from the days of the woolly mammoths to the IPhone, and perhaps even more than meets the eye of the beholder.
        Illuminating Knowledge: Creating a Major Stained Glass Installation to Foster Engaged Learning at Utah Valley University is the first Artisan Lecture this fall at The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York, Monday, October 17th, 20 W. 44 St. Free Exhibition viewing, same day, from 11 am to 8:30 pm.  Advance registration recommended, contribution, $10,  to attend the 6:30 pm Panel Discussion and Reception. (Visit for the other free exhibition visiting hours scheduled from October 12 to October 15.
ROOTS OF KNOWLEDGE  Stained Glass Mural utilizes the symbolism of a tree's roots connecting humanity

    This Artisan lecture will be in a panel discussion format and the program will discuss the creation of "Roots of Knowledge," a significant new work of monumental proportion that will soon be installed in the Library at Utah Valley University (UVU) in Orem, Utah. The mural utilizes the symbolism of a tree and the roots that flow through the windows include leaves from part of the world a section is depicting, along with a DNA strand running through the roots and connecting humanity.  Speaking at a Roots of Knowledge UVU meeting the artist said, "Our goal is to create the most inspiring piece of art glass ever created on this earth. I love the medium of glass, there is nothing else like that feeling, it just speaks."
      Rootsof Knowledge invites the public's interest. It is an interactive piece. People will be able to click on a picture of the window and get more information about why the artists on the project choose certain elements.
The program on the 17th will also touch upon the production of stained glass in New York City.
Roots of Knowledge: Conceived by Utah artist and former UVU student, Tom Holdman, and UVU President Matthew Holland, the work was commissioned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of what is today the largest public university in the state. In this program Mr. Holdman and President Holland will speak about the evolution and development as a fusion of art, education, and public spaces.
Tom Holdman  and his mural at Utah Valley University 
Cybele Maylone, Executive Director of Urban Glass in Brooklyn, will give a short lecture, followed by a panel discussion with Tom Holdman and Kate McPherson UVU professor of English, from the Roots of Knowledge team and Rebecca Allan, moderator.

TOM HOLDMAN:  Owns and operates Holdman Studios, Inc., located at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. His works of art appreciated worldwide and represent many different techniques in glass. In a field where competition can be steep, he has committed himself to producing visually stunning, emotionally moving and inspiring pieces of art that stand the test of time. His journey has included enhancing edifices of all types---private and public, sacred and secular. 
     Tom Holdman is a visionary. Along with the incredible designs that fill his mind are the endless possibilities of how to use those designs to enhance the life experiences of others. Bravo to Tom Holdman, a man who overcame a speech impediment to express his genius in "Speaking Through Glass," which incidentally is also the title of a video documentary created about Tom and aired on PBS.
    Inquiries about this review may be addressed to

Monday, October 10, 2016

MARTIN LUTHER'S REFORMATION: Word and Image: Review by Polly Guerin

Theologian (1483-1546) Martin Luther 
When Martin Luther, thinker, monk, rebel hammered his 95 These to the door of the castle church, the sound reverberated throughout the world. Or so the legend goes.
    His influence spread through Western Europe, with European settlers, to the United States. Lutheran communities scattered across America are all direct beneficiaries of Luther's legacy. 
THE WORD: His weapon was the word. He not only revolutionized the church, but also the way people thought, giving them reassurance and conveying to them the comforting image of a merciful and forgiving God. Luther's 95 Theses constitutes one of the most important documents in German and European history. Luther was a man who defined his time and whose message is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago.
     October 31, 1517 is considered the day the Reformation began, and the 500th anniversary of this momentous event is October 31, 2017. In celebration of this historical landmark the Morgan Library and Museum presents WORD and IMAGE, Martin Luther's Reformation with nearly 100 artworks and objects on loan to the Morgan thorough a collaboration with several German museums, and most of the objects have never been seen before in North America. Exhibit runs through January 12, 2017.
INDULGENCES: Martin Luther forever changed Christianity when he began the Protestant 
Reformation in 16th Century Europe. Luther was given a permanent post at Wittenberg University in 1512. It was the selling of 'indulgences' that drove him to publish his 95 Theses. 
Excerpts from Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses
In 1517, Pope Leo X announced a new round of indulgences to help build St. Peter's Basilica. On October 31, the same year, an angry Martin Luther nailed a sheet of paper with 95 Theses on the university's chapel door.  Though he intended these to be discussion points, the Ninety-Five Theses laid out a devastating critique of the indulgences as corrupting people's faith. Luther pursued further and sent a copy to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, calling on him to end the sale of indulgences.  Aided by the fortuitous invention of the printing press, copies of the Ninety-Five Theses spread throughout Germany with two weeks and throughout Europe in two months.

Martin Luther Translated New Testament into German Language
EXCOMMUNICATION: The Church eventually moved to stop the act of defiance.  In 1518 the Church investigated Luther on charges of heresy, and in 1521 he was declared an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor. A condemned man he took refuge in Wartburg Castle. While in seclusion, he translated the New Testament into the German language, to give ordinary people the opportunity to read God's word. Though still under threat of arrest, Luther returned to Wittenberg Castle Church in May 1522 and began organizing a new church, Lutheranism.
    His actions fractured the Roman Catholic Church into new sects of Christianity and set in other reform within the Church. Luther's translation of the Bible into the language of the people, radically changed the relationship between Church and their followers.   
    LECTURES and Discussions: November 13th Martin Luther and Anti-Semitism, and December 8th, Social Media and Activism. Gallery Talks: Word and Image October 21 and December 16th.
    Ta Ta Darlings! Did you know..."As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." With these words, preacher Johann Tetzel vociferously sold indulgences, which promised absolution from sins, and served to finance St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Fan mail welcome. Contact Polly at  Visit her other Blogs listed in the left hand column on

Monday, October 3, 2016

DUBUFFET DRAWINGS: Magical and Childlike at The Morgan Museum: Review by Polly Guerin

The Swindle  1962 Gouache on Paper
"Anyone can be an artist," declared French artist, Jean Philippe Dubuffet (1901-1985). "Look at what lies at your feet. A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris, offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration."  Dubuffet invites us to tap into our childlike wonder and express ourselves with the exuberance of discovery, and serendipitously create enchanting works of art. His imaginative ouevre clearly indicates that he was attracted by the art of children and the mentally ill, and did much to promote their work. Subsequently, he was a forerunner in the Art Brut genre. So is Dubuffet relevant today? 
VisageRougetVisageBleu, Dubuffet's Le Metro series 1943
 DUBUFFET Drawings, 1935-1962.  You have an opportunity to find out at The Morgan Library & Museum where the exhibit of Dubuffet's drawings and collages challenge us to observe our world with amusement, patios and wicked frivolity.  The exhibition , the first museum retrospective of Dubuffet's drawings---includes about one hundred works from his most innovative years, borrowed from private and public collections in France and the United States. He achieved international recognition in the late 1940s for his paintings inspired by children's drawings, the art of psychiatric patients, and graffitti. Dubuffet's early works, thus inspired by outsiders, was also shaped by the interests in materiality that preoccupied may of the post-war French French artists associated with the Art Informel movement of the 1960s. He created a new graphic style, which he called 'Hourloupe,' and would use it in many important public commissions. While the public after post-war Paris looked for the restoration of old values, Dubuffet confronted them with childlike images that satirized the conventional genre of high art. Drawing played a major role in the development of his art as he explored on paper new subjects and techniques.
THE ARTIST IN SPITE OF HIMSELF Dubuffet wavered for many years between painting and working in his father' wine business and did not seriously think  about painting until well into his 40s.  In Visage Rouge et Visage Bleu he seemingly pokes fun at the Parisian subway riders during the German occupation with the red, the color of rage, silenced by blue, the color of  communication. The formality of the occupants' silly hats allude to their stoic attitude of resignatio
Dubuffet's JAZZ BAND

JAZZ BAND lightens up the mood and evokes the nightclub
darkness and escape into the night. Dubuffet gave his critics coarse textures and drab colors, which was likened to dirt and encrement.
    Several lectures and discussions accompany the exhibit. DUBUFFET IN CONTEXT on October 28, l:30-5:30 pm, Film: The Artist's Studio October 21 at 6:30 pm, 7:15 pm and 8 pm.
Gallery Talks take place October 14 and December 2. Contact:
TaTa Darlings!!!  It is wonderful to know that we all can experience artistic expression,  if  only we would just set some time aside from our electonics and the look at the world around us with rose-tinted glsses.  Fan mail always welcome at Vist Polly's Blogs at and click in the left-hand column where you will find links to Blogs on visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry and even fashion.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Proust's Muse, THE COUNTESS GREFFULHE: Review By Polly Guerin

Elisabeth de Caraman-Chmay, the Countess Greffulhe
With Celebrity recognition The Museum at FIT's exhibition, introduces Proust's Muse, Elisabeth de Caraman-Chimay, the Countess Greffulhe (1860-1952). A famous beauty, she was known for her "aristocratic and artistic elegance, a fashion icon comparable to Daphne Guinness today. 
    The exhibit showcases some 40 garments and accessories once owned by the celebrated beauty, fashion icon, and patron of both arts and sciences.The Countess Greffulhe patronized the greatest couturiers of her day, Worth, the founder of the French Haute Couture, principal among them, known for the use of exquisite, and lush textiles.
    "The Countess Greffulhe believed in the artistic significance of fashion, " says Dr. Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT. "And although she patronized the greatest couturiers of her time, her style was very much her own. Today, when fashion is increasingly regarded as an art form, her attitude is especially relevant."
House of Worth Lily Dress, Photo by Paul Nadar

THE PROUST CONNECTION When Proust wrote his novel In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu), the Countess Greffulhe inspired his immortal character Oriane, The Dutchesse de Guermantes, of whom he wrote, "Each o f her dresses seemed like the projection of a particular aspect of her soul." The Countess Greffulhe, like her counterpart, the Duchesse de Guermantes, represented for Proust, the aristocrat as a work of art. "But elements of her style," noted Valerie Steele, "also influenced characters as diverse as the courtesan Odette de Crecy (later Madame Swann) and the Narrator's bourgeois lover, Albertine." Image right: "Lily Dress," 1896, attributed to Worth, black velvet application of ivory silk in the form of lilies, embroidered with pearls and sequins. But the Countess clearly contributed to  ideas about its design and decoration. 
The motif of the lilies refers to a poem in her honor by the dandy-poet Robert de Montesquiou, who served as the main inspiration for another of Proust's characters, the Baron de Charlus. In her correspondence with Montesquiou, Elisabeth Greffulhe confessed, "I don't think there is any pleasure in the world comparable to that of a woman who feels she is being looked at by everybody, and has joy and energy transmitted to her."  
                                                                                       THE COUNTESS'S AUDACIOUS STYLE
Robe de Ceremonie, Byzantine Empress Gown  
Another highlight of the exhibition is an exotic emerald green and blue "robe d'interieur"(1897) which epitomizes the countess's audacious style. She loved to wear green, which complemented her auburn hair.
    Image Left: One of the countess's most famous gowns was a sensational gold lame Byzantine empress gown, pearl-encrusted, fur-trimmed robe de ceremonie, that she wore to her daughter Elaine's wedding in 1904. It said that people in the crowd exclaimed, "My God, is that the mother of the Bride>" Although labeled Worth, it was probably created for the countess by the young Paul Poiret. 
SPONSOR OF THE BALLETS RUSSES. A pioneering fund-raiser, the countess was a major supporter of the Ballets Russes, and in the years prior to the First World War her fashions also gravitated toward avant-garde Orientalist styles. When Proust describes the exotic Fortuny gowns of his fictional Dutchesse de Guermantes, evoking "that Venice loaded with the gorgeous East," he was clearly inspired by the Countess Greffulhe.  Crafting her image like a work of art, she cultivated an elegant signature style that highlighted her svelte, wasp-waisted figure. Besides Charles Worth, Jeanne Lanvin, and Nina Ricci are among couturiers represented. There is also an ensemble inspired by the Countess Greffulhe created by contemporary fashion designer Rick Owens. In addition to the 28 garments on display are dozens of accessories, a selection of photographs. Through Jan. 7, 2017, at The Museum at FIT, (FREE Admission) 27th street and Seventh Avenue. For information about the Proust Muse Fashion Symposium on Thursday, September 20th contact the museum.
   Ta Ta Darlings!! The exhibit is too, too marvelous, I am green with envy, but alas I do not have a wasp-waist. Polly welcomes fan mail at  Visit Polly's other Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column.


Monday, August 29, 2016

CHILDE HASSAM: American Impressionist and the Isles of Shoals at Peabody Essex Museum: Review by Polly Guerin

Childe Hassam painting on Celia Thaxter's porch
Can an artist find inspiration on a treeless island, called Appledore? Childe Hassam, the celebrated American impressionist painter found his oeuvre in the celebrated Maine island for nearly thirty years. Bracing each day through gusty salt Atlantic breezes, the relentless sun blazing over his shoulder he painted en plein air seascape vistas, and spent summer nights at poet and author, Celia Thaxter's salon. Today one can vicariously visit the island through Hassam's prolific Appeldore paintings at PEM.
    THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM,  (PEM) in Salem, Massachusettes presents AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST; CHILDE HASSAM AND THE ISLE OF SHOALS, through November 6, 2016, and pays homage to Hassam with the first exhibition in more than 25  years to focus on Hassam's paintings of the celebrated island. More than 40 of  Hassam's greatest oil paintings and water colors record the coves, inlets, ledges and expansive seascapes that inspired his thirty year engagement with this alluring island. Six miles off the coast of southern New Hampshire and Maine, Appledore is the largest island in the storied archipelago in the Atlantic known as the Isle of Shoals.  (Image: Attributed to Karl Thaxter (1852-1912). Childe Hassam painting on the porch of Celia Thaxter's cottage, c. 1886. Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Isles of Shoals, Photograph Collection.)
A ROCKING CHAIR VISTA. Visualize the seascape mood. Just pull up one of the white rocking chairs provided for visitors and reflect upon the magnificent and multi fascinating paintings of the gorges and rocks at Appledore. "His paintings of a wave dashing the spray among the rocks was magnificent and matchless for its technique and coloring," wrote Oscar Leighton, 90 Years on the Isles of Shoals. 1929. Then, there is a large photo image on one wall where an empty rocking chair on a cottage veranda invites you to vicariously sit and listen to the audio of the relentless ocean crashing against the rocks. At the post card table, visitors are invited to write a commentary for the commemorative scrapbook. You may also send a free postcard with Childe Hassam's Sunset at Sea image, and it will be stamped and  posted by the museum and mailed to your friends. Just drop it in the mail box on the wall.
Isle of Shoals, 1907. Oil on canvas
MEETING CELIA THAXTER: When Celia Thaxter took painting lessons in Boston, given by 
Frederick Childe Hassam,a friendship ensued and continued on Appeldore. Celia was a published author and poet and her modest cottage was located next to her family's popular resort hotel. Although Celia was known for her exquisite garden, she is better known for hosting a cultural center, a brilliant salon, where artists, literary and musical celebrities were her guests.  
      In addition to Hassam, who was a regular visitor, other literary and artistic luminaries of the day, were enjoying informal morning concerts, lively discussions and evening readings. Too numerous to record here they included Nathanial Hawthorne, celebrated author of The Scarlet Letter and House of Seven Gables, Henry David Thoreau,  philosopher, naturalist, abolitionist, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, best loved-American poet and Ole Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist among the great number of visitors invited to Celia's Salon.   
Moonlight, Childe Hassa, 1892 Photoby Alex Jamison
CHILDE HASSAM AT APPLEDORE: It was during one of those inspired evenings that Celia suggested to Frederick Childe Hassam that his professional name would be more effective if he dropped the first name.  He took her advice and ever after he was known simply as Childe Hassam. 
     The initial interest for Hassam was the exquisite garden of poet, author, and painter and local celebrity, his new friend, Celia Thaxter, Appelore's greatest champion. Hassam loved painting on the island and after frequent visits he purchased a parcel of land from Celia's brother and built a small studio and worked there, but mostly en plein air. Celia and Childe's friendship was a rock solid relationship that lasted from the late 1880s to 1912. 
     Thaxter published An Island Garden in 1894 with illustrations by Hassam. Over four summers Hassam painted Thaxter's garden and the views from her cottage piazza and the exquisite book is a collectible today. The PEM exhibition offers a sustained reverie on nature, the pleasure of painting and a rapturous sense of place and color. Image: MOONLIGHT: Childe Hassam 1892. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Photo by Alex Jamison. 
      PEM IS LOCATED at EAST INDIA SQUARE,  161 Essex Street, SALEM, MA. Tel: 866.745.1876.  A 124-page exhibition catalog with 100 color illustrations, American Impressionist: Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals, edited by Austen Barron Bailly, PEM's  George Putnam Curator of American Art, and John. W. Coffey, deputy director and curator of American and modern art at the North Carolina Museum of Art, limited edition, is available through the PEM gift shop and online at
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Coincidentally, THE SALEM ATHENAEUM celebrates Celia's Salon through September 23, 2016. The historic private library shares a common mission with Celia Thaxter: to encourage creativity and share literature, music and are. In the summers, like Celia, the Athenaeum enjoys a lovely garden and Friday salons. Experience an ambiance of art and literature "in the key of sea." Find them at 337 Essex Street, Salem, MA. Learn more at Polly welcomes email comments from her readers:
Visit Polly's Blog and in the left-hand column there are links to Poll's other Blogs on remarkable women, visionary men, poetry and fashion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Monday, August 22, 2016

Celia Thaxter American Poet by the Sea (c) by Polly Guerin

Celia Thaxter in her island garden painted by Childe Hassam

 The incredibly beauty of Celia Thaxter's poetry, inspired by her life on Appledore, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire, is a solitary testament to her poignant prose about nature and the sea.
   When I visited her island garden, so painstakingly maintained by the Portsmouth Horticultural Society, it inspired me to think of the patience and endurance of a remarkable woman. Her love for the minutest detail of nature found its way not only into her poetry but also her watercolors and ceramics. Every flower, leaf, bug, slug, sandpiper, seabird and the mighty gray rocks were her intimate friends envisioned into poems that resound with a life well lived by the sound of the sea.
At first glance the Isles of Shoals seems very sad, stern and bleak, but to Celia Appledore  was an enchanted island, where her poignant poetry seemed to crest the waves of inspiration by the sound of the sea.
     In our fast paced electronic world one could revive at Appledore and to the imaginative mind, all things become a dreamy tableau of never ending beauty. The eternal sound of the sea on every side seemingly wears away the edge of preoccupation with the mainland; sharp images become blurred and softened like a sketch in charcoal and tranquility takes over the senses.
A SEASIDE SONNETBy Celia Thaxter: As happy dwellers by the seaside hear In every pause the sea’s mysterious sound, The infinite murmur, solemn and profound, Incessant, filling all the atmosphere, Even so I hear you, for you do surround My newly-waking life, and break for aye About the viewless shores, till they resound With echoes of God’s greatness night and day. Refreshed and glad I feel the full flood-tide Fill every inlet of my waiting soul; Long-striving, eager, hope, beyond control, For help and strength at last is satisfied; And you exalt me, like the sounding sea, With ceaseless whispers of eternity.
Celia reminisces “All flowers had for me such human interest, they were so dear and precious. I wondered how every flower knew what to do and to be; why the morning-glory didn’t forget sometimes, and bear a cluster of elder-bloom, or the elder hand out pennons of gold and purple like the iris; or the goldenrod suddenly blaze out a scarlet plume, the color of the pimpernel, was a mystery to my childish thought. 
     And why did the sweet wild primrose wait till after sunset to unclose its pale yellow buds; why did it unlock its treasure of rich perfume to the night alone? Few flowers bloomed for me upon the lonesome rock; but I made the most of all I had, and neither knew of nor desired more. Ah, how beautiful they were!” (From “Among the Isles of Shoals, by Celia Thaxter, 1873, J.R. Osgood publisher)
A LIFE SANCTIONED BY THE SEALife on the Isles of Shoals, in its remote and pristine beauty vividly colored Celia’s poetry and prose. As I witnessed this sea-locked vista I can tell you that the landscape of the Isles of Shoals has changed little since the time when Thaxter lived there. First as daughter of the lighthouse keeper on White Island Lighthouse and then later on Appledore where her family had the finest island hotel. 
     It became an intellectual and literary Mecca drawing artists like William Morris Hunt and Childe Hassam to the Shoals as well as well known authors. The burden of caring for her brain-damaged child, Karl, and an invalid husband, Levi, must have weighted heavily on her and would surely have been enough to discourage any writer, but Celia was committed to her role as a poet. She wrote with quiet passion of the place and land that she loved most and gave poetry readings daily throughout the summer season at Appledore.
AMERICA’S FAVORITE POETCelia Thaxter (1835-1894) reputation as the most popular of America’s women poets far surpassed many other poets’ names better known today. Although Celia’s fame began to fade, even in the school system that once had made Celia's poems a priority in nature studies, her poetry is regaining its place today new followers who have come to appreciate her beautiful words and poignant sentiments. And now in tribute to this great poet, may you find inspiration and solace; I leave you with an excerpt from Celia Thaxter’s poem “Land-Locked.”
O Earth! Thy summer song of joy may soar
Ringing to heaven in triumph. I but crave
The sad, caressing murmur of the wave
That breaks in tender music on the shore.
The Salem Athenaeum is featuring Celia Thaxter's Salon and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA celebrates American Impressionism with Childe Hassam and the Isles of Shoals through Nov 6, 2016.