Lately, I have been reading and have put crocheting and other hobbies aside.
Last week I read, “Beyond the Garden Gate: The Life of Celia Laighton Thaxter”
After reading this book, I became pensive and, again, started reflecting upon the past.
Age and an appetency to return to “what was” will do that!
Below is a short biographical summary of Celia Laighton Thaxter.
Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) was born in Portsmouth, NH, and when she was four her father became the lighthouse keeper on White Island, Isles of Shoals, NH. Eight years later he resigned his keepers job and built a large hotel on Appledore Island, ME. This would become one of the first resort hotels to be built on the New England coast, and a gathering place for the literary and artistic greats of New England in the latter half of the 19th century.
Celia Laighton Thaxter was an author, painter, gardener, and one of the most popular New England poets of the late nineteenth century. Her nonfiction works, An Island Garden and Among the Isles of Shoals, continue to engage readers; “her prose,” Smithsonian Magazine has said, “has a timeless quality that makes delightful reading today.”
Her close friends included Sarah Orne Jewett, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James and Annie Fields, and she moved in a literary circle that included such figures as (Nathaniel) Hawthorne, (Ralph Waldo) Emerson, (Henry Wadsworth) Longfellow, (Charles Dickens) and (Oliver Wendell) Holmes. Thaxter was also the hostess of a vibrant summer salon on Appledore Island where artists Childe Hassam, William Morris Hunt and musicians Julius Eichberg, (Ole Bornemann Bull) and William Mason were among the frequent visitors.
The Isles of Shoals was also made infamous by the double, ax, *murders that happened there while Celia and one of her sons were on Appledore. That one son, Karl, suffered with physical and mental impairments caused by complications at birth.
*Stories about the Isle of Shoals murders-
The Moonlight Murders on the Isles of Shoals
Isles of Shoals Murders | Horror on Smuttynose Island
Anatomy of an Ax Murder
Being, that I was born and raised in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Isles of Shoals are familiar to me, I felt a kinship with Celia. I understood her lifelong love for the area. In a letter penned to John Greenleaf Whittier, about her love for the Island, Celia wrote,
“I wonder if it is wise or well to love any spot on this old earth as intensely as I do this…”
I was sad when the book ended as it left me, again, without the “spot” I so love.
“The Sunrise Never Failed Us Yet”
by Celia Thaxter
UPON the sadness of the sea
The sunset broods regretfully;
From the far lonely spaces, slow
Withdraws the wistful afterglow.
So out of life the splendor dies;
So darken all the happy skies;
So gathers twilight, cold and stern;
But overhead the planets burn;
And up the east another day
Shall chase the bitter dark away;
What though our eyes with tears be wet?
The sunrise never failed us yet.
The blush of dawn may yet restore
Our light and hope and joy once more.
Sad soul, take comfort, nor forget
That sunrise never failed us yet!