Searching for Salinger’s Ghost in New Hampshire

Most know New Hampshire as being one of the various small states that are clustered together in the Northeastern United States. What many don’t know, however, is that New Hampshire has been the home and inspiration to many writers, painters, and sculpters over the years. Among these inspired artists, New Hampshire was the sanctuary of none other than J.D. Salinger – you know, the dude who wrote that damnable cockroach of a novel, The Catcher in the Rye

On my trip, I was based in North Conway, which was a decent HQ from which to visit all the literary destinations I could. In this quick and dirty article, I’ll highlight a few writers and the places they haunt(ed), so that when you visit New Hampshire, your literary curiosity is sure to live free, not die.

On the Lookout for J.D. Salinger’s Ghost

Naturally, when I was planning the trip to New Hampshire, I knew I’d have to search for J.D. Salinger’s ghost. So where do you go to find J.D. Salinger’s ghost, you ask? Well, I found luck in visiting the town of Cornish, New Hampshire, the small town he escaped to having achieved literary fame in New York after writing Catcher in the Rye. Cornish has many delightful attractions, including the Blow-Me-Down Bridge, a historic wooden, covered bridge built in 1877. The northeast coast has many charming, rustic bridges like this.

If you don’t have time to dedicate to bridges, the must-see destination in Cornish is the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park. This park was named after Augustus Saint-Gaudens, an American sculptor who founded the Cornish Art Colony. The Cornish Art Colony was an art colony in Cornish that attracted sculptors, painters, writers, and many other types of artists. Inspired by the beauty of the place, the likes of Maxwell Perkins, Rose Standish Nichols, and even Woodrow Wilson were at one point a part of the colony. The national park is chalk full of beaux-art architecture, statues, and sculptures that will tickle the sensibility of those historically minded. One really gets a feel for how it was to be a part of this colony in Cornish in the late 19th century.  Sadly, the colony died out along with its founder in 1907, long before J.D. Salinger’s time there, but I imagine he was no doubt drawn to Cornish in some part due to its artistic history. 

Robert Frost’s Derry

Take the road most-travelled straight to the Robert Frost Homestead in Derry, New Hampshire to see where he spent his formative years as a man and writer. This modest estate includes a two-story house and a farm that has been converted into a museum. One can even visit a few of the places that he wrote about, such as the poem Hyla Brook (1907). This brook is located south of the farm. The homestead is plain, but strikingly beautiful in large part because of that plainness, much like Frost’s poetry.  

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Old Man (of the mountain)

While the Old Man of the Mountain no longer exists, the guide would be remiss if it didn’t suggest one check out Cannon Mountain where a unique rock formation inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write the short story The Great Stone Faceabout the geological rock formation. Until 2004, the uncanny semblance of the countenance of an old man resided on the side of the Cannon Mountain before collapsing spontaneously, or dying of natural causes, as it were. The short story is about a man named Earnest who lives in a prosperous valley; it tackles themes of divinity, nature, and local folklore. When one looks upon the majestic mountain, even though the Old Man has long passed, they are certainly filled with the same awe that Hawthorne felt.

e e cummings (he styled his name as such in most publications… pretentious, I know) in Silver Lake

Visit Joy Farm, e e cumming’s summer vacation home, now registered as a national historic place. Silver Lake is an idyllic and serene landscape, and it’s no surprise the private poet, novelist, and satirist would have chosen it as a place for a little bit of tranquility during his summer holidays. This homestead is like Frost’s farm in that it is unremarkable. Perhaps that’s the key to being a great poet – one must simply live or holiday in a boring, beautiful, and quiet place.

Surely that’s it.

Dan Brown lives in Exeter

That is all, really – no exposition.

Oh, and please don’t bother him and tell him I sent you, or anything like that; that would be weird, you freak. 

Movies and books to read to get you excited to visit New Hampshire:

  • The Davinci Code by Dan Brown (the book or the movie, whichever you prefer)
  • The Great Stone Face, a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Hyla Brook by Robert Frost
  • anyone lived in a pretty how town, a poem by e e cummings (love this one)

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