Thursday, July 14, 2011

Historic Home Visit

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I had “discovered” the Manning house in Casco, Maine, former boyhood home of Nathaniel Hawthorne (he spelled it Hathorne then) and his uncle and aunt, Richard and Susan Dingley Manning. The house was for sale, I reported. Since then, I have toured the house with its owner, Patricia MacVane. She and her husband have lived in the house for 50 years, and most of it is lovingly preserved as it was when the Mannings lived there. It’s a beauty. You can take a virtual tour of the house at this link. Richard Manning eventually built another home across the street for Nathaniel, his widowed mother and Nathaniel’s two sisters. It’s still there also, but no one lives in it.

Two years ago, I did a lot of research on the Mannings and Hawthornes for a book I was writing that included Nat’s boyhood diary (No Ordinary Lives: Four 19th Century Teenage Diaries. Boston: Branden Books, 2009. Print and eBook). My research uncovered that young Nat stood at an upstairs window in the Manning house and watched the burial of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Tarbox, who had frozen to death when they got caught in a late spring Maine blizzard. The Tarboxes left behind several children, and the youngest, a girl, was eventually adopted by the Mannings—a cousin for Nathaniel and his two sisters.

When I stood looking out that same window a few days ago, I could see the old Manning cemetery behind the house. I decided to explore it, with permission of course. It is on private property. I looked for the Tarbox graves, but they either aren't buried there or the graves are unmarked. Richard and Susan Manning are buried there, however. They are waiting for someone to buy their beautiful house.

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