I'll be meeting my editor for the first time, along with Class of 2k10 author Swati Avasthi (Split, Knopf, March 2010) and Tenner author Anna Jarzab (All Unquiet Things, Delacorte, released moments ago!) I'll also meet Marianne Malone (The Sixty-Eight Rooms, Random House, February 2010) who I'll be getting to know from scratch. The event is a reception for debut authors from the Fresh Fiction from New Voices: It's a First catalog.
The reception will be at the Omni Parker House: talk about literary history...AND there might just be one haunted elevator! So I hear...
The most illustrious group to call the Parker House home was certainly that nineteenth-century men’s social gathering known as the Saturday Club. A hint at the caliber of the club’s membership is alluded to in an 1867 letter from visiting British author, Charles Dickens:
I dine today with Longfellow,
Holmes, and Agassiz. Longfellow was
here yesterday. Perfectly
white in hair
and beard, but a remarkably handsome
Originating in the Literary Club and the Magazine Club, two private associations of the mid-1850s, the Saturday Club began as a small group of friends who chose the Parker
House to host their festive roundtables on the last Saturday afternoon of every month. Typical among its nineteenth century members was poet, essayist, and preeminent
transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson would take the train from his home in Concord, then visit the Old Corner Bookstore and the Athenaeum before dining at the
Parker House, Alongside Emerson might be poet and Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell, scientist Louis Agassiz, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, poets John
Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, diplomat Charles Francis
Adams, historian Francis Parkman, sage-about-town Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and
The Saturday Club’s afternoons were often taken up with poetry readings, impassioned discussions, and book critiques. Indeed, some great moments in literary history transpired in these Parker House meetings. Here, in the folds of the Saturday Club, Longfellow drafted “Paul Revere’s Ride,” the idea for the Atlantic Monthly was born, and Dickens gave his first American reading of “A Christmas Carol.” As important to the group as intellectual pursuit, however, was camaraderie—and a hefty dose of mirth, gossip, revelry, and seven-course meals, all washed down with endless elixirs.
Literary superstar Charles Dickens, who resided at the Parker House during his 1867-68 American lecture tour, joined club members for one particularly memorable meeting, on November 30, 1867. Among the author’s noted contributions was a favorite gin punch—concocted on site, after Dickens dispatched his assistant George Dolby to pull his stash of fine gin off the Cunard liner docked nearby.
Dickens’ presence in Boston always created a stir. When staying at the Parker House, he took lengthy walks almost every afternoon, dressed flamboyantly in a brightly colored coat and shiny boots, accessorized with striped cravat, fine hat, and gloves. Guards were
regularly assigned to his hotel room door, since curious fans were eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite writer rehearsing the exaggerated gestures and odd facial expressions he used to create characters in his public readings. The colorful Dickens preened and practiced his animated talks in front of a large mirror which now rests in the mezzanine level hall by the Press Room. Artifacts from his stay were long kept on display in the Dickens Room. Today, that room is used for meeting and dining, but it still holds the marble fireplace mantle Dickens used.