People

Babes in the Woods

October 31, 2018

By Volunteer Docent Robin Hazard Ray

The expression “babes in the woods” is used today to describe people who get in over their heads in situations they do not fully understand. But originally Babes in the Woods was a folktale, then a ballad,[1] then a stock script for pantomimes (English theatricals done for the kiddies at Christmastime), as familiar to people of the nineteenth century as Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. As we shall see, it had resonance for several notable people buried at or affiliated with Mount Auburn. (more…)

The Mount Auburn Plays: A Playwright’s Inspiration Comes to Life

October 3, 2018

Mount Auburn Cemetery is the final resting place to such historic writers as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bernard Malamud and Roberto Creeley. And now, Mount Auburn is home to the first-ever Playwright Artist in Residence, Patrick Gabridge. The award-winning playwright’s two-year residency, which started in January 2018, is well under way as a series of site-specific plays inspired by the Cemetery’s stunning landscape and 187-year history are coming to life. Gabridge’s Mount Auburn Plays will include two sets of one-acts called The Nature Plays and The America Plays, set to premiere on June 1-2 and September 8-9, 2019.

Over the past eight months Patrick could be seen among Mount Auburn’s historic headstones, landscaped gardens, ponds, and outdoor statuary, setting the locations and themes of the Mount Auburn Plays. We were thrilled to get a sneak-peek of his works this month during several staged public readings. (more…)

Fanny Parnell (1848-1882)

August 30, 2018

Frances (Fanny) Isabelle Parnell was born in 1848 in the County of Wicklow, Ireland to a family of wealthy landowners – an Irish father and an American mother. Her American grandfather was Charles Stewart, an admiral who commanded the USS Constitution in the war of 1812. Although Fanny was born into a life of privilege in Ireland – the land of her birth was, during her formative years, recovering from a series of famines that had left over a million dead. (more…)

Asa Gray Garden

July 5, 2018

And all rare blossoms from every clime

Grew in that garden in perfect prime.

            -Percy Bysshe Shelley

We encourage all to visit our newly renovated Asa Gray Garden. In collaboration with the award-winning Halvorson Design Partnership and R. P. Marzilli Landscape Contractor, this garden includes a diverse mix of 130 taxa of trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, annuals and bulbs which will provide four-seasons of color, texture and interest. An enlarged central water feature and reflecting pool help create a sense of calm within this newly re-designed meditative landscape.

made him feel as if the fountain were an immortal spirit

that sung its song unceasingly

and without heeding the vicissitudes around it…

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

In lieu of specific plant discussion, we recall this garden’s namesake, the preeminent nineteenth century botanist, Asa Gray (1810-1888). The eldest of eight siblings of a farmer/tanner in Sauquoit, New York, he graduated from Fairfield Medical College in 1831. Lynn Barber in The Heyday of Natural History 1820-1870 states, “At the beginning of the nineteenth century, all laymen and most scientists believed that the earth and all the species on it had been created by God in six days towards the end of October in the year 4004 B.C.” Gray eschewed an incipient medical practice for a botanical life that led to decades of research and publishing. Later botanical renown positioned him to become the foremost American advocate of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), when in 1859, Origin of Species revealed the then heretical theory of evolution and the process of natural selection. (more…)