Now that it is Spring, I’m looking forward to getting back on my bicycle more often, and taking longer trips rather than just darting from here to there on a mission. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a lovely little book written and illustrated by Edmund H. Garrett, a prominent and prolific Boston-based commercial artist of the later nineteenth century: Romance and Reality of the Puritan Coast (1897). The whole premise of the book is a tour of Boston’s North Shore, “from the seat of a bicycle”, one of my own long-term goals. Garrett’s route from Nahant to Gloucester was certainly a lot more bucolic than mine would be today, but routes 127 and 133 are still pretty bike-worthy, so I’m going to follow his path sometime this summer.
Even though Garrett deliberately avoided any sites associated with the “witchcraft hysteria” in Salem, his publisher had no problem selling the witch image in the above publicity poster.
Garrett bikes, stops, and tells little historical stories which are illustrated by his sketches. He is clearly more interested in the romance of the North Shore than its present-day reality, and both the “puritan” past and the rocky coastline seem equally romantic to him. He blows through Lynn and Swampscott pretty quickly, is clearly enhanced with old town Marblehead, and once he gets to Salem he is primarily focused on Nathaniel Hawthorne and his haunts: where the great author lived, worked and walked.
Past Salem, towards Gloucester, on what was then beginning to be called the “Gold Coast” because of the gilded-age mansions that were lining its shores, Garrett is more entranced by shady little lanes off the beaten track and old crooked houses–and the sea, about which he waxes poetically on nearly every page. After he reaches the end of his tour, the quaint village of Annisquam, Garrett pedals back to Gloucester–slowly, so he can enjoy the view—for dinner, with mention of what would naturally be a more laborious trip back to Boston.