The following itinerary describes a range of museums, historic homes, libraries and performances which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. Furthermore, a number of the sites have not yet confirmed their opening hours for 2019. Therefore the daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight/ferry schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunch and evening meals as indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Savannah, Georgia - 3 nights
Day 1: Tuesday 2 April, Arrive Savannah
- Complimentary Drinks and Welcome Meeting at the River Street Inn
The city of Savannah, oldest city in Georgia, has one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the USA. Its history, beautiful architecture and its reputation for hospitality make it a fitting place to begin our tour. Those arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to the the charming River Street Inn located in the heart of the Historic Landmark District. Early this evening we will meet for complimentary drinks at our hotel and a formal welcome to the tour. (Overnight Savannah, Georgia)
Day 2: Wednesday 3 April, Savannah
- Southern Literary Trail – Savannah: Flannery O’Connor
- Literary/Historical trolley tour: John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
- Savannah’s Historic District & Forrest Gump’s Chippewa Square
- The Mercer Williams House Museum
- Lunch at The Gryphon Tea Room
- Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home
- The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is Southern Gothic in tone, but is a non-fiction book about a real murder in Savannah which resulted in 4 trials and, eventually, an acquittal. The death occurred in the Mercer Williams house, now a museum which we will visit. John Berendt’s book was published in 1994 and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for years. It was also made into a popular film.
This morning, we will enjoy a guided trolley tour taking in Savannah’s Historic District and several sites from the book and movie. Savannah was America’s first planned city and one of its lovely squares is Chippewa Square located in the heart of the entertainment area. Chippewa Square became famous when it was used for the park bench scenes of the film Forrest Gump. Actor Tom Hanks, playing Forrest, sits on that bench for about 80% of the film, telling his story to anyone who will listen.
Flannery O’Connor, novelist, essayist and short story writer, who often wrote in the Southern Gothic style, was born in Savannah. This afternoon we take a walking tour to see places connected with her childhood in the city and visit her childhood home. Flannery, who died when she was only 39, was intensely aware of her Southern heritage. “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic”, she once wrote. Today there is an award for short stories in her name.
During the day there will also be visits to the gorgeously designed Gryphon Tea Room and to the French Gothic style cathedral of St John the Baptist where Flannery O’Connor and her parents worshipped regularly. (Overnight Savannah, Georgia) BL
Day 3: Thursday 4 April, Savannah
- Literary tour of Bonaventure Cemetery (incl. grave of Johnny Mercer, poet Conrad Aiken and other famous Georgians)
- Houses of Conrad Aiken: 228 and 230 E. Oglethorpe Avenue (exterior)
- Davenport House Museum: lunch reception and house tour, followed by demonstration of 19th century dancing in the historic Kennedy Pharmacy Building
The Bonaventure Cemetery is situated on a scenic bluff overlooking the Wilmington River. It became famous when it featured in both the book and the film of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We will see the grave of Johnny Mercer, and also that of American poet and novelist Conrad Aiken.
Conrad Aiken was born in 1889 and lived at 228 Oglethorpe Ave in Savannah until he was 11 years old. Then tragedy struck with the murder / suicide of his parents. The traumatised boy was sent away to live with relatives in another state. Many years later, however, the Pulitzer Prize winning writer moved back to Savannah and purchased the house next door – we will view the exterior of both houses. As a result of what he experienced in his Savannah home, he always had a strong interest in psychoanalysis and the subconscious. Aiken’s poetry is reflective and deep, and has been likened to the music of Debussy or the art of Whistler.
A special treat will be a lunch reception in the garden (weather permitting) and tour of the historic Isaiah Davenport House Museum, home to some of the characters in historical novelist Eugenia Price’s St Simon’s Trilogy, followed by a display of 19th century dancing at the Kennedy Pharmacy Museum, another of the wonderful old buildings of Savannah that has been lovingly restored. (Overnight Savannah, Georgia) BL
Milledgeville, Georgia - 2 nights
Day 4: Friday 5 April, Savannah – Macon – Milledgeville
- Guided Tour of Macon by Dr Sharon E. Colley, Associate Professor of English, Middle Georgia State University
- McCaw-Massee House – where Tennessee Williams wrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
- Tour of Sidney Lanier Cottage, Macon
- Dinner at the Local Yokel Cafè, Milledgeville
This morning we drive to Macon, ‘Heart of Georgia’ in the geographical centre of the state. Following lunch, we will take a guided tour of Macon including the home of Ellen Craft, a runaway slave who wrote her autobiography Running 1,000 Miles for Freedom, an historic African American neighbourhood, an old post office named for the first black chaplain in the US army, and other interesting sites associated with films and local authors.
Tennessee Williams enjoyed the hospitality of his friend Wallace McCaw (who invented Crisco, the first vegetable oil shortening) when he stayed at what is now known as the McCaw-Massee House in the 1950s, and it was there he wrote his play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This was his personal favourite amongst his works and it won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955. Subject to permission by the owners, we also hope to visit this ‘birthplace’ of that famous play about a Southern family in crisis.
We also take a tour of the Sidney Lanier Cottage. Lanier was a linguist, musician, lawyer and mathematician, but it was because of his poetry that his birthplace was turned into a museum and gained him the reputation as the South’s most famous poet. Georgia’s coastal regions inspired much of his poetry, such as “Song of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glynn”. Sidney Lanier never wrote anything in this house, but it is a fascinating museum, with his beloved silver flute, his wife’s wedding dress, and his alligator shoes all on display.
We stay this night and the next in Milledgeville. When Flannery O’Connor became ill and was told she had only 5 years to live, she returned to her ancestral home at Milledgeville, and there lasted another fourteen years. (Overnight Milledgeville, Georgia) BD
Day 5: Saturday 6 April, Milledgeville
- Southern Literary Trail – Milledgeville/Eatonton: Flannery O’Connor and Alice Walker
- Literary tour of Flannery O’Connor’s Milledgeville incl. Old Governor’s Mansion, Cline-O’Connor-Florencourt House, Old Capitol Building, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Memory Hill Cemetery
- Brown-Stetson-Sanford House & light lunch
- Flannery O’Connor Room, Special Collections, Georgia College Library
- Andalusia Farm – Home of Flannery O’Connor
- Lecture on Flannery O’Connor at Andalusia Farm by Dr Bruce Gentry
This morning we take a combined coach / walking tour of the city in the steps of Flannery O’Connor to see places connected with her life and novels, including the Old Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion, and Cline – O’Connor-Florencourt House. She rests in the Memory Hill Cemetery and we will visit her grave there.
We enjoy a light lunch at the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House where Flannery used to dine, and we have a special visit to Georgia College Library (where she studied social sciences) to view their extensive collections on Flannery’s life and works. Her desk, typewriter and one of her paintings are held in this collection.
We will also visit Flannery O’Connor’s home and estate at Andalusia where she lived with her mother, wrote novels and stories and managed to make her chickens walk backwards.
In the early evening we listen to a private lecture by Dr Bruce Gentry, Professor of English, Georgia College and Editor of the Flannery O’Connor Review, about this remarkable writer, who penned book reviews, letters, a prayer journal and articles for Catholic magazines, as well as novels and short stories. (Overnight Milledgeville, Georgia) BLD
Atlanta, Georgia - 4 nights
Day 6: Sunday 7 April, Millegeville – Eatonton – Atlanta
- Uncle Remus Museum
- Joel Chandler Harris Literary Trail, Eatonton
- Light lunch at the Bronson House
- Turnwold Plantation & Uncle Remus Tales
- Alice Walker Literary Trail, Eatonton
- Afternoon tea at Southern Manor Farms – childhood home of Alice Walker
Joel Chandler Harris was a journalist and folklorist, but is now remembered for his Uncle Remus stories, written in the African-American dialect, featuring Br’er Fox, Br’er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby. He was born in Eatonton and we will follow his trail around the town. We will see his birthplace, his childhood home, the old post office where he learned about the world by reading unclaimed newspapers, his school and the ‘Uncle Remus Museum’ with its reconstruction of his cabin and shadow boxes of “de critters” of the stories.
Lunch will be enjoyed at the Eatonton Historical Society’s headquarters, and we then travel on to the Turnwold Plantation, setting for the Uncle Remus stories. Joel Chandler Harris went to work at the plantation when he was 13 years old and the owner Joseph Addison Turner ran a newspaper and allowed the boy to publish some of his own poems and stories. His free time was spent in the slave quarters – as the illegitimate son of Irish immigrants, he felt more at home there than with his employers. From the slaves he absorbed the oral tradition and gained inspiration. By using African folklore and slave dialect, Harris made revolutionary changes in American literature. He published 9 books of Uncle Remus stories (these have been called “the greatest body of folklore which America has produced”) and at least 20 other books. A storyteller will narrate for us some of the Br’er Rabbit tales while we are at the plantation.
Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, was born in Eatonton and today the city celebrates her local connection with an ‘Alice Walker Literary Trail’. We will explore places connected with this novelist, activist and poet, visiting her birthplace, the church where she was baptized and which she faithfully attended, the cemetery where her parents are buried, the Grant Plantation where her mother was born and which Alice Walker mentions in her book In Search of our Mother’s Gardens, and the site of the Walker family home where we enjoy an afternoon tea before continuing our journey to Atlanta. (Overnight Atlanta, Georgia) BL
Day 7: Monday 8 April, Atlanta – Marietta – Atlanta
- Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
- Guided tour of Swan House & Gardens
- Light Lunch at the Swan Coach House
- Atlanta History Centre – Atlanta History Museum
The most famous novel about the American South has to be Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. As a book, and then as a movie, it broke all records, and today several museums celebrate its author and her memorable tale of Scarlett O’Hara in the Civil War. From Atlanta, setting for much of the novel, we make an excursion to Marietta to see the ‘Gone with the Wind Museum’. Here you will see the honeymoon dress worn by Vivien Leigh in the film, an exhibition about the African-American members of the cast, memorabilia and foreign editions.
The Swan Coach House with its lavish gardens in Atlanta exudes southern charm, and we will eat a light lunch there before our visit to the Atlanta History Museum. The American Civil War of 1861 to 1865 caused over 1 million deaths, changed the landscape, radically altered lives and also had a huge impact on American literature. The war was also known as ‘The War Between the States’ and the excellent exhibition in the History Museum presents the southern side of the story. Discover what Ashley Wilkes faced when fighting for the South, learn about the bootlegging that Rhett Butler was involved in, and see how women like Scarlett and Melanie lived while their men were off at war, trying to keep plantations running and cotton harvested. (Overnight Atlanta, Georgia) BL
Day 8: Tuesday 9 April, Atlanta
This morning we take the coach to The Wren’s Nest, Atlanta home of Joel Chandler Harris. His ideal of happiness was “home, a cold night, a hot fire and taters in the ashes”, and we will see that home. When he discovered a family of baby wrens nesting in his mailbox, Harris did not wish to disturb them and so built another box for the post and thus acquired a name for his own ‘nest’. The Victorian home is filled with his belongings and furnishings – it was turned into a museum thanks to money donated by Andrew Carnegie, who loved Harris’ works and once visited him there.
The Wren’s Nest is quite a grand home. But there is nothing grand about the one-bedroom flat where Margaret Mitchell lived while she wrote Gone with the Wind – in fact, she called it ‘The Dump’. She started the book after being laid-up by an accident and, as she completed each chapter (the chapters were not written in any sort of order) she stuffed the pages into envelopes and found hidey-holes for the envelopes all around her flat. When a publisher’s representative came to Atlanta seeking new authors, Margaret very reluctantly gave him the envelopes forming the chaotic story of a girl named Pansy. Soon the chapters were put into order, missing linking sections were written, and the heroine underwent a name change. Scarlett made her creator wealthy, but although Margaret Mitchell moved from the tiny flat she never wanted a grand home. The flat is now a museum, with rooms next door covering further aspects of Mitchell’s life and novel.
Margaret Mitchell lived on Peachtree St, Atlanta. She also died on that street, when she was struck by a driver as she crossed the road to go and see a movie. We will explore Peachtree precinct, admire the Fox Theatre and then dine at the Georgian Terrace Hotel. In 1920 Margaret’s society debut took place at this iconic hotel. To the horror of all the respectable matrons, she danced the ‘Apache’, a provocative Parisian jazz dance. This behaviour saw her refused admittance to the prestigious Junior League, but she later got her revenge by refusing to attend the party that very same League hosted to celebrate the premiere of the Gone with the Wind movie. The hotel hosted Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh when they came for the premiere. (Overnight Atlanta, Georgia) BD
Day 9: Wednesday 10 April, Atlanta – Decatur – Atlanta
- Mary Gay House
- Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library – including the Flannery O’Connor Collection, circa 1937-2003
- Lunch at Murphy’s Restaurant
- The Museum of the Jimmy Carter Library
This morning there will be a chance to view the exterior of the Mary Gay House, one of the few remaining pre-Civil War homes left in Atlanta. Mary was a Civil War diarist and she later organised her diary into a book, Life in Dixie During the War, which she published in 1892. Margaret Mitchell used Mary Gay’s book as a reference for her own work.
Atlanta has wonderful libraries with rich collections on Atlanta history and writers. The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library holds the original manuscript of The Color Purple and a wealth of Flannery O’Connor material including the weekly letters she wrote to her close friend Betty Hester. The library also has many valuable first editions of the classics (including some of Jane Austen’s novels!!), an African – American Literature collection and an extraordinary Irish Literature collection. We can view WB Yeats’ letters to Maud Gonne, memorabilia relating to Seamus Heaney, and many other literary treasures.
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the USA, was awarded the Nobel Peace prize. He is a prolific author and has written books on diplomacy, justice, religion and poetry, and even a children’s book. His Presidential Library and Museum is in Atlanta (Carter was born in Georgia) and it covers his personal life, his achievements as President, and it hosts regular talks and events. Explore the legacy of the man who stated “We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.” (Overnight Atlanta, Georgia) BL
Fayetteville, Georgia - 1 night
Day 10: Thursday 11 April, Atlanta – Jonesboro – Fayetteville
- Martin Luther King, Jr. – National Historic Site
- Light Lunch hosted by the Historic Oakland Foundation
- Literary tour of Oakland Cemetery (incl. grave of Margaret Mitchell)
- Along the Old Tara Road: literary landscapes between Jonesboro and Fayetteville
- Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum, Fayetteville
- Evening meal at Frank’s at the Old Mill
The Help, the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, which has also been turned into a film, depicts the lives and problems of black American maids in Mississippi homes in the early 1960s. The book is a memorable depiction of the women’s lack of basic rights, the indignity with which they were often treated by white employers, and the mood for change sweeping the country. Much of that change was instigated by Martin Luther King, clergyman, activist and orator, who organised bus boycotts, protest marches, and whose ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is one of the most famous speeches in history. The ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site’ consists of several buildings connected with King’s Atlanta boyhood. There is the church where he and his father were pastors, a museum about the Civil Rights movement, a rose garden and a Civil Rights ‘Walk of Fame’. We will spend the morning learning more about this man who brought about such important change in America.
Most old cities in America have thriving historical associations. Today our lunch will be hosted by members of the Historic Oakland Foundation, who kindly wish to welcome us to their part of America.
After lunch we go to see the grave of Margaret Mitchell and that of her husband John Marsh in Oakland Cemetery, before setting off on a coach drive along the Old Tara Road between Jonesboro and Fayetteville in Clayton County (it is in Fayetteville that Scarlett O’Hara receives her meagre schooling). This is the county where Mitchell’s family originated and where her Tara was placed, in her imagination. As a girl she had listened enthralled to tales of the Civil War told by her grandmother. Grandma just forgot to mention that the South lost the war, and it came as a huge shock to Peggy (as Margaret Mitchell was known) when she learned that ‘her’ side had been conquered (although this is still disputed in the South today!). This drive will allow us to see the ‘real’ countryside of Gone with the Wind rather than the Hollywood version of it. In Fayetteville, we also visit the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife Museum, built in 1855 by the Holliday family and one of the most historical houses in Fayetteville County. On display are historic artifacts and treasures from the Civil War in particular, as well as a Gone with the Wind Room.
Dinner will be served at the historic ‘Frank’s at the Old Mill’. (Overnight Fayetteville, Georgia) BLD
Montgomery, Alabama - 3 nights
Day 11: Friday 12 April, Fayetteville – Moreland – Columbus – Montgomery
Erskine Caldwell wrote about racism and poverty in the Deep South and was famed for his novels Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre (which sold 14 million copies and became one of the best-selling novels of all time), although many Southerners felt he was too critical of his own ‘folk’. His first novel, provocatively called The Bastard, was banned and he was briefly arrested. Today, however, ‘The Little Manse’, the simple cottage in Moreland, Georgia, where he was born in 1903, is a museum and a ‘living farm exhibit’, and we will visit it. Caldwell was one of the first authors to have his books published in mass-market paperback editions, and he was honoured by the governments of France and Bulgaria for his writings.
The Greek Revival Wynn House will be our elegant setting for lunch before we move on to the Smith-McCullers House Museum. Carson McCullers explored what it was like to feel an outcast in the American South in her novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, published in 1940. She was born in Columbus, Georgia, and her literary output includes poems, essays, plays and short stories as well as novels. In the little white-frame birthplace that is now a museum, the young Carson used the various rooms as stages and auditoriums, with siblings and neighbours roped in as her audience. However, she felt ‘freakish’ and odd in Columbus society and her life was not a happy one either there or in New York. We will also look at the Columbus History exhibit in the local art museum. (Overnight Montgomery, Alabama) BL
Day 12: Saturday 13 April, Montgomery – Monroeville – Montgomery
- Downtown Montgomery: First White House of the Confederacy, Alabama State Capitol & Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
- The Museum of Alabama and Official Welcome to the Southern Literary Trail
- Southern Literary Trail – Monroeville: Truman Capote & Harper Lee
- The Old Monroe County Courthouse at Monroeville (home of To Kill A Mockingbird)
- Performance of To Kill A Mockingbird at the County Courthouse, Monroeville
This morning we visit Montgomery’s Historic Downtown including the King Memorial Baptist Church, Alabama State Capitol and First White House of the Confederacy, which was built by Zelda Fitzgerald’s grandfather, and enjoy views of this city on the Alabama River which was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. We also visit the Museum of Alabama, located at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), the nation’s oldest state-funded, independent archival and historical agency, and enjoy a tour of the Museum which features exhibits about Alabama’s history and the Civil Rights Movement. Here Dr Bert Hitchcock will officially welcome us to the Southern Literary Trail. Dr Hitchcock attended the University of Melbourne for graduate studies and is one of the Trail’s academic advisors.
When Truman Capote had to leave the little town of Monroeville, he wept: “I didn’t want to go. I’d never left this small, isolated Alabama town surrounded by forests and farms and rivers.” Nor did he wish to leave his best friend, a young girl called Harper Lee who would one day immortalise him as ‘Dill’ in To Kill a Mockingbird. This afternoon we explore Monroeville in the footsteps of these friends and writers and visit the Old Courthouse Museum to see items connected with both Lee and Capote. We also go up to the balcony where Scout, Jem and Dill watch the infamous trial proceedings. In 2006 the novel was ranked ahead of the Bible as the book that every person ought to read! Its fame has made Monroeville the ‘Literary Capital of Alabama’.
The Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville has authentically restored the room in which Atticus Finch fought racism in defending a black man. This room is now the ‘stage’ for theatrical versions of To Kill a Mockingbird which draw thousands of tourists to the town every year. We will watch a performance of the play in the evening. (Overnight Montgomery, Alabama) BLD
Day 13: Sunday 14 April, Montgomery
In 1918 F. Scott Fitzgerald was stationed with an army unit near Montgomery. At a country club dance he met local girl Zelda Sayre and fell in love with her. They married in 1920, when he had made money from his first novel, and they lived the high life for the next decade. But by 1930 Zelda was mentally ill and Scott rented a house in Montgomery where they could live quietly so she could recover. It was a brief stay – by March 1931 they had moved out and Zelda was placed in a clinic – but the house is the only museum honouring this great American writer. (Zelda was also a writer – her novel Save me the Waltz is very autobiographical, and she also wrote poems and short stories.) The Tudor style brick house holds many of their possessions, Zelda’s paintings, photographs and letters.
Today the Montgomery Country Club has kindly agreed to host our group for lunch. This private country club is where Zelda Sayre met Army Lt. F. Scott Fitzgerald at a 1918 summer dance. Zelda described the building in her novel Save Me the Waltz. Published in 1932, it is a semi-autobiographical account of her life and marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In the afternoon (3.00pm) we will attend a performance of Shakespeare’s iconic Romeo and Juliet at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. (Overnight Montgomery, Alabama) BL
Columbus, Mississippi - 2 nights
Day 14: Monday 15 April, Montgomery – Demopolis – Tuscaloosa – Columbus
- Southern Literary Trail: Demopolis – Lillian Hellman
- Literary Walking tour of Demopolis exploring sites associated with Lillian Hellman and her family – led by Kirk Brooker, Marengo County Historical Society
- Lyon Hall (exterior) and Bluff Hall, both of which bear strong resemblance to the mansion ‘Lionnet’ in Hellman’s play, and Gaineswood Mansion
- St. John’s-In-The-Prairies (St. John’s Episcopal Church) led by William Gantt, Chairman of the Board, Southern Literary Trail
- The University of Alabama (where Harper Lee was a student and college journalist)
- Early Dinner at the Cypress Inn, Tuscaloosa
Today William Gantt, Chairman of the Board for the ‘Southern Literary Trail’, and Kirk Brooker, Operations Manager for the Marengo County Historical Society, will guide us around their home town of Demopolis. Lillian Hellman, memoirist and playwright who is best remembered for The Little Foxes, belonged, on (her) mother’s side to a banking, storekeeping Demopolis heritage. Alabama and Sunday dinners were large, with high-spirited talk and laughter from the older people of who did what to whom.” Hellman set several of her works in Demopolis. The Little Foxes was based on two local families and the fictional ‘Lionnet’ was inspired by Lyon Hall and Bluff Hall which we will see. Her grandfather ran the Demopolis Opera House and the bank established by her family still stands. Another Part of the Forest is another of her plays which draws on her Demopolis family.
En route to Tuscaloosa, we make a stop at St John’s Episcopal Church, a small Gothic-style church that is believed to have been constructed around the 1860 according to the designs of the prominent New York architect, Richard Upjohn. We will also visit today the University of Alabama, where Harper Lee was a student and a college journalist, before enjoying dinner at the Cypress Inn in Tuscaloosa. (Overnight Columbus, Mississippi) BLD
Day 15: Tuesday 16 April, Columbus
- Southern Literary Trail – Columbus: Tennessee Williams & Eudora Welty
- Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center: guided tour by Nancy Carpenter, CEO and Executive Director of the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (assoc. with Tennessee William’s grandfather – Rev. Walter E. Dakin)
- Antebellum home, Whitehall: tour followed by light lunch on the verandah. Tennessee Williams mother, Edwina, played cards at Whitehall during her time in Columbus.
- Tennessee Williams Memorabilia Collection, Billows-Garth Archives – Columbus-Lowndes Public Library with archivist Mona Vance-Ali
- Mississippi University for Women (MUW): guided tour with Dr Bridget Pieschel
- Driving tour of historic Columbus aboard an authentic Double-Decker Bus hosted by Nancy Carpenter
- ‘Southern Palate Dinner’ at Temple Heights Mansion with musical entertainment
Thomas Williams was born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi. He lived in that home until he was 3, and today the house has been moved from its original site. His father came from a Tennessee family and later the son used that connection for his professional name. This morning we visit the Tennessee Williams House and Welcome Centre. He was very close to his grandfather who ran St Paul’s Episcopal Church, which we also visit with Dr Steve Pieschel, retired literature professor at the Mississippi University for Women.
Following a champagne lunch on the veranda at Whitehall, the grand antebellum home of Dr. Joe and Carol Boggess, we view the Tennessee Williams Collection at the public library with archivist Mona Vance-Ali.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Eudora Welty wrote novels and short stories set in the Deep South. She studied at the Mississippi University for Women, which we will explore with Dr Bridget Pieschel, head of the Women’s Studies department, after which we will take a special tour on a double-decker bus around Columbus to see places connected with her and with Tennessee Williams.
A ‘Southern Palate Dinner’ will be served for our group in the classically elegant Temple Heights Mansion. (Overnight Columbus, Mississippi) BLD
Oxford, Mississippi - 2 nights
Day 16: Wednesday 17 April, Columbus – Starkville – New Albany – Oxford
- Mitchell Memorial Library MSU: The John Grisham Room and Ulysses S. Grant papers, Starkville
- Southern Literary Trail – New Albany: William Faulkner
- William Faulkner Literary Garden: Union County Heritage Museum, New Albany
- W. Faulkner Birthplace – Historical Marker, New Albany
The library of the Mississippi State University in Starkville is one of the few universities to house presidential papers. Ulysses S. Grant was a Civil War General and 18th President of the USA. We will view his letters, papers, fan mail and photographs, before moving on to another fascinating collection – the papers of best-selling novelist John Grisham. Grisham studied at this university and gifted it all his papers in 1989. His legal thrillers, such as The Firm, The Client and The Pelican Brief have been adapted into films and have been published worldwide.
William Faulkner is probably the American South’s most important writer. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice and also the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was born in Oxford, Mississippi and when he left he never lost the feeling that he was being called back to the region: “I wish I was at home, still in the kitchen with my family around me and my hand full of Old Maid cards”, he wrote. Today we will visit the William Faulkner Literary Garden which is one block away from his birthplace. Here his descriptions of various plants are paired with the actual plants in the garden.
His birthplace was his home for only a year, but his “own little postage stamp of native soil” never ceased to inspire him as a writer – he re-named it Yoknapatawpha County’. When his works made him money, Faulkner returned to Mississippi and lived for more than 30 years at ‘Rowan Oak’. (Overnight Oxford, Mississippi) BL
Day 17: Thursday 18 April, Oxford
- Southern Literary Trail – Oxford: William Faulkner
- JD Williams Library, Archives & Special Collections – Viewing of manuscripts in the Faulkner Room
- The Sound and the Fury: A literary walking tour of Oxford – sites associated with William Faulkner by Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner studies and Professor of English at the University of Mississippi
- Rowan Oak: Home of William Faulkner
- Bailey’s Wood National Recreational Trail
The JD Williams Library in the University of Mississippi (affectionately known to locals as ‘Ole Miss’), has a Faulkner Room. Here we will see manuscripts, personal effects and items relating to Faulkner’s life and writings.
The Sound and the Fury, published in 1929 is a stream-of-consciousness novel and is considered one of the best English-language works of the 20thC. Like 25,000 other literary pilgrims every year, we will take a literary walking tour of Oxford, to see places Faulkner knew and wrote about. We then go on to his beloved Rowan Oak, the home he could not afford but could also not resist. The distinctive white house with green shutters was in a bad state of repair and Faulkner did much himself to restore it. His shirt collars and muddy shoes are on display, we can also sit on the porch where he liked to spend the late afternoons, and there are his library, study and fold-up desk to admire.
Our day ends with a walk in Bailey’s Wood Recreational Trail, once part of Faulkner’s home. He drew great inspiration from these woods and whenever he could, he bought up additional land so that he could preserve the trees and the natural beauty. (Overnight Oxford, Mississippi) B
Jackson, Mississippi - 1 night
Day 18: Friday 19 April, Oxford – Jackson
- Southern Literary Trail – Jackson: Eudora Welty & Richard Wright
- The Eudora Welty Foundation: House & Garden
- Eudora Welty: A Literary tour of historic Jackson incl. Galloway Memorial United Methodist Church & Greenwood Cemetery
- Special viewing of the Eudora Welty Collection, William F. Winter Archives and History Building
- Dinner at the Fairview Inn
Eudora Welty was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1909. This morning we visit the Eudora Welty House and Garden Museum. Her birthplace is a Writers’ Centre, but the home where she lived 76 years and where she wrote most of her fiction is now open to the public. The visitor feels that Welty has just stepped out for a moment, and can view her antique brush and comb, her piano, and the set of Dickens’ novels which her mother once braved a burning house to rescue. Welty won a Pulitzer Prize and six O. Henry Awards for short stories – she is considered one of American’s finest storytellers, her works have been translated into many other languages, and Welty conferences are held regularly. She loved gardens and often alluded to plants, which continue to grow today in her garden, including her favourite camellias. She was also a keen photographer. Her book One Writer’s Beginnings often mentions her Jackson childhood and her sheltered life in the South. The house remains the same as when she lived there and is a wonderfully ‘complete’ literary museum. We hope also to meet with Eudora Welty’s niece and former director of the Eudora Welty House, Mary Alice Welty White
In the afternoon we explore historic Jackson (setting for Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help), and view the church Eudora Welty attended, Greenwood Cemetery where she is buried and the Eudora Welty Collection.
Dinner will be at the Fairview Inn, a historic 1908 Colonial Revival mansion surrounded by formal gardens shaded by ancient magnolias, located in one of Jackson’s lovely residential neighbourhoods. We will be joined by some members of the Mississippi chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), including their President, Dr Carolyn Brown, who is also a Welty scholar. (Overnight Jackson, Mississippi) BLD
Natchez, Mississippi - 2 nights
Day 19: Saturday 20 April, Jackson – Port Gibson – Natchez
- Historic Natchez Trace including Port Gibson, described by Ulyssess S. Grant as the town ‘too beautiful to burn’, and the Windsor ruins
- Morning refreshments at Isabella’s, a delightful Queen Ann Victorian Cottage
- The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians including a presentation on ‘Natchez Indians in Literature’ by Site Director Lance Harris
- Reading and discussion of Eudora Welty’s A Worn Path – with Carolyn Vance Smith, founder of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration
- The home of Diarist William Johnson, Natchez
- ‘A Dinner with William Johnson’ at the Natchez Grand Hotel
Today we follow the Historic Natchez Trace, a 710km trail originally created by Native Americans. The path has literary associations – Eudora Welty used it as the narrative backbone in her 1943 novel The Wide Net, while The Robber Bridegroom features a dashing highwayman, who stains his face with berry juice for disguise and carries off his sweetheart as he gallops along the Trace. Not all of the Trace survives, but we will visit the town of Port Gibson, which Ulysses S. Grant thought “too beautiful to burn” and the ruins of Windsor Plantation, visited by Mark Twain and photographed by Eudora Welty.
We arrive for lunch at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, which sits near the origin of the Natchez Trace, used extensively in bygone years by the Natchez Indians. The Grand Village’s Director Mr Lance Harris will talk about early French literature surrounding the Natchez Indians and show us around the grounds of what was once their main ceremonial centre. We will also participate in a reading of the Eudora Welty playlet A Worn Path which is set on Natchez Trace. This will be arranged by Carolyn Vance Smith, noted author and founder of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.
Before the Civil War a freed slave named William Johnson set himself up as a barber and his Natchez business flourished. He also found time to keep a diary and this 2000 page journal gives a wonderfully complete account of the life of a freed slave (although he actually kept slaves himself) in Antebellum America. Johnson wrote in his diary from 1835 until his death in 1851. His status as a free man was tenuous – he could not vote, sit on a jury or testify against whites. Johnson was killed in a property dispute but there were only black witnesses to the crime and of course they could not testify. William Johnson’s 1841 townhouse is a museum which we will visit.
This evening we enjoy a ‘Dinner with William Johnson’ (using foods he mentions in his diary) at the Natchez Grand Hotel, our base for the next two nights. (Overnight Natchez, Mississippi) BLD
Day 20: Sunday 21 April, Natchez
- Southern Literary Trail – Natchez: Richard Wright
- Lecture on Richard Wright who was born near Natchez in 1908, given by Dennis Harried, Professor of African-American Literature
- Lecture on African-American Vernacular English and Richard Wright’s use of language, given by Dennis Harried
- Richard Wright Ramble: churches, schools, home sites, cemeteries associated with the Wright family – led by Carolyn Vance Smith
- Sunday Buffet Brunch at The Carriage House Restaurant, Stanton Hall, an Antebellum Classical Revival Mansion
- Greg Iles house (exterior) and the Adams County Courthouse (exterior)
- Melrose: An historic antebellum mansion
- Dinner at Magnolia Hall
African-American novelist Richard Wright was born near Natchez in 1908. He was among the first black writers to achieve fame and fortune, but his novels Black Boy and White Man, Listen! shocked American readers with their pictures of the black American experience. This morning we are privileged to have meet with us, Mr Dennis Harried, a professor of African-American Literature, who will give us a talk about Richard Wright’s life, and his use of language. Following these talks we will take a Richard Wright ramble, to see schools, churches and graveyards associated with his family.
After a buffet brunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at Stanton Hall, an Antebellum Classical Revival mansion, we go to see the Greg Iles House (exterior only), the outside of the Adams County Courthouse and the Antebellum home Melrose, considered by many to be the finest home of all the Natchez region. Declared a National Historic Landmark, the house is furnished for the period just before the Civil War. The grounds feature outbuildings including a two storied kitchen and dairy buildings, octagonal cistern houses, a smoke house, a privy, one of the last remaining slave quarters in Natchez, a barn, and a carriage house.
Tonight we enjoy dinner at the historic Magnolia Hall believed to have been constructed in 1858 as the residence of Thomas Henderson, a Natchez native who became a wealthy cotton broker and merchant. (Overnight Natchez, Mississippi) BLD
New Orleans, Louisiana - 2 nights
Day 21: Monday 22 April, Natchez – Baton Rouge – New Orleans
- Historic Baton Rouge
- Cajun Buffet Lunch and Guided tour of Oak Alley Plantation
- Laura Plantation: A Guided tour by the owner exploring Creole Folktales & Br’er Rabbit
Today we make a brief visit to historic Baton Rouge, capital of the state of Louisiana, situated on the Mississippi River.
Cajun cuisine is the style of cooking brought to America by the French-speaking Acadian, or Cajun, immigrants from Canada. Cajun dishes include Gumbo, Jambalaya, Boudin and crawfish and vegetables. Our lunch will be a Cajun buffet at Oak Alley Plantation.
The Laura Plantation is a 19th century Creole style home on the west bank of the Mississippi. Laura Locoul Gore was the 4th mistress of the plantation and ran it as a sugar plantation. She wrote her memoirs and these were published in 2000. It is thought that the original French versions of the Br’er Rabbit stories were first told at this plantation and written down by a friend of Joel Chandler Harris. (Overnight New Orleans, Louisiana) BL
Day 22: Tuesday 23 April, New Orleans
- Literary walking tour of Historic New Orleans
- Steamboat Natchez: Harbour Cruise
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening talk on Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner by Professor Kenneth Holditch
- Farewell Meal at Galatoire’s Restaurant
New Orleans was home for a while to Tennessee Williams (who travelled on a streetcar going to ‘Desire’, one of the city’s suburbs) who commented, “If I can be said to have a home it is New Orleans, which has provided me with more material than any other part of the country.” The Tennessee Williams Festival is held every year in late March in his honour. It was also home briefly in 1925 to William Faulkner whose 1840 lodging house there, where he wrote his first novel Soldier’s Pay, is now the Faulkner House Bookshop. And it was home to writer Kate Chopin who resided in the French Quarter. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote were amongst the literary visitors to the city.
This morning we set off on a literary walking tour of New Orleans’ gorgeous French Quarter, followed by a cruise along the Mississippi River, on board the Steamboat Natchez. The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure to further explore this fascinating city.
Every literary tour should end with a literary dinner. We have a very special evening planned at Galatoire’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. Every writer of importance connected with the city, or who visited New Orleans, ate at Galatoire’s, famed for its French Creole cooking. Tennessee Williams preferred its corner table, and in his A Streetcar Named Desire Stella takes Blanche to dine at Galatoire’s too.
Professor Kenneth Holditch, Emeritus Professor of the University of New Orleans and world specialist on Tennessee Williams, will join us this evening for dinner at Galatoire’s and talk to us then about Williams and Faulkner. Prof. Holditch is the co-editor of the two-volume Library of America collection of Williams’ works, and has edited the Tennessee Williams Journal. He has also co-authored the books The World of Tennessee Williams and Tennessee Williams and the South. (Overnight New Orleans, Louisiana) BD
Day 23: Wednesday 24 April, Depart New Orleans
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in New Orleans. Passengers travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the return flight to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Southern States. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B