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the adams homestead

October 9, 2009

was dark last night when I drove up to give my talk. The windows were dark. The front yard was dark. I didn’t know how to get to The Carriage House, where I was supposed to speak, so I walked down the quiet gravel front path to the house and cut across the yard. Without lights, without tourists, without a tour guide (interpreter), I got that chill that so many of us get when we are in places like this. This is how it was when they were here. This is what Abigail saw at night. These are her lilacs. That is her garden. I wanted to stay outside in the dark and quiet. But then I was glad to go inside and see the wonderful interpreters who had invited me to come talk about Mistress Bradstreet. This is one of my favorite places to talk about history. How it is important for those of us who write about history to acknowledge what we don’t know. How to be a good student of history, you must use your imagination, and then accept the limitations of what you can know. It is in those gaps where the past actually lies. To say all this and have an audience nod in agreement — what a pleasure.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 9, 2009 1:52 pm

    I like “the importance of saying what we don’t know.” It’s easy to think that historians believe they know everything, much better to realize how imaginative the historical memory must be.

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