Many thanks to the 154 readers who entered the latest Home Forum Competition. We asked for no more than 100 words from the imagined diary of a classic author on his or her first trip away from home. Even the entries that didn't meet these criteria often opened new vistas with distinctive styles. Certificates to the following:
It was nothing short of monstrous, that is, to my supersensitive sensibilities at that tender age, to have been torn from the parental nest -- the dim vast splendid palace on Washington Square -- and dropped, like so much baggage, into the near barbarism of what was known as a summer camp. The cots crowded together in the damp screened-in cabin, which, nonetheless, entertained a continual buzz of mosquitoes. The regimen was heartless and impressed me as utterly pointless, concentrating, as it did, on overeating and perpetual exercise. One hadn't a moment of thought for thought itself. Carol C. Lindsey, Boston
Last night, the nursery fire gently flickering, I heard Father and Sir Thomas talking of Italy. Suddenly the room began to spin, and I was walking down a street in Naples, my brother beside me and our parents behind us. In Florence, we met a descendant of Michelangelo, and attended a lecture on the poet Fosco -- no, Foscollo. In Rome, a sinister figure was being tried for the embezzlement of a mysterious woman in white. Everywhere, Father was ecstatic, continually leaning from our moving carriage to sketch. Suddenly, the Italian countryside began to whirl, and I was back in London. Susanne Holston, Haddonfield, N.J.
I saw the best mines of our cave hike destroyed by madness and Uncle Sol's nudging that we keep up with his starving hysterical schedule. Father, always melting in his apostasy, insisted I take this shaven-headed vacation, feeling it might help my (Moloch! Moloch!) difficulty, lately, in communicating with people. He said, ``Make sure you be good, Allen, and help Aunt Rose scrub the turpentine of nightmares.'' No chance, unfortunately. They're sending me home tomorrow a week early. Oh well, as Grandpa says, it's not what your relatives think of you, but what you think of your, your . . . (Moloch!!!). Robert Berman, Tigard, Ore.
Dear Journal, How exciting Bath is in one's eighteenth summer! Sightseeing, theater-going, promenading with the fashionable country gentry leave scarcely an hour a day for enjoying Miss Burney's novels.
My most singular observation in this panorama is that of male conceit. To illustrate, I recall an affable although not overpowering gentleman introduced to me in the Lower Rooms. He presumed that I should be recording our encounter in my journal and, desiring favorable portrayal, behaved quite charmingly. What arrogance! As if I should anticipate his declaration of interest in me with a previous mention of him to you. Marcia Mankin, Madison, Wis.
in paris -- may 29 i leave the crumbly ohsodark hotel when the day is sun-rising the deep clouds night skies tear asunder venture forth in the ohsonew world each moment expectancy alive heart beats loud city still-lying with the curvesinuous the seine in its palm grasped greeting the newnessstep out new a-dawning. Joanne Comer, Meredith, N.H.
May 16, 1866 Leave for Paris this morning at nine!
Ready to grow, fly free! And all alone! No companion. No fixed schedule.
After nursing [in a Civil War hospital] and home cares, I yearn for a new outlook, making new friends, visiting my beloved France and England for a year, if the money lasts -- and it shall!
Writing continues to sell . . . but it's dull, lacks spontaneous romance.
In a few hours when the hack turns the corner on my way to the port, I'll look back and see dear Marmee waving from the front door: ``Have a clean pocket-handkerchief, dear?'' Dorothy R. Frost, North Kingstown, R.I.
Are there bees in London -- and Queen Anne's lace? When History approaches, will he nod first? On feet foreign to grandeur we went to view the Parliament. Not a forefather to be seen -- though their spirit was abroad -- so I drank the nectar of Pretend. A Colonial's courtesy.
The others went to hear Jenny Lind -- and begged me to accompany. But I would hear her in a sweeter air and stayed to sing my own ecstasy.
We paused for Sunday. Father entered St. Paul's like Charon ferrying onto the river Styx -- with fatal dignity. Salvation superseded Death. Grace E. Perkinson, Deer Isle, Maine
My journey on foot through cold streets lined with naked trees revealed town structures not much altered since the war. I'll say the opposite of the clothing structures they call fashion!
If anyone ever knows my poetry, then no one will know of my trip into the center. It didn't merit a poem, for poetic expression comes best by stepping back from the clamor of civilized associations. A close contact with human commerce reinforced this conviction. ``Familiarity breeds contempt,'' said Aesop.
Inspiration lies in thoughtful retreat to home . . . my microcosm of the world, which for me, hints at the cosmos. Jenny Coddington Smucker Orrville,Ohio
This the first day is away from Amherst -- in Boston -- can there be such a place as this? I feel as if the Universe were gone -- slithered away like the Narrow Fellow -- like rays taken by the gray shepherd of Dusk. Dear, dear diary, there really is No One to show me the way in this Alien sphere. In Boston there are -- Buildings, trees transfigured -- And people scurrying just like -- People. A common comparison to Nature Would insult Nature -- And so Homo Sapiens It is that Depresses the Soul. Home -- the Heart is there -- Awaits in Amherst. Ken Arnold, La Veta, Colo.
June 24th, 1790 I left my quiet, flowered hills, And visited London town today, The shops, the smokestacks and the mills, All shrouded in their foggy gray; And people rushing to and fro, Where are they from? Where do they go? There was no grass, there were no trees; Stones, not earth, beneath my feet, Buildings left no room for breeze, And coal dust settled on the street. Glad to leave the city's ills, I came home to my daffodils. Doris I. Deming, Hastings, Mich.
How could I, Henry David Thoreau, find myself here, in the so-called City of the Angels? Was it because I believed that westward from Concord I could find the primeval woods, the wild Indian life? Or did I think that I might find a larger and more pacific pond than Walden? Instead, I find a mass of people leading lives of desperation -- but quiet lives? -- Never! Randall A. Cummings, Sarasota, Fla.
London, June 20, 1586 An officer (fit like a sack to a tent-frame, all sack within and garlic from a full-month's meal) argues the Queen's laws with a headsman. Watercarriers at Tyburn well, making a bench of their jugs, attend the spectacle.
``I've charge of this,'' quoth father ruffian, snatching the damask cloak of the condemned.
(Woman in the crowd): ``Headsman, give it me. I've as right t'yer wage as this flatfoot-knave.''
The Nobleman-traitor whose execution occasions this side-street interlude, kneels before the block. ``Come help me place my head, for I'm ignorant of my part, ne'er til now having parted with my pate.'' Anna Joy, Davis, Calif.
The northern forest through which our coach made its circuitous journey was hauntingly enshrouded by the shadows of the great pine trees, the soft ground flecked here and there by only the most penetrating sunbeams. It seemed as if the very objects that attracted my gaze -- the mossy outcroppings of rocks, the soft mounds of innumerable pine needles, the murmuring rivulets which occasionally sparkled in the light of a persistent ray of light -- were composed in the secret script of some primordial writing which, once deciphered, might unveil the secrets of the ages. J. L. Somerville, Boulder, Colo.
First day in Williamsburg, June 3, 1985 Woke this morning first to silence; then a bird called loudly; then the world came alive with a symphony of beautiful birdsong.
Listening is not my forte; but listen I did and was thrilled.
More mornings like this and I shall lose my biting, nasty ways. Mabel Miranda, Maspeth, N.Y.
As I journeyed through the village of Piety, I narrowly escaped the grasp of Mr. Pompous-Face and his son, Stuffed-Humbug. They wanted to take me to the City of Emptiness. ``Thou wilt grace our Cunning-House,'' they wheedled. When I said no, they replied, ``Why waste a God-given opportunity to make thyself great?'' Journeying through the Passage of Lack, I was joined by companions, Unselfishness and Honesty. They shewed me Poverty-House, where I gave all my food and much clothing. Next, the Giant, Look-after-thyself, cheerfully led me through the Vanity Market of greed and pride. But I quickly left. Moira Davidson Harrow, Middlesex, England
I journeyed to the moon to-day. I viewed the moors under a worsening sky in a purple world of heather. The wind was wuthering 'round a desolate farmhouse. ``Out of this sudden hollow in a livid hillside, her mind could make an Eden.'' I am filled with a strange excited melancholy. Could wicked, brooding Heathcliff be the bantling master of this house?
Dearest brother Branwell, forgive me for painting you in sordid word colours. I hold you and your genius dearly. My heart aches, but my ms. has begun.
I am back within my terrestrial boundaries. June W. Rodgers, La Jolla, Calif.
June 8th. This was my Natal Day. We decided to celebrate with a Journey on the River. God be thanked, my Life was preserved! At the Harbour, we boarded a Barge, belonging to our Patron, who, generously, had given us the Day from Work on account of the Festivities. We proceeded up River, pulled by two Horses. When we came to the Weir we had the unfortunate Experience of knocking into the Lock, which, in turn, tumbled me into the Water. I was immediately rescued by the Waterman, as I could not swim. Thank God for His Goodness! Ian C. S. Crew, Glendale, Calif.
13 October 18 ___. Today at Winchester was riotous. Mr. H__ was elaborating the cave scene in Book IV of Virgil's ``Aeneid.'' Nature was performing the ceremony, nymphs were wailing the wedding song, when Miss P___ sailed through the doorway calling, ``Melrose.'' She caught herself at the sight of the class. ``I thought you were alone.'' ``I am not alone.'' ``Well, perhaps I shall leave.'' ``Yes, goodbye.'' ``Now class,'' Mr. H___ continued, ``the cave.'' Tommy boldly said: ``I am not alone, Dido, but righteous heaven above I wish I were.'' Amidst our laughter Mr. H___ grimly said, ``Exactly my thought.'' Jeremiah P. Reilly, Philadelphia
The new-fangled flying machine precipitated us into New York. Crowning the harbour, upon a small island, stood a welcoming Penelope-like figure, torch in right hand. Latterwards, the splendid city -- myriads of taller-than-the-Trojan-Horse edifices.
We were welcomed, bundled into an open chariot-like machine, called a Cadillac, and threaded through the canyons, paper rain showering upon us Wayfarers.
Dinner -- windfall from the Gods. Cuts from a baron-of-beef. No silver finger bowls! No Zeus! Oh Grey-Eyed Athene, send Hermes, the Wayfinder. Anna Meade Minnigerode Talladega, Ala.