Like Small Clams at the Bottom of Their Chairs
I came across this beautiful little line-up the other day when I went to drop off more of my books at Mitchell’s Book Corner for them to sell and a certain line immediately came into my head. “ . . . . that to the very chairs and tables small clams will sometimes be found adhering as to the backs of sea turtles. But these extravaganzas only show that Nantucket is no Illinois.” I am hoping that you will recognize that as the early part of the chapter on Nantucket in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. And all the more appropriate because it was at the bookstore! Yes, they are not clams but mushrooms but that is what I immediately thought of. Perhaps there is another book out there that refers to mushrooms all in a row but I was taken by these when I saw them. Proudly standing up along Orange and Main Street; squished between brick wall and sidewalk. And I have recounted before the connections between Melville and Maria Mitchell. And add to that too that Mitchell’s Book Corner was founded by Henry Mitchell “Mitch” Havemeyer, the only grandson of Maria Mitchell’s youngest brother Henry Mitchell, in 1968.
The Nation of Nantucket
The “Nation of Nantucket” was coined by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1847. It was used by Edward Byers as the title of his 1987 publication on Nantucket society and politics from 1660 – 1820. Both men spoke of the isolation and uniqueness of Nantucket and that such a title was fitting for our tiny spit of land far out at sea. I, too, feel that it is appropriate – on many levels. I use it as the title of this column because here I intend to regale you with all sorts of stories about Nantucketers, island life, island institutions, and the history (good and bad) of a small island that had an enormous influence on the world. My focus will be mainly on Nantucket women, of course, but I will add some other things of interest to me – and I hope you – as well. Stay tuned and to read my blog for the Maria Mitchell Association go to “Maria Mitchell’s Attic.” And to read more about Nantucket's daring daughters, check out my new book The Daring Daughters of Nantucket Island: How Island Women from the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries Lived a Life Contrary to Other American Women available at island bookstores and on Nantucket Chronicle's Marketplace.
Jascin N. Leonardo Finger has served as curator of the Mitchell House at the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association since 1999. She holds a Master’s in History. Her passions are her family, all things Nantucket, good food, weaving, and photographing historic architecture. The island has been a part of her life since she was introduced to it at age 1½ by her parents. She lives year-round on the island with her husband, a naval architect, their son, and their Siberian Husky who takes them on long walks from one glorious end of the island to the other.