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Yellow House,
3 Dennis Street,
Residence of Laura E. Richards

Gardiner’s two Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, in the midst of the Richards family kin, posed for this photograph in August, 1897 at Camp Cobbossee on Cram’s Point in West Gardiner, the summer retreat for the family prior to 1900 when Camp Merrywheather opened. From left to right are: (front row) Charles Vaughan Ferguson (1885-1964); his sister Eleanor Ferguson (1876-1959); John hays Gardiner (1863-1913); Laura E. Richards II (1886-1988); and Julia Ward Richards (1878-1977); (middle row) Reverend George Hodges, Dean of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge; Rosalind Richards (1874-1964); Laura E. Richards and Edwin Arlington Robinson; (back row) John Richards (1884-1975); Alice M. Richards (1872-1922); Robert H. Richards, professor at MIT (1844-1945); and James S. Bartow, friend of Robinson and the Richards children.

Henry and Laura E. Richards moved into this house in July 1878 and soon painted it yellow; it has since been known as the Yellow House. Laura E. Richards wrote ninety books here, including the first biography to receive the Pulitzer Prize. Mrs. Richards’ mother, Julia Ward Howe, author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was a frequent visitor here for the last thirty years of her life. This Federal style house built in 1814 for John Hazeltine is of frame construction with a hipped roof, clapboard siding, denticulated cornice, and central facade reflecting the center-hall plan of the building. Around the turn of the century, Henry Richards added a third story in the form of a monitor, and a bay window extending over the piazza which features Tuscan columns duplicating ones from the Richard ancestral manor, Catherington House, Hampshire, England. After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Richards, their children Rosalind, John, and Betty resided here until the last of them died in 1988. The house remains in the family and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since July 1979. Laura E. Richards introduced Robinson to classical music and other art forms at the most crucial time of his literary development.

Laura E. Richards (1850-1943)

The inclusion of this poem, “The Voice of Age,” is based upon a solid identification by Emma Robinson that its subject was indeed Gardiner’s great lady of letters, Laura E. Richards.

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The Voice of Age
She’d look upon us, if she could,
As hard as Rhadamanthus would;
Yet one may see,—who sees her face,
Her crown of silver and of lace,
Her mystical serene address
Of age alloyed with loveliness,—
That she would not annihilate
The frailest of things animate.
She has opinions of our ways,
And if we’re not all mad, she says,—
If our ways are not wholly worse
Than others, for not being hers,—
There might somehow be found a few
Less insane things for us to do,
And we might have a little heed
Of what Belshazzar couldn’t read.
She feels, with all our furniture,
Room yet for something more secure
Than our self-kindled aureoles
To guide our poor forgotten souls;
But when we have explained that grace
Dwells now in doing for the race,
She nods—as if she were relieved;
Almost as if she were deceived.
She frowns at much of what she hears,
And shakes her head, and has her fears;
Though none may know, by any chance,
What rose-leaf ashes of romance
Are faintly stirred by later days
That would be well enough, she says,
If only people were more wise,
And grown-up children used their eyes.

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A Virtual Tour of Robinson's Gardiner, Maine

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