|Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale"
A significant body of literature
relates to Mt. Holyoke as a favorite destination for travelers,
both European and American. Literary visitors included
Waldo Emerson, Emily
Dickinson, and Nathaniel
Hawthorne, among many others. At
the height of its popularity in the second half of the nineteenth
century, the site hosted notable visitors such as Swedish
opera star Jenny Lind (who dubbed the region “the Paradise
of America”) and poet Henry
Dickinson grew up in nearby Amherst and attended Mount
Holyoke Female Seminary. An annual hike up the mountain
was one of the college's very first traditions. Their teachers
believed that the mountain scenery would nourish students'
souls and improve their characters while the climb strengthened
their bodies. Mount Holyoke College continues to observe
Mountain Day today.
An 1887 advertising brochure
illustrated Mt. Holyoke’s tourist facilities, while
emphasizing the special qualities of the view: "Many
other peaks have a higher altitude and offer wilder and more
unmixed natural scenery – but no other blends in its
wide prospect so much that is rich in soil and cultivation,
or presents so much agricultural wealth of beauty, mingled
with so much that is wildly majestic, grand and inspiring.”
Countless painted, drawn, and
printed representations of Mt. Holyoke’s panorama emphasize
the contrast between wilderness and cultivated landscape. No
composition is more famous than Thomas Cole’s 1836
painting, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton,
Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm, also known as "The
Cole centered the view on a small neck of land formed
by a deep bend in the river – the oxbow. On
the left – the wilderness side – he depicted
an elevated mass of trees and a rocky outcrop flanked by
a blasted tree trunk and storm clouds. The more pastoral
right side is filled with sunlit fields and clear skies.
Late nineteenth-century artists
chose to emphasize more ephemeral effects of color and tone
that evoke quieter, poetic moments in the landscape.
Today, artists number among
the tens of thousands of visitors to the summit each
year. Their work relates to the long-established tradition
of painting, drawing and photographing from the mountain. Many
contemporary artists, responding to past imagery and market
forces, continue to perpetuate the image of Mt. Holyoke as
an idyllic meeting point between wilderness and civilization.