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King of Cornwall



›James Thurber may forever be associated with two places: the Columbus, Ohio, of his youth, which provided the setting for some of his most famous tales; and the Manhattan of the 1920s and ’30s, where he made his name as a writer and cartoonist with The New Yorker. What’s less well known is that Thurber actually spent a good half of his life in Connecticut, renting or owning a series of homes in Fairfield and Litchfield counties and doing much of his most memorable work here.

Thurber’s name is back on movie screens this December, with the release of a new version of his famous short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” This time Ben Stiller stars as Mitty, a mild-mannered everyman who fantasizes about a life of derring-do.

While the latest movie Mitty may take geographical liberties with Thurber’s original, much like its 1947 predecessor with Danny Kaye in the role, the writer himself set his story in Connecticut. In it, Mitty is accompanying his wife on a shopping trip to Waterbury, the mundane details of which are repeatedly interrupted by his imaginary adventures. He is, in rapid succession, a fearless pilot, a peerless surgeon, an expert marksman, and a fearless pilot again. That last fantasy ends when Captain Mitty, about to embark on a perilous bombing run, feels something strike his shoulder. It is his wife, demanding to know whether he remembered to buy dog biscuits.
“Connecticut was always one of his favorite places,” Charles S. Holmes wrote in his 1972 biography, The Clocks of Columbus. “He loved the physical beauty of the land and the picturesque charm of the villages, but most of all he loved the sense of being surrounded by history.”

Thurber arrived in the state in 1929, renting a home in Silvermine. Later moves would take him to Greens Farms, Sandy Hook, Colebrook, Litchfield, Woodbury, Sharon, and Cornwall.
In the preface to his 1944 collection, The Thurber Carnival, Thurber noted, “In the past ten years he has moved restlessly from one Connecticut town to another, hunting for the Great Good Place, which he conceives to be an old Colonial house, surrounded by elms and maples, equipped with all modern conveniences, and overlooking a valley.” The success of that book apparently allowed him and his wife to buy just such a place, in West Cornwall, which became their home until his death in 1961.

Biographer Burton Bernstein refers to the Thurber of those years as the “King of Cornwall,” and like a king, he could sometimes be a royal pain. Tim Prentice, a sculptor who grew up and still lives in West Cornwall, recalls that Thurber often came to dinner at his parents’ house. As a boy, he says, he would remove the heating grate from his bedroom floor and watch Thurber holding court in the family’s living room below. “He could be very entertaining or become sullen and mean-spirited,” Prentice recalls. “And he would never go home until four in the morning.”

Pilar Sureda, whose mother was also a Thurber friend, has a similar memory. “Thurber was a monologist,” she says. “He wasn’t really interested in a give-and-take conversation. He needed to have a listener next to him, someone who would fuel his ideas and keep their own under wraps.”

Aside from entertaining the neighbors, Thurber seems not to have been overly involved in civic life in Connecticut, perhaps because of his work or his failing eyesight, the result of a childhood accident. He did, however, strike up a correspondence with the popular Connecticut radio host Bob Steele. By then nearly blind, Thurber wrote in a huge, childlike scrawl, with only a handful of words to each page. Steele responded in large block letters, designed to make it easier for Thurber to read, according to Phil Steele, the radio host’s son and now an attorney in Hartford. The younger Steele included an example of the latter in Bob Steele’s Century a recently published multivolume collection of his father’s papers.

But difficult or dispirited as Thurber may have been at the time, the topic of their correspondence was classic Thurber, their mutual love of puns.

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September 2018

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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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Where:
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View map »


Website »

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Telephone: 186-086-87586
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
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Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
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Telephone: 186-056-78302
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View map »


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Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
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Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
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Cost: Free

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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
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View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
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View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
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View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Sponsor: New Morning Market
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Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

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Cost: free

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West & Woodruff Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

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View map »


Telephone: 186-056-78302
Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

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Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

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Cost: $20.00

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Center School, Litchfield
West & Woodruff Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
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View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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Cost: free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

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Cost: donations graciously accepted

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
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View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Since 2007, the Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Market has hosted over 15 vendors, farmers, bakers, chefs, artists and makers from throughout Northwest Connecticut. Visitors to the market will find...

Cost: free

Where:
Center School, Litchfield
West & Woodruff Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Farmers Market
Telephone: (860) 000-0000
Contact Name: Kay Carroll, Market Master
Website »

More information

Joan Morosani and Susan Spencer are excited and honored to be showing together for the third time at OWL. They draw from different approaches and traditions, but feel that their paintings perfectly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 860-567-8030
Contact Name: Victoria Kiszka
Website »

More information

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Cost: $100

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Rd
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery welcomes an exhibit of large-scale landscape and gardenscape paintings by South Kent CT artist, Lisa Brody. This show opens on Saturday, September 1st, and runs through Sunday,...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Scott Bond is pleased to announce three events to be celebrated with an opening reception on Friday August 24 from 6-8pm at “Byrde + the b” a full service hair salon, art gallery and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255 6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

he T.E.A.L.® Litchfield Walk is an annual event hosted by Hope Assembly #46, International Order of Rainbow for Girls! The T.E.A.L.® Walk Program was started by two sisters, that celebrates...

Where:
Litchfield Community Field
58 N Lake St
Litchfield, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Opening Reception: August 11, 4-6pm. This event is free and open to the public. MAQUETTE: The Art of the Model is an exhibition of maquettes or models by many of the sculptors currently...

Where:
Washington Art Association
Gallery 4 Bryan Memorial Plaza
Washington Depot, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Washington Photographer Philip Dutton’s dramatic photos document The Chief Bigfoot Memorial Ride of 1990, a momentous event that helped commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Massacre at...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library
5 Wykeham Road
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 186-086-87586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey
Website »

More information

The Farm-Fresh Market was created in 2007 with 15 local vendors, and has grown over the years to become a staple of the Litchfield Hills community throughout all seasons. We were so proud to be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Center School Parking Lot
Woodruff Lane
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Telephone: 860-567-3871
Website »

More information

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