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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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November 2018

Just a little over an hour from the northern suburbs of NYC, in the northwest hills of Connecticut lies one of the best kept secrets in trail running around! If you are ready for a new challenge of...

Cost: $50-$60

Where:
Steep Rock Preserve
2 Tunnel Rd.
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Steep Endurance LLC
Contact Name: Brian Vanderheiden
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Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
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Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
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Kiki Michalek will introduce a new series of paintings, celebrating the art of the carousel. “Carousel Dreams” is a collection of original work showing animals with different themes....

Cost: Free

Where:
Whiting Mills
100 Whiting St.
Studio 308, Air Borne Creations
Winsted, CT  06098
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Sponsor: Kiki Michalek
Telephone: 203-913-3883
Contact Name: Kiki Michalek
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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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Join Art Rodia, an instructor with over 30 years of yoga teaching experience, as he guides this gentle yoga class. Created for people over fifty and beginners who need a gentle and accessible...

Cost: 10 per class

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
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Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

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 »

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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

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 »

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KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
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EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
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Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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Holiday Craft Day on Friday, November 23rd from 2 to 4 PM, followed by a 4:30 PM family movie (Disney’s COCO) for all ages. Local artist Katie Ré Scheidt will lead the Holiday Craft...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
One Green Hill
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
Contact Name: Laura Neminski
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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

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

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

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We will celebrate the Full Moon and use its powerful energy for personal growth and spiritual development, focusing on developing intuition and the “heart’s knowing.”  Music, ritual,...

Cost: 15.00

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
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Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

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

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

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The New York Times bestselling author, Simon Winchester, traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to...

Cost: 25.00

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
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Sponsor: Sandsifeld Arts Center
Telephone: 413-281-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith

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Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm upstairs in the handicapped accessible Community Room. Snacks...

Cost: Free - donations graciously accepted

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
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