Some years ago I saw a manuscript in the British Library that is thought to have been written by Shakespeare himself in his own hand. I was amazed and moved. His art is unfathomable, yet here it was in ordinary ink on ordinary paper. The experience was akin to viewing the relic of a saint.
I thought of that when I read an essay by America magazine’s Kerry Weber about literary pilgrimages. She visits the homes of four Catholic authors, including two of my favorites, Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene, and asks what happens when people visit these places. Here’s one anecdote told by the curator of the Flannery O’Connor home in Milledgeville, Georga.
“At least once a year,” said Mr. Amason, “we watch people weep while standing at the corner of Flannery O’Connor’s bedroom.” A particularly burly man once stood over the guestbook with tears streaming down his face. “He said, ‘I’m crying like a baby; this is embarrassing, but it’s so meaningful,’” Mr. Amason recalled. “I told him it happens all the time.”