John Burroughs’ Bookshelf

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Since I became a trustee of Woodchuck Lodge, John Burroughs’ last home and site of his final resting place in Roxbury, NY, I’ve become fascinated with his bookshelves. He left behind a vast collection of Atlantic Monthly magazines and (pictured above) a sturdy collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Atlantic Monthly is still published to this day and is a progressive periodical devoted to covering “news and analysis on politics, business, culture, technology, national, international and life”, but what was it like back then? Last month, at one of Woodchuck Lodge’s Wild Saturday events, I had just about enough time to flick through most of an Atlantic Monthly magazine from April 1923 and took photographs of what I considered the most interesting bits (below). I cannot help but wonder what John Burroughs himself thought when he read about Mrs A trying desperately to avoid “social suicide”. There were pages and pages devoted to advertising women’s colleges and another advertorial devoted to encouraging women to read, offering “the essentials of a liberal education that you could learn with only 15 minutes a day” to make you more interesting to other women and, thusly, able to enjoy a full social calendar. If only I had a time machine and could go back in time and watch Burroughs flicking through this issue and be able to ask him what he was thinking.

I can imagine that it interested Burroughs’ great love, Clara Barrus, who was an accomplished physician and psychotherapist with offices in two other locations in New York State. A woman ahead of her time, she was a physician at a time when doctors didn’t take women too seriously. Barrus and Burroughs lived together in Woodchuck Lodge from 1917 until his death in 1921, and Barrus lived on in that lodge until her death in 1932. Parts of Edith Wharton’s autobiography, A Backward Glance, were serialized in the Atlantic Monthly and she was very diplomatic, declaring that she had never made any enemies and that people were always nice to her. You wouldn’t necessarily get that impression by reading her novels.

Catch a glimpse of this impressive collection this Saturday at Woodchuck Lodge’s second Wild Saturday of the season: a talk on the Catskills honey bee.

1 thought on “John Burroughs’ Bookshelf

  1. Bill Birns

    Wow. Great piece. Elizabeth Drew? In 1923? Our New York Times columnist’s grandmother?? I do not know, but….a generational “class” system of authors and writers? I thought that was more of an English problem. Thanks for exploring.


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