Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Who’s heard of Henry Beston (1888-1968)?

I knew nothing of this American writer and naturalist, but news from Budleigh Salterton’s sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod on the far side of ‘The Pond’ always catches my eye.

So I thought I’d like to know more about an illustrated presentation on Beston’s life and work being staged in Brewster. It was given by writer and film maker Don Wilding on 7 November at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. Of course I should have mentioned it before the event!

Preoccupied as we are with Remembrance and the Great War, but, Francophile that I am, I was also interested to learn that after leaving Harvard, Beston took up teaching at the University of Lyon in France.

In 1914 he returned to Harvard as an English department assistant, but then came back to Europe, joining  the French army in 1915 and serving  as an ambulance driver. His service at Bois-le-Prêtre and at the Battle of Verdun was described in his first book, A Volunteer Poilu

There’s a lot more about him on the excellent Wikipedia site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Beston

The presentation in Brewster on 7 November told how Beston, spiritually shaken by his experiences in World War I, retreated to the Outer Beach at Eastham, on Cape Cod, in search of peace and solitude.  He wrote the book The Outermost House after spending what he called "a year of life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.”  

The book, first published in 1928, is now considered a Cape Cod nature literary classic and has gone through dozens of printings since then.  

You can read more about the author at http://www.henrybeston.org/

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