Rowland E. Robinson
with an Introduction by
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University Press of New England
A Hardscrabble Classic
5.5 x 8.5, 256 pages
University Press of New England/Hardscrabble Books:
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From their initial publication in 1887 until fading from the popular consciousness in the 1930s, Rowland Robinson’s enormously popular stories were a staple of Vermont households and classrooms. His tales were treasured as honest and accurate portraits of the life, times and speech of pre-Civil War Vermont. In recent years Robinson has been an inspiration to writers such as Hayden Carruth, David Budbill, Howard Frank Mosher and Annie Proulx.
This Hardscrabble edition of DANVIS TALES presents the best of Robinson’s original six volumes and reestablishes Rowland Robinson (1833 -1900) as a serious and thoughtful, funny and loving chronicler of people’s lives and the natural world.
DANVIS TALES creates an engaging story of intertwined lives. There’s Sam Lovel who would rather be in the woods hunting fox than tending to the farm, and whose wild wanderings are only slightly domesticated by Hudlah Purrington the woman he woos and marries. There is Uncle Lisha Peggs, the sometime cobbler, whose shop is the stage for serious story telling. There is Pelatiah Gove, who, jilted in love, turns to rum, but is saved from a life of alcoholism through the tough and loving care of Uncle Lisha. And there is the outrageous and wonderful French-Canadian butcher of the English language, Antoine Bassette, the biggest and best liar in a pack of liars.
The people of Danvis are inextricably bound to the natural world. In their often thoughtless and sometimes wanton misuse of nature they give us a paradigm for ourselves. Robinson, one of America’s first conservationists, saw clearly the coming ecological crisis and warned that “He who loses all love for our common mother is, indeed, a wretched being, poorer than the beasts.”
With graceful and melodic prose, and an ability to write about the natural world with unsurpassed precision and detail, Rowland Robinson fashions an elegiac tribute to a complex and real people and a beautiful and threatened landscape.
Robinson, a well-loved voice of 19th-Century Vermont, is rescued here from obscurity by poet/playwright Budbill in this intriguing collection. . . .
David Budbill’s thoughtfully and meticulously edited collection of Robinson’s work . . . conveys the rhapsodic poetry of his nature writing, his uncanny ear for the way people truly spoke along the spine of the Green Mountains, and the unfailing love Robinson felt for the rapidly disappearing Vermont wilderness.
Vermont Life Magazine
[Robinson’s] contribution . . . is crucial to us, because it tells us what we as Americans and New Englanders are: our character, our heritage, our predicament.
from the Introduction by Hayden Carruth
This fascinating volume is long overdue. David Budbill’s careful editing and insightful introduction brings the core of Robinson’s best writing back to us in an intelligent, manageable edition. Hayden Carruth’s brilliant essay places Robinson in his 19th century context and points out his literary significance, as well as his links to Artemus Ward, Mark Twain, and –stunning insight–Thomas Hardy!
Thomas Slayton, Editor, Vermont Life
I find [Robinson] more exciting than Thoreau, and in reproduction of dialect more adroit than Thomas hardy . . . . If a great many of us hadn’t been literary snobs for the past 50 years, we would have canonized this simple man many moons ago.
John Farrar, late of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, writing in 1934
Documents, with keenness, subtlety, and compassion, the lifestyles and people who lived and worked in Vermont. His evocative descriptions of nature are balanced by a rollicking, heavily apostrophized dialect that captures the quirky nature of New England speech and the characters who mouth it.
There is a unique joy in championing the rediscovery of a forgotten writer. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I welcome you to Danvis and to the lives of the people in this particular place on the western slopes of the Green Mountains and down into the broad valley that stretches to he shores of Lake Champlain, this particular place fully real yet also fully within the imagination of Rowland E. Robinson.
from the Editor’s Preface by David Budbill