PERSONAL GEOGRAPHY by Elizabeth Coatsworth


Email this review


Selections from the journals of a life steeped in places inhabited or visited comprise the personal geography--or itinerant autobiography--of poet, novelist, and children's book author Elizabeth Coatsworth. The Buffalo of her childhood she situates in the Middle East--""an emotion rather than a nomenclature"" common to central and western New York, upstate Pennsylvania, western Massachusetts, an in-between region ""a little blinded by the more layered histories of the coast and by the covered wagon-frontier epic to the west."" From there the family made sorties to Germany, to Egypt, to ""the old pre-revolutionary Mexico,"" to the Pacific Northwest, paced by a father who ""really had a gift for choosing places to go to."" After his death--and apart from her years at college--she and her mother and sister were constant, receptive travelers. In Scotland they heard the Lord's Prayer intoned in Gaelic; in Britanny they sought out Madame de Sevigne's country manor, and found hens roosting and floors crumbling ""where she had once lived so exquisitely""; in Holland, houses, boats, trees, all appeared, like tulips; in rows. There is a year of ""miraculous adventure"" in the Far East and then, at 36, marriage to writer Henry Beston, another adventure which both embarked upon ""gaily and warmly."" We learn about Chimney Farm (familiar from Maine Memories, 1968), their writing habits, and of particular interest to Coatsworth readers, the basis of her quest for clarity. But others whose worlds have contracted will find her rewarding company too.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1976
Publisher: Stephen Greene