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The Mentor: American Naturalists

Ernest Ingersoll

Book Overview: 

There are those who look at Nature from the standpoint of conventional and artificial life—from parlor windows and through gilt-edged poems—the sentimentalists. At the other extreme are those who do not look at Nature at all, but are a grown part of her, and look away from her toward the other class—the backwoodsmen and pioneers, and all rude and simple persons. Then there are those in whom the two are united or merged—the great poets and artists. In them the sentimentalist is corrected and cured, and the hairy and taciturn frontiersman has had experience to some purpose. The true poet knows more about Nature than the naturalist because he carries her open secret in his heart. Eckerman could instruct Goethe in ornithology, but could not Goethe instruct Eckerman in the meaning and mystery of the bird?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .When he met the charming Lucy Bakewell, whose father owned an adjoining estate, he immediately loved and courted her. It was she who became the guiding spirit of his life, who inspired him and, with material assistance, aided him to achieve his ambitions. Though engaged in business, the youth's heart was in the woods and fields. His method of posing lifeless subjects was unique, and his drawings were expertly done and very natural.

In 1808, Audubon married Lucy Bakewell and took her to live in the frontier settlement of Louisville, Kentucky. There a son was born. With a wife and child to support, Audubon continued his career as a merchant, and for several years owned and operated a store and mill at Henderson, Kentucky. In 1819 he failed in business, saving only a few personal possessions, including his drawings and his gun. As taxidermist, teacher and artist he earned a scant living during several disheartening years. His wife took a position as gover. . . Read More