Sunday, February 7, 2010

Burgess's own boy

Thornton Burgess's son, Thornton Burgess III, was born in 1906; his mother, with whom his father had been married for less than a year, died in childbirth, or as Burgess would later write "gave her life for his." Burgess was devasted. He himself had not known his father, who had died when he was still an infant.

The ideal father figure is a topic of several of Burgess's early works.

Here's a short essay from New England Homestead (Nov 13, 1897)

In short, fathers should be "comrades" to their sons, not just authority figures. This theme is put into verse in Good Housekeeping (1900).

Finally, in a 1901 poem in New England Homestead, Burgess fleshes out his theory of child-rearing:

"Better lead a boy than drive him," a philosophy which we've already seen articulated in his Boy Scout/adventure work.

Burgess loved his son, featuring him, in fact, in a 1908 Good Housekeeping photo essay on the benefits of fresh air for young children.

Later in life, Burgess, however would express regret that he had failed to be the father-comrade he had so idealized. And Thornton W. Burgess III, as detailed in Frances Meig's book, My Grandfather, Thornton W. Burgess, would eventually become estranged from his father.

Tomorrow: Burgess's bedtime stories: the origin myth

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