Autograph manuscript, 3 pages (16 3/8 x 10 1/4 in.; 415 x 260 mm), [Edinburgh?, c. 1830], comprising the autobiographical episode sub-titled "The Ohio" from The Ornithological Biography (Philadelphia: Dobson, 1831, pp. 29-32), numerous autograph emendations. Red half-morocco and cream cloth drop-box, gilt-stamped black leather title label on spine.
"The grand simple beauty of those ... shores." In this extraordinary passage, Audubon recalls vividly his voyage down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania to Kentucky with his wife and infant son in 1810 and laments the passing of the unspoiled beauty they had seen. Their passage began in October and they floated down a river bordered with brilliant autumn foliage. On nearing Kentucky, they were alarmed by "some loud & strange noise ... so resembling the Yells of Indian Warriors, that we pulled over our oars and made for the opposite Side as fast and quietly as possible ... however ere long our minds became more calmed & we plainly discovered that the singular uproar was nothing more than the produce of the meeting of an enthusiastic set of Methodists who had wandered this far and out of the common way for the purpose of holding one of their annual camp meetings under the shades of the finest of Beech trees."
He closes this episode by reflecting on the valley's history in the two decades since that voyage and admits: "when these extraordinary changes have all taken place in so short a lapse as 18 Years — I pause — wonder, and although I know all this to be fact; I can scarcely credit the reality." He pleads for "our Irvings and our Coopers" to record frontier life while it can still be seen: "Yes — I hope to read ere I close my earthly career, accounts from these delightful writers of the progress of civilization in our western Country — they will write of the Clarks, the Croghans, the Boons and many other Men of great and daring enterprise — and they will analise as it were each component part of the country as it once existed and thereby immortalise it as it deserves to be for ever!"
Written in collaboration with William MacGillivray, whom he met in Edinburgh in August 1830, this is one of several autobiographical episodes inserted into the descriptive text accompanying the Birds of America, designed "to render more pleasant the task which you have imposed upon yourself, of following an author through the mazes of descriptive ornithology ..." (page 29). This draft, entirely the work of Audubon, has many variants from the final published version, as well as his personal spelling style and marks of punctuation. The uncensored Audubon who speaks here is an adopted son of the western frontier. His own plates of birds, animals, trees and flowers helped immortalize that frontier better than anything written by Irving or Cooper.
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