The Secret Life of John C Van Dyke: Selected Letters
The author of The Desert, the book that made that landscape accessible to the mainstream mind, claimed to have wandered "alone on horseback for thousands of miles through the American Southwest and northern Mexico," as his readers--now in the millions since the book was published in 1901--were told. He did not. The desert saint is unmasked by his own recently discovered letters, revealing a privileged, pampered member of the upper-class; his incriminating correspondence shows that he saw most of the desert from plush railroad cars and grand hotel rooms. The editors clear up many misconceptions scholars currently hold about Van Dyke's ecological principles, his outdoorsmanship, and his trip through the desert itself. Unveiled here is a much more varied character than we had supposed--still worthy of admiration for his remarkable accomplishments, and still mysterious, but not the man we thought him to be.