"The natural highways of all nations": Celebrating National Rivers Month

Illustrations of the Missisippi River

Each June, the nonprofit waterway protection and restoration group American Rivers sponsors National Rivers Month to spotlight the more than 250,000 rivers and streams throughout the U.S. Approaching the celebration from a literary angle, today's post shares 18th and 19th century descriptions of river journeys. Read on to see America’s rivers through the eyes of John Bartram, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain.

Fairy Tale Friday: The Water-Babies

Frontispiece. Water babies playing in the ocean with sea creatures

Although largely forgotten today,The Water-Babies once was one of the most popular Victorian literary fairy tales. Charles Kingsley's imaginative tour de force leaps from realistic adventure, to fantastical exploration of aquatic biology, to an imaginary voyage in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels.

June Recipe of the Month: Lemon Cake

The words “Choice Recipes” with an ornate red capital R

This month’s recipe is a lemon cake from Culinary gems : a collection of choice recipes gathered with care from the treasures of culinary experts, published in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1884. Lemon was an extremely common flavor for desserts and pastries in the 19th century -- almost the default neutral flavor, the way vanilla is now. Although vanilla was known in Europe as a flavoring by the 16th century (there’s an article on it in Diderot’s Encyclopédie of 1765) and a commercial extract...

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