Today I heard from a professor who is using The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in an American history course. I am grateful for the way this book continues to resonate with people.
Here is a taste of the (edited) message:
We’re reading the second half of your TWOILH for class tonight, John. I was struck again, reading your masterful “Call of God” chapter, with a sharp sense of pathos, especially on the heels of the Virginia chapter. It is really such an archetypal story–the young American torn between cosmopolitan aspiration and more rooted satisfactions. I’ve been afflicted of late with this condition once more, perhaps sparked right now because I know I’m in the last stage of midlife possibility. When I got to that chapter of Fithian’s itinerant work, it really became acutely personal, since he’s touring around that region at the very time my own ancestors were themselves settling into it. We drove home from VA Beach this summer through Staunton and up over the Alleghenies. And we had driven down there through my grandfather own ancestral home of Berkeley County (“Warm Springs”!). 150 years after Fithian passed through my great-grandfather was murdered there, when my grandfather was only three months old, Sept of 1926. My great- and great-great grandfathers are buried a few feet apart in a little Methodist cemetery just south of Berkeley Springs. So it’s been a good read, though I admit it’s left me pretty raw. Again. It’s quite a story, John. Thank you.
This professor also reminded me that Monday was Philip and Betsy Fithian’s 246th wedding anniversary! Presbyterians in love!