History/ES 247 Reading Guide

The Second Traveler’s Tale:  Landscapes and Settlements in the District of Maine

  • Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and New York (1821-22; republished 1969):  Preface, Vol. I, 1-11.  (e-reserve)
  • Timothy Dwight, Travels in New England and New York (1821-22; republished 1969):  selections from “Journey to Berwick (1796),” Vol. I, 102, 301-310; selections from “Journey to the White Mountains (1797, [1807]),” Vol. II, 30, 107-169.  (e-reserve)

Christopher Levett was an explorer, serving as a discovery agent (as well as a patentee) for the Council of New England.  Timothy Dwight was a traveler making excursions for his own benefit.  How would the differences—a) in their purposes, b) in the eras in which they were traveling and writing, and c) the changes in the land during the 175 years separating their journeys—shape their perspectives and their accounts?

In his Preface, Dwight offered a description of the perspective by which he viewed the land:  “In a number of instances I have delineated the scenery, which presented itself to me in my excursions.  This kind of information has, I acknowledge, been carried to excess by several modern travelers.  But that excess infers no impropriety in the nature of the case.  The scenery, which these countries display, is very fine; and it has never been described.  At the same time, not a small number of readers are delighted with landscapes; and their taste is as reasonably consulted, to some extent, by a writer, as that of graver minds.  When I hear so many individuals converse on the scenes of nature with so much pleasure; I cannot hesitate to believe, that, whenever justice is done to such scenes in a book, it will be read by them with some degree of same pleasure,” (3).

  • What concepts framed or focused Dwight’s view of the environment?  As he journeyed from place to place, what did he choose to describe, and what measures did he use for valuing or evaluating the land and the communities that he saw and visited?
  • What did he praise about the land and its inhabitants, what did he criticize?  What stories and accounts did he tell and record?  How did his measures compare and contrast with those of Levett?
  • What changes in the settlement and development of Maine did he note between his first visit in 1797 and his later visits?  Did his standards and measures change over time?
  • Was he really just a traveler on a series of annual excursions?

Link to the Instructions for the short essays on The Travelers’ Tales.

Map of Timothy Dwight’s travels in Maine, 1795, 1797, 1807.


Sullivan Square, Berwick, Maine.  (c. 1907)

  • Arrived here Wednesday and having a fine time  will write later  M.E.B.

Camden, Maine. Glimpses of Megunticook Lake along the Turnpike.  (c. 1913)

  • Dear Evie:-  Got here OK. am tired tho'. Have found a nice room  will write more about it later. So send mail if any to 252 W. 22nd Street [N.Y., N.Y.]  Are you lonesome any. Love to everybody.  May

Erected 1794  Thomaston, Me. Old Gen. Knox Church.  (c. 1908)

  • Thank you for your nice letter. Bertha arrived home week ago last Saturday–was away four months. Dorothy has grown tall. Both well. Burt had been very sick with pneumonia, or threatened with it. Did not lie down for weeks. He is very week yet, but rides out occasionally. We are well as usual. Eliams school is large and tiresome. E.C.T.
    Mama thought I mailed this long ago. Pardon me. Yours lovingly,  Eleanor