Local author publishes new collection of Danske Dandridge articles
SHEPHERDSTOWN — In 2004, Justin McHenry graduated from Shepherd University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He then followed that degree with one in Appalachian history from West Virginia University.
However, it wasn’t until four years ago that McHenry’s interest in Shepherdstown poet and historian Danske Dandridge developed.
“I kind of ran across her obituary — she died in 1914 — and I thought she was fascinating. She was probably one of the most known poets from West Virginia in her day,” McHenry said in a phone interview on Aug. 8. “She had so many different writing interests, from her poetry, to later in her life she was writing histories on her family, histories on the American Revolution and histories on local history, as well. She was almost like a Renaissance Woman, for all of her different aspects.”
One of her most overlooked writing interests today, McHenry noted, was her garden and nature articles for some of the leading gardening periodicals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“Her gardening interest isn’t very talked about. She maintained a large and varied garden at her estate, Rose Break, where she wrote about all the plants and flowers. She was a great writer who had a keen eye for details and senses,” McHenry, who currently lives in Charles Town, said. “Since her gardening writing was only featured in gardening magazines or journals of her day, they had never been collected before. So I thought it would be interesting to collect them and put them out.”
That collection, “The Garden at Rose Brake,” was recently published by Westphalia Press and is available for purchase on their website, as well as on Amazon.
According to McHenry, Dandridge’s gardening articles fit into two specific categories –technical information about plants and personal reflections on her garden at Rose Break. McHenry chose to select articles from the latter category for inclusion in his book.
“What I wanted to do was focus on articles that described her home garden there at Rose Break, to give you a feel for her and her house there. It would also give you a feel of what Shepherdstown was like at that time,” McHenry said. “It’s about half of her total gardening. She wrote 90 articles over about 20 years.
“It’s like a more narrative form of her poetry. It’s a lot more descriptive from her point of view, of the nature around her, and I appreciated those parts her, talking about just walking through her garden and seeing a certain type of flower and describing that flower. I think it’s a lot more personal-you get a lot more of her point of view in this,” McHenry said. “It’s in the same vein as her poetry, but it’s more first person, her just describing her gardens and what’s in her gardens.”