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October 11, 2017


Essays of E.B. White

by NancyElin

  • Author:  E.B. White (1899-1985)
  • Title: Essays of E.B. White
  • Published: 1977
  • Table of contents: 7 chapters, 364 pages  – 31 essays
  • Trivia: Elwyn Brooks  White  American writer, a contributor to The New Yorker.
  • List Reading Challenges 2017
  • #DealMeIn2017


The Eye of Edna – (September 1954)

White  is poking fun at the radio broadcasting pre-storm. The radio messages come out of the SW and as soon as the storm leaves the area and tears into NE (Maine…) there are no more warnings or news!

The cook, Mrs. Freely who takes her hurricanes where she finds them….”Heard from Edna?

I visit the barn, my peaceable kingdom.  Pond seemed bereft without the geese…they are in the barn.The rain eased  (Edna’s Eye) and we let the dachshund out. Unlike the geese she had no use for rough weather. She had obey the radio faithfully all day: stay put under the stove.

I took a stroll, the hurricane yet to come. My stroll turned out to be a strange one. I found the bridge under water! I entered the woods and took the path to the spring. I came back into the house, kicked off my boots and sank once again into radio-land. The trees bent low as to pray for salvation.

For a half an hour or so Edna held us in her full embrace.

  • Getting ready for a hurricane….was a great read while the news is
  • filled with CAT 5 hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria 2017!

Coon Tree – (June 1956)

Neighbor: – Raccoon is having her kittens in a tree  penthouse 35 feet from the ground… the same height of White’s bedroom window. White describes the coon’s nighttime comings and goings.  In the tree the coon looks dainty and charming….the circles uner her eyes make her look slightly dissapated and deserving of sympathy. Once she hits the ground she is a predator and close to evil in nature, which contains no evil, can be.

She washes her face as a cat does. If the kittens are young and quiet…she finishes her bath and descends the tree. Like a mother with no babysitter and a firm date at the theater…she takes her leave regretfully, hesitantly.

Because she is a lover of sweet corn her economic status is precarious. She will take my corn in season and for every ear she eats she will ruin 5. I keep planting corn, some for her and what’s left for me and mine surroundin the patch with all sorts of coon baffles.

I like the taste of corn….but like the nearness  coon better.

Kitchen: I elected to let my old kitchen in this house live. It is a rich intoxicating blend of the past, present and future. The room teems with life. It is a cookery, bakery, horticulture, canning, planning. It is an arsenal, greenhouse, doghouse, a surgical dressing station, bath house, lounge, library and bar.

On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen the place you can find it.


A Report in January: (1958)

New England: What have you been doing lately?

Just  living in New England in winter is a full time job!  You don’t have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side…in favor of living itself.

I’m trying to keep a fox from my door! Yesterday he carried one of my  hens who was testing her snow shoes.  One of the most time consuming past times is having an enemy, the fox is mine.

Winter: The days are short as any dream. I like to come in from chores and find the early dark in the rooms when the only gleam is a single lamp over an amaryllis bulb on which my wife is practicing some sort of deception.

I like  groping my way into the barn cellar at 6 am where my two white face heffers are feeding at the rack. Their great white heads visible, their dark bodies invisible. Just 2 heads suspended in air as neatly as John the Baptist’s.


  • Part one:   ‘The Farm’ was the best part of the book.
  • These 11 stories are filled with…
  • nostalgia, humor about barnyard animals
  • ….and the ups and downs of a hobby farmer in Downeast Maine.
  • E. B. White said the years on his farm in Maine were the happiest.
  • Part 2: I literally fell asleep listening to  ‘The Planet’
  • Part 3:  ‘The City ( NYC) at least kept me awake, barely.
  • I didn’t feel that these were White’s best essays.
  • Children’s books: He later wrote 3 classic children’s books ….about animals:
  • Stuart Little (boy mouse), Charlotte the spider and piglet Wilbur
  • …and Louis the swan.
  • Stuart Little is one of my favorite of all children’s books.


  • Part 5: The section on ‘Memories’ was delightful.
  • ‘Memories’ are filled with enchanting and funny essays:
  • — White’s trip to Alaska 1923 on the steamer Buford
  • — nostalgic stories about his beloved sail boat  in Maine
  • — his longing for better train travel in Maine.
  • The passengers disappeared, the tower on Bangor Union Station
  • …was demolished in 1961 and
  • ….E.B. White could feel the wrecking ball in the pit of his stomach.
  • Great writing…. !
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