All About Richland, History & Tourism

Bromfield Takes Center Stage In New Biography

23 Aug , 2020  

By 1812Blockhouse

Publisher’s Note: As you have likely noticed, today’s 1812Blockhouse has a “food” theme, which reminded us of a story we posted this past April about a new biography of Louis Bromfield. As the book seemed a perfect companion for summer dining experiences, we are re-posting it here today.


He is well-known locally, to be sure. Nationally, and internationally, however, he is less of a household name.

That may change somewhat in the coming months.

Mansfield and Pleasant Valley’s Louis Bromfield is rushing back into the spotlight with the April 14 publication of what has been called the first major biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and conservationist. The 325 page work entitled “The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution” is a true page turner, according to reviews shared by Publishers Weekly, the Wall Street Journal, and on the website of its publisher, W.W. Norton & Company.

Author Stephen Heyman: Submitted photo

Several of those reviews and more about the book can be read here.

According to his website, author Stephen Heyman has written for the New York Times, Slate, Esquire, Vogue, W, the Wall Street Journal, and Travel & Leisure.

Heyman was in town last year to conduct research into his subject, and will be returning in June to speak at Main Street Books in downtown Mansfield.

1812Blockhouse reached the author on Monday afternoon and asked him about his time spent here looking into Bromfield.

“It has been a particular pleasure for me to discover the area in researching this book, and I’ve found your neighbors to be so welcoming and patient with my snooping,” Heyman shared.

“I enjoyed touring Oak Hill (where Bromfield set his first novel, The Green Bay Tree), searching the Mansfield Cemetery for Phoebe Wise’s gravesite, sifting through the Bromfield materials in the Sherman Reading Room at the Mansfield Public Library, and of course exploring the fields and Big House at Malabar.”

While here, Heyman’s wife snapped this photo of him (right) standing near a familiar sign.

Richland Countians might not realize the stature that Bromfield held in the early decades of the 20th century. After his Putlizer Prize, for instance, Bromfield was held in higher regard that either Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, Heyman’s book shares. The book’s focus is on the man as a farmer. “He made his greatest impact not on the page but in the soil,” he writes.

In another recently-published piece entitled “This Time the Victory Garden Must Outlast the War,” the author talks about how the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to thoughts of home gardening not only for him, but for others. Bromfield had a relationship promoting “Victory Gardens” planted across the country during World Wars I and II. While those gardens disappeared, Heyman expresses hope that today’s versions may enjoy a longer life.

You can access that essay here.

“The Planter of Modern Life” is available at your local bookstores and online. Something tells us here at 1812Blockhouse that Louis Bromfield might suggest that you purchase one from Main Street Books, the county’s locally-owned, independent bookstore. Here’s a great place to do just that.

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