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Samuel Pickering


Early Spring

Catalogues shape the seasons of my mind. In January when Spring Hill's "Planting Guide" and White Flower Farm's "Garden Book" poked budding through the mail, I pulled the rumpled snow off the yard and folding it stored winter away on a back shelf o [...]


Waiting for me each August when Vicki and the children and I return to Storrs from Nova Scotia is a bag of mail. Because I had been identified as the inspiration for the John Keating character in the movie Dead Poets Society, the mail was more colo [...]


Few members of my family have been involved in things political. Whether concern over character or distrust of partisanship has kept us far from ballot and position, I am uncertain. Whatever the truth, however, the only Pickering to hold public off [...]

Ink Blots

For eight weeks my little boy Francis has been a green police car. He won't answer to his name, and to lure him to dinner, my wife Vicki and I stand in the kitchen and shriek like sirens. When Francis began nursery school last month, we thought the [...]

Son and Father

The more I see of old people," my father said in the last letter he wrote me, "the greater my feeling is that the bulk of them should be destroyed." "Not you," I thought when I read the letter, "at least not yet." For years I imagined that I was di [...]

Man of Letters

Occasionally I write familiar essays. When I send them to editors, I usually explain that I am trying to write my way to a new car, adding that I have done well recently and have earned the front half of a station wagon, the automatic transmission, [...]

Just Started

On a hot August morning, the kind when the heat lies hazy and blue, a countryman sat on his front porch and gazed across his yard toward the road. A neighbor came walking along the road, and, so the story goes, seeing his friend, stopped and said, [...]

A Man Who Lived Upon Learning

Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary. By K. M. Elisabeth Murray. Yale. $15.00. In Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693), John Locke taught the 18th century that the child was the father of the man. Nine men [...]

Continuing Education, Or Beyond the Ph.D.

I am the best unemployed teacher in the country. When I taught a course, Dartmouth rented the Knights of Columbus meeting hall. Students followed me like canine gentlemen followed Fifi in the spring—that is before the milk truck ran over her. I'm [...]

Epics of Empire

Dreams of Adventure, Deeds of Empire. By Martin Green. Basic Books. $15.00 My father's hometown, Carthage, Tennessee, sits on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River. A steel bridge spans the river, and ten minutes after turning off the interstat [...]

The Books I Left Behind

Academics behave like hamsters. Instead, though, of stuffing their jowls with lettuce and raisins, and when the wind is in the east, their offspring, they lard houses with books—in the attic, in the basement, on top of the stereo in the living r [...]

A Thousand and One Classrooms

Mickey rode out of Groton like the Marlboro Man, in boots, a ten-gallon hat, and carrying a bull shooter. He disappeared after the first class, and I didn't see him again until I decided to treat myself to a bottle of wine. While bending over looki [...]