Recently, while digitizing some recordings from the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection, we discovered an undocumented recording of a man reading from Rowland E. Robinson’s book Uncle Lisha’s Shop: Life in a Corner of Yankeeland. We recognized it as a Robinson story because of the characters mentioned, so we searched the online version of one of his most popular books for the word “voter”, which seemed unlikely to be a common word in the story, and we found that the text being read starts on pg. 13, seven lines from the bottom of the page. We recommend that you read along in the book while listening to the recording. Click here for the online text and listen to the recording by clicking the icon below.
The reader takes on the accent of two of Robinson’s classic characters, a “Yankee” and a “Cunuck”, aka French Canadian. Robinson wrote most of his fiction in the 1890s and it was very popular, particularly in Vermont, right up through the 1930s and 40s when Flanders was collecting her ballad recordings. Unfortunately we don’t know who the reader is or when the recording was made. The ballad recording that precedes it on the tape was originally on a disc, which means it was recorded between 1939 and 1950, but the story on the tape seems to be covered over by the ballad recording, and how that happened is a bit of a mystery yet to be solved, and we can’t be certain the singer of the ballad is the same person reading the story. We may eventually discover a more complete version of the reading.
For more about the Flanders Collection and to hear some of the recordings visit this site.
The home of Rowland E. Robinson is a museum open to the public in nearby Ferrisburgh. www.Rokeby.org