With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, film and stage actor
Marvin Einhorn performs as Henry Beston in a special ceremony to observe the 40th
anniversary of the Outermost House being dedicated as a National Literary Landmark. The
event was held at the
National Seashore's Province Lands Visitors Center in
Oct. 11, 2004. Nearly 200 brave souls endured a cold, gusty north wind to watch Einhorn's
one-man act, written by Cynthia L. Cooper, along with audio clips from the first
ceremony in 1964 and a display of Beston / Outermost House artifacts. (Photo by Jon March)
Beston's 'Coronation' remembered 40 years later
On Oct. 11, 2004, the date could have
very well been Oct. 11, 1964.
It was a windy fall day at the Cape
Cod National Seashore. A tribute was being paid to author Henry Beston for his efforts
writing the Cape Cod
literary classic The Outermost House. On the stage, a man who had experienced eight
decades of life was on stage, gazing wide-eyed at the vast October sky.
This was the scene at the Province Lands Visitors Center in Provincetown on Oct. 11, 2004. The Henry Beston Society was staging
a re-enactment, of sorts, 40 years to the day (and the hour) from when the U.S. Department
of the Interior dedicated Henry Bestons Focastle, the 20x16 house
that was the base for his experiences in his 1928 book, as a National Literary Landmark.
The original ceremony, referred to the Bestons as "the coronation," was held at
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, a stretch of seaside sand that the elements have reduced
greatly over the last 40 years.
Highlighting the program was a
one-man act by film and stage actor Marvin Einhorn (A Beautiful Mind, A League of Their
Own) of a script by playwright Cynthia L. Cooper of
New York. The
performance was centered on Beston during the 1964 ceremony, with the author reflecting on
the events of the previous 40 years. Nearly 200 people attended the Provincetown event, according to Cape
Cod National Seashore officials.
With the image of Henry Beston looking over his shoulder, Marvin Einhorn brings the
author of The Outermost House back to life on
Oct. 11, 2004
(Photo by Kerrie March)
The Secretary of the Interior holds my book up in the air, as if
it were a bird, a Northern Wheatear perhaps, ready to make flight, kindly letting it soak
in the morning sun, the marsh and the moor, the unending sands and the matchless
surf, Einhorn reads.
Einhorn, 83, who also worked as a television director at NBC (The Today Show, NBC Nightly
News, Mr. Wizard) for 30 years, bears a strong resemblance to the late author of The
Outermost House, who died in 1968. Einhorn
first became interested in Beston and The Outermost House back in the 1950s, he
read A Journal for Henry Beston by Winfield Townley Scott. This prompted Einhorn to
contact Beston and ask his permission to re-enact his story, which the author happily
granted. I think Mr. Beston misunderstood me at first when I called, Einhorn
recalled. He thought we were going to make a movie and that I wanted him to star in
It took Einhorn several decades
before he could finally act on his quest to play Beston. He eventually hooked up with
Cooper, who undertook a massive research project, crafting together a script and enabling Einhorn to fulfill his longtime dream of
playing Beston. Einhorn performed the script in 2003 at Easthams Chapel in the Pines
as a benefit for the Beston Society and WOMR-FM in Provincetown.
The reading begins with Beston at
the 1964 dedication ceremony. Slowly, Henry steps off the podium, reaches for sand
and lets it run through his fingers, like a timer; he smells the sand, and rubs it all
around his hands, Cooper writes in her script. Einhorn follows his sand activity by
exclaiming, The duneland burns with the smell of sand, ocean, and sun. Solitary and
elemental, unsullied and remote, visited and possessed by the outer sea, these sands might
be the end or the beginning of a world.
From the 1964 dedication ceremony, from left:
Elizabeth Coatsworth, Henry Beston, Toni Peabody. (UPI photo courtesy of The Patriot
Ledger, Quincy, Mass.)
The story soon drifts back to the 1920s, Beston recalls his
relationship to the woman who would become his wife, Elizabeth Coatsworth. He talks of his
gruesome experiences in World War I: On the loneliest of nights beneath the
blackened skies of France
with exploding torpedoes and landscapes littered with ripped bodies, I dreamt about my
prim New England
village. No thoughts, only longing, only pictures of my long walks down the beach
searching for a hermit crab.
Adding to the program was the appropriate timing of the
descent of airplanes at the nearby
Provincetown Airport, one of which flew by as Einhorn read of planes dropping bombs on the
He concluded with the line:
For the gifts of life are the earths and they are given to all, and they are
the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the
beach or from a little house on the outermost reaches of the outermost shore.
The program, which ran slightly
over an hour at the Province Lands amphitheatre with a stiff north wind blowing in off the
Atlantic Ocean, began
with an introduction by Suzanne Haley of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The program
opened with an audio clip of former Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody opening the
1964 event. Several audio clips, most provided by the Seashore, were played throughout the
program, all produced for the program by Beston Society board member Jon March, an
entertainment professional from Connecticut.
Henry Beston Society Executive Director Don Wilding addresses the masses.
(Photo by Kerrie March)
Don Wilding, author of the book Henry Bestons Cape Cod
and executive director of the Henry Beston Society, served as master of ceremonies.
Wilding talked about the history of the first event, leading into another audio segment of
the late governor talking about the influence of Bestons words.
After Wilding recited many quotes about The Outermost
House, a special taped message by Endicott Peabody Jr. made especially for the
occasion was played. The governors son recalled the events leading up to the
first occasion, and how his mother, Toni, also played a large part in the organization of
performance, which received a standing ovation, Wilding extended thanks to Carol Green,
Doug Green, the local media outlets, disc jockey Tom Tuttle of Orleans, the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Yarmouth,
Beston Society directors Kerrie March, Jon March, and Nita Wilding, and Annie and Marvin
Einhorn, who were provided transportation to and from New York and lodging for the weekend
by Carol Green.
The event closed with a recording
of Henry Beston himself from the 1964 ceremony reading from the final paragraphs of
The Outermost House.
After the ceremony, Wilding invited
guests to parouse the exhibit, ask questions, and discuss the Beston Society's plan to rebuild The Outermost House -- a notion
that was met with spontaneous applause.
Beston artifacts on display during the Henry Beston Society / Cape Cod National
Seashore event on Oct. 11, 2004.
(Photo by Don Wilding)
The Beston Society also provided a
display of artifacts, which included photographs of Beston and The Outermost House,
fragments of wood from the original house, a first edition of The Outermost House
and a U.S. Armed Forces Edition of The Outermost House, and a copy of an original
invitation to the 1964 ceremony from Governor Peabody. A miniature version of The
Focastle, of which several were made by Jack Wallace of Eastham in 1965 after the
house was re-shingled, was provided for the day by David LaPierre of Nauset Market in
North Eastham, and a piece of the drawer from the Focastle provided by Robert
Prescott of the Massachusetts Audubon Societys Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Among those in attendance were Cape Cod author Robert Finch, and
Henry Clark, who recalled meeting Henry Beston was Clark was a child in Eastham. Clark often talked about the Indians to Beston, who was enthused to hear
about it. Beston spent many months with the Navajo Indians in New Mexico prior to his year on
the beach, and is believed to have learned his keen sense of the natural world from
Marvin Einhorn performs as Henry Beston while the audience
listens attentively -- and tries to keep warm as the north wind blows in off the
. (Photo by Don