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Bayard Taylor's Lakeside:  The House that Isn't

by Chris Densmore
Bayard Taylor.jpg

Kennett Square author Bayard Taylor’s 1864 novel, Hannah Thurston: A Story of an
American Life, is the story about how Hannah Thurston, a Quaker, abolitionist and
woman’s rights advocate, finds her true happiness in marriage to the sophisticated,
traveled and very rich Maxwell Woodbury. The novel is set in a fictional location in the
Finger Lakes of New York State, but it is obvious that the characters are based on his
Kennett Square neighbors and that he himself is the basis for the strong, travelled,
sophisticated and rich Maxwell. The novel ends with Hannah realizing that true
happiness for women is only to be found in submission to wiser and strong men. She
gives up her work in the abolitionist movement and settles down to a life of domestic
bliss in Maxwell’s mansion, Lakeside. While Taylor had some sympathy for his reformer
neighbors, he thought that they would be much happier if they held fewer meetings and
drank more sherry. Hannah Thurston is of course a work of fiction.

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