SIMPLICITY: Henry Beston by Philip Harnden

Henry Beston by Philip Harnden

From Journeys of Simplicity


American naturalist and writer best known for The Outermost House,
his chronicle of a solitary year on a Cape Cod beach.

“The world today,” wrote Henry Beston, “is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear Earth itself underfoot.”

To immerse himself in those elemental things, Beston had a neighbor build him a small house atop a dune on the farthest eastern reaches of Cape Cod, just thirty feet from the great Atlantic beach.  His “outermost house” measured twenty feet by sixteen and contained two rooms (a bedroom and a kitchen / living room) with a brick fireplace in the wall between.  Its only extravagance: ten windows, so Beston could see in every direction.

He came the first time to visit for a fortnight.  But he lingered on for a year because, as he put it, “the beauty and mystery of this Earth and outer sea so possessed and held me that I could not go.”

Ten years after Beston’s death a massive winter storm swept his house out to sea.


Two oil lamps
and various bottle candlesticks
to read by

“crammed maw-full of driftwood”
to keep warm

chest of drawers
“painted an honest carriage blue”

wall bookcase
two chairs
a rocker

a dish and crockery cupboard

two-burner oil stove
porcelain sink
water pump

for carrying in supplies

Ten windows
“the four walls of the world”

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