Our featured title for February, Joy and Other Poems by Danske Dandridge was first published in 1888 to great reviews. It was her first book. The New York Critic said, “A more charming and genuine little book of poetry is seldom published.” The poems have “a rare quality of imaginativeness. . . a true diamond.” As a poet, Dandridge was called “a joyous-hearted singer.” The Boston Herald declared Joy to be “one of the best, if not the best book lately published by a new American verse-writer.” And across the continent, the San Francisco Bulletin’s reviewer wrote, “As an interpreter of some of the subtleties of nature, the spirt of the woods, the world within a world, the pervading presence which ten thousand feel but cannot describe—the poet is especially happy.”
In 1900, G.P. Putnam’s Sons published a second and enlarged edition. The Perry Room has three copies of the second edition. One is inscribed by Dandridge to Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Elliott, “in memory of a charming day.” A second copy was given to the library in 1931 by Dandridge’s daughter in memory of her mother. The third copy is without inscription. The first edition is rare. The library’s copy is lacking the original title page and has been rebound.
The author, Danske (“Little Dane”) Dandridge was born in Denmark in 1854 to Henry and Caroline Bedinger while her father was serving as the first United States ambassador to Denmark. She came to American not long after her birth and after her father’s death in 1859, her mother brought Rose Brake, just outside Shepherdstown, near Morgan’s Grove, where Dandridge lived for most of her life. She married Adam Stephen Dandridge III in 1877.
Her work appeared in prominent magazines of the time, including The Century and Harper’s. In addition to her poetry, Dandridge wrote books on history, including Historic Shepherdstown (1910). After her marriage, Dandridge began to study botany. Every time she sold a poem to a magazine, she would buy a tree or shrub to beautify Rose Brake. In her lifetime, Rose Brake had 500 different kinds of trees and shrubs in its grove. Dandridge corresponded with plant-loving friends in many countries, including the horticulturist and garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll. Dandridge contributed to Jekyll’s magazine, The Garden, under the heading, “Letters from Rose Brake.” Other magazines published her gardening articles as well.
Elliott’s Nurseries named a phlox , with a deep red cross in the center, the “Danske Dandridge” phlox. Could it be the same Elliott’s with whom Dandridge had a “charming day” in 1902?