Bromfield shot to fame with the publication of his first novel, The Green Bay Tree, in 1924. His popular and financial success were so great that he was able to devote himself to writing full time. Bromfield won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1927 with his 3rd book Early Autumn.
In 1925 Bromfield and his family moved to France where Bromfield became part of the group that Gertrude Stein would name The Lost Generation. A young group of artists living in France following WWI, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Edith Wharton. Wharton and Bromfield actually hit it off rather well and maintained a correspondence until her death. It is interesting to note that while Ernest Hemingway is well known and studied by students everywhere today, Louis Bromfield was the more popular and well known author of the day.
In 1938 the Bromfields left a Europe on the brink of war and moved to Richland County, Ohio, close to where Bromfield had grown up.
Bromfield purchased three farms, combined them and named his new home Malabar. Soon his passion turned to soil conservation, restoring plundered forests, and agriculture. Bromfield's farming techniques and innovations became famous and soon he was hosting up to 30,000 visitors and agriculturists a year at his farm. Malabar farm became the most famous farm in America and possibly the world. This fame was helped by Bromfield's Hollywood connections. In 1945 Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married at Malabar and many other famous celebrities often visited the farm. Bromfield wrote several screenplays for MGM and 7 of his books were turned into movies.
Over time Bromfield's writing turned from fiction to works on agriculture and he lost his standing with critics. When he did write fiction it was for the money, as a means to support his work at the farm. His heart was in the farming and not so much the writing anymore.
The best part about choosing this campsite to stay at was learning all about Bromfield and visiting his 32 room mansion which still looks very much like it did when Bromfield died. What I loved most about the house was that it still houses Bromfield's collection of about 3,000 books!
Here are pictures of a few of the many bookshelves scattered throughout the home.I love this desk! Bromfield had it designed himself with big shelves all across the front to house books.
This last picture is part of a poem that E.B. White wrote about Malabar Farm and that was published in the New Yorker. Here is a short excerpt:
Malabar Farm is the farm for me,
It's got what it takes to a large degree:
Beauty, alfalfa, constant movement,
And a terrible rash of soil improvement.
Far from orthodox in its tillage,
Populous as many a village,
Stuff being planted and stuff being written,
Fields growing lush that were once unfitten,
Bromfield land, whether low or high land,
Has more going on than Coney Island.
When Bromfield went to Pleasant Valley,
The soil was hard as a bowling alley;
He sprinkled lime and he seeded clover,
And when it came up he turned it over.
From far and wide folks came to view
The things that a writing man will do.
The more he fertilized the fields
The more impressive were his yields,
And every time a field grew fitter
Bromfield would add another critter,
The critter would add more manure, despite 'im,
And so it went-ad infinitum.
It proves that a novelist on his toes
Can make a valley bloom like a rose.
I had no idea how much of a history and literary lesson I was going to get when I booked this campsite but I am so glad we went! We have every intention of returning soon.
P.S. A picture of the spot where Bogie and Bacall tied the knot.