‘The Golden Book of Springfield’ (Vachel Lindsay)

The Golden Book of Springfield, Vachel Lindsay’s only novel, published in 1920, outlined Lindsay’s ethereal, mythopoetic expectations for the city of Springfield a century hence. (One of the few concrete predictions in Lindsay’s highly metaphorical view of the city’s future is that, by 2018, the Third Street railroad tracks would have been removed.)

The Golden Book was not a critical success. Joseph Kronick, writing in American National Biography in 2000 (reposted by Modern American Poetry), said:

… Lindsay’s reputation began a precipitous decline with the publication of his utopian prose work, The Golden Book of Springfield (1920). The book opens in 1920 with a gathering of the ‘Prognosticators’ Club,’ which consists, among others, of a Campbellite minister, a Jewish boy, a black woman, and a skeptic, who offer a vision of Springfield in 2018 in prose derived from such varied sources as the Bible, Swedenborg, and Marx. Although Lindsay continued to receive praise from English critics, American critics and readers dismissed him as tedious and incomprehensible. Opinion since has not changed.

For those interested in history rather than utopianism, however, many references in The Golden Book say more about what was important to Lindsay and Springfield in 1918. For instance, here is the conclusion:

It is eight o’clock in the evening, at Fifth and Monroe. It is Saturday night, and the crowd is pouring toward The Majestic, and Chatterton’s, and The Vaudette, and The Princess and The Gaiety.

It is a lovely, starry evening, in the spring. The newsboys are bawling away, and I buy an Illinois State Register. It is dated March 1, 1920.

Avanel of Springfield is one hundred years away.

The Register has much news of a passing nature. I am the most interested in the weather report, that tomorrow will be fair.

Written in Washington Park Pavilion, Springfield, Illinois. bridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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3 Responses to ‘The Golden Book of Springfield’ (Vachel Lindsay)

  1. I’d be interested in a summary of the more noteworthy predictions – some that did not pan out and some that did (well, more or less……) Thanks

    • editor says:

      Dick: The Golden Book of Springfield isn’t that simple. Lindsay’s “predictions,” to the extent he can be said to have made them, are metaphorical and lyrical. I can’t describe them in any meaningful way, but you can see what I mean for yourself — follow the link right at the start of the entry to read the book online. Thanks for reading.

  2. Dick McLane says:

    Thanks, Mike, I’ll do that. Dick

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