Burgess, Dean 1937–

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Burgess, Dean 1937–

PERSONAL: Born March 27, 1937, in Buffalo, NY; married Marguerite Barco; children: Dean, Julia. Education: Kenyon College, A.B., 1958; University of North Carolina, M.L.S., 1965.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Permanent Press Publishing Co., 4170 Noyac Rd., Sag Harbor, NY 11963. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Portsmouth Public Library, Portsmouth, VA, clerk, 1963–65, assistant director, 1965–74, director, 1974–96. Former chairman of National Library Week for the American Library Association; member of the White House Conference on Libraries Task Force; historian for the town of Portsmouth, VA.

MEMBER: Virginia Library Association (past president), Southeastern Library Association (member of executive committee), Library Administration and Management Association (past chairman), Beta Phi Mu.

WRITINGS:

Getting It Passed: Lobbying for Libraries, American Library Association (Chicago, IL), 1984.

An Unclean Act (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2002.

Also author of Surviving Gravestones at Trinity Church, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Coauthor, A History of Portsmouth, Virginia, for Portsmouth Historical Commission, expected 2007.

SIDELIGHTS: Dean Burgess spent most of his career as the director of the library in Portsmouth, Virginia, and eased into retirement by publishing a historical novel. An Unclean Act is based on the story of his own ancestors and concerns the first recorded divorce trial in Massachusetts. The American colonies of the seventeenth century, guided by the austere beliefs of the Puritans, were restrictive both culturally and socially. Under such conditions, the young Thomas Burge and his new bride, Elizabeth, set up housekeeping in Sandwich, Massachusetts, on his family's farm. When the couple fails to have children, their happiness evaporates and Thomas becomes attracted by the bold new teachings of the Quakers. Elizabeth is shocked by this development and leaves Thomas, who then promptly falls in love with a young Quaker, Lydia. The couple eventually decides to live together out of wedlock, which results in a scandal, a divorce from Elizabeth, and a whipping so harsh that it almost kills Thomas. In the end, Thomas and Lydia escape the Puritan settlement and relocate to the more hospitable environs of Rhode Island.

Burgess wrote the novel primarily from Thomas's point of view, although Elizabeth and Lydia narrate several chapters in an attempt to present a female point of view. A writer for Kirkus Reviews called An Unclean Act "an instructive story of … religious intolerance that's robustly and eloquently imagined." Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly appreciated Burgess's attention to historical detail, especially in evoking the harsh circumstances of life on Cape Cod, and concluded that the novel "will help shake the dust from Puritan history books."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of An Unclean Act, p. 591.

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of An Unclean Act, p. 40.

Virginian-Pilot, August 4, 1996, Ida Kay Jordan, "A 'Fixture' at Library, Dean Burgess Retiring," p. 6.

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