HOUGH, HENRY BEETLE (1896–1985). Editor of the Vineyard Gazette on the island of Martha’s Vineyard from 1920 almost until his death,
Henry Beetle Hough was the grandson of a sea captain. He was born and
raised in the whaling city of New Bedford, where his newspaper-editor father
serialized Moby-Dick* (1851) in the Standard in 1912. That city, Herman
Melville,* and especially the rhythms of island life became recurrent themes
in Hough’s nonfiction books and eight novels. The New England Story
(1858), set in a contemporary coastal town, depicts a fictional search for the
truth about a whaling captain; though Story is a conventional romance, the
figure of Captain Enoch Adams, the quest theme, and narrative evasions
recall aspects of Moby-Dick.
Best known for Country Editor (1940), Hough drew on family lore as
well as research for two books for young readers, Great Days of Whaling
(1958) and Melville in the South Pacific (1960). His historical writings include Martha’s Vineyard, Summer Resort 1835–1935 (1936), Whaling Wives
(with Emma Whiting, 1953), and Far Out the Coils (1985), a personal
account of Vineyard history that laments both the cruelty of whaling and
the threat of commercial growth.
An active conservationist, Hough was increasingly occupied during his
last two decades in battling real estate developers, polluters, and the
McDonald’s restaurant chain, among other threats to island culture and
values chronicled in the autobiographical Mostly on Martha’s Vineyard
(1975), To the Harbor Light (1976), and Soundings at Sea Level (1980).
His collections of essays about Martha’s Vineyard include two collaborations
with noted photographers: with Alfred Eisenstaedt in Martha’s Vineyard
(1970) and with Alison Shaw in Remembrance and Light (1984). These
books and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, which he founded in 1959 to
preserve fragile open spaces, are legacies of Hough’s strong sense of nature
and of place.