John Locke, Henry Woodward and Edisto Island, South Carolina

Botany Bay Road in Winter, Edisto Island, SC

Botany Bay Road in Winter, Edisto Island, SC

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Briefly, in the dreams of the early South Carolina colony, a perfect little island south of Charleston, was picked by the Lords Proprietors, and a plantation was planned, to be managed by Lord Ashley’s relative, Andrew Percivall. The plantation never materialized, as the founders later picked land for Charles Towne that was more easily accessible, where Charleston lies today, just north; and John Locke, the great philosopher from England, never set foot on Edisto Island, which bore his name on early maps of Carolina.

Locke and Dr. Henry Woodward, explorer, interpreter, first English settler, wrote letters to one another. Locke, insatiably curious, longed to learn the religion and customs of the native American Indians. Quite the letter writer, John Locke left an astounding 3,637 surviving letters, written to him and by him. (The most famous letter-writers of the ancient world, Cicero and Augustine, left only a few hundred each) Correspondence in the form of letter writing, in mid 17th century, was a practice central to English culture. Letters were read out loud, and it ‘served also to rescue people from intellectual and personal isolation’. It is what social utilities like Facebook, do, too, in today’s culture, attractive because we Americans have become self isolating, the result of our convenience filled, independent lifestyles. My own life on this remote island is enriched by my online connection and correspondence, and I wonder it is not an effort of our culture to renew our lost connections to one another, like letter writing did in the 17th century, something one writer called a “phenomenon”.

Just who was the man who dreamed of living on the eden isle, the paradise called Edisto Island?

Palms and dunes on Edisto Island

Palms and dunes on Edisto Island

STOP TRAVELER. The epitaph of John Locke, the philosopher, at his burial place at High Laver, a village in the Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England, begins: “Near this place lies JOHN LOCKE. If you are wondering what kind of man he was, he answers that he was contented with his modest lot. Bred a scholar, he made his learning subservient only to the cause of truth. You will learn this from his writings, which will show you everything about him more truthfully that the subject praises of an epitaph. His virtues, if indeed he had any, were too slight to be lauded by him or to be an example to you. Let his vices be buried with him. Of virtue, you have an example in the gospels, should you desire it; of vice would there were none for you; of mortality surely you have one here and everywhere, and may you learn from it.

That he was born on the 29th of August in the year of our Lord 1632

and that he died on the 28th of October in the year of our Lord 1704.

This tablet, which itself will soon perish, is a record.”

How intriguing is the man who also dreamed of this island, a place that still boasts so much of the natural beauty it had when Locke imagined it, thanks to many committed people, the preservation efforts of The Edisto Island Open Land Trust and The Lowcountry Open Land Trust who work to preserve and keep sacred these great open spaces of South Carolina.

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in Arts & Culture, Charleston South Carolina, Native American, religion, South Carolina History, Writing
4 comments on “John Locke, Henry Woodward and Edisto Island, South Carolina
  1. Cork Hutson says:

    Thank you Charlotte.
    Nice post about man’s need for socialization (and John Locke). I have saved the page of his letters to my favorites and will browse through them. I came across a quote this morning that goes along with your post: “Beware the walls we build around us to keep out the sadness, also keep out the joy!” So true today as we seem to “self-isolate” even from our own family members!

    Love your posts. Edisto is in the heart!


  2. MDB says:

    Love your blog – it’s always inspiring. Thanks for your kind words about the conservation work being done on Edisto – we are told that Edisto Island is the conservation showpiece of the ACE Basin with its almost 200,000 acres of preserved lands. There’s no other place like Edisto on SC’s coast – a place that can transport you back to an earlier and more serene time. Glad you’re here, hopefully full-time?


  3. Charlotte,
    What an exceptional gift to breathe life into the man and to animate with the deft touch of your words the tabula rasa for which Locke is most famous.
    A pity the great man never set foot on Edisto’s Paradise.To make the life and letters of a philosopher sing is,indeed,no small musical feat.And,also, you give back the lost art of writing letters its deep and abiding personal and literary
    value.Your wedding of information and lyricism is a joy to behold.

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.