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MARQUETTE, Mich.—Author John Gubbins will visit Northern Michigan University to read from his new book Profound River, about a legendary 15th-century nun who taught field sports to generations of English men and was the country’s first bestselling author. The reading will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 19, in the Nicolet and Cadillac Rooms of the University Center. It is free and open to the public. Gubbins will be available for a question-and-answer session and book signing after his presentation.
Profound River is about Dame Juliana Berners, a prioress of Sopwell convent who wrote books on fishing, hunting and hawking. She was England’s first published female author and her works remained atop the country’s bestseller list for 200 years. Berners’ most memorable title is The Treatise of Fishing with an Angle. It was not only the first book ever written in any language about sport fishing, but also the first book ever written about fly-fishing.
“In time, her name fell into oblivion,” said Gubbins, a former big-city attorney who now lives and writes alongside the Escanaba River in the Upper Peninsula. “Profound River is the first book ever to tell the story of her life.”
As a member of the Plantagenet family, England’s ruling house, Berners spent most of her life contending with the violence and intrigue brought on by England’s longest-running civil war, the War of the Roses. Her early life before Sopwell brought betrayal, loneliness and disappointment. Berners’ father and stepfather were accused of treason and executed. Her mother grew aloof and was of little help during Berners’ adolescence, but the daughter persevered and chose to pursue the life of a Benedictine nun. Using the rich fabric, threads and other materials that adorned the priests and bishops of her faith, she created revolutionary lures and became the “mother of fly-fishing.”
A related historical essay by Gubbins titled “Dame Juliana Berners: The Case of the Missing Sportswoman” was recently recognized for its scholarship and originality by the North American Conference on British Studies. His reading is sponsored by the NMU English department’s graduate programs in creative writing and PASSAGES NORTH literary magazine. For more information, call the director of the Visiting Writers Program at 227-1386.