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Fearing that her son, Robert, will grow too intellectual to relate to his parents, Mrs. Fenton starts a "Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle" in the town of Centreville. The C.L.S.C. draws in members from all strata of society - from the maid of a well-to-do family and 3 lazy, wild youths to society girls and the eminent Professor Monteith. We follow various members of the Circle as the studies at home and the social interactions and programs at the actual Chautauqua in New York shape and challenge their previous ideas and beliefs. Included are accounts of actual lectures and events at Chautauqua during the summer of 1880, providing a unique historical look at the Chautauqua phenomenon of that era.