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Noel Perrin, at 77; teacher, writer of essays on rural life

THETFORD, Vt. -- Noel Perrin, a wry, urbane writer who cataloged his lifelong experiments in rural living in a series of popular books, died Sunday at his home after a long illness. He was 77.

Mr. Perrin wrote earlier this year of suffering from ''a remarkably unpleasant version of Parkinson's disease," and of leaving the farm he had lived on for 41 years.

He had recently suffered a broken hip, and on Tuesday had returned from the hospital to the farmhouse where he spent his final days, said his wife, Sara Coburn.

Mr. Perrin taught at least two generations of Dartmouth College students, first as an English professor specializing in modern poetry, then as a professor of environmental studies.

But he will probably be best remembered for his personal essays about life on his 85-acre farm in Thetford Center.

In such books as ''First Person Rural," ''Second Person Rural," and ''Third Person Rural," Mr. Perrin's work introduced many readers to the charms and frustrations of rural life.

''Anyone who liked New England would like them," said John Elder, a professor at Middlebury College, who, like Mr. Perrin, has taught both literature and environmental studies.

Mr. Perrin wrote in the tradition of Helen and Scott Nearing, who turned city-dwellers' thoughts to homesteading with their books on ''the good life." But since he earned his living as a college professor, he was always aware that farming was a hobby for him, Elder said.

''None of them would be helpful to a farmer," Mr. Perrin wrote of the essays collected in ''First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer," in the book's introduction.

Born Sept. 18, 1927, Mr. Perrin grew up in Pelham Manor, N.Y. He went to Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he majored in English literature. He received a master's degree in English from Duke University in 1950, then served in Korea in the Army.

After his service he attended Cambridge University in England on the GI bill, first for a year in 1955, then from 1957 to 1958, when he completed his studies.

Mr. Perrin took a job at Dartmouth in 1959.

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