Harry Aubrey Toulmin.

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Member of the American Academy of Political and.

Social Science, of the American Political Science

Association, and of the Virginia

Historical Society



Professor of English Literature in the
University of Virginia





All Rights Reserved









South with its romance, first, of po-
litical power and, then, of defeat and
sorrow has always attracted attention,
but never more so than now when to its
unique and absorbing history it has added a
marvelous resiliency and a regnant optimism.
It seems now on the eve of unprecedented
prosperity. Coincident with this good for-
tune of slow but assured growth, there has
come an unexpected and surprising political up-
heaval that has suddenly thrust Southern men, and
specifically University of Virginia men, into con-
spicuous leadership and power. Our interest,
therefore, inevitably and instinctively turns from
the past with its determined record to the imme-
diate future with its unusual opportunities and un-
solved problems. " What will the South do with
them? " is the question uttered or unf ormulated ;


and to this question, the answer not of conjecture
but of fact is anxiously awaited.

While we wait we are not remiss in inquiring
into the recent history of the South and especially
into its social upheavals and readjustments and its
present condition. Of these things history has
comparatively little to say ; for history delays
until the passage of time shall have thrown into
clear relief the life it records. By that time the
events of significance have become separated from
the conditions that made them possible and seen
in perspective are so prominent and important
that they alone seem worthy of preservation. It
is for this reason that we constantly revert to con-
temporary letters and diaries and biographies and,
especially, fiction for the right revelation of the
social and domestic life of the people.

But success in giving a true value to this inti-
mate, personal, and moulding element of our lit-
erature depends, in the last analysis, upon the
knowledge and sympathy of these writers. This
knowledge and sympathy must not be the result
of a detached and objective study; however con-



trolled this may be by calm and even justice or
however directed to a right understanding. On
the contrary any true picture must come from
intimate knowledge and sympathy based upon
personal experience and long associations. In so
far as writers are the legitimate spokesmen for
their people, in so far are they protected from
misrepresentations and authorized to speak with-
out any reserve save that dictated by good taste.

But there is at least one other requirement for
writers who essay interpretations of life in a com-
munity or section, or, for that matter, any inter-
pretation at all, and that is that besides being
intelligent and appreciative they must be skillful
in utterance.

It would, indeed, be difficult to find a group of
writers more fully meeting these conditions than
these " Social Historians " as they are aptly called
by Mr. Toulmin. They are all writers of keen
and penetrating intelligence, and of distinct and
noteworthy ability and talent. With possibly
one exception, they are intimately sympathetic
and frankly appreciative in their work. Their



writings are none the less sound and reliable be-
cause fascinating in literary structure and finish;
and from them may readily be had a true and
adequate picture of the life they so skillfully por-

Moreover the South is so imperial in its ter-
ritorial sweep that there is little overlapping in
the regions or classes covered by these writers.
On the contrary they supplement one another,
though all of them together do not fully represent
this whole section. They are, however, thor-
oughly representative in character and afford
abundant material for sound conclusions. The
judgments of Mr. Toulmin may not always be
accepted in full, but they are based on first-hand
consideration of the books under discussion and
supported by well-grounded reasons.

It is a source of great pride and pleasure that
our young men are becoming more and more in-
terested in our American writers, and that out of
our colleges and universities are coming intelligent
and enthusiastic students of present-day conditions
and literature. Mr. Toulmin, at present a student



in the University of Virginia, has commended
himself by his maturity of thought, force of in-
tellect, and earnest interest in the things of the
mind. Though he has elected to follow an exact-
ing profession, the Law, he may yet achieve in the
realm of literary criticism that larger success of
which this first volume is a promise and prediction.

April 1 3th, 1911.















" Go ! read the patent of thine heritage,

Inscribed in glowing words that flash and burn
With pregnant import. Con it well and learn

The thrilling tale that lights the storied page."

IT is primarily Virginia and things Virginian
that Thomas Nelson Page has devoted his
efforts to portray. Born on the old planta-
tion of Oaklands in Hanover County on the
twenty-third of April, 1853, he was enabled to
attain sufficient age to appreciate the subse-
quent series of the war time incidents and become
imbued with the life of the ante-bellum regime;
" an old Virginia home recalled from memory
stamped with it when it was yet a virgin page,"
perhaps, aptly describes in the author's own ex-
pression his opportunity for an insight into the
scenes of yesterday that he has so fittingly revivi-
fied. The families of Nelson and Page have been
for decades leaders in the development of the


state, moulding her policy in times of peace and
sending defenders of her borders to the front
in successive generations. Generals, governors,
statesmen, politicians and soldiers have come
from the long lines of these illustrious families.
No wonder young Page developed a passion for
his boyhood home and life; the life his ancestors
had moulded on plantation and in state; a life
whose policy of government and scheme of society
owed so much to the genius of their creative

It was fitting that he should enter the univer-
sity sponsored by Washington and endowed by
the lofty spirit of the great commander Lee.
Thomas Nelson Page entered this university in
1869 and remained until 1872; thereafter he
spent some time in Kentucky, when he suddenly
decided to enroll in the department of law at the
University of Virginia in 1873, thus becoming a
member of the class of that year. Here he sat
under John B. Minor, who " taught him how to
work," and graduated in a little over one-half
the allotted time of two years.



While at these universities he exhibited consid-
erable aptitude for writing; frequent contributions
of his were published in the university magazines,
he himself becoming editor of the Washington
and Lee journal during his last year there.

The South has had no illustrious historian to
conceive and execute a narrative worthy to stand
as an impartial record of her career. Notwith-
standing, the South has had the great forerunners
of such a narrative in the brilliant series of men
whose contributions to literature have enlightened
the phases of the departed life and policy. The
scenes of " Two Old Colonial Places " and " Life
in Colonial Virginia " are laid amid the glories
of the days of the distinguished families who were
the progenitors of the author; he writes with feel-
ing of the stately mansions of his forefathers, of
their life and manners, of the Colonial period
wafting back " a breath out of a distant time, an
odor of neglected gardens." He betrays the lov-
ing recollections of days gone by and the memory
of the grandeur to which the men of so long ago



The scene is transferred from the faces and
figures of Colonial prosperity to the chivalrous life
of " Before the War " in the heyday of Southern
splendor and in magnificence of the baronial land
owners. As a study of penetration and insight
into the spirit of the period, must be the judgment
pronounced upon " The Old Gentleman of the
Black Stock," and particularly upon its companion
in this division of his work, " Social Life Before
the War." There is a pride of race and love
of home animating every line of these delightful
sketches. The forms of yesterday rise to laugh
and chatter, to ride their famous horses through
the sinuous byways and paths of the nearly virgin
woodland and to discuss the future of government,
politics and law. It is with things intimately con-
nected with his home land and native state that
Page has seen fit to deal; and his extensive ex-
perience and close association with actual occur-
rences has enabled him to portray his theme more
than passing well.

Thomas Nelson Page has pictured the life of
the Colonial aristocracy of old Hanover county



in the days of the Nelsons and Pages; he has
touched with pathos and love the glorious realm
of ante-bellum prosperity; he has treated with deep
feeling the sufferings of his home and people amid
the hostilities of contending armies. He has gone
further, he has grasped the ideas thereafter and
the policy for the future. Amid all this he is
Virginian, speaking in the manner and way of the
Virginia gentleman as he is, courteous, kindly,
with a gift of humor and a capacity for story tell-
ing that is modest, well-bred, never bitter, a man
of large heart and ample views.

The most puissant individualism of Mr. Page
is his devotion to the actual incidents of his scenes.
Nowhere has the function of these so-called so-
cial historians been more prominent than in the
semi-historical sketches of colonial and ante-bellum
life. Essays or rambling stories of pathos and
fine good nature they may be, yet each one con-
tributes its quota of reminiscence. The veracity
with which the scenes are depicted is a paramount
consideration; he declares for it in his introduc-
tion, and his stories ably support his claim.



In the small volume, Social Life in Old Vir-
ginia Before the War, Page has won his case.
There is abundant proof that he possesses admir-
able knowledge and experience from which to
draw a profoundly interesting sketch. A fearless
sincerity matched against a potent sympathy bal-
ances the scale in such measure as to insure accu-
racy as well as freedom from prejudice. What
is true of this particular essay can be said of the
major portion of his work. Amidst the contend-
ing factions of fact and fancy, he has skillfully
maintained his poise. As Matthew Arnold re-
marked of Anna Karenina that we are not to un-
derstand it " As a work of art; we are to take it
as a piece life " ; in a similar attitude the efforts
of Page should be viewed. He has, however,
like Tolstoi, a claim to both.

The attraction on reading this account of social
life in Virginia in ante-bellum times may be at
first insensible. The charm is gradual, but none
the less efficacious when it finally takes full pos-
session. The melody of the harvest songs drifts
back with a whiff of that olden time ; the cadence



of " Cool Water " clings like an echo in the mem-
ory of all who read. You find yourself becoming
an ardent adherent of that dominion of the past
where the manor house was a home supreme " en-
throned in perpetual tranquillity." It is pleasing
to think that the charm of those bygone days has
not been dissipated on the winds or now rests for-
ever alone in a musty record on the dusty book-
shelves of a chance collector. The melody of
forgotten hours has floated down the decades in
the hearts of the Southern people giving them,
perhaps, something of a greater sensibility to
gayety, wider receptiveness in matters of sympa-
thy. The complete record lies in this short

That the record is not as perfect as he would
wish, the author regretfully concedes. In the na-
ture of things it could not be so. His service as a
chronicler of the past is not less important. A
full idea is obtained of the ampleness and the re-
finement of this genuinely wholesome existence in
a manner that can scarce be found elsewhere, from
this tale of the " People whose fortitude in defeat



has ever been more splendid than their valor in
war," as also of the character of their life before
that appalling disaster, which exhibited examples
worthy of emulation in these modern days of rush-
ing materialism, domestic infelicity and marital
discord. In his concluding sentence of this book
Mr. Page remarks : " The ivory palaces have
been destroyed, but myrrh, aloes, and cassia still
breathe amid their dismantled ruins. " Chiefest
of its virtues lay in being a life without show or

" In Ole Virginia " is an epic in dialect litera-
ture. Whether as a creation or a portrayal, as
you will, the series of stories beginning with the
famous " Mars' Chan " stands preeminently a
production of consummate workmanship and in-
finite skill of handling. It is upon these several
papers bearing the breath of a life gone to join
the shades of the actors once in its scenes, that the
fame of Page has long rested. The author ex-
tracts the essence of romance and picturesqueness
from the existence he has known, relates it in an
intricate dialect that reveals the homely philoso-



phy of a departing type. It is vitally human and
the humanity is powerfully felt.

The celebrated " Mars' Chan " had a most un-
common origin as expressed in the author's own
words. " Just then a friend showed me a letter
which had been written by a young girl to her
sweetheart in a Georgia regiment, telling him that
she had discovered that she loved him, after all,
and that if he would get a furlough and come
home she would marry him; that she had loved
him ever since they had gone to school together
in the little schoolhouse in the woods. Then, as
if she feared such a temptation might be too strong
for him, she added a postscript in these words:
* Don't come without a furlough; for if you don't
come honorable, I won't marry you.' This letter
had been taken from the pocket of a private dead
on the battlefield of one of the battles around
Richmond, and, as the date was only a week be-
fore the battle occurred, its pathos struck me very
much. I remember I said : * The poor fellow
got his furlough through a bullet.' The idea re-
mained with me, and I went to my office one morn-



ing and began to write ' Mars' Chan/ which was
finished in about a week.

It is a story of both battlefield and crucifix.
Above all it may claim to be a powerful homily
on the justice of divine arrangement, on the con-
ception that there is indeed that refuge called the
" Peace of God." This tragedy does what vol-
uminous sermons or labored theological treatises,
or the dogmas of many creeds fail to do. It holds
concretely, within the confines of flesh and blood,
the reasonableness of belief in such refuge of per-
petual felicity. Faith, devotion, love, a trinity
to support the world, are all intrinsic parts of
Mars' Chan.

While old black Sam does not play a title role,
he is, nevertheless, the unconscious hero. Such
devotion as he exhibits in those few short pages
would do ample credit to hosts of those of far
greater pretension and claim to gentility. He
demonstrated that he was devoted in a practical
manner. Sam was evidently a finished diplomat
by nature. His was a master hand that brought
about a reconciliation between Mars' Chan's fam-



ily and Cun'l Chamb'lin, when he had a letter
written to the black maid of Miss Anne relating
the incident of Mr. Ronny's punishment at the
hands of Mars' Chan for a slighting remark at
the expense of Cun'l Chamb'lin. The wily dip-
lomat knew, of course, that his black correspond-
ent could no more read than he could write and
the contents would have to be read to her by Miss
Anne. He was a success as a matchmaker, as
witnessed by his results.

Sam managed to relieve the tragedy of Mars'
Chan's impending death in the gallant charge of
his troops by first explaining his own escape while
riding manfully with his master. His horse was
shot from under him and he rolled against a pro-
tecting bank. In explanation he insisted, " Judy
she say she think 'twuz Providence, but I think
'twuz de bank. O' co'se, Providence put de bank
dyah, but how come Providence nuver saved Mars'

Meh Lady is a fit companion for Mars' Chan.
A tale of such patience under loss, and suffering,
in the adversities of poverty and slow destruction,



can scarce be duplicated in the pages of American
literature. Page has presented with pathos and
an understanding sympathy this illustration of
what occurred in scores of Southern homes. One
who can read and not be profoundly moved, has
atrophied his emotions with a masterful complete-

Uncle Billy tells the story. Now Uncle Billy,
like other privileged members of his race, has
grown to be something of a philosopher. He
remarks of Meh Lady and her probable decision
about marriage: "Her cap'n ain' come yet!
when dee cap'n come dee know it, an' ef dee don't
know it when he come, dee know it p'intedly when
he go Vay."

The dramatic ending bore out Uncle Billy's pre-
diction. The climax is skillfully executed by Mr.
Page. Meh Lady, without kin or friend, at last
realizes her love for the Federal Captain; they
are married in the old, dismantled home. At the
critical moment when the minister inquired, " Who
giveth this woman to be married to this man? "
no one was there to respond but Uncle Billy.



Suddenly realizing his duty and not wishing to
undertake such responsibility himself, he solemnly
stepped to the front, announcing in his most portly
fashion, " ' Gord.' "

Unc' Edingburgh's Drowndin' has several ex-
cellent reflections of the old plantation life; as
the author remarks, it is plantation echo. No one
could deny the statement of Unc' Edinburgh's
that " Dees Monsus 'ceivin' critters, women is,
jes as onreliable as de hind leg of a mule; a man
got to watch 'em all de time." There are hosts
of similar amusing reflections throughout the story.
They reflect the easy relation and the liberty that
was permitted to the faithful servitor.

Ole' Stracted is another story of the kindness
of the very poor to the very poor. A repetition
of both acts of a Good Samaritan and the bread
cast upon the waters, which these folks found re-
turned after many days to their benefit; the only
change is to the scene of a desolate and deserted
plantation amid the wilds of a neglected Southern
State. The plot has something more in it than
is usual with Mr. Page's short stories.



The two remaining narratives in this volume
are somewhat different from the general trend of
the others. Polly is a wholesome study in South-
ern femininity; No Haid Pawn is merely a well
told reminiscence of a boyhood terror both
stories being composed in the main of recollec-

Of all the productions of Thomas Nelson Page
none can supersede In Old Virginia for a truly
historic presentation of the life in the State at that
period. In fact the author himself fully appre-
ciated his position in the import of these several
stories when he stated in the introduction to the
book: " If his (Page's) work has any value, it
is owing to his having fortune enough to preserve
in some sort a picture of a civilization, which,
once having sweetened the life of the South, has
since then well-nigh perished from the earth."

There is no trio of stories breathing the atmos-
phere of the war time privations and adventures
which exhibit a phase of the writer's ability more
lucidly than elsewhere in his productions. It is
of the " Two Little Confederates," " Burial of


the Guns," and "Among the Camps " that I
speak. Throughout the group, the power of com-
bining everyday, inconsequent incidents into in-
tensely interesting, unexpected situations betrays
the underlying genius of expression and arrange-
ment of correlation.

'Mr. Page has ventured with success into the
fidd of the novel. " Red Rock " was awaited
with considerable anxiety, as it marked the tran-
sition of a short story writer of undoubted ability
into the uncertain realm of an extensive work of
fiction. The anxiety was happily causeless. The
work bears the stamp of firm merit, however much
the charm of past literary characteristics of the
author seem to have been abated.

Cardinal Newman ventured to define a gentle-
man as " One who never inflicts pain." Thomas
Page has taken some such ideal as the inspiring
theme for his character of Dr. Gary in Red Rock,
and molded therein a man that Cardinal Newman
knew of, but consciously failed to define expressly,
despite his array of rhetorical accomplishments.
Seldom do we encounter the equal of this old



physician in the pages of any literature: this
type, if you will, of the country doctor of the
South, or any region for that matter, where the
kindliness of spirit and the charity of true doctor-
hood is manifested in countless heroic sacrifices.
No trouble is too petty for the advice or counsel
of this sympathetic cult, no disaster is too awful
for their ready comprehension. In delineating
such a character as Dr. Gary of Birdwood, Page
has erected a monument over the graves of the
countless members of the medical profession who
have made existence in remote rural districts a
possibility, rescued comrades on battlefields from
the agonies of torture and solaced the lives of
their fellows with the mercies of relief by their
tireless ministrations. They deserve a fitting mark
of respect. In the portrayal of this Southern
Doctor they have indeed received a striking one.
Mr. Page must have a deep affection for the
noble workers in this profession. The most
genial, companionable, and thoughtful of all his
masculine characters have been those who devoted
their services to the general welfare of society.



There are few redeeming features in Gordon
Keith; but of these few the reply of Dr. Balsam
to the rich woman of the city, who patronizingly
questioned him as to why he did not take such
skill as he possessed to the city, is one. " These
few sheep in the wilderness need shepherding
when they get sick," replied the old doctor with
courteous dignity, in answer to this sophisticated

Some members of one other profession he treats
with fine scorn. In a single case, however, he
sketches his character with sincere appreciation,
but this single case, or type rather, is strongly
offset by two examples. Dr. Bartholomew Capon
of John Marvel Assistant and the Rev. Mr. Rim-
mon of Gordon Keith obtained their merited de-
serts and their share of his virulent sarcasm on
the modern church and pastors who shepherd such
golden flocks. Passage after passage occurs in
ringing denunciation by sarcasm or direct repudi-
ation of these followers of a Christian church,
which, to his mind, wields but a mockery of its
legitimate power. These men deserve his scorn


as society churchmen; they merit thoroughly the
thunders of his wrath that are meted to them.
In opposition to these repulsive figures of the
church, is set that man of pure ideals and Chris-
tian spirit, John Marvel.

While the novels are of little interest as South-
ern productions, they have, nevertheless, a bearing
upon the development of this particular writer.
In Gordon Keith, the plot descends into melo-
drama, the majority of the characters being mere
inanimate pawns at the errant will of the author.
Exception to this sweeping statement must be
taken. The personality of General Keith should

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Online LibraryHarry Aubrey ToulminSocial historians → online text (page 1 of 8)