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oddities. It can rise to the dignity of the greatest
literature no matter how humble the source. A
realistic treatment of such a subject can only come
through the writer's absorbing the very spirit of
the people. To Miss Murfree's everlasting credit
she has been the most faithful expositor of her
characters in reproducing the genius of their primi-
tive American life in the tangible form of a per-
fect dialect. Whatever service in the perpetua-
tion of the Hoosier dialect and the spirit of the
Middle West James Whitcomb Riley has per-
formed, it has been duplicated in point of histori-
cal trustworthiness by Charles Egbert Craddock.

With the combination of a faultless dialect and
a thoroughly intimate knowledge of the laws, cus-
toms, and superstitions, Miss Murfree has sue-


ceeded in presenting a singularly accurate delinea-
tion. Historians may come and social philoso-
phers may go, but it may be safely ventured that
no more intrinsically worthy contribution to the
annals of the nation has been made than the per-
petual embodiment of a little known section of
people in the Southern Mountains through the ac-
curate agency of their simple dialect. What an
intimate reflection of their nature for those who
may pursue the records in the future !

One definitive feature of every piece of writing
in this author's work is her profound knowledge
of things legal. Before her identity was estab-
lished, this feature was considered the most tangi-
ble evidence that " that man Craddock " was a
lawyer. Mr. Aldrich, then editor of the " At-
lantic Monthly," by whom many of her manu-
scripts were published, prided himself upon his
addressing his letters to " M. N. Murfree, Esq."
It was something of a revelation when a quiet
young woman presented herself in the editorial
rooms as Charles Egbert Craddock. This knowl-
edge of the law was gained as a part of her educa-



tion, which included a large reading course on
legal subjects. Her association with her brothers
must have given her the markedly masculine view
which is a prominent characteristic of all her writ-
ings. From this source, also, must have come her
grasp of boy character which she has so fittingly
used in mountain personages most of all in her
juveniles " Down The Ravine, " " The Young
Mountaineers/' " The Story of Keendon Bluffs,"
and " The Champions."

Slow, ambling, a tiresome tedium of speech may
characterize the mountaineer much of his time in
these tales, but at intervals his passionate utter-
ances reveal that he has lost nothing of the
trenchant, virile power of his Anglo-Saxon tongue.
Disuse or infrequent application does not hinder
him from attaining in the heights of his emotion
the most biting sarcasm or the most virulent ridi-
cule. The noble enthusiasm and angry denuncia-
tion of the fanatic circuit-rider stir his rude audi-
ence to religious frenzy with as compelling an
utterance as ever passed the lips of a vigorous



Humor, with its bed-fellow pathos, abounds in
this virile speech. Touches like this are frequent :
" 4 Mister Stubbs,' Rufe say mighty perlite; * fool-
ing with me is like makin' faces at a rattlesnake;
it may be satisfying to the feelin's, but t'aint safe.' '
All of which meant to insinuate the ferocity of

And again reference is made to the delays of
the law in a sarcastic, half-wit manner as in this:
" ' Yes, sir, 'minds me of a slow mule-race all the
time, the law does,' said Bowles." The uncon-
scious humor in Jane Elmiry's speech, who was a
domestic general of no mean ability, to her sick
husband who had querulously asked for his nour-
ishment. " ' Tain't time yit," replied the patient
wife. " The Doctor 'lowed ez the aig must be
spang fraish; an' ez old Topknot lay ter the
minit every day, I'm a 'waitin' on her." The
crowning touch is the quavering recollection of an
old dame in admonishing the feeble rising genera-
tion. " I 'member when I was a gal whisky was
so cheap that up to the store at the settlemint
they'd have a bucket set full o' whisky an' a gourd



free fur all comers, an' another bucket alongside
with water to season it. An' the way that thar
water lasted war surprisin' ; that it war."

Through it all, there is the infinite pathos of
life, full red-blooded life, pulsating with very hu-
man foibles and emotions, throbbing with very
personal ambitions and desires. Features of this
stamp make the books intensely interesting. It is
the genuine humanity in every tale that makes the
constant, vital appeal to every one with a spark
of interest in his fellows. To the most indiffer-
ent of readers, whether he prefers the romance or
no, there must be borne in upon him the realization
that these speeches are not the smoke of an artist's
fancy, but are the intensely human utterances of
a vigorous people.

Conforming to the main purposes in a series
of tales like these, Miss Murfree has realized
them both. The first is an artistic one; the other
is a consciously ethical, intellectual ideal. Crad-
dock has shown power versatile enough to exe-
cute an excellent story, full of dramatic possibili-
ties, to pursue the plan with scientific methods,



and to induce a lively interest throughout the nar-
rative. She possessed the ability to transmit to
paper the seductive charm of mountain color, the
murmur of a hidden rill, a sketch of homely do-
mestic life, or a fiery speech of a religious fanatic,
mingling these factors into an entity of surprising
beauty. Of the two purposes, the purely educa-
tional or didactic is the most superior feature, the
most lasting recommendation. Both purposes
have many faults in execution. The latter pur-
pose, however, is a possession of more than tran-
sient interest. The works are distinctly social
studies. Craddock has written many stories about
several localities in the South, but such volumes
as these will be the basis of her reputation as a
Southern writer. There is ample justification for
this type of works, if justification is needed at all,
in that such stories are a trustworthy impersona-
tion, a memorable record, of a little known di-
vision of the English race whose ancestors a few
generations removed dared to conquer the wilder-
ness, to aid in rearing a stupendous fabric of hu-
man liberty; of men many of whom furnished



hosts of the bravest in the ranks of the Federal
and Confederate armies distinguishing themselves
by signal service and uncompromising rectitude of
character. A romantic history of such a society
takes its place with the lives of great men and the
narrations of great events; it makes a distinct con-
tribution to national annals. That is the essen-
tial reason for its creation and is the argument
for the perpetuation of these books as a vital
part of the literature.

In fact, this is the point whereon this whole
group of writers on Southern subjects rest much
of their claim to continued recognition. Allen,
Cable, Harris and Page each has devoted himself
to a particular phase of Southern existence,
whether of a whole state or of a large section of
his home land; and Miss " Craddock " has like-
wise conspicuously devoted her talents with keen-
ness and success. As Mill philosophizes upon the
economics of national policy, " no nation in which
eccentricity is a matter of reproach can be in a
healthy state," so we see in the variety and mix-
ture of our own eccentrically assembled peoples



and communities a healthy and prosperous phase
of the Southland. The study of the oddly mixed
factions and races is one of considerable worth
to the nation, besides its historic value or because
it is an artistic addition to the literature.

This school could be aptly termed, therefore,
the Social Historians. They have deviated from
the beaten course in historical novels where a
war, a revolution, or the gaining of an empire
is the basic fabric for the construction of the
drama. Their mission is the recording of the so-
cial history of many phases and angles of Southern
life through the vehicle of a story or romance
whose most permanent interest lies in its relation
to actual conditions, not primarily to the rules of
an art or to the progress of some national ag-

Miss Murfree belongs distinctly to this school
of Social Historians. In this particular field, her
power is wide and far-reaching. Here is an
unique addition to national, to Southern litera-
ture. She may have made some errors, may have
committed many mistakes in technique; but when


the entire evidence is brought in, the tales of
Charles Egbert Craddock will stand specimens
of high creative ability and of high dramatic de-
velopment replete with a wealth of humor, a
wealth of human appeal, a wealth of genuine elo-




" I feed the clouds, the rainbows, and the flowers,
With their ethereal colours; the Moon's Globe
And the pure stars in their eternal bowers,
Are cinctured with my power as with a robe"


IN one of the tiers of the Corcoran Art Gallery
hangs a striking picture of an old Southern
homestead at twilight. The Grecian por-
tico is barely discernible through the even-
ing haze; the fan-shaped transom and the an-
cient doorway have faded imperceptibly into
the enmassed fast-gathering shadows; on one side
the columns are hidden in part by the delicate
tracery of an overhanging beech; in the fore-
ground, at the base of the stoop, the dimly out-
lined figures of a man and woman stand, clad in
the mode of sixty years ago. The whole scene
is bathed in the mellow sapphire tones of the de-
parting Southern day.



Such a setting was typical of ante-bellum Ken-
tucky life. Nowhere, perhaps, has the Creator
been more bountiful with His gifts than in Ken-
tucky's dominions; walled in on the east by the
towering majesty of the Cumberland Mountains;
skirted on the north by the turbulent Ohio and
bordered on the west by the meandering tide of
the Mississippi, this fertile blue grass region has
ever abounded with all the natural blessings.
What a glorious expanse must have met the eyes
of the first caravan of settlers, when they gained
the summit of the Cumberland Peaks! The un-
dulating forest lay as a verdant foot-rug at the
base of some gigantic throne, interwoven by sil-
very skeins of water flashing in the clear Kentucky
sunlight. The priceless lands of the new world
became the home of the stanch English and Scotch-
Irish who immigrated from Virginia, Pennsyl-
vania, and the Carolinas to found the empire of
the West first "virgin bride" of the United

It was among these environs of his native State
that James Lane Allen has arisen, the master



painter of the Old and the New. The depicting
of the quaint old characters of his home; the hu-
morous incidents of the life about him; the de-
lineating of the ideals of his friends and neigh-
bors; the painting of the homely phases of tov/n
and country existence mark him as a genius with
the invaluable gift of penetrative insight, suffi-
cient to lay bare the workings of his characters
in all the integrity and force of reality. He has
fittingly realized that the true field of his intel-
lect and powers is among the surroundings of his
life; no excursion is necessary into the tropical
realms for the exotic beauties of nature, for his
home is her riotous storehouse; no far expedition
is demanded to find nobility of mind and char-
acter, for he has his acquaintances; no foray is
essential into the unknown for adventures, as the
more vital tragedies of his State abound about

Mr. Allen has variously touched the first be-
ginnings of life in his State; has perpetuated the
memories of the ante-bellum homesteads with no
less subtle fidelity than that effort of the master



of the brush whose work hangs upon the walls of
the Art Gallery; has outlined, at other times, the
results of civil disunion whose consequences were
so disastrous to himself; finally, he revealed the
lives of his fellow men amid the new conditions
of the modern regime. Throughout his produc-
tions the love of nature is paramount; this is his
mission to stencil on the images of men his
home land as it is, where the nature's forces and
his neighbors' play their little drama.

As a dreamer and thinker, the mysterious beau-
ties of Mother Earth have a powerful hold upon
Mr. Allen's imagination. The tale of " A Ken-
tucky Cardinal," and its companion " Aftermath,"
are gems of nature description, mingling her laws
and decrees with the pathetic lives of his char-
acters. The whole theme abounds with the ex-
uberant, plenteous moods of nature described with
heartfelt sympathy and classic taste; the old
bachelor and the noble woman, his neighbor, have
their destinies, their courtship and marriage, their
loves and sorrows, interwoven with the identical
tragedies of nature's humbler creatures the



Cardinal and his kind. Even the sorrows of
this brilliant songster amid the cedars sound the
note of disaster soon to conclude the tale.

The naive simplicity of the courtship of Adam
Moss, " such a green, cool, soft name," and
Georgianna had its beginnings in the garden, its
continuance across the hedge, its culmination in
the little natural paradise that the lover had cared
for and tended. At the sad ending of this lov-
ing couple's union, the whole choir of nature
seemed to send up a hymn of everlasting grief
after the passage of this pure-souled woman; the
Cardinal lost his mate; Adam Moss lost his; and
with his little son walked again amid the " chaliced
flowers " of his garden and fast budding orchard
for consolation the tragedy of nature healed
by herself.

The follower of Thoreau and Audubon, his fel-
low of the Kentucky woods, he has stepped beyond
their realm and brought a multitude of the great
Mother's gifts to dwell around the abodes of the
men and women whose lives he fondly unfolds.
Within the covers of this volume there is tender-



ness, there is simplicity, there is the ineffaceable
sweetness of the poem in the printed form of
prose, yet unshorn of the subtle beauties and har-
monies of the setting. It remains a simple,
pathetic story reaching straight to the hearts of

In the early days of the State's history, Lex-
ington was settled by that sturdy race of pioneers
who had pushed over the Blue Ridge, the Alle-
ghanies, and the Cumberland passes into the fresh
fields of the new land. The vitality and vigor of
this community, the customs and manners of the
pioneer life, the struggle of determined men and
women to establish an outpost of civilization, the
rise of the church, all are embodied in the short
story " Flute and Violin"; but there is contained
something more intimate and more personal than
the historical references and setting. It is the life
of the Reverend James Moore, and that of his
charge, David. A grasp of no usual power is
betrayed in Mr. Allen's manner of delineating the
relationship of these two; the minister of God and
the fatherless waif. The preacher, lifting up his



soul to his Master in the exhortation to his back-
woods brethren, has one point in common with the
poverty-stricken urchin that point is music.
The cold, keen soul of the pastor is elevated above
the plane of logical and earthly things in the sweet
melodies of the flute; the lonely, God-forsaken
soul of the crippled boy is fluttered in ecstasy at
the magic notes of the violin.

There is one incident, full of pathos, full of
the divine tragedy of the past, that stamps this
story as classic. It is the straightforward appeal
to all that man calls noble and sublime. The
penniless, maimed youngster was enabled to grat-
ify his intense desire to see the wonderful " Wax
Figures," which had just arrived in the back-
woods town, through a petty theft; he entered
timidly, conscience-stricken, and, as he lifted his
eyes, the portrait of Christ confronted him in its
silent, appealing majesty. " It was a strange
meeting. The large rude painting possessed no
claim to art. But to him it was an overwhelm-
ing revelation, for he had never seen any pictures,
and he was gifted with an untutored love of paint-



ing. Over him, therefore, it exercised an enthrall-
ing influence, and it was as though he stood in the
visible presence of One whom he knew the par-
son preached of and his mother worshipped."

The place of action shifts in the next of his
stories to that time in the early thirties when the
great plague visited Kentucky. Among the danc-
ing and singing beauties, in the ranks of the up-
right and fallen, among the statesmen and gen-
erals, in the mansions and huts, the pestilence came
and took its toll.

How ironical are the movements of Fate!
" King Solomon," the central figure of the tale
bearing his name, has stood at auction before the
jeering, laughing crowd in the public square and
has been bought for thirteen dollars by a free
negro " mammy " at a time when slavery was the
most potent factor in the life of the State; this
great hulk of a man has stood before the crowd a
wreck of moral manhood, besotted and full of
the lowest passions of a human being; he had
fallen to such a depth that digging a ditch was too
lofty an occupation.



The plague came with its deluge of disaster.
The moaning of some dying human being, the rap
of hammer on the coffins at the lumber yard, the
creak of the death cart, were the only sounds
arising from the stricken city; yet, not these alone,
there was one more the soft scrape and thud
of " King Solomon's " shovel digging the graves.
He, alone, had remained at the post. " King
Solomon" had come into his own; moral sub-
limity had arisen from moral degeneracy. The
sot and outcast was regenerated into the hero and
the man.

Mr. Allen has drawn a striking picture of an
incident on the return of the population. The
court room was filled; "King Solomon" stood
again in that room whence he had been sent a
little while before to be sold for vagrancy. " The
Judge took his seat and, making a great effort to
control himself, passed his own eyes slowly over
the court-room. All at once he caught sight of
" King Solomon " sitting against the wall in an
obscure corner; before any one could know what
he was doing, he hurried down and walked up to



the vagrant and grasped his hand. He tried to
speak, but could not. Old King Solomon had
buried his wife and daughter buried them one
clouded midnight, with no one present but him-

" Then the oldest member of the bar started
up and followed the example ; and the other mem-
bers, rising by a common impulse, filed slowly
back and one by one wrung that hard and power-
ful hand."

In " Two Gentlemen of Kentucky " James Lane
Allen has struck a very sympathetic chord in South-
ern natures, and in those of the world at large.
The results of war are always sad; the passing of
a brave but broken man who fought nobly in such
a war is sadder still. The simplicity, the kindli-
ness, the bravery of a broken man, the passing
onward of master and slave, the one to become a
man made still nobler by his responsibilities for
those under his care ; the other to become ennobled
in character by his devoted care of those above
him. We must note the two old men, the one
white, bent, noble of face and character; the other



black, equally crooked, acquiring the fine traits
of his master; these two walking feebly arm in
arm to their last resting place the end of the
old regime.

Mr. Allen's work is not all sombre and pathetic;
humorous and quaintly shrewd touches abound.
The texts to the number of seven embroidered on
the coat tails of Peter's preaching garment are
described with humorous appreciation and telling,
ludicrous effect.

Amid the green fields of the promised land, a
band of religious exiles founded a new home for
the establishment of their order; it was the so-
ciety of the Trappist Monks. The order was
founded some nine centuries ago by De Ranee in
the gloomy forests of Normandy; so, here, these
silent men pushed into the wilderness to gain the
seclusion that their souls craved for meditation
and prayer. They found it in this virgin land.
Consequently, to-day there is located in one of the
most beautiful sections of the State an ancient
abbey surrounded by the fields of the brotherhood;
about the grim buildings the smiling land rolls in



sweeping swells until it meets the clear blue of a
Kentucky sky.

Mr. Allen's short-story, " The White Cowl,"
is laid within the grey environs of the old abbey.
The strange career of the young Kentucky priest
who had never known the name of woman or seen
her image since early childhood; the struggle to
conquer the forbidden longing the beating of
the spirit of youth against the walls; the meeting
of the woman and the renunciation of the clois-
tered life; the parting of the aged abbot and his
beloved disciple all are visualized in tragic
array before the eye.

The ill fated conclusion of the tale has a power
which grips the heart. " Father Palmeon," the
young priest, no longer young, returns from the
world, his wife and child buried in the same grave;
he himself a broken, dispirited man, scarcely con-
cerned with the vast domain without. He comes
to beg readmittance which must, by rules of the
order, be refused. He is received merely as a
guest, and, within a short time, worn by the rigors
of sorrow and penitence, he gives up his lofty



spirit, passing hence upon the ashes and straw al-
lotted to a dying brother. Mr. Allen sums up
the story pithily, " Love duty the world; in
these three words lie all the human, all the divine,

The setting of " Sister Dolorosa " is also laid
in an old nunnery in the valley of Gethsemane.
The same type of struggle is thrown upon the
screen. The author dresses it in the wonderful
garb of which his mastery proclaims his genius
the sad scenes of the love, the struggle, the sacri-
fice of a lonely woman. Everywhere, pervading
the atmosphere of his stories are the forces of
nature at work, particularly those of sex relation-
ship foreshadowing his future efforts in evolution
and the slow creation of present man.

What an artist's eye for color James Lane Allen
possesses ! His description of Sister Dolorosa,
her face and garments, at the time of her meeting
Helm, brings the vivid pictures before the eye,
reveling in shade and tone, with all the intricate
lighting of the original. " A gleaming as white
lilies against the raven blackness of her dress; and


with startling fitness of posture, the longest finger
of the right hand pointed like a marble index
towards a richly embroidered symbol over her left
breast mournful symbol of a crimson heart
pierced by a crimson spear. Whether attracted
by the lily-white hands or by the red symbol, a
butterfly, which had been flitting hither and thither
in search of the gay roses of the summer gone,
now began to hover nearer and nearer, and finally
lighted unseen upon the glowing spot. Then, as
if disappointed not to find it the bosom of the
rose, or lacking hope and strength for further
quest there it rested, slowly fanning with its
white wings the tortured emblem of the divine

Throughout the writer reveals the forces of na-
ture playing upon the actions of men; he outlines
with consummate skill the influence of natural

While the last tale, " Posthumus Fame," of the
book containing the series above is hardly up to
the standard of its companions, yet, even here,
we must concede that delicate mastery of word and



structure whose beauty is a continual source of de-
light. Somewhat similar to the classic forerunner
of similar type that of Hawthorne it is a
creation of singular allegorical force. The pag-
eant of those who seek future fame and remem-
brance passes in sorrowful procession before the
young sculptor : the unknown poet, the broken
soldier, the hungry minister, the bereaved mother,
the penitent, painted woman, the beauty. Each
in turn lays bare a glaring nakedness of soul, the
vain hope for remembrance by posterity. The

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Online LibraryHarry Aubrey ToulminSocial historians → online text (page 5 of 8)