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his accounts are interesting. In 1610 William Strachey, secretary of
the Virginia colony, wrote at Jamestown and sent to London for publi
cation his " A True Repertory of the Wrack and Redemption of Sir
Thomas Gates, Knight, upon and from the Islands of the Burmudas."
This was an account of the disaster by a member of the expedition that
accompanied Sir Thomas Gates, and is memorable for a vivid descrip
tion of a storm at sea. It is commonly thought that this book may have
been a source of suggestion to Shakespeare for the opening incident
of his play " The Tempest," there being interesting parallels between
the two accounts. The earliest poetry written in Virginia was a transla
tion of ten books of Ovid s " Metamorphoses," made by George Sandys
during his stay in the colony as its treasurer. But these writers may
hardly be claimed as American writers. As a matter of fact, they were
Englishmen, who eventually went back to their English home, writing
for Englishmen in order to describe what they had seen and felt in the
new country.

It seems, therefore, on the whole more fitting to place the beginning
of literature in the South at the time when native-born writers began to

473



474 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

write for their countrymen and to take for their subject matter local
history, politics, and conditions. One of the first evidences of a growth
of national consciousness was the popular uprising of 1676 known as
Bacon s Rebellion. This gave to the people a national hero and a
realization of independence of England, not only geographically, but
politically. From this event the colonists began to talk of Virginia as
their mother state. The literature that was produced in the hundred
years following Bacon s Rebellion bears strong traces of this new spirit.
While much of it continued to be of a descriptive and historical char
acter, yet a good deal of it was of a political kind inspired by local or
intercolonial disputes. Virginia produced more of this literature than
any other colony, but in the course of time other colonies, such as
Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, made their
contributions.

In the anonymous Burwell Papers an account is given of the first great
thrill in colonial life Bacon s Rebellion. In Colonel William Byrd
one discovers the most sprightly and interesting writer in the colonies
before Franklin. In Robert Beverley one perceives the country gentle
man interested not only in his plantation but interested also in its past
history and its present economic and social conditions. These are but
a few of the more readable of those who illustrate the awakened interest
in local life. As might be expected these writers imitated in their style
and literary methods the writers of England. In the eighteenth century
the periodical essays of Addison and Steele had set the fashion for a
type of light and delicately neat prose, and it is possible that Southern
writers would have gone on to a literature of manners and customs that
would have approached the observant, personal, and quaintly humorous
manner of The Tatler, The Spectator, and other essays of the same kind.
But the great political questions connected with the Revolution even
tually absorbed the intellectual life of the Southern colonists. The stress
of these events did not produce much that could, in the narrower sense
of the term, be called literature, but in the writings of the time there is
such a vivid reflection of what the people were thinking and feeling
that the words of orators and political writers have the imaginative lift
of literature. Men like Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry, among
the orators, and Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Wash
ington, among the political writers, were some of those who produced
contributions that it is difficult to avoid calling literature.



NOTES 475



PART I. THE OLD SOUTH IN LITERATURE

Following the Revolution came the great material development of
the country, and in connection with this a great intellectual and literary
development in the Northern states. But in the South the social and
economic conditions continued to be those of a rural aristocracy based
on slavery. While such a life was full of graciousness and hospitality
and all the high social virtues that come of a feudal aristocracy, it
nevertheless tended towards conservatism and individualism. These
qualities operated strongly in the interval between the Revolution and
the Civil War to make the country gentleman of the South desire to
have things remain as they were politically and economically. They also
made him see intensely the claims of his own state and section to the
exclusion of others, such a feeling culminating in the doctrine of state
rights. Another marked condition in Southern life in this period was
a stunting poverty of popular education. The children of rich families
had private tutors and were able to attend college, but the great mass
of the common people were without the most rudimentary education.

Such conditions tended to retard intellectual and literary develop-
ment.yJSVhen the North was producing the Knickerbocker school,
represented by Irving, Bryant, and Cooper, and the New England
group of writers among whom were Hawthorne and Emerson, the
South was, comparatively speaking, producing a meager amount of
literature. But the chief cause of lack of literary development in the
old South was that the South expended its intellectual life in oratory
at the county courthouse or the state capitol or the halls of Congress.
Such notable names and interesting personalities as Pinckney, Walsh,
Houston, Preston, Randolph, Clay, Calhoun, Benton, and Hayne be
long to the group of antebellum orators and statesmen.

The orators of the old South have not been excelled in our national history.
They were clever debaters on the science and art of statecraft. They diligently
studied public questions, they had read the classic orators, and they constructed
their speeches on the best models of that ancient art. In these old Southern
statesmen the finest tradition of the school of Burke and Pitt and Fox still lived.
Thus the energy of the most gifted men was spent on political discussion ; the
old-time Southerner was a politician by instinct and training, and his ambition
was political. To him the spoken word was more than the written word. Con
sequently he sought preferment at the bar, on the bench, in the forum, and not
in the world of letters. 1

1 Metcalf, " American Literature," page 257.



4/6 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE
ESSAYISTS AND DESCRIPTIVE WRITERS

It is strange that the South, with its fondness for the literature of
the eighteenth century, did not produce more essayists, especially after
the manner of Addison and Steele s The Tatler and The Spectator.
As it is, William Wirt is almost the only writer of this form. Others,
however, have left, incidentally to other purposes, as the selections
below from "Crockett, Audubon, and Elliott show, vivid descriptions
of certain phases of Southern life.

WILLIAM WIRT

This and the following selection have been taken from Wirt s
" Letters of the British Spy." This book of essays pretended to be
copies of letters written by a young Englishman of rank, during a tour
of the United States, to a member of the English Parliament. The
letters presented, in the leisurely eighteenth-century fashion of Addison,
geographical descriptions, delineations of public men, moral and politi
cal discussions, and literary views. The value of the book to the pres
ent generation lies chiefly in the fact that it shows how the eighteenth
century ruled in the mind of a Southerner at the beginning of the
nineteenth century.

THE BRITISH SPY S OPINION OF THE SPECTATOR (PAGE i)

The Spectator: the series of periodical essays written by Addison
and Steele. Bacon: Francis Bacon, the English philosopher and
statesman of the Elizabethan age. Boyle : Robert Boyle, a noted
English scientific and philosophical writer of the seventeenth century.

QUESTIONS, i . What literary ideals does the writer approve ? 2. Were
these ideals passing away in England and in other sections of the
United States while surviving in the South ?

AN OLD VIRGINIA PREACHER (PAGE 4)

The preacher is said to have been Rev. James Waddell, a noted
Presbyterian preacher of Virginia who in his latter years was blind.

Orange : a county in Virginia.

QUESTIONS, i. Describe the preacher and his preaching. 2. Has the
South been noted for the production of preachers of exceptional power ?



NOTES 477

DAVID CROCKETT

This selection is from "The Life of David Crockett by Himself"
an autobiography written in order to correct false impressions about
the writer. After Crockett s election to Congress his eccentricities of
dress and manner made him a notable figure in Washington, and a
publisher seized the occasion to issue, in 1834, an anonymous book
entitled " Sketches and Eccentricities of Colonel David Crockett,"
without the latter s approval. To correct the impressions of this book,
Crockett, now nearing fifty, set to work to write the story of his life
and produced a book which, in spite of literary deficiencies, is one of
the most racy and amusing books of its kind. His achievement is all
the more remarkable because he did not learn to write until, when
nearly thirty, an appointment as justice of the peace compelled him
to do so in a degree sufficient to keep his records and to draw legal
papers. Bear hunts, Indian fights, and other thrilling adventures make
up the contents of the book, and in spite of inelegancies of expression
it gives a good picture of pioneer life.

THE BEAR HUNT (PAGE 8)

harricane : canebrake. cracks: caused by earthquakes.
QUESTION. What methods, according to this selection, were em
ployed in hunting bears ?

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON

This selection is from the journal in which Audubon recorded not
merely details relating to his scientific interests, but many adventures
and sketches of the country and its inhabitants in the sections visited
by him.

EARLY SETTLERS ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI (PAGE 14)

The scene of this sketch is the swamps of Louisiana, which in
Audubon s time were very sparsely settled.

QUESTIONS, i. What causes induced the squatters to leave their
homes? 2. How did they travel? 3. What obstacles did they over
come in their new homes ? 4. W T hat qualities caused them to prosper ?
5. Has the South retained or lost such qualities among its white
working classes ?



4/8 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

WILLIAM ELLIOTT

Elliott s "Carolina Sports by Land and Water," from which this
selection is taken, belongs to the type of literature of which Izaak Wal
ton s "The Complete Angler" is the undisputed head. Elliott s book is
in two parts : the first gives interesting narratives of the author s adven
tures in connection with fishing ; the second is devoted to experiences
in hunting wildcats, deer, and other game. The setting for it was the
coastal section of South Carolina southeast of Charleston.

A DEER HUNT (PAGE 19)

malice prepense : premeditated malice.

QUESTIONS, i. What details regarding the hunting of deer does this
selection give ? 2. How is vividness secured in the account ?

Other Essayists and Descriptive Writers. Worthy of mention but impossible
of representation in this volume are the following writers : South Carolina . Hugh
Swinton Legare (1797-1843), Henry J. Nott (1797-1837), Caroline Howard Oil
man (1794-1888), Louisa Susannah McCord (1810-1879); Alabama: Octavia
Walton LeVert (1810-1877).

ROMANCERS AND STORY WRITERS

The writing of romantic fiction in the old South was centered mainly
in the fifteen years between 1835 and 1850. This was the period of ex
pansion for the South in two directions. In the region of ideas many
great questions were coming to the front for settlement, and in the field
of material conquest the settlement of the rich Southwest was going
on. Under the stimulus of these conditions men began to realize the
wealth of material in Southern history and traditions, and began to
work it into fiction.

The spirit in which this work was done was imitative of what was
being done in fiction in England and in the New England States, In
England, under the influence of the romantic movement, the novel had
developed into the romance of historical imagination represented by
Scott s Waverley series. In New England, fiction began toward the end
of the eighteenth century and followed the tendencies of fiction in
England, until its early development culminated in the romances of
Cooper, who practically created the American frontier story and the
American historical novel. The success of Cooper s work stimulated



NOTES 479

writers in the South to follow in his footsteps, and rapidly romances of
the same general type, with Southern incidents as their basis, came into
existence. The foremost antebellum writers of fiction in the South
were Poe, Simms, Kennedy, and Cooke. Of these the last three are to
be grouped together as representing the interest in writing historical
romances. Poe stands apart from these in the methods and ideals
followed in his tales.

EDGAR ALLAN POE

It has been so long popular to think of Poe as " a world artist, unre
lated to his local origin, unindebted to it," that it may seem almost
absurd to look for any representation of Southern life in Poe s stories.
Nevertheless, so distinguished a critic as Professor Woodberry holds
that Poe is as much a product of the South as Whittier was of New
England. As he puts it, " His breeding and education were Southern ;
his manners, habits of thought, and moods of feeling were Southern ;
his sentimentalism, his conception of womanhood and its qualities, of
manhood and its behavior, his weaknesses of character, have the stamp
of his origin ; his temperament, even his sensibilities, his gloom and
dream, his response to color and music, were of his race and place."

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (PAGE 28)

This story, first published in 1839, is generally accepted as, from
the point of view of craftsmanship, Poe s finest tale.

ennuye : wearied, bored. Von Weber : A German composer of the
late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Fuseli : a Swiss artist
who lived from 1742 to 1825, and who painted a series of imaginative
pictures illustrating Shakespeare and Milton. "The Haunted Pal
ace": the allegorical significance is plainly hinted at. The word Por-
phyrogene in line 22 of the poem on page 38 is formed from two Greek
words, meaning " purple " and " begotten " ; hence born in the purple,
royal.

Watson, etc. : these are the names of obscure scientists, more prom
inent in Poe s day than in the present. Satyrs and .ffigipans : in
classical mythology the satyrs were creatures with the body of a man
and the feet, hair, and horns of a goat ; agipans is an epithet of Pan, the
satyr-like rural god. Gothic : the black-letter type of the Middle Ages.
VigUi(. Mortuorum, etc.: "Vigils for the Dead according to the



480 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Choir of the Church of Mayence." "Mad Trist" of Sir Launcelot
Canning : no book with this title is known, and the title was undoubt
edly coined by Poe and the quotations invented by him to fit the
context.

QUESTIONS, i. What effect does Poe evidently seek to produce in
this story? 2. Show whether the parts are skillfully related to one
another and to the whole. 3. In what respects is the story character
istic of the South ? 4. Can the description of U^her be taken as self-
portraiture on Poe s part ?

JOHN PENDLETON KENNEDY

These selections are taken from " Swallow Barn, or a Sojourn in the
Old Dominion," published in 1832. The author s design was to present
sketches descriptive of country life in Virginia, in a series of letters
supposed to be written by Mark Littleton to a friend in New York, giv
ing his impressions of a Virginia home which he is visiting. So desul
tory is the book in its manner that it can hardly be called a novel. Its
best description is in the words of the preface, " a series of detached
sketches linked together by the hooks and eyes of a traveler s notes . . .
and may be described as variously and interchangeably partaking of the
complexion of a book of travel, a diary, a collection of letters, a drama,
and a history." Nevertheless, the author has succeeded in presenting
a full picture of life in the old homesteads on the James River.

SELECTIONS FROM " SWALLOW BARN "
SWALLOW BARN, AN OLD VIRGINIA ESTATE (PAGE 50)

chevaux-de-frise: a contrivance consisting of pieces of timber with
spikes of iron used to defend a passage.

THE MISTRESS OF SWALLOW BARN (PAGE 57)
tertian : an intermittent fever which returns every three days.

TRACES OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM (PAGE 59)

rod of Aaron: the wonder-working rod used by Moses and Aaron.
See Bible, Book of Exodus. Mr. Chub: a parson who has charge
of the school on the Meriwether estate. Mr. Burke: the celebrated
English orator and statesman of the eighteenth century. Rip : the
thirteen-year-old son of the Meriwethers.



NOTES 481

THE QUARTER (PAGE 64)

chapeau de bras : a type of military helmet.

QUESTIONS, i. What is said of the house, Swallow Barn? 2. What of
the surrounding buildings ? 3. How extensive was the estate ? 4. What
were the products of the plantation ? 5. Describe the appearance and
character of the owner, Frank Meriwether ; of Mrs. Meriwether.
6. Does the account of the negro quarters show that the slaves were
happy and contented? 7. In what ways did the life on these old
estates evidence traces of the feudal system ? 8. Discuss whether such
a condition was a help or a hindrance to the development of the South.

SELECTIONS FROM " HORSESHOE ROBINSON "

Very different from the leisurely " Swallow Barn " is Kennedy s
stirring romance of the Revolution, "Horseshoe Robinson." In the
introduction Kennedy has told the circumstances under which he formed
the acquaintance of the principal character and came into possession
of the leading incidents of the novel. On a visit to the western section
of South Carolina in 1819, he spent the night at a house where he met
Horseshoe Robinson, then an old man, who had been summoned to
give relief to a boy who had dislocated his shoulder in a fall from
a horse. "Horseshoe," says Kennedy, "yielded himself to my leading
and I got out of him a rich stock of adventure, of which his life was
full. It was long after midnight before our party broke up ; and when
I got to my bed it was to dream of Horseshoe and his adventures. I
made a record of what he told me, whilst the memory of it was still
fresh, and often afterwards reverted to it, when accident or intentional
research brought into my view events connected with the times and
scenes to which this story had reference."

Kennedy also adds that after the publication of the novel in 1835 ne
commissioned a friend to send the old man who had by that time
moved to Alabama a copy of the book. " The report brought me
was that the old man listened very attentively to the reading of it, and
took a great interest in it.

" What do you say to all of this? was the question addressed to
him after the reading was finished. His reply is a voucher which I
desire to preserve : It is all true and right in its right place ex
cepting about them women, which I disremember. That mought be
true, too ; but my memory is treacherous I disremember. "



482 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

HORSESHOE ROBINSON (PAGE 68)

Gates : General Horatio Gates of the American army, who had forced
the British under Burgoyne to surrender after the battle of Saratoga in
1777. In 1780 he was put in command of the Southern forces of the
Revolutionary army. Owing to his poor generalship his forces were
defeated near Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, 1780, by Lord
Cornwallis, and a few months later Gates was superseded by General
Greene. Gates thereupon retired to his home in Virginia.

HORSESHOE CAPTURES FIVE PRISONERS (PAGE 77)
cock-a-whoop : boastful.

THE BATTLE OF KING S MOUNTAIN (PAGE 90)

King s Mountain : a ridge rising a few hundred feet above the sur
rounding country just within the limits of South Carolina and about
thirty miles southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina. Here was fought
on October 7, 1780, a battle between the English and Tory force of
one thousand one hundred and twenty-five under Lieutenant-Colonel
Ferguson and about one thousand Georgia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky backwoodsmen under William
Campbell, James Williams, Benjamin Cleveland, Isaac Shelby, and
John Sevier. The engagement lasted about an hour, resulting in so de
cisive a defeat for the English that Cornwallis was compelled to post
pone for a time his invasion of North Carolina. Froissart : a French
chronicler of the fourteenth century.

QUESTIONS, i. In a review of this book Poe praised the character
of Horseshoe Robinson by writing, " In short, he is the man of all
others we would like to have riding by our side in any very hazardous
adventure." What traits of character does Horseshoe exhibit that
would justify this opinion ? 2. Are the other characters vividly enough
drawn to enable you to analyze their characteristics ? 3. What levels of
Southern society are represented in the story ? 4. Give some of the
details regarding the life of each of these levels. 5. What impressions
of the devotion of the people to the cause of liberty are given ?

WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS

Of Simms s numerous novels " The Yemassee," from which the
selection below is taken, is perhaps his nearest approach to artistic
success. While lacking many essential points of greatness, it is a bold,



NOTES 483

spirited romance, full of invention and narrative power. If considera
tions of space had permitted, some selections from his great Revolu
tionary romance, " The Partisan," would have been included in this
volume. This book is scarcely less interesting and successful than
" The Yemassee " and portrays the same period of history as Kennedy s
" Horseshoe Robinson." The two stories are, however, by no means
duplicates ; Simms s story has as its background the swamps of South
Carolina in which Marion, the " Swamp Fox," and his followers found
refuge.

SELECTIONS FROM " THE YEMASSEE "
THE ATTACK ox THE BLOCK HOUSE (PAGE 105)

The blockhouse was a familiar means of defense from Indians in the
early days of settlement in America. It was a structure built of stout
logs, in which were loopholes through which rifles might be fired.
This particular blockhouse is described in an earlier chapter of " The
Yemassee " as consisting of two stories, the lower story being a single
apartment, but the upper story, reached by a ladder, was divided into
two rooms, one of which, more securely built than the other, was for
the protection of the women and children.

amour propre : vanity. Ariel: the sprite in Shakespeare s "The
Tempest" who performs the bidding of Prospero.

QUESTIONS, i. "What preparations for defense did the inmates of
the blockhouse make ? 2. "What methods of attack were used by the
Indians ? 3. "What traits of character did Granger s wife display ?
4. "Was the life of pioneer days conducive to giving women such
qualities of character as she shows ?

JOHN ESTEX 1 COOKE

The selections here given are from " The Yirginia Comedians."
This book, published in 1854, is generally considered the best of the
dozen or so romances written by Cooke with scenes laid in colonial
and Revolutionary times and in the Civil "War. Cooke s aspirations in
this story were, in his own words, " to paint the Yirginia phase of
American society, to do for the Old Dominion what Cooper has done
for the Indians, Simms for the Revolutionary down in South Carolina,
Irving for the Dutch Knickerbockers, and Hawthorne for the weird

1 Pronounced Hasten.



484 SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

Puritan life of New England." The scene is laid around Williamsburg,
the colonial capital of Virginia, in the years immediately preceding the
Revolution. In Cooke s mind this was a striking period of social tran
sition. " It was the period of the culmination of the old regime," says
Cooke in the preface to the 1883 edition. " A splendid society had
burst into flower, and was enjoying itself in the sunshine and under
the blue skies of the most beautiful of lands. On the surface the era
is tranquil, but beneath is the volcano. Passion smolders under the
laughter ; the homespun coat jostles the embroidered costume ; men
are demanding social equality, as they will soon demand a republic ;



Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 31 of 35)