Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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and the splendid old regime is about to vanish in the storm of Revolu
tion." The novel is, therefore, a picture of the " golden days," and in
this way it is perhaps best to take the book. The reader who looks for
story interest will find himself disappointed. There is plenty of action,
ardent love-making, duels, and the like, and there is bright talk,
but the plot is not well sustained throughout. Its weakness is evi
denced by the fact that the book is now published as two separate
books, " Beatrice Hallam " and its sequel, " Captain Ralph," either of
which can be read without the other.


Kidderminster : an English manufacturing town noted for its carpet
industry. tout ensemble: whole. point de Venise : Venetian point
lace. Mr. Joseph Addison s serial: the Spectator essays.


House of Burgesses: the legislative body of colonial Virginia.
Governor Fauquier : a colonial governor of Virginia, whose term
extended from 1758 to 1768. the Raleigh: the noted tavern at
Williamsburg. Benedick: one of the characters in Shakespeare s
"Much Ado About Nothing." the Twopenny- Act : see the action
brought by the Reverend Mr. Maury^ etc., page 132. In the early days
of Virginia the salaries of the clergy were paid in tobacco, the clergy
receiving the advantage of a rise in price and suffering from a low
price. In 1758 the legislature of Virginia enacted a law to the effect
that these salaries should be paid in paper currency at a less amount
than the price of tobacco in that year. This provoked a protest, one


of the test suits being filed by the Reverend James Maury. vox
argentea of Cicero : the silver voice of Cicero, the Roman orator.

Mr. Patrick Henry : the orator and statesman born in Hanover
County, Virginia, in 1736. In 1763 he came into prominence by his
brilliant plea for the defense in the suit brought by the Reverend James
Maury. His later career as an orator of Revolutionary times is too well
known to be repeated. Anacreon : a Greek lyric poet who lived in
the fifth century B.C.

Mr. Wythe, Colonel Bland, etc. : prominent characters in the history
of colonial Virginia. tictac : a kind of backgammon. spadille : a
game of cards. Corydons and Chloes : names common in pastoral
poetry for shepherds and shepherdesses. Here they are used as equiv
alent to beaux and belles. petit maitre : coxcomb. Myrtilla : see
note above. Cordelia: a character in Shakespeare s "King Lear. "-
Circe : a character in classical mythology who by her powers of en
chantment transformed human beings into animals, such as wolves,
lions, etc.

As the early Southern novels were so largely of the historical type, it is inter
esting to note the episodes of Southern history that formed their backgrounds.
A list arranged in the order of the historical situations contained in them will
not only serve to suggest the more important of these novels but will outline an
interesting course of reading.

The list would begin with William Caruthers " Cavaliers of Virginia " and
St. George Tucker Jr. s " Hansford," both of which record that dramatic episode
of colonial history known as Bacon s Rebellion. Next would come William Car
uthers Knights of the Horseshoe," based on the romantic expedition made by
Governor Spotswood of Virginia to the summit of the Blue Ridge, whence he and
his companions looked over for the first time into the Shenandoah valley. These
would be followed by John Pendleton Kennedy s " Rob of the Bowl," giving an
account of the struggle between Episcopalianism and Roman Catholicism in
Maryland under the second Lord Baltimore. Then would come William Gilmore
Simms s " Yemassee," with its background of the uprising of the Yemassee
Indians in 1715. In John Esten Cooke s ! The Virginia Comedians" and its
sequel " Henry St. John, Gentleman " we are carried on to the splendid flowering
of Virginia life just before the Revolution. With William Gilmore Simms again
in his several novels "The Partisan," Katherine Walton," " Mellichampe,"
The Scout," " Euta\v." "The Forayers," and "Woodcraft" we have various
phases of the Revolution. To this same period belongs John Pendleton Kennedy s
" Horseshoe Robinson." The great exodus into the Mississippi valley and the
Southwest, which was the great thrill in Southern life in the earl}* nineteenth cen
tury, found expression in the series of Border Romances by William Gilmore
Simms, which well reflect pioneer existence in the various new states " Guy
Rivers " for Georgia, " Richard Hurdis ?! for Alabama, " Border Beagles " for


Mississippi, " Beauchampe " for Kentucky. Next would come that remarkable
novel prophetic of the startling events to come in the Civil War period, Nathaniel
Beverly Tucker s " The Partisan Leader." Caroline Lee Hentz s " The Planter s
Northern Bride," a reply to Mrs. Stowe s " Uncle Tom s Cabin," would bring
the chain of events down almost to the opening of the Civil War. John Esten
Cooke s " Surrey of Eagle s Nest," " Mohun," and " Hilt to Hilt " would be found
accounts by an eyewitness of the notable campaigns of the Civil War in Virginia.

Other Romancers and Story Writers. Not represented in this book are the
following writers : Virginia: John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866); North Caro
lina: Calvin H. Wiley (1819-1887); Georgia: Francis Robert Goulding (1810-
1881); Kentucky: Catherine Anne Warfield (1816-1877); Louisiana : Sarah Anne
Dorsey (1829-1879).


Between 1835 and 1855 there sprang up in the South a group of
humorists whose work is of interest on several accounts. In the first
place, it was a distinctive contribution to American literature. The
people of the antebellum South were a happy people who cared more
for laughter than for tears. It was characteristic of the Southerner, and
still is, even in the present day, that in whatever assemblage he might be
there was the matching of jokes and anecdotes. In the second place, this
humorous writing was an attempt to produce literature for its own sake.
As has been shown, much of the earlier writing was writing done for a
purpose, such as orations, political essays, journals, biographies, and the
like. Almost the first effort in the South to produce literature for its
own sake was in the field of humorous writing. A third reason why this
humorous Writing should command attention lies in the fact that it was
popular with the Southern people before the war. Whatever opinion
may be held about its intrinsic literary worth, there is no gainsaying the
fact that it was the joy and delight of the Southern people, and in it
they thought they found a faithful delineation of certain phases of their
life. A final reason for giving attention to the work of these writers is
that they are the forerunners of the realistic writers of the new South
who have so successfully depicted in short stories and novels the scenes
and characters of various sections of the South.

The salient features of this Southern humorous literature were the
natural outgrowth of the conditions amidst which it was produced.
It was a humor of locality. Those who produced it perceived that in
the South there were strongly marked types. This was true of the
Southern gentleman, with his marked accent and mannerisms, and it


was still more true of the middle and lower classes and their peculiari
ties. It was the humor of dialect. In that day bad spelling in rough
imitation of dialect was considered as a necessary adjunct to humor. It
was, moreover, humor of situation. It delighted in boisterous and rather
crude situations of discomfiture. Even people of refinement would find
diversion in the roughest pranks and would laugh unrestrainedly over a
predicament that was both painful and unfortunate. It had two other
characteristics which relate not to its materials but to its sources. In
the first place, it originated through the newspaper sketch and has all
the freshness of that type of literature ; and, in the second place, it
is, like all other Southern literature of this period, the work of the


From the first Georgia was a much more democratic state than
Virginia or South Carolina. Its population was a sturdy race which
separation from the more aristocratic sections had rendered peculiarly
individual. The country dances, the gander pullings, the militia drills,
the debating societies, the fox hunts, the shooting matches, the horse
races, and the like which formed so large a part of the everyday life
of the rural sections of Georgia are vividly portrayed by Longstreet in
" Georgia Scenes," from which are taken the two following selections.


In this sketch Longstreet has given a very lively picture of a char
acteristic feature of country life in the South.

cracklins : a well-cooked, crisp rind of pork. tout ensemble : whole
appearance. tacky : ugly horse. make a pass at me : make me an
offer. banter : proposal. boot : money given to make an exchange
equal. brought him to a hack : caused him to hesitate. rues and
after claps : bitternesses and regrets.

QUESTIONS, i. Describe the methods of the horse swap. 2. What
impressions of the character of the rural population of Georgia does
the sketch give ?


fescues, abisselfas, and anpersants: the author explains these terms as
follows : " The fescue was a sharpened wire or other instrument used
by the preceptor to point out the letters to the children. Abisselfa is a


contraction of the words a by itself, a. It was usual, when either of
the vowels constituted a syllable of a word, to pronounce it, and denote
its independent character by the words just mentioned, thus : a by it
self <2, c-o-r-n, corn, acorn. The character which stands for the word
and (&) was probably pronounced by the same accompaniment but
in terms borrowed from the Latin language, thus : & per se (by itself)
&. Hence anpersants."

Mrs. Trollope : an English writer who, after visiting the United
States, wrote a very grossly exaggerated and unfavorable account of the
American people. school-butter : the author s note on this expres
sion is as follows : " I have never been able to satisfy myself clearly as
to the literal meaning of these terms. They were considered an unpar
donable insult to a country school, and always justified an attack by the
whole fraternity upon the person who used them in their hearing."

QUESTIONS, i. What characteristics of the schoolmaster are brought
out? of the boys? 2. Comment on the democratic relation of school
master and pupils shown by this incident.


The selection here given is from " Major Jones s Courtship," which
consists of a series of letters describing the courtship of Mary Stallings
by Major Joseph Jones, who is a typical countryman and small planter
of the middle class in Georgia a vigorous and uneducated product of
plantation life. Although both Mary and the Major are tenderly inclined
towards each other and the old folks are willing to the match, yet it is
only after various amusing situations that their love attains a happy cul
mination. The book is natural and faithful in its picture of country life
in more primitive times, and is full of lively and wholesome humor.


Miss Carline and Miss Kesiah : older sisters of the Major s sweet
heart, Mary Stallings, whose widowed mother owns the plantation ad
joining the Major s. old Miss Stallins : Mary Stallings s mother.
The designation " Mrs." is often pronounced Miss among country peo
ple in the South. jice : joist. ager : ague, chill. Cato : a common
name for negroes.

QUESTIONS, i. Give in your own words an account of the incident.
2. Comment on the character of the humor.



Baldwin s " Flush Times in Alabama and Mississippi," from which
this selection is taken, is a volume of humorous sketches drawn from
the writer s experiences in the " Shinplaster Era " a time when in
the recently opened Southwest business flourished upon the fictitious
basis of universal credit and indefinite extension. Of these " flush
times " Baldwin was himself a part, and he gives a very vivid interpre
tation of it.


This extract from the sketch with the same title presents very
meagerly a piece of humor held by some to equal Mark Twain at
his best.

Prince Hal . . . Falstaff : characters in Shakespeare s " King
Henry IV." belles-lettres: polite or elegant literature. nati consumer e
fruges : born to consume the fruits of the earth. D Orsay : a leader
of society in Paris and London in the early nineteenth century.
manage : horsemanship. Murat : a celebrated cavalry leader in
Napoleon s army.


This extract forms a portion of the sketch entitled " How the Times
served the Virginians. Virginians in a New Country. The Rise, Decline,
and Fall of the Rag Empire " as brilliant a piece of social character
ization as can be found anywhere.

verdant Moses : the reference is to an episode in Goldsmith s " The
Vicar of Wakefield," chap. xii. resolutions of 98: a set of resolu
tions drafted by Madison which were passed by the Virginia legislature
as a protest against the extension of the powers of the federal govern
ment at the expense of the states, as a result of the liberal interpreta
tion the Federalists were placing upon the Constitution, and in particular
by the enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Martha : one of
the characters in Scott s " The Fortunes of Nigel." She was the
daughter of old Trapbois, a miser and usurer. saws of Poor Richard :
maxims of prudence and thrift contained in Benjamin Franklin s " Poor
Richard s Almanac." Webster : Daniel Webster, the American ora
tor. University : the University of Virginia. Greene : a county
in Alabama.


QUESTIONS, i. What characteristics of the Virginians are set forth?
2. By what means did they attempt to repair their lost fortunes in the
Flush Times ?

Other Humorists. Among the writers of humorous sketches are several others
of somewhat less importance than those represented in this book. The list would
include the following. Alabama: Johnson Jones Hooper (1815-1863); Tennes
see : George Washington Harris (1814-1869) ; Georgia : John Basil Lamar (1812-
1862), Charles Henry Smith (" Bill Arp") (1826-1903); Louisiana and Arkansas:
Thomas Bangs Thorp (1815-1878).


What was found to be true of Southern prose in antebellum times
that it was literature of effort rather than accomplishment is likewise
true of the poetry of this period. The quantity was surprisingly large.
The statement has been made that a list of approximately two hundred
and fifty writers of verse could be made out, from 1805 to 1860, and
that there was not a year in which numbers of volumes of poetry were
published. Yet in all this company there were few who can be called
writers of genuine power. It is strange that the South, the home of a
great people, had no great poet before the war. Poe was, to be sure,
great in many respects, but he was not great enough in interest in real
life to be called an interpreter of Southern life in his poetry.

Poetry in the South before the war was largely written by amateurs.
It was looked upon, as Paul Hamilton Hayne has declared, as " the
choice recreation of gentlemen, as something fair and good, to be
courted in a dainty amateur fashion." In consequence, there is not the
great thought and deep passion of masterpieces, but a general air of
amateurishness. There is also upon it, as in all Southern literature of
this time except the humor, the mark of imitation and, so, of artificiality.
It never seemed simple, natural, unforced. Furthermore, the Southern
poet was unfortunate in his models. Instead of going to the serious,
elevated poems of Wordsworth or to the greater poetry of Byron, he
took as his models the light, graceful work of the Cavalier lyrists,
Suckling, Herrick, and Carew, or the sentimentalism of Tom Moore,
or the rhetoric of Byron, or perhaps the faultless but insipid early
poems of Tennyson. As to the theme, it was generally love, fortunate
or the reverse, although the whole gamut of the Muse s lyre was run in
kind and in subject matter. The Southern poets, moreover, had less


individuality of expression than almost any other group of poets in the
world. The poetry might all have been written by one man. Even Poe,
except for his dominant mood of morbidness, simply carried to perfec
tion what every other poet of the South was trying to do. Southern
poetry has, as conspicuous qualities, beauty, melody, and exquisite
rhythm. In the poets of the lower South, especially, the local coloring
is noteworthy, and the interpretation of nature s moods and outward
aspects is done with delicate artistic sensibility. Here and there, how
ever, out of the general mass of those who attempted poetry some few
did best what others did indifferently, and these are they whom both
crilcism and common consent have agreed to call the representa
tive poets. But even these have won their place, not by the bulk of
their work, but rather by some single poem. This fact, however, is
no disparagement of their wprk. It is a worthy achievement to have
produced even a single poem which men will cherish.


QUESTIONS, i. Trace the thought of the poem through its successive
stages. 2. Assign reasons for this poem being widely popular.


When the British bombarded Baltimore in 1814, Key, who had gone
under flag of truce to the British fleet in order to secure the release of
a friend, a prisoner in the hands of the British, was compelled to remain
on board one of the British vessels all night, and was therefore a wit
ness of the bombardment. When he saw the American flag still floating
over Fort McHenry the next morning, he wrote his famous poem, jot
ting down portions of it on the back of a letter. The version given
here follows the original manuscript except in some instances of

QUESTIONS, i. What reference does the poem have to the specific
occasion ? 2. To what feelings does it give expression ? 3. Does the
poem live by reason of its merit or its patriotic appeal ?



This poem is expressive of the gentle melancholy that a perfectly
happy, comfortable Southern youth of the earlier part of the nine
teenth century was fond of assuming simply because such a Byronic
affectation was fashionable.

Tampa s desert strand : Florida.

QUESTIONS, i. Which of the three images used to suggest the transi-
toriness of life is the best and why ? 2. What is the central thought of
the poem ? 3. Is the poem distinctively Southern in its scenery ?


Yorick : a jester at the Danish court whose skull, just dug up, leads
Hamlet to moralizing (cf. "Hamlet," V, i). Abbot of Misrule: in
olden days the leader of the revels at Christmas, who, in mockery of
the Church s absolution of sins, abs olved his followers of all their
wisdom. Jacques: one of Shakespeare s characters who morbidly
delights in dwelling on the moral discrepancies of the world. Shake
speare s spelling of the name is Jaques.

QUESTION. What aspects of the mocking bird s song are dwelt upon ?


QUESTIONS, i. What does the first stanza tell of the poet s experi
ence? 2. What does the second add to this?


This poem was written in honor of Miss Georgiana McCausland,
whom the poet afterwards married.

QUESTION. What is the thought of the poem ?


This poem was written in honor of Mrs. Rebecca Somerville of Balti
more. Professor Lounsbury gives this poem high praise in saying, " It


would be difficult to find anywhere in English literature a more exquisite
tribute to womanhood."

QUESTIONS, i. What qualities of woman are spoken of? 2. What
has been the typical attitude of the Southern man toward the other sex ?


It is said that this poem was inspired by a beautiful woman whom
Lamar had met in Central America.

Mendoza : a river of the Argentine Republic.

QUESTIONS, i. What details of the woman s beauty are given?
2. What has been the effect of this meeting upon the poet? 3. These
stanzas have been spoken of as " lilting and sparkling." Illustrate.


JEolian strain : music like that produced by the wind harp.

QUESTIONS, i. What idea regarding the mocking bird does each
stanza contain ? 2. Read Keats s " Ode to the Nightingale " and give
an opinion as to how far Pike may have been indebted to Keats s poem.


This widely known song of Cooke is said to be purely a romance
of the writer s imagination.

Thy heart was as a river, etc.: Cooke explained the meaning of
these obscure lines as follows : " Florence did not want the capacity to
love, but directed her love to no object. Her passions went flowing
like a lost river." His next sentence in this explanation is an interesting
example of the influence Byron exerted over these early Southern
lyrists. " Byron has a kindred idea expressed by the same figure. Per
haps his verses were in my mind when I wrote my own :

" She was the ocean to the river of his thoughts,
Which terminated all. The Dream "

QUESTIONS, i. What situation is given in the poem? 2. Does it
seem artificial in its sentiment ? 3. What is responsible for its charm ?



car : according to mythology the sun was a chariot driven through
the heavens by the god Apollo. Shakespeare s melancholy courtier :
Jaques in " As You Like It." Ardennes : some have thought that
the forest of Arden, where is laid the scene of " As You Like it," must
have been taken from the forest of Ardennes in French Flanders.
Amiens : in " As You Like It," a lord attending on the banished duke.
little recked: see "As You Like It," II, i, in which Jaques in an
excess of sentimentality weeps over the killing of a deer.

QUESTIONS, i. What descriptions of the delights of hunting does
the poem give ? 2. How does the poet show himself to be appreciative
of nature ?


This poem commemorates the Kentuckians who fell in the Mexican
War at the battle of Buena Vista. It was read by the author when
the remains of these soldiers were brought to Frankfort, Kentucky, in
1847 for burial.

Came down the serried foe : the Mexicans under Santa Anna.
Long had the doubtful conflict raged : the battle raged for ten hours
with varying success. stout old chieftain: General Zachary Taylor.
Angostura s plain: the plateau on which the battle was fought, so
called from the mountain pass of Angostura leading to it from the
south. Dark and Bloody Ground : this is the meaning of the Indian
word " Kentucky." Spartan mother s : Kentucky is here likened to
the Spartan mothers who wished to have their sons return with their
shields or upon them.

QUESTIONS, i. What pictures of the battle and details concerning
it are given ? 2. W T hat tribute is paid to the fallen soldiers ? 3. What
qualities are to be expected in a martial poem? 4. Does this poem
exhibit these ?


QUESTIONS, i. Who is the speaker ? 2. What comparisons does the
speaker use to indicate feeling ? 3. Which of these is the most poetic,
and why ?



This is a selection from a longer poem, entitled The Day of

Helvyn: Switzerland. Tempe : a valley in Thessaly famous for
its attractiveness.

QUESTIONS, i. What aspects of the South are presented? 2. What
is the basis of the poet s devotion to the South ? 3. To what extent
will he go to show his devotion ?


Mime: mimic. Petrarch: an Italian poet of the fourteenth cen
tury noted as a writer of sonnets. Laura : the woman Petrarch loved
and addressed in his sonnets. Anacreon : a Greek lyric poet. Trou
badour : one of a school of poets which flourished in the southern
part of France in the Middle Ages.

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 32 of 35)