The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969 Page: 114
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Biographies of this literary school's identifiable "major" writers have
been published; and their tales, anecdotes, and sketches have been
largely those reprinted in anthologies. These so-called major humorists
were not alone, however. Professor Anderson here reprints seventy
sketches chiefly from hundreds of newspaper pieces that originally
appeared in Louisiana and Mississippi newspapers and later, quite
often, in William T. Porter's New York Spirit of the Times. From a
historian's viewpoint, perhaps the total contemporary effect of this
outpouring by "minor" writers was greater than the much smaller
body of writing produced by some of the better known writers.
As was the case with the factual reporting of innumerable horse
races, most of this material was signed with fanciful pseudonyms (such
as "Turkey Trot" and "Ruff Sam") and was written by professional
men, politicians, and planters "who enjoyed a good hunting story, a
practical joke, or an eccentric character and learned to capture them
in print." Following the pattern set by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet's
Georgia Scenes (1835), topics common to this literature were country
dances and frolics, gambling, comic fights, the militia, horse racing,
courtship, varmints and hunters, yokels' impressions of town and New
Orleans life, and, to a limited extent, politics and the extravagant
forms of evangelical religion. Later writers gradually adopted a greater
use of dialect and a colloquial style.
This body of data in story form presents a challenge to the social
historian. Much of it is obviously exaggerated for comic effect, much
of it constitutes American adaptations of European folktales, yet where
else can the researcher find evidence as to how "the common man"
talked and invented words, or as to the vitality of backwoods dancing
and wedding celebrations, or concerning the lusty stories told in mo-
ments of relaxation by circuit-riding lawyers? On the other hand, the
single historian (known to the reviewer) who has made extensive use
of this type of material succeeded in producing a book that mixes
historical fact and folklore in a most confusing manner.
A lucidly written introduction by the editor precedes each group
of tales. His expositions are strongest when they depend upon his own
researches (as in his identification of backwoods dances), but in some
spots he cites a frequently unreliable historian of New Orleans, John
S. Kendall, and the thinly researched Dixie Frontier by Everett Dick.
This is a reflection of the many gaps in the bibliography of the social
history of the Old Southwest, and not a reflection upon an editor who
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969, periodical, 1969; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/m1/130/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.