Virginians on Olympus: A Cultural Analysis of Four Great Men

By Marshall William Fishwick | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Preface

"VIRGINIANS look back often at the past," Marshall Fishwick informs us, "and wherever they look they see heroes." Or, one might say, Virginians like most people keep in mind what is useful. At any event it must be admitted that Virginians are particularly lucky in their historical landscape, above whose Skyline looms their Greek-revival Olympus. The figures of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, Daniel Boone, George Washington, and Robert E. Lee are not easily matched elsewhere. If they are paralleled with certain Massachusetts equivalents, for example -- remembering how much New England also cherishes its heroes -- it is only necessary to point out that John Alden and Priscilla as well as Paul Revere, although they existed, had to be invented.

In a sense, however, all heroes are inventions, as dependent upon subsequent imagination as upon original material. The quality of Virginians shows up in what they have contrived from their inheritance. That these results are works of natural art is evident in the fact that their heroes are borrowed for display by the rest of the nation, which has even helped to frame them. For what Virginians have found, others have also wished to find for themselves. In the example of John Smith and Pocahontas is laid out the exhilaration of exploration and the decorum of gallantry. In Daniel Boone we have the potential of maintained vitality, and the virtues of patience in kinship with an ecstatic sense of the land. From Washington comes the dignity and responsibility of leadership. He was the heir apparent to a nation, who gained his kingship by refusing it. With them all, quietly and erect, stands the figure of Robert E. Lee, as a symbol of spiritual fortitude. His victory was through a paradoxical defeat. Together these are certainly Olympian. For how does Olympus function as an emblematic memory except to serve as a congress of virtues?

The path of heroes through the clouds of time is as interesting as their birth-certificates. The company they keep is the spirit of each age which receives them. Their history is the history of their narrators as well as of themselves. For everything that is written to preserve a hero reflects the urgency or fascination which seeks him out. Heroes are proffered companions to a

-5-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Virginians on Olympus: A Cultural Analysis of Four Great Men
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 74

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?