The Southern Plantation: A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition

The Southern Plantation: A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition

The Southern Plantation: A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition

The Southern Plantation: A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition

Excerpt

The purpose of this study is to suggest in general outline the popular conception of the old plantation, to trace the development of that conception, and to make an analysis of it in comparison with the plantation as it actually existed.

That there is a plantation tradition in American literature and thought is a thesis that needs no defense. If authority were called for, we could cite Thomas Nelson Page, who, as he says in his introduction to the writings of Dr. Bagby, recognized in much ante-bellum work a consistent "ideal coloring." It was, of course, the generation of Page himself which did most to fix this coloring as the light of plantation romance. The tradition varies; in the hands of certain sincere workers, it is a thing of dignity; in the presentation of many theatrical spectacles, it is a thing of tinsel. In most of its occurrences, however, it is after a well defined, a uniform pattern.

It should be borne in mind that the present approach to the subject is through the popular conception. This fact explains the inclusion of material which is not belles lettres and the exclusion of some which, though valuable, had but limited appeal. No one supposes, for instance, that "Daddy" Rice had such insight into plantation life as manifested by Irwin Russell or Howard Weeden; yet Russell's poems and Miss Weeden's etchings have been far less influential than "Jim Crow," who jumped his way into international fame, who fathered a great line of minstrel men, who penetrated unexpected corners, even going, in gingerbread effigy, into the House of Seven Gables.

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