Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Defender of Southern Conservatism: M. E. Bradford and His Achievements

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

A Defender of Southern Conservatism: M. E. Bradford and His Achievements

Article excerpt

A Defender of Southern Conservatism: M. E. Bradford and His Achievements. Edited by Clyde N. Wilson. (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, c. 1999. Pp. x, 193. $29.95, ISBN 0-8262-1208-5.)

This is a handsome volume whose introductory essay by Clyde Norman Wilson covers the broad patterns of the subject's scholarly life in the most useful way while rendering nothing less than a eulogy. The so-styled "checklist" prepared by Alan Cornett is thorough and accessible. "All the precious things" are here, as befits their broader purpose, which is to exhort the thinking and public-spirited reader to think still harder and to serve still better by reminding such persons of the life and thought of the late Melvin Eustace Adonis Bradford (1934-1993).

Bradford retains a wide range of surviving friends, and the line-up in this book of tribute is itself suitably diverse. Yet there is a constant in all the observations and that is Bradford's piety, defined here as direct personal involvement with the spiritual--and the related Bradford pietas, defined here as filial devotion to a previous generation of fathers as a sign of ultimate devotion to the divine Father. In fact, Benjamin B. Alexander goes so far as to say that Bradford's piety (which Alexander styles the "faithful heart") allows him to pay "moral homage" (p. 27) to Allen Tate and Andrew Lytle while correcting and improving their criticisms.

Thomas Landess provides a charming description of the Vanderbilt University English and philosophy scholars, dominated by the surviving agrarian Donald Davidson, who teach Bradford "a healthy respect for the discrete integrity of the poem or work of fiction--and a belief that it could best be understood in the content of the age and society in which it was written" (p. 10). Marshall L. DeRosa explicates Bradford's "reactionary affirmation of the rule of law" by reviewing sympathetically the Texan's contention that the writers of the Constitution were in fact deeply pietistic Christians whose first amendment intends to protect churches from the state and not at all to make national government into a secular moral force. …

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