Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
The Shadow of the Pope

A NEW SPIRIT seems to have taken possession of Hickory Hill in the fall of 1910, most clearly manifesting itself in the master of the house. He confronted the critics who said that he was sinking into a morbid and misanthropic dotage with a denial that was disarming in its candor. If he were as bitter and vindictive as they said, how was it that his writings enjoyed "such an enormous circulation," or that there was "such a tremendous demand" for him as a public speaker? He now spoke, he assured them, "as easily as the birds sing--and there are no failures." As usual, when his self-esteem was called in question, he thought of Bryan. He was a better lawyer than Bryan, a better writer, a legislator of more enduring works, he asserted. "I can now draw larger crowds than Bryan can, and no man's gospel is more enthusiastically cheered. His sun is setting, and mine is rapidly rising." There had been a time when he bowed to discouragement. "But of late a new spirit has taken possession of me," he wrote, "and I have to obey it. Nothing tires me; nothing discourages; nothing intimidates." He was convinced, he said, that the people were "beginning to believe that I am one of the men whom God Himself raises up and inspires."1 Thus everyone was reassured--including himself.

The process begun with his break with the New York maga-

____________________
1
T. E. W., "And Mr. Clark Howell Also Asks Mr. Watson to Change the Law of His Nature," Watson's Jeffersonian Magazine, Vol. V ( Oct., 1910), p. 810.

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