Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Cracks in the Treasury of Virtue

 john brown

A review of Division and Reunion: America, 1848-1877, by Ludwell H. Johnson, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1978. 301 pages; and The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement, by Otto Scott, New York: Times Books, 1979, 375 pages.

It was Flannery O’Connor who remarked, in one of her short essays, that people will believe anything about the South as long as it is strange enough. She was speaking of the obstacles to acquiring a proper understanding of fic­tion with a Southern setting, but she could just as well have been referring to Southern historical writing. There is probably no subject under the sun that has spawned a greater amount of nonsense.

People who would never dream of passing judgment on contemporary Uganda or Elizabethan poetry without years of study feel no hesitation in passing sweeping judgments on the South. They embody their “knowledge” and conclusions not only in TV epics but in works of serious history.

1 comment:

  1. The article is a sound recommendation for two books intended to throw off the cloak of deceit about the south and it's story. If either are available on audio they will become an immediate inclusion in my library.
    Also satisfying is the description of John Brown's benefactors - sharing traits with today's secretive financiers of subterfuge their motives are also polluted with malice and anger. The recent Memorial Day observance thrust the self-important verses of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" into my ears, against my wishes, and I was pleased to read the author's take on the lyric as "venomous". Not only poison but deceitful and self-righteous to boot.