Friday, June 29, 2012

from THE LITERARY DIGEST for March 22, 1919 ~ a magazine published in the U.S. from 1890 until 1938


INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION, being very much in the air at present, carries its dangers of inducing "a superficial sense of values."

"It is well enough," says a sage in the editorial chair of the MONTGOMERY(Ala.)  ADVERTISER, 
"to teach a boy how to make a water trough without any leaks in it or how to make a beveled edge," but the boy  might thereby become a "mere ignorant mechanic." He is most ignorant, says the Southern aphorist, "who knows the least history." History is crying aloud from the housetops at the present, but the history that the Alabama sage most desires for youth is Alabama History. No doubt the stirring of the wide waters of history makes eddies in each of our little pools, and the writer suggests that we may all be neglecting things worth bearing in mind. Taking Alabama for a sample, we are told that," Henry Watterson   recently alluded to SIMON SUGGS,,636.aspx
and probably not many outside this Southern commonwealth know that SUGGS in his day was one of Alabama's most familiar and delightful characters." The writer here goes even further:

"The literature written around this character is comparable to Mark Twain's best. Twain absorbed it and admitted that it influenced his own creations. But for the most part SIMON SUGGS is forgotten, no less in Alabama than elsewhere. A few years ago the Birmingham News performed a public service by reprinting the book serially; but the work is out of print.

"But 'Simon Suggs' has merely suffered the fate of most of Alabama's best literature. This work of Hooper's is nowhere on sale- there are no copies to sell. In recent years there was a revival of interest in A.B. Meek's
 notable 'Red Eagle' poem
when it was republished. Jere Clemens, an able political leader,
was no less a gifted writer of fiction, among his most celebrated works being 'Mustang Gray' and 'The Rivals', the latter being a historical novel with Burr and Hamilton as the originals of the principal characters. Who knows about Clemens novels now except the men who grew up in another generation?

 'Flush Times in Alabama and Mississippi" by Joe Baldwin,
 was a rare bit of literature of its kind. It is better known to men of today than some of the others; but it is out of print and cannot be purchased. General Woodward's 'Reminiscences,' which was reprinted serially in The Advertiser ten or twelve years ago, is likewise out of print. No student of Alabama History can have completed his studies of pioneer days in Alabama, especially life among the Indians, who has not read these remarkable sketches.
These reminiscent sketches were of great value to Pickett in preparing his famous history of  Alabama. Pickett's History is available to a limited number of scholars engaged in research, but it is not in general use. It is not available to the whole reading public.

"It is a distinct misfortune to students of American political literature that only scraps and bits of speeches by Hilliard and Yancey in their memorable debates in Alabama are preserved in printed form. Had competent reporters followed these orators in their debates, the forensic engagements that shook Alabama would today be as familiar to the high school student in every State as the better advertised debates between Lincoln and Douglas in Illinois. Yancey was the greatest American orator. Hilliard was the only Alabamian of his day who was regarded as a confident match for Yancey. Usually those who challenged Yancey 'got enough' in the first
clash; yet Hilliard and Yancey repeatedly met over a period of many years. But the beauty and charm, the logic and force, of their great speeches are not preserved to us in the text."

The late John Witherspoon DuBose
wrote two books, we have the word of the Alabama patriot for it, "either of which is comparable to the very best in American political and military literature." Indeed.

"His 'Life and Times of Yancey, '
and his 'General Joe Wheeler and the Army of Tennessee,'
 are works of rare brilliance and charm. His 'Wheeler' published by the Walter Neale Company, of New York, is still in circulation; but his 'Yancey,' the longer and more significant work, was published privately about twenty years ago. Only one edition was printed. Mr. DuBose told one of the editors of the Advertiser that he devoted five years of his time to the preparation of 'Yancey,' rewriting some of the chapters as many as twenty times. But he realized only $300 as his reward. Just before the tragic death of Mr. DuBose a year ago, a friend of his, with the author's consent, undertook to interest some one of a half dozen leading American publishers in a project to republish 'Yancey,' but met with no success. The publishers shrank from the initial cost of publication, saying that biography does not sell well, anyway. If this is true it is no credit to the tastes of American readers, for biography is the best and most entertaining division of historical literature.

"We have omitted mention of more recent Alabama literature, much of which is worthy to be compared with the productions of any American authors of the same kind of literature. Neither have we exhausted the list of excellent works by Alabamians which are now out of circulation and largely unknown to the present generation. We have merely made hurried sketches of a few of the best to point out how we have neglected our own.

"Yet, what is more natural than that we should have permitted Alabama authors to die with the generation that saw the last of their physical bodies? What have we done in the schoolrooms of Alabama to popularize the names of our writing men and women and familiarize the child mind with the books these craftsmen wrote? What have we done in the schoolrooms of Alabama to enable the child to visualize the wonderful story of its State and people?

"In recent years we have done much better by the child in the schoolroom. We have been fairer in our State and its history than we formerly were. But at that we don't seem have taken up the subject of history with the enthusiasm and seriousness of purpose which the subject justifies among any people anywhere."