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December 4, 2009
Romanticizing romanticism in the Old South
I received a little book in the mail just a bit ago, and I think it deserves to be read in front of a fire with a cup of tea. It is called Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, by Rollin Osterweis (Louisiana State University Press, 1971) and is full of paragraphs like this:
The Virginia and Carolinian especially were of direct descent from the "rufflers" of Hastings, and Templestowe, of Agincourt, and Rochelle. They were kindred too in more than pride and sentiment for the same English strain flowed in the veins of both, separating them from the Puritan English of the North, and warmed with the Huguenot flush and the dash of the Hibernian.Isn't that delightful? I mean, it's complete twaddle, but it's deliciously twaddlesome. And Osterweis does in fact seem to rely on primary sources and has respectable footnotes, so I suspect that despite the occasional twaddly passage, the overall quality of the book is alright. I ordered this book for a certain reason, though, and it wasn't for the trippy prose. No, it was because of this passage:
Many officers and soldiers were in Charlottesville in the fall of 1863 recovering from their wounds and their presence in all the stages of convalescence infused a spirit of gaiety to the little town. Picnics were organized in the bright autumn days to historic Monticello...One day we had a Tournament in the grounds at Monticello. Some of the Knights, with only one arm to use - holding the reins in their teeth and dashing valiantly at the rings with wooden sticks improvised as spears for the occasion. - quote from Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, A Southern Girl in '61So, romanticism > chivalry > jousting on the lawn at Monticello. See? We really can connect pretty much everything to Jefferson.