Edited by the biographer of Jefferson Davis (now Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Alabama) this massive collection of Davis's correspondence begins with a letter from his father in 1823, when Davis was 15, and ends with one from his daughter when he was dying at the age of 81. In his introduction to the book the author-editor writes: ""After 13 years of probing into the reality of Davis and writing 3 volumes on his life...I came to realize that a selection of his private letters would give off further glints of 'the rainbow intangibility of personality'."" Not all readers may discover the ""rainbow glints"" in Davis's sometimes ponderous letters, but they shine in those of his difficult, vivid wife, Varina Howell, the real star of the collection. Only a few of the letters have been previously published; of these 20 are from the war years. The others, including the ""prison letters"" between Davis and Varina, and culled from a vast collection in the possession of Davis's only living grandson; many of them might well have been omitted, particularly those to and from obscure members of the Howell family. Davis's letters, stilted, sometimes pathetic and often platitudinous, show him as a modest, deeply religious idealist whose reliance on God frequently blinded him to reality; Varina emerges from hers as a witty, jealous, neurotic woman given to illnesses and smouldering resentments--and devoted to her family. The book will appeal to devotees of Davis and the Old South; northern readers may find its editor's excellent historical and biographical notes of more interest than the letters themselves.