CAVALIER AND YANKEE by William R. Taylor


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Based largely on a study of ante-bellum American literature and subtitled ""The Old South and American National Character"", this long and scholarly volume by a Yale history professor is a critical survey of regional beliefs and concepts in both North and South before the Civil War, and their effect on the thought of the period. These concepts, born of a ""myth-making frame of mind"", were reflected in the literature of the time, which also helped form them: the Yanker is pictured as industrious, ascetic, mercenary and hypocritical, the Southerner as gay, generous, cultured, and also as weak and vacillating, the Gentleman who was a doomed Aristocrat. The ""plantation novels"" of the 1830's by William Wirt, James Kirk Paulding and others, helped build the myth of the Southern Gentleman; in his books Beverley Tucker glorified the Southerner as a Cavalier and pictured the slave as a being apart from the human race. In her Godey's Lady's Book Sarah Josepha Hale spread a legend of feminine superiority -- but in her diary the Southern Mrs. Chestnut shows that in the South women had the status of slaves. In Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe mule her villian, Slmon Lagree, a Northerner, and also enraged the Cavalier by showing that slavery was a business enterprise. Isolated behind the barriers of slavery and thereby forced into hating the North, the South seized on the failure of John Brown's raid as showing the Yankee to be a figure of contempt and ridicule: ""He would never fight and he could certainly never win"". Not for the casual reader, this erudite and well written book is one for scholars and teachers and is an important addition to the critical study of Ante-bellum American thought and letters; it should find a place in all comprehensive libraries of the literature of the period.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1961
Publisher: Braziller