The unhappy sectional agitation now prevailing is not altogether destitute of some good results, for it occasionally calls forth reminders of the obligations which the North rests under to the South, that would otherwise, perhaps, be overlooked. We copy from the “Journal of Commerce” an article intended to do slight justice to the Southern literary world. The enumeration is far from complete, as the names of Hooper, of Alabama, Pike, of La., Kendrick, Legree, Dr. Irving, and many others, are omitted; yet it shows that some of the best things, always the most original, produced in this country, are the result of Southern pens. For more than a quarter of a century the columns of the “Spirit” have teemed with the finest specimens of writing, overflowing with wit and sentiment, playful and profound, a large part of which is destined to become permanent specimens of real American originality, for which we have been largely indebted to Southern correspondents. Enough has been elicited to satisfy the most prejudiced, that if the Southern authors had other stimulants than the pleasure of composition, they would probably surpass most of our Northern litterateurs, for they have a freshness and freedom from conventionalities altogether superior to Northern writers so entirely under the control and influence of foreign literature. The article which has called forth these remarks says:--

A few days since we called the attention of our readers to the fact that a large number of the most successful books issued by our Northern publishers, were from Southern writers. We again return to this subject, because one of the strings which a certain class of writers and speakers delight to strike, is that which gives back the sound that “the South has no literature.” In the list of works published by the Harpers, we have been surprised at the goodly number from the pens of Southern gentlemen and ladies. Among them we find the names of Judge Longstreet, of Georgia, whose admirable “Georgia Scenes,” though published a quarter [1] of a century ago, is still a “live book”—fresh editions being required every year. Hon. Mr. Stiles, of the same State, has written the best and most profound History of Austria that exists in the English language. Mr. Monette, author of the History of the Mississippi valley, was a resident of Mississippi. Lieutenant Maury, whose “Physical Geography of the Sea” has excited more attention in Europe than any recent work of popular science, is a native of Virginia. We well remember the interest which this book created at Geneva, Switzerland. Several of the first men of that city—as well known in the annals of science as of religion—not knowing that other countries of Europe would so readily give its treasures to their people, immediately proposed a subscription in order that it might be republished. One of Lt. Maury’s works has been translated into the Portuguese language, and to-day is read at Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. Commander Page, whose “La Plata and the Argentine Confederation” ranks among the most thorough and satisfactory books of travel, is also, if we mistake not, a Virginian. The speeches and addresses of Hon. H. W. Hilliard of Alabama, evince that, had he devoted himself to literature, he would have acquired a reputation as an author not inferior to that which he gained as a statesman. The anonymous author of Dore, a series of most brilliant European sketches, is a Southerner. Professor Harrison of the University of Virginia is the author of a Latin Grammar which is characterised by great erudition. It may be well to mention in this connection two of the writers on the list of the Harpers, who, though no longer in their native States, are Southern-born. We refer to Dr. Hawks, formerly of North Carolina, and to General Winfield Scott of Virginia. The latter is better known as our Commander-in-Chief, and the “Great Pacificator,” but at the same time [unclear] the author of the best book extant on Infantry Tactics.

Among the writers of fiction we recognize in the catalogue Miss Hunter, of Virginia; Mrs. King, of South Carolina; Miss Evans of Alabama; Miss Dupuy of Louisiana. William Gilmore Sims is the Southern Cooper, and probably has written more American novels than any other man of the Western world except Cooper. John Easton Cooke—whose recent “Henry St. John, Gentleman,” abounds in passages worthy of Irving or Thackeray—is a Virginian; James Hungerford, who wrote the graphic and sketching “Old Plantation” is a Marylander.

Of the new issues by Harpers, some of the most touching as well as some of the spiciest works, are by Southerners. “Harry Lee,” which, in interest, is not a whit behind the “Ministering Children” of the English Mrs. Charleworth, is from the pen of a lady who dwells on the Potomac. “The Diary of a Samaritan” is by a merchant of New Orleans, who was one of the founders of the Howard Association of that City. “Fisher’s River Sketches,” by a Southern clergyman, is a most racy and humorous book. There has recently appeared in Harper’s catalogue the “Life of General Samuel Dale,” the famous partisan of the late war, by J. H. Claibourne; and we see that the same gentleman has nearly ready for the press a biography of the late General Quitman.

While we are on this subject we may as well mention that the South has also contributed its full share to our current periodical literature. Many gentlemen who consider that they have enough relaxation and entertainment without looking into a magazine, having made an exception of the “Editors Table” in Harper’s News Monthly, where, for a series of years, have appeared articles worthy of the best days of the Edinburgh and the Quarterly. These essays, on various subjects, have been written by some of our first men, North and South. But it is due to truth to say that a very large proportion of these excellent contributions have come from the pen of Rev. Dr. Lipscomb, of Alabama. Dr. L has also contributed to the same periodical numerous other thoughtful papers on Aesthetics. T. B. Thorpe, of Louisiana, now one of the editors of the New York “Spirit of the Times,” has furnished a long series on the natural history and the Agricultural staples of the country. The “dear old” inimitable “Port Crayon” (D. H. Strother, of Virginia) has furnished Harper’s Magazine more than a score of the most charming papers descriptive of Southern life, and so graphically illustrated that when the magazine was minus the “Port,” it seemed like a dinner deficient in the dessert.

We might fill a large space with the mere names of Southern contributors to magazines, but we stop here. American literature, like our common country, has been slowly but surely built up, and neither one nor the other can be cried down or destroyed by either Northern or Southern denouncers.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 29.48 (7 January 1860): 576. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels, University of Richmond English undergraduate, prepared this typescript.

[1] "quarted" in original. Typesetting error probable.

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