Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 7. Longstreet; Georgia Scenes; W. T. Thompson; Hooper; Charles Henry Smith; “Bill Arp”; Bagby; Harris; Prentice

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XIX. Early Humorists

§ 7. Longstreet; Georgia Scenes; W. T. Thompson; Hooper; Charles Henry Smith; “Bill Arp”; Bagby; Harris; Prentice

Of more importance in these times was Georgia Scenes (1835), a series of inimitable and clear-cut pictures of the rude life of the South-east, by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1790–1870). Longstreet, who was the son of a prominent inventor, graduated at Yale, and won distinction as lawyer, judge, newspaper editor, Methodist minister, and president of Emory College. His realistic descriptions of country parties, debating societies, horse-trades, fox-hunts, shooting-matches, brutal fights, and the adventures of his hero, the practical joker Ned Brace, insured a fruitful career to humour in the South, which before the Civil War enlisted at least a dozen considerable names in its ranks. From Georgia also came Major Jones’s Courtship (1840), intimate and comic letters by William Tappan Thompson (1812–82), who had an interesting career as editor and soldier in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, and Georgia. One of the best of early Southern humorists was an Alabama editor, Johnson J. Hooper (1815–62), whose Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1846) was admired by Thackeray. Captain Suggs is an amusing rascal, who lives by his wits and who is presented with rare irony by an author who had perhaps the most delicate touch of his time and section. Charles Henry Smith, “Bill Arp so-called” (1826–1903), wrote from Georgia a series of letters, beginning with the mildly defiant “Bill Arp to Abe Linkhorn,” which marked him as a brave and sensitive voice for the Confederacy. After the war Bill Arp was the first to smile and relieve the gloom. A trifle later, and farther north, appeared the letters of Moses Adams, in real life George W. Bagby (1828–83), of Virginia, editor of The Southern Literary Messenger and other periodicals and among the earliest to master negro psychology and dialect in literature. Tennessee is represented in this period by George Washington Harris, “Sut Lovengood” (1814–69); and Kentucky by George Denison Prentice (1802–70), who came from Connecticut in 1830 and made The Louisville Journal a powerful Whig organ as well as a repository for the widely quoted epigrammatic paragraphs which he collected in 1859 as Prenticeana.