Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 8. Baldwin: The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi

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

§ 8. Baldwin: The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi

Perhaps the most significant volume of humour by a Southerner before the Civil War was The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi (1853), by Joseph Glover Baldwin (1815–64), who was born in Virginia, practised law in Alabama, and spent the late years of his life in California. Like Lincoln, as a lawyer he had learned much from riding the circuit, and traced in his book the evolution of a country barrister with considerable skill and imagination. Although chiefly concerned with the Flush-time bar, Baldwin described as well most of the sharpers, boasters, liars, spread-eagle orators, the types of honesty and dishonesty, efficiency and inefficiency, in the newly rich and rapidly filling South. Unlike some of the books of his time, this one does not degenerate into mere horse-play or farce. We may still find interest in the characters of Simon Suggs, Jr., Esquire, and Ovid Bolus, the former a good trader and the mean boy of the school, the latter a great spend-thrift and liar although handsome and possessed of a generous and winning manner.