Skip to main content

Full text of "[untitled] The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, (1922-12-01), pages 247-248"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.istor.org/participate-istor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



Vol. IX, No. 3 Dibble: Albion W. Tour gee 247 

overturn American tradition, perhaps pushing to one side the constitu- 
tion itself. 

But Mr. Young does not mourn as do those without hope. His brand 
of democracy is as broad and deep as humanity itself — for he himself 
has said it. The dangerous comer was turned in 1920. "The supreme 
efforts of Bolshevism to capture the great democracy of the western hemi- 
sphere, materially aided by the indifference if not actual sympathy of 
the administration, failed. Falsifying organized-labor leaders were 
taught a severe lesson in the trouncing it, together with Wilsonism, re- 
ceived at the hands of the great mass of the people in the national 
election of that year. . . Social justice and higher ideals of even the 
traditional Americanism were given a new impetus. The world looks 

brighter than ever before. " Q. E. D. ^ ,, „ 

George M. Stephenson 

Albion W. Tourgee. By Roy F. Dibble. (New York : Lemke and Buech- 
ner, 1921. 160 p. $1.50) 

When A fool's errand appeared in 1879, the author, Albion W. Tour- 
gee, was hailed as the "Victor Hugo of America." It was frequently 
asserted that in this book might be discerned at last the "great Ameri- 
can novel. ' ' Expression of the northern view of the book and the author 
may be given in the dictum of the Concord, New Hampshire, Monitor : "It 
may be well to inquire, in view of the power here displayed, whether the 
long-looked-for native American novelist who is to rival Dickens, and 
equal Thackeray, and yet imitate neither, has not been found." Even 
the Baleigh Observer of North Carolina acknowledged that the book was 
a "powerfully written work, and destined, we fear, to do as much harm 
in the world as 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' to which it is, indeed, a companion 
piece." The total sale of the book was something over one hundred 
thousand copies — and there were several printed editions of the book 
in the United States and in England. 

Albion Winegar Tourgee was bom in Williamsfield, Ohio, on May 2, 
1838. In the preparation of this excellent biography of about one hun- 
dred and fifty pages, presumably as a doctor's thesis at Columbia uni- 
versity, the author has been fortunate in securing access to a large 
amount of important biographical material — principally private cor- 
respondence, fragments of autobiography, and a record of Judge Tour- 
gee's life laboriously kept for many years by his true helpmate and 
devoted wife. Dying on May 21, 1905, Tourgee left behind him a record 
singularly uneven, a career marked by extraordinary variations of for- 
tune, and a reputation as writer and novelist which, had sadly waned 
for many years before his death. In North Carolina, during his so- 
journ of fourteen years there, he had been execrated by the people of 



248 Book Reviews m.v.ble. 

that state as have few men in its history — for his share in the evils of 
reconstruction, his vitriolic tongue, his defiance of the Ku Klux Klan, 
and his persistent, ill-advised encouragement of the political ambitions 
of the native negroes. His conduct brought upon him the most vigorous 
denunciation as a "vile wretch" and a "most contemptible character"; 
but no one ever charged him with cowardice, although at times he lived 
in daily dread of losing his life, and even his bitterest enemies acknow- 
ledged him to be a brilliant man and an excellent judge. 

Tourgee 's chief claim to fame lies in a series of novels, chiefly dealing 
with reconstruction, of which the most famous is A fool's errand; and 
a crusade in behalf of the negro race, which he ardently desired to edu- 
cate and uplift. Over a period of years, he made strenuous efforts in 
behalf of the education of the negroes at government expense. None of 
his novels is a work of first class art ; for his ambitions were so numerous, 
his energies so scattered, that he never found it possible to force him- 
self to devote his undivided attention to art. Had he devoted as much 
time and energy to improve his art as he did to "bettering humanity" 
— and one wonders how much better ofi' humanity is for his strangely 
misguided efforts ! — he would doubtless have become a better novelist — 
though never, surely, a great one. "His works suffer," pertinently 
observes his biographer, ' ' as most Victorian literature suffers, because of 
their dual aim — artistic excellence plus doctrinal inculcation. ' ' In the 
end, Tourgee himself acknowledged, in a work of fiction that will always 
hold a definite place by reason of historical associations, that the attempt 
of the north to superimpose its type of civilization upon the south was 
"a fool's errand." At the end of his southern residence, Tourgee had 
abandoned all his policies and reforms except one: the demand for an 
effective system of public schools. That demand is still eloquently in 

force to-day. . „ 

Archibald Henderson 

James K. Polk: a political biography. By Eugene Irving McCormac. 
(University of California press: Berkeley, California, 1922. 746 p. 
$5.00) 
Many persons with Mr. McCormac believed long since that "the char- 
acter and success of Polk's political career entitled him to a place" in 
either the American statesmen series or the American crisis biogra- 
phies. Many others, when they read this volume, will join in the opinion, 
for not only has the author produced a good piece of biographical writ- 
ing but he has succeeded in presenting a picture of the Tennesseean far 
removed from the conception which has more or less popularly been en- 
tertained. An adequate biography does not seek to make the subject a 
hero ; its author does not become so bewitched by the man whose career