It was an auspicious moment for American literature when the presses of the AUGUSTA STATE RIGHTS SENTINEL issued a collection of pieces that had appeared in that newspaper, for this book, born in obscurity, was GEORGIA SCENES, CHARACTERS, INCIDENTS, &C., IN THE FIRST HALF CENTURY OF THE REPUBLIC by “A Native Georgian.” The author was not a professional man of letters but rather one of those wonderfully versatile gentlemen who flourished in nineteenth century America. Lawyer, judge, politician, Methodist minister, newspaper publisher, and educator (at various times president of Emory College, Centenary College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of South Carolina), Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was ideally suited to the task of writing an informal social history of the southwestern frontier. An educated man (Yale), but no scholar, his activities brought him into personal contact with the whole range of men and manners in the growing country. Although GEORGIA SCENES now enjoys a position as a minor classic, it appealed to its own times as a new and exciting vein of writing. Edgar Allan Poe heralded it as an “omen of better days for the literature of the South,” and the reading public called for twelve editions by 1894.
GEORGIA SCENES is significant on several counts. It is a pioneer work of Realism and one of the milestones in the local-color movement. Longstreet’s careful use of dialect...
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