Augustus Baldwin Longstreet Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207198-Longstreet.jpg Augustus Baldwin Longstreet Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Although Augustus Baldwin Longstreet’s unquestioned masterpiece is Georgia Scenes, he also published a variety of books, pamphlets, letters, and other materials, most of which deal with politics, religion, or the South, and often with the intersection of the three. Perhaps the most significant is Letters on the Epistle of Paul to Philemon: Or, The Connection of Apostolic Christianity with Slavery (1845), a closely reasoned defense of slavery on biblical grounds. A Voice from the South, Comprising Letters from Georgia to Massachusetts (1847) vehemently sets forth antebellum southern political positions. Late in life he published a long-contemplated didactic novel on the folly of indulging youth, Master William Mitten: Or, A Youth of Brilliant Talents Who Was Ruined by Bad Luck (1864).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Augustus Baldwin Longstreet is best known for his collection of humorous tales, Georgia Scenes. His use of the tall-tale form, vernacular speech, and the setting of the Georgia frontier (then considered part of the “southwest”) marks him as foremost among the Southwest humorists. In a form known for its combination of oral folklore with more traditional forms such as the sketch, Longstreet’s contributions are marked for their polished, literary quality. Like the border region that comprises his settings, Longstreet’s stories reveal a literary territory that combines genteel prose with raucous renderings of local scenes and characters. He often uses an Addisonian-type gentleman narrator who describes the less civilized, more outrageous behavior of the “locals.” Later writers such as Mark Twain and William Faulkner make similar use of the contrast between exaggerated storytelling and vivid, even cynical, realism. Longstreet’s renderings of unique Georgia characters, who speak in uncensored and often hilarious voices, place him firmly within the tradition of southern literature.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Blair, Walter. Native American Humor, 1800-1900. New York: American Book, 1931. This classic in American humor studies provides a general discussion of nineteenth century humorists, an extensive bibliography (which is outdated but useful in its listing of “Individual Writers of Native American Humor”), and more than one hundred selections from a wide range of authors. The chapter on “Humor of the Old Southwest” discusses Longstreet among his contemporaries.

Brown, Carolyn S. The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987. Brown traces the origins of the popular tale in both folklore and literature. Chapter 3, “Flush Times: Varieties of Written Tales,” has an extended analysis of Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes. Brown does not oversimplify in her discussion of Longstreet’s sketches but rather explores the complexity of his work within the tall-tale tradition.

Fitzgerald, Oscar Penn. Judge Longstreet: A Life Sketch. Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Church, 1891. Bishop Fitzgerald’s biography covers Longstreet’s life and work in eloquent terms—and at times does little to dispel some of the reigning legends surrounding Longstreet. Exaggerations aside, this biography distinguishes itself by the inclusion of many letters to and from Longstreet, allowing a more...

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