SL 751

The college kids were entertaining us at Easter.

Watch this strangely mesmerizing video of conservationists cleaning up an old manuscript.

Zoom in on the dust jacket of this book:

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “SL 751

  1. Wasn’t that the conventional interpretation of Robert E. Lee from 1865 through (say) 1985? I commented on Civil War historiography at Crooked Timber quite a bit over the years, making two essential points: (i) most academics during the period from 1900 from 1965 were copperheads (or Confederate sympathizers, if you want a nicer term than the one my relatives used) and their work should be evaluated accordingly and (ii) moral sophistication, pretty much lacking in academia during the period from 1900 through 2019, requires the ability to appreciate both that Robert E. Lee was a man of personal integrity, courage, and military skill and that he was on the wrong side, fighting for an immoral cause.

  2. I haven’t thought about Landmark Books in years–I think I read every one of them when I was 8-12 years old. They were shelved together in the first library I ever had a card for, one in our Navy housing area in Pearl Harbor in 1959–the children’s section was on the second floor of one of those old wooden barracks buildings built during WWII. i worked my way from left to right and kept on reading them when we moved to other places with other libraries. I may have read this one, but I don’t recall.

    The series exists still, in a pretty debased form: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/LND/landmark-books

    This article tells the story of the original Landmark Books: https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/october-2016/generation-past-the-story-of-the-landmark-books

    1. Hey, I was obsessed with those books back then, too. You know who else loves them? Homeschoolers. They buy them enmass on my Etsy book website for top dollar. I think they like those old biographies without nuances. It’s Thomas Jefferson without the Sally Hemmings problem.

  3. Thomas Jefferson without the Sally Hemings problem? The horror. What’s next? Martin Luther King without the plagiarism problem? Bill Clinton without the serial groping problem?

    1. y81,

      “Thomas Jefferson without the Sally Hemings problem? The horror. What’s next? Martin Luther King without the plagiarism problem? Bill Clinton without the serial groping problem?”

      True! Or Obama without the teen and young adult drug experimentation?

      1. Jefferson had the same drug experimentation history:
        “And another thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment
        Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it
        You think I’m frightened of you, man?
        We almost died in the trench
        While you were off getting high with the French!”
        (It’s always a good time for a quote from Hamilton.)

    2. Lyndon Johnson without the ‘Jumbo’ problem? JFK without Judith Exner? Teddy without Mary Jo Kopechne? What was Gary Hart’s favorite dish? Rice Peel-off!

  4. Those current Hillary Clinton kiddie bios have to be pretty sanitized.

    Or what about the Trump ones?

    Laura, that would be an interesting article idea!

  5. So, I love old books too and was looking at the dust jacket and decided to look up Hodding Carter, hagiographer of the South. And I found out a few interesting things (well, interesting to me).
    1. His granddaughter is Finn Carter! You probably don’t know her, but I know her as Sierra Montgomery from As the World Turns. She was also in the movie Tremors and was married to Steven Weber for a while.
    2. One of his sons died aged 19 while playing Russian Roulette.
    3. Another son served in the Carter administration.

  6. Love hearing people’s “learning” stories. I can picture that library in @burkemblog’s comment and what it might have meant for a child eager for learning in 1959.

    My introduction to history series was the “Childhoods of Famous Americans”, written in the 1940s and 1960s (also from a library — mine would have been first a bookmobile and a community public library in the graduate student housing we lived in in the 1970s and then a nice suburban public library in suburb in the Mid West) . I remembered them fondly enough to get many of them for my kiddo, when she was interested in American history (especially of presidents). Even at under 10, they struck her as problematic and although she read some, she never became enthusiastic.

    Take the book on Robert E. Lee (Robert E. Lee: Young Confederate by Helen Monsell):

    https://books.google.com/books?id=4zGLaVzjlsQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    In it, the enslavement of human beings by his family is never mentioned, though “Mammy” a “Negro” nurse is mentioned five times.

    My daughter introduced me to the books she actually found enlightening, including the “Secret Lives of U.S. Presidents” which exposed me for the first time to how tightly the enslavement of others was woven into our early history, even though I had learned the standard US curriculum on history, as taught to Mid Westerners.

    (BTW, I think the “Childhoods” books are better written than the Landmark Books series, when I did a Google Books search for both).

  7. Disagree with the slapdash conflation of marital infidelities (or recreational drug use or plagiarism) with enslavement of human beings and the consequences.

    Take, for example, the testimony of Wesley Norris about Lee in 1866: “we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty; we were accordingly stripped to the skin by the overseer, who, however, had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to lay it on well, an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done. ”
    http://fair-use.org/wesley-norris/testimony-of-wesley-norris

    I do think the general misogyny underlying the marital infidelities is a relevant topic for inclusion (though potentially not in an “childhoods” series if it doesn’t cover the time period in which those events occurred). And the Kopechne incident should be included in any adult biography of Ted Kennedy (as should the plagiarism finding in any history that includes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s educational history).

    And, of course, any discussion of Thomas Jefferson’s adult life should include a reference to the children he fathered with a woman he enslaved and who were in turn enslaved by him.

  8. Courage and military skill can probably co-exist with fighting for the continued enslavement of others, but I don’t think “personal integrity” can.

    1. bj said,

      “Courage and military skill can probably co-exist with fighting for the continued enslavement of others, but I don’t think “personal integrity” can.”

      I’ve been recently been doing a bit of poking around into Eastern European/Ottoman/CrimeanTatar khanate history, and one of the recurring themes is the insatiable appetite of the Ottoman Empire and the Crimean Tatar khanate for slaves and the importance of that motive as a driver of military activities.

      Do you think that none of those Ottoman or Crimean Tatar military leaders had personal integrity?

      Or ditto, do you think that the Roman military leaders who put down slave rebellions never had personal integrity?

      Or do you think that Rommel had no personal integrity?

      I think you’re reading values back into the past that don’t belong there and oversimplifying how human nature works.

      1. “Integrity” is a slippery virtue, and we can ask (as many philosophers and theologians have) whether virtues exist as a unity – that is, you can’t be truly just if you’re not truly courageous, prudent, temperate, etc.

        So we can say that someone who personally relished seeing a disobedient slave beaten brutally and insisted that brine be poured on her back lacks some particular virtue, or several of them. Justice, empathy, some others. if we limit integrity to “the consistent ability to keep promises to one’s equals” or “the habit of acting according to one’s social responsibilities as generally understood in a particular society” or something like that, then yes, you can be Lee and still have integrity. But maybe only if you don’t insist on the unity of the virtues.

        Or, to really confuse things, if you do but you think each place and time has a separate and independent set of virtues. So “relishing watching disobedient people be punished” might be a virtue. Manliness, or something. You might be able to fit that with the 1861 version of integrity somehow.

      2. But now we are conflating several issues. Brutally torturing and punishing slaves is one thing, fighting to defend a system of slavery is another. If bj is correct, no Confederate soldier had personal integrity, and neither did any Ottoman or Roman soldier. That makes the phrase “personal integrity” mean something quite different from its normal meaning.

      3. y81 said,

        “If bj is correct, no Confederate soldier had personal integrity, and neither did any Ottoman or Roman soldier. That makes the phrase “personal integrity” mean something quite different from its normal meaning.”

        Yeah.

        “It is almost certain that, in two hundred years, several things that are common and accepted now will be regarded with horror. Maybe abortion. Maybe employment at will. Maybe prisons. Who knows? That doesn’t mean that none of us now living lacks personal integrity.”

        Yep.

        Or, say, leaving mentally ill people wandering around outside untreated, covered in filth and babbling to themselves.

  9. It is almost certain that, in two hundred years, several things that are common and accepted now will be regarded with horror. Maybe abortion. Maybe employment at will. Maybe prisons. Who knows? That doesn’t mean that none of us now living lacks personal integrity.

    1. ey81,

      “It is almost certain that, in two hundred years, several things that are common and accepted now will be regarded with horror.”

      I’m hoping that it won’t take even 20 years for people to realize that social media witch hunts are disgusting and evil…but I’m not feeling optimistic.

      50 years from now, though, I’m quite sure that people will look back on contemporary social media witch hunts (where people try to wreck others’ lives for minor or nonexistent peccadilloes) as an embarrassing episode of mass hysteria.

      1. AmyP, I am with you on social media witch hunts. Eating meat may be on the list, who knows? Current identity politics as a failure of ‘content of their character’ individual assessment?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s