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N this brief Introduction to "Southland Writers," the writer will preface what he has to say with an illustration. Among the adjuncts to human pomp which proceed from man's artistic faculties, and from the labor of his hands, there is a certain tapestry known as the Gobelin tapestry. The workman engaged upon this tapestry stands behind the warp already illustrated with the device to be worked out, and from this hidden position he gradually evolves beneath his nimble fingers the shapes of beauty which, when completed, shall give assurance, in their marvellous loveliness, of the craft of his hands. The looker-on at this development of a beautiful fancy may not behold the patient worker, who, concealed from his gaze, and unknown to him, for many weary months, perhaps years indeed, has labored sedulously to illuminate the dull warp with the exquisite figures which arouse the observer's admiration. But on a given day, let us suppose, the labor is finished, and forth from the obscurity wherein he has fashioned his rare creations comes the toiler at the loom.
If my illustration have not failed in its purpose, the reader of the briefly outlined lives, to which the ensuing pages are devoted, will gain some knowledge, hitherto possibly hidden, of certain workers at another craft than that of the looms of Gobelin. He will learn something of the personal history and attributes of of our cultured country women, who have heretofore, like the tapestry weaver behind his warp, dexterously veiled them
selves to the general public in the garb of assumed names, while giving to that same public, for its admiration and applause, the results in poetry and prose of their bright fancy and cultivated minds. To make known whatever may be legitimately interesting in the histories and literary performances of the living female writers of the South is the purpose of "Southland Writers."
Many of the ladies whose brief biographies are contained in this volume enjoy an enduring reputation, not confined to the country's limits; others are making a record which shall not be less enduring; while others still, hardly beyond the Rubicon of literature, give a brilliant promise of their future capabilities. Many whose names should have been included in this galaxy have, alas! been called from among the living.
In a retrospective glance at the history of literature in the South, it may seem strange that, with quick intellects and exuberant fancy, with a country rich in its promptings and in the subjects which it offers for a display of the novelist's and the poet's powers, with a refined and intelligent reading population to which to appeal, those who would fain have been the high-priests and votaries of a literature which would have done honor to the South should have failed to establish in that section a distinctive literature at least equal, in its works and influence, to that of the North. This curious anomaly has often been made the subject of comment. There are many natural causes which may, perhaps, reasonably account for this failure. The greater population of the North would naturally supply the greater number of readers; and where the competition and demand are greater, there may we expect the greater results in books, and, consequently, a more extended sphere of successful authorship. But the means adopted by Northern publishers to bring out the intellect of that section has been the main cause of the literary enterprise of the North. That day has happily gone by which saw the children of genius bearing about with them from publisher to publisher, like uneasy burdens, the noble products of their learning and imagination — which saw the author the publisher's humble servant, who danced attendance at the shrine of the money-power, or illuminated with his presence
the antechambers of pretentious lordlings, the dispensers of patronage, while the inspired writings which were destined to enlighten and to exalt were suffered to lie in the dust of neglect. The publishers of the North, or those of them who occupy a responsible or dignified position, understanding this changed condition of affairs, have always paid liberally for what they have published; and it is not at all strange that around these sources of pecuniary profit should have gathered, from time to time, men and women whose genius needed but this fostering care to insure their development into the higher estate of authors of world-wide fame.
While this has been the case with the North, how has it been with the South? Candor compels the declaration that, as a general rule, Southern publishers have, in too many cases, been prone to follow the system of non-recognition of the claims of the author, which went out of fashion elsewhere with the close of the eighteenth century. Magazines and periodicals without number have been published in the South-have continued for a while, and when, finally, so to say, found out, have perished miserably. Their epitaph may well be written: Died of an indisposition to disburse, and of an infliction of immature intellect.
It has been unfortunately true, on the other hand, that the projectors of literary enterprises of this kind in the South have rarely entered upon the publication of their ventures with a capital sufficiently large to outlive the obstacles and difficulties which almost invariably attend every new literary undertaking. They have in most instances relied for reputation upon the cheap notoriety given by the casual notices, generally of a stereotyped laudatory character, of the newspaper press, and have hoped, under the promise of future remuneration, if successful, to secure the co-operation of recognized intellects in their attempt to establish their publications. Failing in the end in this, they have hastened their downfall and weakened themselves by admitting to their pages the crude efforts of ambitious youthful aspirants, who, whatever might be the suggestive ability and the promise of future excellence they display, are immeasurably better adapted to fulfilling
the mission of the "ambitious youth who fired the Ephesian dome" than that of "the pious fool who built it."
There is another class of publications, which, deserving of all support, and constant in the effort to deserve it, has also in past years failed to secure a permanency in the South. For the failure of these, a stern impartiality must hold the Southern people themselves accountable. Uniting ability, a commendable enterprise, and all necessary energy in the system upon which they were conducted, the fault of their discontinuance lies at the door of the people which should have fostered them, and not at that of their own shortcomings.
Inasmuch as periodical literature may be said to be the humanities of letters, so must he who would graduate in the full glory of recognized authorship be assured, in order to attain his degree, this preparatory course. There are some self-reliant, self-conscious intellects, it is true, who, if the opportunity be given them, may attain at a single stride that meed of fame and recognition which slower capacities require years to achieve. But these examples are exceptional. There are, too, in the South, to-day, scholars and romancists, philosophers and poets, who have never spoken, and the assertion of whose greatness, forever unannounced in written words, shall die with them. Possibly, if to these silent men and women the avenues should be opened, there would enter into the temple a troop, the peers of the chiefest there. But as poverty is almost inevitably - but why, it would be hard to say the — appanage, if not the heritage of genius, their faces are turned away from the pursuit of the beautiful to the baser aims of a work-aday life, and the unsung song, the learned dissertation, the graphic delineation of life, locality, and character, take no more tangible shape than vague imagining and dreamful thought. These, indeed, are the paladins in some respects, perhaps, the fainéants —whom the lack of remunerative compensation deters from adding to the pantheon of our arts.
In contrasting the literary opportunities of the North and of the South, respectively, and in examining the results which spring from the existence of these opportunities, it must be remembered
that the standard periodicals of the former section are generally conducted by book publishers, who, from the nature of their occupation, and from their successful and well-established business relations, and their great publishing conveniences, not to speak of the capital at their command, are enabled not only to publish magazines of a handsome and pleasing appearance, but to pay liberally, and to attract to them the most distinguished authors of either section of the country. With all these advantages in its favor, it is not at all strange that the North should, in a great measure, have monopolized the world's attention in a contemplation of American literature, and have stamped the impress of its peculiar creeds upon the minds of the thinkers of other lands. It would have been far better for the hopes of the South that its literature should have had one single worthy exponent, successfully maintained, than that it should lament fifty failures. Could it have been possible to have joined in the past, in the conduct of one magazine of a high order, the capital that has been frittered away in fifty attempted enterprises, Southern letters would be far more flourishing than they are to-day. As is the case in all human ventures and experiments, the struggle for the intellectual palm has been subject to the chances afforded by the possession of dollars. The presence of money on the one hand, and the absence of it on the other, have availed, in the case of the former, to establish and to build up; and, in the case of the latter, to consign to an early oblivion. That this is the principal cause for the anomalous condition of Southern literature, none, I fancy, will deny. The problem to introduce a system of equivalents, which was a favorite way of reasoning with our friend Micawber- may stand thus: Given, a certain number of dollars and a certain amount of brain result, Success; given, a certain amount of brain and no dollars result, Failure.
We are all familiar with the lesson which is taught us in the homely adage: Never judge by appearances. For my part, and especially as regards the appearance of printed matter, I am not disposed to submit without question to the implied logic of the old saw. In the course of a life not altogether unobservant of