Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More On The Southern Gentry And Gentility

Bill Flanigen writes:
Growing up, I found that the only people that any southerners were reluctant to criticize loudly were other (white) southerners, house guests, and their hosts.

Maybe I was just raised around the wrong crowd? Or maybe FLG is making a point about the more distant past than what I've seen, in which case I can't imagine the sort of history books he's been reading.

Ah, but the inability to criticize "other (white) southerners, house guests, and their hosts" is precisely my point. To the extent that the history of the South was determined by white southerners who stayed at each other's homes this thesis applies, does it not?

Withywindle added the following:
Except when you go to duel.

Modified thesis: this universal aspect of Anglo-American gentle culture endured longer in the South than elsewhere.

The duel seems like a high obstacle to criticism. That whole death thing and all. Also, I have trouble seeing Southern Gentility as anything other than a unique institution.


Withywindle said...

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr ...

Bill Flanigen said...

Maybe I wasn't as clear as I should have been: What I mean to say is that gentility had nothing to do with it. Nobody (north or south) criticizes hosts or house guests, and other white southerners got a pass because, more often than not, there was no disagreement to be aired in the first place. It was more like "I won't criticize them, because I think they're right." Not so much "I won't criticize them, because I don't want to be rude by pointing out that they're wrong." When not dealing with people who shared their premises or beliefs...well, Preston Brooks.

I think your thesis applies to some southerners - myself included, from time to time - but not all, and not a majority.

Withywindle said...

The point of beating Sumner was in good part to say that he was no gentleman, to dishonor him by beating him. As I recollect, a good reading is: Julian Pitt-Rivers, “The Anthropology of Honour,” in The Fate of Shechem or the. Politics of Sex (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 1-17.

Bill Flanigen said...

Sorry, Withywindle. I just noticed your comment, and I'm curious/confused. Are you claiming that the Brooks/Sumner incident is a counterexample to my point? If so, I'm not sure how it is. If not, THIS COMMENT NEVER HAPPENED.

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