Useful Alloys

John Mayfield

in Counterfeit Gentlemen

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780813033372
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039480 | DOI:
Useful Alloys

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Thomas Bangs Thorpe's reputation as a writer and humorist is based almost wholly on “The Big Bear of Arkansas” — a tale so definitive of the mighty hunter school that William T. Porter made it the title piece of his first collection of rough frontier humor. “Big Bear” was crude and violent, as was much of what Thorpe wrote. It was so good it eclipsed anything else Thorpe ever wrote, and it made him a celebrity of sorts among the fraternity of yarn-spinners and gentleman wits who were reshaping Southern humor during the 1840s. Thorpe's only novel, The Master's House, is the only work by a major humorist to seriously consider the effect of slavery on white behavior. It is autobiographical, certainly, but also and most poignantly it is the record of a man's disillusionment with his own ideals, for The Master's House brings all of what Thorpe had groped at in his humor into a long chronicle of the declension of the gentleman on the Southern frontier.

Keywords: Thomas Bangs Thorpe; The Big Bear of Arkansas; Southern humor; humorists; The Master's House; slavery; frontier

Chapter.  7150 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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