Notes from the Underground

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:
Notes from the Underground

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In 1854, an obscure Tennessee businessman, George Washington Harris, began recording the voice of Sut Lovingood, coward and fool, a task which took him through the war to come and which he assembled into a book in 1867. Sut was the antithesis of the gentleman. In Harris's hands, Sut describes himself as a “nat'ral born durn'd fool,” without “nara a soul, nuffin but a whisky proof gizzard,” with “the longes' par ove laigs ever hung tu eny cackus.” The voice Harris gave to Sut is that of a restless man who had changed jobs too many times and whose debts had piled too high. It is that of a man who failed at virtually everything, who could lay no claim to being a gentleman, and who knew business for what it is — a daily exercise in taking abuse and maintaining a smile, punctuated by moments of abject failure or triumphal conquest. It is the voice, in other words, of one used to humiliation but unable to do much about it. Like so many other humiliated and frustrated men he found his comfort in an edgy blend of conservative religion and radical politics, both of which he tempered with a sense of humor that tended toward the profane and which had, as its primary target, the very centers of Harris's existence: home and church.

Keywords: George Washington Harris; Sut Lovingood; gentleman; conservative religion; radical politics; humiliation

Chapter.  8189 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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