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76civil war history by examining chronological segments in the lives of three planter families—those of William Gaston and the Reverend Drury Lacy of North Carolina and that of Thomas Butler King, a Georgia sea island planter-politician. Space limitations permit only a cursory review of the salient themes which emerge from this complex and highly analytical work. Among other things, Stowe concludes that the planters adhered to and reveled in a hierarchical system of family and social beliefs; that the cultural world of the planters was compartmentalized according to sex and gender, which, more than race or class, defined planter values and actions; that there was a close correlation between personal self-esteem and the collective social order; and finally, that in order to maintain their elite status, the planters were driven toward an ostentatious exhibition of their beliefs—as in the rituals noted above—to such extent as to lead to a fusion of substance with image. As one who practices a more traditional version of the discipline of Clio, perhaps I am not properly appreciative of Professor Stowe's sophisticated interpretive abilities or his broad command of social science literature. Whatever the reason, I see two major problems with this study. First, the author tends to range far beyond the evidence in building his analysis, often attributing deep meaning to what appear to be the most innocuous and unremarkable expressions and actions. Second, by considering southern culture in a vacuum, admittedly eschewing any but the most superficial regional comparisons, he does not demonstrate convincingly that the so-called rituals and the values that they mirrored were uniquely southern. Perhaps the code duello was primarily a southern phenomenon by the nineteenth century, though it is odd that Stowe would choose as his illustration of a duel to the death an 1838 encounter between two congressmen—one from Connecticut and the other from the border state of Kentucky. But how different were southern patterns of courtship from those of the North or even of England? And what was distinctive or remarkable about parents exhorting their adolescent offspring to be diligent, moral, honorable, and achievement-oriented? Whatever its shortcomings, this book will complement the recent work of such scholars as Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Anne Scott, Catherine Clinton, Drew Faust, and Jane Censer and will stimulate thought in the scholarly community. More traditional historians of the slave South will find it less useful than will partisans of the now not-so-new "New Social History." But, as the latter seemingly command the field, their opinion doubtless will carry more weight in the end. William K. Scarborough University of Southern Mississippi The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln. By Mark E. Neely, Jr. and R. Gerald McMurtry. (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986. Pp. xi, 203. $19.95.) book reviews77 This is not a Lincoln book in the traditional sense. The tragic event chronicled has long been an emotionally charged, controversial, and unpleasant episode which relates the destruction of Abraham Lincoln's family a decade after his death. In 1875, after a briefjury trial initiated by her son Robert, Lincoln's widow was judged insane, committed to a "Hospital for the Insane of the Private Class," and denied the control of her own financial resources. It is a book about Mary Todd Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, and a trial which they both endured and which still taints their story. Until the 1980s, only the basic, official court documents stemming from the insanity trial of Mrs. Lincoln were available to historians. Now this new report on the case has appeared, based on previously unavailable personal documents recently given to the authors by the greatgrandson of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Their combined experience of sixty years in the Lincoln field certainly earned them the golden opportunity to mine the hitherto unknown "MTL Insanity File," as Robert Lincoln himself entitled it. From the beginning of their research, Neely and McMurtry were aware of the controversial nature of their subject. "People seemed to expect us to defend orjustify one protagonist and to denounce another" (p. xii). "Strangely enough, we did not seem to live in this highly charged atmosphere ourselves," an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 76-79
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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