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and, in general, skirts it with considerable agility. Stuart's not entirely unalloyed good intentions receive appropriately qualified praise, while his supposedly clumsy attempts to implement them incur criticism. But sustaining these distinctions would seem to require demonstration that there was a viable middle ground— that colonial expansionism and the protection of the Native Americans were in the final analysis compatible and that Stuart could have done a better job of reconciling these apparently conflicting ends. Snapp argues unconvincingly for a middle way. Still, the author is to be commended for both his intellectual independence and his nuanced presentation of an extended essay that is stimulating as well as challenging. Tokens of Affection The Letters of a Planter's Daughter in the Old South Edited by Carol Bleser University of Georgia Press, 1996 403 pp. Cloth, $45.00 Reviewed by Jane Turner Censer, professor in the Department of History at George Mason University. Censer recendy edited and wrote an introduction to a novel about Reconstruction, Uke unto Like, written by Sherwood Bonner in 1 878 and republished by die University ofSouth Carolina Press in its "Southern Classics" series. In her introduction to Tokens ofAffection, Carol Bleser alludes to the spell that Maria Bryan's letters cast over John Shaw Billings II, managing editor of Time magazine and Henry Luce's second in command. In the 1950s Billings would sometimes hurry home from meetings just to spend the evening perusing letters written by Maria Bryan, his great aunt who had been dead over a century. Why were these letters so compelling to him and why are they still interesting today? On its face this correspondence does not fit the usual description of an entertaining set of letters. Some readers enjoy letter writers who knew charismatic, powerful individuals, visited exotic locales, or participated in major events such as the Civil War. Other collections attract readers because they depict a two-way conversation that was a lively intellectual exchange. Yet other letters hold interest because they detail the spiritual, intellectual, or political growth of the writer. This set ofletters conforms to none ofthose typical patterns. Nevertheless, many 76 Reviews readers will find themselves agreeing with Billings, a shrewd businessman and newspaperman, that these letters are fascinating. The attraction comes from Maria's skill at recounting and describing the events of her rather circumscribed world—that of planter society in early nineteenthcentury Georgia. Maria was a close observer and an inveterate raconteur, chroniclingwith humor and affection the foibles ofher society. Carol Bleser aptly compares the letters to the delicatelywrought miniature portraits so popular at the time. Maria Bryan Harford Connell lived a relatively short, uneventful life. Born in 1 808 to a planter family in Hancock County, Georgia, she married twice, never had children, and died at age thirty-six. Her closest long-term relationship seems to have been with her beloved older sisterJulia. WhenJulia married Henry Cumings and went to live in Augusta, the devoted sisters bridged their separationwith chatty letters. Maria, perhaps because she had cautionedJulia to burn all her letters , wrote frankly and at length about all the activities oftheir family and friends. In a rural community, a letter writer such as Maria could depend on such staple topics as church affairs, courtships and marriages, births, illnesses, and deaths, with a sprinkling ofbusiness news and social occurrences. Maria delights the modern readerwith the tableaus she presented in her letters to Julia. Some of these were wonderful anecdotes replete with deftly sketched characters and dialogue, as when Maria, on a trip to visit relatives in the North, met in a train station "a lady ofvery stylish appearance" who refused to pay a fare for the poodle accompanying her. Maria then trouped in a wide cast ofsupporting personnel who participated in the disagreement, which at one point threatened to erupt into a full-scale melee. Despite Maria's fascination with romantic novels ofthe day, she shares in rural wit as she remarks about one friend's suitors, "I think she will have taken her pigs to a poor marketifshe accepts either ofthese gentlemen." At other times, Maria's letters chronicle an ongoing saga featuring her family and neighbors. Maria's correspondence with her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 76-78
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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