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Reviews 161 Tales of Frontier Texas: 1830-1860. Edited by John Q. Anderson (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1966. x + 315 pages, index, $5.95.) Of the publishing of Texana (as its devotees call it), there is apparently no end. Texans are fascinated even by the minutiae of their history and traditions, and wherever there are Texans there is a potential audience for books which collect and interpret such recondite lore. For understandable reasons, however, most of these works are of limited interest to natives of other states. Certainly, the value and appeal of the volume under considera­ tion, Tales of Frontier Texas: 1830-1860, are rather restricted. Professor John Q. Anderson of the University of Houston has brought together in this book sixty-five “sketches” written during the three decades preceding the Civil War. All of them are about Texas—its landscape, in­ habitants (both men and animals), and peculiar customs—in the years when Anglos settled and finally came to dominate the state. Most of them were originally published in Eastern magazines and newspapers, and many were reprinted in William T. Porter’s Spirit of the Times, a New York weekly which in the mid-nineteenth century tried to keep its readers informed about what was happening in the provinces. By giving present-day scholars easy access to these obscure items, the editor hopes to illuminate certain points concerning the state’s formative period. One of the objectives of the book, for instance, is to show how the grotesque backwoods humor of the Deep South moved westward into Texas. Unfortunately, the examples Anderson uses also show that it was limping badly when it got there. Any crude frontier environment is likely to support a kind of “humor” based on cruelty and violence, and this was true of earlyday Texas; but the Texas variety never reached the occasionally inspired heights of that of the “Old Southwest.” The classics of the genre have long been in print and are readily available; the sketches reprinted in Tales of Frontier Texas will not challenge their superiority. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the book is the evidence it provides that “the Texas myth," including the boasts and the exaggerated tales, has its origin in the very beginnings of the state itself; from the start, there were accounts of heroic deeds and stories of outlandish places and fantastic events. But precisely why the myth came into being remains a puzzle. Anderson suggests that it is partially explained by the circumstance that it grew from “a diverse terrain and a violent nature” and that it was essentially “defensive.” Other than to label it a “maverick,” however, he does not venture any further interpretation—no doubt because the whole question is one of those problems of cultural history which will never be fully understood or explained. Though the worth of the sketches included in Tales of Frontier Texas 162 Western American Literature is slight, the book, judged by the ease with which it can be read, is excellent —especially its pleasing format and type, its index, and its complete (but unobtrusive) notes and explanatory material. In fact, from a technical stand­ point, it is a model of what a scholarly work of its kind should be. W il l ia m T. P il k in g t o n , Southwest Texas State College Australians and the Gold Rush: California and Down Under, 1849-1854. By Jay Monaghan. (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1966. 317 pages, $6.50.) Many Westerners are aware that a number of Australians were among the men who joined the California gold stampede, and that a few of them, nicknamed “Sydney Ducks,” earned the attention of the vigilantes in San Francisco and the diggings. Few know, however, the fascinating story of the even greater gold rush to Australia that was a direct sequel to the California saga. The story of these two episodes and their interrelations is colorfully told here for the first time by Jay Monaghan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, author of The Book of the American West and since 1947 editor of the American Trails Series. Gold had been discovered in Australia...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 161-162
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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