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11.03.13 Harris, George Washington, Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun by a Nat’ral Born Durn’d Fool, published in 1867.

A Collection of Stories

This work is a book containing a collection of newspaper and magazine stories that had been published from the 1840’s to the 1860’s.

Notes Concerning the Author

George Washington Harris (1814—1869), a Tennessee River steamboat captain and part-time writer, has been described as an “authentic comic genius” and “the most original and gifted of all the antebellum humorists.”   His irrepressible character “Sut Lovingood”  is  obviously  reflected  in the works of  Mark Twain, and two 20th century greats of Southern  literature, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor,  have  specifically cited  Harris as an influence.

Our Review

Like most antebellum Southern humorists, Harris’s work was occasional,  published in a variety of newspapers and magazines and only later appearing  between book covers.   (Like the authors at   11.02.03 and 11.02.07.)    The one published in 1867 is the only book version  in Harris’s lifetime.  A century later the Vanderbilt University Press  re-published the  work  under the title  High Times and Hard Times:  Sketches and Tales.

“Sut Lovingood,”  a Tennessee mountaineer, likes to refer to himself as a “nat’ral born durn’d fool” in the many letters about his experiences that he writes to his friend George.  Actually he is not a fool but quite a shrewd man.  But his carousing and aggressiveness are  always getting him into foolish scrapes from which he can escape only by flourishing a pistol or rapidly deploying his long legs for escape.  Sut’s tales are tough and unsentimental.   Although born in Pennsylvania and living among “Unionists” in Knoxville,  Harris was an ardent secessionist and a strong Confederate, spending most of the war as a refugee.    Among the most amusing of the tales  are the series that report how Sut found himself on the train with Abe Lincoln on his way to inauguration and became a confidant to Lincoln’s schemes and anxieties.  One of the more  serious pieces  is Sut’s postwar meditation on the evil character of “The Puritan Yankee.”

Availability of these Stories

The 1867 Yarns can be found online.