The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi, originally published in 1853, consists of twenty-six sketches and satires drawn from Joseph G. Baldwin’s experiences as an attorney on the turbulent Mississippi and Alabama frontiers in the 1830s and 1840s. Like experiences, attempted to depict a lawless and colorful era in American history. Originally from Virginia, the author paints vivid and authentic portraits of shifty lawyers, unlettered judges, and inept prosecutors, as well as serious profiles of respected colleagues such as Seargent S. Prentiss. Even the narrator, we learn, is granted a license to practice law by a circuit judge who asks him “not a single legal question.”
One of the collection’s most memorable characters is Ovid Bolus, whom Baldwin describes as a “natural liar, just as some horses are natural pacers, and some dogs natural setters.” His adventures reflect Baldwin’s fascination with the meaning of the law and the legal profession under the conditions that existed on the American frontier.
James H. Justus’ introduction places this new edition of The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi in its historical literary context. According to Justus, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes, published in 1835, is the volume credited as the first to exploit the southern backwoods In the vernacular realism we now call the humor of the Old Southwest. Justus also notes that in the preface to his book, Baldwin indirectly acknowledges his familiarity with earlier writers, and one sketch, “Simon Suggs, JR.,” specifically pays homage to Johnson Jones Hooper.
The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi possesses enormous value for both literary scholars and historians. It remains a classic, not simply because it is sprightly social history, but because it is also an engrossing memoir by a man of uncommon subtlety of mind who projected his own sensibility into the record.
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