The House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family

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Oxford University Press, Nov 21, 1996 - History - 504 pages
The novels of Walker Percy--The Moviegoer, Lancelot, The Second Coming, and The Thanatos Syndrome to name a few--have left a permanent mark on twentieth-century Southern fiction; yet the history of the Percy family in America matches anything, perhaps, that he could have created. Two centuries of wealth, literary accomplishment, political leadership, depression, and sometimes suicide established a fascinating legacy that lies behind Walker Percy's acclaimed prose and profound insight into the human condition. In The House of Percy, Bertram Wyatt-Brown masterfully interprets the life of this gifted family, drawing out the twin themes of an inherited inclination to despondency and an abiding sense of honor. The Percy family roots in Mississippi and Louisiana go back to "Don Carlos" Percy, an eighteenth-century soldier of fortune who amassed a large estate but fell victim to mental disorder and suicide. Wyatt-Brown traces the Percys through the slaveholding heyday of antebellum Natchez, the ravages of the Civil War (which produced the heroic Colonel William Alexander Percy, the "Gray Eagle"), and a return to prominence in the Mississippi Delta after Reconstruction. In addition, the author recovers the tragic lives and literary achievements of several Percy-related women, including Sarah Dorsey, a popular post-Civil War novelist who horrified her relatives by befriending Jefferson Davis--a married man--and bequeathing to him her plantation home, Beauvoir, along with her entire fortune. Wyatt-Brown then chronicles the life of Senator LeRoy Percy, whose climactic re-election loss in 1911 to a racist demagogue deply stung the family pride, but inspired his bold defiance to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The author goes on to tell the poignant story of poet and war hero Will Percy, the Senator's son. The weight of this family narrative found expression in Will Percy's memoirs, Lanterns on the Levee--and in the works of Walker Percy, who was reared in his cousin Will's Greenville home after the suicidal death of Walker's father and his mother's drowning. As the biography of a powerful dynasty, steeped in Sou8thern traditions and claims to kinship with English nobility, The House of Percy shows the interrelationship of legend, depression, and grand achievement. Written by a leading scholar of the South, it weaves together intensive research and thoughtful insights into a riveting, unforgettable story.
 

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THE HOUSE OF PERCY: Honor, Imagination, and Melancholy in a Southern Family

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Wyatt-Brown (History/Univ. of Florida; Southern Honor, not reviewed, etc.) buries a good idea under an avalanche of scholarly detail. Too much of this study is concerned with the first Percys in ... Read full review

The House of Percy: honor, melancholy, and imagination in a Southern family

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In this work, prominent Southern historian Wyatt-Brown (Univ. of Florida) presents a family biography of one of the South's most enduring families, the Percys of Mississippi, whose status approaches ... Read full review

Contents

The Brooding Knight
3
The Early Male Percys
23
The Female Line
85
The Greenville Percys
171
Fiction Legend and Lineage
287
Genealogical Charts
357
A Selected List of Manuscript Collections
363
Notes
367
Index
443
Copyright

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Page 3 - CREEP into thy narrow bed, Creep, and let no more be said! Vain thy onset! all stands fast. Thou thyself must break at last. Let the long contention cease! Geese are swans, and swans are geese. Let them have it how they will! Thou art tired; best be still. They out-talked thee, hissed thee, tore thee?
Page 3 - Hotly charged — and sank at last. Charge once more, then, and be dumb ! Let the victors, when they come, When the forts of folly fall, Find thy body by the wall...

About the author (1996)

Bertram Wyatt-Brown is Richard J. Milbauer Professor of History at the University of Florida. His books include Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South and Yankee Saints and Southern Sinners.

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