Under the Man-fig

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TCU Press, 1895 - Fiction - 332 pages
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The huge man-fig tree that sits on the town square in the fictional Coastal Bend town of Thornham (probably West Columbia) is the gathering place for the town’s male gossips. Under this tree reputations are made and broken, rumors are spread, and a twisted folk history of the town is created.

Under the Man-Fig, by Mollie Moore Davis, a popular late-nineteenth century poet, novelist, and historian, is part romance, realism, color, and satire. The idea that men are the purveyors of gossip rings a change on the usual clich that women are the worst rumor-mongers. Davis’ main characters, drawn mostly from Victorian romance, are true to the genre, and her African Americans borrow heavily from the moonlight-and-magnolias format of many novels about the Old South.

But there are many things in the novel that make it important to early Texas writing. The Juneteenth scene with its interesting "center figger” captures a part of folklore not often seen. And the flavor of life just north of the Texas Gulf Coast is rarely captured in fiction.

In 1895, the year Under the Man-Fig was published, there was not a large body of Texas writing besides the Wild West tales published in dime novels. Davis’ novel was more realistic than the shoot-em-ups that featured bold cowboys and degenerate or bloodthirsty Indians.

Davis’ mixture of realism and romance appealed to the audience of the times but has long since been overwhelmed by the Texas of the wild frontier.
 

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Contents

The Town and the River
1
The Court in Session
7
The Jolibois DancingAcademy
38
The Herring Rifles
51
Young Van
71
Stormed at by Shot and Shell
96
A Confession
103
Good Luck Plantation
121
Elinor Thornham
187
Death in Life
210
Rose
216
An Arrival
236
The DrumMajors Leg
251
Release
259
MarkKennison
295
A Summer Afternoon
302

Two Campaigns
147
The PalmTree Girl
152
Afterword
325
Copyright

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About the author (1895)

Mollie Evelyn Moore Davis was born in Talladega, Alabama, in 1844 but came to Texas in her childhood. In 1879, she moved from Texas to New Orleans when her husband became editor of the Daily Picayune. She continued to write about Texas until her death in 1909.

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