11 February 2013

Amanuensis Monday - Confederate First Lady, Varina Howell Davis


  1. This (1886) was late in Jefferson's life, I think, because I looked up the longish entry on Wikipedia. He had already written The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, and his defiant views had somewhat softened. He was at this time telling Southerners that they should be faithful to the Union now, even though he wasn't apologizing for anything the South did during the Civil War.

    In old age, Jefferson Davis was honored and even loved in the South, whereas as President of the Confederacy he had been more or less a failure.

    His wife seems family-centered and unapologetic about her routine views that other races are inferior. She seems dismissive about another lady's newfangled beliefs that dark men are now "brothers." I don't know if she is echoing her husband's thoughts, but I wouldn't be surprised. She writes with the same kind of casual semi-contempt of "colored people" that I often heard as I grew up in the mid-20th century, and documented in my book. I think she is probably parroting the majority views of whites about race.

    Her bias is much more visible today than it would have been in 1886, of course.

  2. Very interesting. Ive been interested in Varina Davis because she lived an amazing life -- and though she was amazingly devoted to Davis --in fact she saved his life, she is trashed to this day by some in Virginia, go see the Virginia Encyclopedic, which is stunningly insulting to her looks, intelligence, and suggest she was after Davis for his money, and accuses her of "contact with Northerners" and of "living in the North".

    Usually encyclopedias are flattering -- but this piece was scathing, for an encyclopedia. WOW. She was a beautiful woman -- but it even insulted her LOOKS. How petty, even if she had been homely, but amazing, because she was HOT, as we would say today. They even insulted her father! And this was written lately -- clearly someone over at Encyclopedia VA hates her.

    They went out of their way to dismiss her looks, intelligence, and devotion to her husband. She was far far far more devoted to him than he deserved.

    Compare that to how they describe Lee's wife -- now, there was a homely woman, especially as she grew older. But that same encyclopdia is glowing about her.

    Varina, however, would later become friends with Mrs US Grant, and spend time with "Yankees" and eventually say she realized the right side won the Civil War.

    That probably did her in with EV.

    But also her letter - her amazing letter. See part of it here.



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