House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family [NOOK Book]

Overview

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

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Overview

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 reach 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 deeply stung the family pride, but inspired his bold defiance to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The author then tells 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 classic memoir, Lanterns on the Levee - and in the works of Walker Percy, who was reared in his cou

The novels of Walker Percy have left a permanent mark on 20th-century Southern fiction; yet the history of the Percy family in America matches anything, perhaps, that he could have created. Now Bertram Wyatt-Brown masterfully interprets the life of this gifted family, drawing out the twin themes of despondency and honor. 16-page insert.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
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 that of such families as the Adamses, Lowells, Lees, and Jameses. Wyatt-Brown makes masterly use of Percy family papers and a variety of collateral primary sources to trace the truimphs and tragedies that bedeviled five generations of Percys, starting with Charles Percy, who established the dynasty two centuries ago but fell victim to mental illness, down to and including writer Walker Percy, adopted son of William Alexander Percy. Wyatt-Brown's exposition is clear and his analysis superb. This work surpasses Lewis Baker's The Percys of Mississippi (Louisiana State Univ. Pr., 1983) as the standard work on the family. Recommended for specialized scholars and advanced undergraduate and graduate students.-Charles C. Hay III, Eastern Kentucky Univ. Archives, Richmond
Mary Carroll
Novelist Walker Percy, who died in 1990, may today be the most noted member of the Percy clan, but other Percys have played significant roles in the political, social, and cultural life of the Deep South since the American Revolution. In tracing the life experiences of generations of Percys--as settlers and slaveholders, Civil War officers and post-Reconstruction politicians, and writers in several genres--Wyatt-Brown establishes the Percys' inherited predisposition to what would today be diagnosed as clinical depression and to an enduring reverence for the ethic that Wyatt-Brown analyzed in "Southern Honor" 1982. The eighteenth-century founder of the North American Percy line claimed but never proved kinship with the noble Percy family of Northumberland. "The House of Percy" pursues the consequences of that doubtful claim in one Southern family's myths and sense of "noblesse oblige", brings to light unacknowledged literary accomplishments of several female Percy relatives, and presents a moving multicentury portrait of a family scarred by repeated tragedies but intent on doing what its members saw as their duty.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198022305
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/21/1996
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

About the Author:
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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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Brooding Knight 3
Pt. 1 The Early Male Percys
1 The Demons of Charles Percy 25
2 A Son of Two Fathers 42
3 Brevity of Life 64
Pt. 2 The Female Line
4 The Philadelphia Years 87
5 Two Southern Brontes 104
6 Sarah Dorsey 119
7 Collision of Minds 137
8 Enshrining the Lost Cause 151
Pt. 3 The Greenville Percys
9 A Knight-errant's Defeat 173
10 Will Percy: The Years of Testing 192
11 At War 208
12 The Terrors of Klan and Flood 226
13 An Acquaintance with Grief 247
14 Stoic Honor 258
15 New Duties and Old Memories 271
Pt. 4 Fiction, Legend, and Lineage
16 Walker and the Legacy of "Uncle Will" 289
17 Walker Percy: The Making of a Southern Novelist 312
18 Thanatos and Lineage 334
Appendices: Genealogical Charts 357
A Selected List of Manuscript Collections 363
Notes 367
Index 443
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    Okay book

    Okay book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2005

    Almost Perfect

    Bertram Wyatt-Brown presents a compelling case that genetics predisposed at least six generations of my family to clinical depression. Bert also argues persuasively that nurture, the flip side of genes, produced its own persistent haunts in the family line--the Percy obsession with 'honor,' which he sees as aristocratic rectitude combined with a ruthless sense of entitlement to wealth and power. Exhaustively researched, methodically laid out, House is a solid work of history and a provocative and convincing text that often reads like a Southern-Gothic tale. It contains, however, a number of small errors, and one big blind spot: the question of homosexuality, its prevalence in the Percy family, and its relationship both to depression and to heredity. Bert falls victim to a common error, 'the presumption of heterosexuality.' Of Charles Percy's descendants through his son Thomas George, only four can be identified with certainty as lifelong Kinsey '6's' or near-'6's,' that is, as exclusively or almost exclusively homosexual: my first cousin once removed, the writer William Alexander Percy, my aunt, Lady Caroline Percy, my great-great uncle, Leroy Pope Percy, and me. But the family history is rife with suggestions that plenty of us were at least bisexual (Kinsey 2's-5's), and that these Percys, like so many other queers labeled as sinners, outlaws, and mentally ill, also grappled with depression, in some cases to the point of suicide. I can only speculate as to why Bert is not more open to this evidence, but nevertheless, he was written an excellent book.

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