Laterns on the Levee

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Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, within the shelter of old traditions, aristocratic in the best sense, William Alexander Percy in his lifetime (1885--1942) was brought face to face with the convulsions of a changing world. Lanterns on the Levee is his memorial to the South of his youth and young manhood. In describing life in the Mississippi Delta, Percy bridges the interval between the semifeudal South of the 1800s and the anxious South of the early 1940s. The rare qualities of this classic memoir lie not in what Will Percy did in his life -- although his life was exciting and varied -- but rather in the intimate, honest, and soul-probing record of how he brought himself to contemplate unflinchingly a new and unstable era. The 1973 introduction by Walker Percy -- Will's nephew and adopted son -- recalls the strong character and easy grace of "the most extraordinary man I have ever known."

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807100721
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Series: Library of Southern Civilization Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 477,542
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

LSU Press

William Alexander Percy died the year after his autobiography was published. During World War I he fought in France with the American 37th Division, rose to the rank of captain, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with gold star. With his father, U.S. Senator LeRoy Percy, he was one of the leaders in the successful 1922 fight against the Ku Klux Klan in Greenville, and he headed the local Red Cross unit during the disastrous Mississippi River flooding of 1927. He was the author of four books of poetry and practiced law in Greenville until his death.

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

I The Delta 3
II Delta Folks 16
III Mur and Nain 25
IV Mere and Pere 35
V Playmates 46
VI A Side-Show Gotterdammerung 56
VII A Small Boy's Heroes 65
VIII Learning from Teachers 76
IX Sewanee 92
X A Year Abroad 105
XI At the Harvard Law School 113
XII The Return of the Native 125
XIII The Bottom Rail on Top 140
XIV 1914-1916 156
XV The Peewee Squad 169
XVI Getting to the Front 184
XVII At the Front 201
XVIII The Ku Klux Klan Comes and Goes 225
XIX Hell and High Water 242
XX The Flood of 1927 249
XXI Planters, Share-Croppers, and Such 270
XXII Fode 285
XXIII A Note on Racial Relations 298
XXIV For the Younger Generation 310
XXV A Bit of Diary 322
XXVI Jackdaw in the Garden 332
XXVII Home 344
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2005

    Elusive find: an autobiography of literary quality

    Percy's approach to life can be summed up by a quote from the book: 'It is a very nice world-that is, if you remember that while morals are all-important between the Lord and His creatures, what counts between one creature and another is good manners.' Percy's book is a rare member of that most elusive category of books - the autobiography of true literary quality. Percy's touch is honest without being journalistic poetic without appearing over-embroidered and in his own eccentric person he provides the subject matter which is required to make such a work interesting. He steps out of the late 19th/early 20th century Mississippi delta as a character that could not have existed anywhere else. Affected, genteel, kind, elitist, romantic and with a view of race more in keeping with British Imperial 'white man's burden' line of thought than anything American in origin - Percy the character remains fascinating even as the modern reader disagrees with his positions. A clearly and well told tale of an extinct breed (the gentrified southern aristocrat), a lost land (the Mississippi delta of the turn of the 20th century), and a buried epoch (the pre desegregation era). An excellent book - well worth reading not only to better understand a particular aspect of American history but for the pleasure of reading a well written book, regardless of the subject matter. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 28, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2010

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