It’s hard not to think of Donald Harington when reading this passage from W. H. Tunnard’s A Southern Record. Tunnard, a cultured and well-to-do Louisiana soldier from Baton Rouge, reports on the speech of Civil War-era Arkansawyers in the Ozarks. Though he is looking down on us Ozarkers, we should hold our heads high. I think this alternate conjugation of “to spare” is more efficient and ought to stay.
The people in the neighborhood were rough specimens of the backwoods Arkansians, and spoke a language peculiarly their own—a language that would puzzle one deeply versed in all the idiom’s of the King’s English; as for instance: ‘We’ens is going to-morrow; is you’ens all going?’ Quartermaster H. asked an old farmer if he had any forage. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I hev spore all I kin spare.'”
Re-reading the introduction to the book, I note that historian William L. Shea compares A Southern Record with another account by a Third Louisiana soldier, William Watson, who wrote Life in the Confederate Army twenty-five years after the war. Shea says Watson’s “…is a more polished literary effort” and “[h]is story is essentially that of a personal odyssey.” Written in 1866, Tunnard’s book on the other hand “is based on primary documents… and has the ring of authenticity throughout.”
Tunnard’s was a book I marketed in 1997. It strikes me now how often we marketed a book by pushing its accuracy and authenticity rather than, as is the case with Tunnard’s book, emphasizing that it was superbly well written. Maybe we who market books are a part of the problem?
But we did know our market and what it wanted. What was a boy to do? It is similar to the problem an English professor faces teaching Harington or Chekhov. It is a tough slog to get non-English majors to buy in to a project based on its simply being well written. Alas, you have to sell it to them pounding many values they have already “boughten.”