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Chapter 5: dialect writers

I. Negro dialect: Joel Chandler Harris

A part from its purely literary significance, Uncle Remus: his Songs and his Sayings makes a threefold claim upon our interest. (I) In the character of Uncle Remus the author has done more than add a new figure to literature; he has typified a race and thus perpetuated a vanishing civilization. (2) In the stories told by Uncle Remus the author has brought the folk-tales of the negro into literature and thus laid the foundation for the scientific study of negro folk-lore. His work has, therefore, a purely historical and ethnological value not possessed in equal degree by any other volume of American short stories. (3) In the language spoken by Uncle Remus the author has reproduced a dialect so accurately and so adequately that each story is worth studying as marking a stage in the development of primitive English.

The life of Joel Chandler Harris was comparatively uneventful though it was an ideal preparation for the work that he was to do. He was born in Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia, 9 December, 1848,—a date now celebrated annually in all Georgia schools. It is a remarkable fact that the middle counties of Georgia have produced the most representative humorists of the South. Among those who were born or who at some time lived in this part of Georgia may be mentioned A. B. Longstreet,1 the author of Georgia scenes; Richard Malcolm Johnston,2 the author of The Dukesborough tales; William

1 See also Book II, Chap. XIX.

2 See also Book III. Chaos. IV and VI.

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