A Confederate general’s daughter embraces New England

Posted on November 21, 2012 by

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Not a story about a Southern Unionist… well, actually… there are connections, but…

Civil War-related… check…

On the eve of Thanksgiving… works even better.

Would it seem odd that a daughter of a Confederate general would write about… the children of the Mayflower?

If you think so,well… that particular work was only near the end (1927) of a writing career in which Pauline Carrington Rust Bouve exhibited her love for New England’s rich culture.

As much as I’d like to break right into Pauline’s story, it’s impossible, however, to describe her life and not mention some of the particulars of the life of her father… Confederate Gen. Albert Rust. So…

Virginia-born, Albert Rust moved to Arkansas in the mid-1830s and made a name for himself in various capacities, and by the mid-1850s found himself back in the east, for a term in the U.S. Congress. Perhaps the most significant part of his time there was when he made the effort to bring about a compromise over the election of a new speaker. The single candidate who was shown as the most possible favored was Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts. Obviously, Banks was well known for his opposition to the further extension of slave territory. According the Rust family history, New York Tribune newspaperman Horace Greeley quickly “characterized Rust’s resolution as an attempt to make it appear that his contest over the speakership was one of personal rivalries among the candidates and not of principles, and its true purpose to ride the opposition of the powerful candidate, Banks. After the adjournment of Congress on the day The Tribune reached Washington, Rust accosted Greeley on the Capitol grounds and felled him with his cane.”

And… by the way… this beating happened almost four months before Preston Brooks caned Charles Sumner, but doesn’t quite make a blip on the radar.

A few days later, Rust struck Greeley again on the streets of Washington. While Rust obviously felt slighted at Greeley’s portrayal of him as a Congressman and a gentleman, it’s not clear what Banks’ reaction was after having heard of the incidents.

I need to get back to Pauline, so I’ll speed things up a bit. For those wanting more about this incident, take a look at The Life of Horace Greeley.

Gen. Albert Rust

Ultimately, Albert Rust did not go happily down the trail to secession. Though a supporter of Stephen A. Douglas in the presidential elections, like many other Southerners Rust appeared to shift in his position after Lincoln’s call for troops. He raised a regiment to serve in Virginia – the 3rd Arkansas Infantry – and became colonel of the same. Rust was appointed a brigadier general in March 1862 and served at a series of engagements ranging from Corinth, Mississippi in October 1862 to smaller engagements in Louisiana in 1864. However, he eventually lost his command over questions of his loyalty to the Confederate cause. Giving up active military service, he moved to Austin, Texas to be with the rest of his family. According to a biographical sketch of Gen. Rust, near the end of the war he became quite outspoken and bold critic of the Confederate government, expressing unionist sentiments (I told you there were Southern Unionist connections!). After the war, he returned to Arkansas and served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was even a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1869, before he withdrew his own name from candidacy. Quite suddenly, on April 3, 1870, Albert Rust died of an inflammation of the brain while his wife and children were away visiting family in Virginia.

The general’s family did relocate to the Old Dominion… near the general’s surviving brother, Dr. George W. Rust, in Luray, Virginia.

The youngest of the general’s children, Pauline (known locally as “Lena”), once said of her early life after having been brought to Luray,

A little of the aroma of ante bellum fashions still clung to the little mountain-girl place when I was taken there, too. William Barbee, the sculptor, whose work very nearly ranked with that of Hiram Powers, was a native of this town. It is with pride that I remember that my first story, “Ole Miss,”” a tale that got me into a scrape with my father’s old Confederate officer friends, was written in the same small town… life in the little village that lay always shadowed by the sentinel mountain, had a somewhat sensive temperament; perhaps the fact that for generations my people had been more than ordinarily bookish people but any way, from the time when I used to make up plays for my dolls to act, and later for the school children to perform in the noon-hour recess – I wanted to try to write stories.

Initially educated in the public school system in Luray, “Lena,” in all likelihood was tutored in private settings as well. She eventually taught a private school for girls in her mother’s home.

She later commented that she “finished off [her education] after much tutoring from a young college don, at Mount Vernon Institute in Baltimore, from which place I crossed the Rubicon of Virginia ideas of propriety by coming to the Isle of Shoals as special correspondent. I have never gone back.”

That was about the year 1897.

According to an article that appeared in the Page News (Luray, Va.) on June 30, 1903, having removed to Massachusetts about 1899, she married poet/author, Thomas Tracy Bouve (1875-1938), who, at the time, was a “young Harvard man, whose name is frequently found in the leading magazines as author of clever short stories and clever poems.” Thomas Bouve was also the son of Edward Tracy Bouve, formerly a major in the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry… and also, through his mother’s family, a distant cousin of President Abraham Lincoln via the early Lincoln families of the 17th century in Hingham, Massachusetts.

According to the same article,

Mrs. Bouve’s first story was ‘Cynthy.’ It tells the tale of a mulatto slave girl who fell in love with her masters’ son and killed him on his wedding day. Then came ‘Pilate’s Wife,’ a religious story, which received very favorable comment from Dr. Whittaker, head of the committee for the revision of the New Testament, not alone for its literary merit, but for its historical accuracy. Her first long poem, ‘Legend of the Luray Caverns,’ was written on the top of a band box when she was fifteen years old [and residing in Luray]. It was published in Philadelphia, and found a ready sale.

By 1903, Bouve proved more accomplished for having completed…

…a series of historical sketches, which are shortly to be published in book form. She has written many short stories, children’s stories, poems, verse and essays. Several translations from the French have come from her pen, the most important of these being ‘La Toison d’Or,’ ‘The Golden Fleece,’ from the French of Amede Achard. She is soon to publish a new novel, Cups and Flagons, and a volume of poems called Legends of the Shenandoah. She has also in hand a play which will soon be completed, and which is already promised to a well known manager.

Mrs. Bouve to-day holds a unique place in the literary life of Boston. She has just been commissioned by one of the leading publishing houses to do some very important research wok, and this had brought her noticeably to the fore among the younger women writers of the ‘Hub.’ Such men as Edward Olement, editor of the Boston Transcript, and Erving Winslow, until recently editor of the Time and the Hour, and others whose dictum in literary matters settles the fate of an author in Boston, regard Mrs. Bouve as possessed of extraordinary ability, and they predict a brilliant future for this piquant, petite daughter of Virginia, whose girlhood was spent in an atmosphere that breathed the vanishing fragrance of ‘down South, before the war.’

Mrs. Bouve’s Boston home is at the Hotel Oxford, near the beautiful Copley Square, and just across from the far-famed Boston Public library. There, under the gentle espionage of her silvery-haired mother, she is doing work that is sure to add her name to the roll of gifted daughters of the South, who have won distinction through literary achievement. She is aided on every possible occasion by her tiny, 2-year-old daughter, Alice [actually, her daughter's name was Ann Winston Bouve], who joys in helping mama write ‘pwitty t’ings,’ and who seriously announces that she too, is going to be a ‘writer-lady’ and ‘wite a book’ when she grows up.”

If you missed that part about her being “on the roll of gifted daughters of the South”, or it seemed to be eclipsed by the manner in which Boston embraced her… and she embraced Boston and New England; or perhaps it seems peculiar that one can love the South and Boston/New England simultaneously… it seems someone didn’t see it as unusual, and recognized that, while Pauline wrote much of New England…

… in her affirmations and her loyalty to her native State, she is thoroughly Southern, and her finest work has dealt with various phases of Southern life.

It’s clear, through the words of her writings… the lady loved New England with a passion, but she didn’t forget her Southern roots, and she reflected on them in her writings as well.

Other books published during her lifetime included American Heroes and Heroines (1905); Lamp-Light Days (1922); Lady Huntingdon and Dartmouth College (1922); Lamp-Light Tales (1922); Lamp-Light Fairy Tales and Other Stories (1923); and Tales of the Mayflower Children (1927). She also wrote extensively for a number of publications. Among some of her known articles were “An Aboriginal Author” (Boston Evening Transcript, 8/23/1899); “New Ipswich in New Hampshire” (New England Magazine, Vol. 22, Issue 1/March 1900); “The Shadow Baby” (New Idea Magazine, Christmas 1904); “Across the Sea at Winthrop” (New England Magazine, Nov. 1909); and the “The Date” (Snappy Stories, Dec. 1914).

It’s particularly interesting to recall, however, that as a daughter of a Confederate general, Pauline’s longest-standing legacy appears to have been her first work that focused on Nat Turner. By 1903, Bouve’s most “important work” was considered to be her novel (published in 1899) – Their Shadows Before: A Story of the Southampton Insurrection. According to the article from 1903, this book gave a…

…picture of Southern life in 1830, and is full of dramatic interest, its motif being Nat Turner’s insurrection. Some critics have averred that this book will hold a higher place in the future in the literature of the war than even Uncle Tom’s Cabin will hold. Their Shadows Before had a great sale in London, and was translated into French.

In 1999, Bouve’s novel, along with many others written about Turner, was analyzed by Mary Kemp Davis in her book, Nat Turner Before the Bar of Judgement: Fictional Treatments of the Southampton Slave Rebellion (LSU Press, 1999). In short, Davis discusses Bouve’s work as showing Nat Turner as a charismatic preacher as opposed to the more radical portrayals. Furthermore, as recent as last year, Bouve’s work was brought up again in a lecture series (Race, Ethnicity, and Constructions of National Identity Lecture Series) at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, where Joseph Young lectured on the “Erasure and Retrieval of the Public Memory: Artful Deceit in Mary Johnston’s ‘Prisoner’s of Hope’; and Subtle Disclosure in Pauline Bouve’s Their Shadows Before.”

According to the website featuring details about the presentation, Young’s book manuscript-in-progress (“Broken Fetters and Heroic Slaves”) demonstrates the “cultural war conducted between two literary artists over the question of whether African-Americans should be included in the mainstream during the emergence of segregation in the last part of the twentieth century. Johnston uses the 1663 unsuccessful slave revolt of colonial Virginia as interaction between civilized and savage rather than as an attempt by slaves and Native Americans to secure their identity as human. Bouve offers a narrative to undo the violence wrought by the racist narration of history that excludes the non-European voice.”

According to her obituary in the Page News & Courier, in the summer of 1928, Mrs. Bouve…

…wrote to the Luray Caverns management that she desired to write a book in which the cave would have a prominent place. They sent here a number of new views of the embellishment of her work. As far as is known . . . the book was never gotten ready for the press. She recently [1928] wrote Mrs. H.R. McKay, of Luray, who has been in correspondence with her, that she would have two books ready for the printer this last year, one of them a work for children and the other Silhouettes of Virginia. The latter was largely based on the writer’s recollections of Luray. It is not known where these books are actually on the market.on the market.

Regretfully, Silhouettes of Virginia never went to press (…and after several years of hoping to find the manuscript… no luck!)

Pauline “Lena” Carrington Rust Bouve died in New York City on December 2, 1928 as a result of complications from a surgery. Her daughter, Nan (Ann Winston) Gravvett was said to have inherited her mother’s ability to write and, by 1928, had “made a name as a writer.”

My copy of Lamp-Light Tales

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