It seems to me that the central trait of the “chivalrous Southron” is an intense respect for virility. He will forgive almost any vice in a man who is manly; he will admire vices which are but exaggerations of the masculine. If you will fight, if you are strong and skillful enough to kill your antagonist, if you can govern or influence the common herd, if you can ride a dangerous horse over a rough country, if you are a good shot or an expert swordsman, if you stand by your own opinions unflinchingly, if you do your level best on whisky, if you are a devil of a fellow with women, if, in short, you show vigorous masculine attributes, he will grant you his respect. I doubt whether a man who leaves behind him numerous irregular claimants to his name is regarded with disfavor at the South. He will be condemned theoretically; it may be considered proper to shoot him if he disturbs the peace of respectable families; but he will be looked upon as a nobler representative of his sex than Calebs. The good young man, as pure as a young girl, whom one finds in the Abrahamic bosom of Northern Puritanism, would not be made a Grand Lama of in Dixie. The chivalrous Southron would unite with the aristocracy of Europe in regarding him as a sort of monster of neutral insipidity. I doubt whether even the women of our meridional regions admire that sort of youth. “I shouldn’t fancy a hen-husband,” said a lively Southern girl, alluding to a man without vices.
It may be taken for granted that a people which so highly prizes virility looks upon man as the lord of creation, and has the old fashioned ideas as to what is the proper sphere of woman. If the high-toned gentleman continues to be influential at the South, it will be a long time before the “strong-minded” obtain much of a following there, a very long time before they will establish female suffrage. Next to our supposed passion for putting the negro on an equality with the white, there is nothing in Northern life so abhorrent to the Southerners, of both sexes, as the movement in favor of woman’s rights.
“I do think,” said an emphatic old planter to me, “that your free-love business, and women’s voting, and all that, is just the miserableest mess that ever was invented. I don’t see what ails you to go for such vile nonsense. But then you always were as full of whimsies as the devil.”
It would have been useless to tell him that he was binding in one fagot ideas which had no connection. I did my wisest by him; I left him unanswered.
De Forest, J.W., “Chivalrous and Semi-Chivalrous Southrons” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 38, Issue 224, January 1869; New York: Harper & Bros.
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