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Chesnutt in the Classroom

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December 12, 1901, The Watchman
Among the Books

"The Marrow of Tradition." By Charles W. Chesnutt. In this, as in his three preceding stories, Mr. Chesnuttís work is vibrant with the sensibility which grows out of the indignities suffered by that class of the Southern population who, although scarcely distinguishable in any feature from their white neighbors are ostracized because of a stray thread of African blood in their genealogy. This purely theoretic stain remands them to a place among a "servile race," of whose possible ascendancy the whites are madly jealous, compels them to ride in "coon cars," and classes them hopelessly with "niggers" (aristocratically pronounced by the more tolerant and respectful cavalier, "niggroes"). A man of this class, an educated physician who had won high honors at Harvard and Vienna, is the hero of the story. His learning, skill, urbanity and modesty do not save him from the common lot, nor protect him from cruel insult. The appeal for justice involved in the narrative is a powerful one, and cannot but command wide sympathy. The reasonless prejudice thus disclosed is the "marrow of tradition." The phrase is borrowed from Charles Lambís verse:

"I like your book, ingenious Hone!
In whose capacious, all-embracing leaves
The very marrow of traditionís shown."

(Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Pp 329. $1.50.)

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Rev. of The Marrow of Tradition in "Among the Books," The Watchman 82 (Dec 12, 1901): 15.