Skip to main content

The Colonel's Dream


It is difficult for a Southern reader to bear with proper patience a discussion of questions vital to the interests and life of the South when the discussion is taken up, as is the case with the present author, by a man whose blood and rearing have made him alien in knowledge and sympathy to the aims and ideals of the people he would educate. Charles W. Chesnutt is a negro, who has been educated in the North and who has lived in the North and who has lived and made his fame among Northern people. His work as a writer is good and he is worthy of the success which his talent [and] energy have gained for him. But his place in life is an abnormal one and his view and knowledge of Southern affairs hardly of sufficient sympathy and appreciation to give to his strictures and criticisms the weight of convincing authority. His story deals with all the difficulties and wrongs that now confront the South, and while his judgment is constantly lenient, his pessimism, without bitterness, and his pictures true to life, yet he grasps his subject as a phase and not as a whole, and allows his opinions to be deadened by hopelessness as unconvincing as it is untrue:

A talent like this oversteps itself when it seeks to put the world to rights. A reader feels that the author had best be content to make of his stories the simple tales his heart moves him to write, as Paul Lawrence Dunbar has done with his verse, and to echo in his work, too, the song of the true poet of his own race, whose music rings ever with genuine melody:

"'Tis true the world should heed its wrongs. But in a poem let me sup. Not simple brewed to cure or ease Humanities confessed disease, But the spirit wine of singing line, Or a dewdrop in a honey cup!"

The Colonel's Dream. Charles W. Chestnutt. Cloth. $1.50. Doubleday, Page & Co., New York. For sale here by the Bell Book and Stationery Company.