ment is mentioned one thinks of thosenprominent men of letters who werenboth Fugitive poets and Agrarian socialncritics: John Crowe Ransom, AllennTate, Donald Davidson, and RobertnPenn Warren. Sewanee Review editornand novelist Andrew Lytle also comesnto mind. But this common view ignoresnthe central position Owsley heldnamong the Agrarians. Virginia Rocknendeavored to correct this misconceptionnin her unpublished dissertation,n”The Making and Meaning of I’llnTake My Stand” (1961), to my knowledgenthe best general study of thenAgrarians and their ideas. Mrs. Owsleynalso calls attention to her husband’sncentral position among the Agrarians.nLike Andrew Lytle (of the originalntwelve the only one still living), Owsleynwas reared on a farm and owned onenmost of his adult life. He wrote essaysnfor the initial manifesto 17/ Take MynStand (1930) and its follow-up symposiumnWho Owns America? (1936). Henalso wrote numerous “Agrarian” essaysnand book reviews for university quartediesnand for the short-lived AmericannReview (1933-1937), a major outletnfor Agrarian writings.nMany of Owsley’s essays emphasizena cardinal Agrarian tenet: liberty andnproperty are essential ingredients of thengood life. As Owsley noted in thenconclusion to his Who Owns America?nessay, “The Foundations of Democracy,”n”The right to life, the rightnto liberty, to the pursuit of happiness,nthe right to govern oneself, the right tonown property . . . [will] give way tonthe fascist or communist totalitariannState . . . unless private property is putnback into the hands of the disinheritednAmerican people.” Today as in then1930’s, creeping socialism, the burgeoningnbureaucracy, and enormousncorporate conglomerations still threatennliberties and make it increasinglyndifficult for the common man, or thenplain folk, as Owsley called them, tonown businesses, farms, homes, andnland.nPerhaps Owsley’s best-known booknis Plain Folk of the Old South. It is truenthat he wrote about these plain folknwith a certain amount of nostalgia, butnwhat he observed and celebrated —ntheir “integrity, independence, selfrespect,ncourage, love of freedom” —nmight make any modern nostalgic.nThis work (coauthored by HarrietnOwsley, as were many of Owsley’snpublications) has done much to overturnnMarxist and northern myths aboutnthe South. According to the northernnmyth the Old South was comprised ofnthree classes: the plantation aristocracy,nthe slaves, and the “poor white trash,”nwho were politically, socially, and financiallyn”disenfranchised” by thenplantation system. Northern travelernFrederick Law Olmsted and Britishneconomist J.E. Cairnes were two 19thcenturynwriters who popularized thisnmyth. In our own day Arthur M.nSchlesinger, Jr. continues to make usenof stereotypical versions of Southernnsociety.nFrom firsthand acquaintance withnmen and women who lived before thenCivil War, Frank Owsley knew thisnsimplistic three-tiered view of Southernnsociety wasn’t true. And this versionnof the Old South is now discredited,nlargely due to the researches of thenOwsleys and their students. Ten yearsnof research by the Owsley group — ofncounty tax lists, manuscript census reports,ndiaries, memoirs, county histories,nwills, county court minutes, marriagenlicenses, church records, andnother sources — provide overwhelmingnproof that wealth and land were widelyndistributed among many economicngroups in the Old South, and thenlargest group was neither rich nor poor:nit was yeoman farmers and herdsmennof what we would call middle-classnstanding.nOrdinarily I share Flannery O’­nConnor’s aversion to surveys and statisticsnand the abstract light they shed onnmen and affairs, yet I recognize anhistorian such as Owsley must andnshould resort to these sources andnmethods to discern clearer outlines ofnthe past. As Donald Davidson hasnobserved, sociology sometimes “provesnwhat common-sense persons alreadynknew. But in our violently statistical,nresearching age, it is extremely usefulnto have on hand several bales of data tonfeed the asses.” In this context, thenasses are , followers of Olmsted andnCairnes, and South-bashing journalistsnsuch as H.L. Mencken and W.J. Cash,nauthor of that mixture of poetry, rhetoric,nand ideology entitled The Mind ofnthe South. One of the virtues ofnOwsley’s book is its attention to thenculture of the plain folk as well as toneconomic statistics. Essentially conser­nnnvative, the plain folk cherished theirntraditional folkways even as they ascendednthe economic ladder.nIn places Harriet Chappell Owsley’snnarrative is wooden. But this fault isnmore than compensated for by manynpositive features. She has written anninformative account of the intellectualnand personal life of one of the South’snmajor Southern historians. She fills innher narrative with revealing passagesnfrom her husband’s unpublished memoirnand from letters he exchanged withnfellow historians and with many of thenAgrarians. Her book provides a usefulnoverview of major aspects of the cultural,neconomic, and social life in thenantebellum South, and it has an indexnand a 12-page bibliography of thenOwsleys’ publications. Yet the book’snmost positive feature is Mrs. Owsley’snintimate portrait of an admirable, humanenhistorian.nMichael M. Jordan teachesnEnglish at Hillsdale College innMichigan.n201 pagesnVisa / MC / Discovern1-800-437-2268nFor discount informationnFREE SHIPPING (517)439-1528n$12.95 hardcover ^^^’^^^^M.n$7.95 paperback ^ ^nHILLSDALEâ„¢nL.OLLEGEnOCTOBER 1991/39n