Dancing Mannby Russell KirknFrom Eden to Babylon: The Socialnand Political Essays of AndrewnNelson LytlenEdited and Introducednby ME. BradfordnWashington: Regnery Gateway;n290 pp., $19.95nAfew months past there came tonvisit us for a weekend, at our housenin the backwoods, Mr. Andrew Lytle,nman of letters, aged 87 years. Althoughnthere are not many big houses farthernnorth than ours, and although Mr.nLytle is very much a man of the South,nhe felt at home here. For, as he writes innhis essay “The Backwoods Progression”n(first published in 1933), the Americannbackwoods “is the one feature, alongnwith pioneering, that is common to thendifferent sections of this no longerncommonly-minded country.”nMr. Lytic, despite having seen thendefeat of the South and the secularizingnof what once was Christendom, remainsnwonderfully cheerful. In hisnyouth, as he says, he was “a dancingnman,” and an actor. He dances innconversation still. Novelist, essayist, critic,nand for years editor of The SewaneenReview, that best of literary quarteriies,nAndrew Lytle is the last living membernof that circle of social and literary menncalled the Southern Agrarians. (Thisnwell-edited collection includes hisnpiece “They Took Their Stand: ThenAgrarian View After Fifty Years,” firstnpublished in 1980.) His father’s plantationnof Cornsilk, twelve hundred acresn”which the T.VA. stole and coverednup with water,” is long sunk out ofnsight; but the wit and wisdom of Lytlenwill not be easily drowned. New York’snreviewers notwithstanding.n”The appearance of From Eden tonBabylon reminds us that there is anothernAmerican conservatism, one whichnthe Framers would have recognized.”nSo writes M.E. Bradford in his introductionnto this lively volume; he contrastsnLytle’s political imagination withnREVIEWSnthe views of alleged conservatives whonare “centralizers and egalitarians onnevery subject but money.” Lytle speaksnfor the old America, and what remainsnof it today, in which “The Small FarmnSecures the State” — an essay of hisnfirst published in 1936. As Bradfordncontinues, “The virtue of private propertynis not wealth but its capacity tonresist Leviathan and to secure then’peace of the family.’ Because ofnSoutherners like Andrew Lytle, thisnunderstanding of conservatism still survivesnamong us in a dark, utilitarianntime.”nLytle’s social and political principlesnwere expressed at the beginning of then19th century by John Taylor of Caroline;nand his essay (first published innthe long-vanished American Review,nback in 1934) on that Virginiannplanter-writer is the most illuminatingnpiece ever written about Taylor. Herenis the thesis, in Lytle’s words:nThe early republican leaders ofnthe Revolution had manoeuvrednto make the Union a mediumnpliable but strong enough tongenerate such well-being. It wasnunderstood by these men thatnprivate property must bengenerally distributed throughoutnthe body politic; otherwise thenstate is corrupted by its core andnis destroyed by the very agencynwhich, with better luck, wouldnhave given it life. Theynfailed—but not until after anlong and bitter fight. Theirnfailure is our tragedy, for it hasnrobbed posterity of itsninheritance. Now there isneverywhere such generalndiscontent, so much criticism ofnthose who have transferred tontheir aimless use the energies ofnmillions of people, that allneamestly look for a way out.nTherefore Lytle resurrected Taylornof Caroline, “a gentleman who exertednhis talents and strength to oppose thentrend taken by American affairs.” Ansimilar impulse and motive moved thisnreviewer, 17 years later than Lytle, tonnnraise up from the grave Taylor’s eloquentnally, John Randolph of Roanoke.nTaylor denounced the “Paper-and-nPatronage Aristocracy” that arose afternthe War of 1812; Lytle reproaches then20th-century equivalent of that urbannindustrial and financial web. But henknows that our tribulations of today arennot industrial and political merely: he isnone of the more moving Christian mennof letters of this century. In “A ChristiannUniversity and the Word” (hisnFounder’s Day address at the Universitynof the South in 1964), he upholds thenChristian understanding of social order:nThe worid’s plight is sonprecarious that we can notnsurvive without a return to ordernand for us this can only benChristian order. Christendomnwas not a commonwealth; it wasna god’s wealth. The king wasnGod’s secular overseer; thenbishop His spiritual. . . . Thencastle and cathedral stood fornevery eye to see, symbols bothnof physics and metaphysics. Thisnentire order was held together,nin the right order of relationship,nby the Word, the eternal Word,nfor God said “Before Abrahamnwas, I am,” that is to say, I amnpure being, pure creation, whichnis forever. The Word was Godnin His Creative function. … AnChristian university can begin tonrestore to language its meaning:nfirst by definition which defines,nmakes more accurate thenvocabulary of the variousnbranches of learning, keepingnthem in their right order andnrelationships. This is thenbeginning of recovery, fornwithout knowledge there can benno apprehension of the divinencreative promise of the Word.nThere are words still withnsymbolic lustre, like sine andncosine, and honor.nAs historian and biographer, Mr.nLytle is spirited. His essays on Lee,nCalhoun, and especially Ceneral NathannBedford Forrest are calculated tonJUNE 1990/37n