Cultural Revolutions

Irreplaceable Men

Chronicles, as the premier journal of real American culture, takes notice, though belatedly, of the loss of two great scholars of American literature.  They were both admirers and faithful readers of this magazine, to which I had the pleasure of introducing them.  I knew and learned from both and like to think that I was respected as a scholar by both, given that I was the only historian regularly invited by either to sit on doctoral-dissertation committees in the University of South Carolina English Department, where both served.  And given that both, being great scholars, naturally had no high opinion of the professionalism of most academics.  A great scholar is perhaps even rarer than a great writer.

James Babcock Meriwether (1928-2007) was the seminal and foremost Faulkner scholar of the world.  He began the collecting and careful textual study of Faulkner’s work as a graduate student at Princeton (where he was a classmate of George Garrett) even before the revival of interest that followed the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Meriwether did not publish a great deal.  Rather, he considered it his given role to foster careful research, the results of which were numerous doctoral dissertations, carefully corrected and authenticated texts, and countless articles by others.

Meriwether could easily have held chairs at more prestigious institutions like North Carolina or Texas, but he...

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