Virginia Dare, poster child for Lost Cause

“In the hands of its literary interpreters, the Roanoke colony… became the literary property of post-Confederate nostalgia, the ‘lost colony’ linked symbolically to the ‘lost cause.’

“In an 1866 novel called ‘Roanoke; or, “Where Is Utopia?” ‘ Calvin H. Wiley, who had been superintendent of public schools in Confederate North Carolina, set the colony’s descendants in a place where ‘the wild and restless demon of Progress has not yet breathed … its scorching breath on the green foliage of nature,—filial reverence, parental tenderness, conjugal fidelity, neighbourly kindness, and patriotic integrity.’

“In 1875, an anonymous ‘M. M.’ published a story in Our Living and Our Dead, a North Carolina magazine dedicated to Confederate nostalgia and anti-Northern fomentation, in which Indian magic had turned Virginia Dare into an enchanted white doe who haunted the coastal forests for a century and witnessed the Indians’ ‘extinction, and the wide occupation of their forfeited patrimony, by that superior race, the Anglo-Saxon, with their bondsmen, the sable African, the red man’s inferior.’ M. M.’s Virginia Dare also prophesied the Civil War as a national disaster: ‘divided, brave brothers fall beneath the yoke of despotism.’ ”

— From “The Earliest American Heroine” by Duke law professor Jedediah Purdy in the New Yorker (Oct. 10)

 

2 thoughts on “Virginia Dare, poster child for Lost Cause”

  1. Thanks, Lew, for directing us to this. Good article. Purdy thinks our fascination with Dare and the whole Lost Colony enterprise is overwrought.

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