Odd Leaves from the Life of a Louisiana Swamp Doctor

Odd Leaves from the Life of a Louisiana Swamp Doctor


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Henry Clay Lewis (1825–1850) was one of the leading southern humorists of the nineteenth century. Born in South Carolina, he grew up in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and attended medical school in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduation Dr. Lewis practiced in a backwoods Louisiana community on the Tensas River, where he treated masters and their slaves on plantations as well as hunters and squatters in the swamps.

Odd Leaves from the Life of a Louisiana Swamp Doctor is a series of sketches that follow the outlandish misadventures of Dr. Madison Tensas—Lewis’ literary persona. Many of these stories were first published in New York’s Spirit of the Times. Using dialect, comic imagery, folklore, picaresque autobiography, and the form of the mock oral tale, Lewis presents a vigorous—even grotesque—vision of the southern backwoods, where life was often violent and brutal, sometimes shockingly funny, and always wildly different from the polished society of townsmen and wealthy planters.

In an expansive new Introduction, Edwin T. Arnold places Lewis’ writing in the context of the times, discussing its role in the development of southwestern humor as a literary genre. Arnold emphasizes Lewis’ contribution to southern letters through the author’s psychological use of the narrating persona and the complex correlation between setting and theme.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807121672
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Publication date: 06/01/1997
Series: Library of Southern Civilization
Pages: 204
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Edwin T. Arnold is professor of English at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and the editor of, among other works, Conversations with Erskine Caldwell, Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy, and Reading Faulkner: Sanctuary.

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