George Washington Harris

American Literature

George Washington Harris (1814—1869) was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. His education was scanty. He worked as a railroad conductor, steamboat captain, postmaster, sawmill manager, skilled metal worker and jeweler, among other trades. Harris began writing humorous sketches in the 1840s, publishing some of them in the Spirit of the Times. His Sut Lovingood stories began to appear in 1854 but were not collected into book form until after the Civil War. Mark Twain reviewed them for a San Francisco newspaper, predicting that the volume would sell in the West but that “the Eastern people will call it coarse and possibly taboo it.” In George Washington Harris’s chronicle of Sut Lovingood: Yarns Spun by a Nat’ral Born Durn’d Fool (1867), rural Southern humor moves far away from its origins in the “frame” story, which is told by a cultivated, genteel narrator, and into the unmediated idiom, concerns, and attitudes of vernacular lowlife.


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