The Copperhead – Harold Frederic
“The Copperhead” is a farmer in northern New York who sympathizes with the South in the anti-slavery struggle, and who in consequence is boycotted by his neighbors. He is driven from church, not allowed to sell his milk at the neighborhood creamery, and in a hundred ways ostracized and treated with scorn. To add to his burden, his son falls in love with the daughter of the arch-enemy of the family, a ranting Abolitionist, and then goes to the war, only to be reported ” missing” after the battle of Antietam. Finally the farmer’s house is set on fire by a crowd of young roysterers who have come with the intention of tarring and feathering him and his ” hired man,” and then the reaction in favor of the Copperhead sets in. The book ends with the return of the “missing ” soldier and the reconciliation of his father’s family with that of the young school-teacher in whom he is interested. Mr. Frederic’s descriptions of life in a rural community at the beginning of the war are true, and his character studies not only have power and individuality, but are evidently based upon careful observation of real life.
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Biography of Harold Frederic (from Wikipedia):
Frederic was born in Utica, New York, to Presbyterian parents. After his father was killed in a railroad accident when Frederic was 18 months old, the boy was raised primarily by his mother. He finished school at age fifteen, and soon began work as a photographer. For four years he was a photographic touch-up artist in his hometown and in Boston. In 1875, he began work as a proofreader for the newspaper The Utica Herald and then The Utica Daily Observer. Frederic later became a reporter. Frederic married Grace Green Williams in 1877, and they had five children together. By 1882 he was editor of the newspaper The Albany Evening Journal in the state capital.
In 1884 Frederic went to live in England as London correspondent of the New York Times, and worked at this position for the rest of his life. He brought his family to London by 1889. Afterward he met Kate Lyon, who became his mistress. Frederic and Lyon established a second household, living openly together; and they had three illegitimate children.
Frederic wrote several early stories, but it was not until he published Illumination (1896), better known by its American title, The Damnation of Theron Ware; followed by Gloria Mundi (1898), that his talent as a novelist was fully realized. Critic Jonathan Yardley called Damnation “a minor classic of realism”.
Kate Lyon was a Christian Scientist.Frederic suffered a stroke in 1898. After his death, she was tried on charges of manslaughter brought by his wife Grace Frederic, and acquitted at trial.
(The text of the last section was taken from a Wikipedia entry and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
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