|08-04-2008, 08:40 PM||#1|
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Craddock, Charles Egbert: The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains, v1 4 Aug 2008
Mary Noailles Murfree, who published under the pseudonym Charles Egbert Craddock, was born January 24, 1850 on her family's plantation outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Descended from Colonel Hardy Murfree who founded the town in 1807, Mary and her sister Fanny lived a privileged life that included some of the best educational opportunities available to southern women. In addition to attending the Nashville Female Academy, the sisters practiced French under a French governess, and for two years studied languages and music at the Chegary Institute in Philadelphia. William Murfree, their father, was a lawyer and encouraged his daughters to read extensively. Under his influence, Mary began to study law and to practice writing short stories in the popular local color tradition. Having suffered partial paralysis at age four from a fever, Mary also may have turned to writing as a source of entertainment and comfort.
In 1885, Houghton Mifflin published The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains, considered by many to be Murfree's best novel about Tennessee mountain life. Contemporary southern reviewers praised it extensively, though it also garnered positive reviews in the North and in England. Set in the rural hills of the Smokies, the novel explores the tensions created by the encroaching Tennessee state authority on the mountaineers' lives. This is particularly manifest in the fate of Rick Tyler, a young man wrongfully accused of a stabbing who subsequently chooses to flee rather than fight his case. Rick's decision to become a fugitive sets in motion a series of events in the "Settlemint" that brings the sheriff and his men into conflict with the mountaineers. Sheriff Micajah Greene, an outsider to the rural mountain community, first accuses a young mountain woman named Dorinda Cayce of concealing Rick's location. Dorinda, who had entertained hopes of marrying Rick, antagonizes and ultimately outwits the sheriff in a verbal spar, refusing to help him in his search. Greene's brusque manner with Dorinda enrages her brothers and father, who threaten to kill Greene. In spite of the sheriff's threats—both to her own person and to the stability of her community—she prefers sparing his life rather than embroiling her family in violent conflict.
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