Heather's dad sent a link to this article, which I thought was pretty good.  And at least, it is a good word-of-the-day for you. Your assignment is to use it in a sentence sometime today.  Laughing

"NOW, SIR," concluded Davy Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday. I have had several thousand copies of it printed and was directing them to my constituents when you came in. ...

(Original Post)


Posted by Jon Daley on April 9, 2010, 2:27 pm | Read 5620 times
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The post itself is a good read and makes a good point. It is, however, only true in that the point made is well made. Edward S. Ellis, the author, was born 1840, four years after Crockett's death at the Alamo, so reading "I found no difficulty in making his acquaintance" takes on a somewhat odd note.

That said, a good bit of googling around seems to indicate that Davy Crockett would have thought pretty much along those lines.

To reference back to another post on this blog and its ensuing discussion: How important is truth in this context? And how true is the original post?

Posted by Stephan on April 10, 2010, 10:58 am

Hm.. that is disappointing, and interesting that Porter didn't catch it - being much better at knowing history than I am.

This link seems to be the best referenced text I could find about it. And it seems that Edward Ellis published all sorts of books with more regard for fame and/or money than for the truth of their contents.

I'd say truth is very important in this context, (and in any context). It is fine to make up a fictional story and say that "probably" Davy Crockett would have agreed with it, etc. but I am much less interested in it now, particularly when Edward Ellis obviously did not have any qualms about writing completely verifiable untruths as though they were fact.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 10, 2010, 12:09 pm

I would say that Ellis was probably using a literary device that was accepted at the time. His contemporaries would have known that Crockett had died and Ellis had not met him - it's such an obvious untruth that nobody would take it to be true. (Someone re-publishing it today would do well to add a caveat, though.)

We use our own literary devices today as well. Take for instance your friend who likes you because you don't "run away screaming." That doesn't mean that any of her other friends literally "run away screaming" - they probably glance at their watch and say it's time to leave, or shift their weight from leg to leg with mounting irritation, or perhaps lose it and snap at her with a sharp retort. So she is stating a completely verifiable untruth - we know most people don't run away screaming - but we don't perceive it as untruth, because we have the contextual knowledge to know it's a literary device (hyperbole, in this instance, a device even Jesus used).

So I'd be cautious when saying Ellis was an bald liar. He may appear as one to us, today, but to his contemporaries probably appeared as an honorable man making use of a literary device for literary purposes.

Posted by Stephan on April 11, 2010, 3:34 am

It doesn't seem particularly obvious to me that his contemporaries would have known he wasn't telling the truth.

He wrote it when he was 44 years old, and presumably people wouldn't really know how old he was, so it seems reasonable that he was older than that, and actually had met him.

If you an article today that was telling a story from when he had talked to President X, how many years back would you have to go before you'd think it was "a literary device", rather than the truth?

Posted by Jon Daley on April 11, 2010, 8:17 am

Though, I guess to claim to have been a legislator and not just a kid, would make him have to be pretty old...

Still, if you are writing a biography of someone (which is what I assume the book is about), it seems like you would want to be more clear on what is truth and what isn't.

If you search around, you'll notice that many people have been confused by it and researched for a long time to try to figure out whether he was telling the truth or not.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 11, 2010, 8:24 am

Yes, many people are confused, because good people like the article and pass it on, and many good people post the article without any caveat as to the historical facts. For our understanding today, a biography should be clearer, that's true. But I'm not sure it's a biography.

As for your question in your 8:17 comment, I think if you claimed you'd met Clinton while in office I'd assume it wasn't a literary device, unless your writing (or in speech, non-verbal cues) suggested otherwise. (Ellis's farmer's speech suggested to me that maybe there might be a little more embellishment involved than immediately obvious.) If you claimed you'd met Carter while in office, I'd be very suspicious - though it could be true. If you claimed you'd met Nixon while in office and went on to tell me about a story he'd told you, I'd probably assume (if the story lined up with what I know about Nixon) that you were re-telling a story someone else had told you and cutting out the other person for simplicity - and would likely ask you about that...

...which is exactly what all the people are doing who are confused about Ellis's story. What Ellis tells us lines up with what little we know about Crockett, but there are elements that make the reader go "hmm." We'll probably never know if Ellis plain made the story up, or expanded a story that was making the rounds, or how exactly the version he published came into being - and much less know how his contemporaries received it.

Out of curiosity: Do you think the point the article made - that congress has no right to spend money for charity - has lost its validity because the story the article told is untrue?

Posted by Stephan on April 11, 2010, 1:01 pm

i think the article can stand on its own, and has a good point.

I will try to keep his name in mind so if I ever hear a quote from him in the future to remember that it may or may not be true.

I don't think I've met any presidents. I've been to a couple vice-presidential talks. I thought about going to meet Mike Huckabee when he was in the next town over in NH, which , from the paper story the next day, probably would have been fun, but not much point other than that.

I think I didn't live in NH when I old enough to say the stereotypical, "I can't know who I'm voting for yet - I haven't met them all yet."

Posted by Jon Daley on April 12, 2010, 1:23 am

For the record, I did check both TruthOrFiction.com and that highly dependable source, Wikipedia, when I first heard the story, and found nothing that convinced me that it was not true. It was noted that the exact story had not been confirmed, but that it was consistent with Crockett's character and actions. Kudos to Stephan for noticing the date problem.

However, I don't think the dates by themselves brand Ellis as a liar, or even that he was using a literary device. The article says that the story comes from Ellis's book, and that it was "a newspaper reporter’s captivating story of his unforgettable encounter" with Crockett. It is not clear to me that Ellis is claiming to be the reporter in question. Having not read the book, I don't know one way or the other, but absent harder evidence it seems reasonable to give the man the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the story is told in the book as someone else's experience rather than the author's.

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