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The South After The War
by [?]

Partly owing to the efficacy of the waters and partly to the absence of other Southern watering-places, the springs became very early the resort of every Southerner who could afford to leave home in the summer, and they grew in favor owing to the peculiarities of Southern society and the delicate state of Southern relations with the North. In the first place, at the South people know each other, and know about each other, in a way of which the inhabitants of a denser and busier community have little idea. The number of persons in Illinois, or Ohio, or Michigan that a New Yorker knows anything about, or cares to see for social purposes, is exceedingly small. At the South everybody with the means to travel has relatives or friends or acquaintances of longer or shorter standing, in nearly every Southern State, whom it is agreeable for him to meet, and he knows that they will probably, at some part of the season or other, appear at the springs. They will not go North because the North is far away, is, in a certain sense, a strange community, and before the war a hostile or critical one. Then, too, the South abounded or abounds with local notables to a degree of which we have no idea at the North, with persons of a certain weight and consequence in their own State or county, and to whom this weight and consequence are so agreeable and important that they cannot bear to part with them when they go on a journey. They could always carry them with them to the springs. There everybody was sure to know their standing, while if they had gone up North they would be lost in the crowd and be nobodies, and, before the war, have been deprived of the services of their “body servants” or labored under constant anxiety about their security.

The springs, too, became, very early, and are now, a great marrying-place. The “desirable young men, all riding on horses,” as the prophet called the Assyrian swells, go there in search of wives, and are pretty sure to find there all the marriageable young women of the South who can be said in any sense to be in society. Widows abound at the springs just now–by which I mean widows who would not object to trying the chances of matrimony again. I have been told that, since the war, it is not uncommon for families whose means are small to make up a purse to send one attractive youth or maid or forlorn widow to the springs, in the hope that during the season they may find the unknown soul which is to complete their destiny, somewhat like the “culture” donations made to promising people at the North to enable them to visit Europe. Then, too, to that very large proportion of the population at the South who lead during the rest of the year absolutely solitary lives on plantations, the visit to the springs gives the only society of any kind they ever see, and the one chance of showing their clothes and seeing what the other women wear. In short, I do not believe that any one place of summer resort serves so many purposes to any community as the Virginia springs serve to that of the South, and by the springs I mean that circle of mineral waters of various kinds which lie round the White Sulphur, and to which the White Sulphur acts as a kind of distributing reservoir of visitors.

As regards the opinions of the very representative company at the springs on the subject of slavery, it seemed, as well as I could get at it, to be that about one per cent, of the white people regretted the emancipation; but this was composed almost entirely of old persons, who were unable to accommodate themselves to a new order of things, and to whom it meant the loss of personal attendance–perhaps the greatest inconvenience which elderly persons who have been used to valets and maids can undergo. Many such persons at the South were really killed by the social changes produced by the war, as truly as if they had been struck on the battle-field; the bewildered resignation of the survivors is sometimes touching to witness, and the calamity was generally embittered by the wholesale flight of the most trusted household servants, who it was supposed would have despised freedom even if offered in a gold box by Phillips, Garrison, and Greeley in person. Telling one old gentleman who was mourning over the change that the young men to whom I spoke did not agree with him, but thought it an excellent thing, he replied “that those fellows never had known what domestic comfort was”–meaning that their experience did not run back beyond 1865.

The traditions of the old system are, however, unquestionably a better basis for good hotel-keeping than anything we have at the North. The first condition of excellence in all places of entertainment for man and beast is exactingness on the part of the public. To be well cared for you must expect it and be used to it, and this condition the Southerners fulfil in a much higher degree than we do. They look for more attention, and they therefore get it; and the waiter world, partly from habit and partly, no doubt, from race temperament, render it with a cheerfulness we are not familiar with here. But the superiority of manners in all classes is very striking. One rarely meets a man on a Virginia road who does not raise or touch his hat, and this not in a servile way either, but simply as politeness. The bearing of the men toward each other generally, too, has the ineffable charm, which Northern manners are so apt to want, of indicating a recognition of the fact that even if you are no better than any other man, you are different, and that your peculiarities are respectable, and that you are entitled to a certain amount of deference for your private tastes and habits. At the North, on the other hand, manners, even as taught to children, are apt to concede nothing except that you have an immortal soul and a middling chance of salvation, and to avoid anything which is likely to lead you to forget that you are simply a human male.