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Dana’s book reviews

I downloaded this as an ebook because the word "rhetoric" was in the title, and I was looking for resources to use while teaching rhetoric to my high school class. This book does not offer an introduction to the elements of rhetoric. However, I found myself enjoying the book enough to finish reading after all.

This book, published in 1915, offers a wonderful first-person glimpse into a different time period through the text of eight lectures delivered by the author while traveling the chautauqua lecture circuit. (The idea of attending lectures for entertainment is so different from today.)

Clues in the lectures give the reader some background about the author: He was a boy during the civil war in the slave state of Kentucky. His family kept slaves, and he reminisces about his "Mammy." Some of his lectures serve to encourage and inspire young men as they go forth into the world (keep faith, stay sober, honor your parents, keep courage). Several of them promote the temperance movement, and others address contemporary issues of his day: immigration, city life, women's rights, and the role of free black Americans.

His lectures include many entertaining anecdotes--which frequently reflect the era's ethnic prejudices. The lectures reflect his adoration of Kentucky country life, his concern about the era's increasingly crowded cities, his respect for the ability of women to do a variety of non-traditional jobs, his message of prohibition, his learned dislike of slavery and his respect for Abraham Lincoln. The author also expresses his wonder at the technology of his age, and includes a very entertaining "letter from the future" written by an imaginary Welsley College girl 100 years into Bain's future.

Having just finished rereading Uncle Tom's Cabin, I could easily imagine these lectures being delivered by a George Shelby grown old. These lectures will be enjoyed by historians interested in the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War as well as fans of old Kentucky.

This ebook edition was well-edited; I found no text problems reading on my Kindle.