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Dorothy Scarborough, Author of <I>The Wind</I>

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by Gene Fowler, Austin
Few Texas books have generated such controversy as Dorothy Scarborough’s 1925 novel, The Wind. Set amid the sandstorms around Sweetwater during the drought of 1886-87, the book described the West Texas winds as "the enemies of women," a "resistless force" that "wailed to [Letty, the main character] across waste places in the night, calling to her like a demon lover." R.C. Crane, a Sweetwater lawyer and president of the West Texas Historical Association, spoke for many West Texans when he blasted the novel’s author (the first edition was published anonymously) for what he saw as inaccuracies in local color, geography, and cowboy talk. The book, Crane declared, even slandered the prairie dog. (Other, enthusiastic critics called the book a masterpiece and likened Scarborough’s treatment of nature to that of Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad.)

Far from being a Yankee outsider, Dorothy Scarborough was born in Mount Carmel, near Tyler, in 1878. The family moved to Sweetwater in 1882, then settled in Waco five years later. "Miss Dottie" received an M.A. in English from Baylor in 1897 and later joined the faculty of Columbia, where she earned a doctorate. Though she lived the last two decades of her life in the northeast, she vowed, "I’ll match my loyalty against that of anybody in the State." As for Texas as a subject for literature, she wrote that "her native sons and daughters would be foolish to look elsewhere for literary inspiration."

After The Wind was made into a silent film starring Lillian Gish and its authorship made known, Scarborough returned to Sweetwater for a visit. Winning her audience with humor and charm, she quoted a letter her mother had written after the family’s move to Waco. Complaining of Central Texas’ heat and dryness one summer, Mrs. Scarborough had exclaimed, "Oh, how I long for a Sweetwater breeze!"

Read 3025 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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