September 24, 2011

Thus it was that Rockville had its romance

Joel Chandler Harris's first attempt at extended fiction was serialized in 1878; its last installment was supposed to be published on September 24 in the Weekly Constitution. It never was, and Harris left the final chapter unwritten. Like many of his works, The Romance of Rockville was set in his home state of Georgia. "To write accurately or even adequately of Rockville," Chandler's story begins, "one would have to fall into an idyllic mood." By then, Harris had published only one tale featuring the character of Uncle Remus — a character he did not intend to use again.

The Romance of Rockville is considered a forgettable early failure of Harris. In fact, even the author himself became bored of the story and, by its end, allowed the story to lose focus. He missed his deadline for the final installment; in its place, he published a note that the story would conclude in the next issue, September 24. He never bothered writing it. Perhaps one line in what unintentionally became the final chapter — "Thus it was that Rockville had its romance, though to some of the principal actors it appeared to be a dream." —  may have been a reference to Harris himself.

As it was serialized, however, Harris reconsidered his Uncle Remus character. Within a few months, he wrote "The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox as Told by Uncle Remus." It was that character, related in the tradition of oral storytelling, which made Harris famous.

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