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The Mississippi Corpse - CyberCorpse 12

From: Eddie Woods <jenwood@internet-today.co.uk>

(quoting Charles Dickens on 'old man river') in a recent Simon Schama article ("The Unloved American") in The New Yorker. He writes:

Dickens's America is all Yankee repression and southern stupor. He saw Boston, New York, and Philadelphia through the keyhole of the prison cell and the madhouse. The Tombs, in New York, served as a metaphor for the dark, unforgiving world in which it was situated. And the geographical heart of the country, though not a jail or an asylum, or a reeking warren like the Five Points, was a river of death. Decades before Joseph Conrad steamed his way upstream into the heart of imperial darkness, Dickens, travelling from Cincinnati downstream to Cairo, Illinois...experienced the Mississippi as a septic ooze, a turbid soup of animal and vegetable muck. Cairo lay in the stinking belly of the beast: 'The hateful Mississippi circling and eddying before it, and turning off upon its southern course a slimy monster hideous to behold; a hotbed of disease, an ugly sepulchre, a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise: a place without one single quality, in earth or air or water, to commend it: such is this dismal Cairo.

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