The Confederacy's Marble Man
THE MAKING OF ROBERT E. LEE. By Michael Fellman. Random House. 360 pp. $29.95
Reviewed by Max Byrd
Robert E. Lee’s famous nickname at West Point, given by a classmate who s aw him riding by, was "the Marble Man"— a distinctly curious image to apply to an 18or 19-year-old boy. It suggests a statue, of course, a mi l i tary hero astride his mount, and it conveys a little of the awe that the young Lee’s physical beauty and moral character seemed to inspire in everyone (astoni s h i n g l y, he went through all four years at the U.S. Military Academy without receiving a single demerit). But it also suggests a cold, di stant, inhuman figure of stone. This is the contradiction that Thomas Connelly took up in his remarkable book T h e Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society (1977). He concluded that the second interpretation is the right one, that Lee’s legendary Victorian virtue, celebrated in a thousand marble sta t u e s across the South, was really no more than a terrible hardening of the heart, a chilly m e c h a nical repression of all that was strong and vibrant in his personality. In the qu a rter-century since Connelly’s book appeared, almost everyone who has written about Lee has begun by responding one way or another to this argument.
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