Chance Harvey Chats With "Lyle Saxon" At Melrose

Posted by Doyle Bailey for The Association For The Preservation Of Historic Natchitoches (APHN)

Sunday, October 9, 2011 was a remarkable day at Melrose Plantation (owned and operated by APHN). What made it a special day was the Fall Tour of Homes and delightful guests coming to revel in the sights and saga of this French Creole Plantation. Something extra was added however, or as we say in Louisiana there was laigniappe (something extra given to a customer).

The something extra was Chance Harvey, (click here for another post about Harvey)  author of “The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon”. What can I say about Chance, besides the fact she is a delightful person. Lets just deal with the problem first. How was I to know that I should have bought two copies of her book. She autographed our copy:

“for Barbara and Doyle-for the love of the Cane River Country, best,              Chance”.

The problem began when we both started the book and neither one of us wanted to share (very adult conduct). There are two book marks in the book. Here is where the problem lies:

  • the book is the first full biography of the legendary writer, Lyle Saxon, known as Mr. Louisiana and Mr. New Orleans. He spent years at Melrose Plantation in his solitary cabin.
  • Lyle Saxon was a writer of imminent skills, even though he demeaned his writing skills.  He could only be pleased that his biographer is a skilled communicator as well. Scholarly, well-researched and most readable, Chance breaks new ground and answer questions about Saxon I have not found elsewhere. (eg. where he was born).

I have always thought he looked sad in his photographs.   In speaking of his letters, Harvey writes that “they reveal the images of Saxon as a Southern  gentleman, genial host, and raconteur were self-created ones, designed to disguise his deep sense of alienation.”  

We will work out our little problem (buy another book, accede to my wife’s desire to read it first, or catch her sleeping and slink off with it).

Dr. Chance Harvey received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Millsaps, Duke, and Tulane respectively.

It is a good day when you can visit Melrose Plantation, make a new friend and discover a remarkable book.

The Life and Selected Letters of Lyle Saxon by Chance Harvey

Visit and tour Melrose Plantation and you can purchase the book at the gift shop. Unless you are single, you might want to get two copies.

MELROSE PLANTATION BIG HOUSE 1833

Melrose began life as The Louis Metoyer Plantation in 1796 and was named Melrose in 1884 when Joseph Henry bought the plantation. It is one of the first and is one of the best surviving examples of a Creole plantation built by former enslaved persons known as “free people of color.” There are out- buildings from the late 1700’s, one of which houses the 1955 murals painted by the internationally known African-American Folk Artist, Clementine Hunter, who lived and worked at Melrose.

For more information regarding year-round tours please call: 318-379-0055.
(Bus tours by reservation only)

                                                                                                                                             

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