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Incidents of My Life: Edmund Ruffin's Autobiographical Essays
Edited by David F. Allmendinger, Jr.
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Edmund Ruffin (1794–1865) is remembered as an innovative American agriculturalist and pioneer in soil chemistry—and as an advocate of southern secession.
Here, published for the first time, are the two surviving volumes of Ruffin's manuscript memoirs, written in 1851 with additions in 1853 and 1855. Unlike his diaries begun four years later, Incidents of My Life presents the public man, the Ruffin he wanted outsiders and posterity to see. The volumes recount his career as a scientific farmer, his writing of An Essay on Calcareous Manures, his editing of the Farmer's Register, and the begininngs of his involvement in reform movements of the 1850s.
Allmendinger states in his introduction that "Ruffin considered himself a self-made man who rose above his inherited status through hard work, ingenuity, familiarity with current scientific ideas, and ambition. The entire text of the Incidents of My Life became an elaboration on this central theme. Actions were judged starkly in terms of success in advancing himself and reform. Through his own hard work he had rejuventated Coggin's Point Farm. Through his own ingenuity and research he had discovered the secret of marl. Through his own ambition he had doubled the value of his patrimony by 1827." These recollections were intended as a moral record for his heirs, focusing on himself as a good example. Also included are Ruffin's memoirs of his two daughters who died in 1855 and, as an appendix, his account of the death of his mentor, Thomas Cocke, which are useful sources for mid-nineteenth-century social history.
274 pages, hardcover, ISBN 0-8139-1279-2, University Press of Virginia, 1990.
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