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May 4, 2008

Samuel Clemens Visit to Baton Rouge, calls Old State Capital Building a "Little Sham Castle"

Old Louisiana State Capitol
See post on Old State Capitol here

Twain writes: "Baton Rouge was clothed in flowers, like a bride - no, much more so; like a greenhouse. For we were in the absolute South now - no modifications, no compromises, no halfway measures. The Magnolia trees in the Capitol grounds were lovely and fragrant, with their dense rich foliage and huge snow-ball blossoms. The scent of the flower is very sweet, but you want distance on it, because it is so powerful. They are not good bedroom blossoms-- they might suffocate one in his sleep. We were certainly in the South at last; for here the sugar region begins, and the plantations--vast green levels, with sugar-mill and negro quarters clustered together in the middle distance--were in view. And there was a tropical sun overhead and a tropical swelter in the air.

And at this point, also, begins the pilot's paradise: a wide river hence to New Orleans, abundance of water from shore to shore, and no bars, snags, sawyers, or wrecks in his road.

Sir Walter Scott is probably responsible for the Capitol building; for it is not conceivable that this little sham castle would ever have been built if he had not ran the people mad, a couple of generations ago, with his mediƦval romances. The South has not yet recovered from the debilitating influence of his books. Admiration of his fantastic heroes and their grotesque "chivalry" doings and romantic juvenilities still survives here, in an atmosphere in which is already perceptible the wholesome and practical nineteenth-century smell of cotton-factories and locomotives; and traces of inflated language and other windy humbuggeries survive along with it. It is pathetic enough, that a whitewashed castle, with turrets and things--materials all ungenuine within and without, pretending to be what they are not-- should ever have been built in this otherwise honorable place; but it is much more pathetic to see this architectural falsehood undergoing restoration and perpetuation in our day, when it would have been so to let dynamite finish what a charitable fire began*, and then devote this restoration-money to the building of something genuine."



*referring to when it was accidentally gutted with fire, caused by a flue fire (flue = pipe, duct, chimney) during Yankee occupation of the structure, it remained in it's burned out state for 20 years. - added

James Harrison Dakin, was the architect of the Old State Capitol.

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