Mention Oxford, Mississippi, and several thoughts are likely to come to mind. Some may think about University of Mississippi—“Ole Miss” as it’s commonly known—the state’s first-rank educational institution. Others may think of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, when the enrollment of James Meredith, an African American, set off a brouhaha that included riots and murder. Still others will think of it as the home of William Faulkner, one of America’s greatest authors.
Faulkner was born in nearby New Albany, but his family moved to Oxford when he was five, and he lived there for most of the rest of his life. He attended Ole Miss for one year only, but did contribute some articles that appeared in student publications. The tensions between the cultures of America’s North and South left unresolved by the Civil war and the social changes that the war wrought in the South underlie some of Faulkner’s writing. The Sound and the Fury, published in 1929, was his first successful novel and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. In his acceptance speech, he said: “I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.”
Laetitia and her group began the tour at Oxford Square in front of the statue of a Confederate soldier that is featured in several Faulkner novels. Next they visited the house of Faulkner’s mother, Maud, then Faulkner’s home at Rowan Oak. The house was built originally in 1844 and is situated on 29 acres of wooded grounds. They ended the day at Faulkner’s grave in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Oxford. Laetitia’s group did not participate in the Faulknerophile ritual of bringing a bottle of Jack Daniels, taking a swig, and leaving the rest for him on his tombstone, but the thought spawned the limerick of the day.
Faulkner said, “the last dingdong of doom”
And he wrote about tension and gloom
With Jack Daniels nearby
And when his fans drop by
They leave bourbon for him on his tomb.