Blogs > Cliopatria > George Tindall (1921-2006) and the Ten Commandments

Dec 3, 2006 6:58 pm

George Tindall (1921-2006) and the Ten Commandments

The University of South Carolina's Dan Carter sends word that our mentor, George B. Tindall of UNC, died early yesterday morning in Chapel Hill at 85. George was a giant in his generation of historians of the post-Civil War South. There were Comer Vann Woodward, John Hope Franklin, and George Brown Tindall. Franklin, alone, survives. Before it was fashionable, they understood that Southern history had to be done in both black and white. For all of his accomplishments, George was a remarkably modest man. Bonnie Goodman wanted to include him in HNN's list of History Doyens, but he just never sent her the information for it. I can stop nudging both of them about it now.
Update: Kennesaw State University's David Parker remembers George Tindall at his new Another History Blog. It's not just any other history blog, he says. It is theAnother History Blog.

Two years ago, we had a fine retrospective session about George's work at the SHA convention in Memphis. There, Dan Carter had copies of George's Ten Commandments for all of us. Beyond good advice – ah, Commands – they also give you a sense of his humor. Tindall's Ten Commandments began in a draft prepared by Wisconsin's William B. Hesseltine. Hesseltine, in turn, may have adapted his commandments from an earlier version by the University of Maryland's Horace Samuel Merrill. So, they're part of a tradition. Feel free to improve on Tindall's rendition, if you can:

Clio's Decalogue: The Commandments of the Muse

IThou shalt smite the Philistines hip and thigh with thy first sentence. This is the First Commandment.

IIThou shalt love the active verb with all thy heart, with all the soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt have no passive verbs before me; the present tense, moreover, is an abomination unto the muse.

IIIThou shalt not take the names of thy cast in vain, for the muse will not hold that one guiltless who faileth fully to denominate and clearly to identify in relation to the subject all persons or incidents, be they Zora Neale Hurston, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, or the Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Only after thou hast performed this ceremony of purification mayest thou use familiar terms like unto Hurston, Lamar, or The Duel to the Death.

IVRemember the footnote, to keep it holy. In thy text shalt thou labor thy subject, but neither discuss thy documents nor yet thy methodology. Footnotes were made for scholars and not scholars for footnotes; yea, verily, the greatest is not the writer who citeth the most obscure document, nor yet the one who pileth Ossa upon Pelion.

VHonor thy chronology, to keep it straight, and put thy time clause first, that thy days may be long upon the printed page.

VIThou shalt not kill thy reader, neither with the dangling participle, nor the split infinitive, nor with string of prepositional phrases, nor yet with adjectives and adverbs.

VIIThou shalt not commit adulteration, neither with slang nor with jargon, yea though the words be favored of thine instructors.

VIIIThou shalt not covet thy source's prose, imagery, or purple passage, nor anything that is thy source's, for lo, thou canst say it better thyself. Thou mayest quote only to season thy store, and that in fear and trembling.

IXThou shalt not bear false witness, nor pass judgment upon mankind, nor yet pardon any man or woman for anything; thou mayest seek the reason for error but neither the excuse nor the blame. Vengeance is mine, saith the muse.

XThou shalt not steal thy reader's attention by using"this" for"the," nor"the" for"a," neither shall thou employ negations. Neither a"no"-er nor a"not"-er be; but rather an accentuator of the positive; in this respect shalt thou do as these commandments say do and not as they, alas, do.

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More Comments:

Eric Rauchway - 12/4/2006

Hah. I wonder if it's Oxford-specific, somehow?

Ralph E. Luker - 12/4/2006

Actually, no. It was the Philistines. See: Judges 15:8. But there is a long tradition of that confusion.

Eric Rauchway - 12/4/2006

Isn't it the Amalekites you smite, hip and thigh? (Or, you know, not.)