Although born in Boston, I was raised in Richmond and I always considered
myself a son of the South and a loyal Virginian. I attended the University of Virginia
and defended Southern writers throughout my career. Although my adult years were spent in
poverty, I considered myself a gentleman and never lost my belief in the
righteousness of the aristocracy.
Like the anti-bellum society of my youth, I admired good manners, wealth,
education and a family name. It
should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with my work that many of
my subjects exhibit, or lack, these qualities. A few may be surprised to see how often
my Virginia virtues are applied to the characters in The Beale Papers.
Beale and his party are all Virginians “well born and well educated, with
refined and courteous manners”.
Morriss is an “old Virginia gentleman”. Only in Virginia do the men feel safe
enough leaving their treasure that they would carry it across hundreds of miles
of wilderness. The key to one of
the ciphers is the Declaration of Independence, authored by the greatest
Virginian, Thomas Jefferson.
Finally, of course, I arranged for the story to be published in
I sometimes set my stories in locations where I had lived. The Gold Bug and The Balloon Hoax, for example, were set
in Charleston, South Carolina, where I served in the military. The Beale Papers is set partially in
Lynchburg, an area about which I learned a great deal during my days at the
University of Virginia. I set
another of my stories, A Tale of the
Ragged Mountains, near Lynchburg.