To the Ramparts of Infinity
Colonel W. C. Falkner and the Ripley Railroad
An in-depth exploration of the life and works of the man who would one day serve as a model and influence to his great-grandson, William Faulkner
Before William Faulkner, there was Colonel William C. Falkner (1825–1889), the great-grandfather of the prominent and well-known Mississippi writer. The first biography of Falkner was a dissertation by the late Donald Duclos, which was completed in 1961, and while Faulkner scholars have briefly touched on the life of the Colonel due to his influence on the writer’s work and life, there have been no new biographies dedicated to Falkner until now. To the Ramparts of Infinity: Colonel W. C. Falkner and the Ripley Railroad seeks to fill this gap in scholarship and Mississippi history by providing a biography of the Colonel, sketching out the cultural landscape of Ripley, Mississippi, and alluding to Falkner’s influence on his great-grandson’s Yoknapatawpha cycle of stories.
While the primary thrust of the narrative is to provide a sound biography on Falkner, author Jack D. Elliott Jr. also seeks to identify sites in Ripley that were associated with the Colonel and his family. This is accomplished in part within the main narrative, but the sites are specifically focused on, summarized, and organized into an appendix entitled “A Field Guide to Colonel Falkner’s Ripley.” There, the sites are listed along with old and contemporary photographs of buildings. Maps of the area, plotting military action as well as the railroads, are also included, providing essential material for readers to understand the geographical background of the area in this period of Mississippi history.
"I can’t imagine a better-documented biography of W. C. Falkner. Jack Elliott corrects the errors and misapprehensions of earlier writers, scholars, and biographers with a deep immersion in the sources of local history."- Carl Rollyson, author of The Life of William Faulkner
"The original Falkner seems to have led a truly remarkable life, and this wonderful biography does his life justice while at the same time making major statements on larger issues such as his influence on William Faulkner as well as the original Falkner's little corner of the world in Mississippi."- Timothy B. Smith, author of Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front
"William Faulkner may not have had much use for historical facts, but they most certainly have their place. Jack D. Elliot Jr., has done a marvelous job of bringing a historian’s eye to bear upon those facts. This impeccably researched biography of Colonel William C. Falkner is a tremendous achievement that provides a corrective on the many distortions and misconceptions of this dynamic and influential man. Elliott takes Falkner and his time and place on their own terms, the result being not only an invaluable resource for Faulkner readers and scholars but also an excellent account of a remarkable life and an important book on north Mississippi history."- Taylor Hagood, author of Faulkner, Writer of Disability
"Faulkner gave the impression that his great-grandfather was a rather tough, humorless character, and the Old Colonel’s first biographer, Donald Duclos, and subsequent Faulkner biographers — entranced with Faulkner’s fiction — tended to take the legend for fact. Jack D. Elliott Jr., a historical archeologist and a native Mississippian with deep roots in a family settlement hardly more than an hour’s drive from the Old Colonel’s Ripley, is the kind of scholar who goes looking for material evidence that, in many instances, does not square with the legend Faulkner and his biographers have perpetuated."- Carl Rollyson, New York Sun