Almost a year ago, the proprietors of The Lost Country gathered at a local pub for the first time under the name of “The Exiles.” Most were associated in one way or another with the College of Saint Thomas More in Fort Worth, Texas, and as they have said elsewhere, “they owe their common identity, purpose, and ideas to the legacy to that institution.”
In 1967 Madison Jones, (who has since lectured at the College), published a novel entitled An Exile, previously published in The Sewanee Review. The exile in question was a certain Sheriff Tawes, whose boyhood home had been flooded by a dam project such as those undertaken by the Tennessee Valley Authority.1 He loses his moorings and is barely able to exhibit his true character by the end of the novel.
While the theme of being lost in a new environment is common enough, the College from which many of our Exiles are recent graduates has severely altered its curriculum. The thus share in a living image of being cut off from the past. Perhaps in Oliver Goldsmith’s 1770 Pre-Romantic poem “The Deserted Village” we find a similar situation. The men, women, and children of the village have gone to work in the factories. The world of Sweet Auburn no longer exists.
It is also the story of the pagan epic, especially the Aeneid; Troy has been destroyed, and Aeneas must guide his people to their new home. They can not go back. It is not only the so-called “Messianic” Eclogue but also the Aeneid itself that suggested to many early Christians not that Virgil was a conscious prophet of the coming of Christ, but that he had produced an allegory of this event. (I use ‘allegory’ as the Middle Ages used it.)
As these examples illustrate, it is in the imaginative world of literature that we turn to attend to human existence and knowledge carried to the heart. Imagination, literature, and poetry are our occupation and activity as we live our lives, and they in turn reflect those lives in their images—the perennial human occupation being one of exile, of homelessness, of wayfaring: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke9:58). We are, all of us, searching for our Lost Country,
This is the world man inhabits; it is the world his literature imitates; and it is the world of The Exiles and this journal. They, and all mankind, live with the notion: one leaves Home to go Home.
Harry Hoyt Lacey
The Lost Country
The Madison Jones novel burns in the memory of this Honorary Editor, as his ancestral home in Laceyville, Ohio was flooded by the Muskingum River Project.↩