This book focuses on Southwestern humor, the antebellum body of writing which has proved to be one of the richest veins in the literature of the American South. Southwestern humor embraced and dramatized the mounting political tension which broke out between the Whig and Democratic parties in the 1830s, divided the nation and culminated in the Civil War. Its major practitioners fervently defended their Southern bias, gentlemanly aspirations and proslavery sympathies and came to advocate secessionism in the decade leading to a war that saw them disperse. The book inserts six major Southwestern humorists in the political debates and conflicts of the time and emphasizes the ways in which they navigated between journalism and mythmaking, the imperatives of documentary and comedy. Their social, professional and political differences, motives and attitudes and the seriousness, vitality and hybridity of their humorous writings are also underscored. Adopting and abandoning a succession of careers, they wrote intermittently and pseudonymously, mainly when provoked politically. They covered a wide range of subjects, anticipating the rise of Mark Twain as the phoenix of Southwestern humor.