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First Novel: Inez, A Tale of the Alamo

Augusta’s first novel Inez has created the widely held idea that the author was anti-Catholic.   The finished manuscript, begun when she was fifteen years old, was presented to her father as a Christmas gift in 1854; he’d been kept in the dark about his daughter’s authorial aspirations.   She was twenty when it was published anonymously by Harper’s.  According to William Fidler, its printing costs were probably paid for by her uncle Augustus Howard.   Inez sold few copies when it first appeared but was reissued after the success of Augusta’s later novels and so reached a wide audience.   

As Nina Baym points out, the teenaged Augusta based Inez on stories she’d heard on the frontier about the Texas War for Independence that had taken place in the 1830s   From her extensive reading and the rumors she heard in Texas, Augusta subscribed to the prejudice, common at the time, that Catholics slavishly did whatever their priests told them to do.   Moral certainty was a feature of the Victorians, says biographer William Fidler.   The young Augusta Jane Evans saw the Mexicans as the villains of her story and it was their Catholicism that made them so.   Susan Reynolds believes that as Augusta matured, so did her ideas about religion.   Her second novel, Beulah, was about a woman writer struggling with the beliefs she’s been taught, examining a range of different philosophies before affirming her Christianity.    In New York City in 1859 Augusta became close friends with Rachel Lyons, a young Jewish woman from South Carolina who helped broaden Augusta’s view of religion.   According to Fidler, Augusta’s long friendship with Mother Mary Stanislaus of the Convent of the Visitation in Mobile also shows that her anti-Catholicism was a youthful offense. 

That she remained biased on many other subjects, adds Fidler, “was one of the special and prized qualities of all Victorians.”