A Lexicon and a Lecture from William Cowper Brann, the Iconoclast
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Imprint: Texas Tech University Press
- Published: October 1998
Why am I an Iconoclast? . . . Sir, I am a seeker of Truth. . . . [W]hen you get an idea, put it on the anvil and bid the world hit it with the heaviest sledge. The more you hammer Truth the brighter it becomes." When an enraged reader gunned him down in Waco, April Fool's Day 1898, William Cowper Brann had published The Iconoclast, the nation's most controversial magazine, for some forty months. It was the only American journal to claim a quarter-of-a-million monthly circulation, owing largely to Brann's gusto for offering up his "truths." Though his circulation was international, his favorite idols for smashing were those he found at home in Waco, nicknamed "Six-Shooter Depot" and which exemplified, he believed, Texas's reputation for "furnish[ing] forth more hidebound dogmatists, narrow-minded bigots and intolerable fanatics in proportion to population than any other section of these United States!" Though a twelve-volume 1912 edition of The Iconoclast resides here and there in rare book collections, public access to the writings of Texas's perhaps most infamous and entertaining journalist has been surprisingly limited. Jerry Flemmons's lexicon synthesizes the most memorable and current Brannisms into a facilely retrievable format. From America to Texas Politics to the Universe, these selected snippets prove how brightly indeed wisdom, wit, and the well-turned phrase survive pounding of the ages. But perhaps the beacon of O dammit! is the one-man, two-act play that Flemmons presents as a lecture by Brann on the last day of his life. Though it has been performed around Texas for more than a decade, it is a script whose every stage note and direction deserves to be read and whose every line reflects not only Brann's genius but also that of the man who's become the keenest authority thereon.