Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 243

Transatlantic Literature and

Transitivity, 1780–1850

This book makes an important contribution to transatlantic literary

studies and an emerging body of work on identity formation and print
culture in the Atlantic world. The collection identifies the ways in which
historically-situated but malleable subjectivities engage with popular and
pressing debates about class, slavery, natural knowledge, democracy and
religion. In addition, the book also considers the ways in which mate-
rial texts and genres, including, for example, the essay, the guidebook,
the travel narrative, the periodical, the novel, and the poem, can be
scrutinised in relation to historically-situated transatlantic transitions,
transformations and border crossings. The volume is underpinned by
a thorough examination of historical and conceptual frameworks and
prioritises notions of circulation and exchange, as opposed to transfer
and continuance, in its analysis of authors, texts, and ideas. The collec-
tion is concerned with the movement of people, texts and ideas in the
currents of transatlantic markets and politics, taking a fresh look at a
range of canonical and popular writers of the period, including Austen,
Blake, Poe, ­Crèvecoeur, Brockden Brown, Sedgwick, Hemans, Bulwer-
Lytton, ­Dickens and Melville. In different ways, the chapters gathered
together here are concerned with the potentially empowering realities of the
transi­tive, circulatory and contingent experiences of transatlantic literary
and cultural production as they are manifest in the long nineteenth century.

Annika Bautz is Associate Professor in English at Plymouth University, U.K.

Kathryn N. Gray is Reader in Early American Literature at Plymouth

University, U.K.
Routledge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature
For a full list of titles in this series, please visit www.routledge.com.

11 A Female Poetics of Empire

From Eliot to Woolf
Julia Kuehn

12 Neo-Victorian Literature and Culture

Immersions and Revisitations
Edited by Nadine Boehm-Schnitker and Susanne Gruss

13 Dickens’ Novels as Poetry

Allegory and Literature of the City
Jeremy Tambling

14 Pets and Domesticity in Victorian Literature and Culture

Animality, Queer Relations, and the Victorian Family
Monica Flegel

15 Queer Victorian Families

Curious Relations in Literature
Edited by Duc Dau and Shale Preston

16 Economies of Desire at the Victorian Fin de Siècle

Libidinal Lives
Edited by Jane Ford, Kim Edwards Keates, and Patricia Pulham

17 Walt Whitman and British Socialism

‘The Love of Comrades’
Kirsten Harris

18 Dirt in Victorian Literature and Culture

Writing Materiality
Sabine Schülting

19 Transatlantic Literature and Transitivity, 1780–1850

Subjects, Texts, and Print Culture
Edited by Annika Bautz and Kathryn N. Gray
Transatlantic Literature and
Transitivity, 1780–1850
Subjects, Texts, and Print Culture

Edited by Annika Bautz

and Kathryn N. Gray
First published 2017
by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
and by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group,
an informa business
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the
editorial material, and of the authors for their individual
chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections
77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted
or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including photocopying and recording, or in any information
storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from
the publishers.
Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be
trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for
identification and explanation without intent to infringe.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
CIP data has been applied for.
ISBN: 978-1-138-24342-2 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-1-315-22679-8 (ebk)
Typeset in Sabon
by codeMantra

Introduction 1

Part I
Travelling Subjects and Transitive Identities 17

1 Reformation in Mansfield Park: The Slave Trade

and the Stillpoint of Knowledge 19
E li z abeth Fay

2 “That Dreadful, Delightful City”: Edgar Allan Poe’s

Essaying of London 35
S imon P eter H ull

3 “Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”: Go-Betweens and

Natural Knowledge in Crèvecoeur’s Journey into
Northern Pennsylvania and the State of New York 53
K athryn N . G ray

4 Writing Pocahontas: Romantic Women Writers

and the Transatlantic Rescuing Indian Maiden 69
M elissa A dams - C ampbell

Part II
Ancient Decline and Nineteenth-Century Moralities 91

5 Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague in Lydia Maria

Child’s Philothea: A Grecian Romance 93
M atthew E . D uqu è s
vi Contents
6 Christian Morality and Roman Depravity: Illustrating
Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii
in a Transatlantic Literary Market 112
A nnika B aut z

Part III
Transatlantic Print Culture and Transitive Texts 147

7 Virtual Museums in Early America: Transatlantic

Magazine Culture and Cultural Memory 149
J ulia S traub

8 Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic: Brown,

Oertel, and the First Translation of a U.S. Novel 171
L eonard von M or z é

9 William Blake’s American Afterlives: Transatlantic

Poetics in Emerson and Whitman 195
C lare F rances E lliott

10 American Notes and English Guidebooks: (Re)writing

English Literature in Melville and Dickens 212
K atie M c G ettigan and D iana P owell

List of Contributors 231

Index 233

In 1780 Hector St John de Crèvecoeur arrived in London with a manu-

script collection of sketches describing his experiences of North America
in a series of fictionalised letters. He sold these fragments of text to
Davies and Davis, a London publishing firm, and they were published
under the title Letters from an American Farmer in 1782. We begin
this introduction with a short précis of Crèvecoeur’s Letters because
the content and production of this ubiquitous “American” text, draws
attention to two important features of transatlantic literature, and two
key concerns of this collection: the fluid and transitive nature of personal
and cultural identities, as well as the transitory, unpredictable and con-
tingent nature of print culture in this period.
Crèvecoeur was French by birth, educated in England, and travelled
extensively in North America, initially working as a cartographer for
the French colonial army, and then as a naturalised British gentleman
farmer when he married and settled in Orange County, New York. Fol-
lowing his return to Europe after the War of Independence, he ­became
the official representative for Louis XVI in New York. During this
later period of his life, in 1794, he wrote to Jefferson: “I am at once an
American by adoption and law, and a Frenchman by birth” (Allen and
­Asselineau 213). And, as Susan Manning comments in her introduction
to the O­ xford edition of Letters, he was also British by allegiance. In
bridging these European cultures, and witnessing the “violent emer-
gence of a third,” Manning also speculates that his “reaction to the pres-
sure of events seems to have been to remake himself, repeatedly, with a
kind of chameleon adaptability” (Manning xv, xvi).
Throughout his life, then, Crèvecoeur predicated his personal and na-
tional identity within a transatlantic imaginary, encompassing French,
British and American loyalties. By virtue of this transitive, ambiguous,
perhaps liminal identity, Crèvecoeur wielded significant literary and po-
litical influence. His adaptability, what we might now consider to be
a de-centred and non-essentialist approach to identity construction,
was crucial to his ability to record, translate, and re-create the North
American experience for a number of audiences: initially, for his military
superiors during his time as a cartographer in the French army, then, for
2 Introduction
the eager readers of his Letters in both England and France, and, finally,
for his political audiences in Paris and New York when he worked as an
ambassador between the two countries. This historically situated and
politically astute transitive subjectivity provides an appropriate point of
departure for the chapters in this collection that deal with the interme-
diary, peripheral and often-times liminal subjects that acknowledge and
translate the transformative capacity of the transatlantic experience, real
or imagined, in this period of significant political upheaval and change.
Of course, Crèvecoeur was one of many travellers who recounted his
time in North America to eager audiences in Europe, in this he was
not unique, although he was unusual in the fact that he combined ex-
pansive and extensive first-hand knowledge of North America’s natural
environment with access to the intellectual and political elites of France
and the United States. More specifically, however, Crèvecoeur’s further
significance as a gateway into this collection of chapters is the window
into print culture, which the publication process of the Letters in both
London and France provides. Crèvecoeur wrote the Letters, and other
sketches written in English, while living at his farm in Orange County,
and most critics agree that the majority of Letters was written before the
outbreak of the Revolutionary War. More significantly for our purposes
is the fact that Crèvecoeur did not edit the English-language edition of
his work, and nor did he oversee its publication. In fact, he had returned
to his native France by the time this popular and influential epistolary
description of American life was received by English-reading audiences.
Editors at Davies and Davis made sense of the fragments of text, mak-
ing editorial decisions about the text’s final appearance; as is the case
with many novels and narratives of the period, the final shape and con-
tent of the printed text was contingent upon the interventions of the
publishers, not upon the direction or will of the author.1 The fact that
Crèvecoeur went on to translate his Letters into French, and in doing so
re-wrote, restructured and expanded the edition by adding more letters
and sketches to the pre-existing English version, serves as an appropriate
reminder that texts were not stable, hermetically-sealed objects, rather,
authors and publishers, as well as intermediaries in Europe and in North
­A merica, re-shaped and re-packaged texts with little concern that they
should remain true to an original text. Several chapters in this collec-
tion deal with issues of authorship, editing, translation and illustration,
thereby addressing the very nature of the transitive text: texts that were
re-made or re-packaged, as they made a transatlantic journey, with or
without the author’s consent or control.

The Transitive and Transitivity

Following Paul Giles’s work to interrogate and dismantle nation-centred
critical frameworks, this collection traces the transitive nature of the
self, in its individual and collective forms, and it also considers the ways
Introduction  3
in which knowledge and material texts are articulated or produced in the
contested spaces of the transatlantic world. Giles has noted, on several
occasions and in different ways, that the Anglo-American literary tradi-
tion is not comprised of two parallel lines of literary descent, rather, the
literary cross-currents within and between nations resist linear defini-
tion. In Virtual Americas, Giles clarifies that his intention is to “suggest
ways that conceptions of national identity on both sides of the Atlantic
emerge through engagement with – and, often, deliberate exclusion of –
a transatlantic imaginary” (Giles 2002, 1). And, more recently, he traces
the “historical variables and the uneven ways American literature has
imaginatively mapped itself in relation to a global domain over the past
three hundred years” (Giles 2011, 2). Building on Giles’s observations
and interrogations of the Anglo-American literary tradition, we seek to
resist a diffusionist model of cultural production, whereby ideas, texts
and authors are validated within, and exported from, largely European
metropolitan centres and institutions, only to be transmitted and ad-
opted around the periphery of the transatlantic world. 2 Instead, this
collection embraces the more fluid, transient and ambiguous processes
of circulation and exchange characterised by Joseph Roach’s work, for
example, on the circum-Atlantic performances of cultural production
(Roach 1995). Following the spirit of Roach’s commentary upon the po-
rous boundaries of different cultures in both geographical and temporal
frameworks, the chapters in this collection seek to scrutinise and de-
stabilise discussions about centres and peripheries, thereby enabling a
critical paradigm which attends to the transitory and contingent nature
of the self and the text within the transatlantic imaginary.
In other contexts, the transitive subject has been used to identify
“passage from one position to another”, affirming “provisional iden-
tity formation as a necessary stage, positional, and performative of
dynamic identities”. “Transitive subjectivity … recognizes that there is
no such thing as a pure or absolute identity and speaks to the subject
positions inhabited by bilingual, multi-racial, (and) multi-cultural sub-
jects” (Blake 72). This definition of transitive subjectivity draws implic-
itly on the work of Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose
respective contributions to theories of gender and sexuality draw atten-
tion to the performative, de-centred, and contingent nature of individ-
ual and collective identity formations. 3 Mindful of a considerable body
of work that has theorised transitive subjectivity in relation to identity
politics, specifically in relation to race, culture, gender and sexuality,4
this collection is particularly concerned with the need to prioritise the
implications of historicised accounts of the transitive, peripheral and
in-between voices that shaped, and were shaped by, their specific trans-
atlantic crossings, translations and circulations. In “Traveling Theory”
Edward Said posits: “Cultural and intellectual life are usually nourished
and often sustained by this circulation of ideas” (Said 226). He goes
on to delineate the implications of the various contexts that a theory
4 Introduction
undergoes as it moves across borders and timeframes: “movement into
a new environment is never unimpeded. It necessarily involves processes
of representation and institutionalization different from those at the
point of origin. This complicates any account of the transplantation,
transference, circulation, and commerce of theories and ideas” (226).
Building on Said’s premise, and acknowledging the complicated set of
historical circumstances that help ideas, texts, and people both travel,
and be re-defined through the very nature of transatlantic travel and
transportation, this collection is predicated on an acceptance that so-
called origins are always and already ambiguous and contingent.
Our aim in this collection is also to expand the notion of the transi-
tive, as we move from the politics of identity, culture, ideas, and read-
ership, through to the practices of print culture. The chapters in this
collection are concerned with transitive and transitional processes of
production, in relation to knowledge, memory, culture, subjectivity and
material texts and, as such, they engage with authors, texts, charac-
ters, and concepts that exist within, or engage directly with, so-called
peripheral, in-between, and/or contested spaces of cultural or material
production. This collection is, therefore, organised around the principle
of transitivity in its various forms: the first four chapters consider the
transitive subject, the in-between or intermediary figure that shapes or
is shaped by the transatlantic experience; the second section draws to-
gether strands of cultural production and print culture as the chapters
articulate narratives of decline and degeneracy in relation to transatlan-
tic discourses of politics and religion; and the final section highlights the
contingent and unpredictable nature of print culture during this period.
In different ways, each chapter is concerned with the historical realities
of the transitive, circulatory, and contingent experiences of transatlan-
tic literary and cultural production as they are manifest in the period,

Travelling Subjects and Transitive Identities

Transatlanticism is predicated on the very idea of travel, and the chapters
in this collection variously consider actual or fictional journeys made by
authors, characters, goods and material texts. As well, several chapters
engage more directly with the genres of travel writing: the essay, the
travelogue, the natural history narrative, and the guidebook. During
this period, 1780–1850, the purposes and contexts of transatlantic
travel underwent considerable change. Developing from colonial roots,
eighteenth-century travel narratives and diaries about North America
were more often concerned with exploring new, wild landscapes. Travel
to and within North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
century was often built upon the requirements of settlement, expan-
sion and trade. Subsequently, and far from the so-called wild reaches
Introduction  5
of the frontier, by the middle part of the nineteenth century travel back
and forth across the Atlantic became the pursuit of the leisured classes.
­London, and other parts of England, drew in citizens of the United
States, just as the American wilderness had drawn, and continued to
draw, travellers from Europe. This collective study intervenes in debates
about the experience of transatlantic travel in this period, with a parti­
cular emphasis on the ways in which the experience or consequences
of transatlantic travel impacted upon the constitution of personal, col-
lective or national identities; this is articulated through a focus on the
contingencies of subjectivity, questions of social or moral degeneracy
and change, as well as enquiries into the translation, adaptation and
construction of text or genre.
One of the key considerations of the first part of this collection, then,
is a focus on transitive subjectivity in a transatlantic context; this section
charts various travelling subjects, narrators, and character-types. A com-
mon consideration in each of these chapters is the relationship between,
and the constitution of, the centre to the periphery in the development
of individual and collective identities. Through the nexus of class, race,
social structures and/ or geopolitics as defined in a specifically trans-
atlantic context, the chapters in the first section of the collection trace
the implications for transitional, transitive and contingent subjectivity.
In each of these chapters, the in-between figures, the go-betweens, the
onlookers and the observers, are under scrutiny, as is the process of iden-
tity construction in these positional and spatial transatlantic contexts.
Following Said’s articulation of the “contrapuntal” in Mansfield Park,
the opening chapter in the collection traces the transitive and contingent
process of subjectivity in the figure of Fanny Price. Framed through dis-
cussions of empire, trade, slavery and servitude, Fay’s chapter uses the
spatial construction of centre and periphery to help delineate character
and the geo-political landscape of the novel. With the “social structures
of the novel … in the process of changing”, Fanny, it is argued, redefines
her previously “peripheral” status, to become a central destabilising
force in the socio-cultural transformations which reverberate around,
and are constituted by, the transatlantic geo-cultural affiliations of the
Park, Antigua and Portsmouth. As Fay, and other contributors argue,
one centre is not necessarily replaced with another in a reductive model
of binary oppositions, rather, the processes of centring, and the nature
of the periphery, are themselves under scrutiny, erasure and realignment.
A similar pattern of de-centring and realignment appears in Hull’s
account of Poe’s essay, “Man of the Crowd”. Hull articulates the ways in
which London was imagined and transcribed by relative cultural outsid-
ers, perceiving the American “essaying” of London as a quintessentially
transatlantic act. Detailing the pleasures which the metropolis affords
the New World traveller, London is presented as a place of contrasts
and contradictions; its “patched-togetherness” comes to function as a
6 Introduction
microcosm of England for the American traveller. As Hull notes in this
chapter, this conceptualisation of London from the New World travel-
ler perspective is one which endures at least until James’s interventions
much later in the nineteenth century. More than a reckoning of the New
World traveller negotiating a sense of self in Old World metropolitan
surroundings, where Poe “analogises a transatlantic state of being at
once attracted and repelled by the imperial mother-city,” Hull also be-
gins to examine the transitive nature of the text, as the essay and short
story become curiously intertwined.
In Hull’s work, and in other chapters which follow, the text is a point
of “cross over”, in a way that is similar to Marjorie Pryse’s helpful ex-
pansion of the definition of the transitive and transitivity to include text
and genre in her relatively recent assessment of Sarah Orne Jewett’s
nineteenth-century fiction. Pryse asserts that “transitivity” “describes
Jewett’s own liminality and her resistance to being confined, whether
as a narrator …; as a storyteller whose lack of plot defies genre, if not
form; or as an artist … who resisted being confined by her culture’s
construction of gender” (Pryse 526). But Pryse goes beyond the politics
of individual and cultural identity when she suggests: ““Transitivity”
also offers a term for the kind of reading practice Jewett’s work invites,”
specifically, one that is “more attuned to the borders across and between
the categories we construct as critics, whether we understand these cat-
egories to be literary modes (realism, local color, regionalism), subject
positions (race, class, gender), or narrative form (story, sketch, novel)”
(526). In Hull’s discussion, the text has an in-between and transitive
status which impacts directly on the contingent nature of subjectivity.
As the subject moves through specific spaces in London, Hull notes that
the “text appears to transform”, from essay to short story, impacting
on models of metropolitan pleasure; London and the text become sites
of pleasure, establishing a nexus of essayist, narrator, and reader in the
process. In a model of transitivity similar to the one defined by Pryse,
Hull details the transatlantic implications of the text as the boundaries
of subjectivity and genre shift and realign in essayist discourse.
A similar priority emerges in the third chapter, where Gray interro-
gates the network of relationships between individual subjects within
the travelogue-cum-fiction-cum-natural history narrative, Crèvecour’s
Journey into Northern Pennsylvania and the State of New York (1801). 5
Gray traces a network of very distinct voices from this North ­A merican
landscape, each of which contributes their intimate knowledge of ­nature
to the larger project of natural knowledge production. These experts
of nature, many of them transatlantic travellers or travellers in the
­A merican wilderness, or, indeed, displaced Native Americans, are the
intermediary figures, the “go-betweens”, who narrate the development
of natural knowledge of the New World. Again, the focus of this chapter
Introduction  7
is the transitive nature of subjectivity and of knowledge, in particular
the very conscious use of intermediary and go-between figures in the
construction of natural knowledge in the New World. The various con-
structions of the self, and of cultural Others, are all under negotiation
and made contingent upon an expansive network of fictional and tex-
tual connections. Historians of natural history and material culture have
established a rich body of work which follows the journeys of objects,
animals and plants (alive and dead) around the Atlantic, significantly
expanding debates about scientific expertise, political authority, con-
trol of geographical areas, trade and ownership, as well as dependency
on, and treatment of, indigenous cultures.6 This chapter seeks to un-
ravel Crèvecoeur’s expansive knowledge of the North American natural
world in this composite fictional transatlantic text, and argues that the
dominant bi-lateral debate between Europe and America about natural
knowledge production is, in fact, more productively examined through
a circum-­Atlantic framework.7
Melissa Adams-Campbell’s chapter “Writing Pocahontas: Romantic
Women Writers and the Transatlantic Rescuing Indian Maiden” sim-
ilarly addresses the nature of the contingent subjectivity, this time
through the literary-historical manifestations of the Native American
“maiden” or Pocahontas-type. Adams-Campbell uses Tim Fulford’s
model of the Romantic Indian, and the “invention” of Native American
identity in transatlantic print culture, to frame a discussion on the
ways in which the “rescuing Indian maiden” was used symbolically in
discourses of domesticity in historiographical and literary accounts.
In this chapter, the transient and historically-contingent nature of the
Pocahontas myth, and Pocahontas-types, are readily integrated into the
complex shaping of women’s participation in literary and political de-
bates of the period, to the extent that, as Adams-Campbell argues: “the
rescuing Indian maiden, became attached to a new transatlantic proj-
ect of expanding representations of women’s political engagement with
a number of literary-historical forms.” Adams-Campbell’s Pocahontas
figure, the rescuing Indian maiden, travels through time and location,
and, to borrow a phrase from Said above, that journey is not “unim-
peded”; indeed, following Said’s logic in “Traveling Theory” further, the
Pocahontas figure is “transformed by its new uses, its new position in a
new time and place” (Said 227). Starting from a position of acceptance
about Pocahontas’s irreducible origins (she only ever appears in a foot-
note in someone else’s narrative), nonetheless, this chapter draws atten-
tion to the historically constituted, potent and powerful acquisition of
the Pocahontas-­myth on both sides of the Atlantic. As Adams-Campbell
argues, careful rendering of this transitive and malleable subjectivity has
implications for discussions of gender and domesticity in the literature
and historiography of the period.
8 Introduction
Ancient Decline and Nineteenth-Century Moralities
Another resonant theme which emerges in the opening section of the col-
lection is one of moral or physical degeneracy: Fay’s assessment of Man-
sfield Park encompasses the complicities of the slave trade and social
class, destabilising the moral compass of the narrative through analysis of
Fanny Price; Hull brings to the fore moralities of pleasure and decadence
in his discussion of Poe; Gray critiques transatlantic debates about New
World degeneracy in her discussion of Crèvecoeur; and Adams-Campbell
addresses themes of indigeneity and cultural otherness, as they pertain to
ideologies of race and civilisation. Collectively, these chapters argue that
transatlantic debates about slavery, class, nature and race demonstrate
the provisional and contingent nature of individual and collective iden-
tities, nevertheless, these prevailing discourses helped cement the domi-
nant narratives of nation-building at the time. And the same is certainly
true of transatlantic discourses of democracy and religion. In chapters by
Duquès and Bautz, the decline of ancient empires in Athens and Rome,
articulated through the degeneracy of certain political, racial, gendered
or religious groups, is the conduit through which nineteenth-century
narratives of democratic and religious ideals are located and measured.
Duquès brings Lydia Maria Child’s Philothea into discussion with
Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and prioritises nineteenth-century
debates about disasters and disease. Going against the grain of prevailing
discourses, which often placed women and non-white groups as central
to the spread of various contagions, Duquès draws attention to the un-
restrained corruption of the body politic in Child’s novel, painting, what
he calls a “brighter picture of the fates of minority women in the face of
a democratic republic’s actual and political plagues”. Duquès’s reading
of Philothea illustrates the robust, transatlantic discourse on democracy
with which Child sought obliquely to engage through sentimental fic-
tion, at a time when antebellum America engaged in debates about prac-
tices and forms of slavery, dispossession, and re-settlement. Through the
politics of catastrophe and disaster, Duquès’s analysis of Philothea offers
a reassessment of group identity, prioritising a group more often situated
on the periphery of political debate.
As counterpoint to discourses of democracy, in Europe and in the
U.S., national identity was also shaped by prevailing discourses on
Christianity. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the U.S. ex-
perienced something of a revival in evangelical preaching; its emphasis
on individual experience or revelation, as opposed to the learned doc-
trine of more organised and established Christian churches, mirrored its
eighteenth-century predecessor, and found renewed favour in a country
which was still coming to terms with the implications of democratic
ideals for individual citizens. Lawrence Buell observes the “softening
of the dogmatic structure of evangelical Protestantism to the point that
Introduction  9
the quickening of religious sentiment was widely held to be a better aim
for the preacher than the inculcation of a fixed body of doctrine” (Buell
167). He also notes somewhat playful interventions from preachers
of the period who bemoaned the decline of more organised, doctrinal
forms of worship. One preacher quips: “The rage for novelty, the de-
mand for excitement, the call for historical fiction, and as I may add, for
the wildest extravagance, is truly astonishing.” While Buell notes an-
other sensing “a growing aversion to everything didactic and argumen-
tative in the pulpit, and the increasing demand for popular discourses …
unless he … transports them to Juggernaut or the Ganges, he is dry and
heartless, or plodding and metaphysical” (quoted in Buell 167).8 This
spirited invocation of changing religious tastes in the U.S. by these anon-
ymous preachers begins to provide an explanation as to one of the rea-
sons why Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s historical novel about Romans and
Christians, The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) found such a ready reader-
ship in North America. Of course, Bulwer-Lytton was not just popular
in North America, he was one of the biggest international bestsellers of
his day and well into the twentieth century. Bautz’s chapter discusses
international illustrations to The Last Days of Pompeii throughout the
nineteenth century and beyond, to demonstrate that illustrations from
around the Atlantic emphasise the novel’s Christian aspects. The Chris-
tianity that emerges from the illustrations is general, defined by its moral
superiority to pagan depravity, rather than nationally, culturally or de-
nominationally specific. Examples from the U.K., U.S., Italy, Germany
and France show how the text’s Christian morality appeals to illustra-
tors, publishers, and by extension readers, across the Atlantic.
Using the ancient empires of Greece and Rome as conduits, these two
chapters measure the ways in which two pillars of early nineteenth-­century
U.S. culture, democracy and religion, might be more usefully interrogated
in debates and exchanges which were formed within a transatlantic worl-
dview. By linking these discussions to decline, degeneracy and morality,
together, these two chapters bring into renewed focus the porous limits of
groups and nations, both in ideological and material terms.

Print Cultures and Literary Markets

The transportation and reproduction of texts across the Atlantic,
with or without authorial permission, was common in the nineteenth
century, and the extent of this literary traffic was made possible by
the lack of copyright control throughout the century. Furthermore, the
period saw continuous technological advancements that changed the
nature of transatlantic book production, distribution and exchange.
Books could be produced much more cheaply for ever-greater audi-
ences. The invention of stereotype meant plates could be copied and
10 Introduction
shared between publishing houses nationally and internationally. Travel
and trade across the Atlantic as well as within Europe and America be-
came more efficient, allowing for the sharing of texts and ideas much
more readily. Furthermore, the period saw the development of an inde-
pendent American literary market that increasingly produced its own
books. To give a sense of scale, Michael Winship has shown, between
1828 and 1868 alone, “American book imports grew by a factor of
more than nine”, while “British book exports [increased] by a factor of
nearly fifteen” (Winship 99).9
As Bautz’s chapter outlines, popular authors such as Bulwer-Lytton
and Charles Dickens found themselves having to negotiate the terms
and profits that authors could or should expect when their books were
published on the opposite side of the Atlantic.10 While the transatlantic
reprint trade was lucrative for publishers, it presented acute problems
for writers on both sides of the divide. Indeed, Bautz’s study, while it
highlights that the reason for Bulwer-Lytton’s success internationally is
his broad appeal to generic religious and cultural agreement between
Europe and America, the chapter also, ironically perhaps, unravels huge
disagreement in the financial politics of print culture. While copyright
agreements between Britain and other European countries were success-
fully negotiated (with Prussia in 1846, with France in 1851), and inter-
national copyright standardised more broadly by the Berne Convention
of 1886, the U.S. did not join this or other international treaties. There
was, therefore, no copyright agreement between America and Britain
from American Independence to the passing of the Chace Act in 1891
(Seville 221, DeSpain 5).
Of course, as scholars such as Eve Tavor Bannet have discussed in
eloquent ways, transatlantic texts were anything but stable, being fre-
quently rewritten or reframed by editors or publishers on both sides of
the Atlantic (Bannet 2011). The final section of the collection, therefore,
is partly predicated on the implications of textual instability and absence
of authorial control. Julia Straub, in her study of the early American
periodical press, considers the ways in which texts, often of European
origin, were edited and deposited, akin to curiosities in a museum, in
a variety of short-lived, subscription journals. These periodicals, it is
argued, establish a practice of cultural memory making, which bears
little, if any, relation to the original texts and original authors. Despite
its ephemerality, the first editors perceived the magazine as a suitable
medium for the protection of (literary) texts. Straub’s chapter there-
fore discusses the museum as an important epistemic model as well
as a means of cultural self-identification in the late eighteenth-century
Anglo-­A merican world. The work of cultural production, in this case,
occurs because of the transitive nature of textual reproduction.
Returning to the debates about markets and print culture that Bautz
recognises in her chapter, where the novels of British authors are repacked
Introduction  11
and resold in the U.S., Len von Morzé’s chapter reverses this flow of
travel, from U.K. to U.S., and takes a renewed look at Charles Brockden
Brown’s publications in Europe. A canonical presence in early American
literary studies, Brown was the first American author to gain interna-
tional celebrity, and this chapter shows how the particular conditions of
the literary market, the transatlantic network of translators and trans-
lated texts, provided the context for Brown’s works to emerge as inter-
national bestsellers. Using Brown’s novel Ormond, the first translation
of a U.S. novel into German (in 1802), as a case study, von Morzé ar-
gues that, instead of offering the public an anonymised writer, translated
works tended by their very nature to foster a conception of authorial ce-
lebrity by breathing new life into an author’s works. Translated editions,
moreover, sometimes tended to feature a range of para-textual materials
that helped to constitute the author as a singular genius able to move
across languages and nations. There is perhaps a paradox here: while
authors in this period lacked international copyright protection for their
own words, and for translations of their works, translations provided an
important means towards literary celebrity. This chapter thereby adds to
and develops emergent scholarship on translation as a means for the rise
of the transnational novel; a rise enabled by the particular structures of
the transatlantic literary market in the early nineteenth century.
In the penultimate chapter of the collection, Elliott outlines the circula-
tion of Blake’s poetry among the Transcendentalist community, tracking
his critical reception and the influence on Emerson’s work in particular.
In this chapter, the formation of identity through the circulation of ideas
and poetic forms returns to a focus on the transitive nature of identity
construction within a transatlantic frame. Finally, the collection closes
with a return to the transitive potential of genre, as it developed within
a transatlantic framework. Hull’s chapter begins this discussion with a
focus on the essay and its relationship with the short story, Gray high-
lights the composite nature of Crèvecoeur’s work, and Straub notes the
processes of editing and compartmentalising of texts in a periodical for-
mat. In their chapter on Melville and Dickens, M ­ cGettigan and ­Powell
draw attention to a much under-represented genre, the guidebook, and
offer unique insights into the intersections between literature and guide-
books in the transatlantic world of the print culture of the 1840s. The
chapter outlines that in the nineteenth century, the guidebook was em-
blematic of an expanding middle class and its capacity to travel, but also
notes that guidebooks were interpreters, creators and disseminators of
national histories and cultures on both sides of the Atlantic. In a com-
parative, transatlantic framework, which considers the work of Dickens
and Melville, this chapter argues that each writer used guidebooks to
fashion antithetical conceptions of English literature at a moment when
its boundaries were challenged by the increasingly transnational circula-
tion of books. McGettigan and Powell outline that the guidebook genre,
12 Introduction
and its attendant association with travel writing, provides new routes
through which to interrogate the production of (trans)national literary
identities in the 1840s.
This introduction opened with reference to Crèvecoeur and his com-
plex self-definition through the discourses of transatlantic literature and
politics. The transitive nature of his subjectivity and of his most famous
text, Letters from an American Farmer, served to highlight the dual
themes of this collection: identity politics in a period of competing na-
tional agendas, and the transformations of text and genre within print
networks. Initially, this collection of chapters seeks to prioritise the ways
in which transatlantic literary frameworks can lead to a renewed under-
standing of the ways in which historically-situated transitive subjectiv-
ities, individual and collective, can engage with popular and pressing
debates, about class, slavery, natural knowledge, democracy and reli-
gion. The other side of this coin, of course, is to consider the ways in
which the text itself, the essay, the guidebook, the travel narrative, the
periodical, the novel, the poem, can also be scrutinised in relation to
historically-situated transatlantic transitions, transformations and bor-
der crossing. By drawing both strands together, the collection seeks to
add to an emerging body of scholarship (in particular Bannet 2011 and
Jarvis 2012), and bring two aspects of transatlantic scholarship, that of
cultural formation and print culture, into productive conversation.

1 For further discussion about Crèvecoeur’s manuscripts and their journey
into print, see Fink (226); Boyden and Jooker; and, Moore.
2 For a short discussion of the diffusionist model theory compared with
the translation theory, see, for example, Bruno Latour, “The Powers of
3 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble; Butler Excitable Speech; Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet.
4 Here, we refer to the major contributions of Edward Said, Homi K. Bhabha,
Joseph Roach, Judith Butler and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, to theories of
identity construction, none of which need rehearsing in detail in this short
5 The text was originally published in French at the turn of the nineteenth
century, Voyages dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l’Etat de New York
(Paris: Chez Maradan 1801). The version used here and below, is the stan-
dard and complete translated version by Clarissa Spencer Bostlemann.
6 See, for example: Cowie, Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain
and Conquering Nature in Spain and its Empire,1750–1850; Parrish,
American Curiosity; Dassow Walls, The Passage to Cosmos; Iannini, Fatal
Revolutions; Delbourgo and Dew, Ed. Science and Empire in the Atlantic
World; Schaffer, Roberts, Raj and Delbourgo, Ed. The Brokered World.
7 The use of this term “circum-Atlantic” follows Joseph Roach’s use of the
term in his study of cultural memory, and David Armitage’s definition of the
term as “the transnational history of the Atlantic world” (Armitage 15). See:
Roach, Cities of the Dead; Armitage and Braddick, Ed. The British Atlantic
Introduction  13
World. For further commentary and an introduction to approaches to Atlantic
studies, also see: Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concepts and Contours.
8 Buell quotes: “On the Literary and Religious Character and Taste of the
Age”, Christian Spectator, 4 (1822), 563, 566.
9 For a discussion of the effects of this lack of international copyright, see for
example, Seville, “Copyright”; Stokes, “Copyrighting American History:
International Copyright and the Periodization of the Nineteenth Century”,
St Clair, “North America”; McGill, American Literature and the Culture of
Reprinting, 1834–1853.
10 Popular authors, such as Dickens or Bulwer Lytton, negotiated fees with
American publishing houses for sending early copies of their work across
the Atlantic, giving the publisher a head start over their competitors. For
Bulwer, see Bautz’s discussion in this volume, for Dickens, see Patten,
“Publishing in Parts”.

Works Cited
Allen, Gay Wilson and Roger Asselineau, St John de Crèvecoeur: The Life of an
American Farmer. New York: Viking Press, 1987.
Armitage, David. and Michael J. Braddick, Ed. The British Atlantic World,
1500–1800. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. 15.
Bailyn, Bernard. Atlantic History: Concepts and Contours. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2005.
Bannet, Eve Tavor. Transatlantic Stories and the History of Reading, 1720–
1810. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Blake, Debra J. “Unsettling Identities: Transitive Subjectivity in Cherríe
Moraga’s Loving in the War Years”, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 12.1
(1997): 71–89. Print.
Boyden, Michael and Lieve Jooker, “J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s “His-
tory of Andrew, the Hebridean” in French and Dutch Translation”, Orbis
Litterarum 68.3 (2013): 222–250. Print.
Buell, Lawrence. “The Unitarian Movement and the Art of Preaching in 19th
Century America”, American Quarterly 24.2 (1972): 166–190. Print.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
London: Routledge, 1990.
———. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge,
Cowie, Helen. Conquering Nature in Spain and its Empire, 1750–1850.
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011.
———. Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Empathy,
Education, Entertainment. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Crèvecoeur, Michel-Guillaume St. John de. Journey into Northern Pennsylvania
and The State of New York. trans. Clarissa Spencer Bostlemann. Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 1964.
Dassow Walls, Laura. The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and
the Shaping of America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Delbourgo, James and Nicholas Dew, Ed. Science and Empire in the Atlantic
World. New York: Routledge, 2008.
DeSpain, Jessica, Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Reprinting and the
Embodied Book. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.
14 Introduction
Fink, Beatrice. “Saint-John de Crèvecoeur’s Tale of a Tuber”, Eighteenth-­
Century Life 25.2 (2001): 225–234. Print.
Giles, Paul. Transatlantic Insurrections: British Culture and the Formation of
American Literature, 1730–1860. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2001.
———. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic
Imaginary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.
———. Global Remapping of American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2011.
Iannini, Christopher P. Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian
Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature. Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 2012.
Jarvis, Robin. Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel: Expeditions and
Tours in North America, 1760–1840. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
Latour, Bruno. “The Powers of Association”. Power, Action and Belief. Ed.
John Law. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986. 264–280.
Manning, Susan, ed. Letters from an American Farmer. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1997.
McGill, Meredith. American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–
1853. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
Moore, Dennis D. (ed.) More Letters from an American Farmer: An Edition
of the Essays in English Left Unpublished by Crèvecoeur. Athens, Georgia:
University of Georgia Press, 1995.
Parrish, Susan Scott. American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the
Colonial British Atlantic World. Williamsburg: North Carolina University
Press, 2006.
Patten, Robert L. “Publishing in Parts”. Palgrave Advances in Charles Dickens
Studies. Ed. John Bowen and Robert L. Patten. Basingstoke: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2006. 11–47.
Pryse, Marjorie. “Sex, Class, and “Category Crisis”: Reading Jewett’s Transi-
tivity”, American Literature 70.3 (1998): 517–549.
Roach, Joseph. “Culture and Performance in the Circum-Atlantic world”.
Performativity and Performance. Ed. Andrew Parker and Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick. London: Routledge, 1995. 45–63.
———. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performances. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1996.
Said, Edward. “Traveling Theory”, in World, the Text, and the Critic. 1983.
London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1984.
Schaffer, Simon, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj and James Delbourgo, Ed. The
Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770–1820.
Sagamore Beach: Science History Publications, 2009.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet, 1990. Oakland, CA:
University of California Press, 2008.
Seville, Catherine. “Copyright”. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain,
Vol 6: 1830–1914. Ed. David McKetterick. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press 2009. 214–237.
St Clair, William. “North America”, The Reading Nation in the Romantic
Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 374–393.
Introduction  15
Stokes, Claudia. “Copyrighting American History: International Copyright
and the Periodization of the Nineteenth Century”, American Literature 77.2
(2005): 291–318.
Winship, Michael. “The Transatlantic Book Trade and Anglo-American
Literary Culture in the Nineteenth Century”. Reciprocal Influences: Liter-
ary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America. Ed. Steven Fink
and Susan Williams. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999. 98–122.
This page intentionally left blank
Part I

Travelling Subjects
and Transitive Identities
This page intentionally left blank
1 Reformation in Mansfield Park
The Slave Trade and the
Stillpoint of Knowledge
Elizabeth Fay

The colonial layers of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814) rehearse ­public
sphere debates she was clearly conversant in: the Mansfield ruling and
abolition; Jacobinism; and education reform, especially through widely
disseminated children’s texts, and published sermons that equated re-
form with morality and ethics. While the novel narratively foregrounds
other important historical contexts, particularly anxiety over the mar-
riage market, as well as patrimony and materialism, Regency debates
provide much of the underlying tension in the novel around behaviour
that appears enslaving, amoral or anti-authoritarian. Austen also parti­
cipates in those debates by illustrating just how integral the very tool of
debate, language itself, is to the colonial economy. Her use of the slave
trade in a novel whose interrogation of the nature of exploitation might
as easily have targeted factory ownership, utilises the geographical dis-
tance between plantations and new estates funded by those plantations
to unsettle our concept of distance. Factories were usually close to their
owners’ houses, but when plantation owners began to resettle in E ­ ngland
as absentee landlords, their source of wealth was made distant and in-
visible. Fanny Price, whose surname indicates the cost of living within
the cash-nexus, comes to understand that the invisibility of labour and
wealth is a dangerous fiction, one that hides the necessary relation of
people to each other, traditionally established through customary use
and interdependency, a relation disastrously at risk in the novel. I argue
that Fanny occupies the central role in the narrative in order to reclaim
the Bertrams’ moral, relational centre from its vanquished position.
The slave trade was rationalised as a necessary way to sustain Britain’s
economy. Because cheap labour was required in the 1600s to work the
new plantations created by the rise of the Atlantic trade, slaves as well
as indentured servants and transported criminals became the solution
to the labour problem. Plantations became the model for eighteenth-­
century factories, with the stream of production organised on the
greatest output for the cheapest cost. From the sixteenth through the
nineteenth centuries plantations were viewed as factories since sugar
was processed there as well, while the new industrial factories increas-
ingly depended on sugar as a cheap source of energy for labourers who,
20  Elizabeth Fay
like slaves, worked long hours for little recompense (Mintz 45–73).
At  the same time that sugar fuelled the Industrial Revolution, planta-
tions were put under pressure since sugar was also viewed as a revenue
source, and the British government taxed it heavily when requiring a
boost in income.1 With Britain dependent on sugar production on two
counts, West Indian landowners were able to demand relative autonomy
in conducting their political affairs, and to wield power in Parliament as
Sir Thomas does, in exchange for their contribution to the national cof-
fers. Isolated by geography, the West Indian plantocracy was able to cre-
ate a different social identity for itself from the rest of eighteenth-century
Britain; ­middle-class men could own large tracts of land and control a
huge labour force much in the manner of feudal lords, with a similar
political heft. Planters and their families saw themselves as fundamen-
tally different from their slaves rather than dependent on them for their
labour; like factory owners, planters saw the exploitation of the worker
as essential to their enterprise, and they saw discipline as the only means
for ensuring productivity from a resistant workforce. When Sir Thomas
goes to Antigua to remedy the difficulties at his estate, however, it is not
just in response to the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807,
which abolished slave trading but not slavery, making it necessary for
landowners to personally oversee their estates since slaves were no lon-
ger expendable (Ferguson 66). It was also because better techniques and
labour management were required in the face of a national depression
that had resulted in, among other crises, a sharp drop in the price of
sugar in tandem with the British grain shortage. Sir Thomas faced both
a potential labour shortage and a cash deficit. He returns from his plan-
tation lean and exhausted, as if these shortfalls had undermined his own
health, his appearance mirroring the overall national health.
When people are considered only as objects for sale, the necessary rela-
tion between people, labour and wealth, is itself made invisible; in such a
condition, everyone has his or her price. Maria Bertram will marry with-
out love or respect for the right fortune; Mary Crawford will deny love
if the fortune is not equal to her estimate of her own worth; Sir Thomas
will condone Maria’s marriage despite his awareness that Mr. Rushworth
is a poor partner for her since he wants Rushworth’s political support.
Aunt Norris becomes the mouthpiece for this kind of mentality in which
cost-benefit overwhelms all other considerations. Fanny’s disapproval of
both Maria’s and Mary’s motives in searching for a husband reflect her
embrace of a more traditional valuing of relationship. Fanny’s seemingly
conservative stance, with its implied critique of colonialism, is in fact a
Romantic reaction to the economic theories of Enlightenment thinkers
like Adam Smith. The Romantics looked to the past in order to assess the
difficulties of the present’s headlong move into a fragmented society in
which individualism meant taking in order to enrich the self. A develop-
ing anxiety about this alienating process is reflected in the arguments put
Reformation in Mansfield Park  21
forth by both abolitionists and anti-abolitionists concerning the simila­
rity between wage earners in Britain and West Indian slaves.
The fundamental social problem raised by Mansfield Park is the cost
of colonialism, the very thing that off-balances its production of wealth.
But the novel does not focus on empire-building per se; rather, it exam-
ines colonial thinking. The colonial mind-set is that which distances
colony from home front, owner from worker, one family member from
another. For Fanny, the contrast is all too apparent between a colonial
divisiveness founded on the cash-nexus, and the traditional relation to
the land. When land is an integral part of communal identity rather than
a mere source of wealth, landowners cannot afford to be absentee, and
labourers hold customary privileges such as the right to graze on com-
mon lands, or the right to residual leavings such as woodchips. When
Aunt Norris attacks Dick Jackson, the carpenter’s son, for taking chips
from the theatrical set of Lover’s Vows, she re-labels his customary right
as “theft”. 2 This deliberate change from custom to the exchange of la-
bour for wages only echoes the eighteenth-century enclosure by large
landowners of what were previously common lands, a deliberate change
from custom to cash-nexus that impoverished large numbers of rural
workers who depended on perquisites for survival. The connection bet­
ween land enclosure, factory ownership and landlord absenteeism and
colonialism can be seen in the fact that these are also the hallmarks of
West Indian plantations.
Edward Said has called attention to the way in which the novel de-
pends on Antiguan sugar plantations and yet pushes that consideration
to the background.3 But because empire and capitalism are the two most
important forces giving rise to the modern world, Said considers that
literary interpretation must fall under one of the two historical real-
ities of that world: either the colonised or the coloniser. He proposes
that the task of literary analysis is to make the often-veiled connections
between these two realities visible by examining them in a “counter-
point” or “contrapuntal” manner, a counterpoint that “is not temporal
but spatial”.4 Without Said’s foregrounding of a contrapuntal methodo­
logy (which he reserves for critics, but which can be found in Mansfield
Park itself, revealing Austen’s critical self-awareness) it is difficult to see
­Austen’s organisation of narrative as so completely engaged with the
problems of empire. In fact, the novel is a critique of the colonialist mind-
set. When Said asserts that the novel embraces empire, he offers as proof
Sir ­Thomas’s reinstitution of discipline and organisation at Mansfield
Park after his difficult trip to administer his Antiguan estate; Mansfield
Park in this reading is a microcosm of successful imperial management.
However, Sir Thomas’s reign at Mansfield is shown through Fanny’s
perspective to be domineering, even corrupt: after all, he allows Aunt
Norris a free hand, agrees to Maria’s marriage knowing her to dislike
Rushworth, and attempts to force Fanny into marriage with Henry.
22  Elizabeth Fay
The  reader can add the subtle ironic gestures toward Lady Bertram’s
“West Indian” indolence. Although Edward Said’s famous dismissals of
Austen and Mansfield Park have themselves provoked much criticism, 5
they nevertheless re-situate our reading of the novel within the colo-
nial context against how it can otherwise be read: as an example of
the romance mode, a Cinderella story with recognisable fairytale struc-
tures, or a Gothic tale in which the poor wanderer is discovered in the
end to be the inheritor of the estate. But though “everything we know
about Jane Austen and her values is at odds with the cruelty of slavery”
(Culture and Imperialism 96), Said’s assertion that the two worlds of
plantation and estate do not talk to each other ignore that there is in-
deed textual language for the concurrences between the two placements
of park and plantation. Indeed, Austen has anticipated his project by
providing within her novel a spatially-oriented contrapuntal style that
allows the two places to “talk” to each other through the medium of
Fanny. Although Fanny and the Bertrams are not specifically aligned
by social status with a particular geography, the spatial nuances in the
novel are indexical of social critique. Most telling is the comment in free
indirect speech, in what we have come to associate with Fanny’s con-
science, that after questioning Maria about her impending marriage to
Rushworth, “Sir Thomas was satisfied; too glad to be satisfied perhaps
to urge the matter quite so far as his judgment might have dictated to
others” (180–181). It is left for Fanny as mediator to interject this dis-
cerning note into Sir Thomas’s empire-building.
The novel’s contrapuntal technique creates a dialectical relation bet­
ween space, event and comment that plays with shadows and reality,
and is specified in the dialectic between Antigua, the productive land-
holding, and Mansfield Park, the secondary superstructure. In this
sense it echoes abolitionist discourse, which depended on occlusion as
much as exposure to fortify its message in a “specific dialectic of ac-
knowledgement and disavowal” (Tuite 100). The contrapuntal between
acknowledgement and disavowal also inheres in Sir Thomas’s guard-
ianship along with Aunt Norris of Fanny, and in the source of Henry
Crawford’s wealth. It is available everywhere in a culture that depends
on the marginal, which is effaced in order to control it; even reformist
and radical discourses were not clear-eyed about disavowals of marginal
groups whose interests could derail those of the dominant ones.6 The
relation between abolition discourse and the places, placements, and
displacements in Mansfield Park is not just one of historical context. In
the hands of Austen, colonial places are intricately co-respondent, and
language, which occludes and ironically reveals, is one of the tools by
which their discipline is enforced and reformed.
Unlike Austen’s other published novels, Mansfield Park, as its title
indicates, is about a place, an enclosed zone of safety but also restric-
tion. Mansfield Park has definitive boundaries that are permeable for
Reformation in Mansfield Park  23
characters in relation to those characters’ changeable status in the novel.
Discovering the importance of place and placement means that it takes us
some time to learn that Fanny Price will be the novel’s protagonist rather
than either of the two Bertram sisters first introduced, despite the fact
that unlike Fanny they belong to and maintain some proprietary rights
to Mansfield. It is Fanny’s outsider status that, through a contrapuntal
progression, makes her paradoxically central to the narrative. Ultimately,
an inverse ratio between the Bertram sisters and their cousin Fanny will
determine their relation to the centre. The deconstructive agent, Fanny’s
marginalised subjectivity will partner with the destabilising forces that
unseat those at the centre, heroically becoming the new daughter that she
has always already been. How Fanny understands her role as a colonial
subject, operating in the contact zone between the culture of mastery and
possession and the culture of restriction and merit; and how she negoti-
ates boundaries, restrictions, permeability, patriarchal rights and laws,
the disciplinary use of language; and her place in relation to all of these,
become the novel’s obsessive concern. But we cannot as readers create
a comprehensive account of this concern, which is indeed obsessive in
relation to Austen’s other published novels, without taking seriously the
binarism of placement and displacement that governs the novel’s geo­
graphy (Mansfield Park to Antigua, London to Portsmouth) and spatial
terms (boundedness, borders, interstices and networks).
The spatial nexus is consequently also important: the graded valu-
ation of each family member and friend within the Bertram circle is
registered somewhat differently through Fanny’s emotional appraisal.
Patriarchy as the institutionalised marker of aristocracy and plantocracy
is put in tension with this secondary register as a touchstone for the dif-
ferential assessments of social and moral worth, and subjective status.
Colonialism acts as a metaphor for understanding the complexities of
familial relation: in a colonial situation, value is encoded as racial and
class difference, but in the Bertram family first cousins are differenti-
ated as belonging to the master or slave class. As Aunt Norris remarks
to Maria and Julia, “it is not at all necessary that she [Fanny] should
be as accomplished as you are; – on the contrary, it is much more de-
sirable that there should be a difference” (16). The remark hints at the
unsettling similarities in the way free-born Englishmen suffer what is,
all but in name, slavery, including its practice of kidnapping and selling
bodies, through destitution, child labour, and the low ranks of the navy
and military, and the nasty suspicion that indenturing and transporting
criminals and naval press-ganging might make British practices look a
bit too much like Africa’s indigenous form of slavery.7
Aunt Norris plays out this class abuse verbally with her vicious attack
after Fanny declines to play an old peasant woman in the family theatri-
cal: “What a piece of work here is about nothing … to make such a diffi-
culty of obliging your cousins … [s]o kind as they are to you!”, and then
24  Elizabeth Fay
to the others, “I am not going to urge her [further] … but I shall think
her a very obstinate, ungrateful girl, if she does not do what her aunt and
cousins wish her – very ungrateful indeed, considering who and what she
is” (132–133). Fanny’s unsettled status as both a who and a what, both
of which must be “considered”, rather than accepted, is left ambivalent
in order to pose the alien and differentiated against the natural and nor-
mative. This act of considering sets her apart from the rest of the family
including Aunt Norris. It is, of course, Fanny’s class and p
­ overty that de-
termine her ontological status in relation to the family, but her thingness
is what puts her in the same categorical space of subjective uncertainty
as a slave. At the same time, the familial machine, which spews out gross
unrealities in the mouths of its actors, puts pressure on the imagined
familial life on Antigua. The domestic articulation of place and agency
reveals the structural oppression within and between communities: the
denial of subjectivity in the name of ontology is conjoined in the slave
trade and in Austen’s novel through the mangling and depredations of
language. Sir Thomas’s and Tom’s sojourn in Antigua, the social life of
their colonial community, and the life of the plantation all inhabit a sub-
text of the grossly unreal, coded as what is speakable and transfigurable
and what is not.
Fanny’s subjugation places her on the site of the figural mirror; she
is not just in a contact zone, it is she who acts as the gateway agency, a
kind of Alice-in-Wonderland mirror opening the door into the alterna-
tive world through her embodiment of the slave function in Mansfield
Park, and through her willingness to speak Antiguan slavery into being
by questioning Sir Thomas about the slave trade when her cousins refuse
to acknowledge the subject. Using the disciplinary language of binarism
against itself, Fanny masters the interface between languages, marrying
the discursive ideologies of empire, epistemology and her own native
culture as she moves between the spaces of the Bertrams’ public rooms,
her attic rooms and her Portsmouth home. She learns not the master
language, but to master meaningful silences and to detour its prevari­
cations. Language and space identify and expose each other; what is
silenced is hidden, whether slavery or Fanny’s East room, or exposed,
as when Maria and Julia refuse to follow up Fanny’s question on the
slave trade, or when Mary has no rejoinder to Fanny’s panegyric on
memory.8 What is absented is also exposed by colonial reflection, a re-
flection arising from the inherent unease the unstable model of empire
and compensation.
The stories of the other characters – Mary Crawford’s pursuit of
­Edmund, Henry Crawford’s dalliance with Maria and Julia, Edmund’s
and William Price’s careers, Tom Bertram’s dissipation – can only be
related and understood in relation to Fanny. It is she who focuses these
other narratives and through whose purview, the free indirect speech
that reflects her, that we are granted access to them. Fanny has this
Reformation in Mansfield Park  25
capacity because, as an outsider to both the Bertram and Price families,
she can be more observant and vigilant, the mirror of the o ­ thers; taking
no relational nuance for granted, she weighs what she learns with what
she sees. But unlike the object she is taken to be by all but ­Edmund,
Fanny is not static. Like any child, Fanny acquaints herself with her
place in the world through a version of language acquisition, studying
the degrees of discourse variation in order to fully comprehend the fami­
lial nexus to which she does and does not belong. Wishing to be loved,
willing to fulfil a family function in order to belong, she is also the child
whose experience is entirely conditional and sidelined. In this sense she
is the colonised subject, conditioned by a different language to accept
a different version of the world. In her case, this involves exposure to
luxury as well as degraded privilege; not the slave then, but the slave’s
other visages: the domestic servant, the stepchild, the subjacent, the
In order to convert Fanny’s marginalised character into a narrative
function – that through which readers view other characters – Austen
has to allow the reader to struggle with Fanny’s intrinsic importance,
her capacity for being central. The reader must come to grant Fanny the
centre of both story and place, as both Mansfield Park’s heroine and
Mansfield Park’s principal daughter. Austen’s experiment in Mansfield
Park parallels the destabilising effects of slave narratives beginning to
be published in the late eighteenth century. In these first-hand accounts
of entrapment, transportation, hard labour, and abuse – all experiences
Fanny has at a shadow level as pale imitations of realities that remind
one of their cruelty – the reader is forced to accommodate narrative sub-
jectivity to subjective experiences of pain, humiliation, and other gothic
horrors, to allow the marginalised subject to come centre and front.9
The reader is able to identify with the ex-slave through both the sense of
outraged humanity and the narrator’s own success. Austen fosters this
same subjective identification of the reader with Fanny by highlighting
the negative aspects of her life at the Park as fairytale-like or gothic, and
by focusing on Fanny’s successes as moments of restitution that counter
the negative impact of the Bertrams’ resistance to change. At the same
time such restitution is correlated to emergent economic forms, while re-
sistance is coded as a transplanted West Indian plantocracy and change
as hurtful to commercial interests.10
Fanny’s servitude involves her subjection to arbitrary power, her in-
ability to stray beyond the enclosed space, punishment for imagined
or slight misdeeds, subjection to other’s whims, effacement from the
­family’s self-portrait, and erasure from its conversation. Like the sell-
ing of slaves, Fanny is sent away from Mansfield Park to Portsmouth
when she rebels – and like the slave’s usual experience, she is as much at
the mercy of tyrannical others there (in this case her father and Henry
Crawford) as at Mansfield Park. Thus far her narrative tabulates, albeit
26  Elizabeth Fay
at a fractional or ghostly scale, with slave experience; but where the two
find an even closer correlation is in the narrated successes that culminate
in the slave hero’s freedom. These are successes that Fanny also experi-
ences as a series of transformations in her conditions at Mansfield Park,
resulting in a state of self-assertion, or freedom. Although Fanny’s is a
freedom within a set of constraints, that too is the circumstance of the
freed slave; it is freedom as self-mastery in lieu of servility, and the abi­
lity to speak for oneself, to speak oneself.
Fanny Price’s story of transformation from the alien to the recognis-
ably familial owes much to orphan plots, picaresques, travel writing,
and other popular forms during the Romantic period, with some al-
legiance to the underlying structures of fairytale and romance. But a
great deal of its affective power arises from the subtleties introduced by
the subplot involving Sir Thomas’s prolonged absence while he tends his
Antigua plantation, and the tingling awareness by readers that Fanny’s
story brushes up against the ravages of first person victim accounts. Our
growing identification with Fanny through Austen’s signature narrative
technique associates her experiences with those of princely men promi-
nent in the abolition movement like Olaudah Equiano, whose narrative
“I” ensures our readerly identification. In addition, the seriousness with
which the narrative voice asserts Fanny’s hurts, without melodrama
or overt pathos, also signals a tonal similarity to slave narratives. But
it is Sir Thomas’s bodily and discursive absence from the text during
this period that, through its very ellipsis, correlates Fanny’s servitude to
his other labouring force. His absence also establishes a divided geogra-
phy of correlative bounded space: the Park and the Antigua plantation.
­Except for Sir Thomas and his namesake Tom, no person belonging to
one place can know the particulars of the other; each space is its own
colony, yet dependent on the other space for its existence.
This division of knowing, of communication, of shared language bet­
ween the two places creates a sense of fantasy in which the arbitrary
power of gothic romance appears to dictate experience. But between
the stark contrasts of the interdependent home and colony lies the ne-
cessity of history and geography, however antithetically coded as the
space of romance and fairy tale. That is, what lies between Antigua and
­Mansfield Park, what fences them in and circumnavigates them, is the
very history and geography that must appear driven by necessity and yet
not be necessitous to those who control perimeters. In a world where
control focuses on boundaries, arbitrariness rather than arbitration
must appear to motivate action. We see this most succinctly in the ma-
noeuvrings of the Crawfords, whose arbitrary use of language to achieve
their ends repeatedly amazes Fanny, while Fanny’s rise to power can
only occur once she understands her role as verbal and moral arbiter.
The conception of geography itself in the novel is queried: for the
young Fanny, the Isle of Wight is the portal to the wider world, and travel
Reformation in Mansfield Park  27
is the only route to knowledge of that world. As her cousin remarks,
“Dear Mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe
together … my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in R­ ussia … [and]
she never heard of Asia Minor” (15). For Fanny, geography is a reality
of constraint and liberation; for her cousins Maria and Julia, geogra-
phy is a polite verbal game consisting of “telling” and “hearing”. As is
advertised in The New Royal System of Universal Geography (1796?)
by Michael Adams, “The Study of universal geography is now be-
come the most fashionable, as well as the most rational Amusement
of the present polite and enlightened Age” (iii). Compiled by Adams,
who also wrote a “Complete and General” bio­g raphical dictionary and
edited The New Royal Geographical Magazine (1794), the Universal
Geography is a grandiose project. It purports in its subtitle to contain
A  Comp­lete, Full, Particular, and Accurate History and Description
of all the Several Parts of the whole world … to which will be added,
A New and Easy Guide to GEOGRAPHY and ­A STRONOMY. His-
tory determines geography, geography is a subset of historical account-
ing, and both are the interest of an elite that pretends such enlightened
study is not a necessity but a polite practice. Yet whereas gothic ro-
mance and fairy tale belong to the shadowed world of superstition and
arbitrary laws, for those who have history and geography on their side
it is best that these forces have no appearance of chance and all that
of necessity. Adams implies this when he includes in his history of the
new American states a critique of the American bipolar attitude toward
slavery and individualism. At the end of his chapters on these states,
he begins his historical analysis of the West Indies, which belong to
the Americas and are thus, by their geographical and textual proxim-
ity, damning. Individualism, he might be saying, is predicated on the
enslavement of others, its necessitous property rights only ascertained
through ­another’s loss. This is a concept Fanny would understand vis-
cerally if not ideologically.
Despite the esoteric applications of geography, once Fanny is depos-
ited in Mansfield Park never to leave until returned to Portsmouth as
if damaged goods, she does learn to fantasise about that wider world
through the geohistory of travel literature. In the imaginative structure
of the novel, geography for Fanny reduces to inside and outside of the
park, and geography for the novel becomes parts of the jigsaw puzzle
that pieces together the two Bertram estates. Interdependent and cor-
respondent, yet divided by geography and silence, the propertied spaces
in the novel mimic those of the closer quarters of plantation house and
slave quarters, allegorising that suppressed co-identity existent between
master and slave. The mentality that sustains this interdependence as de-
niable, even unspeakable except by Fanny, also sustains the environment
at the Park of master–slave co-identity. Fanny’s consciousness, encour-
aged by her pursuit of an imaginative geography, is the only one that
28  Elizabeth Fay
permits permeability between these different spaces, as well as between
Mansfield Park and the third term of Portsmouth.
It is for this reason, as both central and peripheral, that Fanny func-
tions as the both/and figure: if Lady Bertram requires Fanny beside
her, Maria and Julia cannot see their cousin Fanny as their equal, and
Aunt Norris enslaves her niece Fanny in order to consolidate her own
role as (plantation) overseer in her sister’s house. We realise through
Sir ­Thomas’s difficulties in Antigua that a family reliant on slavery will
understand its other dependents in similar terms. Even Mrs. Norris’s
manipulations should be understood as attempts to avoid any identifica-
tion of herself with dependency, for she substitutes what she takes from
the Bertrams with her housekeeping oversight, aligning herself with the
structure of the corporate enterprise rather than its objects. Her mis-
treatment of Fanny is similarly a recoding, redirecting her own volun-
tary dependency to her niece:

The nonsense of and folly of people’s stepping out of their rank and
trying to appear above themselves, makes me think it right to give
you a hint, Fanny … I do beseech and intreat [sic] you not to be put-
ting yourself forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you
were one of your cousins … Remember, wherever you are, you must
be the lowest and last. (199)

It is Mrs. Norris, her name recalling that of the notorious pro-slavery

champion John Norris attacked in Thomas Clarkson’s History, who
reminds Lady Bertram of her husband’s potentially straitened income
“if  the Antigua estate is to make such poor returns” (26) after abo-
lition. Her comment is part of a campaign to avoid contributing any
of her own considerable finances to the Price arm of the family. In
this early scene, the matrix of Antigua and Mansfield Park establishes
­Fanny’s alienation as a shadow figuration of the racial, cultural or
enslaved other. ­A lthough we realise Fanny’s case to lack the fantastic
quality of the gothic (her ­attic school room is a retreat not a prison),
and to lack the sadism of slave experiences (her punishment is verbal
abuse and public humiliation rather than excruciating labour and
torture), we nevertheless recognise the ideological structures that relate
the gothic and enslavement to F ­ anny’s alienation within the Bertram
If, in Mansfield Park, geography is both arbitrary and yet necessary,
it also serves to reinforce subjectivity. The privilege of place (Mansfield)
is sharply contrasted with the space of deprivation (Portsmouth), and
­A ntigua exists in this geography as a shadow companion to both, re-
lated to the Park through its sugar and to Portsmouth through its eco-
nomic difficulties. Mansfield Park thus has two destabilising agents at
its margins, Portsmouth and Antigua, which are connected to each other
Reformation in Mansfield Park  29
through their maritime affiliations, and which find their identifying fac-
tor in Fanny, the destabilising agent at the centre. The overall devolution
of Bertram privilege (Tom, Maria and Julia, and even Edmund in his
love for Mary) in favour of Price industry (William, Fanny and Susan)
reveals that destability is indeed at work; the social structures of the
novel are themselves in the process of changing. In such a world, any-
thing is possible: slave revolt accompanies class revaluation, liberalism
is revamped in favour of politically engendered dissidence, rural estates
lose their pre-emptive status.
A coloniser, Mary Crawford seeks to transgress the geographical lo-
gistics of the novel in order to undermine its apparently stable spheres of
empire, spatial relation, genre distinction, moral relativity and impasse.
Unlike Fanny, whose role as the supplement locates the real possibility
of revising and thus re-centring these structures of distance, boundary
and non-relationality, Mary seeks to be (as does her brother) the col-
onising adventurer who cunningly uses local structures to undermine
their ritualised, hierarchical forms to achieve her imperial ends. She
reveals her transgressive impulses by dividing her world into the priv-
ileged and the inconsequential linguistically; her “partial[ity]” toward
Henry means “so little scrupulousness in what she said”, while Fanny
is subjected to this discursive amorality. Austen’s language unpacks the
figuration for us; unlike Fanny, Mary “was not the slave of opportu-
nity” (324). Consistent with such a mentality is Mary’s insistence that if
Fanny accepted Henry she could live the fairy tale of romance, a tran-
scendent figure until now disguised by the family’s indenture of her.11
“So far your conduct has been faultless … prove yourself grateful and
tender-hearted; and then you will be the perfect model of a woman,
which I have always believed you born for” (315). This figuration of
­romance – the prefabricated model of femininity – reinstalls Fanny in
the non-real, gothicised world associated with slavery in which bound-
aried spaces close off the ideal figure as well as the victimised slave. This
is why Lady Bertram is so centrally absent from the text: beautiful, she
is also vacant, superficial, and asleep – the aging princess, she is also
the luxury-sapped consumer. This is what Fanny could never be once
she has shaped herself into the moral centre of the family, she is at once
central and supplement, both/and.
It is in performing her subjugation to the family principally through
her assigned duties as companion to Lady Bertram, however, that Fanny
learns first-hand at her aunt’s knee the importance of centring. ­Certainly
Fanny accommodates herself to her role as the “enslaved” or – because
this is too weighted, indeed catastrophic, a term to use merely for the
sake of metaphor in the vein of Mary Wollstonecraft’s likening of
­English marriage to the oriental harem – her role as victim in a dysfunc-
tional family. But if Fanny’s willing subservience to her aunts might be
read on a more casual level as a deficit in her too-malleable character,
30  Elizabeth Fay
or an externally imposed oppression that she must not resist when exile
is the consequence, within the context of colonial power relations Lady
Bertram locates a stillpoint. Not an absent presence so much as a site of
abstinence, she traces a centre, a place to which familial energies and
pathways return. Fanny learns through her bond with her aunt the signal
importance of the stillpoint. What she learns in her moral education, not
via Edmund’s pedagogy but through internalised debates over “rights”
versus “the right to” (the moral imperative versus the empowerment of
privilege) is the value of centredness. Her moral education is also con-
ducted by way of her resistance to the logic of her contemporaries; for
Fanny, the logic of others as a colonial oppression is most forcefully
demonstrated not by Aunt Norris’s attempts to hold Fanny in bondage,
but by Mary Crawford’s self-centredness. It is Mary’s attempts to force
her brother on Fanny as a highly disguised intrigue, which in its turn
disguises Mary’s own designs on Fanny’s love-object Edmund, that offer
the most significant trauma of the novel.
We understand the force of this trauma in part because it insinuates
rape into the text, a standard fact of slave life as well as a standard motif
in romance – as Maria’s elopement with Henry recycles this for us in the
plot. But more importantly we understand the force of this trauma be-
cause it assumes and reinforces Fanny’s servitude. In doing so it rehashes
Tom Bertram’s earlier exploitation of Fanny when he cruelly forgets her
at her first ball, and then suddenly uses her to get out of an unwanted
card game with Aunt Norris. Tom’s momentary callousness, reflecting
back on Aunt Norris’s determined abuse of Fanny, echoes the Rev. John
Adams’s observation in A View of Universal History from the Creation
to the Present Time (1795) that American democracy paradoxi­cally in-
volves the subjugation of one half of the populace by the other. Tom
feels justified in his masterly, abusive treatment of his subordinated
cousin. But his arrogant dismissal of Fanny’s worth does not compare
to Aunt Norris’s determining of Fanny’s social taint to the Bertram fam-
ily. If ­Adams’s treatise rationalises a democracy dependent on slavery,
his analysis cuts deeply in the Norris-style vein rather than the Bertram
family experience of adopting and co-opting their socially undesirable
relation, Fanny. True, Adams does refer to slaves as “citizens” of the
American democracy:

[W]ith what execration should the statesman be loaded, who per-

mitting one half of the citizens thus to trample on the rights of
the other, transforms those into despots and these into enemies;
destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriæ of the
other. For if a slave can have a country in this world, it must be any
other in preference to that in which he is born to live and labour
for another.
(III. Observations on the Slave Trade, 18)
Reformation in Mansfield Park  31
But he also believes the cohabitation of the races produces moral con-
tamination (“Its influence on manners and morals is equally pernicious.
The negro wenches in … most instances, are nurses to their mistresses
children … The children, by being brought up, and constantly associated
with the negroes, too often imbibe their low ideas, and vitiated manners
and morals; and contract a negroish kind of accent and dialect, which
they often carry with them through life”). By this combined formulation,
citizen yet pernicious, Fanny’s subjugation carries with it the probability
of taint for her cousins, against which Aunt Norris is ever vigilant and
outspoken; and language in Mrs. Norris’s hands is the disciplinary litmus
test for such a taint. But the misuse of language by the Bertram siblings
and their friends consists of nothing Fanny has taught them in her role of
the despised; rather it is their right to control other people that has skilled
them in the degraded practice of moral and ethical casuistry through ver-
bal manipulation. By Adams’s calibration Fanny should also not only long
to return to her birthplace, but be happy once there. Fanny’s status as
alien regardless of her habitation resembles that of the freed slave who,
having been torn from his birthplace, cannot return, and who is there­after
never at home. Even Mansfield Park, which she prefers to any other, is
comfortable because of its familiarity and her recourse to a private room.
Unlike the Rev. Adams, the Bertrams cannot think outside of the colonial
mindset. They therefore fall victim to the Crawford’s social and economic
fortune-making, these being far more aggressive pernicious agents, al-
though in the end both families are felled by their inability to rethink the
field and are thus unable to conciliate bourgeois-commercial and colonial
with customary and meritocratic forms of interpersonal relation.
Austen’s carefully underplayed references to Antigua, cruelty, slave
revolts, and the lack of a moral centre can be easily passed over, taken
as part of the texture of the novel’s socius; but Austen was herself well
versed in West Indian affairs through family interests there (beginning
with her father’s trusteeship of an Antiguan plantation in 1760)12 and
in abolitionism through her admiration for Thomas Clarkson and his
­History, and her readers would have been as familiar with parliamentary
abolition debates, the correlation of sugar consumption to s­ lavery and
women abolitionists’ protest of sugar, the connection between ­Dissident
politics and abolition. The novel’s dates correspond most convincingly to
1808–1809, allowing Austen to reflect on the aftermath of the Haitian
Revolution as well as on the Parliamentary debates and 1807 Slave Trade
Act.13 Her readers had these subtexts available to them as clues to ­Fanny’s
character and evolution. The Bertrams’ and ­Crawfords’ dependency on
luxury goods (even Austen’s favourite Madeira is connected with the
rum trade),14 and Maria’s and Mary’s belief that marriage should sup-
ply these goods unstintingly, reveal the sharp contrast between Fanny
Price’s world­view and that of Mansfield Park and its social network.
While Fanny spends her time enriching her mind by reading about Lord
32  Elizabeth Fay
Macartney’s travels in China (140),15 Maria, Julia, and Mary Crawford
spend theirs no less seriously enriching their persons. The most overt
example of this difference of orientation, privilege and relation to luxury
comes when Maria goes with the others for an outing to her future home,
Sotherton, and realises through the others’ assessment of its value what
she herself will realise financially by marrying Mr. Rushworth. Fanny, by
contrast, views herself as richly endowed with her safe haven of the old
abandoned nursery, which Sir Thomas is disturbed to discover has never
been heated “on Fanny’s account” at Mrs. Norris’s stipulation (136).
Indeed, Lady Bertram’s absenting centre, her abstinence in the face of
collapsing superstructures, creates a textual insistence that a new moral
centre take her place. Fanny’s coming to knowledge of the necessity of
a stillpoint that acts as moral centrifuge rather than the disappearing
centre that is Lady Bertram is predicated on the displacement of the dis-
course of privilege (the right to) with the discourse of rights (the moral
imperative). Fanny’s own redemptive style parallels the moral economy
she embodies. Focusing on self-possession, Fanny redirects individual
liberty away from the accumulative drive toward a focus on the indivi­
dual’s ethical contribution to the communal entity. Just as the discourse
of extravagance and carelessness used by Mary, Henry, Maria, Julia and
Tom upholsters the amorality of material self-interest in the arbitrary
fabric of privilege, its flimsiness easily stripped away or outmoded, so
does Fanny’s careful language weather change and inclemency, mak-
ing her not simply “the stationary niece” (431), but the self-actuating
one. “Her mind, disposition, opinions, and habits wanted no half con-
cealment, no self deception on the present, no reliance on future im-
provement. Even in the midst of his late infatuation he ­[ Edmund] had
acknowledged Fanny’s mental superiority” (430).
Indeed, Fanny’s linguistic care provides stark contrast to Mary
­Crawford’s verbal and moral carelessness and Aunt Norris’s tongue-­
lashings. Such textual moments are also opportunities to consider the
disastrous ramifications for Fanny if she allows herself to be tainted by
Henry’s seductive but careless amorality. A stand-in for colonial victims
within the imperial world of Mansfield itself, Fanny is also privileged:
she is at last dancing at a ball, she discovers herself to be more comfort-
able at Mansfield Park than in the Price home in Portsmouth, and she
aspires to be Edmund’s wife. Yet like any slave she is very much in dan-
ger of being sold to Henry by Sir Thomas, who identifies his West Indian
mentality through his “selling” of Maria to gain political influence for
his sugar enterprise.16 The cost of succumbing to Henry’s wooing of her
would be that of Maria’s marriage to Rushworth. By holding out for a
love of her own choosing, Fanny invites Sir Thomas’s anger, re-­alienating
herself and inviting an early and impoverished spinsterhood. But if she
can realise her own agency by her choice, this is an alter­native the en-
slaved woman would never have; even mulatto mistresses in Haiti could
not claim full subjectivity, and still less could female slaves entertain
Reformation in Mansfield Park  33
the possibility of becoming the heroine, as Fanny will when Sir Thomas
finally realises that she “was indeed the daughter that he wanted” (431).
By coming to occupy a position that is both centre and supplement, she
will not become the new Lady Bertram, but the family’s activating prin-
ciple, the heroically affective and moral centre of Mansfield Park rather
than its vanishing point.

1 See John Thornton for merchant wielding of political power as a function of
revenue protection, esp. 54–55.
2 See Fraser Easton’s article on custom, esp. 475.
3 As John Wiltshire points out, Avrom Fleishman and R.S. Neale had both
noted the novels’ slavery connection prior to Said’s work (303).
4 “We should try to discern instead a counterpoint between overt patterns in
British writing about Britain and representations of the world beyond the
British Isles” (Culture and Imperialism 81). In Power, Politics and Culture
Said shifts to a musical analogy for this relationship, “contrapuntal” (193).
5 See the work of Susan Fraiman, Gabrielle White, Ibn Warraq, You-Me Park
and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan.
6 See Makdisi, ch. 1.
7 See Deirdre Coleman’s Romantic Colonization and British Anti-Slavery.
8 I read Mary’s silence differently from Clara Tuite, in that on several occa-
sions Fanny produces silence in others when she speaks outside their bour-
geois commercial discourse, and from what Tuite identifies as a Burkean
mode of inoculative cure (Romantic Austen 123).
9 As Moira Ferguson has controversially suggested, it is possible to read
­Fanny’s experience at Mansfield Park as a shadow figuration of the condi-
tions experienced by Sir Thomas’s Antiguan slaves (71–73).
10 See Easton, 459–460.
11 Said (Culture and Imperialism 106) and Ferguson (122) read Fanny’s
transplantation to Mansfield Park as transportation or indentured service,
whereas Tuite reads it as surrogacy, with Fanny’s adoption by Sir Thomas an
echo of Edward Austen’s adoption by the Knights (Romantic Austen 104–105).
However, Fanny is not adopted, as Sir Thomas’s assumption that after a few
years she will become Aunt Norris’s companion makes clear.
12 Jordan tracks the biographical details: the plantation for which the Rev.
George Austen was a trustee belonged to the West Indian James Langston
Nibbs, grandson of the original landholder. Nibbs took his son James back
with him to Antigua, where he died disinherited and in exile, as did his
slave son, Christopher Nibbs. James Austen’s father-in-law was also born in
Antigua, while Charles Austen’s father-in-law was the Attorney-General in
Bermuda, and Aunt Leigh-Perrot was born in Barbados. Francis Austen, by
contrast, served in naval actions off Antigua (Gibbon 299; Jordan 40).
13 This accords with MacKinnon and Chapman’s calendars for the novel.
­Tuite finds evidence in the correlation between the 1811 Regency Act for the
­novel’s usual 1811 composition dating (131).
14 American colonial newspapers routinely note the imports of Madeira, ­Jamaican
rum and other “West Indian spirits” as headline cargo of the arriving ships.
15 The reference is to his Journal of the Embassy to China, published in
Sir John Barrow’s Some Account of the Public Life, and a Selection from the
Unpublished Writings of the Earl of Macartney (1807).
16 Elaine Jordan suggests Sir Thomas’s West Indian identity, 39–40.
34  Elizabeth Fay
Works Cited
Adams, John. A View of Universal History, from the Creation to the P ­ resent
Time. Including An Account of the Celebrated Revolutions in France, ­Poland,
Sweden, &c. Vol. 1. London: printed for G. Kearsley, Fleet Street, 1795.
Adams, Michael, Esq. [pseud]. The New Royal System of Universal Geography,
Containing Complete Full Particular and Accurate Histories and Descrip-
tions of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America … London: Alexander Hogg at
the King’s Arms, Paternoster Row, 1796?
Coleman, Deirdre. Romantic Colonization and British Anti-Slavery. ­Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Easton, Fraser. “The Political Economy of Mansfield Park: Fanny Price and the
Atlantic Working Class”, Textual Practice 12 (1998): 459–488.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.
Ed. Angelo Costanzo. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2001.
Ferguson, Moira. Colonialism and Gender from Mary Wollstonecraft to
­Jamaica Kincaid. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.
Fraiman,  Susan. “Jane Austen and Edward Said: Gender, Culture and Impe-
rialism”, in Deidre Lynch ed., Janeites: Austen’s Disciples and Devotees.
­Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000. 206–223.
Gibbon, Frank. “The Antiguan Connection: Some new Light on Mansfield
Park”, Cambridge Quarterly 11.2 (1982): 298–305.
Jordan, Elaine. “Jane Austen Goes to the Seaside: Sanditon, English Identity
and the “West Indian’ Schoolgirl””. The Postcolonial Jane Austen. Ed.
Y.-M. Park and R.S. Rajan. London: Routledge, 2004. 29–55.
Makdisi, Saree. Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s. Chicago:
­Chicago University Press, 2003.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History.
Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.
Park, You-Me and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, Ed. The Postcolonial Jane Austen.
London: Routledge, 2004.
Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage, 1993.
———.  Power, Politics and Culture. Ed. Gauri Viswanathan. New York:
­Pantheon Books, 2001.
Thornton, John. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World,
1400–1680. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Tuite, Clara. Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and the Literary Cannon.
­Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Warraq, Ibn. Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.
Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.
White, Gabrielle D.V. Jane Austen in the Context of Abolition: “A fling at the
Slave Trade”, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Wiltshire, John. “Decolonizing Mansfield Park”, Essays in Criticism 53.4
(2003): 303–322. Print.
2 “That Dreadful, Delightful City”
Edgar Allan Poe’s Essaying
of London
Simon Peter Hull

Underpinning the notion of transatlantic writing in this chapter, is how
metropolitan culture is informed by aesthetic and moral concepts of
pleasure.1 Metropolitan culture will be defined in both literary and
­socio-geographical terms, in the topography and psychology of not only
the metropolis itself, but also the familiar essay. Pleasure, I shall ar-
gue, functions in the metropolis and the essay in two very different,
indeed opposing ways. An intense, unstable and therefore dangerous
kind of pleasure inheres in the very idea of the metropolis, while the
essay embodies a milder, detached and, in the sense of self-preservation,
a safer model. This latter mode of pleasure derives from a deliberate
and carefully maintained detachment, an “essayistic discourse” which –
in the form of irony, whimsy, a desultoriness of focus, or of flanerie
­itself – never allows the essayist to become unduly disturbed by what he
observes. The former, pathological mode of pleasure is congruent with
the persistent mythologising of London in the nineteenth century as a
modern equivalent of Babylon: aside from imperial wealth, power and
splendour, a site of voluptuousness and depravity, of addictive, hedonis-
tic pleasure.
In my reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” (1840),
a hybrid text which combines the genres of essay and short story, I shall
argue that Poe exploits essayistic discourse to distance himself from the
intense, self-destructive model of pleasure invoked by the short-story
narrative and encapsulated in the idea of Babylonian London. As a
New World writer exploring the narrative possibilities of the Old World
metro­polis, Poe raises the prospect of Babylonian London through an
account of being helplessly drawn into its darkest topographical and
moral recesses, only to eventually retreat to a safe distance, a withdrawal
which maintains a fascination with the etymological “mother city”,
while preserving a circumspect or worldly subjectivity. Poe’s evocation
of ­Babylonian London is implicit in the idea of a compulsive yet poten-
tially self-destructive attraction, or a terrible fascination, with London
life and, more specifically, its criminality.
36  Simon Peter Hull
Numerous explicit references to Babylonian London appear prior to
the appearance of Poe’s text in 1840, most notably for our purposes, by
Poe’s compatriot Washington Irving, in his “Geoffrey Crayon” sketch,
“A Sunday in London” (1820). Crayon pays tribute to the tranquillity of
the suburban pleasure garden and the Sabbath-day sanctuary it provides
from an infernal “great Babel” surrounding this Edenic enclosure (Hull).
Unlike Poe after him, however, Irving’s persona maintains a state of
equanimity throughout this briefest of Crayon’s sketches. He gestures
vaguely, if uneasily, toward ­Babylonian London: the noise, the pollution,
the relentless commerce, and all else about the city outside the Sunday
pleasure garden which serves to necessitate its redemptive role. Crayon’s
fanciful and touristic composure remains intact because, like the garden
he describes, he keeps the mighty metropolis at bay, leaving no sugges-
tion of being drawn toward its darker, ruinous element, nor therefore
of a hard-earned, experiential knowledge of London. It is the converse
account of an intense, educative engagement with the metropolis on the
part of the American visitor to London – an experience, nevertheless,
framed by essayistic discourse – which differentiates the example I’ve
chosen by Poe from Irving’s more remote encounter, and which, as such,
enacts the mode of transatlanticism I am proposing.
Therefore, if we define “transatlanticism” as a geo-cultural state of
ambivalence, or a textualised psyche expressive of New and Old World
affinities and anxieties, then in the American essaying of L ­ ondon can
be found the quintessential transatlantic voice. As a modern, multi-­
culturally and globally aware offshoot from the more insular or
­nation-centred field of American studies, according to Susan Manning
and Andrew Taylor, transatlantic studies “draws attention to the ways
in which […] ideas of crossing and connection have helped to rethink the
ways that national identity has been formulated” (4). In the introduction
to their collection of critical essays and extracts gathered under the sub-
ject of “transatlantic literary studies”, Manning and Taylor see this as
a timely approach arising from “current global patterns of connection
and interrelation”, creating a “borderless world [in which] homo­geneity
and  singularity increasingly give way to transnational spaces of rela-
tion and hybridity” (3). In the case of Washington Irving, an early and
cautiously deferential standard-bearer for the literature of an A ­ merican
republic still struggling to formulate a sense of national  and cultural
identity, the Sketch Book’s borrowings from Dutch folklore and tour-
istic impressions of English customs and literary genus loci such as
­London and Stratford, the writing appears so self-evidently and inher-
ently transatlantic as to render theory all-but redundant. But applied to
Poe’s tonally erratic essay-cum-short story, “The Man of the Crowd”,
which appeared some twenty years after the first edition of Irving’s
Sketch Book, Manning and Taylor’s concept of a “transnational space
of relation and hybridity” offers an insightful paradigm for a hybrid text
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  37
in which the persona of a London essayist is alternately inhabited and
discarded by an American writer. If Baudelaire’s flaneur, that strolling,
idling observer of the mid-nineteenth century European city, is predi-
cated on blasé detachment or ambivalence, then Poe’s text of frenetic,
obsessive street-walking in London, ends up “transnationally” detach-
ing itself, in turn, from even that imposture.
However, a London-focused transatlantic study such as this begs the
following question: is it viable to interpret any foreigner’s response to
London specifically, as representative of an attitude to English culture
in general, or more riskily still, to Britain? Or to ask a similar ques-
tion, as Myles Chilton does: “while the metropolitan economy exer-
cised centripetal control over the country, is it really true to say that
­London, as “cultural capital” of England, reinforced and redistributed –
stamped with metropolitan cultural authority, as it were – an English
identity?” (16). Chilton answers “no” to his own question, on the basis
of an ­A nglo-Scottish, British identity having already been established
before London’s rise to imperial prominence and the advent of a “mod-
ern national consciousness” (16). Tom Nairn claims that, consequently,
­London functioned:

not so much as the source and center of Britishness as the nerve

center – and blind spot – of a patched-together empire. As the place
from which the empire is ruled, it gathers together a cross-­section of
intellectuals, aristocrats, and merchants from every domain. A place
from which all of the [British] isles seem visible, [London] can really
give only the most misleading sense of the empire’s cultural cohe­
rence, its actual economic or political conditions.
(Qtd in Chilton 16)

But through an engagement with a city of contrasts and contradictions –

imaged in Poe’s heterogeneous crowd of flash Cockney-types, sinister
­Jewish pedlars, and a strikingly individualised but unknowable old man –
my featured American writer suggests a true rather than misleading im-
age of London itself as socially “patched-together” and lacking “cultural
coherence”. Seen through the eyes of the nineteenth-century American
essayist, then, London can, after all, function as a microcosm of England.

Pleasure, the Essay and the Metropolis

Pleasure is often mistrusted in principle, guilt-ridden in practice, and
culturally disdained as an insubstantial or shallow literary emotion. As
the register of a purportedly lower-order sense, that of taste, pleasure
is treated with suspicion because of its tendency to be over-indulged in
addictive behaviour or acts of voluptuousness, indolence, sloth, sexual
gratification and perversion (Gigante). Pleasure is apt to suggest too great
38  Simon Peter Hull
a focus on the carnal, bestial body, at the expense of the supposedly
higher faculties of spirit and mind. While the classical, Horatian idea
of literary pleasure, or dulce, is to provide a vehicle for the overriding
objective of moral utility, there was always a danger that pleasure would
eclipse morality and become an indolent end in itself. In tracing the main
historical shifts in the concept of literary emotion, Neal Oxenhandler
claims that Aristotle’s enduring legacy in this regard is an ambiguity in
literary theory toward pleasure:

Delight or pleasure, it should be noted, is a passion, something

under­gone; it captures and holds us within the text and is thereby
intransitive; yet it may also motivate a response. […] Moral utility,
on the other hand, does not have this double character; it transits the
text and turns the reader toward action. (109)

Pleasure in literature is therefore unreliable as a motivating force for

virtuous action, being just as likely to impede such action. In aesthet-
ics, meanwhile, pleasure has been traditionally perceived as lacking
the intensity, depth of engagement and power which characterises
the sublime, a notion of triviality implicit in Edmund Burke’s influ-
ential distinction between the “smallness, smoothness, delicacy” of a
beautiful object, and the overwhelming experience of the sublime, of
something “vast, magnificent, obscure” (113–114). With these endur-
ing preconceptions in mind, I wish to discuss two interrelated sites
of pleasure: the one, ­L ondon, is geographical, the other, the familiar
essay, is textual. Misgivings over the social conditions of the former,
and the intellectual and cultural value of the latter, emanate in both
cases from a perceived over-indulgence of pleasure. The two extracts
below explicitly associate pleasure with, respectively, London and
the essay. The first is by Joseph Addison, and the second by Virginia

This grand Scene of Business [the Royal Exchange] gives me an in-

finite Variety of solid and substantial Entertainments. As I am a
great Lover of Mankind, my Heart naturally overflows with Plea-
sure at the Sight of a prosperous and happy Multitude, insomuch
that at many public Solemnities I cannot forbear expressing my Joy
with Tears that have stolen down my Cheeks.
(Addison 211)

The principle which controls [the essay] is simply that it should give
pleasure; the desire which impels us when we take it from the shelf
is simply to receive pleasure. Everything in an essay must be subdued
to that end.
(Woolf 13)
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  39
Poe chronologically separates Addison from Woolf, and the contrasting
modes of affect in “The Man of the Crowd” marks the onset of a period
in which the metropolis is habitually Gothicised or otherwise rendered
disturbing, following the relative sociability and knowability which
characterises preceding renditions of London. Taking the Addison pas-
sage first, through the persona of a consummate metropolite, Sir Roger
De Coverley, the essayist derives hyperbolic pleasure not only from a
workaday, functional scene of London life, the commercial transactions
at the Royal Exchange, but more perversely still, in the city’s solemnest
moments. Therefore, what ultimately qualifies Sir Roger as the type of
a true, dyed-in-the-wool metropolite is not a preternatural intensity of
response to the urban scene, in the manner of Wordsworth’s effusive
proselytising of nature and the rural landscape. It is, rather, a tone of
emotional detachment, implied by an ironic version or parody of the
ejaculatory, uninhibited mode of response to one’s environment.
Addison’s exaggerated pleasure in London is itself, of course, an ex-
pression of urban theatricality, the lingua franca of the city. According to
the early-twentieth-century sociologist, Georg Simmel, the psychologi­
cal exigencies of urban life, such as the ceaseless human interaction, the
pragmatism of commerce (the same commerce that ironically reduces
Sir Roger to tears) and the quickened, unrelenting pace of life, are such
that the calculated indifference and reserve of the “blasé attitude” be-
comes inevitable (Lees 10). Emotional or urban(e) detachment in the
case of Addison is implicit in an ironic, disingenuously over-the-top re-
sponse to mundane, ostensibly unexciting matter. The notion of pleasure
that emerges is of a mild or moderate emotion, all the more pleasurable
for the absence of intensity. The unpleasant alternative to this mental
­defence-mechanism, a chronic “anxiety of mind”, is identified by the
sociologist Charles Turner Thackrah in 1831 as, if not itself a “disease”,
then a common cause of it:

When we walk the streets of large commercial towns, we can

scarcely fail to remark the hurried gait and care-worn features of the
well-dressed passengers. Some young men, indeed, we may see, with
countenances possessing natural cheerfulness and colour, but these
appearances rarely survive the age of manhood.
(Qtd in Shuttleworth and Taylor 293)

Urban or “commercial life” is blamed for people living constantly in a

“state of unnatural excitement” because of its “partial, irregular and
excessive” nature (293). The modern city is deemed altogether too much
for the human psyche to cope with. Much of commercial life and the in-
cessant stimulation it brings would presumably involve supposedly plea-
surable activities, or more to the point, a quick succession of one after
another, such as theatre-going, shopping, attending a boxing match, or
40  Simon Peter Hull
skimming through a miscellaneous magazine. Over thirty years earlier,
Wordsworth had similarly blamed modern urban culture for the malaise
of “a degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation” (245), by claiming
in the 1805 Preface to the Lyrical Ballads that the sensibility of city-­
dwellers had been dulled and corrupted in comparison with the enlivened
and unalloyed expressiveness of rustic folk. For both commentators, it is
far more than the drudgery of work and wage-labour which is respon-
sible for urban misery: equally, it is the misuse of leisure and the wealth
created by industry. “Will wealth compensate for the evils which attend
it?” (Shuttleworth and Taylor 293), Thackrah asks, with B ­ abylonian
London looming large behind his pious rhetoric. To allow oneself to be
excited or stimulated by London, then, is to risk psychologi­cal trauma
as well as moral corruption. Such over-­stimulation is what happens in
Poe’s text, where the essayer-turned-narrator of ­London life becomes,
in effect, too intensely engaged with his subject and consequently veers
toward the abyss.
The converse, urban(e) mentality of detachment is overtly shown in
the pose of the aesthete, typically manifested as a provokingly callous
approach to a normally affective or emotive subject. Such is the treatment
of murder in a series of essays by Thomas De Quincey. In “On Murder
Considered as One of the Fine Arts” (1827), the Ratcliffe Highway mur-
derer John Williams is identified as an exemplar of the ­murderer-as-artist,
one who has “exalted the ideal of murder to a point of colossal sublim-
ity”, his infamy thus having “created the taste by which he is to be en-
joyed”, so that “Design, gentlemen, grouping, light and shade, poetry,
sentiment, are now deemed indispensable to attempts of this nature”
(De Quincey 10). De Quincey’s development of this idea, in the “Second
Paper on Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”, was published
in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1839, just a year before Poe’s
“The Man of the Crowd” appeared in the Gentleman’s ­M agazine. The
metaphorical stage for De Quincey’s artist-murderer, Williams, exists
in the plebeian workspaces of London’s East End, thus confirming De
Quincey’s treatment of Williams as, itself, an expression of cultural
metropolitanism. The metropolitan environment also plays a significant
part in Poe’s emotionally less stable treatment of a potential rather than
actual murderer, the anonymous, diamond-and-dagger-carrying man of
the crowd. The key to the difference in affect between these two forays
into darkest London therefore lies in the actuality/potentiality of the re-
spective murderers: Poe’s mysterious stranger invites, or indeed impels,
a greater degree of imagination from the narrating subject, who conse-
quently becomes more disturbed than his De Quinceyian counterpart
because what he imagines (a terrifying tale) outstrips and overwhelms
what he observes. Conversely, De Quincey’s murder essays – ultimately,
because they are essays, and not like Poe’s text, a cross between an essay
and a short story – seem to maximise the genre’s default tone of irony
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  41
or wry superficiality, a trait identified by Georg Lukacs, in which the
essayist is “always speaking about the ultimate problems of life, but in
a tone which implies that he is only discussing pictures and books, only
the inessential and pretty ornaments of life – and even then not in their
innermost substance but only their beautiful and useless surface” (9).
In other words, De Quincey’s murder papers amply demonstrate the
essayist’s predisposition to detached pleasure, or pleasurable detach-
ment, regardless of the subject. Richard Cronin has compellingly linked
this blasé or arch tone, perhaps a subtle derivative of mock-heroic, to
urban culture and the Romantic-era essay as a product of that culture:
from the use of gallows-humour to the dehumanisation of beggars and
­chimney-sweepers as objects of metropolitan spectacle, Cronin identi-
fies examples of a deliberately heartless or callous attitude in various
skits and essays – the principle forms of periodical writing – by Lamb,
De  Quincey and Hogg, which express a distinctly modern and urban
sensibility. Poe was certainly familiar with British periodical writing, as
evidenced by the skit “How to Write a Blackwood Article” (1842), in
which examples of the dark and provoking humour of “Maga” are listed
enthusiastically by the magazine’s eccentric editor, including sensational-
istic accounts of being buried and also baked alive. In flippantly treating
conventionally horrific, highly affective subject matter as periodical or
consumerist ­fodder, Poe’s text itself, of course, practices ironic detach-
ment, thus replicating the inherent irony of Blackwood’s inclusion of such
tales alongside satirical sketches and scurrilous reviews. Encapsulating
the periodical text’s tonal variation, “The Man of the Crowd” similarly
features two emotional or affective responses to the metro­politan envi-
ronment, the one of wry, essayistic detachment and the other of intense
narrative engagement. However, in this case the two literary modes of
affect seem to compete with or oppose each other, and thus fragment
the text, rather than coalesce and unify it through an overarching irony.
The Woolf extract, quoted earlier, specifically associates the essay
with pleasure, claiming indeed that pleasure is the essay’s very raison
d’etre. Pleasure is presented as a simple, innocuous gift, in which the
essay “gives” and the domesticated reader, cosily ensconced among
his books, gratefully “receives”. Paralleling the bland detachment of
the archetypal metropolite, any intensity of emotion must be avoided
by the essayist. “We must never be roused”, Woolf asserts: the essay
should instead sooth and cosset, or “lap us about”, in the course of
being at once worldly and domestic, or “draw[ing] its curtain across
the world” (13). It is this essayistic mode of pleasure that works to
counteract London’s more intense, Babylonian model in Poe’s hybrid
text. While no doubt the primary cause of an only recently-reversed
failure in criticism to take the essay seriously – in addition, that is, to
its strong connection with that culturally-scorned, purported purveyor
of sub-literary writing, the periodical 2 – the essay’s association with
42  Simon Peter Hull
pleasure, here, is unavoidable. Pleasure appears a natural consequence
of the essay’s non-academic, d ­ ilettante-ish tendencies, and an episte-
mological scepticism. This uncompetitive amateurism derives from the
French verb, essayer, from which the essay takes its name, meaning to
offer an idea or an opinion in an experimental or tentative spirit with-
out exhaustive knowledge or meticulous research. Hence, my notion of
Poe as an “essayer” rather than an essayist of London, to emphasise the
act of essaying as a mode of writing which transcends genre, although
this practice is formalised by the essay itself. Pleasure is implicit in both
the absence of intensity, constraint and order, and presence of free and
leisurely, whimsical movement, in Claire De Obaldia’s description of
the essay:

an essentially ambulatory and fragmentary prose form. Its direction

and pace, the tracks it chooses to follow, can be changed at will. […]
And this sauntering from one topic to the next, together with the
way in which each topic is informally “tried out”, suggests a tenta-
tiveness, in short a randomness. (2)

The impression of trivial attractiveness and attractive triviality in the

essay is further emphasised by its diminutive scale, refinement or polish,
and overall absence of grandeur, qualities which indeed recall Burke’s
damning praise for the pleasing “smallness, smoothness” and “delicacy”
of a beautiful object. In arguing for the familiar essay of the Romantic
period to be accorded the same scholarly status as the concurrent ­poetry,
to be recognised as “a primary form of a distinctly romantic creati­vity”,
embodying through its very form staple Romantic tenets such as nega-
tive capability and the autonomous imagination, Uttara Natarajan re-
jects the “assumption by which the familiar essay has traditionally been
marked”, that of a “fundamental lack of seriousness or purpose” (27).
While agreeing that the familiar essay should be taken seriously and ac-
knowledging Natarajan’s contribution in this respect, his study implies a
disavowal of the essay’s pleasure principle, whereas this innate feature is
crucial to my reading of essayistic writing in “The Man of the Crowd”.
Indeed, an ostensible humbleness in tandem with the capacity to please,
makes the essay seem an entirely appropriate vehicle for writers from the
New World, such as Poe, to broach any area of English life and culture,
especially during the nineteenth century, when the American republic
and the very idea of a literature of its own, was still in its infancy.
That pleasure should be a principle equally of the essay and the city is
hardly surprising. The city is an appropriate site both for trying out, or
essaying, pleasure, just as the essay, with its predilection for consumer
items, urbane humour, and a dexterous observational capacity ideally
suited to the city’s plenitude of spectacle, can be considered a prime ex-
pression of metropolitan culture. Hence, the phenomenon of the strolling,
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  43
meandering, reader of the city-as-text, the flaneur, whose chief source
of pleasure therein is that of a paradoxically detached mode of social
engagement, or “crowd bathing” in Baudelaire’s terms ­(Tester 82–83).
In nineteenth century art and literature, pleasure was more dramati-
cally associated with London through the numerous representations
in which comparisons were made with Babylon, epitomised by John
­Martin’s simultaneously contemporary and historical rendition of the
Biblical city, in the depiction of revelry in Belshazzar’s Feast (1821).3
As Lydia Nead informs us, “writers and journalists drew upon the im-
age of the ancient city to invoke the wealth, splendour and refinement
of the modern metro­polis”, but at the same time the “luxury, sensual-
ity and an excessive indulgence in a worship of the commodity”, which
had eventually destroyed Babylon and ancient Rome (3). The reformist
Scotsman ­Robert Mudie’s moralistic survey of London life, Babylon the
Great (1825), presents an imaginative association between the respective
ancient and modern cities which lasted throughout the nineteenth cen-
tury: suggesting the dangerousness of pursuing pleasure in London by its
sheer proximity to ruin, Mudie describes the national and imperial capi-
tal “as being foremost and without a rival in every means of aggrandise-
ment and enjoyment, and also of neglect and misery – of everything that
can render life sweet and man happy, or that can render life bitter and
man wretched” (qtd in Allen 97). Such precipitous hedonism is clearly
a very different mode or level of pleasure from the relatively mild and
innocuous, essayistic variety, demonstrated by Addison and espoused by
Woolf. Regency London in particular saw spectacular and elaborate acts
and figures of consumption, excesses of pleasure to which contempo-
rary satirical prints, diaries and newspaper reports bear testimony.4 As
we shall see, pleasure’s potential within the Babylonian environment to
spiral out of control, to become perverse or pathological, is dramatically
captured by Poe.

Essaying Versus Narrating

Poe’s “The Man of the Crowd” (1840), is usually categoriised as a short
story, but crucially for the purposes of my reading, it equally resembles an
essay, with the text’s meaning emerging from a dialogue between these
diverse forms. Indeed, the hybrid nature of “The Man of the Crowd”
appears to confound Poe’s own attempt at defining the short story genre,
as a narrative devoted to and dominated by a single, striking effect. As
I hope the following reading will demonstrate, Poe’s yoking-together of
essay and short story creates and contemplates two strikingly distinctive
effects, corresponding respectively to the moderate and intense models
of metropolitan pleasure. Transatlantic ambivalence over English life
and culture, in this ostensibly narrative text, derives thus from the tenta-
tive, affect-tempering presence of essayistic discourse.
44  Simon Peter Hull
It is notably from the window of a coffee house, thus recalling the
Augustan birthplace of the essayistic tradition of representing London,
that the narrator finds the pleasure of convalescence from a recent illness
is enhanced by the archetypal essayistic act, the casual observation of
urban life:

Merely to breathe was enjoyment; and I derived positive pleasure

even from many of the legitimate sources of pain. I felt a calm but
inquisitive interest in every thing. With a cigar in my mouth and a
newspaper in my lap, I had been amusing myself for the greater part
of the afternoon, now in poring over advertisements, now in ob-
serving the promiscuous company in the room, and now in peering
through the smoky panes into the street. … By the time the lamps
were well lighted, two dense and continuous tides of population
were rushing past the door. At this particular period of the evening
I had never before been in a similar situation, and the tumultuous
sea of human heads filled me, therefore, with a delicious novelty of
emotion. I gave up, at length, all care of things within the hotel, and
became absorbed in the scene without.
(Poe 132)

Simply being in a state conducive to essay composition – languid, disin-

terested yet mentally alert – is pleasurable as well as medicinal. This es-
sayistic pleasure is also, by definition, intransitive: the newspaper-­reading
narrator becomes a surrogate for the actual reader, as he is then captured
and held by the crowd-as-text. The street scene initiates an extended,
lightly acerbic account of the various social types and classes comprising
the crowd, in a sort of exhibition of metropolitan-­essayistic craft. The
“delicious novelty of emotion”, as a pleasurable response to the phenome-
nal crowd, echoes, once again, Addison’s tears of joy over the cosmopoli-
tan multitude at the Royal Exchange, albeit without the ironic hyperbole.
Although this, in itself spectacular, exercise in urban social categorisa-
tion includes an element of sneering at Cockney upstarts – brash ­“junior
clerks of flash houses”, wearing “the cast-off graces of the gentry” (133) –
the passage ends up as harmless fun. Poe is, after all, writing at a time
after the contentious Regency incar­nation of the Cockney had been suc-
ceeded by the harmless early-Victorian model, embodied in Dickens’s
Sam Weller, a humorous but loyal servant who knows his place and sticks
to it (Dart). Poe’s coffee-house pastiche is therefore nostalgic, apolitical
and uncontroversial, an affirmation of essayistic pleasure.
However, signalled by a “descending” change of social material, into
“darker and deeper themes for speculation” amid hawkish Jewish ped-
lars and scowling street beggars (Poe 134), a rather more mysterious and
dramatic figure than the Cockney works to disrupt such pleasure. Ap-
propriately for the narrative transition about to take place, night draws
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  45
in as the essayist’s attention is sharply arrested by one, highly individual
figure, “a decrepid [sic] old man” whose face emphatically defies desul-
tory essayistic detachment:

a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my whole at-

tention, on account of the absolute idiosyncracy of its expression.
Any thing even remotely resembling that expression I had never seen
before. […] As I endeavored, during the brief minute of my original
survey, to form some analysis of the meaning conveyed, there arose
confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast
mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness,
of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of exces-
sive terror, of intense – of extreme despair. I felt singularly aroused,
startled, fascinated. “How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is writ-
ten within that bosom!” Then came a craving desire to keep the man
in view – to know more of him.
(Poe 135–136)

Detached, aimless and healthful observation is thus abruptly replaced

by obsessive and, in every sense, unhealthy interest, in the impossibly
myriad and intense expressiveness of the stranger’s countenance. Thus
suggested is the entry into an urban form of addiction, whereby spec-
tatorship of the crowd proceeds from an easeful taking of pleasure into
being seized by a ravenous or “craving desire”. Glimpsing a diamond
and a dagger, items suggestive of the alluring luxury and moral deprav-
ity of Babylonian London, the essayist-turned-narrator is compelled to
discover the story of this enigmatic figure. He therefore follows him,
through the night and long into the following day, across the city into
its most socially deprived, darkest recesses, in the process suggesting the
possibility of the protagonist’s moral decline, the fate later of Wilde’s in-
satiably hedonistic Dorian Gray. The bizarreness of the old man’s “mad
energy” is more than matched by the eager new narrator’s own “wild-
est amazement” and “all-absorbing” appetite for narrative satiety, as the
earlier experience of mild pleasure descends into maniacal, addictive be-
haviour. Finally, however, like a state of self-destructive hypnosis being
lifted in the nick of time, the almost fatally exhausted narrator gives up
his pursuit, leaving the mysterious stranger to return to the anonymity
of the crowd. His story thus remains un-narrated, in what ends up as a
sort of meta-­narrative about the frustrated search for a sensational, “wild
history”. The narrator is saved from death-by-narrative when he finally
confronts the old man and gazes into his face. The old man’s complete
lack of acknowledgement of the narrator is a highly symbolic moment,
as the former figure embodies the raw material, potentially, for a sensa-
tional narrative. The old man is classified as “the type and genius of deep
crime”, hence of crime fiction, and yet Poe’s narrator concludes that his
46  Simon Peter Hull
story “does not permit itself to be read” (140). After nearly killing himself
attempting to turn the old man’s story into a text that can be read, the
essayist-narrator learns his lesson: that there exists an area of humanity –
not simply to be found in, but created by and symptomatic of, the modern
metropolis – which lies beyond any form or genre of textualisation.
Readily apparent in “The Man of the Crowd”, therefore, is the motif
in Poe’s stories of self-reflexivity, as identified by Arthur A. Brown, in
which Poe “makes the literary act an explicit part of the tale; his charac-
ters read and write”, and “the action of a tale parallels the act of putting
it together, of writing and reading it” (Brown 450). Thus, the essayist-­
narrator turns from reading the papers to reading the crowd, before
reading the mysterious old man’s face, albeit as a chaotic, contradictory
and confusing “text”. The essay-cum-story is also bookended by an epi-
graph, about the supposed illegibility of the human heart, thus indicat-
ing the literal and metaphoric importance to the text of reading. Some
critics have taken this as the cue for a hermeneutical study of Poe’s tale:
combining the historical context of contemporary American transcen-
dentalism, Jeremy Cagle sees the tale as providing, through the narrative
rather than the essayistic part, an “instructive performance of reading
that privileges irrationality and introspection” over a superficial, “reduc-
tive, engagement with texts” (Cagle 17). While agreeing on the thematic
importance of reading in “The Man of the Crowd”, I would dispute
Cagle’s critically prejudicial privileging of the text’s intense discourse
of the sublime over its lighter, essayistic mode of empirical observation.
However superficial and unsatisfactory it might appear, the latter, ten-
tative mode of engagement with London emerges at the end of the tale
as the only remaining option for the exhausted and defeated narrator.
At the point when the essayist-cum-narrator exits the coffee house
and enters the street, the text appears to transform itself from desul-
tory, ­pleasure-principled essay into the genre of narrative-and-criminal-­
pursuing, morbidly heightened emotion: of sensation fiction in general
and the short story in particular. The sensationalising of urban crime in
­Victorian fiction, such as we find in the Newgate novel, G.W.M R ­ eynolds’s
The ­Mysteries of London (1846) and the Sherlock Holmes stories, rep-
resents a textualised, vicarious versioning of the city’s capacity for dark,
addictive pleasure. In their study of the cultural role of criminality in
literature and film, Bran Nicol, Patricia Pulham and Eugene McNulty
argue that crime is not transformed by art and literature into a “cultural
event”, but is already thus, because crime “brings into focus what is at
stake in cultural production – in terms of how we organize, control and
make sense of the world” (Nicol et al. 2). Borrowing from Slavoj Zizek’s
theory of violence, the authors elaborate on this concept, thus:

crime as a cultural event is only understandable when read against

the sublimated “dark-matter” (taboo, morality, law) of modernity.
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  47
It might be suggested, then, that criminality is not simply one aspect
of modernity, an inevitable by-product, but its underside, something
from which it cannot be separated. (2–3)

The growth of the city and subsequent urbanisation of society is a key

principle of modernity, therefore criminality is perhaps also insepara-
ble from metropolitan culture. More to the point, the presence in art
as in life of “dark-matter” implies guilty pleasure. If the criminal act
is considered taboo, immoral or illegal, then the commodification of
crimi­nality as art, as well as the enjoyment of such art, must involve a
degree of the criminal act’s darkness, or the perverse attraction of that
which is forbidden. So it is with the strange, hypnotic effect exerted by
the old man on Poe’s narrator, and the reader’s compulsion to follow
them both.
Therefore, in a prime example of the self-reflexivity of Poe’s writ-
ing, the narrator’s obsessive pursuit of the mysterious old man and the
terrifying narrative which his figure signifies, parallels the way crime
fiction operates by maintaining the reader’s interest through the con-
cealment and deferral of a terrible-but-irresistible truth. But “The
Man of the Crowd” raises expectations of such dark pleasure only to
frustrate them: just as the text’s essayistic discourse is deceptive be-
cause a very different mode of urban engagement supersedes it, so
this latter discourse proves, in turn, to be insubstantial and illusory.
The surface-­effect empiricism or observational wit of essayistic plea-
sure is succeeded by crime fiction’s perverse blend of mysteriousness
and monomaniac scrutiny, a morbid, narrative-driven pleasure which
proves, however, equally incapable of elucidating the heart of darkness
within the modern metropolis. Poe describes a contradictory, perplex-
ing London, a city at once easefully effable and disturbingly ineffable,
which both elicits and baffles curio­sity, or attracts and repels. More-
over, although a feature of the modern metropolis, the sublime element
is given a distinctly European, Gothic and therefore Old-World tenor,
by the fact that the very words referring to the ineffability of the hu-
man heart, “it does not permit itself to be read”, require translation
from the ­G erman, “es last sich nicht lessen” (Poe 140). The narrator
is left with no choice but to return to the earlier essayistic self, and to
accept a partial, tentative engagement with London as the price for
preserving his sanity. Thus, Poe’s seemingly idiomatic voyage of the
imaginative, hyper-­sensitive hero from the known into the unknown
(Galloway, in Poe ­x xviii) does not in this case entail either madness
or death, fates variously enacted in “Eleonora”, “The Oval Portrait”
and “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The detached, essayistic part
of his psyche prevents the narrating man of the crowd from falling
into Roderick Usher’s fatal state of hyper-sensitivity, his “morbid acute-
ness of the senses”  (95). In  the process of juxtaposing two opposing
48  Simon Peter Hull
forms of metropolitan literature, and leaving us with a text which is
neither, Poe analogises a transatlantic state of being at once attracted
and repelled by the imperial mother-city: of affection for its Augustan,
pre-­revolutionary heritage, and horror at its modern, sublime unknow-
ability, which threatens to annihilate writing itself.

From Pathological Urbanism to Transatlantic

In addition to contributing to the development of detective fiction and
the murder mystery, Poe offers a template for the later transatlantic am-
bivalence of Henry James. According to Peter Ackroyd, James’s non-­
fictional writings on London indicate the extent to which any sensitive
writer can be traumatised by the city’s immensity and collective atti-
tude of indifference (Ackroyd 587). In James, then, the metropolite’s
self-­defence mechanism, the blasé mentality identified by Georg Simmel,
becomes itself, ironically, the cause of psychological trauma: a condition
indeed akin to Roderick Usher’s “morbid acuteness of the senses”. Such
a hypersensitive, un-urban mode of engagement with the metropolis is
vividly described in James’s essay “London”, from the miscellaneous
collection Essays in London and Elsewhere (1893). As with Poe, how-
ever, this response represents one half of a dialogic alternation between
a pathological, and a pleasure-principled, essayistic mode of engagement
with the metropolis. In the process, the sublime moment enacts a rite-of-
passage for the American writer’s transformation into an adoptive, yet
haunted or chastened, Londoner.
In James’s essay, the price to be paid for a spree of consumerist plea-
sure is an unexpected attack of urban agoraphobia, while the essayist is
sitting in his hotel room before going out to dinner:

A sudden horror of the whole place came over me, like a tiger-pounce
of homesickness which had been watching its moment. London was
hideous, vicious, cruel, and above all overwhelming … In the course
of an hour I should have to go out to my dinner … and that effort
assumed the form of a desperate and dangerous quest. It appeared to
me that I would rather remain dinnerless, would rather even starve
than sally forth into the infernal town, where the natural fate of an
obscure stranger would be to be trampled to death in Piccadilly and
his carcass thrown into the Thames. I did not starve, however, and
I eventually attached myself by a hundred human links to the dread-
ful, delightful city. That momentary vision of its smeared face and
stony heart has remained memorable to me, but I am happy to say
that I can easily summon up others.
(James 5)
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  49
James’s paradoxical compound of “dreadful, delightful” encapsulates
the Babylonian conundrum of pleasure: guilt-inducing and potentially
self-destructive, but ever-tempting for the possibility of a blissful escape
from worldly care and moral regulation. James’s notion of a collec-
tive urban psyche for London, which anticipates Simmel’s sociologi-
cal model, could just as accurately apply to the mind of the essayist:
“Therefore perhaps the most general characteristic is the absence of in-
sistence. Habits and inclinations flourish and fall, but intensity is never
one of them” (9). What might conversely be termed an “aesthetic of
intensity” can be found in the canon of nightmarish, phantasmago-
rical representations of an infernal metropolis, or what Loretta Lees
terms “longstanding narratives of perverse and pathological urban-
ism” (Lees  4), by a range of British nineteenth-century writers from
Wordsworth to Wilde. Poe’s exit from the coffee house onto the street
appears to allegorise the advent of this trend, in the overthrow of the
pleasure-principled essayist by the tormented and tormenting narrator
of pathological urbanism.
Such a reading, however, oversimplifies Poe’s hybrid text. Anticipat-
ing James’s traumatic process of adoption by the metropolis, and taking
his cue from the uneasy, affected nonchalance of Irving’s Sketch Book
reference to London as “that great Babel”, Poe appropriates essayistic
discourse to express a transatlantic ambivalence over London, as the ma-
triarchal centre of the Old World. This is achieved primarily through a
tentativeness and detachment inherent in the form and discourse of the
essay itself. As a Babylonian metropolis, London appears designed to
overwhelm not simply the American visitor, but the diminutive scale and
scope of the essay itself and its model of moderate pleasure, a genre and
affect seemingly better suited to the pre-Babylonian, Augustan London
of Addison. Describing Addison’s Spectator essays, Cynthia Wall ob-
serves the pleasure-principled tenor with which the “small world of the
periodical essay spills over with the plenitude of London; it becomes a
daily mirror of self-celebration, a morning dose of optimism and self-­
satisfaction” (Wall 111). Over a century after Addison, in Poe’s essaying of
a rapidly expanding London, such satisfying plenitude has been replaced
by a terrifying yet alluring unknowability. But with Poe, the essay and its
pleasurable, detached world ultimately prevails, as the key to establish-
ing a sceptical transatlantic identity. A cameo of educative engagement
with the vast metropolis is enacted through “The Man of the Crowd”:
in the ­essayist-narrator’s abortive transformation from urbane flaneur
into pathological purveyor of the urban Gothic. The American essaying
of London thus contemplates and circumscribes the city’s mythologised
sublimity to arrive at, in the end, not mixed or confused feelings, but a
balanced, worldly state of knowledge about the complex and contradic-
tory heart of the English nation.
50  Simon Peter Hull
1 A similar issue, also involving Babylonian London and transatlantic writing,
forms the context to my reading of Washington Irving’s Geoffrey Crayon,
in my article: “A Transatlantic Cockney in Babylonian London: Washington
Irving and the Problem of Pleasure”, in the journal Symbiosis: The Journal
of Anglo-American Literary Relations (2014).
2 The persistent tendency to regard any writing produced, in the first in-
stance at least, for periodicals, is discussed in the following studies: L
­ aurel
Brake’s Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in the
­N ineteenth Century (1994), and Kevin Campbell’s chapter, “Journalis-
tic Discourses and Constructions of Modern Knowledge”, in Nineteenth-­
Century Media and the Construction of Identities (2001).
3 For an insightful and highly original discussion of John Martin’s epic paint-
ing in the context of cultural anxieties over an emerging metropolitan cul-
ture in the 1820s to the 1830s, I refer you to Chapter 6 (163–194) of Gregory
Dart’s book, Metropolitan Art and Literature, 1810 –1840: ­C ockney
­Adventures (2012).
4 Two studies in particular provide vivid and well-researched accounts, in
the first case, of London’s culture of excess in the late eighteenth century
and Regency period, and in the second, the satirising of those excesses
in print: Venetia Murray, High Society: A Social History of the Regency
­Period, 1788–1830 (1998); Vic Gatrell, City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in
­Eighteenth-Century London (2006).

Works Cited
Ackroyd, Peter. London: A Biography. London: Vintage Books, 2001. Print.
Addison, Joseph. “The Spectator No. 69. Saturday, May 19, 1711”, in R ­ obert
J.  Allen ed., Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator. New York:
­Reinhart and Winston, 1970, 210–214. Print.
Brake, Laurel. Subjugated Knowledges: Journalism, Gender and Literature in
the Nineteenth Century. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994. Print.
Brown, Arthur A. “Literature and the Impossibility of Death: Poe’s “Berenice””,
Nineteenth-Century Literature 50.4 (March 1996): 448–463. Print.
Burke, Edmund. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the
Sublime and the Beautiful. Ed. J.T. Bolton. Notre Dame: University of Notre
Dame Press, 1968 (original publication 1757). Print.
Cagle, Jeremy. “Reading Well: Transcendental Hermeneutics in Poe’s “Man of
the Crowd””, The Edgar Allan Poe Review 9.2 (2008): 17–35. Print.
Campbell, Kevin. “Journalistic Discourses and Constructions of Modern
Knowledge”. Nineteenth-Century Media and the Construction of Identities.
Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001, 40–53. Print.
Chilton, Myles. “Bleeding London and Re-Mapping It: Local Empire in a
Global City”, Comparative Critical Studies 4.1 (2010): 11–29. Print.
Cronin, Richard. Paper Pellets: British Literary Culture After Waterloo.
­Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Dart, Gregory. Metropolitan Art and Literature, 1810–1840: Cockney Adven-
tures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
De Obaldia, Clare. The Essayistic Spirit: Literature, Modern Criticism and the
Essay. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.
“That Dreadful, Delightful City”  51
De Quincey, Thomas. “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”, in
Robert Morrison ed., On Murder. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006
(original publication 1827). Print.
Gatrell, Vic. City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London.
London: Atlantic Books, 2006. Print.
Gigante, Denise. Taste: A Literary History. New Haven: Yale University Press,
2005. Print.
Hull, Simon. “A Transatlantic Cockney in Babylonian London: Washington
­I rving and the Problem of Pleasure”, Symbiosis: The Journal of Anglo-­
American Literary Relations 18.2 (2014): 157–173. Print.
Irving, Washington, “A Sunday in London”, in William L. Hedges ed., The Leg-
end of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories. New York: Penguin, 1999 (original
publication 1820), 89–90. Print.
James, Henry. Essays in London and Elsewhere. London: Osgood, McIlvaine &
Co., 1893. Print.
Lees, Loretta. ““The Emancipatory City”: Urban (Re)Visions”, in Loretta Lees
ed., The Emancipatory City: Paradoxes and Possibilities. London: Sage,
2005, 3–18. Print.
Lukács, Georg. Soul and Form. Trans. Anna Bostock. London: Merlin Press,
1974 (original publication 1910). Print.
Manning, Susan, and Taylor, Andrew. Introduction to Transatlantic Literary
Studies: A Reader. Ed. Susan Manning and Andrew Taylor. Edinburgh:
­E dinburgh University Press, 2007, 1–13. Print.
Mudie, Robert. Babylon the Great. The Moving Pageant: A Literary Source-
book on London Street-Life, 1700 –1914. Ed. Rick Allen. London and
New York: Routledge, 1999 (original publication 1825), 96–98. Print.
Murray, Venetia. High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period,
1788–1830. London: Viking/Penguin, 1998. Print.
Natarajan, Uttara. “The Veil of Familiarity: Romantic Philosophy and the
­Familiar Essay”, Studies in Romanticism 42.1 (2003): 27–44. Print.
Nead, Lydia. Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-­
Century London. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.
Nicol, Bran, Pulham Patricia, and McNulty, Eugene. Crime Culture: Figuring
Criminality in Fiction and Film. London and New York: Continuum, 2011.
Oxenhandler, Neal. “The Changing Concept of Literary Emotion: A Selective
History”, New Literary History 20.1 (1988): 105–121. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “How to Write a Blackwood Article”, in Patrick F. Quinn ed.,
Poetry and Tales. New York: Library of America, 1984 (original publication
1842). 278–288. Print.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Man of the Crowd”
and “[Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s] Twice-Told Tales”, in David
­Galloway ed., The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings. London:
Penguin, 2003 (original publication 1845, 1840 and 1842, respectively), 90–109,
131–140, 387–397. Print.
Tester, Keith, The Flaneur. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.
Thackrah, Charles Turner. The Effects of Arts, Trades and Professions, and
of Civic States and Habits of Living: With Suggestions for the Removal of
Many of the Agents which Produce Disease, and Shorten the Duration of
52  Simon Peter Hull
Life. Embodied Selves: An Anthology Of Psychological Texts, 1830–1890.
Ed. Sally Shuttleworth and Jenny Bourne Taylor. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1998 (original publication 1831), 293. Print.
Wall, Cynthia. “London and Narration in the Long Eighteenth Century”,
in Lawrence Manley ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of
­L ondon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 102–118. Print.
Woolf, Virginia. “The Modern Essay”, in David Bradshaw ed., Selected Essays.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 13–22. Print.
Wordsworth, William. Preface to The Lyrical Ballads. Ed. R.L. Brett and
A.R. Jones. London and New York: Routledge, 1991 (original publication
1800), 287–314. Print.
3 “Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”
Go-Betweens and Natural Knowledge
in Crèvecoeur’s Journey into
Northern Pennsylvania and the
State of New York1
Kathryn N. Gray

When D.H. Lawrence described Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur as

­providing the “wild” and “noble” America that had captured his imagi-
nation while reading James Fenimore Cooper, and when he summarised
Crèvecoeur’s intellectual and emotional response to nature as a neces-
sary precursor to the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry ­David
­Thoreau, he placed Crèvecoeur at the beginning of a line of literary
descent predicated on an Exceptionalist reading of American literature
(Lawrence 1923, n.p.). It has become commonplace in American literary
studies to deconstruct the rhetoric of linear literary descent and, while
romantic gestures and motifs are readily expressed in the authoritative
voice of the fictionalised American farmer who narrates the eponymous
Letters, recent reappraisals of Crèvecoeur’s work have demythologised
his role as the prescient voice of nineteenth-century American Roman-
ticism. 2 Undue emphasis on Crèvecoeur’s romantic sensibilities under-
plays his contributions to the scientific debates of the long eighteenth
century. This chapter seeks to position Crèvecoeur’s work, especially his
later work, the fictional travelogue, Journey into Northern P ­ ennsylvania
and the State of New York, 3 into a transatlantic discourse of science.
By considering the ways in which Crèvecoeur uses the features of his
fictional travel narrative to articulate the paradigms of authority and
credibility more common to natural history writing, this chapter argues
that ­Crèvecoeur complicates the dominant binary structure of natural
knowledge production in the late eighteenth century. Instead, he evokes
a networked approach to epistemological control, prioritising the ex-
pertise of the go-between, thereby challenging the emergence of discrete
Journey into Northern Pennsylvania and the State of New York is
a difficult text to classify; it is, ostensibly, a three-volume account of
the travels of an apparently unknown narrator and his companion,
a ­G erman-born traveller by the name of Mr. Herman. From the fic-
tional preface, the reader is led to understand that the manu­s cript of
the travelogue has been found amongst the wreckage of the “Morning
54  Kathryn N. Gray
Star”, a ship bound for Heligoland from Philadelphia which foun-
dered at the mouth of the Elbe. The putative editor is given the manu­
script in the custom house at Copenhagen and asked to judge its
value. Journey ruminates on issues of authorship as the fictional edi-
tor questions his own ability and liberty to translate, edit and publish
the work of the unknown author, whom, he presumes, “perished” in
this maritime tragedy (xvi–xvii). The travels don’t disappoint popu-
lar ­European tastes as the account provides a narrative of westward
expansion and tales of adventure, particularly when our travellers
are lost in woods and experience the dangers of the wilderness in
a heightened, emotionally charged episode that would be perfectly
at home in gothic fiction, such as Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar
Huntly (1799). Further tales of adventure occur when the narrative
spins off in a seemingly random direction, recounting the life of Don
Jean de Bragansa and his tale of religious persecution in Europe.
More consistently, however, the narrative offers the reader represen-
tations of the natural and social environments of the North American
landscape. It offers representations of Indian eloquence, as well as
detailed descriptions and contemplations of the picturesque and the
sublime, especially in the depictions of Niagara Falls.4 The travel-
ogue explores the grand vistas of the natural environment alongside
details of the smallest of insects, conscious of a need to predicate ob-
servations on the veracity of eyewitness accounts (see Pratt 1992 and
Pagden 1993). The editor’s initial concerns about authorship, and the
pivotal role of the editor in translating and producing the text, speaks
to a vital aspect of Crèvecoeur’s strategy of credibility throughout.
The breadth and depth of this American landscape is filtered through
a number of intermediaries, or go-betweens, whose sustained expe-
rience of the North American environment provides reliable testi-
mony for the knowing narrator and his less experienced travelling
companion. Therefore, just as the editor self-consciously articulates
his credentials as a reliable translator, the travelogue mirrors this
concern to satisfy the demands of authenticity when it invokes the
authority of eye-witness accounts, either through the experiences of
the travellers or, through the experiences and discoveries of the wide
range of experts with whom they interact. This embedded structural
principle, where natural knowledge is mediated through the experi-
ences of local experts, such as farmers, fieldworkers, scientists and
soldiers, dramati­c ally re-creates the complex networks of knowledge
exchange, which underpinned natural history debates in the late
­eighteenth century Atlantic world. In particular, this chapter focuses
on the individual narratives of the intermediaries, or go-­b etween fig-
ures, and seeks to acknowledge Crèvecoeur’s transnational and net-
worked approach to knowledge production.
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  55
Natural Knowledge Production
In 1735, Carl von Linné, or Linneaus, a Swedish naturalist, published
his hugely influential, Systema Naturœ, which offered new taxonomic
models of classification, principally for botanists and the categorisa-
tion of plants. Linneaus’s model was adopted throughout the Atlantic
world, and it helped natural historians define and compare the flora
and fauna of the Old World with that of the expanding territories of
the New World. In his earlier work, Letters from an American Farmer,
­Crèvecoeur is careful to mention Linneaus’s influence on John Bartram,
the much noted and respected American botanist of the late colonial
period. In “Letter XI”, which details a semi-fictional account of a
­“Russian ­Gentleman’s” visit to Bartram’s farm in Pennsylvania, the nar-
rator notes that Bartram “applied to a neighbouring schoolmaster, who
in three months, taught me Latin enough to understand Linneaus” and,
furthermore, he enjoyed a brief correspondence with Linneaus’s patron,
Queen Ulrica of Sweden (Crèvecoeur 1986: 195, 188). Crèvecoeur does
this to highlight Bartram’s credibility as a scientist both in relation to
his knowledge of the North American landscape, but also in relation to
his presence in an Atlantic network of scientific communication. One as-
pect of Crèvecoeur’s Letters, therefore, is to articulate the importance of
knowledge exchange though international networks of correspondence.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, Letters presents a fictionalised representation
of the ways in which the credibility and authority of the naturalist was
re-negotiated and re-defined as the lived experience of long-time resi-
dents of North America offered alternative means of establishing valu-
able and expert accounts of colonial environments (Cowie and Gray).
An equally pressing concern in the development of this strategy of
credibility was to counter the prevailing opinion of French naturalist,
Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Buffon began publishing
­Histoire Naturelle in 1749 and one of his most controversial contribu-
tions to Atlantic science was his contention that the New World envi-
ronments produced animals that were much smaller and weaker than
Old World comparisons: “Animated nature, therefore, is less active, less
varied, and even less vigorous, for by the enumeration of the American
animals we shall perceive, that not only the number of species is smaller
but that in general they are inferior in size to those of the old conti-
nent; not one animal throughout America can be compared to the ele-
phant, rhinoceros, lion, &c.” (Buffon, 27). Thomas Jefferson’s response
to ­Buffon, which has been comprehensively critiqued over the past few
decades, is presented largely in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785),
where he rebuts Buffon’s argument by listing the measurements of New
World animals in comparison with Old World counterparts (Jefferson
68–70).5 More specifically, it is worth noting that Jefferson does not rely
solely on his own experience to rebut Buffon’s claims, but draws on other
56  Kathryn N. Gray
accounts from John Bartram, a colonial botanist, Peter Kalm, a Finnish
naturalist and one of a select few European naturalists who travelled to
North America, as well as Mark Catesby (English), L ­ ouis-Jean-Marie
Daubenton (French), and Thomas Pennant (Welsh), to support and sus-
tain his argument (Jefferson, 71). The rehearsal of the sizes and weights
of comparable European and North American mammals provides ample
empirical evidence to support his cause, but Jefferson also builds his
case through the testimony of other credible sources. Jefferson’s net-
worked evidence from colonial residents and E ­ uropean travellers, all
noted and respected naturalists, serve to counter Buffon’s charges about
the degenerate nature of New World animals. While the debate bet­
ween Buffon and Jefferson is often characterised in oppositional terms,
­European against American, and in many ways the antagonist nature of
the transatlantic debate was partly constructed in these binary terms,
as the evidence gathered in Notes demonstrates, natural knowledge was
produced, and natural histories were written, through the shared experi-
ences, discoveries and borrowings of a number of experts and observers
(see Meredith 2009).
To a certain extent, Crèvecoeur anticipated this networked rebuttal
of Buffon’s theories in his Letters and Sketches. In these earlier texts,
­Crèvecoeur uses the lived experience and discoveries of a number of
credi­ble sources, the colonial farmer, a Russian traveller, a Scottish
settler, and fictionalised exchanges with John Bartram, for example,
to counter the theories of the sedentary European naturalist. He goes
so far as to offer an ironic compliment to Buffon in “Ant-Hill town”,
a letter more often re-printed as part of Crèvecoeur’s Sketches of
­Eighteenth-Century Life. The narrator is a self-styled “simple” farmer,
and in a self-­deprecating tone he states: “How sorry [I am] that I never
have read Buffon! I could have explained myself technically, whereas
I am now speaking to you in the language of a schoolboy who possesses
as yet nothing of knowledge beside curiosity” (Crèvecoeur 1986, 248).
Since the Letters and Sketches are predicated on the value of curiosity,
experience and discovery in the production of new natural knowledge,
this compliment only serves to present Buffon’s work, in part at least,
as theoretical posturing. In Letters and Sketches, the farmer’s voice is,
more often than not, the credible and authentic source of valuable in-
formation. At a very early stage in the Journey, a comparable scene of
ironic self-deprecation is noted in relation to the “great grottoes filled
with concretions and stalactites” (25). The settler in this case bemoans
the fact that “we are still too young a nation to have among us miner-
alogists and lovers of natural history”, who could analyse these sites of
natural beauty (25). A little later in their travels, Buffon is referred to as
the “outstanding painter of nature”, (84) who brings consolation to a
“young misanthrope”, (85) and prompts him to make some “interesting
experiments on the transpiration of leaves and the grafting of trees” (84).
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  57
The experience of nature through language and through empirical en-
quiry sit side by side, and while Buffon provides an emotional experience
of nature which the young man relies upon to overcome personal, social
and political disappointments, the narrative also endorses the value of
the curious and educated amateur in the field.
One of Crèvecoeur’s key concerns, and one which dominates his
­L etters and Journey, is the attention that he pays to the curious ob-
server: the farmer, the traveller, the settler and the North America
­naturalist, for example. Natural history narratives were often tethered
to narratives of national identity and to hierarchies of epistemological
control, whereby the metropolitan scientist validated or explained the
raw materials found by the rural fieldworker. Through repeated and
elaborate recourse to a large number of curious observers, fieldworkers
or intermediaries, Crèvecoeur’s Journey cuts through these geo-political
paradigms and centralised metropolitan strategies of scientific authority,
offering instead an epistemological model predicated on an intercon-
nected network of credible experts from around the Atlantic world.

The Go-Between
The binary model of the metropolitan European expert who processes
and validates the raw materials found by the native or colonial field-
worker, has been challenged, quite comprehensively by, for example,
Susan Scott Parrish and Ralph Bauer. Parrish and Bauer undercut the
dominance of Eurocentric, binary models of “scientific history”, by un-
covering networks of knowledge exchange within colonial, native, and
creole communities, which are themselves part of a wider circum-­Atlantic
network of exchange (Bauer 2003, Parrish 2006). In addition to Parrish
and Bauer, James Delbourgo, and others, have further challenged this
oppositional model by developing a more effective understanding of the
authority and expertise of the go-between – the intermediary figure who
translates language or knowledge for the benefit of sedentary E ­ uropean
audiences (see Schaffer et al. 2009). No longer the so-called transparent
medium through which natural knowledge travels unaffected, the iden-
tities and the roles of go-betweens have been re-­examined to consider
the ways in which local circumstances, the cultural and political dif-
ferences of creole voices, as well as competing spiritual belief systems,
from ­Native American and African communities in particular, have
impacted on the development and transmission of natural knowledge
in the long-­eighteenth century. In both cases, by locating networks,
and by re-­examining the role and circumstances of individual inter­
mediaries, the current trend in the field of colonial ­science is to consider
a ­network-model of natural knowledge production, whereby ideas, ob-
jects and knowledge are transmitted across cultures, rather than fed into
a European hierarchy for verification.
58  Kathryn N. Gray
In their introduction to The Brokered World: Go-Betweens and
Global Intelligence, 1770–1820, Simon Schaffer, Lissa Roberts, ­Kapil
Raj and James Delbourgo, note the changing definition of the term,
“go-between”. Originally the term denoted a matchmaker, someone in-
volved in the mediation of personal relationships, and was fictionalised
widely in medieval and Romance literature. From Burke’s foray into the
debate, noting the world was “governed by go-betweens,” the term came
to denote political or mercantile mediators or agents, implying a less than
reliable witness to or narrator of events (Schaffer et al. 2009: ix, xvi).
More precisely, in the context of the development of natural knowledge
in global contexts, the Editors stress their own definition of the term as
someone distinct from the traveller or transient observer; the go-between
is someone who makes and changes the contents of and the paths to
knowledge, setting boundaries and negotiating cross-culturally (xi). The
go-between is “someone who articulates relationships between disparate
worlds or cultures by being able to translate between them” (xiv).
Crèvecoeur recreates the go-betweens of natural knowledge in Jour-
ney in this way, the individuals that the narrator and his travelling com-
panion encounter are provided with secure backstories, attesting to their
veracity and reliability. But, it is crucial to note that Crèvecoeur too
embodied this “go-between” or intermediary status, demonstrating his
ability to negotiate cross-culturally. Crèvecoeur was born in France, he
was educated in England, and in early adulthood he became a carto­
grapher in the French colonial army, working under Montcalm and wit-
nessing the infamous massacre at Fort William Henry. Following his
departure from the French colonial army, he became a rural farmer in
New York, married a British colonial subject and became a citizen of
British colonial America, only to be accused of being a spy, and enduring
a period of self-imposed exile in France during the Revolutionary years.
In his later years, he became a consular official in the new United States
for the French government and he also claimed to be an adopted member
on the Oneida.6 Through his life and career as a cartographer, a farmer,
a transatlantic trader and a consular official, he developed first-hand ex-
perience of the natural environment of North America, as well as a keen
understanding of the political forces at work in North America and in
the Atlantic world. Recent scholarship has questioned Crèvecoeur’s com-
plicated political allegiances, offering a number of frameworks through
which his often mysterious and complex public personas and public re-
lationships might be explained. Grantland S. Rice notes Crèvecoeur’s
propensity to adopt different surnames as the occasion necessitated,
suggesting, “Crèvecoeur’s life is often wholly characterized by his skill
at adapting (often simultaneously) to opposing religious, philosophical,
political, and national groupings” (Rice 108). Further, in his analysis of
the legal subject in Crèvecoeur’s Letters, David J. Carlson articulates a
“persistent pattern of ideological fissuring” in Farmer James’s “love of
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  59
“constitutional” law and loathing of the legal system,” concluding both
James’s and Crèvecoeur’s ambivalence toward “a society simultaneously
built on and divided by individualism” (Carlson 274). While Carlson’s
analysis does not go so far as to articulate James or Crèvecoeur as an
intermediary in this argument, it does demonstrate Crèvecoeur’s implied
in-betweenness and his attempts to work through and negotiate spe-
cific and divisive legal and political debates of Revolutionary ­A merica.
As well, Crèvecoeur’s loyalist sympathies in Revolutionary America are
accounted for by Myra Jehlen (1979), Edward Larkin (2006/7), Bryce
­Traister (2002) and James P. Myers Jr. (2014), for example. This ideologi­
cal and political focus notes his attempts to negotiate and bridge British,
American and French allegiances, and speculates on the extent of his
role as a spy during America’s revolutionary years.7
Crèvecoeur was a mediator and a translator, across cultures and lan-
guages, embodying the characteristics of the go-between, through self-­
representation in his published work, through his political friendships
and allegiances in the Atlantic world, and, finally, through his military
experience and his expert knowledge of the natural world. His foray
into espionage usefully serves as a cautionary reminder about the po-
tential duplicitousness of the go-between, reinforcing the significance of
­Crèvecoeur’s strategies to ensure the credibility and veracity of his own
fictional go-betweens as they describe the natural and social worlds of the
early United States. In Describing Early America, one of the first signi­
ficant contributions to this field of scholarship which acknowledged the
productive interactions between natural history writing and the literature
of place, Pamela Regis notes that the ending of Letters, where Farmer
James retreats to the wilderness with his family to live in a Native village,
is a sign of the narrator’s inability to choose between the loyalists and the
rebels, suggesting that James’s only option is to choose an affiliation or
identity between a number of “others”: “… neither James nor C ­ rèvecoeur
is a postrevolutionary American. They both become Other”, (Regis
124–125, 135) offering a different cautionary tale about the vulnerability
of the go-between and his or her potential effacement in the larger national
narratives of the Atlantic world in the long eighteenth century.
The remainder of this chapter will focus on the representation of
go-betweens in Journey, and the ways in which Crèvecoeur dramatises
the credibility and authority of intermediary figures in the production of
New World natural knowledge.

Journey into Northern Pennsylvania and the

State of New York
The structure of the fictional travelogue establishes the trans-national
imperatives of the text: the travellers are European, the text is found in
Europe, but its subject matter concerns the natural environments and
60  Kathryn N. Gray
social realities of post-Revolutionary America. The narrative pictures
a “happy blend” of immigrants from across Europe “forming a new
nation” (48) and Crèvecoeur uses these different immigrant experi-
ences to plot a networked and collective account of post-Revolutionary
­A merica. The travelogue is a series of embedded stories, sometimes fil-
tered through a number of narrative voices, which are linked collectively
to confirm the interconnectedness of the United States with the rest of
the Atlantic world. The deliberate use of distinct nationalities for each
narrative interlocutor is testament to Crèvecoeur’s desire to pick apart
oppositional approaches to epistemological control: the European intel-
lectual does not sit in judgement of the colonist or the new citizens of the
United States, but, by the same token, the American does not dismiss the
methods and taxonomies of the learned in Europe.
The example of Colonel Goldsworthy is a case in point. He is de-
scribed as being:

fond of fishing, natural history and botany: his imagination, rich

in riotous colours and paints charming perspectives. In this, he
differs greatly from so many other people, who in considering
the events and the germs of explosion recounted in gazettes from
Europe, would like to chain their imagination, as if it were a
redoubtable enemy, because it anticipates all evils and prevents
none. (308)

Goldsworthy is a European, a man who refuses to return to Europe for

political reasons, or “threatening storms” as they are obliquely referred
to, and he counters anxieties about the effects of the climate in the New
World as they are cast in the press in Europe, revealing his own know­
ledge of nature in a more positive light:

the sight of a stream flowing and meandering under the mysterious

shadow of older trees and leaning maples absorbs his mind, often
whole hours: the murmur and motion of their clear waves through
the roots of the trees which they refresh in their course, the passage
of the leaves and debris that they drag down, the fluttering, ephem-
eral groups whose existence lasts only from dawn til dusk, the moist
herbs whose slow and gracious undulations recall the moments of
sensitivity; all these objects are for him a fertile source of dreams
and thoughts. (309)

In this description, Romantic sensibilities are mixed with strategies of

credibility more common to natural history narratives. Only by situating
himself in the landscape of North America can the environment be accu-
rately described and accounted for, but this is only the tip of the iceberg
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  61
in Crèvecoeur’s strategy of defining the expertise of the colonial natu-
ralist. This story is told by Mr E., a colonist of some years and stand-
ing from London, an advocate of book learning, as well as an observer
and recorder of nature. He is an English, metropolitan scholar lending
his weight to the authenticity and credibility of the “amateur” observer/
eye-witness. Another layer of credibility is the fictional editor’s endnote
which refers to John Bartram’s work on flies. John Bartram describes the
life cycle of the flies:

At the approach of twilight, one sees them flutter about in great

swarms, like clouds hovering above, as they gradually approach the
river, little by little, they come down toward the surface of the water,
deposit their eggs there and end their lives. (408)

The same event is focalised through different perspectives: Bartram is

the most noted and most significant botanist in North America, whose
authority on North American plants and species is unrivalled, and his
experience and authority sits alongside the London scholar, Mr E., and
the amateur botanist, Goldsworthy. Natural knowledge is produced
through the interconnection of experience and expertise, and values the
methods and practices of the European metropolitan scholar alongside
the colonial scientist and amateur botanist.
In other examples, and in contrast to this, we hear colonists bemoan
the lack of equipment, specifically, laboratories, telescopes and micro-
scopes; we also hear travellers talk of the need for the learned in Europe,
especially those who understand the ancient civilisations of Greece and
Egypt, to provide explanations for the ancient native ­A merican “pyr-
amids”, burial grounds, and in one case, an amphitheatre. European
experts do have something to contribute to an understanding of the
new world, but in partnership with the colonists, travellers, observers,
botanists, natural historians and Native Americans. This partnership
is neatly conceptualised in Crèvecoeur’s creation of the “Scottish-­
Winnebago”: a Scot who was adopted by a Native American tribe and
has become fully embedded in Native life and culture, rising to a po-
sition of leadership in the tribe over the course of several years. The
arrival of his son brings back to him the value of European modes of
learning and he states:

since the time when the conversation of learned persons and reading
of books reawakened me, and freed me from a nonthinking state,
from that drowsiness of mind in which I had vegetated for so long,
I feel like a man who sees his friends and the light of day again after
a long lethargy. What events have taken place since 1755, the time
of my departure from Scotland! (313)
62  Kathryn N. Gray
Noting the implicit racial and cultural hierarchies of the text, he wakes
from an induced state of lethargy only to embrace western civilisation.
But, he also offers a more considered account of the ways and customs
of Native American life: he considers the reasons why indigenous peo-
ple hunt rather than become sedentary farmers, making a point about
Native masculinity and status, and further comments on the superior
character of Native American tribes in contrast to the “common herd of
Europeans” and the baseness and vice to be found in frontier commu-
nities (316).
Of course, this is a rather romantic gesture on Crèvecoeur’s part about
Native nobility, but Crèvecoeur’s decision to construct knowledge of
­Native tribes through a very specifically defined expert who has been
removed from books, from western thought, and has been immersed for
some years in Native traditions is a significant feature of his epistemo-
logical model. In Crèvecoeur’s rhetoric of knowledge construction, the
expert is an intermediary figure whose credibility rests on his ability to
appreciate different epistemological forms:

it is neither in books nor in the midst of society so ancient in or-

igin that one can know man as he was when he sprang from the
hands of nature. In books, it happens that truth is often sacrificed
for ­theories, or else authors did not have enough experience to see
things clearly. (320)

Two forms of knowledge construction, experience and book learning,

are balanced in the Scottish-Winnebago’s mind. In short, epistemologi­
cal control is not tethered to European or to Native sources alone, but
the two are used together to develop a strategy of credibility.
Crèvecoeur continues to assess the Native experience when he relates
a Cherokee myth, and the story of the Manitou, a god-like creator, to re-
veal a narrative of the mammoth. Initially, Crèvecoeur allows the myth
of the mammoth to exist within the context of Native belief-systems
and, disguised as a buffalo, we hear the words of the Manitou in dia-
logue with another trans-Alleghanian buffalo:

we live in peace and harmony among ourselves but this ­Mammoth who
swoops down from the mountains onto the plains ­uprooting the trees,
forever pursuing and devouring us! Why did Agan-Kitchee-Manitou
give life to such a monster?
(Manitou in disguise) Because, your people would have multiplied
so in this fair land that they would have died of hunger. He has done
what he could to please everyone, but that was impossible. Some day
Manitou will strike his forked thunder between the horns of this
Mammoth and pfft! – his bones will then be but a source of aston-
ishment to posterity. (222–223)
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  63
The mammoth was an important point of debate in the Atlantic world
because the discovery of its remains in the North American continent
threw into confusion the theory of degeneracy as it showed that America
had been home to significantly larger animals than Europeans perceived.
Jefferson was for a long time convinced that he would find the creature
alive and well in the colder climes of North America. Charles Wilson
Peale also set much store by the existence of these huge, imposing mon-
sters which once roamed the New World landscape and exhibited the rel-
ics as antique wonders, attaching an historical trajectory onto a relatively
new and unknown territory (see Brigham, Ward, Looby). However, the
inclusion of the mammoth in the Journey is about Atlantic politics,
which Crèvecoeur indicates in the endnotes, when he mentions that

[T]hese remains bear witness to the fact that this animal must have
been superior to the elephant, and reasonably the largest animal to
have existed on earth … In Philadelphia I have seen one of these
thigh bones weighing seventy-eight pounds. The tusks were one foot
long; the molars five inches wide and eight inches long. (309)

Buffon is already referenced in an earlier endnote in Crèvecoeur’s chap-

ter, his work helping to confirm the size and status of the bison. How-
ever, in relation to the mammoth, Crèvecoeur refers to Peale’s museum,
locating the credibility of North American natural knowledge by way of
Philadelphia, the philosophical and intellectual hub of the United States
in the late eighteenth century. In this part of the narrative the mammoth
is presented in two key ways: initially, the narrative of the mammoth’s
physical presence and threatening existences is told through the oral sto-
rytelling tradition of the Cherokee. This is followed by an account of the
relics in Peale’s displays in the State House in Pennsylvania; it is worth
noting that Peale’s museum was the first of its kind in North A ­ merica
to adopt Linnaean taxonomies in the arrangement of its exhibits. In
this instance, natural historical knowledge emerges from two distinct
discourses: Native oral traditions are presented together with material,
empirical evidence, each offering an explanation of this natural wonder.
The narrator becomes the go-between, establishing a pathway of under-
standing between the Native stories, which offer unique access to dra-
matic stories of the animal’s predatory instincts and behaviours, and the
precise details of the weight and measurement of the natural artefact,
which might be analysed by naturalists in a metropolitan centre.
The second traveller’s fascination with astronomy also helps articulate
the epistemological mediations of the natural world that operate in the
text. Initially, Herman notes:

The idea of great distance, of remoteness, of immensity, exalts my

feeble faculties and gives wings to my thoughts. That is why, of all
64  Kathryn N. Gray
the planets, it is Herschell’s, accompanied by his numerous cohorts
of satellites toward which I have most often turned my telescope.
Who would have predicted, several centuries ago, that with the aid
of the marvelous instrument, human intelligence could carry its eye
to the remotest part of our universe? (102)

Firmly located in contemporary astronomical science, Herman and his

companion fully appreciate the importance of Rittenhouse’s “master-
piece”, “a machine that reproduces with great exactitude the movements
of the heavenly bodies, their eclipses, their oppositions, as well as all the
astronomical phenomena that modern scientists have discovered” (142).
They travel to Princeton to view the machine, and while the travellers
offer no comment on Rittenhouse’s invention, the narrator goes so far
as to quote Jefferson’s unrestrained praise for this key marker of the
achievements of colonial science:

This machine … we call the Orrery is perhaps the finest piece of ap-
paratus that was ever made by man. Rittenhouse did not create the
world, but through powers of imitation, he has approached nearer
the great Creator than any man who ever existed. (142)

If we follow Jefferson’s logic, American scientists are leaders in the field

of astronomy, outdoing their European counterparts; Jefferson’s logic
suggests a binary model of opposition between America and Europe,
even if it is not stated outright. The travellers, however, look to Hershel,
the German/British scientists, and to Rittenhouse, to help formulate
their astronomical knowledge, acknowledging an epistemological model
of knowledge construction that depends on the ways in which natural
knowledge and scientific developments are transmitted and circulated
around the Atlantic. But Crèvecoeur cannot resist another cultural
crossing, and in his iteration of the “Cherokee Traditions”, a Native re-
sponse to astronomical phenomena is given priority:

In the silence of the night, haven’t you ever watched the glory
of the heaven, and the twinkling stars which brighten and give
life to ­t housands of worlds just like this one, which, although
­invisible to our eyes, move about through space? … Without me
(Agan-Kitchee-Manitou), the order on which the very existence of the
universe depends, the stability of its intricate counterbalances would
soon be upset. Long since the light of the sun and moon would have
been extinguished and matter would have returned to the chaos of the
void and of eternal darkness whence I freed it many moons ago. (232)

The fictional recreation of Native stories, as noted in both examples

above, asks the reader to recognise the value of this unique access to
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  65
dramatic narratives of the past. It is a stretch to suggest that Crèvecoeur
presents accurate transcriptions of Cherokee creation myths, but his
strategy of adopting these narratives offers access to a dramatic encoun-
ter with nature that sits alongside scientific models of interpretation.
The go-between status of the travellers, as they mediate these two epis-
temological strands of the narrative, helps secure Crèvecoeur’s fictional
recreation of the networked nature of natural knowledge production in
the Atlantic world.

Crèvecoeur distinguishes himself from his contemporaries because he
challenges preconceived notions about the relationship between the cen-
tre and the periphery, and about the identities of credible go-betweens.
In his discussion of Edward Bancroft, James Delbourgo examines the
dramatisation of Bancroft’s experiences as a go-between in the episto-
lary novel, The History of Charles Wentworth (1770). Delbourgo notes
that “Bancroft was an expert shape-shifter who not only lived as a
go-between but also dramatized and theorised the act of going between,
personally and philosophically” (Delbourgo 318). Bancroft is an inter-
esting precursor to Crèvecoeur, and one not previously noted in studies
of Crèvecoeur’s work, but the comparison is revealing. Delbourgo notes
very specific contrasts between the reputation of the metropolitan hero
and imperial creoles, specifically Bancroft’s reliance on the credibility
of the metropolitan hero/traveller who acts as an effective go-between,
and the inadequacy of the creole who was “simply too limited to capture
the multiplicity of itineraries, allegiances and practices pursued by many
traffickers who navigate extended geographies of scientific and political
activity” (Delbourgo 317). He also notes the tendency to dismiss N ­ ative
Americans as lacking the “skill of the go-between to bridge cultural
difference” (284). Delbourgo’s analysis records Bancroft’s reliance on
stable metropolitan identities as conduits of knowledge, as well as the
mutually reinforcing nature of political and scientific networks in the co-
lonial Atlantic world (288). Taken collectively, the many different char-
acters which the narrator and Herman meet in Crèvecoeur’s Journey are
conduits of local knowledge, who share their knowledge across colonial
borders and across the Atlantic, participating in the construction of nat-
ural knowledge in a horizontal system of exchange. Further, through the
narrative voices in Letters and in Journey, in addition to the presence of
many European correspondents, intermediaries and experts, Crèvecoeur
engages with scholarly debates about credibility and expertise, which
dominated eighteenth-century natural history writing.
By articulating the multi-centred and trans-national model of scientific
debate between America and Europe as it is represented in the fiction-
alised travelogue, Journey, Crèvecoeur demonstrates his resistance to the
66  Kathryn N. Gray
binary model of discrete nationalistic scientific discourse articulated by
his contemporaries, Buffon and Jefferson. In Journey, Crèvecoeur uses
the itinerant traveller to describe the natural phenomena of North America,
but, in the guise of the go-between, the traveller is also used to undermine
prevailing, binary models of natural knowledge production, as he medi-
ates across epistemological paradigms, cultures and attendant political

1 Crèvecoeur, Journey into Northern Pennsylvania and The State of
New York, 379. All quotations are taken from this edition.
2 For a broader critique and introduction to environmental perspectives in
American literature, see: Buell (1995), Murphy (1998), Sweet (2001) and
Sivils (2014).
3 The text was originally published in French at the turn of the nineteenth cen-
tury, Voyages dans la Haute Pensylvanie et dans l’Etat de New York (Paris:
Chez Maradan, 1801), and the full text was translated relatively recently,
1964, by Clarissa Spencer Bostlemann. Like James P. Myers Jr. (2014),
I have chosen to use this translated version to bring this largely neglected
text into conversation with other aspects of Crèvecoeur scholarship in the
Anglo-Atlantic tradition.
4 For a recent account of the impact of American environmental literature in
Britain specifically see: Jarvis (2012). More specifically, in relation to the
experience of Niagara in literature of the period, see: Matthews (2011) and
Hutchings (2011).
5 For authoritative accounts of the debate, see: Gerbi (1973) and Cañizares-
Esguerra (2001).
6 For a comprehensive account of Crèvecoeur’s life, see: Allen and Asselineau
7 Recently, Christopher Iannini has also noted the significance of the itinerant
traveller in Crèvecoeur’s work, offering an account of the ways in which
the traveller articulated Crèvecoeur’s antagonistic response to the discrete
nationalist aesthetics of the late eighteenth century Atlantic world (Iannini
2012: 131–176).

Works Cited
Allen, Gay Wilson and Roger Asselineau. St John de Crèvecoeur: The Life of an
American Farmer. New York: Viking Press, 1987.
Bauer, Ralph. The Cultural Geography of Colonial American Literatures: Em-
pire, Travel, Modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Brigham, David R. Public Culture in the Early Republic: Peale’s Museum and
Its Audience. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1995.
Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature W ­ riting,
and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard [­ Belknap]
University Press, 1995.
Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc de. Buffon’s Natural History (London, 1797), 27.
Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, II, JISC Historical Texts. Accessed
online at: https://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk, 5 February 2015.
“Humble Auxiliaries to Nature”  67
Cañisares-Esguerra, Jorge. How to Write the History of the New World.
­Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.
Carlson, David J. “Farmer versus Lawyer: Crèvecoeur’s Letters and the Liberal
Subject”, Early American Literature, 38.2 (2003): 257–279. Print.
Cowie, Helen and Kathryn Gray, “Nature, Nation and Nostalgia: ­Narratives
of Natural History in “Nature, Nation and Nostalgia: Narratives of
­Natural History in Spanish and British America (1750–1800)”, Journal for
­Eighteenth-Century Studies 36.4 (2013): 545–558.
Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St John de. “Ant-Hill Town”, in Albert Stone ed., Letters
from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America.
London: Penguin Books, 1986.
———. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century
America. Ed. Albert E. Stone. London: Penguin Books, 1986.
Crèvecoeur, Michel-Guillaume St John de. Journey into Northern Pennsylvania
and The State of New York. trans. Clarissa Spencer Bostlemann. Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 1964.
Delbourgo, James. “Fugitive Colours: Shamans’ Knowledge, Chemical Empire and
Atlantic Revolutions”. The Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intel-
ligence, 1770–1820. Ed. Simon Schaffer, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj and James
­Delbourgo. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2009. 271–320.
Gerbi, Antonello. The Dispute of the New World. Pittsburgh, PA: University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1973.
Hutchings, Kevin. “Romantic Niagara: Environmental Aesthetics, Indigenous
Culture and Transatlantic Tourism, 1794–1850”. Transatlantic Literary Ex-
changes, 1790–1870: Gender, Race and Nation. Ed. Kevin Hutchings and
Julia M. Wright. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. 153–168. Print.
Iannini, Christopher P. ““The Itinerant Man”: Caribbean, Raynal’s Revolution,
and the Fate of Atlantic Cosmopolitanism”, in Fatal Revolutions: Natural
History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. 131–176. Print.
Jarvis, Robin. Romantic Readers and Transatlantic Travel: Expeditions and
Tours in North American, 1760–1840. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), (Philadelphia, 1794),
68–70. Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, II, JISC Historical Texts.
Accessed online at: https://historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk, 5 February 2015.
Jehlen, Myra. “J. Hector St. John Crèvecoeur: A Monarcho-Anarchist in Revo-
lutionary America”, American Quarterly 31 (1979): 204–222. Print.
Larkin, Edward. “The Cosmopolitan Revolution: Loyalism and the Fiction of an
American Nation”, NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 40.1/2 (2006/7): 52–76. Print.
Lawrence, D.H. Studies in Classic American Literature (1923). Accessed on-
line at: libraryhttp://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/LAWRENCE/dhlch03.htm,
5 February 2015.
Looby, Christopher. “The Constitution of Nature: Taxonomy as Politics in
­Jefferson, Peale, and Bartram”, Early American Literature 22.3 (1987):
252–273. Print.
Matthews, Charity. “Romantic Aesthetics, Gender, and Transatlantic Travel in
Anna Brownell Jameson’s Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada”.
Transatlantic Literary Exchanges, 1790–1870: Gender, Race and Nation. Ed.
Kevin Hutchings and Julia M. Wright. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. 39–59. Print.
68  Kathryn N. Gray
Meredith, Margaret. “Friendship and Knowledge: Correspondence and Com-
munication in Northern Trans-Atlantic Natrual History, 1780–1815”. The
Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770–1820. Ed.
Simon Schaffer, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj and James Delbourgo. Sagamore
Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2009. 151–191.
Murphy, Patrick D. ed, Literature of Nature: An International Sourcebook.
Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998.
Myers Jr., James P. “Crèvecoeur: Concealing and Revealing the Secret Self”,
Early American Literature, 49.2 (2014): 357–401. Print.
Pagden, Anthony. European Encounters with the New World: From Renais-
sance to Romanticism. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1993.
Parrish, Susan Scott. American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the
Colonial British Atlantic World. Williamsburg, NC: North Carolina Univer-
sity Press, 2006.
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation.
­London: Routledge, 1992.
Regis, Pamela. Describing Early America: Bartram, Jefferson, Crevècoeur, and
the Influence of Natural History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1999.
Rice, Grantland S. “Crèvecoeur and the Politics of Authorship in Republican
America”, Early American Literature 28.2 (1993): 91–119. Print.
Schaffer, Simon, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj and James Delbourgo, Ed. The ­Brokered
World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770–1820. S­ agamore Beach,
MA: Science History Publications, 2009.
Sivils, Matthew Wynn. American Environmental Fiction, 1782–1847. ­Farnham:
Ashgate, 2014.
Sweet, Timothy. American Georgics: Economy and Environment in American
Literature, 1580–1864. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press,
Traister, Bryce. “Criminal Correspondence: Loyalism, Espionage and ­Crevècoeur”,
Early American Literature, 37.4 (2002): 469–496. Print.
Ward, David C., Charles Willson Peale: Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
4 Writing Pocahontas
Romantic Women Writers
and the Transatlantic
Rescuing Indian Maiden1
Melissa Adams-Campbell

As a historical personage and U.S. national symbol, Pocahontas has

received considerable attention by historians, cultural studies ­scholars,
and, more recently, Mattaponi peoples with their own histories to tell. 2
These important studies offer compelling accounts of Pocahontas as
a mythic figure in the U.S. national imaginary. Because ­Pocahontas
or her generic type, the rescuing Indian maiden, generally works for
the good of the nascent colony, she is often represented in U.S. lit-
erature as both a racial other and saviour or guardian of the future
nation, working toward its ultimate good (Tilton 54). However, this
nation-based perspective does not explain how and why Romantic-era
women writers in Britain and the U.S. drew upon the Pocahontas story.
This chapter argues that authors such as U.S. novelist Hannah Webster
Foster in The Boarding School (1798), British Romantic novelist and
essayist Mary Hays in Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious
and ­C elebrated Women of All Ages and Countries (1803), Victorian
poet Felicia Hemans in Records of Woman (1828), U.S. poet Lydia
­Sigourney in P ­ ocahontas and Other Poems (1841), and U.S. novelist
Catharine ­S edgwick in Hope ­L eslie (1827), represent Pocahontas or
her generic type, the rescuing ­I ndian maiden, as a means of expanding
women’s political identities. 3 For these writers, Pocahontas is not only a
national symbol, but a p ­ roto-feminist one as well. Thus, in her specific
or ­generic form the rescuing Indian maiden is frequently attached to
projects that advance the recognition of women’s political agency and
historical significance.
While most of these writers seek to celebrate what they understand to
be the rescuing Indian maiden’s admirable courage in offering assistance
to others, they overemphasise individual “will” and ignore the violence
and coercion Native women experienced in relation to settler colonials,
for instance, by favouring Pocahontas’s agential role in John Smith’s
rescue over Pocahontas’s own experience as a captive at Jamestown.
Moreover, Romantic women writers frequently oversimplify ­Native
women’s tribally specific political agency by circumscribing it within a
supposedly universal nineteenth-century form of Womanhood, as if all
women share the same feminine attributes. Most of these writers either
70  Melissa Adams-Campbell
disregard or simply cannot imagine Pocahontas’s distinct indigeneity or
any plausible indigenous motives for her “rescuing” behaviour. In her
biography of Pocahontas, for instance, Native American scholar Paula
Gunn Allen challenges traditional interpretations of Pocahontas as en-
amoured with white settlers, an interpretation that renders her essen-
tially a traitor to her people, arguing instead that Pocahontas possessed
a heretofore unrecognised Native agency, possibly serving as a medicine
woman or even a spy for her nation (Allen 133). Gunn Allen’s portrait
reclaims ­Pocahontas for Native people, a stark contrast to the “univer-
sal” woman she becomes in the hands of Foster, Hays, and others.
Although their representations of Native women are certainly limited
and stereotypical, the transatlantic women authors addressed here ex-
press an interest in envisioning colonial-era Native women’s lives and
their literary-historical efforts deserve further attention. Not strictly
histo­riography, I call this mode of writing literary-historical for the
way that it imaginatively reconstructs an individual Native woman’s life
and folds these stories into an expanding conception of women’s politi­
cal engagement. Thus, reframing the rescuing Indian maiden within a
transatlantic context enables a significant new view of the cultural work
that this iconic figure performs in relation to nineteenth-century Anglo/
American women’s political identities.
Born sometime in 1595–1596, Pocahontas was also known at
­various times in her life as Matoaks, Amonute, and Rebecca Rolfe.
The daughter of Powhatan, the leader of a confederacy of Algonquin
Indians in the Virginia Tidewater region, Pocahontas (a nickname
translated as “little wanton”) was described as a playful girl, doing
occasional cartwheels in Jamestown (Strachey 72). Most famous for
her supposed rescue of Captain John Smith during his six-week capti­
vity by the Powhatan Confederacy in 1607, she also fed the starving
English colonists on more than one occasion. She was later taken cap-
tive by Captain Samuel Argall and held for ransom in Jamestown in
1613, where she was baptised and given the Christian name, R ­ ebecca,
in 1613 or early 1614, married John Rolfe in 1614, and had a son,
Thomas, the next year. From 1616–1617 Pocahontas travelled to
­England with her new family and was introduced at court. She died
at Gravesend, England in 1617. What little information we have about
her comes from a few period sources including John Smith’s A True
­Relation (1608) and his General History of Virginia (1624) among
others. By far, though, Pocahontas’s famous rescue of Smith has re-
ceived the most popular celebration and scholarly scrutiny.4 According
to Smith’s General History:

two great stones were brought before Powhatan: then as many as

could layd hands on [Smith], dragged him to them, and thereon laid
his head, and being ready for their clubs, to beate out his braines,
Writing Pocahontas  71
Pocahontas the King’s dearest daughter, when no intreaty could pre-
vaile, got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save
him from death. (151)

This chapter does not attempt to treat the historical personage,

­ ocahontas, nor to evaluate the historical accuracy of Anglophone
­Romantic women writers’ depictions of Pocahontas. On the whole,
these writers are committed less to historical accuracy than interested
in generating (often through literary fantasy) a generic women’s politi­
cal identity, the model self-sacrificing Woman, with their inclusion of
­Pocahontas-like characters.
By the time of the American Revolution, Pocahontas was already a
popular historical personage with an extensive bibliography connecting
her to American colonial success; but, in the aftermath of the revo-
lution she and her generic type, the rescuing Indian maiden, became
attached to a new transatlantic project of expanding representations of
women’s political engagement in a number of literary-historical forms.
Seeking to correct what Jane Austen’s heroine, Catherine Moreland,
calls the “tiresome” histories of “the quarrels of popes and kings, with
wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing,
and hardly any women at all,” these writers begin the work of telling
women’s stories using a combination of literary and historical forms
(Austen 84). As Mark Salber Phillips argues, this combination of forms
was happening more widely in British historiography as historians in
the Enlightenment and Romantic periods experimented with the tech-
niques of the emerging novel genre, expanding the traditional content
and forms of historiography (103–130). In addition to the previously
dominant focus on ruling (usually male) elites, historians in this period
of innovation concentrated new attention on social life, evolving cus-
toms and manners, and the quotidian experiences of ordinary peoples –
topics that reflect, among other things, the influence of the novel and
women’s roles in shaping society. Phillips groups these trends around
two central concerns: ­society – by which he means a focus on differ-
ences in customs and manners across various historical periods, social
classes, regions and nations – and ­sentiment – a new investment in
feeling and psychological interiority, located in many forms of writing
in this period, especially the novel. The figure of the rescuing Indian
maiden combines these two trends by communicating both cultural/
racial differences (customs and manners) and the seeming shared senti-
ments evident in her supposed ability to sympathise with and properly
value English life.
While historians in this period transitioned toward more social and
sentimental observations of ordinary life, women writers increasingly
contributed to an expanding body of literary-historical writing with
conversion narratives, local colour stories, secret histories, family
72  Melissa Adams-Campbell
memoirs, textbooks, advice books, essays, editorials and a whole range
of imaginative literature. However, as Devoney Looser notes, this writ-
ing was not always woman-centred or “herstorical”; similarly, Miriam
Burnstein argues that contrary to popular belief – women are largely ab-
sent from history in this period – British writers of both sexes suggested
that women meaningfully contributed to a sense of British cultural life,
progress, civilisation, and national identity by emphasising women’s
ability to shape manners and tastes and raise productive children for
the nation.5 Eve Tavor Bannet demonstrates how many proto-feminist
British women writers of the eighteenth century leveraged these claims
for women’s influence on domestic manners and, thus, the nation into a
new political identity specifically grounded in domesticity.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Nina Baym similarly observes that
women’s historical writing (she includes imaginative literature with a
historical focus in her study) aimed to upset the boundaries of women’s
participation in the public and private spheres: “they were claiming on
behalf of all women the rights to know and opine on the world outside
the home, as well as to circulate their knowledge and opinions among
the public … [their work] contributed to the vital intellectual tasks of
forging and publicizing national identity by placing the new nation in
world history and giving it a history of its own” (1). Baym argues that
when representing American Indians, white U.S. women writers – more
often than their male counterparts – turned to the recurring “represen-
tation of Indians … moved to protect, serve, and even respectfully adore
the Anglos whose superiority they intuitively recognize” (159–160). As a
plot device, Baym notes that this pleasing fantasy of Indian recognition
of white superiority accounts for the frequency of Indian assistance to
white captives in American women’s writing.
While Baym’s nation-centred study offers a useful and thorough in-
terpretation of many different genres of U.S. women’s historical writ-
ing, U.S. women were not the only ones writing history; nor were they
the only ones interested in representing American Indian women. How,
then, in the aftermath of the American Revolution did British authors
use Pocahontas and her generic type? Although Tim Fulford does not
specifically address Pocahontas in Romantic Indians, he observes that
in Britain the loss of the American colonies continued to be a source
of embarrassment and regret. In the 1790s, British images of ­A merica,
often symbolically figured as an American Indian, were a source of
radical possibility, revolutionary freedom, and hope, but by the 1820s
­A merican Indians registered nostalgically as a reminder of the costs
of empire (12–40). Kate Flint similarly understands British represen-
tations of American Indians as symbols for America; she notes how
­Britons after the American Revolution characterised Native Americans
as exploited victims of American greed and irresponsibility (111). In her
chapter on nineteenth-century British women authors’ uses of American
Writing Pocahontas  73
Indian characters she traces a shift from the Romantic period’s “politi­
cally evasive categories of compassion and nostalgia” to women writ-
ers’ anger at the U.S.’s “serious failure of responsibility toward” Native
peoples (Flint 108). Flint notes that comparing generally praiseworthy
depictions of Canadian policy toward its First Nations with generally
negative depictions of U.S. mistreatment of American Indians suggests
that these representations demonstrate a significant political investment
in the imperial outpost of Canada over and against the acquisitive greed
and violence evident in the U.S. With their transatlantic lenses, Fulford,
Flint, and more recently, Jace Weaver, enable readers to recognise the
mutual influence that British and American representations of American
Indians had on one another, specifically how this transatlantic literature
“invents”, in Fulford’s phrase, American Indians in the period’s print
culture (12–13).
Romantic period depictions of rescuing Indian maidens capture
­nineteenth-century readers’ imaginations with possibilities of interracial
romance and brave, if tragic, feminine self-sacrifice. For instance, in her
novel The Boarding School: or, Lessons of a Preceptress to her Pupils
(1790), U.S. novelist and educator Hannah Webster Foster (1758–1840)
focuses on women readers’ investments in colonial American history by
having a recent female boarding school graduate describe her sensations
on reading the Pocahontas–Smith rescue in Jeremy Belknap’s influential
American Biographies (1794). Written a year after completing her more
widely-known New England seduction novel, The Coquette, Foster’s
second work combines conduct book moralising and epistolary fiction
as the “preceptress”, Mrs. Maria Williams, exhorts her female students
on proper behaviour and, in the book’s second half, as her students write
letters to Mrs. Williams on the benefits of their education. In one such
letter from Sophia Manchester to her teacher, Sophia recalls reading
Captain Smith’s biography:

While we tremble and recoil at his dreadful situation, when bend-

ing his neck to receive the murderous stroke of death, the na-
tive virtues of our sex suddenly reanimate our frame; and, with
sensations of rapture, we behold compassion, benevolence, and
humanity triumphant even in a savage breast; and conspicu-
ously displayed in the conduct of the amiable, though uncivilized
­Pocahontas! (287)6

While the biography is notably Smith’s, Sophia reads Smith’s story with
a focus on the female agent, Pocahontas.
As a reader of history, Sophia fixates on those twin elements of the pe-
riod’s new historiography – society and sentiment – when she distances
herself from Pocahontas’s “uncivilized” and “savage” manners, while
gravitating toward what she perceives to be their equally shared “native”
74  Melissa Adams-Campbell
female virtues: “compassion, benevolence, and humanity”. This scene
of reading could be interpreted as nationalist – marking out an emer-
gent U.S. history curriculum – yet the focus tends rather toward the
emotional connection Sophia forges with Pocahontas’s supposedly uni-
versal “native virtues of our sex”. In Foster’s repurposing of Belknap’s
text, Pocahontas is not just a saviour of the future U.S., she is a model
Woman. Nina Baym argues that this move to view exemplary women as
Woman is common in women’s history writing:

the habit of extracting women from history to support one or an-

other argument about essential female nature, no matter what the
specific argument might be, has the result, if not of making all
women seem more or less the same, of suggesting that all women
ought to be more or less the same, and, of course, of disqualifying
numerous nominal women from membership in the sex. (221)

Viewing this tendency to universalise Woman from a transatlantic frame-

work, however, we could understand Sophia’s investment in ­Pocahontas
and what she perceives as their shared field of “native” women’s senti-
ments as a particularly early example of an emerging body of women’s
literary-history writing, writing that recognises key women’s political
and historical significance as representative of what is possible. As
­Sophia imagines sharing with Pocahontas the same supposedly innate
female response to Smith’s situation, she casts herself as equally capa-
ble of political participation (Smith’s rescue is certainly a political inter-
vention). However, it is not Belknap who deems Pocahontas historically
worthy. Sophia makes this leap herself as she imagines Pocahontas to be
like herself and worthy of consideration over and above Smith, within
whose biography she is contained. This attention marks Sophia as a new
kind of reader: one invested in and able to recognise women as political
agents worthy of historical attention.7 As Sophia articulates her own
connections to and interpretations of Belknap’s biography, we come
to understand that for Sophia, Pocahontas’s example provides a model
for all women to act in the political realm on the basis of supposedly
shared feminine feeling. This feeling and subsequent action also marks
Pocahontas as a worthy subject for history, an emblematic figure, from
whom other women may learn to act politically when inspired by such
right feeling.
Additionally, Sophia’s explication of the rescue scene in a letter to
her former teacher demonstrates her successful female education on
two fronts: she proves herself a critical reader and interpreter of history
while at the same time proving that she possesses and readily recognises
in ­others her culture’s prescribed feminine sentiments, “compassion,
bene­volence, and humanity”. With the initial educational training pro-
vided by Sophia’s preceptress, Sophia can now independently recognise
Writing Pocahontas  75
and evaluate other women’s political and historical significance. Com-
ing full circle, Sophia’s reading of Belknap models for Foster’s readers
the value of women’s education and with it an expanded political
engagement. The density of associations and values attached to Poca-
hontas in this short scene are available to Sophia, but also to anyone
able to recognise the proper feelings. In this way, Pocahontas is the
specific literary-­h istorical entry point through which Foster grants
women a larger arena for political agency within the established his-
torical canon.
If Pocahontas is traditionally a footnote to Smith’s biography, in 1803
British author Mary Hays (1759–1843) literally makes Smith a foot-
note in Pocahontas’s entry in her Female Biography; or, Memoirs of
Illustrious and Celebrated Women of All Ages and Countries. Hays
was a radical proto-feminist, most known today for her epistolary novel
Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796) and her relationships with con-
temporaries such as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Her
ambitious women’s biographical collection comprises six volumes and
includes entries for 290 women; it took Hays three years to complete.
In her “Preface” Hays claims, “My pen has been taken up in the cause,
and for the benefit of my own sex. For their improvement, and to their
entertainment, my labours have been devoted … I have at heart the hap-
piness of my sex, and their advancement in the grand scale of rational
and social existence.” Moreover, she aims to include, “every woman
who, either by her virtues, her talents, or the peculiarities of her fortune,
has rendered herself illustrious or distinguished” (501). Although her
entry on “Matoaks” relays fairly standard factual information, Hays
uses Pocahontas’s ceremonial name (rather than her better known infor-
mal nickname), and later her adopted Christian name (Rebecca), only
footnoting her more famous nickname “as it appears in Smith’s writ-
ing”. In the entry, Hays notes Pocahontas’s relationship to her father,
Powhatan; uses an indigenous name for Virginia (Attanoughkamouck);
and describes Pocahontas as the preserver of the Virginia colony and
a ­“national benefactress,” before ever mentioning Smith. While some
­period histories sidestep the issue of Pocahontas’s captive status at
the time of her marriage, Hays explicitly calls her a “prisoner” in the
same sentence that she relates her marriage to Virginia colonist John
Rolfe, explicitly drawing attention to the coercion and possible violence
­Matoaks may have faced during her conversion and marriage. Although
the entry ends with problematic assessments of Pocahontas’s exception-
ality from her people – for example, “Her good sense raised her above
her education, and the barbarous customs of her county” – Hays still
offers a departure from the usual accounts of Pocahontas as incidental
to the more histo­rically significant male figure.
When it appeared, Female Biography was the first history of women
since Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies (1405), and the first in English.
76  Melissa Adams-Campbell
The depth of the collection attempts to provide women readers with a
lineage of women intellectuals, spiritual figures, and political leaders
glaringly absent in canonical male-authored histories. And as Gallagher
observes in The Pocahontas Archive, Hays’s work is “perhaps the first of
several books in the mid- to late nineteenth century in which ­Pocahontas
is enshrined in a pantheon of model women”. In this respect, Hays ush-
ered in a wave of women’s histories and biographies specifically aimed
at women readers. Many of these later collections similarly include
­Pocahontas as a significant figure in women’s history as she exemplified
feminine self-sacrifice, courage and political agency. As Hays notes in
her “Preface,”

Women … read not for dry information, to load their memories with
uninteresting facts, or to make a display of vain erudition … they
require pleasure to be mingled with instruction, lively images, the
graces of sentiment, and the polish of language. Their understand-
ings are principally accessible through their affections: they delight
in minute delineations of character. (iii)

Pocahontas’s story is, essentially, the stuff of fiction (or it has been
made so) and, thus, appealed to the new group of Anglophone women
writers conceiving a more emboldened and entertaining women’s
Inspired perhaps by revisionist biographies such as Hays’s, British poet
Felicia Hemans (1793–1835) creates a collection of verse biographies of
both historical and imaginative women’s lives in Records of Woman
(1828). Like much of her other work, Records of Woman focuses on
women’s domestic lives; however, this collection offers a wider canvas
on which to trace historically and culturally diverse representations of
gender.8 As Paula Feldman observes, “Actual historical events are the
basis for most of the poems in the series. But Hemans sees history as
the recording not so much of grand occurrences but of human emotion
and its implications … Hemans’s history is personalized, feminized”
(xx). ­Katherine Montwieler expands this line of thinking to argue that
Hemans schools women to attend to the various forms of agency avail-
able to them, while Miriam Burstein locates Hemans’s literary-historical
writing, especially Records of Woman, within a Romantic period shift
from mid-eighteenth century Enlightenment conjectural histories toward
a renewed interest in the individual and biography. Burstein claims that
Hemans bridges the gap between the social, cultural, and material foci
of earlier Enlightenment histories and the lyric possibilities of Romantic
poetry.9 As a historical icon, Pocahontas similarly succeeds because her
story bridges interests in cultural encounters and the lyric possibility
of individual actions, a fit subject for Hemans. In this instance, the ge-
neric Pocahontas type is not merely a symbol of the eventual success of
Writing Pocahontas  77
the future United States, she is also a symbol of women’s capacity to
meaning­fully participate in politics and history.
In Records, Hemans’s preferred subject is a woman faced with the
loss of a loved one, a woman who must come to terms with her grief.
Her Pocahontas-inspired poem, “The American Forest Girl,” fits this
larger pattern as the rescuing Indian maiden saves an English boy about
to be burned at the stake because he reminds her of her own deceased
brother. Originally published in The New Monthly Magazine in 1826,
“The American Forest Girl” uses a third person speaker, to conjure up
the English youth’s possible thoughts as he prepares for torture and
death. Hemans’s speaker suggests that he might recall his loving mother
and sisters gathered around that most sacred space, the domestic fire-
side. In contrast to memories of the cheery warmth and feminine care
of his English boyhood, the young man’s current situation is filled with
doom. By the light of a menacing fire he sees “savage brows, / With tall
plumes crested and wild hues o’erspread” (ll 33–34). Just as the flame
approaches his pyre a cry of mercy rings out from the crowd. This in-
tercession comes from “a young, slight girl – a fawn-like child” (l 53),
who “had mourn’d a playmate brother dead” (l 58). Contrasted with the
memory of his sisters, “haply binding the jasmine, up the door’s low pil-
lars,” (ll 21–22), this young girl wraps her arms around him “like close
Liannes” (ll 64–65), a vine that hugs closely to trees in tropical forests.
But where the image of British domestic happiness is conjured through
the delicate and sweet smelling blossoms of imported jasmine trained
to grow around the cottage door, the American forest girl’s “native”
sympathies burst forth in an instinctive enveloping embrace that needs
no guidance.10 In a Pocahontas-like recognition of the value of white
masculinity, the Native girl acts quickly to save her white “brother”. The
crowd of “dark hunters in their vengeful mood” (l 52), recognise an act
of mercy as something right and true: “seeming, to their child-like faith,
a token / That the Great Spirit by her voice had spoken” (ll 77–78).
As Tim Fulford argues, Hemans’s emphasis on the Indian maiden’s
domestic femininity imposes British gender norms on others (198–201).
This imposition is less surprising, however, than the fact that the poem
focuses on the thoughts and feelings of the English boy over those of the
American forest girl, the ostensible heroine of the poem in a collection
that expressly attempts to fill in the “records of woman”. The only words
the girl utters through the whole of the poem are, “He shall not die! /
He shall not die!” (ll 66–67). Nor does the poem seek to break beyond
the surface details of the girl’s motive – a spirit of sympathy, a brother
lost, a sunny disposition, and that unspoken recognition of English su-
periority. Hemans does not complicate the story by raising issues of
tribal adoption, intermarriage, or other potential forms of integration,
sidestepping these more complicated questions by presenting us with an
“unmark’d” virgin girl, “Happy because the sunshine is [her] dower”
78  Melissa Adams-Campbell
(ll 55–56). The poem concentrates, instead, on a supposedly universal
norm of feminine caring that Hemans imagines as transcending national
and/or racial boundaries. Addressing this poem, Helen Luu argues
that the repetitions of British domestic represented here and elsewhere
in the collection work together to demonstrate (à la Judith Butler) the
culturally constructed nature of gender, for instance, when the speaker
only imagines the boy’s thoughts regarding British femininity rather
than lyrically speaking directly for him (44). While Luu’s argument for
Hemans’s gender constructionist view is compelling, it does not address
the fact that Hemans cannot or does not move outside of the monologic
of nineteenth-century British gender construction to envisage, for in-
stance, a culturally distinct Native configuration of gender. The story of
the American girl is left untold, her wishes and desires left undiscovered.
She is, in fact, a blank record, despite the collections’ ambition to imag-
ine historical women’s voices. Perhaps Hemans recognises her own in-
ability to speak for Native women, but I don’t think so. The true work of
the poem is to show the lasting influence of English domesticity, which
comforts the English boy even as he faces death. And, in this respect,
Hemans prioritises a nationalist agenda – British domesticity radiating
warmth across the oceans – over an actual diversity of women’s lived
experiences. The forest girl is merely a barometer of British domesticity’s
success, recognising and responding as she does to its lingering impres-
sions on the young English boy.
In this and “Edith, a Tale of the Woods,” Hemans draws on the
fami­liar literary device of Native American assistance to a vulnerable
­British colonialism. However, in “Edith,” a poem she claims was in-
spired by U.S. poet Lydia Huntley Sigourney’s A Sketch of Connecti-
cut Forty Years Since (1824), Hemans overtly explores the “record” a
Christian white woman leaves as she proselytises her American Indian
friends.11 After fainting in the woods beside her dying husband, Edith,
now a widow, awakens to find herself convalescing in an elderly Indian
­couple’s home. She lives just long enough to convert the peaceful pair to
­Christianity before dying. Assured that her rescuers will follow her to
heaven, Edith remarks: “one happy lot / Awaits us, friends” (ll 174–175),
“and I shall meet you there” (l 182). Edith’s is an acceptable – because
soft, feminine, and Christian – mode of conquering others. In fact, she
seems to have no will or strength of her own since she is unconscious
when relocated to the Indian couple’s cabin. In her Christianising mis-
sion, Edith recognises, “One purpose to fulfil[l], to leave one trace /
Brightly recording that her dwelling-place / Had been among the wilds”
(ll 113–115). “Recording” stands out in a volume entitled Records of
Woman; here Hemans explicitly makes Edith’s missionary work a “re-
cording” of time well spent in America. The material evidence of Edith’s
American travels are a new set of converts. Through her gentle manners
and Christian faith, she leaves behind a legacy that reaches beyond the
Writing Pocahontas  79
earthly realm and into the afterlife. The mourning Indian couple con-
firms, “we will follow thee, our guide! / And join the shining band / …
Go to the better land!” (ll 226–229).
Unlike the active, rescuing Indian maiden, Edith is strangely passive.
Indeed, widowed and alone, she is the one who vanishes in the American
forest, not her Native American rescuers.12 In contrast to the forest girl
whose only link to the British historical record is her rescue of an English
youth, Edith’s record of historical significance will presumably grow as
her Native friends share the Christian faith with others in their commu-
nity. In this way, Hemans shows how British domesticity, though vulner-
able, wins assistance and even converts. It triumphs not through might,
but through moral “right”. The rescuing Indian figures in Hemans’s
­poetry provide a vulnerable British public with a nostalgic sense of their
successful influence in the former North American colonies, an influence
that persists beyond shifting political boundaries through the legacy of
British women’s domesticity – a kind of political agency that they sup-
posedly shared with exceptional rescuing Indian maidens.
In contrast to James Nelson Barker’s more widely known musical,
The Indian Princess: or, Belle Savage (1808) which famously played up
the supposed romance between Smith and Pocahontas, the examples of
women’s literary-historical citations of Pocahontas traced above are rela­
tively free from the romantic motivations Barker promoted. By 1841,
however, when Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865), sometimes re-
ferred to as “the American Hemans,” published Pocahontas and Other
Poems, Sigourney charts Pocahontas’s personal growth through ro-
mance in fifty-six modified Spenserian stanzas. Although the poem be-
gins with a Native American perspective on European arrival in North
America, Sigourney’s poem exhibits typical nineteenth-century U.S.
cultural bias, as she interprets Pocahontas’s change as a sign of her in-
creasing civility and assimilation to Anglo-Christian values. Like other
later nineteenth-century authors, Sigourney attributes this assimilation
partly to romantic interests, as her Pocahontas first experiences love in
Jamestown (Sigourney never mentions Rolfe by name). However, for
Sigourney’s Pocahontas love is simply a “guiding lamp” for her “aspiring
mind” and “taste refined” (ll 299–301). She is already a model Woman;
love simply deepens her supposedly universal feminine traits.
Sigourney covers the familiar terrain of Pocahontas’s rescue of Smith,
her capture and conversion to Christianity, marriage, trip to England,
and a poignant final separation from her child and homeland as she dies
in England. In contrast to the typical period nostalgia for the “vanishing
Indian” with which she paints the majority of Native peoples (“Forgotten
race, farewell!”), Sigourney singles out Pocahontas as a “pure and lonely
star” whose name should not “molder in the grave” (ll 503–504). Nina
Baym generously reads Sigourney’s poem as a tribute to “those name-
less Indian dead who heroically resisted colonization”, (86) but I am not
80  Melissa Adams-Campbell
convinced this is true. For although Sigourney asks that those “who hold
of history’s scroll the pen, / Blame not too much those erring, red-brow’d
men,” (ll 212–213) she can only celebrate the singularly “true of heart”
Pocahontas, not the “erring, red-brow’d men” whom she claims left no
“remnant nor memorial” behind (ll 499–500). In the lines Baym cites
from Stanza 54, the speaker’s voice, clearly Anglo-American now, nos-
talgically locates colonial America’s crimes against American Indians
firmly in the past; there is no recognition that similar violence was con-
tinuing as more Native peoples were massacred, corralled, and forced
onto reservations in Sigourney’s present historical moment. Sigourney
intends to compliment Pocahontas by portraying her as an ordinary
nineteenth-century domestic woman attuned to faith and family; she is
not like those “erring, red-brow’d men” who supposedly left no legacy.
As in Foster’s and Hays’s accounts, Sigourney’s Pocahontas is a model
Woman with very little beyond a few clichés to mark her as distinctly
indigenous. This move proves meaningful, however, in the context of a
developing oeuvre of women’s literary-historical writing.
Typically employing a national framework, literary critics frequently
observe that Catharine Sedgwick’s historical novel, Hope Leslie (1827),
rationalises U.S. settler colonialism despite its sympathetically drawn
rescuing Indian maiden, Magawisca. I do not disagree with these read-
ings; however, a transatlantic focus on the work of the rescuing Indian
maiden in an emerging body of women’s history offers a new vantage
point for considering how and why Sedgwick connects Native A ­ merican
and women’s history in her most well-known work. Set in Puritan
New England, Hope Leslie stands apart from contemporary masculine
­frontier romances by James Fenimore Cooper in the ways that it grants
women a prominent place in the story and in history. Mary Kelley’s
1987 introduction highlights how the novel revises received Puritan his-
tory by including marginalised perspectives (ix–xxxvii). In Sedgwick’s
own “Preface” to Hope Leslie she acknowledges that history is in the
hands of the teller:

The Indians of North America are, perhaps, the only race of men of
whom it may be said, that though conquered, they were never en-
slaved. They could not submit, and live. When made captives, they
courted death, and exulted in torture. These traits of their charac-
ter will be viewed by an impartial observer, in a light very differ-
ent from that in which they were regarded by our ancestors. In our
histories, it was perhaps natural that they should be represented as
“surly dogs”, who preferred to die rather than live, from no other
motives than a stupid or malignant obstinacy. Their own historians
or poets, if they had such, would as naturally, and with more justice,
have extolled their high-souled courage and ­patriotism. (3–4)
Writing Pocahontas  81
Sedgwick makes her rescuing Indian maiden, Magawisca, the mouth-
piece for precisely this perspective on Native history and she defends this
move in her “Preface” by nodding to Pocahontas:

The writer is aware that it may be thought that the character of

Magawisca has no prototype among the aborigines of this country.
Without citing Pocahontas, or any other individual, as authority,
it may be sufficient to remark, that in such delineations, we are con-
fined not to the actual, but the possible. (4)

Again, Pocahontas or her generic type provides an entry point for

imagining women’s history, but Sedgwick makes an unexpected move
by attempting to give the rescuing Indian maiden a specifically iden-
tified Peqod perspective on a widely documented historical event,
the  1637 Puritan massacre of Pequod women and children at Fort
Before Magawisca’s father, a Pequod sachem, returns to rescue his
child­ren from servitude in the Fletcher household, Magawisca tells
­Everell the story of the Pequod massacre from a survivor’s perspec-
tive. Sedgwick chooses to narrate events in the first person voice of
­M agawisca as she explains at length the murder of most of her people
including her eldest brother, and how she and her younger brother
were taken captive and forced to serve the Puritans. She sets the scene
by describing the domestic nature of the massacre, the little village
with happy families sleeping at night. With the majority of men away
at a council meeting, the village was virtually unprotected. “Was
it so sudden?” ­Everell asks, “Did they rush on sleeping women and
children?” “Even so,” M ­ agawisca replies (50). For two full pages af-
ter Magawisca’s frightful account, Sedgwick makes clear what this
change of perspective in the historical record means for those ready to
listen. Everell

had heard [the story] in the language of the enemies and conquerors
of the Pequods; and from Magawisca’s lips they took a new form
and hue; she seemed, to him, to embody nature’s best gifts, and her
feelings to be the inspiration of heaven. (55–56)


imagination, touched by the wand of feeling, presented a very dif-

ferent picture of those defenseless families of savages, pent in the re-
cesses of their native forests, and there exterminated, not by superior
natural force, but by the adventitious circumstances of arms, skill,
and knowledge. (55–56)
82  Melissa Adams-Campbell
In response to her narration,

Everell did not fail to express to Magawisca, with all the eloquence
of a heated imagination, his sympathy and admiration of her heroic
and suffering people. She listened with a mournful pleasure, as one
listens to the praise of a departed friend. (56)

Philip Gould has argued of this scene that, although Sedgwick pro­mises
an impartial observer, a witness to history who will repudiate negative
racist accounts, she only manages a kind of historical relativism, by
which Gould means that Magawisca’s is simply one of several accounts;
her story does not erase or supplant the power of the Puritan histories.
While she may not overturn the patriarchal voices of P ­ uritan history,
I am not convinced that Sedgwick actually wishes to erase Puritan his-
tory (or the Puritan founders). Rather, I would argue that she aims to
mark the ways that Puritan patriarchy excludes both white women’s
and Native American perspectives from history, a move that admit-
tedly diminishes important differences between these groups and their
If Magawisca dominates the first one hundred pages of the novel with
her courageous rescue of Everell, her efforts to reunite the sisters, Faith
and Hope Leslie, and her subsequent imprisonment for these efforts,
Sedgwick nonetheless “vanishes” Magawisca and any other unassimi­
lating Pequods from colonial New England by the end of her novel.
As Maureen Tuthill and a number of other critics have demonstrated,
­Sedgwick’s “vanishing Indian” rhetoric ensures that even as she attempts
to give voice to those on the margins of history, the mere presence of
those voices in the historical record, or in historical fiction, will not stop
the continuing violence of settler colonialism in Sedgwick’s own present
moment of Indian removal debates.13
Sedgwick certainly fails to stand against policies and processes of
­I ndian dispossession, both inside and outside her novel. However, by
locating her work alongside Foster, Hays, and other Anglophone women
writers who are similarly imagining women’s histories through the res-
cuing Indian maiden, we can see the fragile friendship that Hope and
Magawisca forge as a modest and admittedly problematic proto-­feminist
move to recognise each other as complex, differently motivated human
women, each hamstrung, though in different ways and to different de-
grees, by Puritan patriarchy.14
While other Romantic women writers included here tend to abstract
the rescuing Indian maiden from her indigeneity, Sedgwick strikes
me as different in the way that she provides Magawisca with a more
fleshed out Pequod-historical perspective. Among her transatlantic
­A nglophone women peers, then, Sedgwick innovates by reimagining two
Writing Pocahontas  83
key aspects: the Pocahontas story and the accepted history of the Pequod
War. This innovation does not excuse Sedgwick from forwarding volun-
tary Indian removal as the solution to Indian-white relations at the end
of her novel; however, it does locate Sedgwick, for the first time, among
a group of Anglophone Atlantic writers similarly invested in expanding
women’s political identities through the figure of the rescuing Indian
maiden. It also shows Sedgwick’s attempt to create more than one model
of women’s political agency. For even as Magawisca participates in a
fairly typical Pocahontas-style rescuing plot, she is much more than this.
She demands to tell her people’s story and she demands that her enemies
listen to her unassimilated perspective. When compared to other itera-
tions of the rescuing Indian maiden surveyed here, Magawisca retains
an unassimilated indigeneity – a remarkable political stance compared
to the “universal” domestic Woman found in the works of Foster, Hays,
Hemans and Sigourney.
This chapter has argued that Anglophone Romantic women writ-
ers from Foster to Sigourney turned to the rescuing Indian maiden as
a ­device for advancing women’s political agency and historical sig-
nificance. With so few colonial or Native women entering the public
­record, and with so few documents written by women themselves, the
relatively well-­documented Pocahontas affords Anglophone Roman-
tic women writers a rare opportunity to envision women as agents
in history. Once the model was established, this same agency could
be attached even to generic Pocahontas-types such as Sedgwick’s
Magawisca. Indeed, ­S edgwick takes this agency to its furthest reaches
by making Magawisca not only a political agent in colonial-era his-
tory, but a historian with a specifically Pequod account of colonial
Paradoxically, the rescuing Indian maiden’s difference, or different
agency, helps to explain why Anglophone women writers are attracted
to this figure. Because many matrilineal Native peoples (including the
Iroquois and Cherokee) gave women the power to determine the fates
of captives and to speak at public assemblies, many Native women were
not beholden to nineteenth-century Anglo/American expectations of
­“women’s place” outside of politics.15 The largely unrecognised differ-
ences in gender roles and expectations between many Native peoples
and ­A nglo/Americans meant that Anglophone writers found Native
­women’s agency attractive, but misattributed the source or motivation
for that difference to more “universal” feminine sentiment. In claiming
with Pocahontas or her generic type a shared set of feminine sentiments
that inspire action, women writers such as Foster and Hays encouraged
their readers to aspire to a political agency not recognised or avail-
able for most Anglo/American women in the nineteenth century. That
­Pocahontas’s agency supposedly supports English colonisation and,
84  Melissa Adams-Campbell
later, U.S. nationhood makes Native women’s agency more palatable to
a largely white reading audience.
Non-Native women’s interest and investment in Pocahontas as a his-
torically significant political agent continues to this day, though not
without debate. In a June 2015 article for The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert
claims that Disney’s feature film, Pocahontas (1996), has been under-­
appreciated for its feminist and progressive environmental messages,
specifically, Gilbert observes, in the way that this Pocahontas makes her
own romantic decisions and works to educate the greedy English settlers
about forging healthy relationships to the Earth. The article raised quite
a controversy, illustrating how feminist attempts to “claim” Pocahontas
and her agency continue to erase Native peoples’ experiences of dispos-
session, forced assimilation, and invisibility in American history and
popular culture. As Kenzie Allen (Oneida Nation of Wisconsin) observes
in The Atlantic’s online follow up,

I’ve struggled with Disney’s Pocahontas as a source of pain and

stereotype. Both Pocahontas and Sacagawea are often held up as
heroines in the Western perspective … Yes, there is visibility in tell-
ing their stories, but it is a tainted visibility, a false reality rendered
through the dominant culture, which seeks to ameliorate, always,
the horrific methods by which they came to occupy an entire na-
tion’s worth of landmass.

This perspective is significant not only for the way it tempers overly
simplified and unrealistic portraits of Pocahontas as a Western-style
heroine, but for the way that it calls out (proto)feminist championings
of Pocahontas’s agency – as one columnist notes, “Pocahontas was a
kidnap victim, not a Disney Princess”.16 Framed within a new transat-
lantic context, one can nevertheless trace how this championing started,
connecting the network of Anglophone women writers who positioned
Pocahontas as a significant player in women’s history well before Disney
took its turn at her story. From this perspective, Pocahontas is more
than a national symbol and more than a (proto)feminist role model.
She continues to be a source of inspiration and irritation for many,
and a magnet for debates about women’s agency and Native women’s

1 I would like to thank the editors and anonymous readers of this collection
as well as Elizabeth Schewe and Diana Swanson for thoughtful feedback on
this chapter.
2 By no means an exhaustive list of scholarship on Pocahontas, I have found
the following especially helpful. For ethnohistorical and biographical
Writing Pocahontas  85
treatments, see Rountree; Townsend; Mossiker; Gleach; Barbour. Signifi-
cant literary and cultural studies approaches include Faery; Scheckel; Tilton;
Green. For a combination of these approaches, see Rennie. For a Native
American Studies/literary approach, see Allen, Pocahontas. Mattaponi oral
historians have begun to share their traditions in Custalow and “Little Star”.
3 This chapter does not comprehensively survey all Pocahontas materials.
For a more complete picture, see Gallagher, The Pocahontas Archive. At
the same time that North Americans began to mythologise Pocahontas,
the story of “Inkle and Yarico” featuring another rescuing Indian maiden
gained considerable fame in eighteenth-century Britain. See Felsentstein. For
the sake of space, I do not include these materials in this chapter.
4 A helpful overview of recent debates on the Smith rescue can be found in
Rennie, ix–xii.
5 See also Davies; Booth. On the American side, this ideology has been termed
“Republican Motherhood”. See Kerber.
6 On The Boarding School, see Desiderio and Vietto; Jarenski; Richards;
­Foster, G; Pettengill.
7 Courtney Weilke-Mills argues that Foster’s The Boarding School participates
in a transatlantic culture of “affection for books” that trains children – but
especially young women – to develop morality and good citizenship through
a love of books. It is easy to imagine that John Smith’s biography (and his
supposed rescue by Pocahontas) would be a staple of post-Revolutionary
American education, but a 1730 image of Pocahontas produced by Boston
schoolgirl, Mary Woodbury, suggests that she may have been a feature of
colo­nial American education long before Foster and Belknap. Tilton notes
that the image is “certainly the first original depiction of Pocahontas pro-
duced in the New World, and almost surely the first done by a woman”. That
the image was very likely produced in a New England boarding school like
the one Foster describes indicates that Pocahontas may have been a signifi-
cant example of women’s political agency and a source of colonial identity
for New England colonial schoolgirls well before the American Revolution.
The image is reproduced in The Pocahontas Archive at www.digital.lib.­
8 Studies of Hemans continue to track her as a national poet, even as they
recognise her challenge to the heroic, Byronic Romantic mode. See especially
Lootens; Eubanks; Sweet; Wolfson. Luu argues against readings of Hemans
as essentializing and nationalist.
9 Burnstein, especially chapter two. See Kucich for a less praising account of
Hemans’s supposed proto-feminist politics.
10 Sedgwick’s description of Everell and Magawisca as “two young plants that
have sprung up in a close neighborhood” (33) seems to mirror Hemans’s
earlier “The American Forest Girl” (1826) published in New Monthly
11 Lootens observes Hemans’s transatlantic influence as well as how Hemans’s
citational practices illustrate her own transatlantic reading habits.
12 For more on the trope of the vanishing Indian, see Elmer; Dippie.
13 Among others see Gould; Ford; Karafilis; Karcher; Maddox; Tawil.
14 On friendship in Hope Leslie, see Schweitzer.
15 See Mann; Sayre.
16 See Mailhot for a more strident response.
17 On tensions between feminist and Native studies approaches, especially
in literature, see Donovan; Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop; Hollrah;
86  Melissa Adams-Campbell
Works Cited
Allen, Kenzi. “Email”, in “Does Disney’s Pocahontas Do More Harm than
Good? Your Thoughts”. The Atlantic. 30 June 2015. Accessed online at:
feminism/397190/, 7 September 2016.
Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American
Indian Traditions. New York: Beacon Press, 1992.
———. Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat. New York:
Harper Collins, 2003.
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon. Oxford:
Oxford World’s Classics, 1998.
Bach, Rebecca Ann. Colonial Transformations: The Cultural Production of the
New Atlantic World, 1580–1640. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.
Bannet, Eve Tavor. The Domestic Revolution: Enlightenment Feminism and
the Novel. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Barbour, Philip. Pocahontas and Her World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.
Bataille, Gretchen and Kathleen M. Sands, Ed. American Indian Women: Tell-
ing Their Lives. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
Baym, Nina. American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790–1860.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.
Berlant, Lauren. The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and
Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Booth, Alison. How to Make it as a Woman: Collective Biographical History
from Victoria to the Present. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Brown, Harry. ““The Horrid Alternative”: Miscegenation and Madness in the
Frontier Romance”, Journal of American and Comparative Cultures, 24.3–4
(2001): 137–151.
Burnstein, Miriam Elizabeth. Narrating Women’s History in Britain,
1770–1902. Farnham: Ashgate, 2004.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1999.
Castiglia, Christopher. “In Praise of Extra-vagant Women: Hope Leslie and the
Captivity Romance”, Legacy 6.2 (1989): 3–16.
Custalow, Dr. Linwood. “Little Bear” and Angela Daniel “Little Star”. The
True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History. Golden, CO: Fulcrum
Publishing, 2007.
Davies, Kate. Catharine McCaulay and Mercy Otis Warren: The Revolutionary
Atlantic and the Politics of Gender. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Desiderio, Jennifer and Angela Vietto. “Introduction”, The Coquette and The
Boarding School. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Editions, 2011.
Dippie, Brian W. The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian
Policy. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1982.
Donovan, Kathleen. Feminist Readings of Native American Literature: Com-
ing to Voice. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998.
Dyer, Gary. “The Transatlantic Pocahontas”, Nineteeenth-Century Contexts
30.4 (2008): 301–322.
Elmer, Jonathan. On Lingering and Being Last: Race and Sovereignty in the
New World. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.
Writing Pocahontas  87
Emberly, Julia V. Thresholds of Difference: Feminist Critique, Native Wom-
en’s Writings, Postcolonial Theory. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,
Eubanks, Kevin. “Minerva’s Veil: Hemans, Critics, and the Construction of
Gender”, European Romantic Review, 8.4 (1997): 341–359.
Faery, Rebecca Blevins. Cartographies of Desire: Captivity, Race, and Sex
in the Shaping of the American Nation. Norman: University of Oklahoma
Press, 1999.
Feldman, Paula. “Introduction”, The Records of Woman with Other Poems.
Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1999.
Felsentstein, Frank, Ed. English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender,
Race, and Slavery in the New World: An Inkle and Yarico Reader. Baltimore,
MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Fetterley, Judith. ““My Sister! My Sister!”: The Rhetoric of Catharine S­ edgwick’s
Hope Leslie”, American Literature 70.3 (1998): 491–516.
Flint, Kate. The Transatlantic Indian, 1776–1930. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2009.
Ford, Douglas. “Inscribing the “Impartial Observer” in Sedgwick’s Hope
­L eslie”, Legacy 14.2 (1997): 81–92.
Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. “The Dialogic Margins of Conduct Fiction: ­Hannah
Webster Foster’s The Boarding School”, JASAT 25 (1994): 59–72.
Foster, Hannah Webster. The Coquette and The Boarding School. ­Petersborough,
ON: Broadview Editions, 2011.
Fulford, Tim. Romantic Indians: Native Americans, British Literature, and
Transatlantic Culture, 1756–1830. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Gallagher, Edward J. The Pocahontas Archive, www.digital.lib.lehigh.edu/
trial/pocahontas/. Accessed 6 October 2014.
Gilbert, Sophie. “Revisiting Pocahontas at 20”, The Atlantic. 23 June 2015.
Accessed online at: www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/­
revisiting-pocahontas/396626/, 7 September 2016.
Gleach, Frederic W. Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of
Cultures. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977.
Goeman, Mishuana. Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping our Nations.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
Gould, Philip. Covenant and Republic: Historical Romance and the Politics of
Puritanism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Green, Rayna. “Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American
Culture”, The Massachusetts Review 16.4 (1975): 698–714.
———. Native American Women: A Contextual Bibliography. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1983.
Hays, Mary. “Matoaks”, Female Biography; or, Memoirs of Illustrious and
Celebrated Women of All Ages and Countries. Vol II. [Philadelphia: Printed
for Birch and Small by Fry & Kammerer, 1807]. Early American Imprints,
Series 2, no. 12742.
Hemans, Felicia. Records of Woman with Other Poems. Lexington: University
Press of Kentucky, 1999.
Hernadez-Avila, Ines, Ed. Reading Native American Women: Critical/Creative
Representations. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2005.
88  Melissa Adams-Campbell
Hollrah, Patrice E.M. The Old Lady Trill, the Victory Yell: The Power of
Women in Native American Literature. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Jarenski, Shelly. “The Voice of the Female Preceptress: Female Education in and
As the Seduction Novel”, JMMLA 37.1 (2004): 59–68.
Karafilis, Maria. “Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie: The Crisis between
Ethical Political Action and U.S. Literary Nationalism in the New Republic”,
American Transcendental Quarterly 12.4 (1998): 327–344.
Karcher, Carolyn L. “Introduction”, Hope Leslie; or, Early Times in the
­M assachusetts. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
Kelly, Mary. “Introduction”, Hope Leslie: or, Early Times in Massachusetts.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987.
Kerber, Linda K. “The Republican Mother, Women and the Enlightenment – an
American Perspective”, American Quarterly 28.2 (1976): 187–205.
Kolodny, Annette. The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the
­A merican Frontiers, 1630 –1860. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North
­Carolina Press, 1984.
Kucich, Greg. “Romanticism and the Re-engendering of Historical Memory”.
Memory and Memorials, 1789–1914: Literary and Cultural Perspectives. Ed.
M. Campbell, J. Labbe, and S. Shuttleworth. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Looser, Devoney. British Women Writers and the Writing of History,
1670–1820. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Lootens, Tricia. “Hemans and Home: Victorianism, Feminine “Internal ­Enemies”,
and the Domestication of National Identity”, PMLA 109.2 (1994): 238–253.
Luu, Helen. “Fantasies of “Woman”: Hemans’s Deconstruction of “Femininity”
in Records of Woman”, Women’s Writing 21.1 (2014): 41–57.
Maddox, Lucy. Removals: Nineteenth-Century American Literature and the
Politics of Indian Affairs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Mailhot, Terese Marie. “Pocahontas was a Kidnap Victim Not a Disney
Princess”, Indian Country Today Media Network. 3 July 2015. http://
indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com /2015/07/03/pocahontas-was-
kidnap-victim-not-disney-princess. Accessed 7 September 2016.
Maitzen, Rohan Amanda. Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing.
New York: Garland, 1998.
Mann, Barbara Alice. Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas. New York: Peter
Lang, 2006.
Mihesuah, Devon Abbott. Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Em-
powerment, Activism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
Montwieler, Katherine. “Hemans and Home-Schooling: History, Literature,
and Records of Woman”, Nineteenth-Century Feminisms 1.2 (2000): 10–31.
Mossiker, Frances. Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend. London: Littlehampton
Book Services, 1977.
Nelson, Dana. The Word in Black and White: Reading “Race” In American
Literature, 1638–1867. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Person, Leland S. “The American Eve: Miscegenation and a Feminist Frontier
Fiction”, American Quarterly 37.5 (1985): 668–685.
Pettengill, Claire C. “Sisterhood in a Separate Sphere: Female Friendship in
Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette and The Boarding School”, Early
American Literature 27.3 (1992): 185–203.
Writing Pocahontas  89
Phillips, Mark Salber. Society and Sentiment: Genres of Historical Writing in
Britain, 1740–1820. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Rennie, Neil. Pocahontas, Little Wanton. London: Quaritch, 2007.
Richards, Jeffrey H. “The Politics of Seduction: Theater, Sexuality, and ­National
Virtue in the Novels of Hannah Foster”, Exceptional Spaces: ­E ssays in Per-
formance and History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1998, 238–257.
Rountree, Helen. Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia
Through Four Centuries. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
———. Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed
by Jamestown. Charlottesville: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
Samuels, Shirley. Romances of the Republic: Women, the Family, and ­Violence
in the Literature of the Early American Nation. New York: Oxford ­University
Press, 1996.
Sayre, Gordon. Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native ­A mericans
in French and English Colonial Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1997.
Scheckel, Susan. The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in
­Nineteenth-Century American Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1998.
Schweitzer, Ivy. Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early ­A merican
Literature. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006.
Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. Hope Leslie; or, Early Times in the ­M assachusetts.
New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
Sigourney, Lydia Huntley. Pocahontas and Other Poems. London: R. Tyus,
Smith, John. Complete Works of Captain John Smith, 1580–1631. Vol. II.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Stadler, Gustavus. “Magawisca’s Body of Knowledge: Nation-Building in Hope
Leslie”, The Yale Journal of Criticism 12.1 (1999): 41–56.
Strachey, William. The Historie of Travell in Virginia Britania. [1612] ­Farnham:
Ashgate, 2010.
Sweet, Nanora. “History, Imperialism, and the Aesthetics of the Beautiful:
Hemans and the Post-Napoleonic Moment”. At the Limits of Romanticism.
Ed. M.A. Favret and N.J. Watson. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University,
Tawil, Ezra. “Domestic Frontier Romance, or, How the Sentimental Heroine
Became White”, Novel (1998): 99–124.
Tilton, Robert S. Pocahontas: The Evolution of an American Narrative.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Townsend, Camilla. Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma. New York: Hill
and Wang, 2005.
Tuthill, Maureen. “Land and Narrative Site in Sedgwick’s “Hope Leslie””,
American Transcendental Quarterly 19.2 (2005): 95–113.
Vasquez, Mark G. ““Your Sister Cannot Speak to You and Understand You
as I Do”: Native American Culture and Female Subjectivity in Lydia Maria
Child and Catherine Maria Sedgwick”, American Transcendental Quarterly
15.3 (2001): 173–179.
90  Melissa Adams-Campbell
Weaver, Jace. The Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the
Modern World, 1000–1927. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
Weilke-Mills, Courtney. ““Learn to Love Your Book”: The Child Reader and
Affectionate Citizenship”, Early American Literature 43.1 (2008): 35–60.
Wolfson, Susan. ““Domestic Affections” and “the Spear of Minerva”: Felicia
Hemans and the Dilemma of Gender”. Re-Visioning Romanticism: British
Women Writers, 1776–1837. Ed. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner.
­Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1994.
Young, Philip. “The Mother of Us All: Pocahontas Reconsidered”, The Kenyon
Review 24.3 (1962): 391–415.
Zagarell, Sandra A. “Expanding “America”: Lydia Sigourney’s Sketch of Con-
necticut, Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie”, Tulsa Studies in Women’s
­Literature 6.2 (1987): 225–245.
Part II

Ancient Decline and

This page intentionally left blank
5 Women of Colour, Politics
and the Plague in Lydia
Maria Child’s Philothea:
A Grecian Romance
Matthew E. Duquès

Many early modern writers traversing the Atlantic recorded their

­experiences with natural disasters, including epidemics, droughts and
earthquakes. While their reasons for doing so varied, in every case,
as they set about detailing the remarkable attempts to deal with and
survive these phenomena, they were, at the same time, reckoning with
their vitality and the vitality of others. Detailed descriptions of disas-
ters during this period, for this very reason, often included speculation
about the future of entire groups of people. As Kathleen Donegan notes
in ­Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early
America (2014), natural disasters figured prominently in the accounts
of the first English settlers as an integral part of their literary efforts
to explain not only what went wrong in the Americas, but also whom
they might be turning into under unprecedented hardships. Similarly, a
number of transatlantic writers in the colonial period described disas-
ters, which affected those around them with a similar sense that their
fate testi­fied to the pre-ordained making or unmaking of specific social
groups. Nowhere was this type of prediction so transparent and impact-
ful as it was in the descriptions of diseases like smallpox, which affected
entire communities. Because the health of entire villages and empires
could be in danger during such outbreaks, these illnesses prompted a
contentious early modern discourse about the collective fates of the al-
legedly imperilled and the presumptively immune to which European,
Native and African people in the Americas contributed, a discourse that
Susan Scott Parrish and Kelly Wisecup help elucidate in their studies of
natural historical cataloguing and medical encounters.
Such conspicuous efforts to rethink group identity in the wake of
disease also profoundly shaped modern Anglophone transatlantic let-
ters. Numerous late eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century writers,
including Elizabeth Drinker, Benjamin Rush, Matthew Carey, Richard
Allen, Absalom Jones, Elihu Hubbard Smith, Thomas Miner, Moore
Hoit, among others, described what we would call epidemics today and
assessed their local and global implications. Fiction writers from Charles
Brockden Brown to Edgar Allan Poe likewise represented epidemics in
chilling and reflective fashion in their novels and short stories. What
94  Matthew E. Duquès
distinguishes these diverse modern writings from most early modern
works is the omnipresence of disagreements about whether specific races
were responsible for these kinds of spreading corporeal natural disasters.
Modern writers built on fresh ecological and early biological theories,
while, at the same time, working with the Latin root of the word disaster
(“ill-starred” or “ill-fortuned”), to address the idea that certain people –
defined principally by their bodies rather than by their environments
and faiths – were prone to bring tragedy to themselves and possibly to
others. Not surprisingly, as Justine Murison and Chris Castiglia have
recently shown, such troubling claims of attribution, and the affective,
democratic critique of these claims, coincided with early national and
early antebellum efforts to pin down or normalise the country’s political
Lydia Maria Child’s Philothea: A Grecian Romance (1836) is a signifi-
cant intervention in these modern, transatlantically minded pathological
debates.1 Child published this understudied work of historical fiction
near the end of the Jacksonian era, a veritable heyday for divisive politi­
cal exchanges as well as for natural disasters. Most rebellions and pro-
tests of this era contested relatively new state and national policies. The
continental extension of slavery and the expansion of voting rights to
property-less white men, for instance, inspired protest and revolt across
the country. During this same period, large-scale earthquakes in South
America and the Levant occurred and a massive cholera outbreak hit
New York City affecting the entire eastern seaboard. Antebellum ad-
vances in the understanding of pathogens inspired investigations into
environmental and demographic ailment patterns, while rapid inter­
regional developments in print circulation made it easier to convey news
about these devastating events. These biological and technological up-
grades enabled some writers to argue more convincingly for natural
links between viral disasters and the many groups of circum-Atlantic
people seeking refuge, but they also allowed other writers to falsify these
links and to draw upon our common vulnerabilities to justify their own
empowerment at the cost of others.
Based loosely on events in fifth century Athens, which occurred under
the populist rule of Pericles and through the influence of his mistress,
Aspasia, Philothea revises ancient history to engage early-nineteenth
century discourses about disaster, politics and the people at the root
of each. While Child delves into the classical world in a way that re-
flects her appreciation for the sheer otherness of that ancient time and
place, her work hardly unfolds as an esoteric escapist exercise. Rather
her romance asks her many readers to rethink the pejorative associations
that writers in the 1830s drew between epidemics and specific groups
of people, in this case, legally enslaved women of colour whom free,
property-owning men so often deemed responsible for spreading dis-
ease. A transatlantic perspective reveals the philosophical and rhetorical
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  95
facets of Child’s argument against such scapegoating disaster-based ty-
pologies. Philothea embraces the diversity of life so often accounted for
in Atlantic world writing and argues for the deep social interdependence
of any polity, while at the same time eschewing the enlightenment drive
to subject all places and peoples to accusatory explanation.

Unease and Disease Across the Romantic Atlantic

In the effort to create a more perfect union within the fragile, post-­
revolutionary U.S. republic in which Lydia Maria Child grew up, di-
sasters were increasingly attributed to groups of non-citizens and
foreign-born people. This was particularly true with diseases, which
spread in urban seaboard locations defined by their potentially dizzying
diversity. Citizens could use such outbreaks to flag the new country’s
vulnerabilities and to underscore the need for greater bio-political secu-
rity. In less explicit form, one can find this mode of viral attribution in
early U.S. framing documents, particularly those designed to increase
national strictures for the sake of allegedly healthy citizens. In Federalist
10 of The Federalist Papers, written by James Madison, pathological
language supported a rationale for more centralised political authority.
Madison interprets political factions as “mortal diseases under which
popular governments everywhere have perished” (Hamilton et al. 72).
Abridging liberty, he argues, is a “remedy … worse than the disease”.
The solution, as he saw it, was to establish a liberty-loving union in
which the “influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their
particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration
through the other States” or in which “a malady is more likely to taint
a particular county or district, than an entire State” (76). Madison con-
cludes that the federal infrastructure plan is the best “republican remedy
for the diseases most incident to republican government” (78). However,
in order to promote a nation in which freedom reigned supreme, yet no
minority group could demonstrate unchecked power, Madison depicted
federalists as healers and factionalists as disease-like. According to this
view, all voices opposed to the federal plan, as Madison and his fellow
authors conceived it, were potential contagions, or people capable of
indiscriminately infecting everyone else. Such divisive logic encouraged
forms of pathologising in which discrete groups who looked, spoke, or
acted differently from the corporeal and civic norm, and were from else-
where, were deemed entirely responsible for socio-political disunion.
Meanwhile, spreading diseases, which disproportionately affected the
poor and disenfranchised because of their travelling and living condi-
tions, made it convenient to conflate any form of spreading dissent with
the subjects most intimately connected with illnesses.
Responses to the Yellow Fever epidemic, which adversely affected
the eastern seaboard during the early 1790s, provide examples of
96  Matthew E. Duquès
pathologising and its refutation. Several privileged Philadelphia writers
claimed that this epidemic led to irresponsibility and violence. Many
of these same writers argued that the Fever came from either Africa or
Saint Domingue. It was, they declared, brought into the nation by way of
the Atlantic, imported by people who were either black or lived among
communities of black people. In his Short Account of the Malignant
Fever, Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia (1793), for example, Matthew
Carey claimed that Haitian and Philadelphian blacks were particularly
susceptible to the disease and that they were responsible for spreading
it and for profiting off it. He identified a link between the Fever, the al-
leged behaviour of blacks, and their racial makeup. In a sharp rebuttal
entitled A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People during the
late awful calamity (1794), Free African Society leaders Richard Allen
and Absalom Jones debunked Carey’s claims about the conduct of black
men and women and the nature of the Fever. Allen and Jones listed spe-
cific names and actions to counter Carey’s claims; for example, they
explained, “Sarah Bass, a poor black widow, gave all the assistance she
could, in several families, for which she did not receive any thing; and
when any thing was offered her, she left it to the option of those she
served.” With a similar impulse, Charles Brockden Brown, in his novels,
Arthur Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the Year 1793 (1799) and Ormond,
or the Secret Witness (1799), captured the tragedy, turmoil, and gener-
osity engendered by the Fever. Focusing on the difficulties of a rustic,
white male and a lower-class, white female protagonist in a multi-racial
Philadelphia setting, respectively, Brown parsed out the unpredictable
effects of disease on a new federal order. Whereas Carey’s periodical
account encouraged a form of racial profiling in the aftermath of a pu-
tative transatlantic outbreak, Jones’s and Allen’s treatise and Brown’s
novel discourage such racial profiling, ultimately reminding readers that
complicated relations between insiders and outsiders, travellers and lo-
cals, elites and ordinary people contribute to a polity’s sovereignty and
its potential declension.
In addition to indexing the race-based undercurrents of this early
national bio-political discourse, a gloss of popular early U.S. literary
works shows how disenfranchised women could be unjustly subject to
disease-obsessed and disease-framed ad hominem attacks. For instance,
seduction novels, Susannah Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (London 1791)
and Hannah Foster’s The Coquette (Boston 1797), and several of the
early-nineteenth-century novels by Brown, underscore how men and
women commonly excoriated women for allegedly turning their backs
on their family and their country if they sought unapproved relation-
ships or moved about within unsanctioned ambits. These fictional works
foreground how leading citizens and non-citizens treated ostensibly ab-
errant women’s behaviours as a kind of spreading disease that could only
be resolved by an improved national quarantine. As a tacit counterpoint,
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  97
these novels offer depictions of complex female and male characters and
deeply involved relationships, which show how these imagined com-
munities of people at once reflect prevailing national and transnational
ideologies and contribute to them in incalculable ways. Versions of the
popular early U.S. genre illustrate, to varying degrees, how inaccurate
these critiques of women’s relationships, reading practices and labours
were and how problematic it was to attribute sole responsibility to
women for ensuing social and political problems.
As culturally revealing as these early national seduction novels were,
though, they often left women like Sarah Bass, who was black and a
widow, out of their narratives. National pitfalls did not depend on such
women in the way that they unduly did on young white women, this
genre of popular fiction suggested through black women’s absences.
While patterns of demographic pinpointing directed toward unmar-
ried black women and diverse literary retorts were quite rare in early
national print, they became more common in the early 1830s when
Lydia ­Maria Child began writing Philothea. Jacksonian-era political
movements, which included populist protests and slave revolts, such
as Nat ­Turner’s rebellion, gave rise to fresh stereotypes, according to
which groups of people were deemed prone to be carriers of disease and
prone to be carriers of contagious dis-ease. Narratives of these events
presented white and black assemblages seeking redress as having caught
an infection that now threatened to spread. As Eric Slauter notes in his
study of R
­ evolutionary-era politics and aesthetics, a shift occurred over
the course of the long eighteenth century away from an early modern
conception of saintly leeches healing a potentially ailing body politic and
toward a modern notion of elected representatives selected, according
to a market logic, for civic preservation. However, in the heated early
1830s political climate, as unprecedented national rebellions ensued and
loomed the old rhetoric of ill ne’er-do-wells and divine aids could often
better express perceived sociopolitical dangers and their resolutions. By
appending to their treatises strategies for checking the impact of pro-
gressive agendas, writers supporting this theory presented themselves
as curers of an unhealthy polity peopled by men and women capable of
little more than harming themselves and others. Their preferred mode
of representation was a top-down invective against groups, who were
unjustly relegated to the fringes of social and political determination,
foremost of which were legally enslaved, emigrant black women.
The treatment of actual diseases was inseparable from polarising re-
sponses to populist protests and anti-slavery revolts. In 1832, New York
City experienced a global Cholera outbreak with suspected transatlantic
origins. The disease is estimated to have killed about 3,000 residents.
One report claimed that, at the height of the outbreak, everyone who
could was “fleeing the city, as we may suppose the inhabitants of ­Pompeii
fled when the red lava showered down upon their houses” (qtd.  in
98  Matthew E. Duquès
Rosenberg  23). Drawing on new information about water-borne and
human-borne contagions, a wide range of writers, but especially white
upper-class urban writers, claimed that only recent Atlantic travellers,
including poor immigrants and non-whites, were susceptible to, and re-
sponsible for, this disease. John Pintard, future founder of the New York
Historical Society, wrote in a letter that the cholera outbreak “is confined
almost exclusively to the lower classes of intemperate dissolute & filthy
people huddled together like swine in their polluted habitations”. He
added that those “sickened must be cured or die off & being chiefly of the
very scum of the city the quicker [their] dispatch the sooner the malady
will cease”. By neglecting the role of structural socio-economic factors in
causing certain areas of the city to be more heavily affected than others,
Pintard could more easily conceive of the infected as expendable “scum”.
While periodical narratives condemning protests and rebellions, like
Pintard’s callous explanation of cholera, employed a harsh rhetoric of
pejorative scapegoating, early antebellum travel writing contained far
subtler patterns of projection with nevertheless similar implications
for black women. Travel writers and historians, building on a natural
history tradition animated by Atlantic exchange, made observations
about a people and their environment at the same time as they gave their
­readers access to a world outside their habitual perceptions. This com-
bination of sociological interpretation and empirical description often
made such writers and their works less overtly divisive. For example,
Alexis de ­Tocqueville focuses on sweeping geographic and continental
changes when analysing the American desire for “equality of conditions”
in his first volume of Democracy in America (1835), which was inspired
by his trip to the U.S. during the Turner rebellion and the ­cholera out-
break. Tocqueville uses the language of natural “ruin”, and the rhetoric
of disease, to articulate his conception of the global process of democra-
tisation. He describes an America scarred with “evident traces” of “the
great convulsions of the globe”, a landscape characterised by “ruins of
vegetation heaped on each other” and landmarks that prove that people,
“more civilized and more advanced in all respects”, lived “in the same
regions” and had been wiped out by “fortune” (28). For ­Tocqueville,
such mysterious, global “convulsions” augur future “convulsions”. Else-
where, he makes arguments about the political manifestations of clima-
tological conditions. In the south, for example, “sensual delight” creates
so “enervating an influence” that it makes one “regardless of the future”
(31). In the north, Anglo-Americans – the pioneers of equality – have
“destroyed an aristocracy” and “seem inclined to survey its ruins with
complacency, and to fix [their] abode in the midst of them” (8). These de-
stroyers fix “their eyes on the ruins … whilst the current sweeps [them]
along, and drives [them] backwards towards the gulf” (8). As though
seasoned by Atlantic travel, they spread their values across the conti-
nent, making “every addition to science, every fresh truth, and every
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  99
new idea” a harmful “germ of power placed within the reach of the
people” (5). Here Tocqueville renders agency ambiguous: who or what
“place[s]” the “germ of power” in the people’s hands? Whatever the
source, the prospect of empowered masses, unguided by an aristocracy
is dangerous – even fatalistic. Unlike the country’s ancient past and its
contemporary southern culture, the northern, Anglo-American push for
equality forecasts a cataclysmic shift. For Tocqueville, who was nearly
as interested in describing modern socio-political phenomena as he was
in categorising the traits he deemed natural to specific races and sexes
of people, this shift confirmed that black women, in particular, but all
other enslaved black people as well, were to become vicious aggressors if
they were able to escape their conditions of servitude.
Defining this rhetoric of disaster were specious claims of causality
about disease and other forms of calamity occurring in and across the
Atlantic world, claims that gave political upheaval a disproportionate
sense of race and sex-based disastrousness in the early national and in
the early antebellum imagination. Building on the lineage of Matthew
Carey, elite early antebellum U.S. writers identified specific groups, in-
cluding recent immigrants, poor people, white women, and most aggres-
sively black women, as both responsible for, and prone to, natural and
political disasters alike. Even in less overt literary forms, the effect was
nearly the same. Tocqueville, for example, sought to describe impartially
how democracy grew up and worked itself out in the U.S. Yet, while he
appreciated the global scope of change, and he observed racial divisions
and systemic colonial and national injustice, he did not acknowledge
the possibility that fringed groups in the U.S. could have any character
other than the one meted out by “ill-fortune”. Against the grain of her
American and European contemporaries, Child entertains this possibil-
ity in Philothea, which paints a brighter picture of the fates of women of
colour in the face of a democratic republic’s actual and political plagues.

Philothea and Its Women’s Fortunes

Lydia Maria Child’s romance, Philothea, published one year after
­Tocqueville finished volume one of Democracy in America, depicts an
ancient era when the Athenian leader Pericles introduced a relatively
more representative democracy, and the plague spread across the once
wealthy and stable city-state. 2 Child tells the tale of two female orphans,
Philothea and Eudora, who men transport across the Mediterranean Sea
to live in Athens and come of age as these events begin to occur. The two
women live as close neighbours under the single-parent guardianships of
the old philosopher, Anaxagoras, and the sculptor, Phidias, respectively.
In the face of restrictive patriarchal polity laws, Philothea, a Platonist
at heart, maintains her idealism and humility, while Eudora, a slave ac-
cording to Athenian law and an activist at heart, struggles to improve
100  Matthew E. Duquès
her state and, implicitly, the state of other women. Both Philothea and
Eudora escape the plague that ravages the city, but not through their
own wiles. Anaxagoras and Phidias take them from Athens after the
people’s Assembly exile the two men to different cities west of Athens.
This premise allows Child to organise her narrative of imperial decline
into a “before” and “after”: the story begins with an exposé of a flawed
society just before the onset of plague, then it moves outside of the city
as Philothea and others reflect on the fall from afar. By presenting an em-
pire’s decline through the perspectives of women whose lives are heavily
restricted yet highly connected to those at the centre of power, Philothea
at once absolves the women of blame and illuminates the deep social
interdependency of the imperial polity. For Child, corrupt body politics
do indeed keep time with illness in the bodies of the people. Rather than
targeting a group of people as the source of disaster, though, Philothea
targets greed and rapid modernisation, or what Philothea calls “ambi-
tion”. In Athens, disease spreads from the centre of the polity and from
positions of power, not from the sea or the marginalised, as leading U.S.
citizens so often assumed.
Using predominantly national frameworks, Bruce Mill and Sandra
Gustafson have shown how Philothea promotes timely, instructive views
on race-based slavery and democracy, condemning the former unilater-
ally and qualifying the benefits of the latter. Because the political force
of Child’s classical romance depended on contentious, modern transat-
lantic discourses, though, it is also revealing to explore how her repre-
sentation of Athens responds tacitly to those discourses. Child’s decision
to turn to the ancient Greeks for answers to current debates was, af-
ter all, not a new rhetorical move for an early American writer. This
backward-­looking strategy was as old as the first crossings. Ever mind-
ful of the ancients (Romans in particular), European travellers to the
­A mericas spoke to the old and new worlds as they entertained the pros-
pects that they, in their capacity abroad, might be modern embodiments
of Western civilisation. Often in less overt form, the first ­European set-
tlers brought notions from classical empires across the pond, seeking
to use them selectively and encouraging their creole successors to do so
as well, as means of participating in a global conversation. In the U.S.,
the early-nineteenth century incarnations of this classical translatio were
increasingly Greek in their orientation, as intellectual historian Caroline
Winterer documents in her studies The Culture of Classicism: Ancient
Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910 (2002)
and in The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical
Tradition, 1750–1900 (2007). Winterer shows how an abiding love of
Golden Age Greece spread from Europe and took root within academia
and among early U.S. citizens and non-citizens. This profound affective
cultural transformation, as Winterer notes, also included serious reser-
vations about the implications of such growing classicism, most notably
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  101
the concern, culled from the Greeks, that all republics rise and fall. The
Hellenic idea that polities, which were modelled too closely on the orig-
inal Greek republic, were destined for future decline, inspired Thomas
Cole’s famous five-painting series, The Course of Empire (1833–1836),
which depicted the rise and fall of an ancient polity. It also lay at the back
of the mind of antebellum writers as they penned neo-Greek poetry,
drama and fiction. Often building on earlier European and American
neoclassical literary works, these writers aimed to address an expansive
republic of letters as they speculated covertly about who, or what, might
be responsible for an empire’s sudden fall.
Rather than blame a character or group of characters for the plague,
Philothea criticises the corrupt means by which Athenian people achieve
their current state of development. One of the ways Child presents this
critique is to embrace the transatlantic rhetoric of Romanticism and its
Transcendentalist challenge to capitalist modernisation. 3 Signalling this
embrace is the work’s title page, which contains epigraphs from two
­English Romantics: Samuel T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth.
From Coleridge, Child borrows verses that laud the “ancient poets, / The
fair humanities of old religion,/ That had their haunts” in nature and live
no more “in the faith of Reason” and yet remain, for the “heart doth
need a language” (I). Wordsworth similarly hails the vision of those who
heed nature’s beauty: “A Spirit hung, / Beautiful region! o’er thy towns
and farms, / Statues, and temples, and memorial tombs, / And emana-
tions were perceived” (I). These verses frame the romance with a rheto­
ric of personal – rather than commercial or industrial – ­development.
In the Preface that follows these quotations, Child explains that her ro-
mance eschews the “practical tendencies of the age, and particularly of
the country in which I lived” and its “substantial fields of utility” (II).
She  chooses instead to create a work that may appeal only to a “few
kindred spirits” who seek “a light within the Grecian Temple” and who
can see the stultifying effects of unreflective (over)development (III).
­Together, the language of British Romanticism, and this scene of in-
timacy among fellow visionaries, render Child’s political critique less
overt, while at the same time advancing the anti-development argument
that underpins her interpretation of disaster.
The two main female characters in Philothea are Child’s primary
mouthpieces for Romantic ideals. By focusing, first and foremost, on or-
phaned women’s views, Child radically shifted the perspective of golden
age Greek histories as well their modern European and U.S. revisions.
The ideas and deeds of Athenian military men and statesmen, particu-
larly those men who had an established family lineage, had been the focal
points of numerous Western works since the democratic era of ­Pericles.
Not only did Thucydides take this privileged, masculinist approach in
his germinal work, History of the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.),
but so too, for instance, did eighteenth-century English historians in
102  Matthew E. Duquès
works that were available in the U.S., such as Temple Stanyan’s The
Grecian History. From the End of the Peloponnesian War to the Death
of Philip of Macedon. Containing the Space of Sixty-Eight Years (1739),
Oliver Goldsmith’s The Grecian History, from the Earliest State to the
Death of Alexander the Great (1774), William Mitford’s The History
of Greece (1784), and John Gillies, The History of Ancient Greece, Its
­Colonies and Conquests (1786). Eschewing this long-standing tradi-
tional approach to a heavily studied epoch in classical history, Child
sought to introduce the idea of elided histories and to reorient her read-
ers’ perspectives so that they could see the limits of the extant versions
of Greek history and culture.
Philithea opens with a peaceful tableau in which Philothea and Eudora
survey the Athenian city-state from the rooftop of a “modest mansion”
just outside the acropolis. This location highlights Athens’s best features
and allows Philothea to wax lyrical about its landscape: we see a “beau-
tiful variety of villas, alters, statues, and temples rejoiced in hallowed
light” and resting on earth that was “like a slumbering babe smiling …
because it dreams of Heaven” (1). At first glance, then, Athens appears
to be an elegant, heterogeneous sanctuary suffused with, and built on,
grace. The bond between Philothea and Eudora reinforces this seem-
ing affinity between architecture and topography: the two friends stand
with their “arms twined around each other” – one a possible “model for
the seraphs of Christian faith, the other an Olympian deity” (2). Full of
“deep enthusiasm”, Philothea feels the “glorious presence of the Gods”,
finds “music in this light”, and sees the world as Plato does. In contrast,
Eudora displays a more impressionable, unpredictable nature. Their con-
versation suggests that women like Philothea can liberate republics from
imminent decline, whereas women like Eudora can only hasten the fall.
Over the course of the narrative, Child breaks down these familiar
types, and scrutinises the Athenian empire through the women’s expe-
riences inside and outside its walls. Shortly after the opening image, we
discover that Athens is not peaceful, sanctified, or egalitarian. Philothea
and Eudora are not merely trying to be good Platonists (or ­Romantics)
by appreciating nature for the sake of individual growth; they are await-
ing pressing news of the verdict for the counsellor and philosopher
Philæmon, Eudora’s betrothed. The polity judges Philæmon under a law
reinstituted by Pericles who, in seeking to build political capital, sharply
curtails the rights of non-Athenian men. Pericles has declared that “all
citizens who married foreigners [are] subjected to a heavy fine; and all
persons, whose parents [are] not both Athenians, [are] declared inca-
pable of voting in the public assemblies, or of inheriting the estates of
their father” (12). As a man with one non-Athenian parent, Philæmon
is suddenly subject to this penalty. Eudora’s concerns thus introduce
Child’s readers to a coterie of Athenian policymakers engaged in an
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  103
essentialising, exclusionary campaign in which blood is the decisive fac-
tor. Deprived of the right to participate in this political struggle, Eu-
dora expresses her hope that Pericles’s progressive mistress, Aspasia, will
sway the decision in Philæmon’s favour. Philothea, though, advises her
against placing any faith in Aspasia, whose outspoken commitment to
women’s equality has, Philothea argues, prevented Eudora from seeing
her immorality and superficiality (5). This early conversation positions
Philothea as the idealistic moral stalwart and Eudora as the conflicted,
disillusioned activist. Philothea adheres to established transcendentalist
thought, while Eudora threatens disorder. Yet, Child ensures that both
of their perspectives have merit: Philothea, whose name means “lover of
god”, can only see the city’s light, as it were, and the enslaved Eudora,
whose name means “great gift”, can see its injustices.
Before the plague sets in, the scene shifts from this modest mansion
outside the acropolis to the lavish home of Pericles and his mistress,
­Aspasia, inside the acropolis. Much of Child’s story occurs in this ­second
setting, where Philothea, Eudora, and their male guardians spend a
long, extravagant evening with leading Athenian citizens, non-citizens
and foreign dignitaries. This soiree reveals a decline in Athenian moral-
ity under the populist rule of Pericles and Aspasia, who value material
splendour. At one point during the party, Plato poses a question about
wealth that names a likely source of the city’s frailty:

Are there not among us vicious rich men, who would rashly vote for
measures destructive of public good, if they could thereby increase
their own wealth? He who exports figs to maintain personal splen-
dour, when there is famine in Attica, has perhaps less public virtue
than the beggar, who steals them to avoid starvation. (46)

Plato’s rhetorical question implicates the plush environment in which

he speaks. This scene displays the seeds of Athens’s decline in the form
of material excesses. Child describes in detail the elegant estate, its art-
works, and the liberties enjoyed by the women who live there. Aspasia’s
house, for instance, is the only one “in all Greece where women are al-
lowed to be present at entertainments”, a right that is not permitted in the
austere domestic environments of Philothea and Eudora (34). Whereas
the two orphans come adorned in the “graceful simplicity of Grecian
costumes”, upper-class women of “unmixed Athenian blood” wear
grasshopper-adorned dresses, and “Asiatic and African” leaders glow in
“gorgeous apparel” (36). Whereas Philothea maintains her puritan righ-
teousness, Eudora succumbs to the influence of the beautiful, seductive,
wealthy Aspasia. In Eudora’s eyes, Aspasia’s amusements represent the
symptoms and means of greater freedom for women. In Philothea’s eyes,
she embodies “falsehood and ambition” (39). Yet, the takeaway from
104  Matthew E. Duquès
this scene is not that Philothea is right and Eudora is wrong, or that the
true enemy of the state is the greedy mistress of Pericles’s house. Child
is careful not to lay blame on Aspasia’s shoulders: her ultimately sym-
pathetic portrayal suggests that Aspasia is far from an evil mastermind,
for even she regrets using her physical beauty to “improve her lot” (34).
““I know the price at which I purchase celebrity””, she says (23). Like
Philothea and Eudora, Aspasia is an Athenian non-citizen whose choices
have been dictated by a patriarchal society in which money has become
a principal instrument of change.
Like Tocqueville, Child uses a transatlantic rhetoric of nature, rather
than disease, to ventriloquise political positions about the state of
­Athens, a strategy that allows her to shift away from accusations against
particular types or groups of people and toward an understanding of
social interdependence. ““If society be like the heaving ocean”, Pericles
argues at the party, “those who would guide their vessels in safety, must
obey the winds and the tides”” (45). Here Pericles’s society-as-ocean
metaphor responds to comments by Anaxagoras about the dangers of
letting poor people vote. Anaxagoras argues that, in granting this right,
““Aristides, and other wise men … have opened a sluice, without cal-
culating how it would be enlarged by the rushing waters, until the very
walls of the city are undermined by its power”” (40). Yet, rather than
developing into a debate about how to control the infectious authority
of poor voters – people conceived as “rushing waters” – the conversation
turns to larger sociopolitical forces as the sources of a city’s rise or fall:
institutional stability, governmental policy, and “the winds and tides” of
change. Contra Anaxagoras, Pericles touts the value of change: ““Your
respect for permanent institutions makes you blind to the love of change,
inherent and active in the human mind”” (45). Anaxagoras insists that
any government that does not remain stable risks a “deluge”: If society is
““a tumultuous ocean””, Anaxagoras claims,

government should be its everlasting shores. If the statesman watches

the wind and tide only that his own bark may ride through the
storm in safety, while every fresh wave sweeps a landmark away …
sooner or later, the deluge must come. (45)

Child’s Tocquevillian metaphor portrays the people of a polity as a

­ atural force capable of subsuming the agency of its representatives.
The key to avoiding ruin is not isolating and jettisoning the bad seeds –
whether they be poor men or unruly women – but rather, properly
“guid[ing]” the “vessels” and the “rushing waters”, especially in relation
to the distribution of rights and wealth.
Aspasia’s influence threatens to render Eudora an unruly ocean,
but Child resists this characterisation by situating Eudora’s search for
freedom within philosophical debates between the two friends. These
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  105
conversations reveal the conditions of Eudora’s enslavement and the lim-
its of Philothea’s Platonic vision. Back at the modest mansions of their
respective guardians, Philothea and Eudora disagree about whether As-
pasia is bad for women and for Athens. Their private conflict mirrors
the public conflict at the party about the proper role of government:
­Philothea, like Anaxagoras, emerges as the advocate of stability, and
­Eudora, like Pericles, represents the seeker of change. When Philothea
chastises her companion for being impressed by Aspasia, Eudora tries to
get her to understand what it means to be a slave. She informs Philothea
that, unlike her, she has no official rights. She argues that, since the
“spirit and gifts of freedom” she infrequently enjoys in Phidias’s house-
hold “ill assort with the condition of a slave”, it would “be better for me
to have a slave’s mind with a slave’s destiny” (66). In a tense moment,
which reveals a surprising lack of vision on the part of Child’s protago-
nist, Philothea defends P­ hidias, claiming that he “continues to be your
master merely that he may retain lawful power to protect you, until you
are the wife of Philaemon” (67). This statement rings with misguided
idealism in the face of Eudora’s explanations. Nevertheless, Philothea
proves right about the degree of Aspasia’s influence over her friend:
heeding Aspasia’s bad advice, Eudora agrees to a secret rendezvous with
the married Alcibiades. Philothea responds to this social scandal by “re-
coil[ing] from her beloved companion as from something polluted” (82).
This sequence of events highlights the brutal stigma of aberrant female
sexuality – a stigma that tarnishes even close friendships – but it also
highlights the non-­threatening nature of Eudora’s efforts to gain free-
dom. Philothea participates in a discourse in which social and politi-
cal commentators often grossly mischaracterised appeals as disastrous.
Child avoids aligning Eudora with what some of her antebellum read-
ers would have perceived as the “disease” of slave rebellion by placing
her character’s appeals for equality in the context of conversations with
other women. Eudora, however passionate, never threatens to incite a
“deluge” in the ocean of society, but rather, joins an intelligent debate
across hierarchal sectors of society.
Moving from the private effects of a minor scandal to the public
reso­lution of a legal dispute, Child makes it clear that the people, not
a parti­cular group of people, can be disastrous when they embrace
the power of a corrupt state. She limns the first and second trials
of ­A naxagoras, ­Phidias and Aspasia, who are all on trial before the
fourth Assembly of the People, each standing accused of a different
heretical act. The question underlying the trials is whether the three
men are, as Pericles puts it in his defence of their innocence, “accursed
of the Gods” (127). The trials suggest that it is not the accused, but
the accusers, who are ill-­fortuned. Child critiques the passions of
“vola­tile citizens” who rashly condemn others, and she emphasises the
fact that only Pericles’s moving rhetoric saves the accused from being
106  Matthew E. Duquès
sentenced to death (129). The people who comprise Athens’s governing
assembly – those who irrationally scapegoat their brethren – embody a
­polity in decline. Indeed, the t­ rial-appointed oracle predicts “calamity
to ­Athens, either of war or pestilence” (131). Anaxagoras, in learning
that he and Philothea are to be exiled, asserts, “Evil days are coming
on this city” (128). He also cites Pythagoras: “When the tempest is ris-
ing, it is wise to worship the echo” (128). For his part, Pericles laments,
“I found the people corrupted; and I must humor their disease” (133).
These scenes reveal how a legal majority can, in assembling within a
polity governed by morally compromised leaders, curtail the freedoms
of exceptional citizens and non-citizens alike – even their own leaders –
and ultimately destroy the state.
At the same time, Child undercuts the potential association between
Athens’s decline and Philothea and Eudora by accentuating Athens’s
conditions of structural oppression and deep social interdependence
among the characters. Debates at the party and the trial, for exam-
ple, show that Philothea is idealistic because her male guardian is
kind, wise and humble; she echoes his philosophy of political stabil-
ity. Similarly, Eudora is impressionable because her male guardian ap-
pears kind, but refuses to free her; she echoes Pericles’s philosophy of
change because she remains bound to Phidias. The women’s compet-
ing views illuminate the social and personal impact of Athenian slave
law: Philothea and Eudora interpret the world in radically different
ways despite their shared status as orphaned, non-Athenian, female
non-­citizens who live in the houses of men of the same class status.
Perhaps the most power­f ul evidence of the city’s socially intertwined
fabric is the means by which the women and their guardians escape
the plague. The people vote to exile Anaxagoras and Phidias to Ionia
and Elis rather than execute them after Pericles speaks eloquently on
their behalf. As an unmarried orphan, and, therefore, a dependent on
her guardian, ­Philothea goes with Anaxagoras into exile. The polity,
however, does not decide immediately to agree to send Eudora out of
Athens with ­Phidias. ­Philothea seeks to make a plea on her friend’s be-
half, but because she is a woman, she cannot voice the appeal herself.
So, a leading male citizen declares,

Philothea, – whom you all know was, not long since, one of the
Canephoræ, … humbly begs of the Athenians, that Eudora, Dione,
and Geta, slaves of Phidias, may remain under his protection, and
not be confiscated with his household goods. (131)

Each of these men and women thus depend on the acts of another for
their lives and their homes. Athens cannot rise or fall through the acts of
one person or group alone.
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  107
When the plague hits Athens, we learn about its devastation through
Plato, who is visiting Anaxagoras in Ionia. Back in the city Anaxagoras
and Philothea once called home,

pestilence is still raging; a manifested form of that inward corruption

which, finding a home in the will of man, clothed itself in thought,
and now completes its circle in his corporeal nature … Men fall
down senseless in the street, and the Piræus [port] has been heaped
with unburied dead. (138)

According to Plato’s diagnosis, the plague grows from essence into ideo­
logy; then it becomes a bodily illness. As he accounts for the living and
the dead, though, it becomes apparent that, even though the origins of
the “inward corruption” are unclear, the disease starts with politicians.
Pericles suffers, yet his access to medical care ultimately saves him. Other
political figures are affected and many succumb to infection. The plague
moves from politicians’ bodies to the people’s bodies in the streets and
lay to waste in the port. “He who gives his mind to politics,” Plato con-
cludes, “sails on a stormy sea, with a giddy pilot” (143). Again, Child
chooses the language of nature to describe the plight of the fallen city-
state, and her mouthpiece, Plato, inverts the logic according to which
illness moves from women to men, enslaved to free, sea to metropole, or
crowded street to elevated mansion.
Plato’s diagnosis and subsequent conversation with Anaxagoras in-
vokes a distinctly modern theory about the impact of disease and other
natural disasters on political identity. Anaxagoras asks, “Has this fear-
ful pestilence no power to restrain the appetites and passions of the peo-
ple?” (147). In other words, might this disaster serve as a moral lesson for
a corrupt society? Could it denaturalise a harmful, prevailing ideo­logy?
Plato insists that his friend’s optimism is doubly wrong: the plague gives
the people even “more unbridled license” and there is no more wisdom
in Athens now than there was before the onslaught of disease. D ­ isease,
he says, has not functioned as a cure. At the same time, disease has not
decimated the population. Philothea resists the idea that a calamity like
the plague can uniformly affect a group of people, whether for the good
or bad of the polity. Pericles may recover, but other politicians do not
fare so well; both the marginalised and the powerful suffer. The un-
even effects of Athens’s plague thus challenge the brand of scapegoating
practiced by Child’s contemporaries, who attempt to isolate diseased or
disease-causing groups within otherwise healthy populations.
The fates of Philothea and her beloved Paralus, Pericles’s son, represent
another example of disaster’s uneven effects. Child depicts Paralus as a
sensitive young man whose impaired cognisance results, in part, from
the plague.4 He survives, initially, but during this short period of time
108  Matthew E. Duquès
in which he lives, he remains “unconscious of existence in this world”
(147). After Anaxagoras’s death of natural causes, Philothea returns to
Athens and marries Paralus, despite his condition. After their wedding,
the couple and Paralus’s father journey to Olympia to see Tithonus,
an Ethiopian mesmerist who might be able to cure Paralus’s trance by
“leading the soul from the body, and again restoring it to its functions,
by means of a soul-directing wand” (179). Notably, Child devotes at-
tention to the diseased body of a privileged white man, rather than that
of a poor man or slave woman – i.e. the types of bodies conventionally
suspected as sites of contagion. Child also uses these passages to compli-
cate the cultural roots of the disease and its potential effects and cures.
For example, she mixes western and eastern traditions by naming the
African mesmerist after a Trojan man whom Greeks granted immor-
tality. The ultimate failure of Tithonus’s mesmeric procedure suggests
that, even as a disease disrupts the relationship between foreigners and
natives and between the living and the dead, one cannot simply remove
the unwanted other in order to restore the health of the state.
While never infected by disease, Philothea does not survive the ro-
mance named after her. Following her marriage to Paralus, he dies, and
she dies shortly thereafter. Her death is a sign that she embodies an un-
attainable ideal; her pursuit of truth was too perfect to survive among
the living in a fallen city. Philothea’s fate resembles that of a Platonic
type or Christ figure often considered crucial to the romance and the
novel. Exemplified in the latter by characters such as Robinson Crusoe,
­Walter Shandy, and Edward Casaubon, this larger-than-life, convention-
ally male figure symbolises what we might call the “exceptional nostal-
gic”. He or she attempts to repair what is broken, or to restore what is
lost. Scott Juengel captures the primary characteristic of the exceptional
nostalgic. He observes a counterintuitive tie between novels and what
he calls “catastrophe’s uncontainable eventfulness”: novels love a char-
acter who “long[s]… to make whole what was smashed” (Juengel 443).
Philothea seeks just this kind of wholeness. She possesses the “wisdom
of age and the innocence of childhood”, Romantic traits that motivate
her relentless pursuit of an ideal self and a restored social order (238).
Her decision to marry Paralus is the last instance of her drive to piece
together things that have already fallen apart. The fact that she dies well
before Philothea ends reinforces the notion that her curative powers are
laudable yet also sadly limited.
In contrast, Eudora’s happy fate – complete with resettlement, mar-
riage, a child, and a royal pedigree – solidifies her role as a force of posi­
tive change at the same time as it strengthens Child’s argument about
deep social interdependence. Only through the help of several friends,
does Eudora escape a second enslavement and find her way to self-­
determination. After Phidias dies of natural causes, she enjoys a ­period
free from the bonds of slavery during which time she reunites with
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  109
Philothea. However, after Philothea’s death, Alcibiades kidnaps her and
takes her east to Salamis. With the help of Geta and Mibras, two ex-slaves
who are married to each other, Eudora escapes from Alcibiades. She then
follows a vision received from Paralus and Philothea in which the couple
tell her to seek out the Persian king, Artaphernes. This vision turns out
to be quite helpful as Eudora eventually discovers that Artaphernes  is
her father. She is not an orphan, but rather, a princess. When she first
arrives in Persia, she “sighs to think of all she had heard concerning the
far more rigid customs”, which include wearing “a long, thick veil, that
descended to her feet, with two small openings of net-work for the eyes”
(267). In this new, restrictive environment, she nevertheless gains her
legal freedom and even contests the king’s will by marrying Philæmon.
Philothea ends with the married couple’s settled life and news of the
birth of their child, “a gentle maiden, with plaintive voice and earnest
eyes”, who “bore the beloved name of Philothea” (277).
Just as Child refuses to idolise or indict any of her female characters
for Athens’s fall, so too does she carefully avoid depicting Persia as an
inferior or superior city. Eudora and Philæmon live in a region called
“Queen’s girdle”, a “fertile valley” named for the “revenues appropri-
ated to that costly article of royal wardrobe” (277). In some ways, the
setting is idyllic: they live next to a harbour replete with “opportunities
for literary communication between the East and the West” and near
“celebrated schools under the direction of the Magii, frequently visited
by learned men from Greece, Ethiopia, and Egypt” (277). The valley’s
assets – a singular faith, a global network, and a cosmopolitan educa-
tion system – spell greater freedoms for its inhabitants. Compared to
­Athens’s western republic, this eastern kingdom seems to possess just
what a polity needs in order to escape a boom-bust cycle. Yet, in other
ways, ­Eudora’s new home is just as flawed as her old one: its humorous
place-name, “Queen’s girdle”, suggests that her father’s monarchical
state has some of the same problems that beset Athens, including materi-
alism and misogyny. The resolution of Child’s romance thus defies early
antebellum efforts to oppose particular groups of people or polities, and
it resists the cyclical views of imperial history rehearsed by her contem-
poraries. Instead, Child leaves readers with a conception of politi­cal
identity based on social interdependency – a rich fabric of interconnec-
tion that will live on in the form of a new and different “Philothea”.
A transatlantic framework may seem unusual for a U.S. author whose
works scholars typically view in national terms as well as for a fictional
narrative set in the Mediterranean and in the East. Yet, our association
of Child with the national rather than the transnational reflects the criti-
cal paradigm in vogue when her oeuvre was first recovered, not the ways
she conceived of her writings, or the ways her readers interpreted them.
Philothea participates in the discourses of an era Child called “a prac-
tical age” when ideas about a nation’s rise and fall, its sense of slavery
110  Matthew E. Duquès
and liberty, life and death, were produced through Atlantic channels.
In response to the scapegoating rhetoric of both her U.S. and European
contemporaries, Child attempts to decouple the modern link between
disaster and unruly women of colour, an association that shaped foun-
dational concepts of citizenship rights and civic praxis during the early
antebellum period. In Philothea, political corruption breeds disease, and
a woman’s appeal for rights becomes a productive journey, not a poison-
ous contagion. Complex social and natural forces, not inherent char-
acter traits, cause natural disasters and inspire revolutions. Following
Tocqueville and other transatlantic voices, Child suggests that a repub-
lic’s natural tendency may be toward decline. But, she does not suggest
that either outsiders or insiders, men or women, white or black people,
rich or poor people, are better suited to change the course of a republic,
for the constituents of any polity remain always deeply intertwined in
their powers and their limitations. As scholars continue to rethink trans-
atlantic studies, it will be worthwhile for them to think of Philothea as a
story that combats a divisive international rhetoric in an Atlantic world
that was struggling to cope with the impact of actual natural disasters
and supposed political disasters since the first crossings.

1 I cite the following edition of Child’s work parenthetically in the body of this
chapter: Lydia Maria Child, Philothea, or Plato Against Epicurus: A Novel
of the Transcendental Movement in New England (Hartford: Transcendental
Books, 1975).
2 Child was not the only woman writer and reformer in the early nineteenth
century who drew on this history to write a book. Scottish-born reformer,
Frances Wright also wrote A Few Days in Athens (1822).
3 For Child’s ties to transcendentalism see Robert E. Streeter, “Mrs. Child’s
Philothea: A Transcendentalist Novel?” in New England Quarterly vol. 16
no. 4 (Dec. 1943) 648–654. For a less dismissive reading, see Kenneth W­ alter
Cameron, “Defining the American Transcendental Novel” in the edition of
the book used here.
4 Historians since Plutarch have claimed that Paralus, and his brother
­Xanthippus, were not the sharpest young men; conventionally, the brothers
are described as men who differ markedly from their clever, successful father.

Works Cited
Allen, Richard and Jones, Absalom. A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black
People, During the Late Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793; and
a Refutation of Some Censures Thrown upon them in Some Publications.
Philadelphia: 1794.
Cameron, Kenneth Walter. Philothea or Plato Against Epicurus: A Novel of
the Transcendental Movement in New England. Hartford: Transcendental
Books, 1975.
Women of Colour, Politics and the Plague  111
Carey, Matthew. A Short Account of the Malignant Fever, Lately Prevalent in
Philadelphia: with a Statement of the Proceedings that Took Place on the
Subject in Different Parts of the United States. Philadelphia: 1793.
Castiglia, Chris. Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life
of Democracy in the Antebellum U.S. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
Child, Lydia Maria. Philothea, or Plato Against Epicurus: A Novel of the Tran-
scendental Movement in New England. Hartford: Transcendental Books,
Donegan, Kathleen. Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement
in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.
Gustafson, Sandra. Imagining Deliberative Democracy in Early American Re-
public. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist Papers.
New York: Signet Classics, 2003.
Juengel, Scott. “The Early Novel and Catastrophe”, in Novel: A Forum on Fic-
tion 43.1 (2009): 443–450.
Mills, Bruce. Lydia Maria Child and the Literature of Reform. Athens: Univer-
sity of Georgia Press, 1994.
Murison, Justine S. The Politics of Anxiety in Nineteenth Century American
Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Parrish, Susan Scott. American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the
Colonial British Atlantic World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 2006.
Pintard, John. “Letters from John Pintard to his Daughter Eliza Noel Pintard
Davidson, 1816–1833”. Ed. Dorothy C. Barck. New York: New York Histo­
rical Society, 1940. Vol. 1, 102.
Rosenberg, Charles. The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832,1849, and
1866. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1962.
Slauter, Eric. The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitu-
tion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Trans. Henry Reeve. New York:
Bantam Books, 2000.
Winterer, Caroline. The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in
American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910. Baltimore: John Hopkins University
Press, 2002.
———. The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradi-
tion, 1750–1900. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.
Wisecup, Kelly. Medical Encounters: Knowledge and Identity in Early A ­ merican
Literatures. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013.
6 Christian Morality and
Roman Depravity
Illustrating Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s
The Last Days of Pompeii in a
Transatlantic Literary Market
Annika Bautz

Facts, like stones, are nothing in themselves; their value consists in the
manner they are put together, and the purpose to which they are applied.
—Edward Bulwer-Lytton, England and the English (1833)

Pompeii was discovered in 1749 and has fascinated people ever since.
While in the second half of the eighteenth century primarily E ­ uropeans
visited, often as part of the Grand Tour, by the nineteenth century,
­A mericans too, increasingly travelled to Italy and Pompeii.1 By the
1830s, Pompeii had become one of the reasons American guidebooks
were giving for going to Europe. 2 Increased tourism to Europe was
partly a result of improved travel conditions, including, by the middle of
the nineteenth century, steamship navigation across the Atlantic. Among
famous American writers who went to Pompeii and who wrote accounts
of their visits are James Fennimore Cooper in the 1820s, Ralph Waldo
Emerson in 1833, Catharine Maria Sedgwick in 1839, Herman Melville
in 1857, Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1858, and famously, Mark Twain in
1867 (Meyer 115–128). In 1832, Edward Bulwer-Lytton visited the site
and became one of many European writers to tap into this fascination
with Pompeii. His 1834 novel The Last Days of Pompeii helped cre-
ate the power Pompeii had over the nineteenth-century imagination. In
America as in Europe, Bulwer’s novel fed into a growing interest in the
site, the city and its fate. The text became a long-standing international
best seller that generated and consolidated stereotypes and myths about
Pompeii, Romans and Christians. It came to dominate popular percep-
tion throughout the nineteenth century and beyond: many of the conven-
tions it propagated are still familiar clichés to us now, such as decadent
Romans, virtuous Christians, and lion-fighting gladiators in the arena.
This chapter begins by establishing the novel’s early popularity in the
context of the transatlantic reprint trade. In order to ascertain some of
the reasons for the novel’s lasting and international appeal, the chapter
then analyses late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century illustrations
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  113
published in the various competing editions. Illustrations can be seen as
one indicator of what either publisher or illustrator anticipated readers
would like about a text. They are also an attempt to make an edition dis-
tinct and more attractive than the many other versions of Bulwer’s novel.
Comparing illustrated editions from across Europe and North America
shows how different cultures shaped their versions of this text, and, im-
portantly, what about the novel appealed to readers in these different
countries, decades after the novel was first published. Interestingly, as
the chapter will show, cultures around and across the Atlantic reacted to
the novel in similar ways.

The Last Days of Pompeii and the Transatlantic

Reprint Trade
Like virtually all British novels in the nineteenth century, the Last Days
was published in the UK in the usual three-volume format, at the usual
high price of 31s 6d. It became immensely popular in the nineteenth cen-
tury, but because its high price excluded the majority of British readers,
the immediate popularity was mainly through spin-offs, popular the-
atre, images, circus, opera and songs. There were theatre versions within
weeks, showing that the story immediately captured the imagination,
but again, like all new novels in nineteenth-century Britain, the book
could not reach the less than affluent for a long time, until it eventually
came out in cheaper editions.
The number of new editions that appeared throughout the nineteenth
century in Britain alone indicates the extent and duration of the novel’s
popularity. Bentley, who had published the 1834 three-volume edition,
brought out a one-volume edition in 1839 at five shillings, Saunders &
Otley published a six-shilling edition in 1840, Chapman a three-shilling
sixpence edition in 1850, and then, in 1853, Routledge paid Bulwer the un-
precedented sum of £20,000 for the right to publish nineteen of Bulwer’s
novels for ten years in the “Railway Library” at prices of two shillings and
lower, an arrangement that was renewed in 1863 (Mumby 57).3 When the
novel went out of copyright in Britain in 1880, ever more and cheaper edi-
tions were published, in hugely high print runs (Bautz and St Clair 364ff).
The Last Days was not just extremely popular at home but also im-
mediately abroad. Within weeks, editions were published in the U.S.,
and translations appeared in Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere. For
example, in 1834 alone, so within months of the novel’s UK publication
in late September, there were three different translations into German:

Die Letzten Tage von Pompeji, Aachen 1834, 3 vols. Translation by

C. Czarnowski. This translation was also published in a 4-volume
edition in the same year.4
114  Annika Bautz
Die Letzten Tage von Pompeji, Leipzig 1834, 3 vols. Translation by
J. Sporschil.

Die Letzten Tage Pompejis, Stuttgart 1834–1835, 6 vols. Transla-

tion by Friedrich Notter.

In the U.S., as elsewhere, there was immediate demand for Bulwer’s

novel. Harpers’ two-volume edition of LDP appeared within weeks of
the work’s British publication in 1834. There was at least one rival edi-
tion in the same year, in one volume, published by Wallis & Newell, also
of New York.5 Indeed, as James Barnes points out, the edition of “the
rival firm” – the rival firm presumably being Wallis & Newell – was
cheaper, “which forced Harpers to lower their price”, thus reducing their
profits (Barnes 38). The retail price for reprint novels in the 1820s and
1830s was usually about $1.75 or $2 (about 8–10 shillings), so less than
half the British price, though of course this varied.6 The 1830s and 1840s
saw the rise of broadsheet newspapers called mammoth weeklies, which
brought out European novels in instalments, yet more cheaply, so that
the price charged for reprint novels went down further (Exman 54). As
the prices were so much lower in the U.S. than in Britain, the print runs
even of the early editions were high. Bulwer’s The Last of the B ­ arons,
for example, was published by Harpers in an edition with an initial print
run of 42,500 copies, with Harper writing to Bulwer that “in the first
fortnight there will be at least one hundred thousand copies of the work
sold!”7 Bulwer’s novels were extraordinarily popular on both sides of
the Atlantic, but because there was no international copyright in 1834,
there would, for many years, have been many more American, German,
French or Italian than British readers (especially relative to the respective
populations).8 Furthermore, in the absence of international copyright,
there could immediately be competing American editions as there was
no law to stop any American publisher from reprinting British texts. In
­Britain, competing editions of Bulwer’s novels only started to appear
once the novels went out of copyright in the late nineteenth century.
Importantly then, from American Independence in 1776 to the pass-
ing of the Chace Act in 1891, there was no copyright treaty b ­ etween
­Britain and the United States.9 In Europe, copyright agreements
­between  ­Britain  and  Prussia were successfully negotiated in 1846,
and between Britain and France in 1851, but not with the U.S. (Seville
2009, 221). ­I ndeed, as Meredith McGill has argued, the refusal to grant
international copyright was by no means an oversight but a “substan-
tive measure”, with Congress repeatedly rejecting international copy-
rights bills and denying petitions signed by Britain’s and America’s most
promi­nent authors (McGill 81). This lack of copyright had far-­reaching
consequences, for readers, publishers, and authors; indeed, William
St Clair argues that it was “the single most important determinant of the
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  115
reading of the new republic for nearly a century” (St Clair 2004, 382).
One of the effects of the lack of an international copyright agreement
was that it was more profitable for American publishers to reprint ­British
authors than to pay American ones. These profit margins resulted in
many American publishers perceiving debates about copyright as a
threat, but it also led to complaints by American authors that Britain
“retain[ed] an ideological foothold long after her political dominion had
ceased” (Zboray 435, Seville 2009: 223). By the middle of the nineteenth
century however, the number of American-authored texts published in
the U.S. had overtaken those by British authors (and indeed, the reprint
trade of American works in Britain began to flourish particularly from
the 1850s onwards) (Seville 2009: 222; Goodrich 388–391, 552–553).10
In the U.S., the lack of international copyright made it more difficult
for unknown American authors to get published. A popular author like
James Fennimore Cooper could command $5,000 for copyrights to his
novels in the 1820s, which, as the cost book of Carey & Lea shows, was
by far the largest cost and meant that it took several months for the firm
to make a profit from a novel by Cooper (Kaser 1957: 79–80; Kaser
1963: 52). British authors could be reprinted without any copyright
costs. Authors such as Bulwer and Dickens famously argued against the
perceived immorality of the booming reprint trade, but of course, as they
knew and as British and American publishers knew, in the absence of a
bilateral copyright agreement it was perfectly legal to reprint a foreign
author’s text (Patten 169).
While it was cheaper to reprint British authors than to pay American
ones, there were rival publishers to contend with, as many American
publishers wanted their share of any popular British author. Best-selling
British writers such as Dickens or Bulwer could negotiate fees with an
American publisher for sending over proofs or early copies of their works,
giving that publisher “a brief head start in the race to publish” (­ Seville
2007: 63). These kinds of agreements had started with Scott, whose
­British publisher Longman had first sent advance sheets to M. Carey &
Son in Philadelphia in 1817. Carey offered Scott’s next B ­ ritish publisher,
Constable, £55 (about $250) in 1822 “for advance copy of any future
Waverley novels” (Kaser 1957: 103; Todd and Bowden 451). This then
innovative practice gave Carey & Lea, as the publishing house had now
become, a head start over their competitors who would have to wait for
copies of the published novel to be shipped over. With Scott, it was his
British publishers rather than he himself who received the sole profit from
the publication of his novels in the U.S. Later in the century, authors such
as Bulwer followed the model established by publishers but negotiated to
receive any money themselves: Harpers paid Bulwer £100 for sending the
corrected proofs of the Last Days to New York, and from his next novel,
Rienzi, onwards, until his death in 1873, ­Harpers paid him £150 for ad-
vance copies of each of his works (Exman 159; Barnes 40).11 Of course
116  Annika Bautz
Bulwer was used to being paid much larger sums in Britain; he had been
paid £1,500 in 1829 for Devereux, and had asked Bentley for the sum of
£1,200, probably for the copyright of the Last Days (Gettman 189). And
Bulwer’s profits did not end there; he bought back and resold his rights
repeatedly; for example, as discussed above, to Routledge in the 1853
deal that brought him £20,000 for the rights to nineteen of his novels for
ten years, even though most of these novels had been in the market for
years.12 These figures put £100 as the sole profit from all American edi-
tions into perspective. But Bulwer was business-minded even about these
minor sums. He specified in the contracts with his British publishers not
only that he should be the beneficiary of any non-UK profits, but also,
in order to uphold his agreement with the Harpers, that the publication
of his novels should be delayed in order to ensure the Harpers gained the
head start they had paid him for. For example, in the draft contract for
Harold drawn up with Bentley 1848, Bulwer specified that

the sole and exclusive right of sending proofs abroad for the purpose
of a client in Europe and the United States shall rest with the said
Sir E. G. E. L. B. [Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer] and that he
shall enjoy for his own benefit all profits so arising – […] that proofs
shall be furnished him for the said purpose – [and that] a clear fort-
night be allowed from the completion of the printing such work – &
the day of its publication in England.
(Draft Contract, drawn up on 13 March 1848; Bentley
Archives, British Library, reel 28, vol. 56, p. 84)

The contract emphasised that timing was crucial: to be copyrighted in

Britain, a novel needed to have been first published in Britain, so H
­ arpers
had to wait for that, but as soon as a British edition of a text was pub-
lished other American publishers could get hold of it, which led to com-
plex arrangements such as the one in this contract. The contract also
shows though that while, in the absence of international copyright, the
author’s profits from American sales were necessarily limited, they were
not non-existent if an author knew how to play the game. To do this,
however, he had to be popular: in their letters to Bulwer, the ­Harpers
acknowledge that “your [Bulwer’s] popularity in this country is such as
to afford every presumption of advantage to us by continuing to hold the
priority of publication”.13 They clearly expect his novels to continue to
be in very high demand, telling Bulwer that “we have invested a large
amount of capital in your productions, having stereotyped them all – an
unusual measure”.14 In fact, as Barnes points out, the Harpers “were
stereotyping all of his works, a sure sign that they anticipated a large and
prolonged sale” (Barnes 36). It is on the grounds of Bulwer’s extraordi-
nary popularity that they agree to pay him £150 for advance copy of
each of his works, to enable them to be the first to publish Bulwer in the
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  117
U.S. By the 1830s, the practice of trade courtesy, or de facto rather than
de jure copyright had become common, which attempted to establish an
American publisher’s right to a foreign text – the publisher who had first
declared his intent to publish a British work – as if it was under copyright
(Winship 101). However, courtesy of trade was not law but a gentlemen’s
agreement and “tended to break down … whenever the British book in
question was a particularly attractive prize”, with factors such as “delays
in the delivery of [advance] sheets, disputes over the priority of claims,
and upstart competitors” contributing to rendering trade courtesy un-
enforceable (West 303; McGill 105). Not surprisingly, perhaps, with
Bulwer, trade courtesy broke down repeatedly, even in the 1830s. For ex-
ample, as discussed above, the rival firm of Wallis & Newell brought out
a version of the Last Days within weeks of Harpers’ edition in 1834, and
similarly, in 1838, the year of its first UK publication and the first U.S.
edition published by the Harpers, the firm of Carey, Lea & Blanchard
brought out their rival edition of Bulwer’s Leila or the Siege of Granada.
While Wallis & Newell attempt to distinguish their edition by making
it cheaper than the Harpers’, Carey, Lea & Blanchard market theirs as
an upmarket one, advertising it as “Illustrated with splendid engravings
from drawings by the most eminent artists”, and charging $2.50 (Kaser
1963: 234).15 These instances occurred in spite of Harpers’ de facto pri-
ority rights and all their attempts to assert “their own right to that au-
thor’s works”, for example through repeatedly advertising the full list of
Bulwer novels (DeSpain 48). The rise of the mammoth weeklies, with
their reprinted instalments of novels in the 1830s and 1840s caused a
change in practices, as “proprietors of the mammoth weeklies showed
little concern for gentlemen’s courtesy … [forcing] established publishers
to forego previous agreements” (DeSpain 22). The Harpers are at pains
to point out the risks of rival editions when negotiating the sum they
would pay Bulwer. Referring to the Wallis & Newell edition, they state:
“You are aware of course, that having no copyright, we cannot prevent
this interloping, and you can judge without any help from us, how ma-
terially it must injure us.”16 The desirability of a Bulwer novel is also
shown by an incident that occurred in 1842, when an unreleased copy of
Bulwer’s latest novel, The Last of the Barons, was stolen on Christmas
Day from Harpers’ bindery. One of the chief rivals, the publisher of the
mammoth weekly The New World, Jonas Winchester, was suspected of
the crime because his paper released the novel soon after (DeSpain 46;
Exman 26). In spite of these risks and setbacks, the Harpers continued
to pay Bulwer £150 for advance copy of each work. The long-lasting
Harper-Bulwer agreement is testimony to the centrality of Bulwer to the
reprint trade, to the degree of his novels’ popularity and to the profit that
could be made from a two-week head start.
The popularity of the Last Days lasted, in Europe and the U.S.,
throughout the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. Ever
118  Annika Bautz
new editions attest to this, in all price categories, but there are other
indicators, too, for example references to the novel in newspaper ar-
ticles that assume familiarity with its characters and topic, or book
clubs discussing it at their meetings.17 Given the novel’s degree of
popularity, publishers needed to think of measures that would dis-
tinguish their edition from the many others.18 Illustrations provided
one way in which this could be done. Reader demand is one of seve­
ral potential reasons for including illustrations. Importantly, where
demand-led, illustrations can be seen to indicate what publishers and
illustrators thought readers would like about the novel. The second
part of this chapter therefore discusses illustrations to editions of the
Last Days from around the Atlantic, focusing primarily on the late
nineteenth century, to determine some of the reasons for the novel’s
lasting appeal.

Illustrations to The Last Days of Pompeii

in a Transatlantic Literary Market
The many different editions of the Last Days, throughout the nineteenth
century, and across Europe and North America, emphasise the role of
a text’s materiality and the importance of paratexts, including illus-
trations. As DeSpain reminds us, transatlantic reprinting in particular
“called attention to the mediating role of the publisher and the many
versions of any one book” (DeSpain 14). The myriad editions of Bulwer’s
works in the nineteenth and early twentieth century also call attention
to the transitivity of popularity and tastes, especially when compared to
the lack of interest in his novels from the middle of the twentieth century
onwards. Illustrations show some of the reasons for the appeal of the
Last Days that lasted for 100 years after its initial publication: while the
number and kinds of illustrations vary between editions, the focus that
emerges from European and American illustrated editions is on ­Christian
morality in opposition to Roman depravity. Bulwer’s great achievement
then was to create a text that was portable because it could be read as
advocating a kind of Christianity that appealed throughout the Atlantic
world, beyond nationalisms and differing religious denominations.
Throughout the nineteenth century, and particularly in the second
half of the century, an increasing number of books included illustra-
tions. This also applied to editions of the Last Days. The increase was
largely due to technological advances, which made the inclusion of im-
ages ­easier and cheaper.19 But it was also connected to the fact that il-
lustrations were one way of making an edition of a popular text distinct
from ­others in a competitive literary marketplace (such as, for exam-
ple, Carey, Lea & Blanchard’s edition of Leila or the Siege of Granada,
­“illustrated with splendid engravings” to rival the Harpers’ edition, dis-
cussed above (Kaser 1963: 234)).
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  119
The development of stereotype made a big difference to nineteenth-­
century publishing practices. Just as with text, the plates from which
images were made could now be shared between publishing houses, even
across the Atlantic. In the absence of archival evidence and of a detailed
comparison of surviving copies, it is impossible to say how these plates
were shared; whether copies were made from a single set of plates or
whether duplicate plates were made. Nor do we usually know the fi-
nancing arrangements between publishers. Whatever was done, what
we are seeing are imaginative ways of sharing the investment costs and
of enabling the text or the illustrations to be made available for sale in
more than one centre, arrangements made much easier in the age of
stereotype than were possible even a few years before when all copies
were printed from moveable type, set up locally. There are numerous ex-
amples of this practice of sharing or duplicating plates of images to edi-
tions of the Last Days; for instance, a Hablot Brown frontispiece, first
used by C ­ hapman and Hall in 1850, then by Routledge, reappears in the
American ­Lippincott edition of 1867 and the American Collier edition
of 1896. Similarly, all the illustrations by F. Gilbert included in Dicks’s
1883 edition of the Last Days reappeared in Ward and Lock’s edition of
c1900, while the German F. Kirchbach’s illustrations to the novel were
first published in Munich in 1883 then to reappear in a Routledge edi-
tion of 1900. This sharing of plates was therefore one of the factors
that rendered not just the novel but the illustrations, and the ideas they
contained, international.
At the same time, the development of the American printing industry,
which printed an ever-rising number of books, brought many skilled
workers to America, including illustrators and engravers. Publishers in-
creasingly trusted the talent of American artists and engravers to cre-
ate images of their own, rather than taking British ones (Gross 28).
Indeed, as scholars such as Jessica DeSpain and Molly Knox Leverenz
have shown, illustrations could be a way of integrating a foreign novel
into the receiving culture, “creating a hybrid, transatlantic text” (Knox
­L everenz 22). 20 Thus, illustrations to Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone
(1868) in Harper’s Weekly, particularly those that depict the Indians
in positive ways, can be read as a critique of England and its imperi-
alism (Knox Leverenz 41). In similar ways, illustrations in Bohn’s and
Routledge’s British editions of Susan Warner’s The Wide Wide World
(1850) turn Ellen into “a British subject [with] a delicate understanding
of a hierarchical class system [that] is disturbed by … utilitarian Yankee
classlessness” (DeSpain 74). In contrast to these examples, international
editions to the Last Days foreground the same theme: Christianity.
In the context of the Great Awakening and the highly-prized free-
dom of religion following independence, religion was perhaps a parti­
cularly dominating force in nineteenth-century U.S. culture (Buell 167;
­Hochstedt Butler; Gaustad 139). Yet illustrations in editions across and
120  Annika Bautz
around the Atlantic all focus on Christian morality as the novel’s core,
and do so in similar ways. Examples from British, American, French,
German and Italian illustrated editions, from various decades, show
that the theme of Christian morality as offset against pagan depravity
dominates illustrations, regardless of the nationality of the edition’s pub-
lisher and anticipated reader, and regardless of time of publication. Illus-
trations accentuate the novel’s rendering of the destruction of Pompeii
by ­Vesuvius in 79 CE as God’s punishment of the depraved, corrupted
and sinful Romans. In Bulwer’s version, the hero and heroine, who
abide by Christian values throughout and convert in the final chapter,
escape the general devastation; indeed, just before the volcano erupts,
the hero Glaucus is given to the lion in the arena, but the lion will not
touch a man with Christian morals, and before the evil P ­ ompeians can
think of ­another way of destroying him, Vesuvius erupts and kills them.
­Illustrations show what publishers or illustrators anticipated r­ eaders
would want, and can therefore help us establish that one – perhaps
the main  – reason for the novel’s appeal throughout and beyond the
­nineteenth century was its Christian moral framework and its juxta­
position of Christian morality and pagan depravity.
Three subthemes emerge from an analysis of international illustrated
editions of the Last Days: archaeology, Roman depravity, Christian
goodness. Accordingly, the first section below discusses how illustrators
place fictional characters into the ruins that are the real archaeological
sites, which emphasises the idea of the city having been subjected to
divine punishment for its sins, but also highlights Pompeii as a travel
destination. The second section explores the representation of Roman
depravity by focusing on vanity, decadence, and violence, the depic-
tions of which function to justify the city’s fate. The third section ex-
amines the insertion of Christians and the offsetting of Christian virtue
and Roman depravity in order to stress the superiority of Christian

Putting People into the Archaeology

Archaeology, and linked to that, travel, are themes that are connected
to the moral lesson about the historical destruction of the city as pun-
ishment of immoral, non-Christian ways, but the themes of archaeo­logy
and travel are also connected to the popularity of Pompeii as a tour-
ist attraction, with both Europeans and Americans. Bulwer knew that
anchoring his story and his characters into existing places made them
more real. He included exact archaeological accounts when he described
houses, locations, food, etc. These accounts were mostly taken from Sir
William Gell’s Pompeiana (1817), the most authoritative account of Pom-
peii at the time by the very famous British archaeologist who had shown
Bulwer (and Walter Scott, a few months earlier) around the site in 1832.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  121
The inclusion of topographical and archaeological illustrations simi-
larly grounds Bulwer’s characters in real places (see ­Figure 6.1 below).
The temple of Isis is significant for the story as the villain, Arbaces, is a
priest of Isis. He, along with all other unchristian Pompeians, dies when
Vesuvius erupts. So the image of this ruined temple of Isis functions
on the one hand to ground the story in reality and history, but also to
remind readers of the moral lesson. The 1835 Italian version, translated
and edited by F. Cusani, appears to be the earliest illustrated edition.
It includes several illustrations, all topographical. The illustrations are
all smudgy like the one reproduced here: they are made by lithography
which was very new then, and which enabled copies of existing pictures,
including amateur drawings, to be copied cheaply. 21 This edition was
probably the edition that we know was sold in parts on the site: it is
printed so as to be dividable into parts each with an illustration – so The
Last Days of Pompeii takes the place of guidebooks almost as soon as
it is published, on the site itself. If you had not read the novel before you
went, you could buy it on site. As Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
discuss in Chapter 10 of this collection, the 1820s and 1830s see the first
guidebooks in the UK and the U.S., which resemble nineteenth-century
fiction in many ways in this period. It is not therefore entirely surprising
that Bulwer’s novel was used as a guidebook. The introduction to the
1835 Cusani edition, and in early editions outside of Italy, too, is topo-
graphical. 22 Cusani even includes a map of Pompeii. He also makes a
point of saying that he chose those views of Pompeii which best serve
to illustrate the novel (rather than the other way around). 23 For editions

Figure 6.1  Tempio d’Iside (Temple of Isis), Gli Ultimi Giorni di Pompeii,
transl. and with an introduction by Francesco Cusani, Milano:
Tipografia Pirotta, 1835.
122  Annika Bautz
such as this, history and archaeology were the most important elements,
so much so that the novel was seen as a guidebook. The topographical
illustrations emphasise how, much like Scott’s novels (Cusani explicitly
draws the comparison between Bulwer and Scott), this novel gained sta-
tus because it inculcated historical lessons. At the same time, the focus
on the ruins of lavish houses and heathen temples stresses the city’s fate
throughout, and so highlights the Christian framework.
Editions that included illustrations showing the archaeological and
historical aspects of the novel appeared throughout the nineteenth cen-
tury and across Europe and the U.S. To give two more examples: the
American “University Edition” (Figure 6.2) is evidently meant to appeal
to an educated readership, and to potential travellers. It is an upmarket
one and has no images that refer directly to the story, no characters
or incidents. Instead, it has photographs of Pompeii, even with tourists
looking at the ruins, so again, like the Cusani edition, it is grounding the
story in a real place, one that readers can visit.
In some cases, publishers included topographical illustrations they had
to hand, renaming them to fit them into an edition. Again, this grounds
the story in reality, and again, this is a function of improved technology,
as plates for illustrations could easily be stored and reused multiple times.
In this American edition of about 1900, M.E. Philips is no longer the
illustrator, but has been commissioned to find and compile suitable illus-
trations: “Illustrations and cover design adapted by Miss M.E. Phillips”.
She assembles images that she can then insert into the novel. The image

Figure 6.2  “The Street of Tombs”, The Last Days of Pompeii; “The University
Edition”, Boston and New York: University Press Company, c1900.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  123

Figure 6.3  “
 Ione’s Home”, The Last Days of Pompeii, “Illustrations and cover
design adapted by Miss M.E. Phillips”, Chicago and New York:
Rand, McNally and Company, c1900.

shown here as Figure 6.3, for example, is called “Ione’s home” – and
is clearly an illustration from a photograph of a house that exists, but
one that could be the home of the novel’s heroine. This is partly how
illustrations helped the novel retain its influence: houses and places in
Pompeii were described by local guides and in books as “Ione’s house”,
or “house of Glaucus”. And these real places then found their way back
into the book. Topographical illustrations therefore serve to anchor the
story into a real place that can be visited, thereby rendering the story
more real. Furthermore, the illustrations of this ruined city serve to re-
mind readers of the city’s fate, driving home the moral lesson of divine
punishment for the sinful.

Roman Depravity: Vanity, Decadence and Violence

Illustrations in editions across Europe and North America show ­Romans
as decadent, vain, lazy and busy attending orgies and baths. These are
people who brought their fate upon themselves and were justly pun-
ished. The theme of female vanity gets picked up repeatedly by illus-
trators, ­often symbolised by mirrors, and often focused on the wealthy
Pompeian Julia, who is in love with the hero but is not morally worthy
124  Annika Bautz
enough to be the heroine. In the French example shown as Figure 6.4,
Julia is surrounded by her admiring servants, and proves her vanity by
looking at herself with satisfaction.
In Figure 6.5, a German version of the same scene by Richard ­Duscher,
Julia is depicted as Snow White’s evil stepmother. The image has a cap-
tion, which reads: “Spieglein, Spieglein in der Hand, wer ist die Schönste
im römischen Land?” (“Mirror, mirror in the hand, who is the fairest in
the Roman land?”). This is an obvious allusion to Grimms’ Fairy Tales,
and Snow White’s stepmother’s repeated question: “Spieglein, Spieglein
an der Wand, wer ist die Schönste im ganzen Land?” (“Mirror, mirror
on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?”) and so serves as a rooting
of an episode from the novel in German culture. Julia in the novel is in-
deed vain, and she goes to a witch to get a love potion to make the hero
Glaucus fall in love with her rather than with Ione, the heroine, but she
is not evil in a fairy-tale sense (the love potion plot does not work). But,
like Snow White’s vain stepmother who is put to death at Snow White’s
wedding, Julia dies with most of Pompeii when Vesuvius erupts. So the

Figure 6.4  “
 Sa toilette finie, Julia se contempla avec complaisance”, Les ­Derniers
Jours de Pompei, illustrated by C. Atamian, Paris: Nilsson, c1900.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  125

Figure 6.5  J ulia. Die letzten Tage von Pompeji, illustrated by Richard Duscher,
Berlin: Maschler, c1910.

illustrations here function to bring home the lesson about vanity and
its consequences – and they consolidate ideas about Roman women’s

Roman decadence, too, is often the subject of illustrations. They fre-
quently depict Arbaces’ banquet as the height of immorality. Arbaces is
Egyptian and a priest of Isis, but his guests and followers are Roman.
Lancelot Speed here shows women getting drunk and participating
in the orgy, thereby proving their immorality (Figure 6.6). The Speed
images are another example of publishing houses sharing images inter-
nationally. They were first published in London around 1900, but then
reprinted in Germany in 1923, and probably before then, too. 24
126  Annika Bautz

Figure 6.6  “
 The Banquet of Arbaces”, The Last Days of Pompeii, illustrated by
Lancelot Speed, London: Nisbet, c1900.

Speed here also shows the skeleton that is mentioned in the text, when
Arbaces attempts to seduce Apaecides, Ione’s brother, whom Arbaces
wants to turn into a priest of Isis but who instead converts to Christianity:

“Drink, feast, love, my pupil!” said he, “blush not that thou art
passionate and young. That which thou art, thou feelest in thy veins:
that which thou shalt be, survey!” With this he pointed to a recess,
and the eyes of Apaecides, following the gesture, beheld on a pedes­
tal, placed between the statues of Bacchus and Idalia, the form of
a skeleton. “Start not,” resumed the Egyptian; “that friendly guest
admonishes us but of the shortness of life. From its jaws I hear a
voice that summons us to ENJOY.”
(Book 1, chapter 8)

Instead of interpreting the skeletons in a Christian way, as memento

mori, a reminder to be virtuous and live in fear of the day of judgement,
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  127
Arbaces takes an immoral lesson from them, which stresses his wick-
edness. However, divine judgement punishes the villain: when Vesuvius
erupts, Arbaces is crushed by a falling statue. Illustrators emphasise
skeletons and pagan festivities to stress the contrast between Christian
morality and un-Christian depravity. Figure 6.7 shows the American
Gleeson’s rendering of the scene: again, there are skeletons and naked
women who try to seduce the virtuous Apaecides. Apaecides is of course,
like his sister Ione and like Glaucus, Greek, not Roman, and, signifi-
cantly, he converts to Christianity and away from the cult of Isis, so his
virtue is not a surprise in the moral scheme of the novel. 25

Roman violence is another topic illustrators depict to show Roman wick-
edness and immorality. The best example of this is of the games in the
amphitheatre. Fittingly, it is during the games that Bulwer has the vol-
cano erupt, so emphasising this scene also underlines the end of Pompeii
and thereby the divine judgement.

Figure 6.7  “ That which thou shalt be, survey”, The Last Days of Pompeii,
­illustrated by Joseph M. Gleeson, New York: Frederick Stokes, 1891.
128  Annika Bautz

Figure 6.8  T he Last Days of Pompeii, illustrated by F.C. Yohn, New York:
Scribner, 1926.

Figure 6.8 shows the title page to an American edition illustrated

by F.C. Yohn. It depicts gladiators at the games, so from the start em-
phasises one of the enduring clichés Bulwer’s novel has created. Yohn
stresses that the Pompeian crowds who so enjoy this deadly fight have
their punishment coming, as they are sitting above the warning sign that
says “The Last Days of Pompeii”.
Similarly, the German Hanetzog, in an edition for young readers,
shows the crowds in the background and highlights the games and
the amphitheatre as what young Germans need to know about ancient
­Romans (Figure 6.9). Illustrated editions everywhere emphasise the
games, Roman cruelty, the enjoyment of violence and suffering of ­others,
and the idea that this kind of society was punished by a Christian God
for its sins, which is one of the enduring legacies of the novel.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  129

Figure 6.9  Die letzten Tage von Pompeji, illustrated by Eugen Hanetzog, B
­ erlin:
Jugendhort, c1900.

It is in fact highly unlikely that Pompeii would have had money to

spend on games. As W.M. Mackenzie, one of many guidebook writers
who felt he had to dismantle preconceived myths, says:

Bulwer-Lytton … dramatically places the last day of Pompeii in the

Amphitheatre. It is an improbable if effective staging. The games
were disallowed till A.D.69. Before that date the city was in ruins
from the earthquake, and ten years later still rebuilding. Public
funds and private wealth were in full demand for other purposes.
There can have been no means for expensive shows.
(Mackenzie 138–139)

Mackenzie, writing in 1910, generally disapproves of Bulwer’s historical

inaccuracies. And yet, the very fact that he needs to criticise Bulwer’s
version shows how much it has become the dominant view of Pompeii.
130  Annika Bautz
Overall then, illustrated editions across Europe and the U.S. show
Pompeian society as sinful, and therefore justly subjected to divine pun-
ishment by a Christian God. There might be minor differences in the
particular emphasis of a set of illustrations (Gleeson, for example, fo-
cuses more on games and violence whereas Kirchbach is primarily in-
terested in decadence and vanity), but the main points about Romans as
decadent, vain, and cruel, come out in all these editions, irrespective of
time or place of publication.

Christians at Pompeii
One could argue that the masterstroke was to insert Christians. Bulwer
introduces two ideas here, that there were Christians in Pompeii, and that
a Christian God punished the city for its sins, but saved the C ­ hristians
(the main Roman characters in the novel all die, the main Christian
ones, and those with Christian values who are about to convert – Ione,
Glaucus, Olinthus – survive the eruption). There wasn’t then, and still
is not, evidence that there were Christians in Pompeii. Though Bulwer
did not invent this, his novel popularised the idea, so nineteenth-century
readers became familiar with it – and passed it on. 26 One of the ways in
which Bulwer proves his skill as a mythographer is that he takes charac-
ters from the Bible and invents a connection to the invented Christians
at Pompeii. In the absence of archaeological evidence, Bulwer fabricates
a pedigree.
One biblical connection Bulwer draws is inserting Paul. That is, he
cannot quite get Paul to Pompeii, so he has Glaucus talk about his father
having seen Paul speak in Athens. This on the one hand calls attention
to Glaucus’ Greek origins – he is not Roman – but it also highlights early
Christianity, and forges a link between the Bible and the characters in
the novel. The American Gleeson even shows the scene as a cross in the
text (Figure 6.10). For the plot, the passage is irrelevant and takes up
only one paragraph, but illustrating Paul himself, one of the founders of
the church as an institution, makes the fact that he features in the novel
more memorable.
The second example is a scene that appeals to many illustrators. It is
given only very few pages in the text: an old man who comes to Pompeii
and leaves again almost immediately, so in terms of plot is again irrele­
vant. However, this is not just some old man, but a character Bulwer
has taken from the Bible, so he invents another biblical connection to
Pompeii: the widow’s son at Nain, who is miraculously raised from the
dead by Christ in Luke 7:11–17, comes to Pompeii as a very old man.
As Simon Goldhill points out, the scene “resists the historiographical
traps of relying on martyr texts, or of directly representing a super-
natural scene” (Goldhill 200). Instead, Bulwer gives a story that could
have happened like this: it would just have been possible for this man
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  131

Figure 6.10  “
 When he raised his arm to speak”, The Last Days of Pompeii,
illustrated by Joseph M. Gleeson, New York: Frederick Stokes, 1891.

to come to Pompeii, and the congregation, in 79AD. He is described as


No man ever looked upon that face [the face of the old man] without
love; for there had dwelt the smile of the Deity, the incarnation of di-
vinest love – and the glory of the smile had never passed away … The
old man laid his hand on [Apaecides’] head, and blessed him, but not
aloud. As his lips moved, his eyes were upturned, and tears – those
tears that good men only shed in the hope of happiness to another –
flowed fast down his cheeks.”
(Book 3, chapter 3)

Figures 6.11 and 6.12 show two illustrators’ versions of this scene. The
first is by Yohn, who gives an American, Protestant rendering of the
scene: the old man here is humble, and blesses as one of the people.
The scene is quiet, and the people in it are meditative with their heads
bowed and eyes closed.
132  Annika Bautz

Figure 6.11  “
 The conversion and blessing of Apaecides”, illustrated by
F.C. Yohn, New York: Scribner, 1926.

The Southern German – Catholic – Kirchbach shows the old man

rather differently, one who sits elevated, like a Pope, and blesses his infe-
riors. The use of light and the people’s surprise and prostration renders
this scene more astonishing, almost miraculous.
This image again illustrates the international nature of the illustra-
tions. There were at least two UK editions that included Kirchbach’s il-
lustrations, so they reached many British readers and helped shape their
views. However, Kirchbach was active in the 1880s in Germany, and his
illustrations were first published in 1883 in Munich. 27 The illustration
plates, or copies of them, must have then been bought by Routledge.
Kirchbach’s illustrations are therefore another example of how, due to
improved technology, illustrations could easily be shared internationally,
just as the text could.
These two images show regional differences but also confirm the over-
all appeal of the novel’s Christianity. Bulwer gives the myth of Christians
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  133

Figure 6.12  “The Congregation”, illustrated by F. Kirchbach, Routledge, c1900

(and Germany, 1883).

in Pompeii more weight by linking it to real historic events and a­ nchoring

it in real places. The fact that illustrations depict characters he has in-
serted from the Bible but that are minor in terms of the story shows both
the effectiveness of his way of emphasising the Christian framework, but
also the appeal of the novel’s Christian elements.
Furthermore, what the illustrations of the old man and other scenes
relating to Christians bring out is a validation not just of Christianity
but of the church as an institution. There is often a cross in the back-
ground, in church-like rooms, so these illustrations help to give a pedi-
gree to the church. At the time of the destruction of Pompeii there was
of course no church and no priests, so no Episcopalian institution. As
Angus Easson discusses, Bulwer has his Christians meet in “small and
mean houses … there is no altar, no ritual, no liturgy, no priest, no
commemorative supper”, all of which highlights “the domesticity of
the gathering”, and stresses “a religion of humanity” rather than doc-
trines (Easson 112–113). Illustrations, however, tend to emphasise the
134  Annika Bautz
church. Figure 6.13, another French example, shows the conversion of
­Apaecides to ­Christianity, a scene frequently chosen for illustration, in
spite of Apaecides being a minor character. This is one of only six illus-
trations in the whole book, so the scene of the priest of Isis converting to
Christianity is given some prominence. The conversion takes place in a
church-like building, so again a pedigree for the church as an institution
is being invented here by this illustrator.
The kind of Christianity the text propagates is a moderate, ­A nglican,
tolerant one. It is easy to see how Glaucus is in fact Bulwer’s ideal
­Christian, without of course officially having converted for almost the
entire novel. He converts in the last chapter, but he is clearly the hero
with truly Christian, moderate values throughout. When he has con-
verted, he says: “I shudder not at the creed of others. I dare not curse
them – I pray the Great Father to convert. […] Moderation seems to me

Figure 6.13  “
 Mes frères, ne vous étonnez pas de voir parmi vous un prètre
d’Isis”, [My brothers, do not be surprised to see among you a priest
of Isis], Les derniers jours de Pompei, transl. by A. Lemercier, illus-
trated by J. Gerlier, Tours: Mame, 1871.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  135
the natural creature of benevolence” (“Chapter the Last”). This coin-
cides exactly with the narrator’s opinion:

They [the crowd to which the Christian Olinthus had spoken] re-
garded the Christian as the enemy of mankind; the epithets they
lavished upon him, of which “Atheist” was the most favoured and
frequent, may serve, perhaps, to warn us, believers of that same
creed now triumphant, how we indulge the persecution of opinion
Olinthus then underwent, and how we apply to those whose notions
differ from our own the terms at that day lavished on the fathers of
our faith.
(Book 3, chapter 1)

So the novel propagates Christianity, but ensures that this is a moder-

ate, nineteenth-century Anglican Christianity. This moderate aspect is
distorted in the illustrations: they give a much more binary account of
moral Christians and immoral Romans. The Christianity that emerges
from the illustrations is not specifically Anglican but largely defined
through its opposition to pagan moral depravity.
While the novel also takes pains to differentiate Christians from
­Romans, it accompanies this juxtaposition with the advocacy of toler-
ant, moderate Christianity. But of course the text, too, shows up differ-
ences between Romans and Christians: while most Roman characters
in the novel are extremely wealthy, Bulwer’s Christians tend to be poor:
“Amidst the huts of poverty and labour, the vast stream [of Christianity]
which afterwards poured its broad waters beside the cities and palaces
of earth took its neglected source” (Book 3, chapter 1). But the more
obvious and frequent differentiation between Christians and Romans
in the text is a moral one. When Glaucus’ Roman friends say how much
they look forward to the games, Glaucus replies:

I love these wild spectacles well enough when beast fights beast; but
when a man, one with bones and blood like ours, is coldly put in the
arena, and torn limb from limb, the interest is too horrid: I sicken –
I gasp for breath – I long to rush and defend him. The yells of the
populace seem to me more dire than the voices of the Furies chasing
(Book 1, chapter 3)

So going to the games is un-Christian, and indeed, when a C ­ hristian

character attends the games the narrator excuses him as his son is
a gladiator: “The aged father of [the gladiator] Lydon, despite his
­Christian horror of the spectacle, in his agonized anxiety for his son,
had not been able to resist being the spectator of his fate” (Book 5,
chapter 1).
136  Annika Bautz
When Glaucus is later – wrongfully – accused of murder and put into
the arena the lion does not touch a man with such Christian and heroic
sentiments (Figure 6.14).
Again, this is an episode selected by many illustrators: when the lion is
let out of its cage it shows no interest in Glaucus. This is a lion that does
not eat Christians, or those with Christian values. This is the moment
when Vesuvius erupts and kills almost everyone, except Glaucus. The
Christian-friendly lion appeals to illustrators, as it shows Christians to
be protected by God. The episode is another instance of Bulwer adapt-
ing stories and creating myths. In a story from the Acts of Paul, Paul is
captured at Ephesus – just as Glaucus is in Pompeii – to be fed to the
lion in the arena. However, the lion turns out to be one whom Paul has
baptised, so one who not only does not hurt Christians, but is Christian
himself. This itself is a version of the much older ancient Greek and
­Roman tale of “Androcles and the Lion”, in which a slave removes a

Figure 6.14  G
 laucus and the lion in the arena. “A tale for the young”, freely ren-
dered by Paul Moritz. With 8 illustrations after originals by Profes-
sor Anton Hoffmann, 6th impression, Stuttgart: K. Thienemanns,
c1900. (“Eine Erzählung für die Jugend”, frei barbeitet von Paul
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  137
thorn from a lion’s foot and the lion later recognises him and refuses to
hurt him. Bulwer takes the story and transports it to Pompeii, so again
he is part of a tradition of Christian myth-making: he takes a story from
the ancient world, Christianises it, or takes a Christian version, and
roots it to a place – Pompeii. Illustrations then help highlight and spread
the story. The next section of the novel, too, is taken from the Acts of
Paul. Vesuvius erupts before other ways of killing Glaucus can come into
effect, and the same goes for Paul: a hail storm kills everyone else but lets
him and the Christian lion live.
The lion continues to appear in illustrations that depict scenes after the
eruption, when general chaos takes over, and again he is shown as one
of God’s creatures, mild and gentle, not as a terrible beast (­ Figure 6.15).
Again as in the story told in the Acts of Paul, the lion and Glaucus
have been preserved while all around them are dead or dying. In the
Paul story, the lion then goes to the mountains and Paul embarks for
­Macedonia, just as Glaucus embarks for Athens.

Figure 6.15  D ie letzten Tage von Pompeji, illustrated by Eugen Hanetzog,

­B erlin: Jugendhort, c1900.
138  Annika Bautz
Illustrations to the novel in European and North American editions
thus show Christianity to be one of the main reasons for the novel’s
appeal throughout the nineteenth century. This focus on the text’s
Christianity is also dominant in writings about the novel and its ad-
aptations, which confirms illustrations as a valid indicator of what
constituted the novel’s appeal. A few examples from late nineteenth-
and early twentieth-century UK and U.S. newspapers show how
ideas about Christians at Pompeii and the superiority of ­C hristian
morals over pagan depravity prevail, just as they do in illustrations.
For instance, the existence of Christians at Pompeii is often taken
for granted. In an article about the spreading of Christianity, the
author imagines

how the tidings reached Pompeii of the strange things happening in

Judea; how the scornful derided, the cautious held their peace, and
those who were weary and heavy laden longed to hear more, and
hoped that it might be true. 28

Even where writers are attempting to go against some of the notions

popularised by Bulwer’s novel they still share many of the stereotypes.
The Rev. H.G. Spaulding for example, of Boston, in a lecture printed
in 1879, has adopted the basic assumption of pagan depravity and
­Christian morality. While “it was a city of art and cultivation, … in-
habited by men of wealth and rare taste and culture, … it was unmoral
rather than immoral”. Although he adopts a Christian ­Humanist po-
sition and does not want to see Pompeii as depraved, he still upholds
that pagans could not know better, maintaining a Christian moral
scheme as superior. 29 Similarly, A. Hamilton, lecturing before the
Exeter ­L iterary Society in 1870, sees Pompeii as proof of “how the
old world was lying in wickedness, when Christianity came to redeem
it.”30 The main idea that emerges here and elsewhere is that of a supe-
rior Christian morality.
Some newspaper articles use Pompeii as synonymous with sin and de-
pravity, and often link it to Sodom and Gomorrah. A young woman’s
scandalous performance at a club is seen as “more worthy of Sodom or
Pompeii than of a modern Christian city”. 31 In the same way, in a lec-
ture entitled “Pompeii and Its Lessons: “Thou hast made of a defended
city a ruin” (Isaiah xxv, 2)”, reprinted in papers all over the U.S. in
1893, the influential Rev. Dr. Talmage of Brooklyn upholds the idea of
Pompeii having been punished by a Christian God, and sees its ruins
as a constant example “of what sin will do for a city”. In fact, the city
“was so bad that it needed to be buried 1,700 years before even its ruins
were fit to be uncovered”. Sodom and Gomorrah were yet worse, so that
“they were not only turned under, but have for thousands of years been
kept under”.32
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  139
The novel’s version of events has become so familiar that its source
is not always remembered. In an article of 1871, the author writes that

the early Christians lived in habitual readiness for the last of events.
Tradition tells that when flame and gloom maddened the people of
Pompeii and Herculaneum, the few Christians came forth, sought
and found each other, and marched in solemn procession amid the
fatal shower of ashes, raised the hymn of faith, above all horror, and
went to meet with unshrinking trust the world’s destruction. 33

This is of course exactly Bulwer’s version of events: he has the Christian

congregation sing hymns on their march through Pompeii during the
eruption. His novel has become “tradition”.
When adaptations of the novel are written about, reviewers see the
Last Days as part of a Christian genre: in a review of an adaptation of
Quo Vadis, the reviewer remarks about Virginius, The Last Days of
­Pompeii, and The Christian Martyrs, that “all these religious plays are
very much alike”.34 Adaptations usually themselves pick out ­Christianity
as the central theme. Illustrations, similar to adaptations, tell us what
producers – publishers and illustrators – thought readers would wel-
come. This brief survey of how the novel is discussed in newspapers
confirms the focus on the novel’s Christian elements that the study of
illustrations suggests as the dominant theme.
In a competitive international literary market place in which myriad
editions of this extremely popular text existed, the inclusion of illus-
trations was one way in which publishers tried to distinguish their edi-
tions, throughout and beyond the nineteenth century. The illustrations
underline the text’s moral message, which, combined with the generally
unexceptionable content, was one of the qualities that made the novel so
desirable to publishers, and to readers. Again, as contemporary news-
papers confirm, the novel is not just popular, but also highly respected,
and its author is regarded as a “Great Thinker” and genius. 35 Harpers,
for example, started their Family Library in the 1830s and marketed
themselves as publishers of fiction that was suitable for reading aloud
in a family circle (Exman 31). They are keen to be seen as the foremost
­Bulwer publisher, partly because it is profitable, but also because his
novels contribute to their “high character” as publishers. 36
The text itself already creates a focus on Christianity at Pompeii;
it taps into existing traditions and old stories, Christianises them, and
anchors them in a precise time and place. The illustrations emphasise
these Christian elements, indicating that publishers and illustrators
of the various international editions expected these aspects to appeal
to readers. Illustrations also modify the text’s Christianity to make it
broader and blander: while the text’s ideal Christianity is a moderate,
nineteenth-century Anglican one, the illustrations give readers a more
140  Annika Bautz
basic binary opposition of Christian morality and Roman depravity. For
example, images of the Christian lion guide readers’ response by not just
focusing on the lion and Glaucus, but also reminding readers of the evil
­Romans in the background. The Christian elements appeal throughout
the nineteenth century, regardless of decade or place, to Italian, French or
Southern German Catholic, as much as to British illustrators, or to those
belonging to one of the diverse – predominantly Protestant – ­Christian
denominations in the U.S. While there are some minor differences, il-
lustrated editions across North America and Europe show largely the
same scenes and highlight the same aspects. The illustrations therefore
testify to the work appealing in similar ways across and around the
­Atlantic, emphasising the trans-national elements of cultures. The study
of illustrations in a transatlantic literary market therefore suggests that
the novel’s long-lasting international appeal and portability are largely
determined by the text’s depiction of a Christianity that can be read as
broad enough to please readers across Europe and the U.S., for many
decades, beyond more specific, national concerns.

1 Numbers of American visitors to Italy steadily increased, particularly from
the 1830s and 1840s onwards. See Paul R. Baker, The Fortunate Pilgrims:
Americans in Italy, 1800–1860 (Ithaca: Harvard University Press, 1964),
pp. 20–21, also see Erik Amfitheatrof, The Enchanted Ground: Americans
in Italy, 1760–1980 (Boston: Little & Brown, 1980).
2 For example, George Palmer Putnam in The Tourist in Europe (New York:
Wiley & Putnam, 1838), cites Pompeii as one of the main attractions of
Europe in the preface to his guidebook: “with scarcely a greater sum than is
often wasted in unsatisfactory pleasures, [American tourists can] gaze at the
splendor of St. Mark; or tread the classic soils of the lava-crushed cities of
Vesuvius” (5).
3 Mumby includes a transcript of the contract.
4 Die Letzen Tage von Pompeji, Aachen 1834, 4 Theile. Übersetzung:
C. Czarnowski.
5 The Last Days of Pompeii. vols I–II. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1834;
The Last Days of Pompeii. New York: Wallis & Newell (one volume). Both
publishers brought out another edition in 1835.
6 Scott’s Woodstock was sold at $1.75 (about 8 shillings), and sold 8000 cop-
ies on the day of its American publication (St Clair 2004: 570; Kaser 1963:
30). Austen’s Emma had sold for $2 in Carey & Lea’s 1816 edition, and
the wholesale price for all Austen’s novels published by Carey & Lea in
the 1830s was $0.84 (Gilson, A Bibliography of Jane Austen, 97–132). On
reprint prices, also see Jessica DeSpain, Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic
Reprinting, e.g. p. 22.
7 Harper to Bulwer, 1843. Cited in Exman, House of Harper, p. 54.
8 In 1820, the population of England and Wales consisted of 12 million, of
Scotland well over 1.5 million, compared to 9.6 million in the United States
(Rose, “Society: The Emergence of Urban Britain”, in: Haigh, Christopher,
Ed. The Cambridge Historical Encyclopaedia of Great Britain and Ireland.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [1985] 2000, pp. 276–281, p. 276).
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  141
9 And indeed, as James West has shown, even the Chace Act did not grant
straightforward copyright protection to international authors because it had
a manufacturing clause, which meant that “the text of a publication had to
have been typeset in the United States if it were to secure permanent ­A merican
copyright” (West 1992: 304). Jessica DeSpain contends that it wasn’t until
1988 that the U.S. complied with the Berne convention (DeSpain 4–5).
10 Goodrich estimates that in 1820, 70% of books manufactured in A ­ merica
were by British authors (the remaining 30% by American authors), that
the British-authored share then decreased to 60% in 1830, 45% in 1840,
and 30% in 1850. Goodrich, vol. 2, pp. 388–391, 552–553. For absolute
figures of American and British imports and exports of books from 1828
to 1868, see Winship, “The Transatlantic Book Trade”, pp. 111–119. For
reprints of American novels in Britain, see for example Jessica DeSpain,
Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Reprinting and the Embodied Book
(Ashgate 2014), esp. Chapter 2: “Claiming Kindred with All the World:
­Susan ­Warner’s The Wide Wide World and Its British Reprints”.
11 Barnes calculates that over the many decades that the Bulwer-Harper agree-
ment lasted, from 1835 to 1873, the Harpers paid Bulwer a total of £5,120
(Barnes 47–48).
12 For example, in 1839 Bulwer-Lytton bought back the rights to the three
novels Bentley held, including the Last Days, for £750, to then sell them to
Saunders & Otley.
13 Harpers to Bulwer, 15 January 1835, cited in Barnes, p. 37.
14 Harpers to Bulwer, 15 January 1835, cited in Barnes, p. 39.
15 Similarly, in 1836, the year after its U.K. publication, Rienzi had been re-
printed by a rival publisher, Carey & Hart, who had procured a copy of
the book before all the advance sheets had reached the Harpers (Barnes 40;
McGill 105).
16 Harpers to Bulwer, 15 January 1835, cited in Barnes, p. 38.
17 For example, an article entitled “How Pompeii ended”, published in St Paul
Daily Globe (Minn.) on 8 Sep 1890 says outright that “Every one is familiar
with Bulwer Lytton’s “Last Days of Pompeii” in which fact and fiction are so
charmingly blended by the great novelist” (3). An example of the novel still
being read by book clubs towards the end of the century is the Unity Club in
Wichita, Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports on Feb 17 1888: “The novel un-
der discussion was Bulwer Lytton’s historical masterpiece, “The Last Days
of Pompeii”.” It gives an account of the discussion and ends by saying that
“all left filled with a higher and deeper appreciation of “The Last Days of
18 In the U.K., this competitive aspect applied once the copyright expired in
19 By the 1830s, steel engraving had largely replaced copper engraving, allow-
ing for impressions of over 100,000 instead of the previous 4,000 from a
plate. Other techniques developed too, such as lithography, photolithogra-
phy, photogravure, and, importantly, wood engraving. (Wood engraving
had significant advantages: as a relief printing process, the protruding parts
of the block were inked, so that the pressure applied to press the image
onto paper was the same as for the type, allowing text and image to be run
off using the same roller. Intaglio techniques, such as engravings on metal,
were more expensive, as the recessed areas were inked, which meant much
more pressure needed to be applied to press the image onto paper than the
type, so that image and text had to be printed separately.) See: The Vic-
torian Illustrated Book, Ed. ­R ichard ­Maxwell (Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 2002); M ­ ichael ­Twyman, “The Illustration Revolution”,
142  Annika Bautz
in: The  Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 6 (1830–1914),
Ed. ­David McKitterick (Cambridge: CUP 2009), pp. 117–143; Geoffrey
­Wakeman, Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution (Newton
Abbot: ­David & Charles, 1973).
20 There are other factors, too, of course, for example Americanising spellings,
or, as David Gilson has shown in his study of early American editions of Jane
Austen’s novels, cultural amendments, such as the omission of the name of the
deity in Carey & Lea’s 1830s editions of her works (Gilson 2002: 517–525).
21 Lithography was used, for example, to reproduce Phiz’s illustrations to
­Dickens’s novels, much to Phiz’s annoyance as lithography smudged his
fine lines. See Valerie Browne Lester, Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens.
­(London: Chatto & Windus, 2004).
22 See, for example, the “historical-topographical introduction” to a ­G erman
edition: Die letzten Tage von Pompeji, “neu bearbeitet und mit einer
­historisch-topographischen Einleitung vermehrt von Dr. Friedrich Förster”,
Potsdam: Ferdinand Riegel, 1837, pp. i–lii. In accordance with the title of his
introduction, Förster mostly discusses Pompeii then and Pompeii now, using
primarily Pliny and his own visits to Pompeii as sources.
23 “A conchiudere questo ormai troppo lungo ragionamento diro che stimando
fosse aggradevole pe’lettori l’aver scott’occhio la pianta die Pompei e alcune
delle sue vedute, scelsi tra quelle che meglio servivano ad illustrazione del
romanzo, cavandole dalla Pompeiana del Gell, cui lo stesso Bulwer dedico il
suo libro.’ In: “Introduction” by Francesco Cusani: “Ragionamete prelimi­
are”, in: Gli Ultimi Giorni di Pompei (Milanoe: Tipografia Pirotta, 1835),
pp. v–xxii, p. xxiii.
24 Speed’s illustrations also appear in Germany: Die letzten Tage von Pompeji,
Stuttgarter Ausgabe, 1923.
25 For a discussion of the novel’s juxtaposition of Rome vs Greece, see Simon
Goldhill, Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (Princeton: P­ rinceton UP,
2011), pp. 193–201. For the novel’s bringing together of Greek and ­Christian
ideals, see Simon Goldhill, The Buried Life of Things: How ­Objects Made
History in Nineteenth-Century Britain (CUP, 2015), pp. ­19–22. ­Caroline
Winterer has shown how in the U.S. in the nineteenth century, too, the fo-
cus was increasingly on Greece, not Rome. Caroline Winterer, The Culture
of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life,
­1780–1910 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).
26 For a discussion of Bulwer’s nineteenth-century predecessors, see Nicholas
Daly’s “The Volcanic Disaster Narrative”, and also Bautz and St Clair.
27 He also published his 20 illustrations as a booklet on its own: Die ­letzten Tage
von Pompeji: 20 Tuschzeichnungen zu E. Bulwer’s Erzählung (Muenchen:
Ackermann 1883); again an indication of the novel’s popularity, but also of
Kirchbach’s status.
28 The Daily Gazette for Middlesborough, U.K., 2 Oct 1879.
29 “It was a very great mistake to suppose that Pompeii in those days was the
immoral and vicious city which it has been represented to be. It was a city
of art and cultivation. It was inhabited by men of wealth and rare taste and
culture … it was unmoral rather than immoral. Indeed, if New York and
Brooklyn were blotted out of existence today, as ancient Pompeii was blot-
ted out, the future discoverer would find beneath their ruins the evidences
of vice and licentiousness to which Pompeii can give but little comparison.
We do not need to whitewash pagan Pompeii, but we do need to blush for
Christian Brooklyn and New York.”
“Pompeii: from a recent lecture by Rev. H.G. Spaulding of Boston”.
Daily Globe, (St Paul, Minn), 23 March 1879
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  143
30 Exeter Flying Post, 6 April 1870. “Pompeii”, a lecture delivered before the
Exeter Literary Society, by A. Hamilton, Esq.
31 The Minneapolis Journal, 15 April 1901, p. 12.
32 Democratic Northwest (Napoleon, Ohio), 12 Oct 1893. The lecture is re-
printed elsewhere, too, e.g. The Middleburgh Post, Pennsylvania, 12  Oct
1893; Highland Recorder (Monterey, Virginia) 20 Oct 1893; Essex
County Herald (Vermont), 20 Oct 1893; Juniata sentinel and Republi-
can, ­(Pennsylvania), 25 Oct 1893; The Abbeville Press and Banner (South
­Carolina), 25 Oct 1893.
The belief in Pompeii and Naples being degenerate is widespread even in
the twentieth century. For example, in his study of Americans in Italy, Paul
Baker discusses “The filth, the indolence, the superstition of the natives, the
presence of the beggars and pickpockets where proof enough of Neapolitan
degeneracy and Neapolitan depravity. Perhaps the near nakedness of the
lazzaroni shocked the American more than anything else.” Paul R. Baker,
The Fortunate Pilgrims: Americans in Italy, 1800–1860 (Ithaca: Harvard
University Press, 1964), p. 71.
33 “The End of Time”, in The Charlotte Democrat, North Carolina, 24 ­January
34 Review of an adaptation of Quo Vadis, New York Tribune, 10 April 1900,
p. 7. Similarly, an adaptation of LDP entitled The Egyptian of Pompeii is
described as “A Powerful Christian Play. Dramatized from Bulwer Lytton’s
Historical Masterpiece “The Last Days of Pompeii””. The Bourbon News,
18 March 1904, Paris Kentucky, p. 8. The same play is referred to elsewhere
as “The Sublime Christian Play”, “Pompeii: Or, the Power of the Cross”, in
The Saint Paul Globe, Minn., 1, 2 and again on 3 Nov 1904, pp. 10/12 re-
spectively. A play more loosely based on the novel is “A Soldier of the Cross”:
“In it are depicted the early struggles of the Christians in Pompeii”, The Sun,
New York, 16 Feb 1908, p. 6.
35 For example, Bulwer Lytton features in the following two lists of “Great
Thinkers”: The Salt Lake Herald of 29 Sep 1892, p. 2, and a similar list
(though not identical) in The Gold Leaf, North Carolina, 10 Nov 1892:
“Great Thinkers: Age at which their best works were produced … Bulwer
Lytton was 29 when he printed “The Last Days of Pompeii”.”
36 Harpers’ letter to Bulwer, 15 January 1835, cited in Barnes, p. 38. Bulwers’
novels were safe, unlike Hardy’s – who had to be reminded even in the 1890s
that Harpers wanted a text that was suitable for a family magazine. Exman

Works Cited
Amfitheatrof, Erik. The Enchanted Ground: Americans in Italy, 1760–1980.
Boston: Little & Brown, 1980.
Barnes, James. “Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the Publishing Firm of Harper &
Brothers”, American Literature 38 (March 1966): 35–48.
Bautz, Annika and St Clair, William. “Imperial Decadence: The Making of the
Myths. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii (1834)”, ­Victorian
Literature and Culture 40.2 (2012): 359–396.
Browne Lester, Valerie. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto &
Windus, 2004.
Buell, Lawrence. “The Unitarian Movement and the Art of Preaching in
19th-century America.” American Quarterly 24.2 (1972): 166–190.
144  Annika Bautz
Daly, Nicholas. “The Volcanic Disaster Narrative: From Pleasure Garden to
Canvas, Page, and Stage”, Victorian Studies 53.2 (Winter 2011): 255–285.
DeSpain, Jessica. Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Reprinting and the
­Embodied Book. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014.
Easson, Angus, ““At Home” with the Romans: Domestic Archaeology in
The Last Days of Pompeii”. The Subverting Vision of Bulwer Lytton. Ed.
A.C. Christensen. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2010. 100–115.
Exman, Eugene. The House of Harper. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Gaustad, Edwin. The Religious History of America. New York: Harper One,
Gell, William. Pompeiana: The Topography, Edifices and Ornaments, 2nd ed.
London: Jennings and Chaplin, 1832.
Gettman, Royal. A Victorian Publisher: A Study of the Bentley Papers.
­Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960.
Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen. New Castle: OakKnoll, 1997.
———. “Jane Austen’s Emma in America”, The Review of English Studies
(New Series), 53.212 (November 2002): 517–525.
Goldhill, Simon. Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2011.
Goodrich, Samuel. Recollections of a Lifetime. Vol. 2. New York: Miller, Orton
and Mulligan, 1857.
Gross, Robert. “An Extensive Republic”. A History of the Book in America,
Volume 2: An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New
Nation 1790–1840. Ed. Robert Gross and Mary Kelley. Chapel Hill: Univer-
sity of North Carolina Press, 2010. 1–52.
Hochstedt Butler, Diana. Standing Against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episco-
palians in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Kaser, David. Messrs. Carey & Lea of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1957.
———. Cost Book of Carey & Lea, 1825–1838. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1963.
Knox Leverenz, Molly. “Illustrating The Moonstone in America: Harper’s
Weekly and Transatlantic Introspection”, American Periodicals: A Journal of
History, Criticism and Bibliography 24.1 (2014): 21–44.
Mackenzie, W.M. Pompeii. Painted by Alberto Pisa. Edinburgh: A&C Black,
Maxwell, Richard. The Victorian Illustrated Book. Charlottesville: University
Press of Virginia, 2002.
McGill, Meredith. American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting,
­1834–1853. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2003.
Meyer, Reinhold. “American Visitors to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum
in the nineteenth century”, Journal of Aesthetic Education 19.1 (Spring
Mumby, Frank Arthur. The House of Routledge 1834 –1934. London:
­Routledge, 1936.
Patten, Robert. Charles Dickens and “Boz”: The Birth of the Industrial-aged
Author. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Christian Morality and Roman Depravity  145
Seville, Catherine. “Edward Bulwer Lytton Dreams of Copyright”. Victorian
Literature and Finance. Ed. F. O’Gorman. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2007. 55–72.
———. “Copyright”. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume vi:
1830–1914. Ed. David McKitterick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2009. 214–237.
St Clair, William. The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Todd, William, and Bowden, Ann. Sir Walter Scott: A Bibliographical History.
New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 1998.
Twyman, Michael. “The Illustration Revolution”. The Cambridge History of
the Book in Britain, vol. 6 (1830–1914). Ed. David McKitterick. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2009. 117–143.
Wakeman, Geoffrey. Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution.
Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1973.
West, James. “The Chace Act and Anglo-American Literary Relations”, in
Studies in Bibliography 45 (1992): 303–311.
Winship, Michael. “The Transatlantic Book Trade and Anglo-American
­Literary Culture in the Nineteenth Century”. Reciprocal Influences: ­Literary
Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America. Ed. Steven Fink
and Susan Williams. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999. 98–122.
Zboray, Ronald. “Book Distribution and American Culture”, [1987] reprinted
in The History of the Book in the West: 1800–1914. Ed. Steven Colclough
and Alexis Weedon. Vol. iv. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010. 416–437.
This page intentionally left blank
Part III

Transatlantic Print Culture

and Transitive Texts
This page intentionally left blank
7 Virtual Museums in
Early America
Transatlantic Magazine
Culture and Cultural Memory
Julia Straub

More and more scholars today are able to access historical periodical
archives through electronic gates thanks to the digitisation of major col-
lections such as the American Periodicals Series Online or the ­A merican
Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection. This puts re-
searchers in a situation similar to that of readers in the eighteenth-­century
­A nglo-American world. The print newspapers and magazines that would
pile up on coffee tables in a London club or a Philadelphia tearoom were
still a relatively new medium, like the Internet today. ­Sitting down and
opening issues, readers, now and then, enter a virtual reality. Browsing
through a periodicals database can feel like stepping into a showroom
of past periods. Similarly, readers of magazines in the eighteenth and
­nineteenth centuries were encouraged to think of themselves as museum
visitors. Magazines put on display things that were in many cases deemed
useful or plainly interesting, valuable, possibly exotic and or in any other
way worthy enough to be singled out, shown around and remembered.
There is much to say about periodical culture in early America (and
beyond), as recent scholarship suggests.1 In this article I take the place
of periodical publishing in media history as my point of departure to
think about the cultural relevance of this publishing genre and to investi­
gate its transatlantic implications since American magazine culture, its
methods, aims, styles and interests, evolved in tandem with its British
What were the material properties of a print product such as the
maga­zine and how did these properties determine the magazine’s role
in cultural discourse and practice? I will discuss magazines as media of
memory: often carrying “museum”, “repository” or “asylum” in their
titles, magazines were meant to preserve valuable material and to act
as important storage facilities. They were also significant platforms for
public debate and acted as sites which enabled both the articulation
and formation of civic identities. Like museums, magazines belonged
to what Jürgen Habermas described as the public sphere, i.e., they were
implied in the consolidation of a social environment defined by polite
150  Julia Straub
and enlightened interaction. Thus, rather than approaching periodical pub-
lishing as a precursory or lesser form of book publishing, characterised by
its evident ephemerality and inchoate structure, I maintain that transatlan-
tic magazine culture played an important role in the formation of cultural
identities in the United States. In this regard my approach follows more
recent advances in the field of periodical studies that view them as means
and media crucial for the development of literary forms and discourse. The
self-proclaimed “museums” among the numerous magazines of the eigh-
teenth and nineteenth centuries exemplify, I argue, in particularly illustri-
ous ways how magazines contributed to the forging of a cultural memory.

Transatlantic Magazine Culture and Cultural Memory

In America, magazines (as opposed to newspapers) existed as of the
1740s, when The American Magazine, or a Monthly View of the Politi­
cal State of the British Colonies published by Andrew Bradford, and
the General Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, For all the British
Plantations in America, created by Benjamin Franklin, both appeared
in Philadelphia in 1741, following upon each other within three days.
Bradford’s magazine lasted for three months, Franklin’s for six. These
earliest American magazines came into being at a time when their Brit-
ish equivalents had already been established. The time lag is not as mas-
sive as one would expect: British magazines existed as of the 1730s,
when the Gentleman’s Magazine and the London Magazine, became
popular. 2 Andrew Bradford stated in the prospectus of the 1741 Ameri-
can ­Magazine, entitled “Plan of the Undertaking”:

The Success and Approbation which the MAGAZINES, published

in Great-Britain, have met with for many Years past, among all
Ranks and Degrees of People, Encouraged us to Attempt a Work of
the like Nature in America.
(qtd. in Mott 22)

It is obvious that for the individuals behind the first American magazines
(as for their readers), British periodicals were both an inspiration and
a touchstone against which American products measured themselves.
They often also served as templates from which American editors copied
layout, structure and content.
In the course of the eighteenth century, the number of magazines in
America steadily increased but literally exploded in the 1770s, when
the Revolutionary spirit sought to make itself heard through as many
channels as possible.3 Twenty-seven new magazines began publication
from 1775 to 1795 (see Free 12), reprinting original contributions but
also vast amounts of textual material gleaned from British sources. The
nineteenth century then saw a triumphal growth and diversification of
magazine publishing, on both sides of the Atlantic, the golden age of
periodical publishing in America being the 1840s to 1860s.4
Virtual Museums in Early America  151
Magazines’ easy digestibility, affordability and sheer diversity of con-
tents enhanced their pull on different readerships. Like the newspaper,
magazines became so popular because they had the potential to reach a
relatively broad and socially diverse audience. As Richard D. Altick put
it with regard to the situation in Britain:

Great as was the increase in book production between 1800 and

1900, the expansion of the periodical industry was greater still. This
was only natural, for of all forms of reading matter, periodicals –
including newspapers – are best adapted for the needs of a mass
audience. (318)

In the American Museum; or Repository of Ancient and Modern

­F ugitive Pieces &c., Prose and Poetical, which was begun in 1787 and
went on until 1792 under the editorship of the Philadelphia-based editor
Mathew Carey, a contributor under the pseudonym “Crazy Jonathan”
(“Brother Jonathan” being a popular symbolic figure of the average
American) insisted that “[n]o publications are put so frequently into
the hands of so many people. No book or pamphlet contains such a
variety, especially of the historical, political, and moral kind” (Anon.,
“Advantages” 271). Their democratic outlook, thematic diversity and
swift, time-efficient way of communication made magazines well liked
by many readers. Margaret Fuller, in her 1846 essay on “American
Literature; Its Position in the Present Time, and Prospects for the Future”
wrote that

the most important part of our literature, while the work of dif-
fusion is still going on, lies in the journals, which […] send their
messages to every corner of this great land, and form, at pres-
ent, the only efficient instrument for the general education of the
­people. (395)

While not a friend of magazines (they only “cater for the amusement
of vacant hours” [ibid.]), Fuller affirms the important function of
­periodicals for her contemporaries’ education and communication
within the United States.
However, while magazines were designed and often grandly inaugu­
rated as institutions meant for eternity, most were short-lived: only the
New York Magazine and the Massachusetts Magazine lasted for lon-
ger than eight years (Mott 114), their average lifespan being fourteen
months (Gilmore 560). Relying mainly on the income generated by sub-
scriptions, editors frequently had to surrender their ambitious plans and
visions to the unpredictability of the publishing world and the wavering
support of their subscribers (a point that will be taken up again below).
Given these substantial challenges, which become fully evident from
152  Julia Straub
today’s vantage position, the close link between magazines and the no-
tion of permanence is maybe not quite obvious and might even appear to
border on the paradoxical. We are inclined to think of magazines as dis-
posable and not necessarily durable media, a somehow awkward form
of periodical publishing poised between the newspaper and a book. For
the producers and readers of magazines in the eighteenth and ­nineteenth
centuries, however, on both sides of the Atlantic, magazines set them-
selves apart from the common newspaper. Like anthologists, magazine
editors used the language of preservation and storage and employed
tropes of ­memory: they wanted their publication to last. 5
Magazines in eighteenth and nineteenth-century America were stud-
ded with explanations, apologies and comments, all meant to explain
the why and how of the publication. Most of these magazines were an-
nounced, introduced or defended in one way or another with the help of
prospectuses, prefaces, introductions, addresses to the readers and other
editorial interventions. Prospectuses were commonly published ahead of
the first issue and used to recruit a sufficient number of subscribers to
cover the running expenses of the planned publication.6 One example
comes from The Universal Asylum and Columbian Magazine (which
developed out of the rather successful Columbian Magazine in 1790).
The main objectives of the new magazine are laid out here:

II. It shall contain a great variety of interesting original communi-

cations. Many valuable fragments, and fugitive pieces, which might
otherwise sink into oblivion, shall also be preserved in this Asylum.
It shall, moreover, contain a faithful register of foreign and domestic
occurrences, meteorological tables, bills of mortality, &c.
(Anon. “Front Material 1 – No Title”,
emphases in the original)

The eclecticism and wide range of interest – covering foreign news as

well as obituaries and meteorological observations – that are mentioned
in the above excerpt are important features of early magazines, both
in Britain and America. To be sure, claims to originality were debat-
able, given the predominance of reprinted, plagiarised material. Of the
426 pages which Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine comprised, less
than 10 per cent counted as original (Richardson 34). What exactly this
translated into becomes clear when looking at the following number:
three quarters of the material included in American magazines in the
years 1741 to 1794 was drawn from other sources (Free 48), many of
which were of European and particularly British origin, thus represent-
ing a particularly close transatlantic bond.
Another instance comes from the Introduction to the United States
Magazine, whose subtitle read “a Repository of History, Politics and
Literature”. The editor, Hugh Henry Brackenridge, neatly sums up the
Virtual Museums in Early America  153
function of a literary magazine as follows: “Magazines are greatly use-
ful as repositories of a thousand valuable smaller pieces that otherwise
would never see the light, but lie concealed amongst the papers of the in-
genious” (Brackenridge 9). Both examples reflect the close link between
the magazines’ alleged capacity to preserve material for future genera-
tions and its perception of value (see Straub 2012). In other words, maga­
zines, or so Brackenridge has the readers believe, were not meant for
random material, but reflected standards of discernment and good taste.
This will become even more obvious with the third example, which
comes from the January 1789 edition of the Massachusetts Magazine,
which was also one of the more successful publications, lasting from
1789 to 1796:

Our best exertions shall not be wanting to render it worthy of the

patronage we wish it to be favoured with, and which, should it fail
of receiving, it must, like its predecessors, soon cease to be! – but we
are encouraged to hope that a work, which may be rendered so truly
valuable, will not fail of being cultivated in a soil which Genius has
marked for its own, and in which literary Flowers continually bud
and blossom – let these Flowers only be handed to us – be trans-
planted into our parterre – and we shall soon be enabled to exhibit
a most beautiful – a most useful variety.
(Thomas, emphases in the original)

The magazine’s editor, Isaiah Thomas, shows awareness of his maga-

zine’s dependency on subscribers, who after all provided the main income
at a time when advertisement was not yet a financially viable practice in
magazine publishing.7 What matters is his choice of imagery: the pick-
ing and collecting of flowers links the magazine to another publishing
genre that became popular in the eighteenth century: the anthology. The
etymology of the word “anthology” (i.e., a collection of flowers) evokes
the image of collecting a bunch of flowers, of selecting and collecting the
prettiest pieces from among many. The implicit demand for strict criteria
of qualitative selection was not always adhered to in these magazines as
in many cases empty spaces had to be filled with whatever was at hand.
In principle, however, they were a means of refining and of filtering an
overflowing literary production, something they had in common with
the anthology. In other words: rather than being merely ephemeral print
products, magazines fulfilled a function similar to the more permanent
achievement of the anthology. Anthologies, so one definition states, “are
characterized as volumes that contain material selected self-consciously
for consistency and quality” (Benedict, “Paradox” 231). What goes into
an anthology bears the stamp of approval. Another definition, also by
Barbara M. Benedict, sees anthologies as “volumes containing a his-
torical survey of English literature, and they are thought of as being
154  Julia Straub
compiled by editors from canonical material” (Making 3). Both pick
the prettiest flowers at a time of literary overproduction, both seek to
separate the wheat from the chaff, to create hierarchies of value and to
offer permanence to otherwise fugitive material.8 To a differing extent
both also seek to help establish and protect a national literary history or
a national literature. Like anthologies and literary histories, magazines
were meant to bring together and homogenise readers from different
parts of the country and beyond, rooting the individual in a transatlan-
tic community. Marilyn Butler put it like this: “To us it looks as though
the eighteenth-century journals accomplished remarkable feats of homo­
genization, creating a market for the booksellers and a single English-­
speaking culture, straddling the Atlantic, of which readers themselves
could have had no apprehension before” (129).
It is important not to take the rhetoric of memory employed in the
peritexts at face value or to overanalyse it in terms of an idealistic mem-
ory discourse. Within a highly competitive and precarious publishing
market, publishers and editors had to use whatever means that helped
to sell their products, readers being more easily tempted to invest money
into a solid product than one that is likely to shortly afterwards litter
the streets. Recent studies by Jared Gardner and Tim Lanzendörfer have
drawn vivid pictures of the volatility of magazine publishing, making it
a risky venture in economic terms. The subscription system was the cen-
tral means of securing funding and ensuring a certain level of continuity,
but payment mores tended to be bad and distribution could be difficult
(see Lanzendörfer 61–64).9 However, the frequency with which many
prefaces, prospectuses, editorial comments and introductions promoted
the idea that magazines offer a safe haven for texts suggests concern
with questions that we associate today with the formation of a literary
canon. Magazines were meant to protect content that was deemed im-
portant and valuable and that was in danger of being forgotten, lost, and
destroyed or in any other way exposed to a contingent afterlife. While
ultimately ephemeral, at the time when they were still new media, belief
in their sustainability and community-building capacities prevailed.
The tough competition and adversary conditions enhanced a craving
for solidity which was not only expressed rhetorically but also turned
into practice by publishers: continued pagination, or the free offering
of annual indices and title pages to subscribers, who could then have a
year’s issues bound and turned into a neat volume. Magazines could thus
be turned into items for the bookshelf. This is how Lyon N. ­R ichardson,
in one of the earliest historical survey studies on the American maga-
zine, put it:

The spirit of the majority of the editors was highly serious. They
strove to make their magazines valuable “repositories” and “muse-
ums” of thought both current and past. Their ideal was to publish
Virtual Museums in Early America  155
a “miscellany” of ample proportions, filled with subject matter as
broad as the interests of a large group of cultivated men, and as care-
fully presented as in the encyclopedias which were the pride of the
age. […] They did not look upon the issues as ephemeral; often the
intent was to publish periodically a collection of writings later to be
appropriately bound and given an exalted place as for “furniture”
for every man’s library. (1)

This frequently expressed plan of editors to see their weekly, bi-monthly

or monthly magazines bound, put into the shape of a book and thus
endowed with both material and idealistic gravitas goes back to the
very early days of magazine culture in the United States. The editor
of The Boston Weekly Magazine, which ran only for a few weeks in
the year 1743, thus just two years after colonial America had seen the
publication of its first own magazines, blamed the “common News
Papers” not only for their lack of intellectual substance, but also for
their insubstantial shape, “being not so convenient to be bound up in
a Volume when the Year is completed: By which Means many Pieces of
Wit and Politeness, which perhaps we should have been willing to have
preserv’d, are soon irrevocably lost” (Anon., “Article 1 – No Title”).
Newspapers, in comparison, were seen as precarious carriers of infor-
mation, information that is, as this excerpt suggests, easily dispensed
with and hardly graspable due to the medium’s lack of substance: no
cover, no spine.
A whole set of different metaphors was used to rhetorically ennoble
magazines, often included in their titles and subtitles. In the Monthly
Magazine, and American Review (1799–1800, edited by Charles
­Brockden Brown) of April 1800, the following comparison appeared:

A Magazine ought literally to be a shop where stuffs of all con-

ceivable or vendible kinds, where hemp from Russia, linen from
Connaught, leather from Tunis, cotten [sic] from Hoquang, and silk
from Aleppo, should be offered for sale, wrought into all textures,
dyed of all colours, and cut into all shapes.
(Anon. [“Candide”]. “A Literary Warehouse”,
emphases in the original)

The definition provided here covers several facets of the magazine: its
eclecticism is meant to enhance its appeal to a variety of customers with
different tastes and needs. As a shop offering its goods, it is a commer-
cial enterprise that ideally yields some profit. The person who runs it
“may expect his door to be heaped, his ears to be dinned, his hands to
be full, […] and best of all, his till to be overflowing” (ibid., emphasis
in the original). While history would crush many of these aspirations,
magazine publishing beckoned as a financially lucrative business and
156  Julia Straub
industry. Furthermore, there are rich undertones of imperial trade and
the exoticism of a globalised market, bringing rare textiles to the New
England home.
Another metaphor was introduced by Henry Hugh Brackenridge, who
advertised his United States Magazine, first published in 1779, as a site
of public exchange and contact:

The want of these advantages must therefore be supplied by some

publication that will in itself contain a library, and be the literary
­coffee-house of public conversation. A work of this nature is The
United States Magazine.
(Brackenridge, “Cover 3 – No Title” 9;
emphasis in the original)

Brackenridge employs different semantic fields in this short excerpt:

the metaphor of the library suggests wealth of learning and the legacy
of the written word. It stands for education and knowledge. Magazines
are meant to be stable works of reference. By referring to the magazine as
a “literary coffee-house of public conversation”, however, Brackenridge
places the magazine in an equally wider and rich socio-cultural context of
the eighteenth century which it shared with the museum: the public sphere.

The Magazine as a Museum Project

In America, magazines with “museum” in their titles abounded in the late
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Two illustrious examples are The
Massachusetts Magazine (1789–1796), which carried “Monthly ­Museum”
in its subtitle, and that of The New York ­M agazine ­(1790–1797), whose
subtitle read “Literary Repository”. Titles of other publications are The
Literary Museum, or Monthly Magazine ­(1797–1797), The ­Columbian
Museum or Universal ­Asylum ­(1793–1793), The Ladies Museum
(1800–1800), The Connecticut Magazine; or ­Gentleman’s and Lady’s
Monthly Museum of Knowledge & Rational Entertainment (1801–1801),
The National Museum and Weekly Gazette (1813–1814) and The Eclec-
tic Museum of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art (1843–1844).
To understand the significance of the metaphor of the museum in
these titles it is necessary to consider a few structural similarities and
the shared cultural context of the magazine and the museum. The emer-
gence of public institutions such as the coffee house, assembly room,
salon, tavern company or fraternity had a great impact on the cultiva-
tion of notions like “taste” or “politeness”, paradigms that had spilled
over to the United States from Europe. In The Structural Transforma-
tion of the Public Sphere (German original published in 1962), Jürgen
Habermas examined the significance of public spaces such as the coffee
house or the salon for the rising middle classes. The public sphere was
a site where citizens could communicate on an egalitarian basis, discuss
Virtual Museums in Early America  157
politics, philosophy, history and morality. These encounters helped citi­
zens consolidate their class identity and develop refined behaviour (the
key word being “politeness”). Both the museum and the magazine can
be viewed as extensions of the public sphere. They helped instruct and
entertain its readers and visitors, but they also enhanced a sense of civic
By claiming that his magazine will act as a library or a coffee house,
Brackenridge, in the quotation above, sports an ambitious attitude.
His magazine is meant to bring disparate kinds of people together,
in a way typical of the public sphere as a place of social encounter.
The coffee house is metonymical of the ideals of sociability and ci-
vility that found different forms of expression in eighteenth-century
society in Europe and the United States. “Society” refers here, as Da-
vid S. Shields has underlined, to private society (Civil Tongues xiv),
in contrast to military organisations, religious denominations and
other state-governed associations. Elsewhere, Shields has described
the magazine as “a textual correlative of the club; it offered an ency-
clopaedic range of communication, attempted to entertain as well as
to inform, and addressed the reader with that easy familiarity that
characterized a club member’s address to a fellow member” (“Dining
Clubs” 39). These sites offered citizens the possibility to communi-
cate, to reason on politics, philosophy, history and moral issues and
to thereby consolidate their class identity (in opposition and resis-
tance to the aristocracy). In this regard, public spaces such as the
coffee house, the tearoom, the museum, but also the magazine as a
virtual platform, were important means not only of cultivating polite
ways of behaviour (i.e.; sticking to dress codes, refining manners and
training communicative skills), but also of asserting one’s duties as a
According to Tony Bennett, who applies a Foucauldian reading to the
history of museums, they participate in the “cultural governance of the
populace” (Bennett 21):

[…] the museum’s new conception as an instrument of public in-

struction envisaged it as, in its new openness, an exemplary space in
which the rough and raucous might learn to civilise themselves by
modelling their conduct on the middle-class codes of behaviour to
which museum attendance would expose them.
(Bennett 28)

Visiting a museum exposed individuals to the kind of social interaction

that allowed them to reassure themselves of their corporate identity as
citizens and members of the same social group, but it also subjected
them to mutual control. In order to move around in the public sphere,
certain rules and codes (e.g. of non-aggressive and non-offensive be-
haviour) had to be adhered to. Similarly, the early magazines welcomed
158  Julia Straub
interactive exchanges with their readers: readers could write to the edi­
tors, they could communicate with each other, editors addressed their
readers directly and pulled them into the virtual or “imagined commu-
nity” of readers, to use Benedict Anderson’s concept. In order to partici­
pate, readers had to join a public discourse that required eloquence but
also social etiquette and intellectual refinement. The public function of
reading and the printed word in the young United States has been em-
phasised by Michael Warner in his study The Letters of the Republic
(1990). Warner argues that in the late eighteenth century the function of
writing was to express matters of general interest rather than to reflect
the isolated rumination of a private individual (108).
An example of a solicited editor/reader exchange is included in the
­September 1786 issue of the Columbian Magazine. Under the heading
“Queries submitted to our correspondents for a fair and candid discus-
sion” readers were encouraged to contribute their thoughts and opinions
on a number of questions related to republican values, the legal system,
commerce and the role of women in society, resulting, so the idea, in a
“fair and candid” discussion. European history plays into these points of
discussion as much as European intellectual traditions. One question read:

Montesquieu accounts for almost every peculiarity of customs,

manners, and laws, by the influence of climate – Is not this strongly
contradicted by the difference in character of the same nation, at
different periods? e.g. The ancient and present Greeks, Romans,
Spaniards, &c.
(Emphasis in the original)

The ideal of a well-informed, polite conversation on questions of pub-

lic relevance, an actively sought interactive model of communication
and European intellectual points of reference, were important facets of
transatlantic magazine culture.
One further, earlier example of the social function of magazines comes
from Benjamin Mecom’s The New-England Magazine from 1758, where
the plan behind the magazine is the following:

The common Duties and Benefits of Society, which belong to every

Man living, as we are social Creatures; and even our native and nec-
essary Relations to a family, a Neighbourhood, or a Government,
oblige all Persons whatsoever to use their reasoning Powers upon
a thousand Occasions; every Hour of Life calls for some regular
­Exercise of our Judgment as to Times and Things, Persons and Ac-
tions; without a prudent and discreet Management in Matters before
us, we shall be plunged into perpetual Errors in our Conduct. Now
that which should always be practiced, must at some Times be learnt.
(Anon., “The Design, &c.” 10, emphasis in the original)
Virtual Museums in Early America  159
Individuals in a society have to bear certain civic responsibilities, one of
which is the sharpening of their intellectual skills. “Judgment”, which
Mecom mentions here, is an important concept that would become
prominent with Immanuel Kant’s work later in the eighteenth century.
The New-England Magazine is advertised as an important platform for
collective thinking and discussion, perusal of which also exerts a correc-
tive, regulatory function. The high level of interactivity encouraged and
implemented at least by the early magazine editors underlines the mutu-
ality of discourse that the public sphere stood for and is a link between
the museum and the magazines. But there are further structural features
that invite comparison.
Most museums cannot put on display all the items they hold. They
exhibit objects that some kind of expert (i.e., an art historian, a curator,
etc.) deems precious and relevant. Following principles of canon forma-
tion, museums proceed with an “emphatic selection”, a practice that is
vital for the creation of a cultural memory (see A. Assmann, “Canon and
Archive” 99). “Emphatic selection” means that choices are made on the
basis of certain value-based criteria. In other words: rather than merely
accumulating material and showing what is available (as in a ­“repository”
or a collection) or exotic (as would be the case with curio­sity cabinets),
museums proceed upon a critically informed selective agenda when cre-
ating displays. The ideal of representativeness has great impact on these
choices. The term “cultural memory” refers to an inventory or store
of reused texts, images and rites of a particular community at a given
time, the cultivation of which helps the community to stabilise, convey
and suitably represent its self-image. It denotes a shared knowledge of
(mainly) the past from which a certain community derives a feeling of
distinctive identity.10 As Aleida Assmann has shown (e.g. in Cultural
Memory and Western Civilization [2011]), media play an important role
for the building and cultivation of cultural memory. ­“Media” here com-
prises a wide array of carriers of meaning, such as the skill of writing,
but also images, places and bodies. What all of them have in common
is that they enable a particular culture to transmit knowledge for the
sake of self-assurance, and to make it endure historical change. Media
understood in their broadest sense are thus carriers and communicators
of information that allow cultures to reproduce themselves over time.
According to Habermas, the public sphere entailed the commodi-
fication of the cultural sphere leading to a “consumption of culture”
(169). Then, as now, magazines do selective work by channelling read-
ers’ attention towards or away from “objects” that the literary or cul-
tural market has to offer for consumption at a given time. By putting
themselves in the service of making visible the “must-sees” of their time
to the public, both the museum and magazines as cultural phenom-
ena reflect the emergence of an “economy of attention” (see Neuhaus
150) which accompanied the rapid growth of the literary market.
160  Julia Straub
The level of activity (if not avidity) with which magazines were produced
and consumed is related to an increasingly dense and fast flow of infor-
mation and communication, which made it important to spark readers’
(and buyers’) interest in a product.
The museum thereby democratised exhibition practices that had pre-
vailed in the early modern period where access to private collections
and other collecting institutions was strictly regulated. Furthermore, it
has been argued by several scholars (in a Foucauldian vein) that the rise
of the public museum (in contrast to previous forms of display such as
the cabinet) represented an epistemic shift that changed Western forms
of knowing (see Fyfe 34). Tony Bennett draws upon Krzystof Pomian’s
work on the gradual erosion of principles of curiosity, curiosity having
been the privilege of the gentleman collector and his clique of family
and friends, in favour of more representative features that the majority
of the population could relate to (40). Rather than showing rare and
irreplaceable objects (as happened in a Wunderkammer, for example),
the museum, meant to instruct the public, followed a “representational
principle of sparsity” (Bennett 42). Visitors got to see interesting and en-
grossing items, however they represented a larger body of similar objects
and were chosen on the grounds of their representativeness. In other
words: the masses were now encouraged to marvel and to inquire, and
both the museum and the magazine reflected this democratic shift, both
proceeding, at least in theory, on the principle of selection.
Yet the idea of an economy of attention requires slight adaptation to
the specific situation of the “museum-magazine”. Two points are of rele-
vance here. The first one is the reader’s or visitor’s experience of immer-
sion. Daniela Bleichmar argues for “the need of thinking of collections
as spaces that constructed narratives through strategies of display and
the visit, guiding visitors into highly specific viewings” (16 f.) and that
the two textual genres associated with collections are the catalogue
and the inventory (16). There is, of course, a difference between early
­modern collections and museums, but I would argue that within a bud-
ding museum culture in the eighteenth century, the magazine appears as
another publishing genre to engage with practices of public display and
education as they take place in a museum. The act of reading a magazine
resembles, to a certain extent, that of walking through a museum. A visit
to the museum is a unique experience, which renews its meaning for the
individual with each visit and the visitor is, of course, at liberty to choose
whatever path he or she prefers. Similarly, the act of browsing through a
magazine allows the reader to follow his or her own itinerary, skipping
articles of lesser interest, dwelling on those that appeal. Yet both readers
and visitors are not left entirely to their own devices if they enter the
museum or magazine. Admittedly the ordering function in a museum is
more pronounced than in the magazine: museums present their visitors
with linear paths of evolution and organise the stages of development in
Virtual Museums in Early America  161
a way that suggests to their visitors that they themselves are “progressive
subjects” (Bennett 47). The museum visitor remains free to choose, of
course, in which order he or she explores the showrooms, but in terms
of museum pedagogy, a shift made itself felt as of the late eighteenth
century, at least in Britain. As Bennett argues,

[i]n the course of the nineteenth century, the museum’s space of

representation comes to be reorganized through the use of histori-
cized principles of display which, in the figure of “man” which
they fashioned, yielded a democratic form of public representa-
tiveness, […]. (33)

The rise of the museum coincided with new formations of knowledge

in the natural sciences, away from taxonomical structures towards evo-
lutionary narratives (see Bennett 96). Magazines may lack an obvious
progressive element in terms of development, yet the principle of seri-
ality, which fundamentally shapes periodicals, causes a certain kind
of temporality that immerses the reader in an experience of continuity.
­Furthermore, the regular structure of some magazines – including simi­
lar rubrics and sections repeated in each issue – as well as the editor
figures’ comments and interventions, were other means of holding an
otherwise inchoate bundle of texts and snippets together.
The second point relates to terminology. As mentioned above, it was
common usage for editors, both in Great Britain and in North America,
to use whatever filling material they could get their hands on without
applying rigid criteria of selection, pointing us to a clash of theory and
practice, idealism and pragmatism. While calling themselves museums,
the magazines functioned as archives or storage rooms, according to
today’s understanding of these terms. From today’s perspective, the no-
tion of a repository implies much less of an emphatic selection, i.e., a re-
pository is meant to store materials, and not necessarily to select them.
The concept of the repository resembles the archive rather than cultural
memory. It is interesting, however, that, according to the OED, “repos-
itory” meant something like “museum” in the eighteenth century, while
its meaning in terms of an “archive” came into use only later in the
nineteenth century. Thus, the etymological development alone of this
word reflects a gradual refinement of the ways in which the survival
and memory of objects from the past were explained. The distinction
between the archive as a comprehensive storage room and the museum
as the showroom for selected pieces had still to be made; the dynamic in-
teractions between the two had yet to be perceived and understood. This
malleability of terminology prevents the comparison between museums
and magazines from working comprehensively on all levels if today’s
definitions are applied, but it also suggests that we are looking at an
exciting period in the history of the media and epistemology.
162  Julia Straub
The following examples will illustrate how magazines were imag-
ined as museums. The first example is the British magazine Universal
­Museum, and Complete Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, which
first came out 1765, six years after the British Museum in London had
been opened to the public. As a national museum, it targeted the entire
population and not just a privileged segment.11 The British Museum was
funded mainly by lottery and, despite some controversy at the time of its
foundation, admission (which has always been free) was handled gene­
rously from the start.12 Furthermore, national museums do, now and
then, send out a much stronger message of power than the curiosity cabi­
net or an aristocrat’s art collection (see Bennett 46) given their display of
an accumulated capital that is meant to represent the nation and that is
no longer locked away. As Gordon Fyfe put it,

[i]t is characteristic of nation-states that collections of things, which

are held in trust on behalf of the people, are taken to be a sign that
a population is indeed a people and that its territorial space is a na-
tional space. (42)

The British Museum’s inauguration had an expansive effect on fields of

cultural production outside the visual arts. As Glyn Pursglove has shown,
for example, British poetry anthologies from around this period began to
take on museum-like features (in order “to present a histo­rically coherent
“narrative””, 42), i.e., anthologies adopted the idea of showcasing their
precious materials by following a certain trajectory. Unlike in Britain, there
was no museum to put on display the national past in the United States.
The Smithsonian Institution, which comprises several museums, was es-
tablished in 1846 only. Yet it is interesting to observe that the heyday of the
“museum-magazine” in the United States coincides with the foundation of
local and state historical societies and private archives, such as the Massa-
chusetts Historical Society (1791), the New York Historical Society (1804)
or the American Antiquarian Society (1812) (see Hebel 54 f.).13
The subtitle of the Universal Museum reveals that it contains “a variety
of original pieces” on “curious and useful subjects” in “polite literature,
trade and commerce” as well as science and philosophy. Embellished
with “a great variety of prints and maps”, this magazine reflects the
visual enhancement typical and expected of these virtual “museums”.
Readers were presented with foreign news and the descriptions, some-
times depictions, of unfamiliar, foreign objects. The exhibits on display
in museums, like the items presented in a magazine, marked the presence
of such a globalised world, in the metropolis and the provinces alike.
Another example is the June 1801 edition of The Connecticut Maga-
zine, which contained articles on subjects as eclectic as “Spanish Wool”
and the “Ignorance of the Neapolitan Peasantry” (Anon., “Table of Con-
tents 1”). Like the Universal Museum, the Connecticut Museum also
had a strong visual element to reproduce the experience of a museum
Virtual Museums in Early America  163
visit. The same issue featured an image of a Persian wheel used to water
fields on its cover and picked up the topic in the opening article of the
issue in an attempt to render present absent objects of interest.
The final example is the American Museum (with a change of title
occurring in 1788 to American Museum, or Universal Magazine), in­
troduced above, whose original subtitle read: Repository of Ancient and
Modern Fugitive Pieces. This is how its editor, Mathew Carey, intro­
duced his “museum” to his readers in January 1787:

Having long observed, in the various newspapers printed in the seve­

ral states, a great number of excellent and invaluable productions,
I have frequently regretted that the perishable nature of the vehi­
cles which contained them, entailed oblivion on them, after a very
confined period of usefulness and circulation. A similar regret, ex­
pressed by the respectable character who now fills the presidential
chair of this commonwealth, who remarked that one of the London
magazines originated with a view to the preservation of good news­
paper essays, made me conceive that a publication […], calculated
to afford an asylum for those interesting fugitives, could not fail to
be highly useful, and, consequently, amongst an enlightened people,
to meet with encouragement.
(M.C., “To the Reader” iii)

Carey’s mission statement summarises all the crucial arguments that jus­
tify the apparition of a new magazine and that are meant to appeal to the
potential buyer. In an attempt to woo new subscribers, he addresses both
the concerns of editors and the interests of the readers. He mentions the
abundance of precious material, complains about the ephemerality of
newspapers and their resulting unreliability, their short lifespan and the
losses incurred because of it, alludes to the influential London model, the
necessity to come to the rescue of precious material and makes an appeal
to an erudite readership.
Carey’s magazine contained hardly any original material but col­
lected previously published contributions, some of the issues adding
up to more than a hundred pages (see Richardson 272). It contained
articles on the Constitution from the work of high-ranking political
authors such as Noah Webster, Alexander Hamilton, John Dickinson,
Benjamin ­Franklin and many others; it covered topics such as agri­
culture, manufacture, industry, social reform, education, commerce
and medicine. It  reprinted literary texts (e.g. from Noah Webster’s
American ­M agazine), preferred authors being Philip Freneau, David
Humphreys (“On the Happiness of America”), John Trumbull (reprint­
ing his M’Fingal), but also less well-known writers such as Lemuel
Hopkinson, Mathew Carey and John Osborn (see Richardson 330).
Its December 1789 edition listed a neatly categorised table of contents
(see Figure 7.1):
164  Julia Straub

Figure 7.1  T
 able of Contents of the December 1789 edition of Mathew Carey’s
The American Museum.
Source: American Periodicals Series Online, reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

including sections, not unlike different rooms or display cabinets in a

museum, labelled “Original essays”, “The historical collector”, “The
American spectator” (i.e. essays on various topics such as “On second
marriages of men”), “Rural concerns”, “Biography”, “Moral tales” and
“Law cases”.
These examples point to the limits and benefits of the, at the time popu­
lar, comparison between museums and magazines, which, to a certain ex-
tent, was mainly rhetorical, “museum” being an adornment to titles and
prefaces rather than a meaningful comment on the selective methods and
editorial practices that went into compiling early ­A merican magazines.
But while the terminological conventions, as mentioned above, may have
been unsubstantiated and structural comparisons remain inconsistent in
many cases, these self-stylised “museums”, like their real counterparts,
responded to the same prevalent impulses at the time: to establish and
represent the past, and to educate. These impulses had already informed
seventeenth and eighteenth-century historio­graphy and other popular
publishing genres (such as the anthology) and genres (e.g. the historical
Virtual Museums in Early America  165
novel) in Britain and the United States. ­Museums were thus one among
several institutions dedicated to putting on display or performing na-
tional identity, for example, national holidays and festivities. In Britain,
the inauguration of the British museum had laid the foundation for a
museum culture that became more specialised in the nineteenth century
(in the form of geology, natural history and anthropology museums, for
example). In late eighteenth-century America, given the absence of one
central national museum, magazines aspired to fill in that gap.
To conclude, British and American magazines were entwined pheno­
mena of the eighteenth century. They shared a pool of tropes and im-
ages, and they transmitted a transatlantic reservoir of texts – a textual
archive – through various forms of adaptation, citation and reprint.
Furthermore, the paradigm of politeness and sociability, in which
magazines played an important part, was also of a deeply transatlan-
tic kind. The discourse on memory that early magazines contained and
which I delineated shows how urgent the need was to create virtual
spaces where writers and readers alike could gather and find collections
of valuable material, hoard these treasures and share them by putting
them on display. Often the products of collaborative efforts, magazines
show how discourse and distinct publication practices were mingled in
order to work on a cultural memory. Both the media and practices of
cultural memory are not restricted to a particular geo-political realm,
but work transnationally. Thus, rather than speaking of an essentially
(U.S.)-American cultural memory, the stirrings of which took place long
before political independence was achieved, one should acknowledge the
transatlantic dimension of the discourses, media and practices that were
put into the service of consolidating a collective American identity and
remembering it.
The “museum” as a metaphor used to conceptualise the (mostly
doomed) mnemonic project of early American magazines, as an epis-
temic principle and as a cultural practice, became prominent in the sec-
ond half of the eighteenth century, which, within a North American
context, coincided with the time of political emancipation. It turned into
a popular trope in the world of publishing, so closely connected with
politics at that time, because the nation’s self-image required consolida-
tion in a variety of media. In this regard, the magazines, since they did
not aim to divulge news (the newspapers’ job) as much as they hoped
to collect items of interest and relevance, were America’s first virtual
museums, opening up spaces for social and communicative encounters
between members of a dispersed readership, for many of whom the ob-
jects on display were not only of practical, everyday concern, but offered
the chance to marvel and to learn more about the world as well as the
nation, and their own position as citizens. It was in these virtual mu-
seums that Americans experienced themselves not only as citizens of
their nation, but as residents of an Atlantic world of fluid exchange and
166  Julia Straub
1 Relevant monographs or collections of essays are those by Kamrath/­Harris
(Periodical Literature in Eighteenth-Century America, 2005); Price/
Smith (Periodical Literature in Nineteenth-Century America, 1995) and
Jared Gardner’s The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture
(2012). For a lengthy discussion of the implications of the digitisation of
historical newspapers for today’s research methods, see James Mussell’s
The ­Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age (2012) and Deegan/­
Sutherland’s Transferred Illusions (2009). Gustafson (esp. 206–211) analy-
ses the implications of these digitisation projects for research in the field of
early American literature.
2 Early studies on the American magazine are those by Richardson, Free and
Mott, who have provided important historical groundwork.
3 One reason for the relative scarcity of new publications between the 1740s
and the 1770s was the 1765 Stamp Act, which made the printing of maga-
zines an expensive activity: colonial printers had to pay taxes to the Crown
and partly use British paper (with a British seal) for their publications.
4 In the nineteenth century, the increasing diversification of periodical pub-
lishing (addressing different readerships and establishing distinct, “special
interest” foci) reflected the “ideological project of a newly proselytizing mid-
dle class” (Maidment 511).
5 On the complex temporal layers underlying the notion of the museum,
see Crane. Crane discusses the extent to which the desire for permanence
that promoted the rise of museums was linked to a growing perception of
6 The average number of subscribers did not extend beyond 500; only rarely
did they reach more than a thousand names (Richardson 2).
7 Magazines became visually opulent in the nineteenth century. Advertisement
turned into an aesthetic feature which rendered magazines increasingly ap-
pealing to the eye. On the development of design in magazines see A ­ ynsley/
Forde. Cynthia L. Patterson has studied the rise of the illustrated magazine
in the 1840s (Art for the Middle Classes 2010). See Ellen G. ­Garvey’s The
Adman in the Parlour (1996) for the magazine’s implication in the rise of
consumer culture.
8 On the notion of literary overproduction, see Pethers. Another good example
is the title page of The New-England Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure
(1758) (published by Benjamin Franklin’s nephew Benjamin Mecom), which
depicts a hand holding a bunch of flowers. This iconography links the maga­
zine to the imagery used by anthologies. As Patricia Okker has observed
in Social Stories, the accompanying motto for The Gentleman’s Magazine,
“Prodesse et delectare, e pluribus unum”, was chosen by Benjamin Franklin,
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1776 as the official seal for the newly
formed United States (1–2). What the literary anthology and the magazine
thus had in common structurally, i.e. unity in diversity, reflected the political
ambition of the United States.
9 One of the more successful examples was Carey’s American Museum:
the first volume (January through June 1787) attracted 504 subscribers.
A year later their number had gone up to 1696 (see Richardson 314). The
­Pennsylvania Magazine (1775–1776) had a print run of up to 1500 copies,
which made it also relatively successful (Mott 87); similarly, The ­C olumbian
Maga­zine, running for an impressive six years and four months, also reached
the number of 1500 subscribers (Okker, Social Stories 34). As Gardner put
Virtual Museums in Early America  167
it, ­magazines often occupied a “liminal place at best” in the Early R­ epublic
(91): print runs of 700–800 were common whereas books tended to be
printed in runs of 2000.
10 This is a paraphrase of the definition by Jan Assmann in 1988. The German
original reads as follows: “Unter dem Begriff des kulturellen Gedächtnisses
fassen wir den jeder Gesellschaft und jeder Epoche eigentümlichen Bestand
an Wiedergebrauchs-Texten, -Bildern und -Riten […], in deren “Pflege” sie
ihr Selbstbild stabilisiert und vermittelt, ein kollektiv geteiltes Wissen vor-
zugsweise (aber nicht ausschließlich) über die Vergangenheit, auf das eine
Gruppe ihr Bewußtsein von Einheit und Eigenart stützt” (15).
11 The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, opened in 1683, tends to be regarded
as the first museum in England to embrace the idea of public viewing (see
Abt 114). However, as Jeffrey Abt has shown, the notion of “public” in the
context of museum culture reaches back far beyond the Enlightenment into
antiquity. Visitors had to pay an admission fee to enter the Ashmolean, but
fees were staggered according to income: between 1683 and 1697 most visi­
tors paid one shilling, others only six pence and notable visitors up to ten
shillings (Abt 125).
12 However, the ticket application process was cumbersome and the waiting
lists long (see Abt 126), which, without a doubt, deterred potential visitors
by presupposing a certain determination and requiring extra time, a luxury
not available to everyone.
13 On the importance of private initiatives, often led by wealthy industrialists
and financiers, in the American museum sector of the nineteenth century,
see Abt 130–132.

Works Cited
Abt, Jeffrey. “The Origins of the Public Museum”. A Companion to Museum
Studies. Ed. Sharon Macdonald. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2011. 115–134.
Altick, Richard D. The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass
Reading Public, 1800–1900. 1957. Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1998.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and
Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006.
Anon. “Article 1 – No Title”. The Boston Weekly Magazine 1 (1743): 1. Pro-
Quest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Anon. “The Design, &c”, New-England Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure
1 (August 1758): 7–12. ProQuest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Anon. “Queries submitted to our correspondents for a fair and candid discus-
sion”, Columbian Magazine, or Monthly Miscellany 1.1 (September 1786): 2.
ProQuest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Anon. [Crazy Jonathan]. “Advantages of Newspapers”, The American ­M useum;
or, Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces &c., Prose and Poeti-
cal 3.3 (1788): 270–271. ProQuest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Anon. “Front Material 1 – No Title”, The Universal Asylum and C ­ olumbian
Magazine 4.3 (1790): 131–132. ProQuest: American Periodicals Series
Anon. [“Candide”]. “A Literary Warehouse”, The Monthly Magazine, and
American Review 2.4 (1800): 253–255. ProQuest: American Periodicals
­S eries Online.
168  Julia Straub
Assmann, Aleida. “Canon and Archive”. A Companion to Cultural Memory
Studies. Ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010.
———. Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media,
­Archives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Assmann, Jan. “Kollektives Gedächtnis und kulturelle Identität”, Kultur und
Gedächtnis. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1988. 9–19.
Aynsley, Jeremy, and Kate Forde, Ed. Design and the Modern Magazine.
­Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007.
Benedict, Barbara. Making the Modern Reader: Cultural Mediation in Early
Modern Literary Anthologies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
———. “The Paradox of the Anthology: Collecting and Différence in
­Eighteenth-Century Britain”, New Literary History 34 (2003): 231–256.
Bennett, Tony. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. London:
Routledge, 1995.
Bleichmar, Daniela. “Seeing the World in a Room: Looking at Exotica in Early
Modern Collections”. Collecting Across Cultures: Material Exchanges in the
Early Modern Atlantic World. Ed. Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 15–30.
Brackenridge, Hugh H. “Cover 3—No Title”, United States Magazine; a Re-
pository of History, Politics and Literature 1 (1779): 9. ProQuest: American
Periodicals Series Online.
Butler, Marilyn. “Culture’s Medium: The Role of the Review”. The ­C ambridge
Companion to British Romanticism. Ed. Stuart Curran. Cambridge:
­Cambridge University Press, 2010. 127–152.
Crane, Susan A. “The Conundrum of Ephemerality: Time, Memory, and
­Museums”. A Companion to Museum Studies. Ed. Sharon Macdonald.
­Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2011. 98–109.
Deegan, Marilyn, and Kathryn Sutherland. Transferred Illusions: Digital
Techno­logy and the Form of Print. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.
Free, William J. The Columbian Magazine and American Literary Nationalism.
The Hague: Mouton, 1968.
Fuller, Margaret. “American Literature; Its Position in the Present Time, and
Prospects for the Future”. Essays on American Life and Letters by Margaret
Fuller. Ed. Joel Myerson. Albany: New College and University Press, 1978.
Fyfe, Gordon. “Sociology and the Social Aspects of Museums”. A Companion
to Museum Studies. Ed. Sharon Macdonald. Malden: Wiley Blackwell, 2011.
Gardner, Jared. The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture.
­Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
Garvey, Ellen G. The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of
Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s. New York: Oxford University Press,
Gilmore, Michael. “Magazines, Criticism, and Essays”, in The Cambridge
History of American Literature. Ed. Sacvan Bercovitch. Vol. 1: 1590–1820.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 558–572.
Virtual Museums in Early America  169
Gustafson, Sandra M. “The Emerging Media of Early America”, Proceedings of
the American Antiquarian Society 115 (2006): 205–250.
Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An
­Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. 1962. Trans. Thomas Burger.
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989.
Hebel, Udo. “Sites of Memory in U.S.-American Histories and Culture”. Cul-
tural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook.
Ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009. 47–60.
Kamrath, Mark L., and Sharon M. Harris, Ed. Periodical Literature in
­Eighteenth-Century America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,
Lanzendörfer, Tim. The Professionalization of the American Magazine:
­Periodicals, Biography, and Nationalism in the Early Republic. Paderborn:
Schöningh, 2013.
Macdonald, Sharon, Ed. A Companion to Museum Studies. Malden: Wiley
Blackwell, 2011.
Maidment, Brian. “Periodicals and Serial Publications, 1780–1830”. The
­C ambridge History of the Book in Britain, 1695–1830. Ed. Michael F. ­Suarez
and Michael L. Turner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
[M.C.]. “To the Reader”, American Museum or Repository 1 (1787): iii–iv.
ProQuest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Mott, Frank L. A History of American Magazines. Vol. 1: 1741–1850. Harvard,
MA: Harvard, University Press, 1957.
Mussell, James. The Nineteenth-Century Press in the Digital Age. Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Neuhaus, Stefan. “Strategien der Aufmerksamkeitserregung in der Literaturkritik”,
Perspektiven der Literaturvermittlung. Innsbruck: Studienverlag, 2011.
Okker, Patricia. Social Stories: The Magazine Novel in Nineteenth-Century
America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.
Patterson, Cynthia L. Art for the Middle Classes: America’s Illustrated Maga-
zines of the 1840s. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.
Pethers, Mathew. ““The Rage for Book-Making”: Textual Overproduction and
the Crisis of Social Knowledge in the Early Republic”, Early American Liter-
ature 42.3 (2007): 573–609.
Price, Kenneth, and Susan B. Smith, Ed. Periodical Literature in Nineteenth-­
Century America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1995.
Pursglove, Glyn. “Museums and the Historical Anthology of English Verse”. The
Museal Turn. Ed. Sabine Coelsch-Foisner and Douglas Brown. ­Heidelberg:
Winter, 2012. 35–45.
Richardson, Lyon. A History of Early American Magazines, 1741–1789.
New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1931.
Shields, David S. “Dining Clubs and Literary Culture in Federal New York”.
Federal New York: A Symposium. Ed. Robert Goler. New York: Fraunces
Tavern Museum, 1990. 35–40.
———. Civil Tongues & Polite Letters in British America. Chapel Hill: Univer-
sity of North Carolina Press, 1997.
170  Julia Straub
Straub, Julia. “Mobility and the Canon: Discussing Literary Value in Early
American Writing”. Mobility in Literature and Culture, 1500 –1900.
Ed.  Ingo  Berensmeyer, Christoph Ehland and Herbert Grabes. REAL 28.
Tübingen: Narr, 2012. 177–195.
Thomas, Isaiah. “Front Material 1—No Title”, The Massachusetts Maga-
zine: or, Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment 1.1
(January 1789): 0_5. ProQuest: American Periodicals Series Online.
Warner, Michael. The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public
Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1990.
8 Cultural Transfer in the
German Atlantic
Brown, Oertel, and the First
Translation of a U.S. Novel
Leonard von Morzé

If the continual tendency of Atlantic Studies scholarship has been to
shatter national boundaries, a complementary process in the transna-
tional movement of texts has received less attention: transatlantic trans-
lation. Atlantic literary studies have tended either to offer inter-imperial
comparisons or to reconstruct an Anglo-American cultural sphere. The
deficit of attention to transatlantic translation is particularly noticeable
in the eighteenth century, perhaps the result of the scholarly reconstruc-
tion of the Enlightenment as a “republic of letters” in which texts moved
(so it is thought) seamlessly across languages.
This assumption finds intellectual support within the intellectual
universe of the period. While sophisticated theories of translation did
emerge during the Enlightenment, they did not generally challenge the
underlying premise that words replace things, so when two words in
different languages refer to the same object, little is lost when one word
is substituted for the other. Nature, for the Enlightenment, remained
constant, providing a stable referential ground for a multilingual world;
nature was a world of things for which words were simply replacements.
This referential stability may be seen even in the work of writers we
generally read as creative figures; the novels of the central writer in this
chapter, Charles Brockden Brown, reflect the “editorial function” rather
than the Romantic imagination, with Brown seeking to tell an authori­
tative story that will convince readers that he is offering them correct
information about current events.1 Like editors and novelists, translators
exhibited a relationship to the source text that was dialogic and critical,
as the editorial work of Brown, for example, has been described by Mark
Kamrath. However, translations also – insofar as they diverged from
the source text, or where they pulled the reader towards the originating
­language – created possibilities for cultural defamiliarisation and critique.
Such critique became especially important as a mass market for books
developed in the late eighteenth century, a market whose European epi-
centres were Frankfurt and Leipzig. The exponential increase in book
production, and the attendant culture of consumption that went with
172  Leonard von Morzé
it, aroused new forms of anxiety as German readers were confronted by
what Chad Wellmon recognises as a feeling of “information overload”
(68), a feeling that could only have been augmented by the profusion of
translated material. In light of the culture of translation that flourished
in these cities, the fact that German was the destination language of the
very first U.S. novel to appear in translation is unsurprising.
That novel was Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond (1800), whose
translation by Friedrich von Oertel (1764 or 1767?–1807) was printed
only two years later. In this chapter I treat Oertel as a meticulous transla-
tor whose short tortured career symptomatised the growth of the trade,
and I read his 1802 version of Ormond (1800) as a critique of the book
market’s imperial growth. 2 In offering this interpretation I practice a
“microhistorical” investigation which offers close readings of the E­ nglish
and German texts, thereby distinguishing my approach from scholarship
in the history of the book, which tends to produce data-driven summary
evaluations of the book trade. I also build on that small part of Atlantic
literary scholarship which pays attention to the work of the translator. 3
Oertel had begun his career as a novelist and essayist but spent much
of the final decade of his short life as a translator. As he was on intimate
terms with Jean Paul, scholarly discussion of Oertel has depended al-
most entirely on the changing critical estimates of his famous friend.4
Yet the recent interest in critical theories of translation has drawn atten-
tion to obscure figures like Oertel whose roles in literary history seem
newly worthy of investigation. Here I regard translation not simply as a
set of decisions (in this case, Oertel’s particular judgements about mov-
ing an English text into the German language) but, situating translation
in its historical context, I maintain that Oertel’s work related critically
to notions of seamless cultural and economic transfer, and to the related
figuration of translation as the carrying-over (translatio, Übertragung)
of civilisation across space and time. This transitive logic is already pres-
ent in Brown’s novel, as the narrative Sophia Courtland transmits to a
mysterious German reader could be understood as a variation on the
theme of translatio studii which played so large a role in the German
absorption of Western European cultures. This narrative frame could
hardly fail to have interested Oertel, as Brown’s most careful German
reader. But, significantly, when a translatio becomes a literal translation,
it leaves the realm of cultural idealisation and becomes a commodity
in the book trade, an object in a commercial literary market of which
­Oertel was, as we will see, oppressively aware. In different ways, then,
both the English and German versions of Ormond may be seen as exam-
ples of both an idealised conception of translation as cultural transfer,
and a less idealised conception of translated books as objects of trade.
Though this chapter suggests that Oertel’s translation provides per-
haps the fullest surviving evidence of how an early American novelist
was read, Brockden Brown’s Americanness was of no interest to Oertel.
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  173
This lack of interest may be an accident of history – Oertel seems to have
had no idea that the novel he was translating was by a U.S. author –
but it may also reflect the cosmopolitan literary market in which Brown
participated, a market in which nationality served as one currency of
affiliation among others, in which the signifier “German”, for instance,
denoted a particular style rather than any claim to cultural authenticity.
In any case, the critical model familiar to transatlantic studies which
conceptualises cultural transfer or translation as a “dialogue” between
American and European authors would offer an overly reified under-
standing of Oertel’s relation to Brown. 5 In the German historical con-
text, translations dominated the literary market, and raised questions of
cultural transfer not unrelated to those posed by Napoleon’s armies, as a
wave of French “modernisation” toppled the German states, or posed by
the commercial dominance of England, as Germany’s dominant source
for imports and exports.
Brown’s Ormond engages with similar problems: Brown reflects on
American national literature’s claim to be the culmination of an Atlantic
translatio, as well as a cultural export in its own right. While Brown
models American culture’s assimilation of classical Italian origins,
he then turns around to pass that culture on to international readers
through the framing device of making a German the explicit reader of
the text. It is a passing of the baton about which Oertel, however, has his
reservations. If the concept of translatio studii assumes that translation
serves the civilising process, Oertel seeks to remind his readers of the
incivility latent in cultural transfer, one which relegated the lowly trans-
lator to a medium for market transactions.

Translation and Cultural Ideology: Translatio Studii

in the Face of the Market
Like most other goods imported to the German states, Brown’s novel
did not make its trip to Germany nonstop, but almost certainly under-
went British re-exportation before being translated into German. In
1800, William Lane’s Minerva Press had come to an agreement with
Brown’s publisher, Hocquet Caritat, to reprint Ormond in London, the
first appearance of a novel by Brown in England. The Minerva novels,
generally seen as women’s writing and disparaged by critics as so-called
“sentimental trash”, brought Brown’s books into the hands of ordinary
British readers during his lifetime, long before Godwin and the Shelleys
read him (Bannet 133). It seems certain that Lane’s edition was the one
that Oertel was working with; without the reprint, Brown’s novel would
probably never have gotten into the hands of German readers. The suc-
cess of the Minerva Press was surely a key reason for the interest the busy
Leipzig house of Johann Gottlob Beygang took in the novel. If American
fiction, without established names, made its way into this international
174  Leonard von Morzé
market at all, it was as part of the bulk import of British fiction, serving
as “low” writing that supplied circulating libraries with prose.
This fiction was published for readers in German translation, as part
of a craze for English writing whose magnitude can hardly be over-
stated. Rarely has a foreign audience craved English novels more than
German readers did in the late eighteenth century.6 The German reading
public’s appetite for English-language books, which comprised at least
10,000 translations and reprints in the course of the eighteenth century,
has been said to have had “one of the most momentous literary and cul-
tural impacts in the history of Europe”; no other European readership
was so thoroughly dependent on translated material.7 Of course, there
was little about this massive work of translation that was inherently
transatlantic; the German literary elite who saw themselves as mem-
bers of a “young” nation-to-be were principally interested in choosing
their cultural forebears, rather than in reading colonial American liter-
ature. Cultural ideology aside, however, Germans participated to a still-­
underappreciated extent in the world of the Atlantic market, demanding
the same sensational commodities as other participants in that market.
German cultural nationalism did not, perhaps, insist only on the pro-
duction of original works, but also on the translation and consumption
of imported goods, including novels.
Thus a literary history committed to de-reifying idealised notions of
national culture should be careful not to see the German Ormond as a
milestone in the making of American literature. Tempting as it is to see
the movement of works outside the boundaries of language and nation
as giving legitimacy to a national literature (see the “Latin American
boom”), it is important to remember that Brown was not being trans-
lated out of any appreciation for the young republic’s literary production.
­Oertel’s assessment of a book which was surely Lane’s reprint, rather than
the first New York edition, led him to attribute the German Ormond to
William Godwin, whose name appears on the title page. In making this
attribution, Oertel’s preface, examined in depth later in this chapter, ar-
gues among other things that Wieland and Arthur Mervyn (the titles of
other Brown novels were included on the title page of Ormond) are “a
bunch of nonexistent works” (OG 3–4).8 This does not imply a denial of
the possibility that the United States could produce novels; instead, it re-
flects the fact that Brown’s other novels were not just unavailable, but en-
tirely unknown at this moment to the German reading public. Ormond
had become available on the Continent only due to Lane.
Yet the novel’s American authorship might well have aroused little
interest. The lengthy (500-word) and mostly positive write-up of the
German translation in Beygang’s house journal, the Leipziger Litera-
turzeitung, evaluates the novelist’s psychological insight, and finds it
worthy of praise, but makes little mention of its American setting. The
reviewer’s summary of the narrative is revealing, and since it is one of
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  175
the few available contemporary reviews in any language of a Brown
novel, I present an overview here. Instead of leading his discussion with
Constantia, the embodiment of virtuous American republicanism whose
fall into poverty is described at the beginning of the story, the reviewer
focuses on the problematic title character who does not appear until
one-third of the way into the book. Here Ormond is seen as a projection
of the author, the embodiment of “his attempt to represent the results
of his philosophy about humanity and life” (n.a., review of Ormond
The reviewer finds that the novelist’s treatment of the title character
as a test-case for Godwinian ideas, rather than as an organically dra-
matised character, disqualifies the work from being ranked among the
very best recent novels. While Ormond is that rare novel which aspires
to rise above the literature of entertainment, the crimes that appear to
result from Ormond’s philosophy – his throwing over of Helena Cleves,
who subsequently commits suicide, for Constantia, whom he attempts
to rape – are too lightly punished by his death, played for external show
rather than for the serious psychological suffering such offences should
have cost him. The sole mention here of the novel’s American setting is
a half-sentence commending the author’s scenes of yellow fever early
in the book; for the reviewer, these scenes provide a vivid illustration
of moral questions rather than a window onto a distant world. Yet the
most striking character in the scenes of fever, the remarkable Martinette
de Beauvais (known as Ursula Monrose during the fever chapters, and
ultimately revealed to be Ormond’s sister), earns no mention here.
The reviewer offers thoughts about the translation, which rest on an
implicit value system. The brilliance of Oertel’s translation is the invisi-
bility of the translator, exemplified – as the reviewer concludes – by his
“exceptional” ability to “reproduce the original with rare fidelity, with-
out betraying the slightest constraint”.9 The translator here is praised
as a sort of virtuoso who demonstrates fidelity to the original but does
not slavishly imitate the original language. Too literal a translation
paradoxi­cally exposes the translator’s hand. The successful transfer of
literary culture is dependent on the translator’s combination of artful-
ness with invisibility. I would note here that this value system is quite
different from that implied by Brown’s novel, which implicitly suggests a
different evaluation of translatio, resting not on aesthetic universals but
on self-interest. The German named I.E. Rosenberg, who is the recipient
of the text of Ormond, is interested in finding out how American society
is different from German society (OE 3–4). In contrast to the ­reviewer’s
reading, the reading of the narrative by Brown’s Rosenberg is not dispas-
sionate, but (as Sophia puts it) “deeply interested”: like so many others
curious about Constantia, this German reader wishes to gain a deep
knowledge of Constantia’s personal history which will allow some un-
specified form of heightened access to her (OE 22).
176  Leonard von Morzé
The reviewer’s and Rosenberg’s different ideas of the translatio/­
translation reflect competing, yet ultimately complementary understand-
ings of the value an American book might have for German readers.
On the one hand, the transmission of knowledge across boundaries of
language might be seen as a form of “civic action”, to follow Michael
Warner’s well-known interpretation of the hero’s work of translating an
Italian book in Brown’s Arthur Mervyn, as Mervyn enriches the adoptive
culture into which the work has been carried over. Warner reads Brown
as establishing an opposition between the republican virtue that guides
Mervyn’s work, and the self-interest that had earlier motivated Welbeck
to make the same attempt. Even as a translator, Welbeck remains a mar-
ketplace actor, single-mindedly pursuing wealth, status and reputation
(Warner 155–158). Yet in this instance the contrast obscures what the
two conceptions have in common: in both, translation is reduced to
translatio or cultural transfer, ensuring the effortless absorption of the
foreign material into the target language. Moreover, players in both the
international market and the republic of letters did not necessarily have
incompatible systems of value. Indeed, the Leipziger Literaturzeitung
served both ends. This reviewing journal had been founded and sus-
tained (despite financial losses) by Beygang himself for precisely these
mixed motives: he wished to give Leipzig a reputation for literary dis-
tinction by producing a worthy imitation (together with more culturally
prestigious Roman, as opposed to Gothic, type, and long quarto pages)
of the cosmopolitan reviewing journals of Jena, Berlin and London. At
the same time, this journal served as a way of selling the more profitable
books in his catalogue and of drawing subscribers to his well-appointed,
heated reading rooms, designed for a bourgeois public (Lehmstedt 218).
The post-classical model of absorbing a text into a new culture is
the translatio studii et imperii, the “transfer of learning and empire”,
a modernised version of which exerted significant influence on German
literary production at Oertel’s historical moment. Its function was to
allow cultural nationalists to reinterpret potentially embarrassing facts
about German culture, and to put a positive spin on the perception of
German political and literary weakness. German writers took more
pride in translations than in their original works, and this fact had to
be carefully explained in terms of an emergent nationalist ideology. As
the armies of a united France swept through the divided German states,
the idea that the defeated culture was actually, like the victims of Roman
conquest, receiving the baton of “learning and empire”, gave German
literary commentators a sense of historical mission. For Novalis, writing
to A.W. Schlegel in praise of the latter’s translations of Shakespeare,
the German states were home to the greatest translators since the days
of late imperial Rome, and this work could be conceptualised as impe-
rial: “Only for us have translations been expansions” (Robinson 213).
Thus the concept of translation whose most notorious manifestation is
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  177
unser Shakespeare – that, as Schlegel put it, Shakespeare “belonged”
almost as much to Germany as to England – gained a certain currency
among writers who constituted a linguistic but not a political nation.
Translation could be put into the service of a nationalist project; the
Verdeutschung or “Germanising” of foreign literature was productive
of national culture. Germany was seen as the next stage of a translatio
studii, validating the claims of German literature to represent the culmi-
nation and forward movement of cultural development.10
Yet this cultural ideology, which looked back to Rome as well as to
more advanced Enlightenment nations, was at odds with a rapidly ad-
vancing state of economic development in which the Atlantic economy,
rather than Italy, became the key source of native culture, and in which
the homogenising effects of the market tended to undermine such ar-
guments for national distinctiveness. For the age of Napoleon was to
transform the German states from an economically depressed post-­
Westphalian mix of petty principalities to a nineteenth-century indus-
trial powerhouse. Atlanticists have generally produced a picture of the
commercial Atlantic which has neglected the German-speaking region;
in fact, it may be argued a German Atlantic world simply does not exist
at the turn of the nineteenth century (Sperber). Yet this is true only if
we ignore indirect lines of trade. As a matter of fact, the German states,
far more than any other place in the world (including the West Indies,
North America, and Holland), were England’s dominant trading partner
at the turn of the nineteenth century. Given that, by one estimate, the
destination of nearly half of the value of London’s re-export trade in
1796 involved the German countries (more even than the Caribbean), it
is simply incorrect to exclude the Baltic region from the Atlantic world.11
While German involvement was at every level – from the cultural to the
commercial – mediated by the much more significant powers of England
and Napoleonic France, this does not mean that a German Atlantic does
not exist. Karl Marx went so far as to quip that many Germans re-
sisted Napoleon not out of any lofty nationalist strivings, but only be-
cause his Continental System took away their coffee and sugar (qtd. in
­Sperber 154). Evidently German nationalists were more involved in the
Atlantic economy than they cared to admit.
Like those luxury goods, English and French novels played a cen-
tral role in German consumers’ relationship to the foreign. German
cultural authorities routinely ignored the literature of entertainment,
as the disparaging term Trivalliteratur suggests, in favour of classical
works, and predictably valued poetry as a worthy target of translation
while neglecting the popular novel. Popular fiction was relegated to the
margins of this transatlantic picture.12 Such fiction tended to be im-
ported to Germany by way of translations from English. The fact that,
for ­English readers, the generic designation “Gothic literature” had be-
come synonymous with “German literature” only compounds the irony
178  Leonard von Morzé
of this cultural exchange. Brown and other fiction writers regularly af-
fixed “from the German” to the exotic tales in their magazines, though
the tales were their own invention; the phrase was apparently a sell-
ing point.13 In different ways, the novel of entertainment was, for both
­English and German readers, the foreign or imported novel. These na-
tionalising tags indicated marketability, reflecting the complex origins of
an emergent cultural nationalism, which insisted not on original works
but on the availability of luxury imports like novels. These tags also
enabled stimulating but disturbing material to be attributed to a foreign
culture (as has been done innumerable times in American culture with
objects tagged as “French”).

The Translator’s Hand

Translating English and French novels by the ton, Oertel was deeply
involved in this international market for fiction. More than a hired
hand, however, Oertel had major literary aspirations. As a friend of the
arguably revolutionary and anti-classical Francophile Jean Paul, Oertel
seems to have leaned towards a set of ideas developed out of a spirit of
rivalry or resistance to the combination of neoclassicism and cultural na-
tionalism characteristic of Goethe and Schiller’s circle. Like his friend’s,
Oertel’s political ideas were variously Godwinian, reformist, and repub-
lican, drawing inspiration from Herder and Wieland as well as from
revolutionary France. Oertel’s political publications in the early 1790s
paint a picture of an intellectual hostile to the traditional nobility and
eager to embrace an emergent republicanism.14 Thus it is perhaps less
the absence of Brown from the title page of the German Ormond as the
presence of Godwin that is significant here. Oertel seems to have felt a
personal stake in Godwin’s life and work, as his earlier writings indicate
Godwin’s influence.
While in the course of translating this long book (590 pages in the
­German), Oertel would surely have had his doubts about the authen-
ticity of the attribution, if he ever believed it at all. But Oertel’s pat-
terns and inclinations as an established writer suggest strong affinities
with Godwin, and hint that the opportunity to translate his work would
have been a project of some personal significance (Bridgwater 295).
A  member of the Saxon gentry, Oertel had one of the era’s typically
short and dizzying careers, beginning with an early period of politico-­
philosophical optimism followed by a sharp shift in creative output after
1800 – a career, in other words, with certain parallels to Brown as well
as Charlotte Smith, whom Oertel also translated. He began his career
in his mid-twenties with reportedly brilliant (though now almost lost)
novels, as well as political tracts that struggled with contradictions in
the political thought of the early 1790s. Suddenly, perhaps as a result
of his marriage in 1797, Oertel turned to translating Gothic novels at a
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  179
feverish pace, producing at least twenty translations – comprising over
ten thousand pages – from English and French in just seven years.15
This prodigious translation work was performed for Beygang, who
was rapidly becoming a mass producer of translated popular literature.
Starting around 1784, Beygang issued hundreds of translated titles in
a standardised octavo format, using Gothic type made by Christian
­Friedrich Solbrig. These books were, in effect, quasi-industrial com-
modities, identical in shape and size, evidence of an emergent economy
of scale within the mass production of middlebrow prose. However,
the era of what Norbert Bachleitner has influentially called the German
“translation factories” was still a few decades away, for Beygang ima­
gined a reading public that remained largely local; in Leipzig he erected
a ­“Museo”, a building where readers could peruse his library for a mem-
bership fee. Neither Beygang nor Oertel survived the effects of the French
Revolution. Beygang declared bankruptcy in 1811. Oertel’s public was
also a local one: whether through inclination or necessity, he seems to
have seen his friends as the principal audience for his work. In a letter
of 20 July 1806, Oertel wrote Jean Paul that he was too sick to continue
writing, leaving him some final manuscripts – now lost – “because my
name has no credit with the public” (Jean Paul 5. 133). He died two
years later, apparently of “mental derangement” (5. 522–523).
Oertel’s implicit theory of translation is spelled out not only through his
decisions as a translator, which I will examine below, but also through the
paratextual material Oertel added to his translations. He prefaced his trans-
lation of a popular French novel by Ducray-Duminil by audaciously “ask-
ing the public to strive to compare the following translation of the French
introduction with the original”, facilitating an appreciation of the transla-
tor’s improvements. While the translation “must speak for itself, without
further additions from me”, it turns out that Oertel wants us to hear two
voices, Oertel’s and not just Ducray-Duminil’s.16 Far from an unmediated
translation whereby the target language absorbs and domesticates the origi-
nal, Oertel’s translation demands a bilingual and bifocal reader, who would
be willing to read the source text and the translation at once.
The afterword to the book returns Oertel’s voice to the reader, and
adds a third. Here the reader finds the translator’s plaintive “Note” (the
German word signifying not only a comment but also a grade, a sum-
mative evaluation):

This story, like several others in this book, has needed a thorough
revision, where, again as in the other stories, nothing is good be-
sides the first idea and the original plan. The imagination of the
French author almost always provokes him towards petty gimmicks,
to so called-like twists as well as inconsistent digressions, and even
to contradictions which often completely destroy the sentimental
impressions that he wants to evoke. It is not vanity that impels the
180  Leonard von Morzé
translator to make this explanation, but only the duty to do justice
to himself no less than to a third person (and why should he alone be
owed that justice?) and to rescue from a similar dismissive judgment
an exertion of this class [Classe], even though it is treated by many
of his brothers of the pen as a mere craft [Handwerk], and is gener-
ally appreciated by the public only as such.17

Intriguingly, Oertel here acknowledges a third party’s assistance in the

labour of translation, which may help to explain why the beginnings
of his career as a translator coincided with his marriage. The contrast
between the labours of this person and that of his “brothers of the pen”,
presumably those engaged in original composition, is suggestive. Was his
unheralded wife, Friederike von Oertel, the “third” to whom the French
novelist (and not just Oertel himself) was now indebted for his superior
German translation?
In any event, Oertel recognises the low cultural prestige of translation,
which he associates with the “Handwerk” of a mere trade, a m ­ anual
craft done in a cottage industry, in accordance with the prevailing view
of translation as a form of literary labour particularly well suited for
women.18 While cultural ideology masculinised the imperial process
of translatio studii, the idea of translation required a domestication,
a  ­Verdeutschung, into the home language that could also be under-
stood as a female activity. Oertel’s self-understanding appears to reflect
this gendering of literary activity. While a prevailing cultural ideology
appeared to validate the work of the translator, the economic reality
painted the translation as little more than a cottage industry.
Oertel’s strikingly gloomy view of the translator’s work is worlds
apart from the cultural nationalism of a Schlegel. Oertel resists the
­Romantic view of translation as an endeavour intended to revitalise high
culture. He instead suggests that as a result of their position in the la-
bour of literature, translators of popular novels must struggle to find a
place within a marketplace increasingly devoted to the production of
entertainment. The cultural transfer of foreign books into German is for
the Oertels (if we may be permitted the conjecture that his wife was a
­co-­translator) principally a labour without prestige. To the insult of the
popular ­novel’s subliterary status is added the injury of the translator’s
invisibility. Regarded as a craft rather than a profession, his work as a
translator seems to have disposed Oertel to sympathise with the labours
of Brown’s ­Constantia and Sophia, as we will see.

Oertel’s Freedoms
The disclaimer on Oertel’s title page that Ormond is “freely translated”
does not mean that the work involves major deviations from the source
text analogous to those found in his version of Ducray-Duminil. Such
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  181
deviations may be found in the wildly creative translation of Brown into
French by Pigault de Maubaillarcq in 1808, which add prequels and se-
quels to Wieland that realise the imperial ambitions only hinted at in
Brown’s depiction of Carwin; in these French translations, which even-
tually find their way into Spanish, Carwin will even ascend to the throne
of an Ethiopian kingdom. If, as has been suggested, Brown had read
some of Ducray-Duminil’s Gothic fiction (Thomson et al. 118), then
Maubaillarcq’s translation seems to have completed the transatlantic cir-
cuit, with Maubaillarcq following up on the older writer’s work. (A few
novels even appeared under the name Ducray-Maubaillarcq – whether
this reflects collaboration or intermarriage is impossible for me to deter-
mine.) What this hints at, in any event, is the way the enormous Atlantic
market for books in translation also involved a small scale of affiliation
and exchange more closely resembling that of a coterie.
Oertel’s freedoms are small in relation to Maubaillarcq’s, but we can
begin to appreciate them if we look at those passages when he resists
the Verdeutschung, or “Germanising”, of Brown through a complicated
device by which he emphasises the source language. When he wishes
to emphasise the strangeness of Brown’s language, Oertel consistently
substitutes Latinate Anglicisms for their more obvious German equiva-
lents. In other words, when he wishes to render the oft-noted strangeness
of Brown’s text to the English language, Oertel consistently invents an
Anglicism that self-consciously exaggerates the German language’s ten-
dency to treat Latinate words as imports.
Thus Brown’s awkward account of Constantia’s response to ­Ormond’s
apostrophe to the moon – “This strain could not be interpreted by Con-
stantia” (OE – becomes “Diese Declamation mußte Constantien ein
­Räthsel seyn” (OG 516). The “strain” thus becomes Brown’s (or ­Ormond’s)
own: in places where the book’s English presses against the limits of the
language, Oertel actually reaches into English for a new word that is nei-
ther present in Brown’s original nor in regular German usage. Ormond’s
feeling of being “delighted” (OE 87) in his power to observe others be-
comes “einen Triumph” (OG 230); “German policy” becomes “die deut-
sche Konstitution” (OG 511). “Thy reason will … restore thee to peace”
(OE 198) becomes the German “lehrt Dich die Vernunft Resignation”
(OG 526). Of these Latinisms, only “Triumph” found its way into the
Grimms’ dictionary. Thus Brown’s Gothicisms (or Germanisms) become
Oertel’s Latinisms, as Oertel continually brings words into the German
language that have never belonged to it. That is to say, Oertel’s diction
emphasises the foreignness of Brown to his native language through the
brilliantly paradoxical device of using new English words.
It is tempting to read this device as a variation on the translatio studii,
as though he were expanding the boundaries of the German language,
much in the way that the period’s cultural nationalists advocated. Yet the
effect of using invented Latinisms is rather to emphasise the foreignness
182  Leonard von Morzé
of the translated text rather than to naturalise it, and thus to point to the
failure of the translatio. Oertel’s words are not verdeutschte versions of
Brown’s originals, and rather than being domesticated within the target
language, they remain stubbornly inassimilable to it. His Latinisms, sig-
nifying cultural prestige, rub against the grain of the German language.
It is precisely this tension between the claims of neo-classicists
­extolling “civilisation” and those of the nationalists praising “culture”
that the translatio studii was designed to smooth over. The fact that
the foreignness of Latinisms can still be heard in the German language
testifies to the failure of the translatio studii, claims Theodor Adorno:
if “civilization as Latinization only half succeeded in Germany”, then
Latinisms evoke hostility from German readers and speakers precisely
because they continually remind the listener of the incompleteness of
that process (1. 187). What Lawrence Venuti has called “foreignising”
translation highlights the alienness of the Romance languages, the lan-
guages of civilisation, within the German text. As demonstrated by
his remarks on translating Ducray-Duminil, Oertel called for bifocal
­readers to grapple with the foreign language, not out of a spirit of liter-
alism (for Oertel’s English-isms are not actually Brown’s words at all)
but in a project of cultural criticism that would bring visibility to the
mediation performed by the translator.
Oertel’s imported words come from English, but not from Brown;
they provide a simulation of the original language but not of the origi­
nal text. Here Brown’s text produces, yet again, an intriguing corol-
lary to this practice. Consider his narration of Constantia’s work in the
novel when she comes up with an American “hasty-pudding or samp”
as a way of translating the recipe her father remembers from an Italian
monk’s ­“pollenta” recipe (OE 43). The Dudleys are thus brought back
from the brink of starvation. Here Brown gives us a footnote pointing
to the work of an American, Benjamin Thompson, in recommending
this food to the poor; but the narrative nonetheless points to the foreign
origins of the recipe in the Dudleys’ minds. Though they refer to the
same object (a translation being successful insofar as it feeds the hun-
gry stomach), hasty pudding and polenta are not equivalent signifiers,
and indeed ­Stephen Dudley’s foreign education is, for once, responsible
for saving the family. Brown’s polenta thus becomes a quintessentially
­Atlantic item, maize from America brought into Italian cooking and
back again to rescue an impoverished American family.
This complicated transatlantic circuit can stand as a figure of the
saving effects of Atlantic translations, comparable to the work of the
cosmopolitan writer who, in Adorno’s account, “performs a difficult
operation on his idea and in doing so inserts the “silver rib of a foreign
word” into the idea. But the silver rib helps the patient, the idea, to
survive, while it sickened from the organic rib”.19 Rather than his un-
helpful American neighbours, Stephen Dudley’s knowledge of Italy and
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  183
his daughter’s ability to translate that knowledge into their domestic
economy aids the two in their hour of crisis. If Latinization as exempli-
fied by the translatio facilitates the civilising process, here it registers a
friction between the civilising process of cultural transfer and the claims
of literary nationalism.

Making Him Into an Author He Can’t Refuse

The affinity Oertel felt for Godwin seems to have driven his work of
translation. He quite correctly saw Godwin as a controversial figure
who faced both overt and indirect repression. Oertel’s preface makes the
case that Godwin had to assume the disguise of “an author of Wieland”
in order to protect himself. As a very early extended commentary on
Brown’s fiction, Oertel’s “Short Preface from the Translator”, translated
herewith, deserves to be quoted in full:

Having become, with his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, the

creator of a moral philosophy controversial in England (whose most
cherished maxims he later sought to embody in fiction), ­Godwin
aroused such criticism from his countrymen that, consequently, none
of his writings could be spared an acrimony bordering on outrage.
St. Leon, the most recent work he acknowledged as his own, was
not only brutally attacked in the reviews, but also became the stuff
of a biting parody entitled St. Godwin. This forced him to have
the ­below-translated novel printed under the invented name of an
“Author of Wieland, Arthur Mervyn, etc.” (a bunch of nonexistent
works). How little, however, this mask could help him is proved by
the notice of the text’s true author which, shortly after the appearance
of Ormond, even a German journalist gave the book – its insight into
life was indeed too original, its painting too formidable, its superb
colouring too Rembrandt-like, not to betray him immediately to the
trained eye. The translator, therefore, sees himself as authorised to
repay the author what he is owed, and ends these few lines with the
explanation that, regardless of how high his aesthetic expectations of
a work of art may be, the rare energy in design and execution evident
here seemed to him sufficient to secure the interest of the reader. 20

Thus Oertel purports not only to reveal Godwin’s face behind Ormond,
but to provide a complex explanation for his choice of anonymity.
­Godwin’s political vulnerability forced him to write anonymously. Yet his
self-masking did not stop there; he also projected himself into the char-
acter of Ormond, facilitating his self-critique through a main character
whose philosophical system clearly owes much to Godwin. To the extent
that Ormond is himself a master of disguise, then he comes all the closer
to Godwin: masking becomes, paradoxically, the signifier of the author’s
184  Leonard von Morzé
painful commitment to authenticity. The allusion to R ­ embrandt, master
of the melancholy self-portrait, suggests that Godwin is critiquing his
own worldview in the ugly person of Ormond. But the connection to
Rembrandt also secures Godwin’s difference from Ormond, who has
little sense of his own hideousness. In this complex dialectic, Godwin’s
mask is produced by political necessity, but then also facilitates a neces-
sary self-critique, which further confirms Godwin’s genius.
The political necessity for such a cautious self-masking would have
been obvious to German translators working after 1789. The British
state’s campaign of imprisoning sympathisers with the French Revolution
was well known to German journalists.21 And intellectuals in many of
the ­German states faced similar conditions. The 1797 Leipzig transla-
tion of Caleb Williams by “William Goodwin” [sic] was done by August
­Wilhelmi at Schiller’s behest. Wilhelmi considers the translator a monitor
with the responsibility to remove material that is either objectionable or
uninteresting. He begins his preface by dismissing Godwin’s political criti­
cisms of the English judicial system, “which is well regarded even in his
own country”, and then announces that he was so “bored” with the novel
that he decided to leave at least one-third of the English original out of the
translation (Godwin, Gemählde i–ii). Wilhemi in effect becomes ­Godwin’s
censor, deleting politically dangerous material from the source text.
In translating the text, Oertel seems to have desired to give Godwin
his due while at the same time critiquing the character into which the
author has projected himself. Oertel restrains the character’s most offen-
sive opinions; his boldest claims about sex, in particular, are carefully
toned down. Ormond’s meditation on “sexual sensations” as a form of
“disease” (OE 118) are entirely more restrained in the German edition,
while his most derisive pronouncements about marriage are either de-
leted, such as his notion that “Marriage was an efficacious remedy” to
Helena’s misery, or toned down: men now generally see a wife “only as a
housekeeper” (“bloß als Haushälterin”), rather than “nothing more than
a household instrument” (OG 251, 254).
If Ormond’s libertinism is restrained, however, Oertel amplifies the
transgressive sexuality of the novel’s female characters. Oertel length-
ens Martinette de Beauvais’s account of herself so that she is an even
more passionate advocate for a different way of life for women than she
appears in Brown. Describing her marrying the “political enthusiast”
Wentworth, Brown’s character says, “Our marriage made no change in
his plans”. Following him into battle, she finds that “the timidity that
commonly attends women gradually vanished. I felt as if imbued by a
soul that was a stranger to the sexual distinction” (OE 154). For Oertel’s
Martinette, these “plans” are not necessarily her husband’s, but hers:

Maybe he had to think exactly in this way in order to approve of

everything that I would eventually do; but even while I knew this,
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  185
I also determined to give away only my hand, decided as I was never
to subject myself to masculine despotism … I violently suppressed
the timidity which possesses others of my sex; my soul disdained to
be inferior to a man’s just because it inhabited a woman’s body. 22

Oertel’s suggestion that Martinette has a male soul living in a female

body would have been authorised by his reading of Godwin, who at
times presented Wollstonecraft as precisely such a male spirit.
This becomes clearer still in Oertel’s presentation of the relationship
between Constantia and Sophia Courtland. The representation of les-
bianism in Brown’s original has by now received substantial critical at-
tention from scholars such as Kristin Comment. Oertel seems to have
recognised it early on. In reading such scenes as the “unnatural” expres-
sion of desire in Constantia’s and Sophia’s reunion, where “The ordi-
nary functions of nature were disturbed … amidst the impetuosities of a
master-passion” (OE 191), Oertel must have thought himself authorised
to make explicit what the author, compelled to protect himself under
the veil of anonymity, had only partly expressed. When the possibility
of reunification emerges, Brown’s Sophia reasons dispassionately about
“arrangements that were made … to hope for a future meeting. Yet now,
by virtue of this project, this meeting seemed no longer to be hopeless”
(OE 220). Oertel’s Sophia is all passion at this prospect: “Now! O feel-
ing of bliss! there shone from afar the dawning of the beautiful star of
reunification, and its friendly beam warmed Constantia’s yearning bo-
som” (OG 435). 23 She continues to speak of Constantia in these heated
terms throughout the narrative, culminating in her naming the lesbian
possibility hinted at in Brown, albeit only after she believes Constantia
to be dead: Sophia’s apostrophe to her absent friend addresses her not
with “O my ill-fated Constance!” but with “O my eternal beloved!”
(OE 240; OG 486).
This greater insistence on romantic love between the women in the
German may also owe in part to Oertel’s sense that the loves of Mary
Wollstonecraft, as observed by her husband, had informed the novel.
If Oertel believed Godwin to be the author, then he may have thought
­Godwin modelled the fictional characters’ passion for one another on
Wollstonecraft’s love for Fanny Blood, as described in Godwin’s m ­ emoirs
of his late wife. In Godwin’s account, the meeting of Wollstonecraft
with Blood resembled “the first interview of [Goethe’s] Werter [sic] with
Charlotte”, and the ensuing relationship became “the ruling passion of
her mind”. 24 Oertel’s Sophia sounds much the Werther in her relation to
Sophia, where Brown’s Sophia usually confines herself to the (admittedly
loaded) language of friendship.
This may also help us to understand the reasons for Oertel’s removal
of Rosenberg from the end of the narrative. Oertel decided to have
Rosenberg open but not close the narrative – to provide its occasion but
186  Leonard von Morzé
not its resolution, to make Rosenberg the reader but not necessarily a
player in the action. Brown’s text had implied a trajectory of psychologi­
cal replacements for Constantia: Sophia, having been reunited with her
friend after being supplanted in Constantia’s affections by Martinette
and Ormond, might again be replaced by Rosenberg. This is not, how-
ever, where Oertel leaves us. His final two sentences leave Rosenberg
completely out, instead suggesting the permanence of the bond between
Constantia and Sophia: in translation,

Her remembrance of the man for whom she doubtless felt more love
than she can admit, contradicting as it did that sense of reason to
which she pledges unquestioning obedience, is bound too closely
with the memory of the cruel fate that made murdering him her duty
to allow us to hope that any man will ever be blessed with the crown
and the pride of her sex. It will be enough for me if, henceforth, that
serenity which has strengthened her big heart will be found with me,
her dear, precious, inseparable companion. 25

Any possibility for Constantia to marry a man is thereby foreclosed;

her belonging to Sophia is now confirmed, through the elimination of
both Ormond and Rosenberg. But it also seems clear that there is more
keeping the two women together in the end than Constantia’s inability
to forget Ormond. The German translation is, as I have suggested, more
explicit than the original about the physical passion that links the two
This reduction of triadic amorous possibility to a dyad begs the
question: why would losing Rosenberg matter? Eve Tavor Bannet’s in-
terpretation of Brown’s love triangles offers an answer, which is that
these configurations allegorise a political problem. When Brown’s
American protagonists have to choose between another American and
­someone from another country, the narrative structure poses questions
of ­national allegiance. Notably, as Bannet points out, Brown leaves
these triangles open-ended, rather than resolving them. This was typi-
cal of the ­M inerva Press’s other offerings as well, as Bannet has shown
(140–151). Yet in Oertel’s translation this international plot is entirely
occluded by the union of the two women; the transatlantic political
conflict has been erased. As we have seen, the final sentences explicitly
deny any future for Constantia with a man, precluding Brown’s strong
suggestion that Rosenberg is motivated by “attachment” to ­Constantia.
In addition to the disappearance of Brown and the American context,
then, the ending of the German translation eliminates the complicated
story of the transatlantic transmission of the text that Brown had writ-
ten into the novel. The international network, in other words, has been
replaced by a same-sex dyad, as the two lovers share not only a sex but
a nation as well.
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  187
The configuration of a same-sex relationship as a nationalist one (to
the notable exclusion of Rosenberg, who could also be Ursula Monrose)
conforms to Brown’s text, but must also have caused Oertel to won-
der about Godwin’s changing political affiliations. Sophia is at her most
un-Wollstonecraftian in her Federalist, Francophobic views. Whether
Brown’s representation of lesbian desire is politically radical, or whether
it is a reactionary expression of cultural anxieties about women gaining
economic independence and earning power, the fact remains that ­Sophia’s
nativism seems to inhabit the opposite extreme from ­Wollstonecraft’s
cosmopolitan views. Oertel understood and amplified this feature of the
text, having Sophia express even more strikingly Francophobic senti-
ments than she does in Brown. 26
Thus Oertel only sharpens a question about Brown’s novel that impli­
citly puzzles critics today: the problem of Sophia’s reliability as a nar-
rator or as a source of political views. Perhaps we should understand
this aspect of the German text in relation to Oertel’s elimination of the
translatio from the narrative. For the translatio was, in the first instance,
a solution to the transatlantic politics posed by the French Revolution,
the problem of representing the foreign (whether introduced through
Napoleon’s conquests and the march of French civilisation, or through
English consumer goods) as a positive development for German nation-
alism. Here the achievement of same-sex desire is presented as success-
ful bonding with one’s fellow citizens, realising (without conflict) the
dreams of cultural nationalism. Reducing the new republic’s multifari-
ous foreign connections, Oertel’s text meticulously eliminates any hint
that American culture is the object of a translatio.
Reconfiguring the novel’s geography, Oertel also removes all references
to Italy. Recall that Brown’s narrative begins with a failed translatio, a
vain attempt to import artistic criteria learned in Italy into American
conditions: Stephen Dudley has been unable to make a career out of the
painterly craft that he had learned in Italy, the site of translatio’s classical
origins. His Italian wife dies shortly after Stephen has failed in business.
The overtones of the translatio in Brown’s book culminate in the aston-
ishing description of Dudley’s old Perth Amboy house as a classically
Palladian structure, “in the schools of Florence and Vicenza” (OE 203).
The neoclassical mansion becomes the unlikely setting for Constantia’s
heavily Gothicised final encounter with Ormond, as though Brown were
pitting the heavily classical learning of Constantia (who has read deeply
in ancient history but knows little about current events) against the
Northern European experiences of Ormond.
Yet these signifiers have vanished in the second half of Oertel’s text,
particularly Brown’s many references to Italy. In a translation that is, on
the whole, remarkably faithful to the original, it is curious to find that
Helena’s fluency in Italian is simply not mentioned (OG 258). Dudley’s
house is no longer the Palladian knockoff depicted by Brown, but instead
188  Leonard von Morzé
an ordinary American estate, which Oertel has given the banal name of
“Lovelyhouse”: nothing could be further from the fusion of Germanic
architecture and Mediterranean settings that dominates Gothic fiction.
The directions that British-American and German cultural ideology
had given to the translatio studii, which originates in Rome and legiti-
mises early American neoclassicism, have effectively been removed from
the text.
In Oertel’s second half, then, both the narrative’s origin point in ­Italy,
with its evocation of Stephen Dudley’s education, and the global picture
that Brown set out to paint in Ormond have been reduced to a smaller
scale. The claims for cultural transfer embodied by Ormond’s inter­
national secret societies have been removed from the text.

As I have attempted to show in this chapter, Oertel’s rendering uses
Brown’s narrative to construct a love triangle for his German reader
who is struggling to negotiate English and French influences. Germany
was so thoroughly flooded by English novels, both imported and trans-
lated, that it may be justly said that the English novel was the major
alternative for German attention to the armies of Napoleon. Germans
(and, ­indeed, Americans) were being courted by two powerful rivals: an
­English translatio studii on the one hand, and a French translatio imperii
on the other; both rivals acted as agents of globalizsation or c­ ivilizsation
to what was seen as a culturally backward part of the world. Under such
conditions, Sophia’s leaning toward the studii represented by the English
novel would make sense.
But Oertel’s stylistic decisions, made while Napoleon was at the gates,
suggest that this love triangle could not easily be resolved. As I have sug-
gested, the text’s insistent Latinisms repeatedly emphasise English and
French as source languages – Sophia’s English and Martinette/Ormond’s
French. Oertel even invents Anglicisms which were not found in con-
temporary German dictionaries, and which pointedly do not reproduce
Brown’s text, since Brown does not actually use those words. Oertel
prefers to “send the reader abroad”, as Lawrence Venuti would suggest,
with his foreign words, to brush against the grain of his native language
in much the same way Brown’s language itself tends to do (20). So per-
haps we might see Oertel as treating Rosenberg as a German reader com-
pelled to wrestle with competing English and French influences. While
he may have been translating Minerva novels that advertised themselves
as Germanic, Oertel did not treat translation as repatriation.
A novel that begins by evoking a character trained in Italy, sets its ac-
tion in the United States, and then culminates in the writing of a letter to a
­German, would have seemed to evoke a complicated transfer of culture. Yet
through his decisions as a translator, Oertel has thoroughly undermined
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  189
the logic of the transatlantic translatio. The questions of n
­ ational culture
which provide the occasion and impetus for the ­narrative – Rosenberg’s
curiosity about an American and the social institutions he represents –
have apparently been dispensed with.27 At the ending of the novel, the
quasi-romantic relationship between the two American women is pre-
sented as a solution to the problem of the potentially promiscuous inter-
national allegiances of a virtuous and attractive young American.
Nonetheless, it has taken the reader, and perhaps Oertel himself, some
time to get to this conclusion. If the signifiers of cosmopolitanism have
been removed from the novel, this is because Sophia asserts her control of
the narrative; Oertel’s text has made her even more explicitly xenophobic.
Oertel’s translational practice, however, does not necessarily leave us with
an endorsement of Sophia’s conservative position. Instead, he continually
“foreignises” (to use Venuti’s term once again) rather than domesticates
Brown’s language, reminding us of the text’s English origins even as he
remains apparently unaware of its American authorship. Rather than a
milestone signifying the recognition of American literature by an interna-
tional audience, the German Ormond is a product of the Atlantic world,
an offshoot of an international and multilingual literary history.

I am indebted to the Healey Fund of the University of M ­ assachusetts
­Boston for supporting an extended visit to Special Collections at the Uni-
versity of Chicago in August 2014. Without that support, this chapter
could not have been completed, as most of the material quoted in the chap-
ter remained undigitized at the time of writing. In 2015, the University of
Chicago uploaded images of many of these rare texts to Google Books.

1 See Waterman, which convincingly applies Gardner’s conception of Brown
as editor to his entire oeuvre (241–242).
2 Throughout the chapter, all translations are mine. When the wording is im-
portant, the original German text will be quoted in the notes to accompany
my translations in the main text. I owe my knowledge of the early German
translation of Brown, followed not long thereafter by French and Spanish
versions of Wieland, to Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro. In their edition
of the novel, they note that a French Ormond was advertised even earlier,
apparently for U.S. readers; whether this translation was actually under-
taken and published is unknown.
3 Though it sets an agenda for further research, the section on “Translation”
in the Transatlantic Studies Reader (Manning and Taylor) does not attempt
to explore the relevance of translation to Atlantic Studies as such. There are
two well-known studies dealing at least in part with the period being consid-
ered here. Cheyfitz reads transatlantic translation as an imperialist project;
this chapter supports his suggestion that the translatio is a political project
190  Leonard von Morzé
that “envisions … the end of translation in the obliteration or complete mar-
ginalization of difference” (122; emphasis mine). I read Oertel’s translation
as resisting this translatio. Boggs examines the conceptual relationships bet­
ween translation and the formation of a national literature, although she
examines translation practices only insofar as they produce original writing.
4 But for a recent and singular, not to mention bitingly astute, attempt to re-
cover Oertel’s fiction, see Bridgwater 292–301.
5 See, for example, Gravil and Weisbuch.
6 Two essays by Fabian offer crucial context here (“Englisch als neue
­Fremdsprache” and “Die Meßkataloge”).
7 Fabian, The English Book, 3–4; Oz-Salzberger, 184.
8 “lauter nicht existirender Werke”. References to the German Ormond will
be abbreviated as OG, while the English Ormond will be cited as OE.
9 “Die Uebersetzung ist vortrefflich, da sie das Original mit seltener Treue
wiedergiebt, ohne den mindersten Zwang zu verrathen.”
10 Murnane offers an excellent account of this process, demonstrated through
a close reading of Gothic novels in English and German.
11 If the figures provided by Patrick Colquhoun in 1796 are to be believed,
more than 45 per cent of the traffic exported from the port of London was
destined for Germany; 84 per cent of this amount, in turn, was exported
from elsewhere, with only 16 per cent consisting of British manufactures (60).
For a historical study, see Beerbuhl.
12 Notable here is the publishing program of Johann Friedrich Cotta, a pro-
gressive nationalist and a key arbiter of cultural taste in printing the works
of “high” Romanticism, who printed just one American-authored book
among the over 2,000 offerings that came off his press during its years
of operation (1787–1832), a translation of Benjamin Rush’s Beschriebung
des gelben Fiebers (1796). The situation would change as early as 1820,
however, when Washington Irving’s essays and sketches were being trans-
lated in German newspapers, as reported in the “Vorwort” to Irving (i).
In the 1850s ­Christian Ernst Kollmann printed a series under the name
of ­“Amerikanische Bibliothek” that ran to hundreds of volumes, includ-
ing translations of Brown. As anecdotal evidence of Cotta’s generic biases,
one might note that he pre-published Oertel’s translations of the poems in
­L ewis’s The Monk while leaving the disturbing part (i.e. all of the prose) out
of his catalogue. Later the same extraction of high poetry from low prose
would be made by Coleridge when he praised Lewis’s poems but deprecated
the novel in which they appeared.
13 The best-known example is the now-celebrated statement of intent
“Walstein’s School of History: From the German of Krans of Gotha”. For a
list and other details of Brown’s journalistic practice, see the extensive notes
in Pochmann 692–694.
14 Oertel’s 1793 political tract Ueber Humanität: ein Gegenstück zu des
­Präsidenten von Kotzebue Schrift Vom Adel is only in its last chapter an
attack on Kotzebue’s defence of inherited privilege; it is still more a call for a
republican patriot-king that sounds a bit like Bolingbroke; it is also a cultur-
ally relativist argument that each nation must find a political form befitting
its genius. Given these themes, it is no surprise that Herder admired the book.
15 Collating the University of Chicago’s Lincke Collection with WorldCat, one
arrives at 20 titles during a span of about ten years, 13 from English and 7
from French (one of the latter being an indirect translation from a French
novel attributed to Radcliffe). I have examined, at least perfunctorily, all of
the translations by Oertel preserved in the Lincke Collection.
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  191
16 In Gemälde der Beschäftigungen und Freuden 1.iii: “Note des Verdeutschers
zu nachstehendem Werke: Um das Publikum auf den Standpunkt zu setzen,
von welchem die Arbeit, die es hier vor sich sieht, zu würdigen ist, bittet
der deutsche Uebertrager es einzig, sich mit der Vergleichung der nachste-
henden Uebersetzung der französischen Einleitung mit dem Original zu be-
mühen. Diese giebt den Charakter der ganzen deutschen Schrift, und ihrer
absichtlichen Verschiedenheit in Ton und Charakter vor der französischen
an, und muß für sich selbst sprechen, ohne einigen Zusatz von meiner Seite.
­Friedrich von Oertel.” (“To put the public into the position of appreciating
the work they will see here, the German translator simply asks the public to
strive to compare the following translation of the French introduction with
the original. This [i.e. the introduction] is representative of the character of
the entire German text, and of the deliberate differences in tone and char-
acter from the French, and must speak for itself, without further additions
from me. Friedrich von Oertel.”)
17 “Note des Verdeutschers. Diese Geschichte ist, wie mehrere andere in die-
sem Buche, an denen oft nichts gut ist, als die erste Idee und der ursprüngli-
che Plan, gleich ihnen einer beinahe gänzlichen Umarbeitung bedürftig
gewesen. Die Fantasie des französischen Verfassers reitzt ihn beinahe immer
zu kleinlichen Spielereien, zu sogennanten artigen Wendungen, zu inkon-
sequenten Abschweifungen, ja sogar zu Widerspruche hin, die nicht selten
den ­Eindruck der Rührung, den er hervorbringen will, völlig zerstören. Es
ist nicht Eitelkeit, die dem Uebersetzer diese Erklärung abdringt, sondern
einzig die Pflicht, sich selbst nicht weniger als einem Dritten (und warum
sollte er sie nur sich allein nicht schuldig seyn) Gerechtigkeit widerfahren
zu lassen, und eine Arbeit, aus der Classe jener, die von vielen seiner Brüder
von der Feder allerdings als Handwerk behandelt, und von dem Publikum
im ­A llgemeinen nur als solches gewürdigt werden, vor einem ähnlichen
wegwerfenden Urtheile zu retten” (Gemälde der Beschäftigungen und
Freuden 2. 293).
18 In the German context, see esp. the two books by Hilary Brown on this
topic: Benedikte Naubert (1756–1819) and her Relations to English Cul-
ture (Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2005); and Luise Gottsched the Translator
(Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012).
19 Adorno, “On the Use of Foreign Words”, in Notes to Literature 2.290.
20 “Kurze Erinnerung des Uebersetzers. / Durch seine enquiry concerning po-
litical justice der Stifter einer in England angefochten M ­ oralphilosophie,
deren Lieblingssätze er späterhin als Dichter zu versinnlichen suchte, reizte
Godwin die Kritik seiner Landsleuete in einem solche Grade auf, daß keine
seiner folgenden Schriften vor ihrem oft an Erbitterung gränzenden ­Unwillen
Gnade finden konnte, und sein St. Leon unter andern, daß neueste, wozu er
sich bekannte, nicht nur in den reviews äußerst scharf angegriffen, sondern
selbst der Stoff zu einer beißenden Parodie unter dem T ­ itel St. Godwin wurde.
Dieß bezwog ihn, den Roman, dessen ­Uebersetzung hier geliefert wird, un-
der dem erdichteten Namen eines Author of Wieland, Arthur Mervyn etc.
(lauter nicht existirender Werke) drucken zu lassen. Wie wenig ihm aber
diese Maske helfen konnte, beweist die Notiz, die selbst ein deutscher Jour-
nalist kurz nach Ormonds Erscheinung über des letztern wahren Verf.
[Verfasser] gab, dessen Ansicht des Lebens in der That zu originell, dessen
Zeichnung zu kolossal, dessen Kolorit vorzüglich zu rembrandisch ist, um
ihn nicht auf der Stelle geübten Augen zu verrathen. Der Uebersetzer hält
sich daher für befugt, seinem Autor wieder zu erstatten, was ihm gebührt,
und schließt diesse wenigen Zeilen mit der Erklärung, daß, wie hoch auch
192  Leonard von Morzé
seine eingenen ästhetischen Anforderungen an ein Kunstwert steigen mö-
gen, ihm doch die seltne Energie in Entwurf und Ausführung, diesem hier
des Leser Interesse zu sichern hinreichend geschienen hat” (OG 3–4). I have
not been able to identify the source of Oertel’s claim about the “German
21 See the long essay “Zur Geschichte der neuen Staatsgefängnisse in England”.
22 “Vielleicht mußte er genau so denken, wie er dachte, um alles, was ich nun
wirklich ausführte, zu genehmigen; aber eben daß ich das wusste, bestim-
mte mich auch nur, meine Hand wegzugeben, entschlossen wie ich’s war,
mich nie männlichem Despotismus zu unterwerfen. […] Die Schüchternheit,
sonst meinem Geschlechte eigen, unterdrückt’ ich mit Gewalt; meine Seele
verschmähte es darum, weil sie einen weiblichen Körper bewohnte, einer
männlichen nachzustehn” (OG 413).
23 “Jetzt–o Wonnegefühl! – leuchtete aus dämmernder Ferne der schöne Stern
der Wiedervereinigung hervor, und sein freundlicher Strahl erwärmte Con-
stantiens sehnsuchtsvollen Busen”.
24 Godwin, Memoirs 50; cf. Godwin, Denkschrift 17–18. Godwin’s biogra-
phy of Wollstonecraft had stirred controversy in the German states, as else-
where, and the fact of this work’s prompt and unsigned translation would
appear to acknowledge the controversy.
25 “Das Andenken dessen, den sie wohl mehr geliebt hat, als sie bei dem
Widerspruch ihrer an unbedingten Gehorsam gewöhnten Vernunft sich es
selbst gestehen dürfen, verbindet sich zu mächtig mit der Erinnerung an
das grausame Geschick, das seinen Mord ihr zur Pflicht machte, um die
­Hoffnung zu verstatten, daß die Krone und der Stolz ihres Geschlechts je
einen Mann beglücken werde. Mir genügt es, wenn nur die Ruhe, zu der ihr
großes Herz erstarkt ist, fortan mit mir der Theuren, Edlen unzertrennliche
Gefährtin bleibt” (OG 589–590).
26 For example, Oertel gratuitously adds Sophia’s sentence: “Ich hatte in
Frankreich genug Satane in menschlicher Gestalt gekannt, um die Existenz
eines ihrer Mitbrüder nicht zu bezweifeln” (“I had known enough devils in
France not to doubt the existence of one of their brothers”) (OG 536).
27 This is not to say that Oertel has not made very small concessions to the
German reader to deliver information about America, but these instances
are minor, such as the explanation that Dudley cannot thrive in his chosen
profession in New York because for Americans painting counts among “the
breadless arts” (an idiomatic and rather more pungent version of Brown’s
statement that it “would not afford him the means of subsistence” [OG 34;
OE 14]), or an interpolated half-sentence-long explanation of debt collecting
practices in the United States (OG 31).

Works Cited
N.a. Review of Ormond; oder, der geheime Zeuge in the Leipziger Literaturzei-
tung 143 (13 December 1802): 2027–2028.
N.a. “Zur Geschichte der neuen Staatsgefängnisse in England”, Minerva 3
(July 1800): 492–514.
Adorno, T.W. “On the Use of Foreign Words”, in Notes to Literature. Trans.
Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. 2.
———. “Words from Abroad”, in Adorno, Notes to Literature. Trans. Shierry
Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. 1. 185–199.
Cultural Transfer in the German Atlantic  193
Bachleitner, Norbert. “‘Übersetzungsfabriken’: Das deutsche Übersetzungswesen
in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts”. Internationales Archiv für Sozial-
geschichte der deutschen Literatur (IASL) 14 (1989): 1–49.
Bannet, Eve Tavor. “Charles Brockden Brown and England: Of Genres, the
Minerva Press, and the Early Republican Reprint Trade”. Transatlantic Lit-
erary Exchanges, 1790–1870. Ed. Kevin Hutchings and Julia M. Wright.
­A ldershot: Ashgate, 2012. 133–152.
Beerbuhl, Margrit Schulte. The Forgotten Majority: German Merchants in
London, Naturalization, and Global Trade 1660–1815. Trans. Cynthia
Klohr. New York: Berghahn, 2014.
Boggs, Colleen. Transnationalism and American Literature: Literary Transla-
tion 1773–1892. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Bridgwater, Patrick. The German Gothic Novel in Anglo-German Perspective.
Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013.
Brown, Charles Brockden. Ormond, oder der geheime Zeuge: Aus dem
­Englischen des Godwin frei übersetzt. Trans. Friedrich von Oertel. Leipzig:
Beygang, 1802.
———. “Walstein’s School of History: From the German of Krans of Gotha”.
Arthur Mervyn. Ed. Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro. Indianapolis:
­Hackett, 2008. 331–339.
———. Ormond, or the Secret Witness, Ed. Philip Barnard and Stephen
­Shapiro. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009.
Brown, Hilary. Benedikte Naubert (1756–1819) and her Relations to English
Culture. Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2005.
———. Luise Gottsched the Translator. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2012.
Cheyfitz, Eric. The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from
The Tempest to “Tarzan”. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Colquhoun, Patrick. A Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis. 2nd ed. ­London,
Comment, Kristin M. “Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond and Lesbian Possi-
bility in the Early Republic”, Early American Literature 40.1 (2005): 57–78.
Ducray-Duminil, François Guillaume. Gemälde der Beschäftigungen und
Freuden einer glücklichen Familie. Trans. Friedrich von Oertel. Leipzig:
Beygang, 1805–1806.
Fabian, Bernhard. “Die Meßkataloge und der Import englischer Bücher nach
Deutschland im achtzehnten Jahrhundert”, in Reinhard Wittmann and
­B ertold Hack eds, Buchhandel und Literatur. Weisbaden: Harrassowitz,
1982. 154–168.
———. “Englisch als neue Fremdsprache des 18. Jahrhunderts”. M ­ ehrsprachigkeit
in der deutschen Aufklärung. Ed. Dieter Kimpel. Hamburg: Meiner, 1985.
———. The English Book in Eighteenth-Century Germany. London: British
Library, 1992.
Gardner, Jared. “The Literary Museum and the Unsettling of the Early A ­ merican
Novel”, English Literary History 67.3 (2000): 743–771.
Godwin, William. Gemählde nach dem Leben, oder, Begebenheiten Caleb
­Williams. Trans. August Wilhelmi. Leipzig: Sommerische Buchhandlung, 1797.
———. Denkschrift auf Maria Wollstonecraft Godwin, die Vertheidigerin der
Rechte des Weibes. Schnepfenthal: Verl. d. Buchh. d. Erziehungsanstalt, 1799.
194  Leonard von Morzé
———. Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Ed.
Pamela Clemit and Gina Luria Walker. Canada: Broadview, 2001.
Gravil, Richard. Romantic Dialogues: Anglo-American Continuities, 1 ­ 776–1862.
New York: Palgrave, 2000.
Irving, Washington. Erzählungen. Trans. W.A. Lindau. Dresden: Arnold, 1822.
Jean Paul. Sämtliche Werke: Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe. Abteilung IV.
­Oldenbourg Akademie Verlag, 2004.
Kamrath, Mark. The Historicism of Charles Brockden Brown: Radical History
and the Early Republic. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2009.
Lehmstedt, Mark. “Lektüre in Leipzig: Beygangs “Literarisches Museum”
zwischen 1795 und 1830”. Beitrage zur Geschichte des Buchwesens im
Frühen 19. Jahrhundert. Ed. Paul Raabe. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1993.
Manning, Susan, and Andrew Taylor, Ed. The Transatlantic Studies Reader.
Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Murnane, Barry. “Uncanny Translations, Uncanny Productivity: Walpole,
Schiller and Kahlert”. Cultural Transfer Through Translation: The Circula-
tion of Enlightened Thought in Europe by Means of Translation. Ed. Stefanie
Stockhorst. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 141–165.
Oertel, Friedrich von. Ueber Humanität, ein Gegenstück zu des Präsidenten
von Kotzebue Schrift Vom Adel. Leipzig: Voss und Leo, 1793.
Oz-Salzberger, Fania. “Translation”. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. Ed.
Alan C. Kors. Vol. 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. 181–188.
Pigault-Maubaillarcq. La Famille Wieland, ou Les Prodiges. Calais: Moreaux &
Cie, 1808.
———. La Familia de Vieland o Los Prodigios. Trans. Luis Monfort. Valencia:
Estévan, 1818.
———. Carvino o El Hombre Prodigioso. Trans. Luis Monfort. Valencia:
­Gimeno, 1826.
Pochmann, Henry A. German Culture in America, 1600–1900. Madison: Uni-
versity of Wisconsin Press, 1957.
Robinson, Douglas, Ed. Western Translation Theory from Herodotus to
­Nietzsche. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2014.
Sperber, Jonathan. “Atlantic Revolutions in the German Lands”. The ­Oxford
Handbook of Modern German History. Ed. Helmut Walser Smith. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2011. 144–168.
Thomson, Douglass H., Jack G. Voller and Frederick S. Frank, Ed. Gothic Writers:
A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.
Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation. 2nd
ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Warner, Michael. The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public
Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America. Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1990.
Waterman, Bryan. “Arthur Mervyn’s Medical Repository and the Early Repub-
lic’s Knowledge Industries”, American Literary History 15.2 (Summer 2003):
Weisbuch, Robert. Atlantic Double-Cross: American Literature and British In-
fluence in the Age of Emerson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Wellmon, Chad. “Touching Books: Diderot, Novalis, and the Encyclopedia of
the Future”, Representations 114.1 (Spring 2011): 65–102.
9 William Blake’s American
Transatlantic Poetics in
Emerson and Whitman
Clare Frances Elliott

At the opening of Atlantic Double-Cross (1986), a groundbreaking study

of nineteenth-century English and U.S. literature, Robert ­Weisbuch tells
an anecdote about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s disappointment at meeting
his poetic idols Wordsworth, Coleridge and Carlyle when he made the
crossing to Britain in 1832. Weisbuch reads Emerson’s disillusionment
at meeting these “gods in trousers” as a necessary experience that set
him off on the trajectory of writing “as if no one had ever written before
him” (3). This tension between British literary influence and ­A merican
originality has been revisited repeatedly by scholars in the field of
­Atlantic literary studies, for example Paul Giles, David G­ reenham and
­Christopher Hanlon, to name only a few.1 Julia Wright and Kevin Hutch-
ings in Transatlantic Literary Exchanges (2011) have recently returned
to, and synopsised, the debate around U.S. literature, originality and the
influence of British Romanticism:

[E]arly studies of the American Renaissance […] regularly cited

the influence of British Romanticism on Emerson, Whitman, and
Thoreau. In the unidirectional view, European literary texts func-
tioned as the key progenitors of early New World writings, leading
to transatlantic debate about the autonomy, and therefore the merit,
of American literature. Early volleys in this debate were launched,
perhaps most notoriously, by Sidney Smith, a founding editor of
The Edinburgh Review, who could hardly contain his scorn for
­A merica’s homegrown literature. (3)

A hackneyed view of British influence shaping the development of writ-

ing in the U.S. reaches back to the literary taste-formers of R ­ omantic
periodicals, such as Smith, but more recently the “unidirectional”
story of European texts being the parentages of American literature
has evolved into an interest in the exchange and circulation of ideas in
the circum-Atlantic world. Critics like Giles and Hanlon have returned
again to answer unresolved questions about American authenticity and
the inheritance of British and European literary traditions. In something
196  Clare Frances Elliott
of a departure from this now well-defined arena of enquiry, this chapter
is concerned with neither influence nor originality as such, but rather
textual instability. That is to say, it explores what happens to a text
when it travels and how culture works to revive literary figures and their
work in the imaginative frame of another’s writing. In particular, it will
consider what I am calling William Blake’s American afterlives as a way
of examining how his poetry was remediated (to use a term from ad-
aptation studies) in the U.S. in the 1840s and after. 2 The transatlantic
remediation I discuss encompassed Transcendentalist writers and poets,
and British critics, poets and artists, such as the Rossettis. I will return
to Weisbuch’s subject, Emerson, in a discussion of how, in a contra-
dictory impulse, Emerson reads Blake’s poetry and references Blake’s
work in his journals, despite setting out self-consciously to construct a
national literature severed from European influence, one that the U.S.
could call its own. In doing this, the chapter raises questions about bor-
der crossings, (trans)national identities and textual variability: how do
texts form and transform as they are circulated and exchanged beyond
their national confines? What are the effects of this cross-pollination of
culture in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world? Just as Blake’s poetry
travels to the U.S. and is absorbed by Emerson when he is still at the
point of publishing America’s own seemingly unadulterated literature,
that same poetry is transfigured into something Emerson’s readers will
associate with American originality. Reciprocally, American ideas and
texts also travel, meet and merge, as I suggest at the close of the chapter
by looking ahead to the 1850s and 1860s to show how Walt Whitman’s
poetry crossed to Britain and underwent its own cultural transformation
in the process.

Blake in America: Circulation, Exchange

and Identity Formation
To appreciate how significant it was for there to be a readership of
Blake’s poetry in the U.S. in the 1840s, it is necessary to recall just
how much of a literary outcast Blake had been in Britain when living
in London and writing and engraving prolifically. His early critical
reception emerged slowly; it was not until the 1863 publication of
Alexander Gilchrist’s The Life of William Blake that British readers
began to read his poetry in significant numbers. Even then, it was
Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789–1794) that Victorian read-
ers primarily knew. The long visionary poems, known collectively
as the prophetic books, which include The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell (1793), America: A Prophecy (1793), Europe: A Prophecy (1794)
and Milton (1804–1811), remained mostly uncelebrated throughout
the nineteenth century, despite Blake’s own estimate of their aesthetic
success as expressions of his highly personal visionary system. Much
William Blake’s American Afterlives  197
of the disregard for Blake’s poetry can be put down to his reputation
for madness in Victorian England, and the unconventional metres and
convoluted imaginative landscapes of the prophetic books only tested
an already limited readership. Those who did know Blake held a cer-
tain fascination with his “mad” visions, and his reputation in small
British literary circles as an extraordinary and awful visionary per-
sisted well into the 1830s and beyond. 3
While this ambivalent Victorian afterlife has been well documented,
far less critical attention has been paid to Blake’s transatlantic relation-
ship with the U.S. Little has been written on the fate of his texts and
reputation, in order that we might have a fuller account of how and why
Blake’s poetry travelled and how it was received in the U.S. in the nine-
teenth century. With the exception of Paul Giles’s work, there is little
coverage of Blake’s fascination with the U.S. as a democratic ideal.4 In
Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imagi-
nary (2002), Giles summarises the shift from European notions of early
America to eighteenth-century writers’ attitudes to the New World, and
aligns Blake with Paine as one of a few British artists who imagined
the emerging nation as a sort of paradise regained. Blake certainly my-
thologises the New World as something of a refuge from the political
and social injustices of Britain: his imagined America has much more
in common with his own progressive, democratic ethic than anything
­eighteenth-century Britain had to offer, while his interest in America
was not exactly an ‘escape from the old social obstacles haunting mori-
bund Britain’, as Giles says, but rather a recognition of something akin
to his own outlook (2002: 255). The culmination of atrocities in France,
with the September massacres in 1792, was enough to force Blake to
reconsider his position on bloody revolution. In 1793, he abandoned
work on his long poem The French Revolution and began instead a new
project on the long poem America: A Prophecy (1793). In this work,
which is a mythical account of the American War for Independence,
Blake found a poetic voice for his revolutionary concerns. His poem ex-
periments with a theory of self-government that the radical Blake would
have welcomed at home, and by confronting the new republic from a
poetic and geographical distance Blake is able to anticipate challenges
lying ahead for the emergent nation. His imaginative spirit of individ-
ual autonomy aligned itself easily with America as a setting for the re-
volt against ­British rule, and Blake, like Paine, looked forward to that
liberty crossing the Atlantic to reach British shores. Blake’s imagined
­A merican War had possibilities for Britain, which he sought to convey
to his ­British readers. Giles therefore reads Blake’s prophecy for the U.S.
as having as much to do with England, as it does with its supposed cen-
tral concern, America, since the poem dramatises “a conflict between
different interpretations of nationhood” and “sees the United States as
Britain’s counterpart rather than its nemesis” (2006: 33, 269).
198  Clare Frances Elliott
Unfortunately, there is no known record of any nineteenth-century
U.S. writers reading Blake’s long poem America and so we are left to
wonder what Emerson and the like might have made of Blake’s cele-
bratory account of the New World breaking free from the “heavy iron
chain” that bound “Brothers and sons of America” from “Albions cliffs
across the sea” in a gesture of transatlantic revolutionary promise (52,
lines 3. 7–10).5 However, contrary to Blake’s persistent neglect at home,
American readers had embraced his shorter poems as early as 1842,
some two decades and more before Gilchrist’s Blake revival. The writer
responsible for the initial circulation of Blake’s poetry in the U.S. has
herself been much neglected in critical circles from the nineteenth cen-
tury to the present day and perhaps her own outsider status attracted her
to Blake’s little-known poetry. Elizabeth Peabody is a somewhat forgot-
ten but crucial member of the Transcendentalists club and her innovative
work on Atlantic literary circulation and exchange is little commented
on.6 When we conjure up that intellectual circle it is usually Emerson,
Hawthorne and Bronson Alcott who come to mind, with the most well-
known woman affiliate being Margaret Fuller. However, much of the
circulation and exchange of British and European literature in Boston
happened because of Peabody’s “foreign library” which she ran out of
her bookstore. This library introduced Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott,
Fuller and more to a great deal of international literature and philosophy
published between 1820 and 1850. Her library included much Romantic
work by Coleridge, Carlyle, Wordsworth and, most surprisingly, given
that nobody was reading him at all in Britain at this historical moment,
Blake.7 Peabody was a central figure in the circulation and exchange
of nineteenth-century transatlantic writing, sending American writing
to Britain and circulating British literature at home in the U.S. For ex-
ample, in 1838, she sent Wordsworth two of Emerson’s recent works,
“Nature” and “The American Scholar”, following this in 1841 with a
copy of Emerson’s Essays: First Series (Hill 231). A little later, in 1842,
she gave Emerson a copy of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and
Experience and these examples testify to the importance of Peabody as
a conduit for the transatlantic circulation of Romantic and Transcenden-
talist writings (Harding 33). Her introduction of Blake’s short poems to
Emerson was to have a noteworthy, but critically unnoticed, impact on
Emerson’s thought, particularly toward the end of his career.

Blake’s Poetry and U.S. Literature’s Originality

What was it, then, about Blake’s poetry that attracted Peabody and
­Emerson when his poetry was all but ignored in Britain at this point?
Peabody collected European literature for her “foreign library” so it is
no surprise that she procured a copy of Songs when she had the chance.
For Emerson, there seems to have been something recognisable in Blake’s
William Blake’s American Afterlives  199
work that was not apparent to readers in Britain at the time. Harold Bloom
had Emerson as one of “the great deniers of influence” (Bloom 56). And
Weisbuch extends this denial of influence from ­Emerson, somewhat ab-
stractly, to “the American”. When Weisbuch writes that “the ­A merican
is compelled by a conviction of a British yoke so enslaving upon his
thought that his art will be doomed to humiliated imitation if he does
not violently throw off that yoke”(xv), we might recall Emerson’s fa-
mous attempt to do just that in his oration “The American Scholar”
(1837), a work that Oliver Wendell Holmes would call America’s “in-
tellectual Declaration of Independence” (Holmes 115). Emerson is best
known for self-consciously constructing an original, national literature
for the U.S. and there is nothing particularly controversial in Bloom’s in-
clusion of Emerson in his list of “deniers of influence”. However, critics
have long noted Emerson’s vexed, inconsistent and unresolved relation-
ship with British literary culture. For example, Christopher Hanlon has
written about Emerson’s conflicting attitudes to Britain as they emerge
in English Traits (1856), with possible readings made of this work as a
denunciation or a homage to Britain (19). Dana Phillips finds very lit-
tle of England in English Traits, claiming instead that “Emerson’s true
subject is America and the racially determined American character”
(Phillips 298). Most boldly, Samantha Harvey has recently argued that
­“Emerson’s journal entries and his letters reveal a much more complex
picture of influence than simple denial” (Harvey 11).8 In one of many
contradictory impulses, Emerson uses his essays to call for intellectual
autonomy from British rule while at the same time threading his essays
with references to British literature and culture. Indeed, throughout his
journals it is possible to locate entries where he directly quotes from
Blake’s poetry and importantly those quotations will appear later in
his essays or other writing. In other words, Blake’s poetics transform
into something we recognise as authentically ­“American” once his work
has crossed the Atlantic and becomes absorbed into E ­ merson’s quasi-­
philosophical prose. Emerson does not seem to have been troubled by the
way his insistance on identify formation might be seen to be somewhat
diluted by his accrual of Blakean ideas. In a journal entry from 1863,
he records: “Fuseli said, “Blake is d—d good to steal from”” (Emerson
1960–1982: 15. 32). Looking at Emerson’s journals one can account for
his interest in the neglected poet by his fascination with Blake’s reputa-
tion for madness and, more significantly, his interest in Blake’s transfigu­
ration of the quotidian through the poetic eye. Of  course, Romantic
references to the eye were commonplace in this period, as M.H. Abrams
noted long ago: “to the Romantic poet, all depends on [man’s] mind as it
engages with the world in the act of perceiving. Hence the extraordinary
emphasis throughout this era on the eye and the object and the relation
between them” (Abrams 375). However, as I will show, Emerson was
unusually stirred by Blake’s use of this metaphor.
200  Clare Frances Elliott
Emerson reads Blake’s “madness” as a licence to more fully engage
with the Romantic metaphor of the eye. If Wordsworth recorded “spots
of time” (565) – moments of visionary clarity when, inspired by ­nature,
he reaches towards an apprehension of sublimity – then Blake’s vi-
sionary capacity (as Emerson sees it) is large and extends out of the
­moment into something like eternity, as best articulated in “Auguries
of Innocence”:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour […] (490, lines 1–4)

Blake’s madness is a by-product of his capacity for these extended vi-

sions as he creates a purely mythical landscape in the prophetic books
and so Northrop Frye’s renowned study of Blake, Fearful Symmetry,
pictures him not as a nature poet who has momentary encounters with
the sublime, as he might have described Wordsworth, but as a visionary
who exists in a world that has undergone a permanent transformation.
Frye puts it this way:

A visionary creates, or dwells in, a higher world in which the ob-

jects of perception in this one have become transfigured and charged
with a new intensity of symbolism. This is quite consistent with art,
because it never relinquishes the visualization which no artist can
do without. It is a perceptive rather than a contemplative attitude
of mind; but most of the great mystics, St. John of the Cross and
Plotinus for example, find the symbolism of visionary experience
not only unnecessary but a positive hindrance to the highest mysti-
cal contemplation. This suggests that mysticism and art are in the
long run mutually exclusive, but that the visionary and the artist
are allied. (8)

Blake’s metaphor of the artist’s eye as a portal to this “higher world”

must have intrigued Emerson who, of course, had written his own philo­
sophy of transcendence accessible through the way one individual mind
perceives the world at large. Emerson’s famous exploration of this idea
turns on images of transparency and self-erasure:

Standing on the bare ground, – my head bathed by the blithe air

and uplifted into infinite space, – all mean egotism vanishes. I be-
come a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents
of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of
God. (15–16)
William Blake’s American Afterlives  201
In this passage from “Nature” (1836) the artist’s eye enables Emerson
to dwell in a higher world as he is “uplifted into infinite space”. Apply-
ing Frye’s theory of the visionary, it is possible to notice that the world
becomes “transfigured and charged with a new intensity of symbolism”
(Frye 8), as Emerson, in his transcendental contemplation, begins to “see
all” and become “part or parcel of God” (1. 15–16). While Emerson
did not derive his formulation of such a visionary capacity from Blake
­(“Nature” is published before he had encountered the English poet’s
work), he did repeatedly spot correlative ideas in Blake’s writing and
absorbed Blake’s work into his own later essays.
When Emerson read Blake’s “The Mental Traveller”, for example, he re-
membered his own claim from “Self-Reliance” (1841) that in “every work
of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us
with a certain alienated majesty” (Emerson 1883–1884: 2. 48). His own
insistence on the connection between sight, perception and transcendence
was there in Blake’s work. In 1868, Emerson quoted a crucial passage
from the “The Mental Traveller”, “The eye altering alters all” (Emerson
1960–1982: 16. 90; Blake 485, line 62). This note found its way into
­Emerson’s Letters and Social Aims, featuring in the essay “Greatness”:

Life is made of illusions, and a very common one is the opinion you
hear expressed in every village: “O yes, if I lived in New York or Phila-
delphia, Cambridge, or New Haven or Boston or Andover, there might
be fit society; but it happens that there are no fine young men, no supe-
rior women in my town.” You may hear this every day; but it is a shal-
low remark. Ah! have you yet to learn that the eye altering alters all.
(1883–1884: 8. 301–302)

In this passage Emerson clearly interprets Blake’s instruction, that “the

eye altering alters all”, as a guide to transforming the external world. In-
deed, in Milton (1804–1810), Blake wrote that we live “not by Natural but
by Spiritual power alone” (124, plate 26 line 40) and later “every Natural
­Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not / A Natural: for a Natural Cause
only seems, it is a Delusion”(124, plate 26 lines 44–45). It is precisely be-
cause the natural world is illusory that Blake cannot see a wild flower as
anything but a symbol. This sentiment is clarified further in Milton:

[…] thou seest the Trees on mountains

The wind blows heavy, loud they thunder thro’ the darksom sky
Uttering prophecies & speaking instructive words to the sons
Of men: These are the Sons of Los! These the Visions of Eternity
But we see only as it were the hem of their garments
When with our vegetable eyes we view these wond’rous Visions[.]
(123, plate 26 line 12)
202  Clare Frances Elliott
When Blake writes about our “vegetable eyes” or as he puts it in A ­Vision
of the Last Judgment (1810) “this Vegetable Glass of Nature,” he is de-
scribing the mortal natural eye and the finite natural world respectively
(555, plate 70). To see with “vegetable eyes” is to see only a part of what
is actually present. To see with what Emerson would later term “the
transparent eyeball” (15–16) is to see clearly as a visionary. Only then
will the visionary see “the Permanent Realities of Every Thing” (555,
plate 70).
An 1866 entry from Emerson’s pocket diary reads: “Wordsworth said
of Blake There is something in the madness of this man that interests me
more than in the sanity of Lord Byron & Walter Scott” (1960–1982: 16.
350). Later, this quotation would appear in “Poetry and Imagination”
from Letters and Social Aims (1875):

In some individuals this insight or second sight has an extraordi-

nary reach which compels our wonder, as in Behmen, Swedenborg,
and William Blake the painter. William Blake, whose abnormal ge-
nius, Wordsworth said, interested him more than the conversation
of Scott or Byron, writes thus: “He who does not imagine in stron-
ger and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see, does not
imagine at all.” The painter of this work asserts that all his imag-
inations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more minutely
organized than anything seen by his mortal eye … I assert for myself
that I do not behold the outward creation, and that to me it would
be a hindrance, and not action. I question not my corporeal eye
any more than I would question a window concerning sight. I look
through it, and not with it.
(1883–1884: 8. 31–32)9

This absolute rejection of the outward creation by Emerson as a “hin-

drance” again might be said to distinguish him from Wordsworth and
Coleridge as nature poets while aligning him suggestively with Blake.
More interestingly still, the Journals provide evidence of Emerson com-
paring the British Romantic poets, and show him vindicating Blake
above some of the others in the Romantic circle. In an entry from 1863,
Emerson observes:

Of Wordsworth’s poem, “To H. C. six years old,” William Blake

writes; “This is all in the highest degree imaginative, & equal to
any poet, but not superior. I cannot think that real poets have any
competition. None are greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is so in
poetry.” “Natural objects always did & now do weaken, deaden, &
obliterate imagination in me. Wordsworth must know that what he
writes valuable is not to be found in Nature.”
(1960–1982: 15. 220)10
William Blake’s American Afterlives  203
As with so many of Emerson’s journal entries, this beguiling Blakean
borrowing finds its way into “Inspiration” from the Letters and Social
Aims: “William Blake said, “Natural objects always did and do weaken,
deaden, and obliterate imagination in me”” (1883–1884: 8. 275). The
sentiment here (and as recorded in the journal entry) sounds wholly like
Emerson’s own much earlier comments on Wordsworth, in 1828:

A fault that strikes the reader of M. Wordsworth is the direct prag-

matical analysis of objects, in their nature poetic, but which all other
poets touch incidentally. He mauls the moon and the waters and the
bulrushes, as his main business.
(1909–1914, 2. 232–233)

Such an agreement between Blake and Emerson on Wordsworth’s adop-

tion of nature, as unnecessary for poetic vision and even as a distract-
ing hindrance from the goal of permanent visionary transcendence,
must have been inspiring to the American writer when he read his own
thoughts in Blake’s review of Wordsworth in 1863. If Emerson, in his
famous essay “Nature”, aspired for his American readers to be able to
“enjoy an original relation to the universe”, he would have noticed a kin-
dred spirit in the little book of poems that Peabody gifted to him on that
day in 1842, which sparked an interest in Blake’s work that endured into
the 1860s (1883–1884: 1. 9). Blake’s poetry was incorporated into dis-
tinctly American prose in an important – if not foundational – instance
of transatlantic textual transformation.

Transatlantic Transitions: The Cross-Promotion

of Blake’s and Whitman’s Poetry
Despite there being no evidence that Walt Whitman read any of Blake’s
poems (Whitman being notoriously difficult to pin down when it comes
to theories of influence), critics have often spotted similarities in their
poetic styles. Certain lines from Whitman’s famous collection Leaves of
Grass (1855) do indeed feel somehow altered, enhanced perhaps, when
read alongside Blake. Whitman – the celebrity poet of the United States –
­experienced comparable neglect to Blake’s after the emergence of Leaves
of Grass. Reviews on both sides of the Atlantic attacked him for the
­lunacy of cataloguing in unconventional verse form and for the licentious
content of his writing. In 1856, a review of the first edition of Leaves of
Grass in the Boston Intelligencer, reflected in tone and content a more gen-
eral response to Whitman’s poetic debut. The anonymous review reads:

This book should find no place where humanity urges any claim to
respect, and the author should be kicked from all decent society as
below the level of a brute. There is neither wit nor method in his
204  Clare Frances Elliott
disjointed babbling, and it seems to us he must be some escaped
lunatic, raving in pitiable delirium.
(Qtd. in Clarke 1995: 2. 37)

Yet, in contrast to the rejection and censorship on home soil, in the

1860s Whitman had a developing readership in British literary circles
that seemed prepared for his unconventional verse specifically because
they were used to reading Blake’s. A.C. Swinburne, William Michael
­Rossetti, James Camden Hotten and Moncure Conway (the former
American abolitionist and Transcendentalist then living in London) were
overt in their enthusiasm and ambitions for popularising Whitman’s po-
etry in Britain. Interestingly, it was this coterie that was also enormously
influential in promoting Blake’s poetry to a Victorian readership: ­Hotten
was Blake’s publisher and also published Swinburne’s study William
Blake: A Critical Essay (1868); Conway disseminated work on Blake to
nineteenth-century readers including Whitman; Dante Gabriel Rossetti
contributed chapters on Blake’s visionary prophetic books to Gilchrist’s
Life of Blake (1863). As a group, it was a dynamic model of mid-­century
literary reception. Swinburne was so overawed by Whitman’s collection
that he felt it appropriate to interrupt his study of Blake with a long pas-
sage on the importance of the American’s poetry. Indeed, it was thanks
to Swinburne that in 1868 the British response to Blake’s poetry, and si-
multaneously Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, grew significantly, both quali­
tatively and quantitatively. Whitman must surely have been delighted to
read Swinburne’s laudatory monograph when he discovered that it ended
in a flourish of zeal, not only for its subject matter (Blake’s prophetic
books) but also for Leaves. Remarkably, its final pages devote equal at-
tention to Whitman, with lengthy discussion of the considerable merits
of this American writer, an encroachment on the Blake study that makes
a remarkable conclusion to Swinburne’s analysis:

There can be few books in the world like these; I can remember one
poet only whose work seems to me the same or similar in kind; a poet
as vast in aim, as daring in detail, as unlike others, as coherent to
himself, as strange without and as sane within. The points of contact
and sides of likeness between William Blake and Walt Whitman are
so many and so grave, as to afford some ground of reason to those
who preach the transition of souls or transfusion of spirits. The great
American is not a more passionate preacher of sexual or political free-
dom than the English artist. To each the imperishable form of a pos-
sible and universal Republic is equally requisite and adorable as the
temporal and spiritual queen of ages as of men. To each all sides and
shapes of life are alike acceptable or endurable. From the fresh free
ground of either workman nothing is excluded that is not exclusive.
(1868: 300–301)
William Blake’s American Afterlives  205
Weisbuch rightly summarises the affinities between these poets as “their
hatred of tyranny, their confidence in the emergence of a universal democ-
racy, and their emphases on intertwined political and sexual freedoms”
(29). This list is also recognisably a description of Whitman’s character-
istic attitudes – sexual and political freedom, the real possibility for a
universal republic, the acceptance of all sides of life, all-­inclusiveness –
and thus it forces readers to pause and recall that Swinburne’s primary
subject here is in fact Blake.
Swinburne was accustomed to the “cadential form” and obscenity of
Blake’s prophetic books, and just as he encouraged a British readership
for Whitman he noticed the appropriateness of an American readership
for Blake; he imagined Whitman as the ideal reader of Blake’s obscure
prophecies (Schmidt 2007: 27). Two years before the publication of his
Blake book, Swinburne wrote in an 1866 letter:

It seems to me that Walt Whitman belongs to the same race of men

[as Blake]; and if so, I am certain he will understand the mystical
heterodox “prophecies” of Blake which the publishers of his biogra-
phy and remains were afraid of.
(1959: 1. 209)

Where he was convinced that Whitman should “understand” Blake’s

prophecies, likewise Swinburne was certain that those interested in the
“race of men” to which Blake belonged would recognise something akin
in Whitman’s poetry – and he set about actively encouraging o ­ thers
to perceive the relation. Before reading Swinburne’s William Blake,
­W hitman had written to Moncure Conway on 17 February 1868 in
antici­pation of its publication:

I have not yet seen […] the book William Blake – but shall ­procure &
read both. I feel prepared in advance to render my cordial & admi-
rant respect to Mr. Swinburne – & would be glad to have him know
that I thank him heartily for the mention which, I understand, he
has made of me in the Blake.
(1961: 2. 16)

Whitman’s admission that there might be ground for Swinburne’s no-

ticed connections between his work and Blake’s is surprising, given his
usual deafening silence around the question of literary influence.
Swinburne was not alone in noticing the similarities between Blake
and Whitman: it was an insight shared by his publisher James Camden
Hotten. Hotten published Swinburne’s book on Blake and he serves as an
interesting link in this unholy trinity of Swinburne with the two censori-
ous poets Whitman and Blake, as he reproduced Blake’s illustrations and
was also Whitman’s London publisher. Hotten energetically pushed the
206  Clare Frances Elliott
transatlantic connection between Blake and Whitman in order to better
promote his neglected British poet in America and his neglected A
­ merican
poet in Britain. Justin Kaplan describes Hotten’s “cross-promotion”:

Swinburne had rhapsodised about Whitman’s affinities with Blake,

the one neglected in the United States, the other forgotten in ­England
since his death in 1827, both simultaneous discoveries of ­Rossetti
and his circle (a prominent member was Blake’s first modern bi-
ographer, Alexander Gilchrist). [Whitman] found his poems being
cross-­promoted with two other titles on Hotten’s list, Swinburne’s
study of Blake and a color facsimile of The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell. (326)

Importantly, Kaplan mentions Gilchrist’s presence in the Rossetti circle, a

fact which would have profoundly enhanced their awareness of Blake. The
Rossettis were also actively involved in the transatlantic cross-promotion
of both poet’s work. Dante Gabriel Rossetti published on Blake’s vision-
ary poems and his brother William Michael Rossetti was simultaneously
championing Whitman’s work and introduced the American’s poetry to
his literary circle and beyond. William Rossetti played a key role in the
British reception of Whitman’s poetry. First, he introduced Swinburne to
Leaves of Grass and second he edited a selection of the 1867 edition of
Leaves, removing what he thought were the offensive parts, too strong for
those delicate English ears. Although Rossetti’s editorship exhibited cen-
sorious acts he shrewdly realised how Whitman could reach an English
audience and as a result, Whitman’s reputation and readership greatly
improved. Yet, here we have the most palpable example of how transat-
lantic texts in the nineteenth century were transformed when they trav-
elled. William Rossetti knew how to produce a readership for W ­ hitman in
­Britain, which Whitman desperately wanted, but that to do this he would
have to cut almost one-half of the poems featured in the American 1867
edition, including “Song of Myself”. For this reason, despite ­Rossetti’s
energetic championing of Whitman throughout his life, the poet regretted
the British edition of Leaves, calling it “the horrible dismemberment of my
book” (1961: 2. 133). The transatlantic cross-promotion of Blake’s and
Whitman’s poetry is testament to the textual variabilities in their work,
as the poetry was transformed to suit the nationality of the ­readership –
Blake becoming something originally American for Emerson’s readers;
Whitman becoming refined for English ears.

Swinburne’s, Hotten’s and the Rossettis’ dual interest in Blake and
Whitman may seem at first remarkable given the context of each poet’s
neglect and geographical remoteness. The intersection becomes clearer,
William Blake’s American Afterlives  207
however, if not compelling, once key passages like the following from
Blake’s Europe: a Prophecy (1794) are brought to mind:

I will write a book on leaves of flowers,

If you will feed me on love-thoughts, & give me now and then
A cup of sparkling poetic fancies; so when I am tipsie,
I’ll sing to you to this soft lute; and shew you all alive
The world, when every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.
(60, line iii. 14)

Had Swinburne read the prophetic books a little more closely he would
have been amazed to find this much earlier mention of a book on
leaves, which so clearly anticipates Whitman’s own Leaves of Grass.
This passage most obviously recalls the book of leaves which comprises
­W hitman’s collection but it holds many, if not all, of the essential ele-
ments of Whitman’s poetic thought: “love-thoughts” showing “all alive/
The world” through a poetic song, and the vital, inordinately powerful
minutiae of life (“every particle of dust”) being transfigured into some-
thing luminous as the poet encounters “the Permanent Realities of Every
Thing” during this transcendent experience (555, plate 70). Whitman’s
“Song of Myself” is a celebration of the self but also the world and
indeed the diffuse universe at large. The poem is a kaleidoscopic jour-
ney of “love-thoughts” (to use Blake’s expression): love of the body and
the soul, self-love, love of man for man, a woman’s voyeuristic love for
“twenty-eight young men” (Whitman 1982: 36, line 193). It is also a
visionary poem as the speaker moves beyond the leaf of grass that he has
noticed at the beginning of the poem to experience other worlds. Imme-
diately after the speaker has been observing the spear of grass there ap-
pear “Houses and rooms […] full of perfumes … the shelves are crowded
with perfumes” and his senses are awakened (27, line 6). This awaken-
ing continues through eclectic visions; there is a vignette of the body and
soul loafing on the grass, which leads to a religious epiphany where the
speaker chants, “And I know that the hand of God is the elderhand of
my own” (31, line 84). The visions continue as the speaker journeys on in
a flight past death and the “suicide sprawl[ed] on the bloody floor,” into
the “wilds and mountains” where he nurses a runaway slave (33, line
144; 34, line 168; 35–36, lines 183–192). The poem continues through
many more breathless adventures and suddenly that leaf of grass, which
began the meditation, has become “no less than the journeywork of the
stars” and Whitman’s vision reaches its fulfilment, opening out from mi-
nutiae to universal (57, line 660). Swinburne would have enjoyed reading
Blake’s Europe and noticing how the poem focuses on a “particle of
dust” just as it “breathes forth its joy” (60, line iii. 14) to uncover fanci­
ful worlds. As an avid reader of Whitman’s poems he would have recog­
nised Blake’s investment in mythical visionary landscapes equalled by
208  Clare Frances Elliott
Whitman’s transcendence from the minutiae of life to the “journeywork
of the stars” (57, line 660).
The early critical neglect of Blake and Whitman in their respective na-
tions forces us to ask why these now canonical writers were originally on
the periphery of the transatlantic literary scene. Examining the original
transatlantic critical reception of their poetry requires questioning the
charge of “madness” given to both poets in the early reviews, and shows
that similar unorthodox approaches to poetic form, their construction of
visionary worlds from the details of ordinary existence and their distinc-
tive treatment of nature all help to explain their early critical dismissal as
lunatic poets. Despite having no readership to speak of in 1840s Britain,
Blake’s poetry made its way into the hands of Emerson in 1842, thanks
to the efforts of Elizabeth Peabody to nurture the dynamics of transat-
lantic Romantic thought. Blake’s poetry is reclaimed by Emerson as he
litters his journal entries with Blakean aphorisms that soon crop up in his
later essays and which continue to promise intellectual autonomy for the
U.S. Texts become variable, appropriable, sometimes quietly transfor-
mative, when they cross national boundaries. Blake’s American afterlife,
as discussed here in relation to Emerson and Whitman, is an illuminat-
ing example of this process. His poetry can be seen to be transformed in
important ways in the body of Emerson’s own writing, precisely because
Emerson lays claim to that poetry as suitable for a distinctly American
literature and readership. Whitman’s subtly Blakean poetry would suf-
fer the most brutal alterations when it was transported to Britain, but
that small literary circle (including Swinburne, Hotten and the Rossettis)
who savoured Whitman’s wild hallucinogenic adventures catalysed by
dust or leaves were simultaneously admiring similar visionary qualities
in Blake’s prophetic books.

1 For more on U.S. literature and British literary influence see Paul Giles, ­Atlantic
Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature  (2006); ­David
Greenham, Emerson’s Transatlantic Romanticism (2012) and C ­ hristopher
Hanlon’s America’s England: Antebellum Literature and ­Atlantic Section-
alism (2013).
2 For a detailed account of remediation see Cian Duffy, Peter Howell et al.
(ed.) Romantics Adaptations: Essays in Mediation and Remediation (2013).
3 For more on this read Charles Lamb on Blake in Charles Lamb, The Letters
of Charles Lamb (1904), 2: 105–106.
4 For more on this see Paul Giles, Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions
and the Transatlantic Imaginary (2002) and Clare Frances Elliott, ‘William
Blake and America: Freedom and Violence in the Atlantic World’, Compar-
ative American Studies 7.3 (2009): 209–224.
5 Of course, William Blake’s America: A Prophecy (1793) is also a poem about
slavery in the Atlantic world (Blake 1988: 54). As Joselyn M. Almeida rightly
puts it, “As William Blake portrayed it in America: A Prophecy  (1793),
William Blake’s American Afterlives  209
the Atlantic in the last decades of the eighteenth century was an ocean of
blood and fire” as a result of the slave trade and slave rebellions. For more on
this read Joselyn M. Almeida, Reimagining the Transatlantic, 1780–1890
(2011) p. 20. For more on Blake and slavery see Debbie Lee, Slavery and the
Romantic Imagination (2004).
6 A full study of Peabody can be found in, Bruce A. Ronda, Elizabeth Palmer
Peabody: A Reformer On Her Own Terms (1999). There is also Louise
Hall Tharp, The Peabody Sisters of Salem (1950); Ruth Baylor, Elizabeth
Peabody, Kindergarten Pioneer (1965) and most recently Megan Marshall,
The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism
(2006) and Clare Frances Elliott, ‘Early Feminism and the Circulation of
Self-Reliance in the Atlantic World’ (2016).
7 For a full account of her library see Elizabeth Peabody’s Foreign Library, http://
www.concordlibrary.org/scollect/CT/EC_EP.html and Peabody Books,
1524–1878, http://www.concordlibrary.org/scollect/Fin_Aids/Peabody_
8 Elisa Tamarkin and Christopher Hanlon have both noticed a respect for
­English culture in the American zeitgeist around the 1840s and 1850s.
Just as Emerson was breaking ties with British literature in ‘The American
Scholar’ (1836; Emerson, Complete Works, vol. 1, p. 85) he would soon re-
fer to Britain as an “intellectual empire [that has] inoculated all nations with
her civilization, intelligence and tastes”. qtd in Elisa Tamarkin, Anglophilia:
Deference, Devotion, and Antebellum America (2007), p. 192. Tamarkin
and Hanlon each account for this esteem as resulting from Britain’s attitude
to abolition. For more see, Tamarkin, Anglophilia p. 179 and Christopher
Hanlon’s America’s England: Antebellum Literature and Atlantic Section-
alism (2013) pp. 19–22.
9 The quotation is from William Blake, Descriptive Catalogue (Blake, Com-
plete Poetry, p. 541, plate 37).
10 The references are from Alexander Gilchrist, Life of William Blake (1863)
pp. 364–365.

Works Cited
Almeida, Joselyn M. Reimagining the Transatlantic, 1780–1890. Farnham:
Ashgate, 2011.
Baylor, Ruth. Elizabeth Peabody, Kindergarten Pioneer. Philadelphia: Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania Press, 1965.
Blake, William. Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. Ed. David
V. ­Erdman. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, 2nd ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1997.
Clarke, Graham, Ed. Walt Whitman: Critical Assessments. Robertsbridge:
Helm Information, 1995.
Duffy, Cian, Peter Howell and Caroline Ruddell, Ed. Romantics Adaptations:
Essays in Mediation and Remediation. London: Routledge, 2013.
Elliott, Clare Frances. “William Blake and America: Freedom and Violence in
the Atlantic World”, Comparative American Studies 7.3 (2009): 209–224.
———. “Early Feminism and the Circulation of Self-Reliance in the Atlantic
World”. Edinburgh Companion to Atlantic Literary Studies. Edinburgh:
­E dinburgh University Press, 2016. 220–234.
210  Clare Frances Elliott
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson’s Complete Works. 11 vols. London: R ­ outledge,
———. Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 10 vols. Ed. Edward Waldo ­Emerson
and Waldo Emerson Forbes. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1909–1914.
———. The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo ­Emerson,
1832–1834, 16 vols. Ed. William H. Gilman et al. Cambridge, MA: The
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960–1982.
Frye, Northrop. Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake. Boston: Beacon
Press, 1962.
Gilchrist, Alexander. Life of William Blake. Ed. W. Graham Robertson.
­M ineola, NY: Dover Publications Inc., 1998 (original publication, 1863).
Giles, Paul. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic
Imaginary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.
———. Atlantic Republic: The American Tradition in English Literature.
­Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Greenham, David. Emerson’s Transatlantic Romanticism. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2012.
Hanlon, Christopher. America’s England: Antebellum Literature and Atlantic
Sectionalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Harding, Walter. Emerson’s Library. Charlottesville: University Press of
­Virginia, 1967.
Harvey, Samantha C. Transatlantic Transcendentalism: Coleridge, Emerson
and Nature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.
Hill, Alan G., Ed. Letters of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Volume 4:
Later Years, Part One. 2nd ed. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1978.
Holmes, Oliver Wendell. Ralph Waldo Emerson. London: Kegan Paul, Trench
and Co., 1885.
Lamb, Charles. The Letters of Charles Lamb. Ed. Alfred Ainger. London:
­Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1904.
Lee, Debbie. Slavery and the Romantic Imagination. Philadelphia, PA: Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Marshall, Megan. The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American
Romanticism. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006.
Peabody, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Peabody’s Foreign Library. Accessed online at:
http://www.concordlibrary.org/scollect/CT/EC_EP.html, 1 August 2016.
———. Peabody Books, 1524–1878. Accessed online at: http://www.
concordlibrary.org/scollect/Fin_Aids/Peabody_E_P.html, 1 August 2016.
Phillips, Dana. “Nineteenth-Century Racial Thought and Whitman’s “Demo­
cratic Ethnology of the Future”, Nineteenth-Century Literature 49.3
­(December 1994): 298.
Ronda, Bruce A. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody: A Reformer On Her Own Terms.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Schmidt, Michael. “Whitman in Europe”, PN Review 176 (2007): 23–29.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles. William Blake: A Critical Essay. London: John
Camden Hotten, 1868.
———. The Swinburne Letters. 6 volumes. Ed. Cecil Y. Lang. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1959.
Tamarkin, Elisa. Anglophilia: Deference, Devotion, and Antebellum America.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
William Blake’s American Afterlives  211
Tharp, Louise Hall. The Peabody Sisters of Salem. Boston: Little Brown, 1950.
Weisbuch, Robert. Atlantic Double-Cross: American Literature and British In-
fluence in the Age of Emerson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Whitman, Walt. The Correspondence. 7 volumes. Ed. Edwin Haviland Miller.
New York: New York University Press, 1961.
———. Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. New York: Library of America,
Wordsworth, William. “The Prelude”. Ed. Stephen Gill and Stephen Charles
Gill. William Wordsworth: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2000.
Wright, Julia M. and Kevin Hutchings. “Introduction”. Transatlantic Literary
Exchanges, 1790–1870: Gender, Race and Nation. Ed. Julia M. Wright and
Kevin Hutchings. Ashgate e-Book, 2011.
10 American Notes and
English Guidebooks
(Re)writing English Literature
in Melville and Dickens
Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell

Herman Melville observes in Redburn (1849) that “nearly all literature,

in one sense, is made up of guide-books” (200). By the Victorian period,
tourist guidebooks had expanded from offering maps and suggested itin-
eraries, to being powerful interpreters and communicators (or in some
cases creators) of culture. As “travellers’ companions”, they adopted the
tone of an experienced friend, yet this almost familial concern stood in
sharp contrast to their mercantile objectives. Commercial yet moral,
consumable yet handing down wisdom, communicating first-hand ex-
periences yet borrowing and plagiarising from other texts, guidebooks
reflected both the literary marketplace and the transatlantic literature of
the time. This chapter will examine the tourist guidebook, which fore-
grounds issues of print circulation, the representation of space, and the
education of readers, by triangulating it with two transatlantic novels:
Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) and Herman Melville’s
Redburn. The two texts are uncanny twins, which position a transatlan-
tic crossing as the scene for their young male protagonists’ unsuccessful
attempts at personal growth.1 Redburn and Martin Chuzzlewit, along
with Dickens’s other transatlantic text American Notes (1842), intersect
in important material and thematic ways with the mid-nineteenth-­century
guidebook: a new genre that both flourished within and embodied cru-
cial aspects of its contemporary Anglo-American print culture.
The guidebook perhaps appealed to Dickens and Melville for different
reasons. Dickens placed great importance on the idea of being a guide,
perceiving himself as a positive influence on readers as a social reformer.
For Melville, who found fame as a writer of racy travel narratives, guide-
books promised the foreign and exotic. However, both writers looked to
guidebooks as sources for their own fiction, and both used guidebooks
while on their own transatlantic travels (Dickens visited America twice
and Melville came to Britain three times). Dickens and Melville were
deeply concerned not only with the experience of transatlantic travel but
also with charting a course through the newly emerging transatlantic
market for literature. Both made arrangements with publishers for the
transatlantic distribution of their writings, and both intervened in de-
bates over Anglo-American copyright law.
American Notes and English Guidebooks  213
This chapter examines how Dickens and Melville used guidebooks
as formal templates, symbolic objects, and sources when writing novels
that meditate on the transatlantic circulation of persons and books, and
the redrawn boundaries of English literature in the mid-nineteenth cen-
tury. In doing so, it provides a brief case study of two canonical authors
who responded in divergent ways to the challenges and opportunities
created by the expansion of transatlantic print culture. Dickens empha-
sises the guidebook’s role as a social and moral compass, identifying
even in American topography warnings for the British tourist-reader and
rebuke for the American one. Melville, on the other hand, questions
the power of guidebooks to codify landscapes or truly guide readers by
emphasising their status as commercial objects, fashioned through the
culture of reprinting that Dickens decried. While Dickens’s American
experiences cause him to favour a nation-centric construction of English
literature in which the Old World guides the New, Melville uses transat-
lantic travel to envision a liminal and fluid model of literature in English,
centred not on either nation but on the Atlantic between them. More
broadly, the chapter further demonstrates the ways in which habitually
critically neglected print genres such as guidebooks can provide new
routes into literary texts, allowing scholars to trace new connections
across the Atlantic.


Scholars of tourism and travel writing in Britain and America generally

agree that the tourist guidebook was established as a genre in the mid-
1830s. These guidebooks differed from previous travel literature: unlike
travel accounts, they offered advice rather than retelling individual expe-
riences, and unlike earlier travel guides, which focused entirely on practi-
calities such as prices, transport and money changing, publications after
1830 also described sights of interest to tourists. British travel historians
Marjorie Morgan, Gráinne Goodwin and Gordon Johnston identify the
first modern guidebook as John Murray’s Hand-Book for Travellers on
the Continent in 1836 (Morgan 19; Goodwin and Johnston 44). In terms
of American guidebooks, Richard Gassan identifies examples from the
1820s that fit the modern form, but suggests that it was the 1840s that
saw the “true blossoming of the genre” in the U.S. (66).
Mass produced in large editions, guidebooks were a testament to
the middle class’s acquisition of the material wealth and leisure time
required to travel. Guidebooks were, as Gassan notes, “a fundamental
consumer good”: an archetypal commodity that reflected the expansion
of the market for print in the 1830s and 1840s (51). International com-
merce, the circulation of monies, products and people, was central to
the fashioning of the guidebook. Guidebooks sought to maximise cir-
culation: they had to be cheap enough to attract a wide readership and
214  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
small enough to move with readers as they travelled. The introduction
to Smith’s Stranger’s Guide to Liverpool for 1842 boasts that it has suc-
ceeded “in compressing an account of every public building, institution,
and object of note in Liverpool, into a space so small, as to enable the
work to be afforded at a moderate price” (Brown iii, italics in original).
Alongside demonstrating the importance of being affordable and por-
table, this guidebook also recalls the physical transformations of the
city that made the guidebook itself necessary. Commerce had expanded
and altered Liverpool; thus, a new, condensed guide was necessary for
both “strangers” (a common guidebook term for visitors from outside
an area) and for those returning visitors who once again felt themselves
strangers in a strange land. In implicitly drawing attention to the diffi-
culties of representing physical space on the page, this guidebook echoes
the problems of temporality faced by the protagonist of Redburn as he
tries to navigate Liverpool with a similar guidebook. Unlike other forms
of guidance to be passed down through generations, the advice of guide-
books could be rendered useless by the passing of only a few years.
Guidebooks were not only transitory; they were also transitional and
transnational, an amalgam of cultures, texts and even authors. Within
their pages, guidebooks recirculated other writings: particularly com-
mon were literary quotations describing specific locations and unat-
tributed extracts and translations from other guidebooks. Murray’s first
Hand-Book stated outright that it “has not, indeed, much pretension to
novelty”, noting that extracts from literary texts “enhance the interest
of seeing the objects described” (iv). Guidebooks thus acted as a micro-
cosm of the culture of reprinting that, as Meredith McGill proposes,
shaped the distribution of texts, the imaginative energies of authors,
and even the reception of mid-century Anglo-American literature (3–7
and passim). Blending factual information, first-hand experience, and
borrowings from other texts, guidebooks resemble much mid-century
fiction, including – and perhaps especially – the writings of Dickens and
Guidebooks also answered the “craving for guidance” that Simon
­Eliot sees as a characteristic feature of a literary marketplace in which
self-help manuals, cookbooks, and “Answers to Correspondents” col-
umns were popular (300). Although projecting the voice of a neutral
observer, guidebooks both represented their surroundings and passed
judgement upon them. Barbara Schaff has observed that Murray’s
guides were “embraced by the British middle classes not only as a
guidebook, but also as an etiquette manual”, locating readers socially
as well as geographically (224). Some guidebooks even offered moral
and spiritual guidance. George Montgomery West’s emigrants’ manual,
The ­Emigrant Companion and Guide From Liverpool in England to the
Continent of America (1830), advised that travellers should be “faith-
fully perusing the word of God” and “prevent their indulging in any
American Notes and English Guidebooks  215
sinful excesses  […]  an excellent preparation for the new scenes which
await them in a new world” (8, italics in original). Although part of a
sub-genre of guidebook aimed at settlers rather than tourists, West’s
guide nevertheless shows the links between travel guides and other types
of guidance literature, such as conduct manuals.
Guidebook authors thus invited readers to view the printed book as a
trusted companion. This was taken to extremes by The Liverpool Guide;
or Stranger’s Companion, for 1830, which used the first person: “I beg
to introduce myself to your notice as a Guide or Companion during
your visit to Liverpool” (3). Even though Murray would popularise a
more detached style, his first Handbook located its origins in materials
compiled for “private friends” (iii). This fraternal impulse balanced the
alienation created by the guidebook’s commercial function, in the same
way that, as Bradley Deane argues, Dickens’s narrative creates a “sym-
pathetic relationship that effaces the distance of textual transmission”
in The Pickwick Papers (47). Dickens himself fulfilled this dual role as
he was received in America as both a famous, highly commercial author
and welcomed as “Boz”, the “long-known and trusted friend” (Josiah
Quincey in McParland 67). As faithful friends to travellers, Morgan ob-
serves that guidebooks took on the role of “protectors from the foreign
as well as invitations to new and exciting sites” (21).
Morgan’s observation indicates a final important feature of guide-
books: their mediation of national identity. Guidebooks not only at-
tempted to interpret a new culture to the traveller, they also marked
their readers as foreign: many nineteenth-century sources, including
Dickens himself, note that an English tourist could be spotted by his or
her Murray guidebook. As well as delineating national identity, guide-
books simultaneously facilitated transnational interactions. These were
necessarily commercialised, sanitised and limited. Nevertheless, Rudy
Koshar suggests that we should not approach such interactions entirely
cynically, as the strategies some guidebooks offered for seeing other
cultures “suggested the possibility of communication between self and
Other and the idea of relative equality between various national cul-
tures” (328–329).
As books which foregrounded both national identities and transna-
tional movements, it is particularly interesting that guidebooks emerged
at a time when the nationality and international circulation of books,
especially between Britain and America, took on a new importance.
Bet­ween 1828 and 1848, the value of U.S. exports of books to Britain
increased nearly fourfold and of imports of books more than fourfold,
to the value of $326,602, and the amount of British books exported to
and imported from the U.S. increased sixfold (Winship 118–119). These
figures do not include the American works that were published and dis-
tributed in Britain, and vice versa, which also increased rapidly over the
same period.
216  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
Yet despite their common language, American and British texts were
treated differently outside of their home nation, as they were denied the
copyright protection offered to native authors. British works in America
were partially protected by courtesy of the trade (a system by which pub-
lishers could claim rights to an author’s works by paying for them before
announcing their publication), and until 1854 American works, depend-
ing on the ever-changing legal statutes, could be protected in Britain if
their British publication preceded their American one. 2 But neither of
these practices was seen as satisfactory; indeed, unauthorised transat-
lantic reprints circulated widely, and Dickens and Melville, to a greater
and lesser extent respectively, were among authors who campaigned for
an international copyright law. They argued that without such a law,
there was no way for writers in the new transnational spaces of English
literature to succeed.


More than copyright, it was the chance to see a nation he so admired

that inspired Dickens’s first transatlantic trip. Before his 1842 visit,
Dickens believed America was the embodiment of republican ideals
and an antidote to all that was wrong with Britain. Americans were
better educated, more morally upright and less impoverished than their
British counterparts. The exceptions to this rule were American views
on slavery and copyright, but Dickens would only make a sustained
attempt at redressing the latter. American “approval”, he wrote to his
admirer John Tomlin in February 1841, “sounding from the green
forests on the banks of the Mississippi, sink[s] deeper into my heart
and gratif[ies] it more than all the honorary distinctions that all the
courts in Europe could offer” (Letters 1879). Dickens’s moral judge-
ment of the two nations is represented in their human and physical
geographies, a comparison he would later employ in his writing on
­A merica: unsullied virgin forests populate this new nation, which is
ripe with potential for social progress, and stand in contrast to what he
believed were the tainted government and class system represented by
the ­European Courts.
Dickens supposed a natural closeness between himself and his readers,
even those physically separated from him by the Atlantic ­(McParland 32).
On the issue of copyright, especially, he took heart that his “dis-
tant countrymen” would listen to his case (Letters 47). ­Significantly,
­Dickens’s belief went against the warnings of popular British guide-
books on America, which he read before his journey. 3 Mrs. Trollope’s
notoriously unflattering descriptions of American manners and Harriet
Martineau’s petitioning against the institution of slavery, cautioned the
British traveller against what they would find. Even more so, the recep-
tion of these guidebooks in America should have warned Dickens of
American Notes and English Guidebooks  217
American hostility towards British interference and counsel, no matter
how well intentioned.
Whether motivated by confidence in his own abilities, or by his belief
in American principles, Dickens argued for copyright throughout his
time in America, portraying it as not only a legal muddle but a moral
issue. But despite his reassuringly enthusiastic reception, Dickens was
unable to use his celebrity and influence to convince Americans that the
lack of copyright was unconscionable. Three months into his journey,
his opinion of America had soured: “This is not the republic I came to
see; this is not the republic of my imagination” (Letters 70). Rebuked
and slandered in the press for his stance on copyright, Dickens, in a
backhanded criticism of the First Amendment, told his friend Macready
in a letter dated 22 March 1842 that he despaired of his own “Freedom
of opinion” (Letters 71). Dickens’s responded to this apparent hypocrisy
by rejecting America and transatlantic ideas of authorship. Yet, in do-
ing so, he created a guidebook that was as much a geographical, social
and moral guide for the British as it was a moral rebuke for Americans.
Dickens almost sabotaged his American reputation through his heavy-
handed publications. Indeed, one American described it as a maritime
disaster: “Oh, Dickens! the Atlantic was thy Rubicon; on its broad waste
thou didst shipwreck much fame and honour” (Philip St George Cooke
qtd in McParland 68). Ironically, Dickens’s preaching on copyright
threatened to exclude him from the transatlantic circulation of people,
ideas and texts.4
Guidebooks were a genre that foregrounded circulation. Yet even
though the title of Dickens’s American guidebook, American Notes
for General Circulation (1842), suggests a flow of ideas between the
nations, it also implies trade in monetary notes: a dubious business in
­nineteenth-century America due to a lack of banking regulation and fre-
quent fraud. If this criticism of America were not enough, the false print-
ing of notes also suggests the pirated printing of novels, which Dickens
had spoken out against. Indeed, Dickens’s conclusion conveys this:

The love of trade is a reason why the literature of America is to re-

main for ever unprotected “For we are a trading people, and don’t
care for poetry,” though we do, by the way, profess to be very proud
of our poets.
(American II, 293)

Dickens could not accept the hypocrisy, nor the double indignity of be-
ing admired yet being stolen from (at the very least, underpaid), and he
reacted to American rejection by denouncing its institutions in favour of
Britain’s, even if it meant subverting some of his own republican princi-
ples: “I infinitely prefer a liberal monarchy […] to such a government as
this” (Letters 70). Unable to chart a course for himself or others through
218  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
a transatlantic republic of letters, Dickens’s two major American works
in this period, American Notes and Martin ­C huzzlewit, defend ­Britain
against America through an interpolation of morality, geography and
print circulation that echoes the guidebook genre. As such, Dickens’s
clear rejection of America did not lead him to relinquish his self-­
appointed role of moral guide for Americans, despite hostile responses
from Americans to his overly simplified arguments.
Dickens re-establishes the Old World and rejects the New through
his titular hero in Martin Chuzzlewit. A penniless aristocrat dependent
on his uncle for his income, Martin finds himself exiled after choosing
a poor family ward as his intended bride. The older Chuzzlewit, signifi-
cantly also named Martin (as the younger will eventually be restored to
his place as heir and “replacement”), sends him away to an uncertain
future. McParland noted that one of the appeals of Dickens’s characters
to an American audience was that Dickens promoted the idea of self-
made men in his novels (33). Yet, while in America, Dickens challenged
their deeply ingrained ideal of a self-made man, suggesting in a letter
that if he (a true self-made man) had been born in America, instead of
England, he would have lived and died in poverty (Letters 71). However,
in Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens takes an even stronger view and argues
against the concept entirely. Self-made men in the novel – Seth ­Pecksniff,
Jonas Chuzzlewit and Montague Tigg – are cheats and scoundrels, and
­Dickens’s judgement of them is harsh: Montague is murdered, Jonas
commits suicide and Pecksniff loses his money. The heroes of the tale
are those who return to their proper place (Martin and Mark T ­ apley)
or accept what is given to them (Tom Pinch). Kate Flint points out that
Dickens’s emphasis on travel was “a metaphor for personal growth”
(34). Martin’s failure in America, therefore, is particularly poignant as
although Martin experiences a last-minute (and rather unconvincing)
change of heart, it is his bed-bound uncle who undergoes the most radi­
cal transformation, suggesting that travel to America and development
are not necessarily linked. The happy ending is reserved for those who
remain within the stable British class system. Only the women in the
story, who make advantageous marriages, are virtuous in their tradi-
tional means of upward mobility.
Dickens further distinguishes between nations by returning to architec-
ture and landscape as metaphors for morality, twisting the guidebook’s
judgement of a nation’s spatial features to record his own authorial judge-
ments. Indeed, Dickens’s view that America had developed morally be-
tween his first and second visit, twenty-four years later, was accompanied
by his sense that the environment had also altered. He proposed that
America had experienced “changes moral, changes physical, changes in
the amount of land subdued”, and attached this opinion to “every copy of
those books of mine in which I refer to ­A merica” (Chuzzlewit 1982: 847).
At the same time, Dickens’s 1850 preface claimed he intended to show
American Notes and English Guidebooks  219
hypocrisy on both sides of the Atlantic. However, Martin Chuzzlewit
was by no means as even-handed as Dickens found it politic to suggest
after a few years’ reflection. During the first part of his exile in England,
Martin is apprenticed to a pompous and talentless architect Pecksniff,
who, as Alexander Welsh and Gerhard Joseph have argued, replicates
the actions of the American press towards Dickens by stealing his young
apprentice’s designs (Welsh 45; Joseph 268). Yet Pecksniff’s behaviour is
not common practice in England, and he eventually receives his comeup-
pance. In comparison, while in America, Martin is lied to, swindled and
almost dies as a result of his attempt to make a career for himself as an
architect. If an architect stands for an author as Welsh and Joseph have
suggested, in America they starve them. Martin purchases a plot of land
to build on in the symbolically named town of Eden, attempting the kind
of pioneer voyage addressed in guidebooks such as West’s Emigrant’s
Companion. But when he and his companion Mark Tapley arrive, they
find Eden is a putrid swamp, unfit for habitation. Yet, Dickens’s moral
geo­graphy foreshadows this: earlier the narrator explains, “Martin knew
nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well that if its
individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always is depressed,
and always is stagnated” (Chuzzlewit 1844: 208).
Despite the obvious suffering in Eden, an American speculator named
Chollop refuses to acknowledge it, rebuking Martin and Mark and
­labelling their realistic descriptions of Eden as a swamp, as “Europian”.
Chollop identifies all valid criticism of America the same (including
Americans’ acceptance of gun violence as a solution to any argument)
and instead suggests Martin and Mark’s judgement is clouded because
of their nationality:

“You miss the imposts of your country. You miss the house dues?”
observed Chollop.
“And the houses – rather,” said Mark.
“No window dues here sir,” observed Chollop.
“And no windows to put ’em on,” said Mark.
(Chuzzelwit 1844: 391)

Dickens represents America as a wasteland, both physically and

­morally  – in a sense rewriting his earlier comments to John Tomlin
of its virginal superiority. Here there are no proper houses, no moral
foundations. Chollop cannot recognise universal truths that would
unite foreign settlers and Americans; instead, he can only observe na-
tional distinctions. For Chollop, “guidance” is limited to geography.
Eden’s windowless houses represent an American lack of moral vision,
but they also, in the terms of a guidebook, indicate a lack of sights: for
­Dickens, ­A merica offers nothing for travellers to see, nor can Americans
have clear views of their own nation. Patricia Ard argues that Dickens
220  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
purposely diminished the major tourist attractions of Niagara and the
Mississippi River in American Notes, to put down American national
pride and compare it unfavourably to Europe (294). Dickens repeats this
unfavourable comparison through Eden, which is not the biblical para-
dise but a primordial bog.
Through his characters, Dickens rejects America as his false Eden,
which cannot be built. Chollop’s talk of an “impost”, the top course
of a pillar that supports an arch, rather than a foundation stone, only
adds to the idea that Chollop does not know what he is talking about.
­Martin’s attempt to earn his living as an architect in Eden ends in
disaster, and it is only by returning to England where he will be re-­
established as heir and inhabit the old traditions rather than build, that
he finds contentment. Dickens’s rather bleak view suggests it is impossi-
ble to guide Americans through written instruction (they do not adhere
to even the morality enshrined in their own Constitution) or to estab-
lish oneself in a country famous for its promise of new beginnings. His
only hope is to lay bare their failings in the hope that it will lead them
towards reform.
The fictitious American texts in the novel also propose that ­A mericans
cannot be trusted to write their own guidebooks. The editor of the “New
York Rowdy Journal”, whom Martin encounters upon arriving in the
city, also refers to it as the “Popular Instructor”, presenting it as a guide-
book. Yet when Martin reads a copy he finds that it is full of “forged
letters solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by
living men” (Chuzzlewit 1844: 199). The “Popular Instructor” subverts
the guidebook convention of including genuine quotations from other
sources, with Dickens magnifying what he perceives as the destabilising
and pernicious effects of the culture of reprinting. The deceptive text of
the “Popular Instructor” foreshadows the deceptive map of Eden that
encourages Martin to head out West. Hablot Knight Browne (“Phiz”)
reproduced the map, which “faithfully depicted” non-existent buildings,
in an illustration for the Chapman and Hall first edition, so that Martin
Chuzzlewit echoed the paratextual features of a guidebook in its pages
(Chuzzlewit 1844: 267). In the deceptive map, Dickens layers a critique
of America’s rotten geography with an attack on its circulation of fraud-
ulent texts. Martin Chuzzelwit thus not only maps America’s moral fail-
ings, but also uses guidebook features to plot the failings of American
and transatlantic literary culture.
For a novel about America, American authors are conspicuously
absent. Dickens complained about America that “The national van-
ity swallows up all other countries on the face of the earth, and leaves
but this above the ocean” (Foster I: 409). It seems with Martin Chuz-
zlewit he was readdressing the balance. American literary voices are
absent despite the fact that during Dickens’s travels in America he
met with American writers, thinkers and statesmen. Instead, from
American Notes and English Guidebooks  221
a literary perspective, America is “swallowed up”. Only Benjamin
Franklin is mentioned, and only concerning his wisdom of encourag-
ing violence against slander (a point the much-slandered Dickens could
support): even then he is not quoted (Chuzzlewit 1844: 208). Dickens
ensures the reader understands this silence is an engrained, distinctly
American failing. Martin’s American acquaintance explains how
­A mericans reject satire or criticism: even “if another Juvenal or Swift”
were to appear in America, he would receive the same treatment as other
American authors, whose criticism is “expunged, altered or explained
away” (Chuzzlewit 1844: 209).
In the transatlantic novel the transfer of texts and the authors’ inter-
pretation of them is entirely one-sided. Yet Dickens’s omission goes be-
yond merely refashioning American voices. It was Washington Irving’s
favourable correspondence with Dickens that first spurred the English
author to visit America, and Dickens gushed about meeting his “dear
friend” Irving in American Notes and added “long may he dispense such
treasures” to Americans (American 305, 306). Between American Notes
and Martin Chuzzlewit, however, Dickens silenced what he perceived to
be the American voices of reason (Irving had supported Dickens in ar-
guing for copyright). With no American voices to draw from, characters
in Martin Chuzzlewit refer instead to Old World authors, such as Byron,
Swift, Cervantes and Goldsmith rather than Longfellow or Irving. All
of the voices of reason are geographically distant. Tellingly, the words of
Thomas Moore, an Irish traveller whose observations on American slav-
ery led to public outrage, emerge from the text at the close of a chapter:
“Crude at the surface, rotten at the core, / Her fruits would fall before
her Spring were o’er!” (Chuzzlewit 1844: 209). Instead of inserting lite­
rary quotations to enhance the enjoyment of sights, Dickens subverts
guidebook conventions by employing them to destroy any positive view
of the country.
America is shown to be a bad copy, a point reiterated through D­ ickens’s
fight against plagiarism. Yet despite Dickens’s condemnation, in
­American Notes, Dickens plagiarises American writers on slavery and
the blind, his own textual fashioning undermining his construction of
a literary tradition. 5 Likewise, he admits in the 1850 preface to Martin
Chuzzlewit that “all that portion of Martin Chuzzlewit’s American ex-
periences is a literal paraphrase of some reports of public proceedings in
the United States (especially of the proceedings of a certain Brandywine
Association), which were published in the Times Newspaper in June and
July 1843” (Chuzzlewit 1982: 847). Dickens’s attempts to clear up his
referencing in 1849, and in subsequent 1858 and 1867 revisions, may
have been a way of softening his own position. As well as absolving him-
self of hypocrisy, by acknowledging his own reprinting, Dickens could
demonstrate that Americans agreed with, and, by implication, welcomed
his critique and guidance. If American voices had chimed with his own,
222  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
Dickens could proclaim himself the “Swift” that could not emerge on
native shores.


Melville first visited England in 1839, while working on the cargo

ship St  Lawrence, which travelled between New York and Liverpool.
­Redburn, or His First Voyage is a heavily fictionalised version of his ex-
periences, in which the hapless, impoverished son-of-a-gentleman narra-
tor, Wellingborough Redburn, stumbles through an Atlantic voyage and
towards seamanship and manhood. However, like Martin Chuzzlewit’s
American adventure, Redburn’s is far from successful: he is humiliated
by his fellow sailors, sees little of England, and earns neither wages nor
self-knowledge. Despite its protagonist being far from a model sailor,
Redburn could be read as a guide to sailor life, and it contains vari-
ous guidebooks: a text on the interpretation of dreams, Adam Smith’s
Wealth of Nations, and, most importantly, a guidebook owned by
­Redburn’s late father, The Picture of Liverpool, which Redburn carries
to Liverpool and which Melville based on a real volume of the same
name published in 1808.6 Moreover, in composing Redburn, Melville
blended borrowings from this guidebook with fictional episodes and
his own memories of Liverpool. Martin Chuzzelwit and Redburn thus
share compositional methods. But whereas Dickens uses the guidebook
model to document America’s failure, as he perceived it, in order to push
­A mericans to mend their model republic and fix literary circulation and
texts through copyright law, Melville questions whether guidebooks
themselves can ever repair or stabilise landscapes, morals or texts.
Dickens’s novel confirms many of the negative impressions of America
that he had read in guidebooks, however, in Redburn, the protagonist’s
experience of England leads him to question his guidebooks: “the old
abbeys, and the York Minsters […] the May-poles, and fox-­hunters”
they promised are either absent, or corrupted (Redburn 171). Even when
­Redburn encounters such environments on trips to the countryside
and London, his pleasure is short-lived. In a pastoral idyll, he finds a
sign warning of “Man-Traps and Spring-Guns!” which transform the
country­side into a “forbidden Eden” (Redburn 265, 266). The image
of a tainted Eden occurs again when Redburn abandons his ship for
the night to visit London with his mysterious, attractive but duplici-
tous ­English friend, Harry Bolton. Rather than seeing the sights like
good tourists, Harry takes Redburn to a den of vice known as Aladdin’s
Palace. With little to do but observe his gaudy surroundings, Redburn
notes that “all the mirrors and marbles around me seemed crawling over
with lizards”, and thinks “that though gilded and golden, the serpent of
vice is a serpent still” (Redburn 295). Using the same imagery of a false
paradise, Redburn proposes that the pastorals and historic buildings of
American Notes and English Guidebooks  223
England offer promises as hollow as those of the virgin lands of Martin
Chuzzlewit’s America. Solid foundations are no protection against cor-
ruption, as Redburn believes that Aladdin’s Palace “must be some house
whose foundations take hold on the pit” (Redburn 294).
The symbolism of the countryside and London chapters is clichéd,
yet Melville also uses these attacks on England to subtly satirise his
­A merican narrator. The “man-traps” represent the proprietary impulses
of the English, but rather than challenging these notions of ownership
like the rebellious American colonists in 1776, Redburn skulks off de-
feated: “the grass grew so thickly, and seemed so full of sly things, that at
last I thought best to pace off” (Redburn 266). American independence
from Old England is as absent as Old England herself. Furthermore,
the hackneyed symbolic links between gilt walls and immorality belong
to Redburn, rather than Melville himself, who often distances himself
from his foolish and prim narrator. In Aladdin’s Palace, Redburn recalls
his membership of the “Junior Temperance Society” and looks “hard”
at Harry when he suspects he has been “drinking something stronger
than wine” (Redburn 288, 292). Reminding us of Redburn’s Puritan
priggishness, Melville questions whether the corruption really exists in
the fabric of the building, or whether Redburn posits it there, confirm-
ing his moral superiority in doing so. Melville’s critique thus spans the
Atlantic, finding the even-handed judgement, which Dickens claims to
have sought.
Most spaces in Redburn’s Liverpool are harder to differentiate from
America in terms of both national identity and moral inferiority. In
contrast to Dickens’s construction of Britain and America as opposites,
Melville posits an uncanny relation between the two nations. Redburn
extends his observation on the architectural similarities of Liverpool
and New York into a judgement on the similarities of the populations:
“There were the same sort of streets pretty much; the same rows of
houses with stone steps; the same kind of sidewalks and curbs; and the
same elbowing, heartless-looking crowd” (Redburn 256). The parallel
syntaxes that structure the transition from the built environment to the
crowd that occupies it, map morality onto architecture. This statement
comes in the middle of the chapter that contains a tour of the city that
could function as a guidebook itinerary and a reflection on the social
failings and successes of both nations: there is less poverty in ­A merica,
but there is less racial prejudice in Britain. But rather than tourist
“sights”, Melville focuses on the act of looking itself in the ambiguous
phrase, ­“heartless-looking crowd”. Are the crowd heartlessly looking
at ­Redburn, or does he just perceive them as heartless? The compound
adjective, held in balance over the hyphen, allows for both possibilities,
and suggests that observation is never neutral. Redburn’s pronounce-
ments on the city, therefore, raise the issue of whether unbiased repre-
sentations and unbiased guidance are possible.
224  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
In the service of reform, Dickens is quick to pronounce judgement
on the (admittedly troublesome) morality displayed by Americans, but
Melville questions whether literature can effect the improvements that
Dickens seeks to achieve through heavy-handed chastisement. Immedi-
ately preceding two chapters on Redburn’s Liverpool is a chapter on
“the prospects of sailors”, in which Redburn argues the disreputable
behaviour of sailors is the fault of the “land-sharks, land-rats, and other
vermin, which make the hapless mariner their prey” (Redburn 176). The
sharks of Liverpool are as quick as those Dickens depicts in America
to grab at unsuspecting visitors, but these are not the main focus of
­Melville’s critique. Instead, he attacks those who “shun” the sailor in
person but also attempt to reform him, heaping scorn on attempts to
guide sailors though “the distribution of excellent books among tars
who can not read” (Redburn 179). The failure of books to act as any sort
of guide for the displaced sailors and travellers who need them most, un-
dermines both Redburn’s own sententious guidance elsewhere in the text
and the role of Redburn itself as a guidebook to Liverpool or to sailor
life, anticipating Redburn’s later comment that guidebooks are “the least
reliable books in all literature” (Redburn 200).
These observations prepare the reader for the failure of Redburn’s
­father’s guidebook. Forgetting that the book is several decades out of
date, Redburn plans to use his Picture of Liverpool to conduct himself
around Liverpool, only to discover that the city has changed, and he can-
not find the locations his father visited. He is forced to agree that “your
father’s guide-book is no guide for you, neither would yours (could you
afford to buy a modern one to-day) be a true guide to those who come
after you” (Redburn 200). Unlike Dickens’s protagonist who returns
to the guidance of his role within the family line, Redburn’s inherited
guidebook, his father-substitute, also puts paid to any reassurance that a
person could gain guidance from the generation before. Redburn claims
to have “impressed every column and cornice in my mind”, but rather
than fixing the city, the unchanging print of the guidebook documents
the lack of fixity in the world (Redburn 192). Nor is Redburn’s problem
particularly an American one. British foundations are no guarantee of
security: the stones of old forts can be used to build taverns, as Redburn
himself discovers.
Redburn’s reference to his inability to purchase a new guidebook
marks the change in social circumstances between father and son, but
also associates the guidebook with market circulation. Redburn’s father
records his purchase of the book on its flyleaf, in a list which includes
such luxuries as “port wine and cigars”, emphasising that guidebooks
were commodities for consumption (Redburn 184). Although Redburn
describes the guidebook as a memorial to his father, the commercial
significance of the genre remains present. Redburn’s professions of sen-
timental attachment to the book evoke the marketplace: “I will sell my
American Notes and English Guidebooks  225
Shakespeare, and even sacrifice my old quarto Hogarth, before I part
with you” (Redburn 182). The refusal to sell the guidebook actually
reinforces that the object is, indeed, saleable (although one might quite
reasonably ask who Redburn believes will purchase it). At the same time
as it testifies to Redburn’s inability to partake of the circulations of capi­
tal which his labour serves, the guidebook conjures a fantasy of print
circulation – if only to give Redburn the added satisfaction of denying it.
Redburn’s connections between guidebooks and circulation are ironic
because Melville himself probably added the two chapters focusing on
The Picture of Liverpool at a late stage of the book’s composition in
order to aid its transatlantic circulation.7 Richard Bentley, Melville’s
­British publisher, was concerned that the length of Redburn would re-
duce its returns in Britain, where the market necessitated multi-­volume
publications. While Melville was still composing Redburn, Bentley
wrote to him on 20 June 1849 advising that the book “will make two
light volumes like “Mardi” and that will be decidedly the only way to
publish it with any advantage” (Correspondence 596). Between his
letter to Bentley of 5 June and his next of 20 July, Melville expanded
the manu­script from “a fraction smaller than “Typee”” to “the size of
“Omoo” – perhaps it may be a trifle larger” (Correspondence 123, 134).
To do this quickly, Melville borrowed heavily from the real Picture of
Liverpool. This Melville, who steals from an English guidebook and
refashions his book to fit the structures of the British market, appears
different from the man who declared American literary independence in
“Hawthorne and His Mosses” the following year. Yet as Laurence Buell
has observed of Melville’s imaginative uses of England and Europe,
Melville’s keen engagement with British literature demonstrates that “he
sought from the first to align himself with the larger Anglophone literary
tradition rather than to classify himself (as Americanists do today) as
an American writer” (217).8 In Redburn, especially, Melville’s outlook
is cosmopolitan: Liverpool is “an epitome of the world” and America is
“not a nation, so much as a world” (Redburn 209, 214).
The guidebook chapters of Redburn are not merely a calculated acqui-
escence to British literary forms. Instead, Melville’s manipulation and
fictionalisation of The Picture of Liverpool proposes the possibility of
a truly transatlantic form of English literature, rooted in the circulating
power of the book that the guidebook foregrounded. Commenting on
the inscriptions in Redburn’s guidebook, Christopher Hager notes that:
“the transatlantic authorship of [Redburn’s] The Picture of ­Liverpool –
written by a Briton, written on by Americans – mirrors Redburn ­itself,
thanks to Melville’s cribbing the guidebook for his novel” (320). ­Building
on Hager’s argument, it is not just that the guidebook’s inscriptions give
the book Anglo-American authorship, but that they evidence an English
literature fashioned by transatlantic circulation: the marks are present
because people and books traverse the ocean. Redburn, and Melville,
226  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
refuse to privilege the British text over the American additions, seeing
both as part of one literary work. Noting that the inscriptions are “all
part and parcel of the precious book”, Melville proposes that transatlan-
tic circulation is not only something that happens to texts, but is intrinsic
to their production (Redburn 183). Just as the buildings of ­Liverpool re-
semble those of New York, national distinctions break down altogether
within the guidebook’s pages. Claiming verses by English dramatist
and sea-shanty composer Charles Dibdin (composer of “Tom B ­ owling”
and uncle to the bibliographer, Thomas Frognall D ­ ibdin) as one of
his inscriptions, Redburn states: “that anchor, ship and Dibdin’s ditty
are mine; this hand drew them; and on this very voyage to L ­ iverpool”
­(Redburn 183). Having proposed that Dibdin’s lines in some way belong
to him by virtue of this rewriting, Redburn then locates them to a trans-
atlantic space: the verses are a product of the movement and the space
between Britain and America. The guidebook fails as a representation of
Liverpool, but it succeeds in positing a vision of English literature with
transatlantic circulation at its centre.
Furthermore, Bentley’s promotion of Redburn echoes this feature of
the guidebook. Perhaps due to his own personal and business interests in
American literature rather than a conscious effort to replicate Melville’s
own concerns in Redburn, Bentley’s marketing of the novel is markedly
transatlantic. In advertisements for Redburn that ran in the Morning
Chronicle and the Morning Post, Bentley extracts from an article on
Redburn in the American weekly magazine, The Literary World, an or-
gan for literary nationalism edited by Melville’s friend, Evert Duyckinck:
“Mr Melville proves himself in this work the De Foe of the Ocean”
(“Passages from New Books” 395). Despite its nationalist bent, The
Literary World compares Melville to a British author. Yet rather than
calling Melville “the American De Foe” (as James Fenimore Cooper was
“the American Scott”), the magazine positions him in the liminal space
of the “Ocean”. Bentley then extracts this American publication to sell
Melville’s American book to a British audience. Arguably, the compar-
ison functioned differently in the review and the advertisement: The
­Literary World valorising American writing by positioning Melville as
the inheritor of a respected British tradition, and Bentley selling ­Melville
as something familiar and native to the British public. Yet the effect of its
republication and relocation is to destabilise national boundaries, situ­
ating Melville and Defoe as companions in an oceanic model of English
It would be wrong to portray Melville – a signatory on an 1852 peti-
tion for international copyright, and who carefully planned his transat-
lantic publications to secure copyright in both nations – as a campaigner
against the regulation of print circulation that Dickens was trying to
achieve. Redburn’s description of the illegal trade in tobacco at the
Liverpool docks can be read as a veiled reference to the problems of a
American Notes and English Guidebooks  227
transatlantic market in texts. As American tobacco is far cheaper due
to lower duties, the people of Liverpool buy it from American sailors,
who wrap it in papers “with poetical lines, or instructive little moral
precepts printed in red on the back” (Redburn 249). The illegal trade in
tobacco is also a trade in print, with Melville implicitly asking why the
governments regulate the circulation of the former and not the latter. Yet
Melville responds not by attacking the trade, but by imagining a model
in which American and British writing, once placed on an equal footing,
come together to form one text. Rather than retreating back to national
borders, Melville uses transatlantic circulation to expand the boundaries
of English literature.


The Victorian rise of the middle classes increased trade and travel and
created the guidebook that was as much a guide through uncertain and
changing times as it was to the landscape and people it interpreted.
­Authors like Dickens and Melville reached for the guidebook as a tool
for examining not only these changes but also the socially, economically
and geographically expanding literary marketplace. Yet, by employing
the guidebook to different ends, Dickens and Melville demonstrate that
no clear routes to successful transatlantic authorship had been plotted by
this point in the nineteenth century. For Dickens, the answer was to at-
tempt to impose national boundaries (and perhaps a hierarchy) between
the Old and New Worlds on to literature itself. In the pages of Melville’s
guidebook, however, these boundaries dissolve as a new, transatlantic
form of English literature is inscribed in its pages. We might see this
as being neatly symbolised by the professions of the two protagonists:
Martin’s architecture necessitates locatable positions on land and im-
movable foundations, whereas Redburn, the sailor, is associated with
the “shoreless, indefinite” sea in which resides “the highest truth”, as
Melville would write in Moby-Dick in 1851 (Moby-Dick 107).
Through Melville’s own rewriting of a British guidebook and his col-
laborations (both intentional and otherwise) with his British publisher,
Melville better portrays a transatlantic fiction than Dickens precisely
because he does not try to so sharply define literature or morality as
a national possession. Dickens’s emphasis on moral guidance creates a
divided world, but also an unrealistic America, which is not the unmask-
ing of a false republic so much as the wilful creation, or as Nancy Metz,
Patrick McCarthy and Jerome Meckier might argue, the perpetuation
of another myth.9 Comparing Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” with
Dickens’s Bleak House, Robert Weisbuch has argued that Melville offers
an “unsettling discomfort” and Dickens provides “ultimately reassuring
fictions” (252). Yet in Redburn, unsettlement and change provide a reas-
suring fluidity – even if Melville’s protagonist cannot always see this for
228  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
himself. As an emblem of the possibilities of a transatlantic literature,
Redburn’s guidebook is perhaps not as much of a failure as Redburn
or scholars of Melville imagine: the guidebook, like the boundaries of
­English Literature, is not ultimately a law to adhere to but a living text
that is perpetually being (re)written.

1 Despite such similarities, these two novels, to our knowledge, have never
been considered comparatively. Redburn has been compared to other
Dickens novels, most commonly Bleak House (1853) due to its portrayal
of spontaneous combustion. Martin Chuzzlewit is sometimes compared to
Melville’s The Confidence-Man (1957), both of which engage with the issue
of fraudulent speculation: see, among others, Kaufman (1997: 66).
2 For more on the courtesy of the trade, see: Winship, 102. For a history of the
shifting copyright status of American books in Britain, see Barnes.
3 See Metz, for a discussion of how Dickens continued to respond to the
themes found in the American guidebooks he read.
4 Patten suggests in addition to a recession, Martin Chuzzlewit poor sales
figures had much to do with his “hostile – or, even worse, condescending
critical reception of the book” (133). See also McParland, for a brief critical
overview of MC’s low sales (79).
5 Dickens plagiarised from Theodore Weld’s American Slavery As It Is (1839)
and copied from Samuel Howe’s Annual Reports from the Perkins Institute
in American Notes. See: Claybaugh 75–77.
6 This source was first identified by Willard Thorp, who provides a full de-
scription of the volume, and Melville’s borrowings from and alterations to it
(Thorp 1146–1156).
7 In the absence of a manuscript for Redburn, critics differ on how Melville
expanded the manuscript. Here, I follow Stephen Mathewson’s detailed
compositional analysis, which suggests that the guidebook chapters form
a discreet section that Melville could have added at a late stage of writing:
314–325. For an alternative view, see Hershel Parker, who proposes that
Melville expanded the manuscript through the sections involving Harry
Bolton: I, 642.
8 Paul Giles also reads Melville as “using a transatlantic mirror to virtualize
both British and American cultures”, although his treatment of ­Redburn
concentrates on conflations of American slavery and “British slavery of
class”, both of which take on “some shadowy, quasi-Calvinistic sense of
fate”: 86, 58.
9 For a discussion of how Dickens fictionalised and borrowed experiences in
America, see: McCarthy, Meckier 75–132, and Metz.

Works Cited
Ard, Patricia. “Charles Dickens and Frances Trollope: Victorian Kindred Spirits
in the American Wilderness”, ATQ 7.4 (1993): 293–306.
Barnes, James J. Authors, Publishers and Politicians: The Quest for an
­Anglo-American Copyright, 1818–1854. London: Routledge, 1974.
American Notes and English Guidebooks  229
Brown, Alexander. Smith’s Strangers’ Guide to Liverpool, Its Environs, and
Part of Cheshire for 1842. Benjamin Smith, 1842.
Buell, Lawrence. “Melville and the Question of American Decolonization”,
American Literature, 64.2 (1992): 215–237.
Claybaugh, Amanda. The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in
the Anglo-American World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007.
Deane, Bradley. The Making of the Victorian Novelist; Anxieties of Authorship
in the Mass Market. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Dickens, Charles. American Notes for General Circulation. 2 vols. Chapman
and Hall, 1842. Accessed online at: https://archive.org/details/americannotes
fo02dickgoog, 2 September 2015.
———. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Chapman and Hall, 1844.
Accessed online at: https://archive.org/details/lifeandadventur00browgoog,
2 September 2015.
———. Letters of Charles Dickens (1833–1856), vol 1. Scribner, 1879.
———. Martin Chuzzlewit. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Eliot, Simon. “From Few and Expensive to Many and Cheap: The British
Book Market, 1800–1890”. The Blackwell Companion to the History of the
Book. Ed. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose. Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell, 2009.
Flint, Kate. “The Middle Novels: Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Copperfield”. The
Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens. Ed. John O. Jordan. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2001: 34–48.
Gassan, Richard. “The First American Tourist Guidebooks: Authorship and the
Print Culture of the 1820s”, Book History 8 (2005): 51–74.
Giles, Paul. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic
Imaginary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.
Goodwin, Gráinne and Gordon Johnston. “Guidebook Publishing in the
­Nineteenth Century: John Murray’s Handbooks for Travellers”, Studies in
Travel Writing 17.1 (2013): 43–61.
Hager, Christopher. “Melville in the Customhouse Attic”, American Literature
82.2 (2010): 305–332.
A Hand-book for Travellers on the Continent. John Murray, 1836.
Joseph, Gerhard. “Charles Dickens, International Copyright, and the Discre-
tionary Silence of Martin Chuzzlewit”. The Construction of Authorship:
Textual Appropriation in Law and Literature. Ed. Martha Woodmansee and
Peter Jaszi. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.
Kaufman, Will. The Comedian as Confidence-Man: Studies in Irony Fatigue.
Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1997.
Koshar, Rudy. “What Ought to be Seen”: Tourists’ Guidebooks and National
Identities in Modern Germany and Europe”, Journal of Contemporary His-
tory 33.3 (1998): 323–340.
The Liverpool Guide; or, Stranger’s Companion, for 1830. Worrall & Taylor,
Mathewson, Stephen. ““To Tell Over Again the Story Just Told”: The Compo-
sition of Melville’s Redburn”, ESQ 37.4 (1991): 311–320.
McCarthy, Patrick. “Truth in American Notes”. Dickens, Europe and New
Worlds. Ed. Anny Sadrin. London: Macmillan, 1999.
230  Katie McGettigan and Diana Powell
McGill, Meredith. American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–1853.
Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
McParland, Robert. Charles Dickens American Audience. Lanham, MD:
­L exington Books, 2010.
Meckier, Jerome. Innocent Abroad: Charles Dickens’s American Engagements.
Kentucky: University of Kentucky, 1990.
Melville, Herman. Redburn, His First Voyage. New York: Harper & ­Brothers,
1849. Accessed online at: https://archive.org/details/redburnhisfirstv00
melvrich, 25 August 2016.
———. The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. New York: Dix, Edwards &
Co, 1857.
———. Correspondence. Ed. Lynn Horth. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern
University Press & Newberry Library, 1993.
———. Moby-Dick, or The Whale. Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker,
G. Thomas Tanselle, Ed. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press &
Newberry Library, 1998.
Metz, Nancy. “The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit: Or America
Revisited”. Dickens, Europe and the New Worlds. Ed. Anny Sadrin. London:
Macmillan, 1999.
Morgan, Marjorie. National Identities and Travel in Victorian Britain.
New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Parker, Hershel. Herman Melville: A Biography. 2 vols. Baltimore, MD: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1996.
“Passages from New Books”. The Literary World, no. 145, 10 November 1849,
p. 395.
Patten, Robert L. Charles Dickens and His Publishers. Oxford: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1978.
Schaff, Barbara. ““Sound Information and Innocent Amusement”: John
­Murray’s Books on the Move”. The Culture of the Publisher’s Series, 2 vols.
Ed. John Spiers. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1 (2011): 219–236.
Thorp, Willard, “Redburn’s Prosy Old Guidebook”, PMLA 53 (1938):
Weisbuch, Robert. “Dickens, Melville, and a Tale of Two Countries”. The
­C ambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel. Ed. Deidre David. C ­ ambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2001. 234–254.
Welsh, Alexander. From Copyright to Copperfield: The Identity of Dickens.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.
West, George Montgomery. The Emigrant’s Companion and Guide from Liver­
pool in Engl. and to the Continent of America: And More Especially to the
Fertile Region of Ohio, in the Western Territory. Hodgson & Co, 1830.
Winship, Michael. “The Transatlantic Book Trade and Anglo-American Liter-
ary Culture in the Nineteenth Century”. Reciprocal Influences: Literary Pro-
duction, Distribution, and Consumption in America. Ed. Steven Fink and
Susan S. Williams. Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1999. 98–122.
List of Contributors

Melissa Adams-Campbell is Assistant Professor of English at Northern

Illinois University. Her research interests include Early American
Literature with a focus on transatlantic fiction, women authors, and
­Native American studies. She is currently finishing a book manuscript
entitled, New World Courtship: Transatlantic Alternatives to Com-
panionate Marriage.
Annika Bautz is Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in English at
Plymouth University. Her publications include The Reception of
Jane Austen and Walter Scott: A Comparative Longitudinal Study
­(Continuum, 2007)  and several essays on the history of the book,
reading and reception.
Matthew E. Duquès is currently Assistant Professor at the University
of North Alabama. He completed his Ph.D. in English at Vanderbilt
University in the summer of 2013. Prior to completing his dissertation
he was the Robert Penn Warren Center Fellow in American Studies at
Vanderbilt University.
Clare Frances Elliott is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at
­Northumbria University. She is the co-editor with Leslie Elizabeth Eckel
of The Edinburgh Companion to Atlantic Literary Studies (Edinburgh
University Press, 2016) and (with Michael Patrick Cullinane) of Inter-
national Perspectives on Presidential Leadership (Routledge, 2014).
Elizabeth Fay is Professor of English at the University of M
­ assachusetts
Boston. She is the author of five books, most recently Fashioning
Faces: The Portraitive Mode in British Romanticism (University of
New Hampshire Press, 2010); she has also co-edited three v­ olumes,
most recently Urban Identity and the Atlantic World (Palgrave
­Macmillan, 2013).
Kathryn N. Gray is a Reader in Early American Literature at ­Plymouth
University. She is the project leader of the Transatlantic ­Exchanges fo-
rum and author of John Eliot and the Praying Indian of ­M assachusetts
Bay: Communities and Connections in Puritan New England
­(Bucknell, 2013).
232  List of Contributors
Simon Peter Hull is Assistant Professor of English at the University of
Science Malaysia and is the author of Charles Lamb, Elia, and The
London Magazine: Metropolitan Muse (Pickering & Chatto, 2010).
Katie McGettigan is a Lecturer in American Literature at Royal
­Holloway, University of London. Her first book, Herman Melville:
Modernity and the Material Text  is forthcoming from the Univer-
sity Press of New England, and she is currently working on a study
of how publication in Britain shaped the development of a national
­A merican tradition in the antebellum period. Her research is funded
by the ­L everhulme Trust.
Leonard von Morzé is Associate Professor of English at the University of
Massachusetts Boston. He is the co-editor of Urban Identity and the
Atlantic World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and the author of several
essays on early American literature and the Enlightenment.
Diana Powell is the Curriculum Manager for Study Skills and T­ utorials
at Liverpool International College, and she teaches Continuing
­Education classes at the University of Liverpool  on Victorian and
crime fiction. Her thesis examined Sir Walter Scott’s influence on
­Victorian authors.
Julia Straub is Senior Lecturer in Literatures in English at the English
Department of the University of Berne, Switzerland. Her first mono-
graph is entitled A Victorian Muse: The Afterlife of Dante’s Beatrice
in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Continuum, 2009), and she has
recently finished her second monograph entitled: The American
Memory of Literature, 1770–1850: Transatlantic Discourse, Media
and Practices (forthcoming).

abolition 19, 209n8 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

abolitionist 4, 20, 21, 22, 26, 28, 31, 40–1
204, 209n8 Blake, William 11, 196–208
absentee landlords 19 Blake, William poems: Songs of
Act for the Abolition of the Slave Innocence and Experience 196, 198;
Trade of 1807 20 The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Adams, John Reverend 30–1, 34 196, 206; America: A Prophecy 196,
Addison, Joseph 38–9, 43–4, 49 197, 208n5; Europe: A Prophecy
Adorno, Theodor 182, 191n19 196, 207; Milton 196, 201; “Auguries
Albion 198 of Innocence” 200; “The Mental
Alcott, Bronson 198 Traveller” 201; A Vision of the Last
Allen, Paula Gunn 170, 85n2, n17 Judgement 202; prophetic books 196,
Allen, Richard 93, 96 197, 200, 204–05, 207–08
American Antiquarian Society 149, 162 Brackenridge, Hugh Henry 152–53,
Anderson, Benedict 158 156–57
anthologies 153–54, 162, 166n8 Bradford, Andrew 150
anti-abolition 21 British grain shortage 20
Antigua 5, 20–4, 26, 28, 31, 33n9, Brown, Arthur A. 46
33n12 Brown, Charles Brockden 11, 54, 93,
archive 149, 161, 162, 165 96, 155, 171–89; Arthur Mervyn
Aristotle 38 96, 174, 176, 183, 191n20;
Atlantic Double-Cross (Weisbuch) Ormond 11, 96, 172–89, 190n8,
195 191n20
Atlantic World; Transatlantic World, Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte
54–5, 57–60, 63, 65, 66n7, 95, 99, de 55–7, 63, 66
110, 118, 165, 177, 189, 195–96; Bulwer-Lytton, Edward 9, 10, 13n10,
and transatlantic world 3, 9, 11; 112–40; Last Days of Pompeii,
and German Atlantic world 117. The 112–40; Leila or the Siege of
Atlantic trade 19 Granada 117, 118
Austen, Jane 19–33, 77, 140n6, Burke, Edmund 33n8, 38, 42, 58
142n20; Mansfield Park, 5, 8, 19,
21, 22, 25, 28 Carey, Mathew 93, 96, 99, 151,
163–64, 166n9
Babylon 35, 36, 40–1, 43, 45, Caritat, Hocquet 173
49, 50n1 Carlyle, Thomas 195, 198
Bannet, Eve Tavor 10, 12, 72, 173, cash nexus 19, 21
186 Child, Lydia Maria 8, 93–110 Cholera
Baym, Nina 72, 74, 79–80 outbreak of 1832 94, 97–8
Beygang, Johann Gottlob 173, 174, circum-Atlantic 7, 12n7
176, 179 Clarkson, Thomas 28, 31
234 Index
coffee house 44, 46, 49, 156–57 Flint, Kate 72–3, 218
Cole, Thomas 101 Foster, Hannah Webster 69–70, 73–5,
Coleridge, Samuel T. 101, 190n12, 80–3, 85n7; Boarding School, The
195, 198, 202 85n6, 69, 73
colonial 4, 19, 20–4, 30–2, 33n14, Franklin, Benjamin 150, 152, 163,
55–73, 78, 80, 82–3, 85n7, 93, 155, 166n8, 221
166n3, 174 free indirect speech 22, 24
Conway, Moncure 204–05 French revolution 179, 184, 187, 197
Cooper, James Fennimore 53, 80, 112, Frye, Northrop 200–01
115, 226 Fulford, Tim 7, 72–3, 77
copyright 9–11, 13n9, 113–17, 141n9, Fuller, Margaret 151, 197, 198
141n18, 212, 216–17, 221–22, 226,
228n2 Gell, William 120; Pompeiana 120
cost-benefit 20 geography 20–3, 26–8, 187, 218, 219,
Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John de 1, 220; geohistory 27
2, 7, 8, 11, 12, 53–65; Letters 1, 2, Gilbert, F. 119
53–9, 65; Journey 6, 53–66 Gilchrist, Alexander 196, 198, 204,
Cronin, Richard 41 206, 209n10
cultural memory 149, 150, 159, 161, Giles, Paul 2, 3, 195, 197, 208n4,
165 228n8
Cusani, Francesco 121, 122, 142n23 Gillies, John, 102
customary privileges: perquisites 21 Gleeson, Joseph 127, 130–31
go-between 5–7, 53–9, 63, 65–6;
De Quincey, Thomas 40, 41; “On intermediary 2, 4, 6–7, 57–62
Murder Considered as One of the Godwin, William 75, 173–75, 178,
Fine Arts” 40; “Second Paper on 183–87, 191n20, 192n24
Murder Considered as One of the Goldsmith, Oliver 102, 221
Fine Arts” 40 Gothic 22, 25–9, 39, 47, 49, 54,
Dibdin, Charles 226 176–81, 187–88, 190n10
Dickens, Charles 10, 212, 115, guidebook 4, 11–12, 112, 121–22,
142n21, 213–28; American Notes 129, 140n2, 212–28
212, 217–21, 228n5; Bleak House Gustafson, Sandra 100, 166n1
227, 228n1; Martin Chuzzlewit
212, 217–23, 228n1; The Pickwick Habermas, Jürgen 149, 156, 159
Papers 215 Harpers (publishers) 114–18, 139,
Dicks, John 119 141n11, 141n13–16, 143n36
Drinker, Elizabeth 93 Hawthorne, Nathaniel 112, 198
Ducray-Duminil, François Guillaume Hays, Mary 69–70, 75–6, 80–3;
179–82 Female Biography 69, 75
Duscher, Richard 124–25 Hemans, Felicia 69, 76–9, 83,
85n8–11; Records of Woman 69,
education reform 19 76–8
Emerson, Ralph Waldo 11, 53, 112, Herder, Johann Gottfried 178, 190n14
195–208, 209n8; essays: “Nature” Hogg, James 41
198, 201, 203; “The American Hoit, Moore 93
Scholar” 198, 199, 209n8; Holmes, Oliver Wendell 199
“Self-Reliance” 201; “Poetry and Holmes, Sherlock 46
Imagination” 202; “Inspiration” Hotten, James Camden 204–06, 208
203; Letters and Social Aims
201–03; Essays: First Series 198; imagined communities 97
English Traits 199 individualism 20, 27, 59
Enlightenment 20, 71, 76, 95, 167n11, Irving, Washington 36, 49, 50n1,
171, 177 190n12, 221; The Sketch Book of
Equiano, Olaudah 26 Geoffrey Crayon, Gent 36, 49
Index  235
Jacobinism 19 Oertel, Friedrich von 171–89
James, Henry 6, 48–9; Essays in
London and Elsewhere, 48 Paine, Thomas 197
Jean Paul (Johann Paul Friedrich Parrish, Susan Scott 12n6, 57, 93
Richter) 172, 178–79 Peabody, Elizabeth 198, 203, 208,
Jefferson, Thomas 1, 55–6, 63–4, 66, 209n6, n7
166n8 Pigault de Maubaillarcq 181
Jones, Absalom 93, 96 Pintard, John 98
plantations: plantation owners
Kant, Immanuel 159 (planters) 19–31, 33n12, 150
Kirchbach, F. 119, 130–33, 142n27 Plato; Platonist 99, 102–08
plantocracy 20, 23, 25
labour force 20 Pocahontas 7, 69–85
Lamb, Charles 41 Pocahontas, Disney 84
Lane, William 173–74 Poe, Edgar Allen 5, 35–50, 93;
Leipziger Literaturzeitung (Beygang) “The Man of the Crowd,” 5, 35–6,
174, 176 39–47; “How to Write a Blackwood
Lord Macartney 32 Article” 40–1; “Eleonora” 47; “The
Lukacs, Georg 41 Oval Portrait” 47; “The Fall of the
House of Usher” 47
Madison, James 95 Pompeii 97, 112–13, 118, 120–31,
madness 47, 197, 199–200, 202, 136–40, 142n22, 142n29, 143n32
208 Portsmouth 5, 23–5, 27–8, 32
magazine 149–65, 166n2–3, 166n7–8, politeness 155–57, 165
167n9, 178 public sphere 19, 149, 156–57, 159
Manning, Susan 1, 36, 189n3
Mansfield ruling, The 19 Railway Library 113, 119, 132, 133
Martin, John 43, 50n3; Belshazzar’s readership 4, 9, 122, 151, 163, 165,
Feast 43 166n4, 174, 196–97, 204–08, 213
Martineau, Harriet 216 Rembrandt 183–84
Marx, Karl 177 Reynolds, G. W. M. 46
Mecom, Benjamin 158, 159, revolution 2, 20, 31, 48, 58–60, 71–2,
166n8 85n7, 95, 97, 178–79, 184, 187,
Melville, Herman 11, 112, 212–14, 198
216, 222–28; “Bartleby the Rossetti, Dante Gabriel 196, 204, 206,
Scrivener” 227; “Hawthorne and 208
His Mosses” 225; Moby-Dick 227; Rossetti, William Michael 196, 204,
Redburn 212, 214, 222–28 206, 208
Minerva Press 173, 186, 188 Rowson, Susannah 96
Mississippi 216, 220 Rush, Benjamin 93, 190n12
Mitford, William 102
moral; moralism; morality 5, 8, 9, 19, Said, Edward 3, 4, 7, 12n4, 21, 22,
23, 26, 29–33, 35, 38, 40, 43, 45–9, 29, 33n3–4, 33n11; countrapuntal
73, 79, 85n7, 103, 106–07, 115, method 5, 21–3, 33n4
118, 120–27, 135, 138–40, 157, Schlegel, August Wilhem 176–77, 180
164, 175, 183, 212–27 Scott, Walter 115, 120, 122, 140n6, 202
Mudie, Robert 43; Babylon the Sedgwick, Catharine Maria 112; Hope
Great, 43 Leslie 69, 80–3, 85n14
mysticism 200 September massacres 197
Shandy, Walter 108
Napoleon 173, 177, 187–88 Sigourney, Lydia 69, 78–80, 83
natural knowledge 6–7, 12, 53–66 Simmel, Georg 39, 48–9
Norris, John 28 slave narratives 25–6
Novalis 176 slave trade 8, 19–20, 24, 30–1, 209n5
236 Index
slavery 5, 8, 12, 20–31, 94, 97, 100, translation: as cultural transfer
108, 109, 208n5, 216, 221, 228n8 171–89; as foreignising 187, 189;
Slauter, Eric 97 “translation factories” 179
Smith, Charlotte 178 Trollope, Frances 216
Smith, Elihu Hubbard 93 Turner, Charles Thackrah 39
Smith, John 69–70, 73–5, 79, 85n4, 85n7 Twain, Mark 112
Smith, Sidney 195
Smithsonian Institution 162 Warner, Susan 119
Solbrig, Christian Friedrich 179 Weaver, Jace 73
Sorrows of Young Werther, The Weisbuch, Robert 190n5, 195–96,
(Goethe) 185 199, 205, 227
Speed, Lancelot 125–26, 142n24 Westphalia, Treaty of 117
Stanyan, Temple 102 Whitman, Walt 195, 196, 203–08;
sugar; sugar production; sugar Leaves of Grass 203–04, 206–07;
protests 19, 20–1, 28, 31–2 ‘Song of Myself’ 206–07
superstructure 22, 32 Wilde, Oscar 45, 49
Swinburne, Algernon Charles 204–08; West Indies 27, 177
textual instability 10, 196 Wilhelm, August 184
Winterer, Caroline 100, 142n25
Taylor, Andrew 36, 189n3 Wisecup Kelly 93
Thomas, Isaiah 153 Wollstonecraft, Mary 29, 75, 185,
Thoreau, Henry David 53, 195 187, 192n24
Thucydides 101 Woolf, Virginia 38–9, 41, 43
Tocqueville, Alexis de 8, 98–101, Wordsworth, William 39–40, 49, 101,
104, 110 195, 198, 200, 202–03
tourism 112, 213
transcendence 200–03, 208 Yellow Fever epidemic 95, 175
transitive: transitivity (intransitive) Yohn, F. C. 128, 131–32
1–7, 10–12, 118, 172; intransitive
38, 44 Zizek, Slavoj 46