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[234] Wanderer, The Saunterer, and The Loiterer, and such editorial pseudonyms as Jonathan Oldstyle, Oliver Oldschool, and John Oldbug were significant of the attempt to catch the literary tone of the previous age. But the essay of manners, a product of leisurely urban life, was not easily adapted to the environment of a sparsely settled, bustling young republic. “Perhaps, indeed,” wrote the Rev. David Graham of Pittsburg, “it is impossible to give interest and standing popularity, to a periodical essay paper, constructed upon the model of the British Essayist, in an infant country.” 1 Even in the populous cities “where the inhabitants amount to several thousand” there was little interest in the art of living. Reprehensible luxury and eccentric characters were hard to discover. But by dint of persistent attempts the essay of manners was made to grow in the new soil.

Perhaps the most successful “American Addison” was Joseph Dennie (1768-1812), who was “reasonably tinged with literature” while resisting a Harvard education, and after a short trial of the law, devoted his desultory talents to periodical writing until his death. He kindled the first sparks of a reputation by the Farrago essays, contributed to various country newspapers, but his Tablet, a hopeful weekly paper devoted to belles lettres, failed to set Boston ablaze. Yankee readers objected to his exercises in the manner of Goldsmith and Addison as “sprightly rather than moral.” While a law-student, Dennie had supplemented his income by reading sermons in unsupplied churches, and now to gain a hearing he fitted each of his lucubrations with a text and tempered his sentiments ostensibly for the pulpit. The lay Preacher, commenced in 1795, won immediate applause. Seven years later John Davis, the traveller, declared it the most widely read work in America, and its popularity contributed largely to the author's success as editor, first of The Farmer's weekly Museum at Walpole, New Hampshire, and finally of that notable literary gazette, the Philadelphia Port Folio.

Though Dennie collaborated with his friend Royall Tyler in a melange of light prose and verse “From the shop of Messrs. Colon & Spondee,” which later developed into a series

1 The Pioneer, consisting of Essays, Literary, Moral and Theological, Pittsburg, 1812. P. 31.

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