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Chapter 1: travellers and observers, 1763-1846

Lane Cooper, Ph.D., Professor of English in Cornell University.

The literature of travel, fresh, varied, and cosmopolitan, doubtless owes its principal charm to its effect upon the sense of wonder, and hence in the last analysis is to be understood in its bearing upon imagination and poetic art; but its relation to history and geography is not superficial. Accordingly, we may first recall such dates and events as will suggest in outline the expanding region in which the second great division of American travellers range. With the close of the French and Indian War begins the supremacy of the English-speaking race in North America. Before twenty years had passed, the Colonies, no longer a mere fringe of population along the Atlantic, have achieved their independence, and possess a territory reaching inland to the Mississippi. Twenty years later, in 1803, comes the Louisiana Purchase, when the wily Napoleon, for a consideration, and to thwart his colonizing foe across the Channel, endowed the Americans with a tract of land extending from that great river north-west to the Rocky Mountains, the importance of which even Jefferson, with his westward-looking eyes, was unable to grasp in full. Another eight years, and there is a temporary check in the Astoria Settlement, later recorded by Irving. Then comes the War of 1812-14, and after it a rapid inrush of immigration. Of the native citizens, two generations have been born since the War of Independence; Revolutionary heroes are passing; and the new leaders are alien to England. The nation has become distinct. In 1819 Spain relaxes her feeble hold upon Florida. [186] In 1823, twenty years after the Louisiana Purchase, the utterance of the Monroe Doctrine announces to the world the position of the United States in the Occident. Meantime internal waterways and highroads have been developed; and subsequently, during the presidency of Jackson, the steam locomotive is introduced. The year 1845 marks the annexation of Texas; and with the cession of New Mexico and California in 1848, the country virtually assumes its present proportions. Almost a century has passed since the nondescript Captain Carver, immediately after the French and Indian War, conceived the idea of opening up the vast north-western tract to the enterprise of Great Britain. The interest of travellers has shifted from the character and habits of the roving Indian to the domestic manners of East and West, North and South; and science has moved from a less impersonal, yet fairly exact, observation of plants and animals, or of subterranean rivers in a terrestrial paradise, to the precise geology of a Featherstonhaugh or a Lyell.

This period of travel saw the rise of modem geography as an exact science, and the development of the ancillary sciences, geology, botany, zoology, and anthropology. If the great epoch of modern geographical discovery began with 1768 and the voyages of the Englishman Captain Cook, the scientific elaboration of results by Continental investigators also mainly occupied the second half of the eighteenth century. Linnaeus was still alive, and had followers collecting specimens in America. Zimmermann, who translated the Travels of William Bartram into German, likewise ushered in the study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals as well as of mankind; while Blumenbach the anthropologist was making his famous collection of human skulls at Gottingen. The first work on physical geography ever published, that of the Swede Bergman, appeared in 1766, shortly before the time when books of American travel began to grow numerous. The influence of Continental science upon American observers is often obvious, as in the case of Linnaeus, to which Zimmermann refers in his translation of Bartram. Indeed, a pupil of Linnaeus, Pehr Kalm, who has been included among the botanists of Philadelphia, is remembered for his description of Niagara Falls. But the influence was pervasive and general, so that geography [187] proper soon became domesticated in this country. The Geography made easy of Jedidiah Morse, first published at New Haven in 1784, quickly went through a number of editions and transformations. About 1796 President Dwight of Yale, in his Travels, records that a work of Morse is studied by both freshmen and sophomores, probably referring to a revision of the more extensive American geography of 1789. Dwight himself made judicious use of it. The indefatigable Morse, though not a Humboldt, a Ritter, or a Leopold von Buch, was a lowly precursor of the European scientists who furnished the next generation with ideals in geography and travel.

If territorial expansion and the development of geographical science are to be noted in studying the literature of travel, the general background of eighteenth-century thought must not be forgotten. The so-called rationalism of the French, with its tendency to destroy traditional distinctions, to suppress imagination, and yet to end in a kind of deism, is too large a subject for more than passing notice. On the other hand, we may dwell for a moment upon the sentimental treatment of external nature in Rousseau, and upon his conception, in part derived from early American travellers, of the “natural” man in a terrestrial paradise. Such a being could, in fact, exist only in a tropical or sub-tropical environment such as the favoured regions in which the first American explorers and missionaries encountered the natives. Yet the transference of the idea to the Indians of North America was easy in an age when popular geography was vague; and the faith of the Jesuits in the potential goodness of the savage doubtless helped to propagate a general belief that the aborigines were noble. The idea, which seems rather to have come from the travellers than from Rousseau, but possibly is dormant in almost every educated mind, is well established in American literature from William Bartram to Fenimore Cooper. The related notion of social equality in a state of nature has a more solid basis. As in Cravecoeur's American Farmer, it grows out of the facts of life in a new agricultural settlement.

An opposite conception was also prevalent. Side by side with the ideal of an eloquent stoic, artless, magnanimous by nature, we find-often in the same book of travels — the cruel savage as he is, vengeful and impure. Montaigne, indeed, a [188] predecessor of Rousseau in admiring the unlettered aborigines, had held that the European surpassed the savage in barbarity; yet when he turns from the ideal to the actual, there is but a step between Montaigne and Hobbes, who declares the life of nature to be “nasty, solitary, brutish, and short.” And Hobbes merely anticipates Voltaire and Pauw, whose unedifying pictures of American natives were put together from the accounts of travellers. We have, then, in the literature of Europe the same opposition between observed fact and preconceived notion that we meet in Bartram or Carver. On the one hand, we have La Jeune Indienne of Chamfort, presented at the Theatre Francais in 1764, or Rousseau's Chanson des Sauvages and Danse Canadienne; on the other, a debate among the learned on the question whether the villainy of the Indians was original, or had been acquired through contact with civilization. In De l'amerique et des Americains, published at Berlin in 1771, the anonymous author attacks the theories of Pauw, and vigorously contends that the savages were evil enough to begin with.

Man in a state of nature suggests solitude; and solitude, with its charms for the eighteenth-century poet, suggests the so-called “feeling for nature” that of late has been much discussed by literary students in dealing with that period. Though the point is not always made clear, the actual topic under discussion is the Neoplatonic doctrine of divine immanence. To a man who believes in this, the world, with its plants and animals, is no longer a work of art, shaped by the fingers of a Master-Artist; it is filled with a subtle spirit which is interfused in all material and living things, “rolls” through them, and is their principle of movement and pulsation. In one form or another, this notion of immanence, familiar in the earlier poems of Wordsworth, characterizes the reaction against the age of reason, and may be found in many observers of nature in America. Its origin is obscure; nor can one readily see why Neoplatonic ideas should cast a spell over minds so diverse as those of Rousseau, Goethe, Wordsworth, and the Quaker Bartram. The suggestion has been made that the writings of the mystic Boehme had an influence upon the Society of Friends. But the sources of the “feeling for nature” are likely to have been as various as the evidences of it in American travellers. [189]

Against the background thus rapidly sketched we are to project a hundred years of travel and observation. The wealth and variety of material are very great. For the period in question, one bibliographer has recorded 413 titles of works bearing upon the single state of Illinois; for the same region between 1818 and 1865, he notes 69 British travellers, 53 American, and 31 German. For the country as a whole, a second writer has listed forty-five books of the sort by foreigners between 1789 and 1820. Whether of American or foreign origin, such books were not restricted to one volume; gradually there came to be two or three, and sometimes four. And commonly the route described was one of these: from New York to Albany, and thence across to Niagara Falls; from an eastern port south to Savannah by boat, then overland to Mobile and New Orleans, and up the Mississippi; from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and from the Mississippi up the Missouri to the North-west. Canadian travellers followed the St. Lawrence.

As the lists would indicate, the literature is cosmopolitanan inference that is confirmed in other ways. Not only were the works of foreigners turned into English, but British and American observers were translated on the Continent: Bartram into French, German, and Dutch; Crevecoeur into French (by himself) and German; Weld into Italian, Dutch, and German; and so on. Again, the same work, as, for example, Bartram's, might be published in the same year at Philadelphia and at London or Dublin, or first in this country, and then abroad, or vice versa. And finally, the borrowings from earlier by later travellers, irrespective of tongues, are endless.

Confining ourselves as far as possible to British and American travellers, we may say that their motives were as various as their callings and station, and ran from the lust of a Daniel Boone for new solitudes, through the desire to promote the fur trade or immigration, and through semi-scientific or scientific curiosity, to the impulses of the literary artist or to the religious aims of the missionary. George Rogers Clark, Logan, and Boone were pioneers. Fearon, Darby, and Faux came to study conditions for emigrants. Bernard, Tyrone Power, and Fanny Kemble were actors. Wilson, Nuttall, and Audubon were professed ornithologists; the Bartrams and Michaux, botanists. [190] Schoolcraft was an ethnologist, Chevalier a student of political economy, Fanny Wright a social reformer. Grund, Combe the phrenologist, and Miss Martineau had a special interest in humanitarian projects. Richard Weston was a bookseller, John M. Peck a Baptist missionary, DeWitt Clinton, who explored the route of the future Erie Canal, a statesman. Many others had eyes trained in surveying. Boone was a surveyor, like Washington himself-and Washington may be classed with the observers and diarists. Buckingham, a traveller by vocation, had journeyed about the world for thirty years before visiting America; nor did he feel his obligation ended when he had published the customary three stout volumes. Crevecoeur actually was a farmer, though he was more, and Richard Parkinson, very definitely, a student of agriculture. The abusive Ashe came to examine the “western” rivers, and to observe the products and actual state of the adjacent country. Among transients from the Continent were Chastellux, the friend of Washington, Chateaubriand, with his youthful plan of helping Washington to discover the Northwest Passage, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, a fair observer, and De Tocqueville, who wrote his classic treatise on America after a brief visit for the purpose of studying prisons. “Charles Sealsfield” (Karl Postl), whose several periods of residence were longer, who wrote in English, yet more in German, and whose tombstone in Switzerland calls him “ein Buerger von Nordamerika,” is hard to classify.

The commonest type among these works seems to be the journal, which is the form used by William Bartram; but the epistolary type, represented by Crevecoeur, by Dwight, and by Wirt in his Letters of the British spy, is very common. The general range of substance is displayed by circumstantial titles in the Bibliography. Among objects of interest to many were, in the early years of the Republic, the persons of Washington and Jefferson, and, in his time, the picturesque figure of Jackson; and among natural wonders, Niagara Falls, the “Rock Bridge” of Virginia, and the Mammoth Cave. This, after its discovery by Hutchins in 1809, took its place in the attractions of Kentucky with the furry cap of Boone. The Indians, of course, supplied an unfailing interest. Their habits, as in Bartram, speculation concerning their origin, as in Timothy [191] Dwight, and remarks upon their language, as in Carver, are stock material; so, too, such lists as Carver's of plants and animals. Another topic is seen in Gilbert Imlay's anticipations of states to be formed from the land to the north and west of the Ohio. Or an occasional enthusiast, possibly remembering Berkeley's project for educating the natives, will found an imaginary school of letters in a suitable landscape. Thus Stansbury in central New York, almost fifty years before the opening of Cornell University, deems the site of Ithaca most fitting for a college: “Inexhaustible stores for the study of natural history will always be at hand, and for all other sciences the scholar will be secluded in a romantic retirement which will give additional zest to his researches.” The attention of others, as Fanny Kemble and Harriet Martineau, is drawn to the negro and his master in the South, more than ever, perhaps, after the anti-slavery agitation in England.

But the interest in slavery, in frontier life, and indeed in all the main topics of the later travellers, is not peculiar to them, partly because essentials are necessarily repeated, partly because subsequent observers have read, and often consciously imitate, their predecessors. Crevecoeur's ghastly picture of the slave in chains would impress any sensitive reader. But nowhere could imitation be clearer than in respect to impossible marvels, which even the steadiest early observers like Bartram are impelled to relate. We read in his description of an enraged alligator: “The waters like a cataract descend from his opening jaws; clouds of smoke issue from his dilated nostrils” ; and, aware that this guileless traveller was merely yielding to custom, we are not led to undervalue his notes on sub-tropical fauna. Nor are we forced to discredit an entire later work, wherein adventures, like some of those in Ashe, may be altogether imaginary. Further, when unconscious imitation passes into extensive borrowing, as in Carver, we must recall the tolerance which the eighteenth century showed to this sort of indebtedness, and not condemn the debtor out of hand. So late as the year 1836, Irving could employ good sources in his own way, with a general acknowledgment of the fact in his Introduction.

For various reasons the earlier travels are more interesting; and it may be said that the best of them appeared, or were written, between 1775 and x800. We may select as typical the [192] Travels of Carver (1778), the Travels of William Bartram (1791), and the Letters from an American Farmer of Crevecoeur (1782).

The dubious personal history of Carver, and questions as to the authenticity of his book, will excuse the introduction of certain details in his biography. Jonathan Carver, the ostensible author of Travels through the interior parts of North America in the years 1766, 1767, and 1768, was not the great-grandson of the first colonial Governor of Connecticut, but was probably born in humble circumstances at Canterbury in that state. In 1746 he married Abigail Robbins, by whom he had seven children; he later contracted a bigamous marriage in England. The extent of his education has been disputed; but he seems to have had some knowledge of surveying and map-making, with perhaps a smattering of medicine. His title-page calls him “J. Carver, Esq., Captain of a Company of Provincial Troops during the Late War with France” ; and he probably was captured with Burk's company of rangers in 1757, when he was “wounded in his Leg at the bloody Massacree of the unhappy Garrison of Fort William Henry at Lake George.” The war over, he says he began to think of exploring the most unknown parts of England's new territory. In the opinion of a severe critic, Professor Edward G. Bourne, Carver's actual journey was limited to this: he went from Boston to Michilimackinac, thence by way of the Fox River and the Wisconsin to the Mississippi, and thence up the Minnesota; returning, he explored northern Wisconsin and the northern shore of Lake Superior. Failing in Boston to publish an account of his discoveries, in 1769 he went to England with a project for further exploration in the North-west. The pecuniary aid accorded him as a needy person by the Government would argue some recognition of his services. He evidently enlisted the sympathy of Dr. Lettsom and others who took an interest in his schemes, and, like many another, no doubt received help with the manuscript before his Travels were published in 1778. But he failed in his main endeavour, and is said to have “died in misery, in 1780, at the age of 48.”

His book instantly became popular, and it so remained, as twenty-three editions and translations bear witness. The author or compiler, whoever he was, understood the public, was a man of some imagination, and knew how to combine [193] Carver's own material with observations from previous writers; nor does he fail to mention, in the casual way of the time, authorities like Charlevoix and Adair, from whom, as we now look at things, we must say he unblushingly filches. Here is one of the examples pointed out by Professor Bourne. Charlevoix had said of the Indians in the English translation:

On the smoothest grass, or the hardest earth, even on the very stones, they will discover the traces of an enemy, and by their shape and figure of the footsteps, and the distance between their prints, they will, it is said, distinguish not only different nations, but also tell whether they were men or women who have gone that way.

And in Carver we read:

On the smoothest grass, on the hardest earth, and even on the very stones, will they discover the traces of an enemy, and by the shape of the footsteps, and the distance between the prints, distinguish not only whether it is a man or woman who has passed that way, but even the nation to which they belong.

In spite of his borrowings, and in spite of incredible and monstrous stories, even worse than the sordid actualities of savage life, Carver maintains that he is strictly veracious:

I shall in no instance exceed the bounds of truth, or have recourse to those useless and extravagant exaggerations too often made use of by travellers, to excite the curiosity of the public, or to increase their own importance. Nor shall I insert any observations but such as I have made myself, or, from the credibility of those by whom they were related, am enabled to vouch for their authenticity.

These false pretensions easily lead one to underestimate the element of truth in the narrative, and Carver's share in its production. Carver was not too uneducated to make notes and gather materials for a book. He could write a long coherent letter to his first wife, and specimens of his writing are not in the hand of an ignorant man. He, not less than his assistant or assistants in publication, could have met with the works of Charlevoix, Adair, and Lahontan in London book-stalls. But it was hardly his pen that made reference to Plato and Grotius.

The volume is dedicated “To Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society.” Then follows, in the second edition, a [194] magniloquent Address to the Public. The journal proper occupies but a third of the volume. Next come seventeen chapters on the origin, physique, and dress of the Indians, their manners and customs, their government, their food, dances, methods of warfare and games, and their language. The eighteenth deals with animals, birds-as, for example, “the Whipperwill, or, as it is termed by the Indians, the Muckawiss” --fishes, reptiles, and insects; the nineteenth, with the vegetable kingdom. There is an Appendix on the future of discovery, settlement, and commerce. In his Introduction Carver says:

What I chiefly had in view, after gaining a knowledge of the Manners, Customs, Languages, Soil, and natural Productions of the different nations that inhabit the back of the Mississippi, was to ascertain the Breadth of that vast continent which extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, in its broadest part between 43 and 46 Degrees Northern Latitude. Had I been able to accomplish this, I intended to have proposed to Government to establish a Post in some of those parts about the Straits of Annian, which, having been first discovered by Sir Francis Drake, of course belong to the English. This I am convinced would greatly facilitate the discovery of a North-West Passage, or a communication between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. . . . A settlement on that extremity of America . . . would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China and the English settlements in the East Indies, with greater expedition than a tedious voyage by the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan will allow of.

This was the dream that foreshadowed the present development of the entire North-west. It worked in the mind of Jefferson, took shape in the Lewis and Clark expedition and in the enterprise of John Jacob Astor, and reappeared in Irving's Astoria. Carver's volume still fastens upon the imagination, as it did in the time of Schiller, Wordsworth, and Chateaubriand.

Coleridge, who found pleasure in Carver's descriptions, doubtless set a higher value upon Bartram; he says in Table talk: “The latest book of travels I know, written in the spirit of the old travellers, is Bartram's account of his tour in the Floridas. It is a work of high merit every way.” The poet almost certainly refers, not to A Journal Kept by John Bartram [195] of Philadelphia, Botanist to His Majesty for the Floridas; but to the volume of Travels by his son, William Bartram. Yet it is difficult to mention the son without reference to the father, whom Linnaeus called the greatest self-taught botanist in the world. John Bartram, born in 1699, when almost seventy years old explored the St. John's River in Florida, accompanied by William, who in turn made a second journey to the region in 1773, “at the request of Dr. Fothergill, of London,” the English naturalist being zealous “for the discovery of rare and useful productions . . . chiefly in the vegetable kingdom.” Both father and son corresponded with European scientists, including Gronov and Dillen, but more particularly with Peter Collinson, through whom the elder Bartram came into relations with virtually all the distinguished naturalists of his time. The botanic garden for which the father began to collect in 1730, and which is now within the limits of Philadelphia, was justly famous. Here, it is said, Washington and Franklin were wont to sit and talk just prior to the Revolution; and Bartram's Garden is still an object of interest as the first establishment of its kind on this continent. From a local guide is extracted this description of its founder:

He was one of an early incorporated company to bank the Schuylkill and the Delaware, by which means he rescued, out of extensive swamps, arable land, and pasture for many cattle and horses; his crops of wheat challenge the farmer of to-day; he fertilized his orchard in an ingenious way that was a “miracle in husbandry.” Besides, he was stone-mason; his interesting old house he built with his own hands, quarrying the stone on his estate in a remarkable manner; see, also, in the Garden the watering-trough and the ciderpress, cut out of solid rock. And his record is fuller yet; he had to study Latin for his botany; he was enough acquainted with medicine and surgery to be of great help to his poorer neighbors; he delineated a plan for deep-sea soundings more than a hundred years before the Challenger expedition. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable. His joy in the revelations of nature was unbounded. What wonder that he was astonished when people complained that they were tired of time

His son William, called by the Seminoles “Puc-Puggy” (Flower-Hunter), was born at Kingsessing, Pennsylvania, 1739, [196] he and his twin-sister taking fifth place in the succession of children. He grew up with the Garden, accompanied his father on collecting tours, travelled himself, and published his Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida, the Cherokee country, the extensive territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the country of the Chactaws, as well as “the most complete and correct list of American birds prior to the work of Alexander Wilson” ; he lived in Philadelphia, unmarried, a student of science, caring for the Garden until his death in 1823. A professorship was offered him in 1782 by the University of Pennsylvania, but failing health led him to decline it. His manuscript work on the Indians was published by the American Ethnological Society in 1853.

The Travels reveal the enthusiasm of a man still young, with an eye that nothing escapes, not without poetical imagination or philosophical vision, and with a deep reverence for the Creative Spirit which he feels in all about him. The volume is divided into four Parts. In the first, the Introduction, he recounts the voyage by packet from Philadelphia to Savannah, whence he proceeds to the “Alatamaha” River. The second describes East Florida, and the ascent of St. John's River in a small canoe. On reaching Lake George, “which is a dilatation of the River St. Juan,” his vessel “at once diminished to a nutshell on the swelling seas.” The Indian whom he engaged to assist him on the upper river becoming weary, Bartram continues on alone, to encamp at an orange grove, to battle with alligators, and to observe “a large sulphureous fountain.” Descending again, he is robbed by a wolf, and so, after sundry adventures, arrives at the lower trading-house. He then “proceeds on a journey to Cuscowilla,” where he meets with a friendly reception from the “Siminoles,” and from there goes to view the “great bason” or sink, whose subterranean waters swarm with fish. In Part III, having returned to Charleston, he sets out for the Cherokee territories and the “Chactaw” country, going as far as Mobile, from which, turning back, he accompanies a band of traders to visit the Creeks. Again in the company of traders, he sets off for Georgia; from Augusta he revisits Savannah, whence he makes a “short excursion in the South of Georgia,” adding to his collection, and gathering seeds of “two new and very curious shrubs.” At Charleston [197] he began the overland journey northward through Virginia; he crossed the River Susquehanna on the ice, “next morning sat forward again towards Philadelphia,” and in two days more arrived at his father's house on the banks of the River Schuylkill, having been absent nearly five years.

Though collecting as a botanist and observing as an ornithologist, Bartram thus far has mainly been occupied with the Indians. In Part IV he discusses their persons, character, and qualifications, noting that they have the “most perfect human figure,” their government and civil society, their dress and amusements, property and occupations, marriage and funeral rites, and their language and monuments. The ready pencil of the naturalist provided the engraver with drawings of botanical and zoological subjects throughout the volume. The frontispiece represents “Mico Chlucco the Long Warrior, or King of the Siminoles,” whose dancing crest of splendid feathers flashes again in Wordsworth's Ruth.

A bare survey does scant justice to the richness of form and colour in Bartram's pages. At one time he is struck with “the tall aspiring Gordonia lasianthus.” “Its thick foliage, of a dark green colour, is flowered over with large milk-white fragrant blossoms, on long slender elastic peduncles, at the extremities of its numerous branches, from the bosom of the leaves, and renewed every morning” --the “budding, fading, faded flowers” of Ruth. Or again we see the solitary dejected “wood-pelican,” alone on the topmost limb of a dead cypress; “it looks extremely grave, sorrowful, and melancholy, as if in the deepest thought” --an image used by Wordsworth in Book Third of The Prelude. Of the “Alatamaha” Bartram says: “I ascended this beautiful river, on whose fruitful banks the generous and true sons of liberty securely dwell, fifty miles above the white settlements.” Allured by the “sublime enchanting scenes of primitive nature,” and by “visions of terrestrial happiness,” he wandered away to a grove at the edge of a luxuriant savannah:

How happily situated is this retired spot of earth! What an elysium it is! where the wandering Siminole, the naked red warrior, roams at large, and after the vigorous chase retires from the scorching heat of the meridian sun. Here he reclines and reposes under the [198] odoriferous shades of Zanthoxylon, his verdant couch guarded by the Deity; Liberty, and the Muses, inspiring him with wisdom and valour, whilst the balmy zephyrs fan him to sleep.

The apostrophes and redundant descriptions, which the rigorous German translator pruned away, did not prevent Zimmermann from calling Bartram's volume one of the most instructive works of the time. The faults of an unpractised writer are relieved by a constant cheerfulness, candour, and animation; “cheerful,” “cheering,” and “social” are favourite epithets. The words “animate,” “animating,” “vibration,” and the like, give a clue to his Neoplatonic and Hartleian philosophy, which subtly recommended him to contemporary European poets:

If, then, the visible, the mechanical part of the animal creation, the mere material part, is so admirably beautiful, harmonious, and incomprehensible, what must be the intellectual system? that inexpressibly more essential principle, which secretly operates within? that which animates the inimitable machines, which gives them motion, impowers them to act, speak, and perform, this must be divine and immortal?

There is a motion and a spirit in the environment itself: “At the reanimating appearance of the rising sun, nature again revives” ; “the atmosphere was now animated with the efficient principle of vegetative life” ; “the balmy winds breathed the animating odours of the groves around me.” “At the return of the morning, by the powerful influence of light, the pulse of nature becomes more active, and the universal vibration of life insensibly and irresistibly moves the wondrous machine. How cheerful and gay all nature appears.” In Bartram the “feeling for nature” is quite as distinct as the idea of the “natural” man. The social philosophy of the time is more apparent in Cravecoeur.

In a letter to Richard Henderson on the subject of immigrants, Washington writes (19 June, 1788):

The author of the queries may then be referred to the Information for those who would wish to remove to America, and [sic] published in Europe in the year 1784, by the great philosopher Dr. Franklin. Short as it is, it contains almost everything that needs to be known on the subject of migrating to this country. ... [199]

Of books at present existing, Mr. Jefferson's Notes on Virginia will give the best idea of this part of the continent to a foreigner; and the American Farmer's letters, written by Mr. Cravecoeur's (commonly called Mr. St. John), the French consul in New York, who actually resided twenty years as a farmer in that State, will afford a great deal of profitable and amusive information, respecting the private life of the Americans, as well as the progress of agriculture, manufactures, and arts in their country. Perhaps the picture he gives, though founded on fact, is in some instances embellished with rather too flattering circumstances.

“The name of our Family is St. Jean, in English St. John, a name as Antient as the Conquest of England by William the Bastard.” So writes St. Jean de Crevecoeur, but he puts “J. Hector St. John” on the title-page of his imaginary Letters from an American Farmer. Born at Caen, 31 January, 1735, at the age of sixteen he went to England. A seven years education there may explain the superiority of his English style over his French. Emigrating to Canada, he subsequently was resident in Pennsylvania, and in 1764 became a citizen of New York. After five years he settled as a farmer in Ulster County; at a mature age for the colonies he married Mehetable Tippet of Yonkers. He made journeys in New York and Pennsylvania, and to the west, to the south as far as Charleston-possibly to Jamaica, and into New England. In 1779, on attempting to return to France, he was imprisoned in New York City as a spy. When released, he went to England, sold his Letters for thirty guineas, and crossed to Normandy; we find him writing from Caen in 1781. Through the Countess de Houdetot of Rousseau's Confessions he was enabled to send a copy of his book to Franklin, then (1782) on a mission abroad. Instrumental in helping Americans in England to return to this country, when Crevecoeur himself came back, in 1783, it was to find his wife just dead, and his children in the care of strangers. Meanwhile he had been appointed French consul in New York. His travels with Franklin gave rise to a three-volume work, not so interesting as the Letters, entitled Voyage dans la Haute Pennsylvanie. From 1790 until his death at Sarcelles, 12 November, 1813, he lived in France.

The Letters of this “farmer of feelings” to a doubtless hypothetical [200] “W. S. Ecuyer” are dedicated “to the Abbe Raynal F. R.S.” :

Behold, Sir, an humble American Planter, a simple cultivator of the earth, addressing you from the farther side of the Atlantic .... As an eloquent and powerful advocate, you have pleaded the cause of humanity in espousing that of the poor Africans; you viewed these provinces of North America in their true light, as the asylum of freedom, as the cradle of future nations, and the refuge of distressed Europeans.

Of the twelve, the Introductory Letter is intentionally rambling. A former European guest having asked for a detailed account of colonial life, “neighbour James” seeks counsel of the minister, who tells him: “He that shall write a letter every day of the week will on Saturday perceive the sixth flowing from his pen much more readily than the first.” But the Farmer's wife dissuades him, unless the plan be followed secretly, so as not to arouse gossip. A chance allusion to the speeches of “friend Edmund,” that is, of Burke, accords with the attention to style in the letters that follow. “If they be not elegant,” says the minister, “they will smell of the woods, and be a little wild” ; but he also assures the Farmer: “Nature hath given you a tolerable share of good sense . . . some perspicuity,” and “a warmth of imagination which enables you to think with quickness.” The second letter takes up the situation, feelings, and pleasures of an American farmer, and the third, on “What is an American?” relates the diverting experiences of Andrew the Hebridean, in his first meeting with Indians. In the fourth we pass to the Island of Nantucket, while the fifth describes the education and employment of the islanders. In the sixth, after an account of Martha's Vineyard and the whale fishery, the author returns to a discussion of manners and customs, this topic continuing in the seventh and eighth. The ninth transfers us to Charleston and the South, where slavery brings the author to “an examination of what is called civilized society.” “Would you prefer the state of men in the woods to that of men in a more improved situation? Evil preponderates in both. . . . For my part, I think the vices and miseries to be found in the latter exceed those of the former.” In the tenth, a special inquiry of the correspondent abroad is met with a dissertation [201] on snakes and on the humming-bird. The eleventh is a letter “From Mr. Iw-n Al-z, a Russian Gentleman, describing the Visit he paid at my request to Mr. John Bertram, the celebrated Pennsylvania Botanist.” The twelfth and last pictures the distress of a “frontier man” --menaced by the savages, and unsettled by the revolt of the colonies,--who “would chearfully go even to the Mississippi, to find that repose to which we have been so long strangers” ; with his appeal to the Father of Nature, to the Supreme Being whose creative power inhabits “the immense variety of planets,” the volume closes.

Cravecoeur's pretext of an inquiring foreigner mirrored the curiosity of Europe respecting the colonies, and the way in which that curiosity was satisfied, not merely through the multiplying books of travel, but also through the exchange and publication of formal letters. Such was the origin of Jefferson's Notes on the state of Virginia; written in the year 1781, somewhat corrected and enlarged in the winter of 1782, for the use of a foreigner of distinction, in answer to certain Queries proposed by him. This serious piece of scientific writing, perhaps the most frequently printed treatise that has emanated from the South, was compiled by Jefferson while he was Governor of Virginia, and sent to M. Barbe de Marbois, Secretary of the French Legation. It was first issued at Paris (1784-85). The arid statistics, the details of agriculture, and the generally dry geography, important in their time, now mean less to the reader than do Jefferson's occasional flights in a loftier style, represented in the following:

The Natural Bridge, the most sublime of nature's works, though not comprehended under the present head [Cascades and Caverns], must not be pretermitted. . . . Though the sides of this bridge are provided in some parts with a parapet of fixed rocks, yet few men have resolution to walk to them and look over into the abyss. You involuntarily fall on your hands and feet, creep to the parapet, and peep over it. Looking down from this height about a minute gave me a violent headache. If the view from the top be painful and intolerable, that from below is delightful in an equal extreme. It is impossible for the emotions arising from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here; so beautiful an arch, so elevated, so light, and springing as it were up to heaven!


The influence of the Notes, of their author, and of Jeffersonian ideals, is constantly met in other works of description. The allusions to Washington himself are scarcely more frequent. In 1794 Henry Wansey, an English manufacturer, breakfasted with Washington, and “was struck with awe and admiration” ; but about the same time, Thomas Cooper, who, in a flying visit, found “land cheap and labour dear,” remarks that “the government is the government of the people and for the people.” And when John Davis, the pedestrian, had from 1798 to 1802 “entered, with equal interest, the mud-hut of the negro and the log-house of the planter,” he dedicated his book to Jefferson. Isaac Weld the Irishman, author of a widely read book on the United States and Canada, wrote one of his thirty-eight letters from Jefferson's then unfinished establishment at Monticello. He made mediocre pencil sketches of Niagara Falls, and the “Rock Bridge” of Virginia, but secured a picture of Mount Vernon from a friend. He visited the Dismal Swamp, saw Washington in a cheerful mood at a reception in Philadelphia, and culled observations on the Indians, helping himself at need from Carver and Jefferson. In Weld's account, the backsliding of the educated savage Joseph Brant became heroic.

With Weld, the strictures of the British travellers upon American life become sharp. A mild rejoinder to foreign depreciation soon appeared in the fictitious Letters of the British spy by the American jurist William Wirt, which purported to derive from the abandoned manuscript of “a meek and harmless” young Englishman of rank who was travelling incognito. Composed in a formal Addisonian manner, this defence of American statesmen and American eloquence is overcharged with allusions to Cicero and Demosthenes. Nevertheless, some of the descriptions cling to the mind.1 It is easy to perceive why the booklet went through so many editions, when one finds in it the leading men of the nation in 1803 under a thin disguise. Here, for example, is President Jefferson:

The . . . of the United States is in his person tall, meagre, emaciated; his muscles relaxed, and his joints so loosely connected as not only to disqualify him, apparently, for any vigorous exertion [203] of body, but to destroy everything like elegance and harmony in his air and movement.

Wirt's young nobleman denies to the President the gift of poetical fancy; yet Jefferson allowed such imaginative faculty as he possessed to dally with the theme of western exploration. As early as 1784 he was devising names for ten suggested states to the northwest-“Sylvania,” “Michigania,” “Metropolitamia,” etc.,--after the pseudo-classical taste of the day. He was therefore ready to promote discovery in the far North-west when the moment for action arrived. Indeed, before the Lewis and Clark enterprise, he had twice made plans for the same general undertaking. More particularly, while he was Vice-President of the American Philosophical Society, in 1793, he had arranged with the French botanist Michaux, then in this country, for an expedition which was to follow the Missouri and some tributary thereof to a point where these waters might communicate with the Columbia River, opening a way to the Pacific. The scheme fell through when Michaux became involved in a French marauding project against the Spanish, and lingered among the recruits in Kentucky. It seems that Meriwether Lewis, a young neighbour of Jefferson, had desired the position of leader in the great exploration.

Lewis, who in 1800 became private secretary to Jefferson, was born in 1774 of a prominent stock in Virginia. After five years at a Latin school, he studied botany on his mother's farm, then entered the army raised to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, and, serving as an officer under Wayne, rose to be a captain. In the eyes of Jefferson, Lewis was “brave, prudent, habituated to the woods, and familiar with Indian manners and character,” besides possessing “a great mass of accurate observation on all the subjects of nature.” When chosen to pilot the now famous expedition which bears his name, he further prepared himself by studying with competent scientists at Philadelphia; and feeling the need of a companion for the tour, he chose a friend of his boyhood, his elder by four years, Captain William Clark, also a soldier under Wayne, experienced in Indian warfare, and practised in the construction of forts. An unpolished, but staunch and friendly man, heartily returning the warm affection of Lewis, Clark accepted the opportunity [204] with spirit, and made ready to join him in seeking the information which Jefferson desired “for the benefit of our own country and of the world.” For a time it was Jefferson's pretence that the undertaking was “a literary enterprise.” But when the sale of Louisiana was ratified, there was no further need of concealing the interest of the Federal Government in the project.

Lewis left Pittsburgh on 31 August, 1803, to meet Clark in Kentucky. They wintered in Illinois, as Clark writes,

at the enterance of a Small river opposit the Mouth of Missouri Called Wood River, where they formed their party, Composed of robust helthy hardy young men.

In the spring the detachment of twenty-nine regular members and sixteen supernumeraries began the slow progress up the Missouri. They spent the next winter in a stockade in North Dakota, proceeding in the spring of 1805 to the source of the Jefferson Fork of the Missouri, and under many hardships crossing over the barrier mountains toward the end of summer. Going down the Columbia River, they reached the Pacific at the close of the autumn, to pass the winter in their Fort Clatsop-log huts enclosed by a palisade. Here they had leisure to study the natives and to compile records. In March, 1806, they began the return journey. After surmounting the difficult snow-clad barrier in June, the party divided, Lewis making his way to the Falls of the Missouri, and exploring Maria's River, Clark returning to the head of Jefferson Fork, proceeding thence to the Yellowstone River, and following this down to the Missouri. Coming together again in August, they went to St. Louis in September, having consumed about two and one-third years in the wilds.

The subsequent duties of Lewis as Governor of Louisiana Territory, and of Clark as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, delayed the preparation of the records, although Jefferson was ardent for their publication. In 1809, Lewis, while on his way to Washington and Philadelphia to take charge of the editing, met his death, probably by violence, in Tennessee; whereupon the unlettered Clark, at the urgent desire of Jefferson, undertook the task with the help of Nicholas Biddle of Philadelphia. [205] Biddle performed the major part of the editing, and then Paul Allen, a journalist, supervised the printing. After many vicissitudes, the work was published in February, 1814. Much of the scientific material, however, was not included; nor was a strictly accurate account of the expedition and its results ever given to the world until the recent edition (1904-1905) of the Original journals by Dr. Thwaites. Of the first edition, about 1400 copies were circulated, from the sale of which Clark apparently received nothing. Though the authentic work became popular in America and Europe, being reprinted and translated, the initial delay in publication, and the presence of other diarists in the party, made room for more than one earlier account of the expedition — for example, the Journal of Patrick Gass, of which there were five editions before 1814, as well as a French and a German translation in that year. However made known, the achievement of Lewis and Clark has won greater fame than any other geographical exploration ever undertaken within the United States proper. The Government expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains in 1819, under the command of Major Long, was more fruitful in technical results; and with the vast, though unmethodical, accumulations of Schoolcraft the data on Indians in the records edited by Biddle are not to be compared in value. But the authorized account of Jefferson's great enterprise, published in the concluding year of the final war with England, marked the fulfilment of Carver's vision, and betokened the approaching establishment of the United States as the ruling power in the Western Hemisphere.

When the strife of arms was settled by the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, a literary war between Great Britain and America burst into flame. It had long been smouldering. In the Travels of the Rev. Andrew Burnaby, of the Church of England, there was little to offend the jealous or sensitive American. This genial clergyman went through the “Middle settlements,” beginning with Virginia, in 1759 and 1760. His slender volume, published in 1775, had reached a third edition by 1798, being revised and enlarged, and was still valued in 1812 when Pinkerton chose it for his collection of travels in all parts of the world. Burnaby's affection for the colonies is only second to his love of England-He balances the advantages and disadvantages of North and [206] South, and of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. At “Prince-town” he finds “a handsome school and college for the education of dissenters, erected upon the plan of those in Scotland,” with “about twenty boys in the grammar-school, and sixty in the college.” There are “only two professors, besides the provost.” He sees beautiful homes along the Raritan River, and handsome ladies at “Brunswick” ; but the people of Rhode Island “are cunning, deceitful, and selfish” though he adds: “After having said so much to the disadvantage of this colony, I should be guilty of injustice and ingratitude, were I not to declare that there are many worthy gentlemen in it, who see the misfortunes of their country, and lament them.” The lower classes at Boston are insufferably inquisitive; yet “Arts and Sciences seem to have made a greater progress here than in any other part of America.” By 1798 Burnaby might well have revised his prediction that “America is formed for happiness, but not for empire.” Before this there had been critics more hostile, like J. F. D. Smyth; but in British travellers who really belong to the period about 1800, there is a new and characteristic note of displeasure. Weld remarks that the Pennsylvania farmers “live in a penurious style” ; they are “greatly inferior to the English.” The roads are “execrable,” and the Americans in general are prying. In Ashe, who had expected too much, the reaction against both people and customs is violent; he grieves because at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he “did not meet with a man of decent literature” ; and this is the mildest of his abuse. Weld, Parkinson, Ashe, and Bradbury, in a line, raise and re-echo the note of censure. Before Bradbury's work was published, there was a dismal chorus from the great British periodicals. As early as 1814 The Quarterly review was chiming in, to be duly followed by the Edinburgh and the British, and by Blackwood's magazine. Both Gifford and Sydney Smith lent their voices, and Southey was supposed by the Americans to have produced one of the bitterest attacks upon them. Various causes exasperated the discussion-discontented emigrants, discontent in England at the emigration, vainglory in America, especially over the outcome of the second war, the sensitiveness of Americans to the charge of inquisitiveness and lack of reserve, and, by no means least, the pirating of English books by American publishers. [207] The strife was at its height from 1814 to 1825. “In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue?” Such were the cordial questions put by Sydney Smith in The Edinburgh review for January, 1820. The sourness of the reviewers, great and small, reacted upon new books of travel, and prospective observers when they crossed the ocean came with the prepossession that democratic institutions in America had corrupted good manners. There was a recrudescence of the old theory, once formulated by Pauw, that everything deteriorated when transplanted from Europe. Fearon (1818) -“no lover of America,” said Sydney Smith,--Harris (1821), Welby (1821), and Faux (1823) gave the English public the reading it enjoyed, and the publishers welcomed fresh manuscript. “Have a passage ready taken for 'Merriker,” whispers Mr. Pickwick's friend Weller to Sam. “Let the gov'ner stop there till Mrs. Bardell's dead . . . and then let him come back and write a book about the 'Merrikins as'll pay all his expenses, and more, if he blows 'em up enough.” Evidently the painful animadversions had not ceased in 1837; they were perhaps generally mitigated after 1825. Captain Basil Hall in 1829, Fidler in 1833, Thomas Hamilton in 1833, Captain Marryat in 1839, and Thomas Brothers in 1840, keep up the unlucky strain, sometimes with more, and sometimes with less good humour. Brothers is of opinion that “there is in the United States more taxation, poverty, and general oppression than ever known in any other country.” And in January, 1844, The foreign Quarterly asserts that “As yet the American is horn-handed and pig-headed, hard, persevering, unscrupulous, carnivorous, . . . with an incredible genius for lying.” Ere this, however, better sense was prevailing. Basil Hall, though preferring the manners of aristocratic England, was not unkindly, nor was Mrs. Trollope (1832) unsympathetic. Dickens himself, having followed the Ohio and the Mississippi to St. Louis, and having visited Looking-Glass Prairie, in 1842 published his American notes, in which he “blows 'em up” with moderation. The courteous Sir Charles Lyell (1845) was unfortunately justified in a dislike of American boasting.

Meanwhile the Americans, sensitive as well as vainglorious [208] or patriotic, on their part had not been idle, whether in the magazines or in books. Niles' weekly Register, and The North American review, with Edward Everett as editor, hurried to the defence, and Timothy Dwight, Irving, Fenimore Cooper, and Paulding were among those who, with or without finesse, parried the foreign thrusts. Robert Walsh wrote An appeal from the judgments of great Britain respecting the United States (18 9), while John Neal of Portland carried the fight into the enemy's camp by contributing to Blackwood's magazine from 1823 until 1826. After Dwight's death his Travels in New England and New York were published, four substantial volumes, representing vacation journeys which he had taken for reasons of health from 1796 on. They are full of exact information on every conceivable subject — on the prevailing winds, on the “excellencies of the colonists of New England,” “their enterprise and industry, their love of science and learning, their love of liberty, their morality, their piety,” on the superiority of soil and climate, etc. But the serious vein was not the only one for such a contest, as Paulding was aware when he wrote the anonymous John Bull in America, or the New Munchausen (1825), which for its time was effective as an allegorical satire upon English opinion in relation to travellers. It is now less amusing than the strictures that called it forth. But there is something trivial about the whole episode.

The best kind of reply to the taunt of Sydney Smith was the literary work of Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving, who are more fully treated elsewhere in this history.2 Of Cooper's novels, three more important ones had been produced before he was entangled in the controversies that occupied much of his life. The pioneers reflected his early experiences on the frontier; while The last of the Mohicans deserves notice because it contains, in distinct types, both the idealized and the unidealized Indian that we have seen in the travellers. Chingachgook is a true descendant of Montaigne's high-minded savage, and belongs to the family of Rousseau's “natural” man; whereas the base “Mingoes” are more like real aborigines. The prairie, with its large element of description, was followed during the author's residence abroad by Notions of the Americans picked up by a travelling bachelor (1828), a series of letters by [209] an imaginary Englishman, in which there is an attempt to rectify prevailing European and British misconceptions of America, and to show the Americans how to be more refined, and how to suppress their self-satisfaction. A middle course pleased neither English nor Americans; nor did the criticism in Homeward bound and Home as found tend to pacify Cooper's fellow-countrymen. The turmoil of his later years did not prevent him from writing two of his most popular novels, The Pathfinder and The Deerslayer, which again disclose his conception of the forest and frontier.

Few have depicted that life with more truth and spirit than Irving. From the noisy disputes between John Bull and Jonathan we come back to him as to a contemplative traveller of some previous generation; and in truth he carries on the tradition of Carver, and of Lewis and Clark. Returning in 1832, after an absence in Europe of seventeen years, Irving found his countrymen expecting him to vindicate his patriotism, and American letters, by some work on a native theme. Instead of directly yielding to the call, he made “a wide and varied tour,” joining a Government expedition to the Arkansas River, exploring the hunting-grounds of the stealthy Pawnees, witnessing the pursuit of the buffalo, and sharing the spoils of bee-hunters. The result was A Tour on the Prairies (1835), which represents but a part of the journey. “It is,” he says, “a simple narrative of every-day occurrences” ; but it describes the motley life of the border with fidelity-Osage Indians, “stern and simple in garb and aspect,” with “fine Roman countenances, and broad deep chests” ; gaily dressed Creeks, “quite Oriental” in appearance; and “a sprinkling of trappers, hunters, half-breeds, creoles, negroes of every hue, and all that other rabble rout of nondescript beings that keep about the frontiers, between civilized and savage life, as those equivocal birds, the bats, hover about the confines of light and darkness.” Irving's next task was to write the history of John Jacob Astor's development and consolidation of the fur-trade in the North-west (after the Lewis and Clark expedition), in Astoria, or Anecdotes of an Enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains, which appeared in 1836. The literary method here employed is characteristic of so many books of travel, beginning with Carver's, that Irving may be allowed to explain it in his own words: [210]

As the journals, on which I chiefly depended, had been kept by men of business, intent upon the main object of the enterprise, and but little versed in science, or curious about matters not immediately bearing upon their interests, and as they were written often in moments of fatigue or hurry, amid the inconveniences of wild encampments, they were often meagre in their details, furnishing hints to provoke rather than narratives to satisfy inquiry. I have, therefore, availed myself occasionally of collateral lights supplied by the published journals of other travellers who have visited the scenes described, such as Messrs. Lewis and Clark, Bradbury, Brackenridge, Long, Franchdre, and Ross Cox, and make a general acknowledgment of aid received from these quarters.

The work I here present to the public, is necessarily of a rambling and somewhat disjointed nature, comprising various expeditions by land and sea. The facts, however, will prove to be linked and banded together by one grand scheme, devised and conducted by a master spirit; one set of characters, also, continues throughout, appearing occasionally, though sometimes at long intervals, and the whole enterprise winds up by a regular catastrophe; so that the work, without any laboured attempt at artificial construction, actually possesses much of that unity so much sought after in works of fiction, and considered so important to the interest of every history.

While engaged upon Astoria, Irving had met at the house of Colonel Astor the picturesque Captain Bonneville, and learning that the Captain possessed a manuscript record of his experiences among the Rocky Mountain hunters, he secured it for a goodly sum, thereupon proceeding to rewrite and amplify it in the customary fashion. From the popular Adventures of Captain Bonneville (1837), one gains an indescribable sense of the buoyancy of spirit in the open prairies, and of high tension in the life of the mountaineers, sanguine and alert in the midst of dangers known or surmised.

The general influence of these travellers and observers upon commerce and immigration is rather the affair of the historian and economist. Unquestionably the effect of innumerable guides for emigrants, and statistical works on agriculture, was augmented by books of travel which in substance were not always distinct from these humbler compilations. The trenchant if malevolent Cobbett, glorying in a life of cheerful industry close to the soil, and representing America as neither [211] a paradise nor yet a den of thieves but a good nurse for the farmer, did much in the third decade of the last century to stimulate emigration of a better sort from the mother country to the land of free endeavour. Possession of the soil, and the opportunity to gain more and more of it — as depicted by Crevecoeur-must always act as a stimulus to the human mind. Once reaching these shores, a mobile population would be allured to the West through the virile descriptions of the Mississippi Valley by a Timothy Flint, or through the animated sketches of life and manners by a James Hall. To the literature of travel may also be ascribed much of the attraction exerted by this country upon distinguished foreigners in seasons of stress or misfortune. Napoleon himself once spoke of America as a possible retreat. If Crevecoeur's portrait of the free and social colonist was “embellished with rather too flattering circumstances,” it was not the less true in presenting an ideal that the Americans have striven to realize; it was real in the sense that it governed their better thoughts and actions. By disengaging and projecting the ideal form of American life, such works interpreted the new republic for England and the Continent. More than this, they interpreted one part of the new nation to another. No other class of books can have done so much to consolidate the people; their effect upon character and imagination can hardly be overestimated.

They gave wings to the imagination; and here they are especially significant for the history of literature. As the discovery of America was accompanied by an outburst of poetry in the Renaissance, other causes, naturally, contributing thereto — as the mind of a Shakespeare was caught by a chance description of the “still-vexed Bermoothes” ; so the great advances in geographical discovery and natural science after the middle of the eighteenth century made themselves felt in another generation of poets, and American travels found a quick response in works of literary art. The place of the travellers in the movement known as “the return to nature” would require for adequate treatment nothing short of a dissertation; nor could one always discriminate between the literary preconceptions which the observers brought with them and the ultimate facts about man and his environment which they transmitted to the poets. Yet we recognize in the reports [212] of American travel something ultimate, as did the poets and philosophers.

Scattered instances suffice for illustration. In the speech On conciliation with America, Burke, who himself had a share in an Account of the European settlements (1757), betrays an acquaintance with more recent works of a similar kind. To one of Carver's borrowed passages on Indian funeral customs Schiller owes the substance of the Nadowessiers Todtenlied, a poem greatly admired by Goethe. Still better known is the employment of what is striking and exotic in Carver and Bartram by Chateaubriand in the composite landscape of Rene and Atala, and his mingling of conventional with imaginary incidents in the Voyage en Amerique.

In American and English poets, also, one may see the connection between higher forms of literature and books of travel. Freneau translates the Travels of the Abbe Robin (Philadelphia, 1783), and writes Stanzas on the emigration to America and Peopling the Western country (poems, 1786). Timothy Dwight's “Most fruitful thy soil, most inviting thy clime,” in Columbia, echoes the sentiment of his Travels. Longfellow derives the myth of Hiawatha from Schoolcraft, and is said to have used Sealsfield's Life in the New world, and Fremont's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in Evangeline. In Bryant, the allusion to

the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon

has been traced to Carver. Thanatopsis, the lines To a waterfowl, and The Prairies alike reveal the spirit of inland discovery.

The relation of English poets to American observers is most significant of all. Coleridge praises Cartwright, Heame, and Bartram; “the impression which Bartram had left on his mind,” says his grandson, “was deep and lasting.” Lamb is enamoured of pious John Woolman, and eventually favours Crevecoeur, yielding to Hazlitt's recommendation. Southey commends Dwight, and employs Bartram in Madoc. In Mazeppa, Byron, an inveterate reader of travels, takes the notion of an audible aurora borealis from Heame. But the most striking instance is Wordsworth. Commonly supposed to have refrained from describing what he had not seen with the [213] bodily eye, and to have read little save his own poetry, he was in fact a systematic student in the field of travel and observation, for the ends of poetical composition. Accordingly, he writes to Archdeacon Wrangham, perhaps in 181I: “You inquire about old books; you might almost as well have asked for my teeth as for any of mine. The only modem books that I read are those of travels, or such as relate to matters of fact-and the only modem books that I care for.” What they meant to him may be seen in Ruth, which is full of images from Bartram — the magnolia, the cypress, green savannas, and scarlet flowers that set the hills on fire; in The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian woman, based on Heame; in the address to Hartley Coleridge, reminiscent of Carver; in Book Third of The Prelude, where the ideal environment for a university and its students is clearly that of Bartram's “Alatamaha” River, “where the generous and true sons of liberty securely dwell” ; and in Book Third of The Excursion. Here the Solitary, a returned American traveller, first relates his dissatisfaction with the “unknit Republic,” echoing Ashe, and English opinion in the year 1814, and then tells of his vain search for the natural man of Rousseau. He found little more to please him than “the Muckawiss,” of Carver:

So, westward, tow'rd the unviolated woods
I bent my way; and, roaming far and wide,
Failed not to greet the merry Mocking-bird;
And, while the melancholy Muccawiss
(The sportive bird's companion in the grove)
Repeated o'er and o'er his plaintive cry,
I sympathised at leisure with the sound;
But that pure archetype of human greatness,
I found him not. There, in his stead, appeared
A creature, squalid, vengeful, and impure;
Remorseless, and submissive to no law
But superstitious fear, and abject sloth.

The Solitary is not Wordsworth, but a dramatically conceived malcontent. The animating note that is characteristic of American travel at its best was sounded, not by English poets in the time of George the Third, but forty years before the [214] close of the French and Indian War in Berkeley's anticipatory lines On the prospect of planting Arts and learning in America:

There shall be sung another golden age,
The rise of empire and of arts . . .
Westward the course of empire takes its way.


1 See also Book II, Chap. III.

2 See also Book II, Chaps. IV and VI.

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Erie Canal (New York, United States) (1)
East India (1)
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Canterbury (United Kingdom) (1)
Canadian (United States) (1)
California (California, United States) (1)
Brunswick, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (1)
Augusta (Georgia, United States) (1)

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