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Lamb's high praise of Woolman's Journal, which he first read in 1797, is often quoted. In later years, however, Lamb told Willis that this was the only American book that he had ever read twice. The early American appreciation of Lamb's work, evidenced, among other things, by the publication of his farce Mr. H. in Philadelphia five years before it was published in London,19-was hardly reciprocated.
William Godwin met Thomas Paine in 1791, and wrote with favor of The Rights of Man. In 1792 he is said to have discussed with Barlow some of the principles of Political Justice, which he was then planning. 20 In a later mention of Barlow he speaks of him only as "afterward American Ambassador to Napoleon," and makes no reference to his poems, or even to his political prose. In view of the great influence Godwin exerted in America it would be interesting to learn how far he read American writings, particularly those of his disciples. On this point testimony seems strangely silent. Allibone's Dictionary of Authors states that "It is well known that Godwin warmly admired Brown, and acknowledged his obligations to him." Considerable search has failed to show any corroboration for this statement.22 In view of Peacock's assertions as to Shelley it would be strange, however, if Godwin knew nothing of his chief American imitator.
William Roscoe, who now doubtless first becomes known to many readers through Irving's essay in the Sketch-Book, was one of the few English men of letters who maintained close relations with America. He had some friendly correspondence with Dr. Rush, and exchanged notes and other courtesies with Jefferson. In 1814 he was elected a member of the New York Historical Society. He seems always to have thought and spoken well of America, and America recipro
"See Thomson, J. C., Bibliography of the Writings of Charles and Mary Lamb.
Paul, C. K., William Godwin, his Friends and Contemporaries, I: 69; Harper, Life of Wordsworth, I: 265.
Article on Charles Brockden Brown.
Nothing has been found in the published letters of Godwin, or in the statements of his biographers. It is possible that some evidence may be hidden in the intricacies of Dunlap's Life of Brown.
cated by reprinting each of his works at the earliest possible moment.
The professional critics will more naturally be considered in connection with the Reviews to which they regularly contributed. It may be noted, here, that Sydney Smith, whose name is inseparably associated with the opprobrious question "Who reads an American book?" was after all not hostile to America, and was sometimes even an admirer. Apparently none of his reviews in the Edinburgh before 1815 discuss American books.23 Jeffrey was also rather kindly in his feelings toward America, despite his tartness of expression. His published letters to his brother John, in America, do not, however, have much to say of literary, or even of public affairs. Once, perhaps in a moment of irritation, he expressed the belief that the United States would soon fall apart because of party violence. In an article in the Edinburgh Review he opposed the English claim of the right of search, but when, during the war of 1812, he came to the United States to carry home a bride, he naturally felt impelled to uphold his country.24 His reviews of American books in the Edinburgh before 1815 were: Mackenzie's Voyages, in No. 1; Franklin's Works in No. 16; Barlow's Columbiad in No. 29.
These scattered, trivial, perhaps even irrelevant utterances and anecdotes do not, of course, give a complete view of what the chief English men of letters said and wrote of contemporary American literature. It is probable, however, that they are fairly representative. Their paucity-even when we bear in mind that negative evidence is never conclusive-makes it fairly clear that English literary men spent little time on American writings. Yet the prevailing attitude of these leaders of thought toward America and the American idea
23 This statement is based on the assumption that the list of his contributions given in the appendix to Lady Holland's Memoir is complete.
Scott, in a letter to Morritt written in the spring of 1814, repeats Jeffrey's account of a conversation with President Madison. The President asked what was thought in England about the war, and Jeffrey replied that nothing was thought of it; that doubtless many well-informed Englishmen had not noticed that there was a war. See Familiar Letters of Sir Walter Scott, I: 322.
was tolerant, even favorable, and if they ignored American literature it was simply because it did not seem to them worthy of attention. That the greater authors of England were in league to discredit their struggling trans-Atlantic contemporaries, or were moved by any personal or national pique to ignore the literary strivings of the new country seems too absurd to be denied, or even noticed; yet many Americans made, and believed, the accusation.
The periodicals of the day-both the serious reviews and magazines and the lighter journals-afford an excellent indication of the state of British opinion concerning American writers. It is probable, too, that many of the opinions expressed in these journals at once became known in America, and exerted influence there. It is hard to say just how widely English periodicals circulated in America at this time. It is well known, however, that before the Revolution colonists of literary tastes prided themselves on reading the Gentleman's Magazine or the London Magazine, and it is probable that the old tradition retained for these and similar publications many subscribers. The scarcity of American periodicals giving fashions, etc., and the desire of American women to keep up with the world make it likely that some of the more popular journals, especially those which announced themselves as appealing to the "fair sex" also circulated widely in America. Letters from American readers appear occasionally in British magazines, and others imply the existence of a considerable American constituency. Thus "A writes in 17911 to the editor of the Bee, a
popular Edinburgh weekly:
As a foundation has been laid for an extensive circulation of your excellent journal, in the states of North America, and as I have for more than five and twenty years past entered with sincere good will into the interests and happiness of that noble community, which had the honour and resolution to obtain its freedom from the tyranny of the parent state, I feel myself inclined to fulfil my good offices toward the good people of America by inserting such papers in your useful collection as may prove of peculiar advantage to our trans-Atlantic children.
The Bee, or Literary Weekly Intelligencer, III: 96.
Bound sets that appear in the market or that are found in American libraries often give evidence of having been the property of direct American subscribers. It is certain, at all events, that the chief American critical journals were received by American editors, and important criticisms of American writings were often reprinted in this country.
Except in a few cases, the attitude of individual periodicals toward American literature can be stated only in a general way. Many magazines had a fairly definite bias regarding American political ideals and institutions, and there was often some correspondence between this bias and their opinions of American writings. Those which were optimistic regarding the future of the new government were likely to be optimistic regarding the infant literature, and vice versa. But when the magazine was not frankly the organ of a sect or party its reviews were usually written by several contributors, whose feelings toward America were contradictory. Only a few of the more important journals show enough individuality to deserve separate treatment before the discussion of individual criticisms in succeeding chapters.
The Monthy Review or Literary Journal (after 1789 the Monthly Review Enlarged, with three volumes to the year), one of the few periodicals that ran throughout the period under discussion, was wholly made up of reviews and book notices. It was liberal in its political sympathies, and was always kindly toward America. During and after the War of 1812 its articles sometimes went fairly out of their way to lament the occurrence of that misunderstanding. It reviewed a considerable number of American books, though many of these were not of a strictly literary character. For example, Vol. XXXVI, of the Monthly Review Enlarged, the third volume for the year 1801, contains articles on three medical works by Dr. Rush, Bordley's Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs, B. S. Barton's Fragments of the Natural History of Pennsylvania, and Crevecoeur's Travels in Upper Pennsylvania.
The London Magazine continued too short a time after the Revolution to be significant in this study. Its old rival, the