Observations on American Art: Selections from the Writings of John Neal (1793-1876)

By Harold Edward Dickson | Go to book overview

Preface

While engaging in some research in American art of the early 19th century I came to realize that in the modern literature dealing with the period, references to John Neal were so rare as to leave him virtually an unknown quantity. Since his writings, fantastic though they may seem at times, do have the lasting value of comments from a firsthand observer, I assumed that they were ignored because they were too little known. Certainly publications such as The Yankee and Brother Jonathan are not to be encountered in the average library, and I even found it impossible to arrange an inter-library loan of the novel Randolph. Dr. F. L. Pattee had already published an edition of Neal's literary criticisms from Blackwood's Magazine ( American Writers, Duke University Press, Durham, N. C., 1937), and there seemed to be obvious reasons for supplementing this with a collection of observations on the arts. I hope that it may have some enduring usefulness as a minor source, one of those handy-books from which historians may lift quotations to put spice in their brew.

From a scholarly point of view the most worth while of Neal's writings on art are his early pieces in Randolph, Blackwood's and The Yankee. All of these have been included in the present selection except certain fragmentary items scattered through The Yankee of 1828. I have not searched exhaustively for later work. The paper Brother Jonathan, for example, contains other art material, particularly exhibition reviews that are probably Neal's. But I suspect from Neal's own life story ( Wandering Recollections of a Somewhat Busy Life, Boston, 1869) and from the repetitive nature of his last collection of reminiscences about artists that nothing of real importance remains to be found.

It is on the basis of Neal's statements in his Recollections and the clear internal evidence of the writings themselves that the material here used from Blackwood's, The Yankee, and Brother Jonathan may be recognized as his work. Randolph, of course, is by him, though not published under his name, and the Atlantic Monthly articles are assigned to him in the magazine. The original texts have here been accurately reproduced and the proofs carefully checked, so that misspellings and odd usages are as they first appeared.

I appreciate the courtesies extended by the following institutions in permitting me to reproduce pictures from their collections, as listed in the table of illustrations: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.; The Players, New York City; the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; the Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.; the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Md.; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Mich.; and the Office

-iii-

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Observations on American Art: Selections from the Writings of John Neal (1793-1876)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Selections from the Writings of John Neal *
  • Randolph, a Novel (1823) 1
  • Bladwood's Edinhurgh Magazine (1824-1825) 26
  • The Yankee (1828-1829) 38
  • Brother Jonathan (1843) 66
  • The Atlantic Monthly (1868-1869) 69
  • Appendix 93
  • Index 109
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