American Cultural History, 1607-1829: A Facsimile Reproduction of Lectures on American Literature, 1829

American Cultural History, 1607-1829: A Facsimile Reproduction of Lectures on American Literature, 1829

American Cultural History, 1607-1829: A Facsimile Reproduction of Lectures on American Literature, 1829

American Cultural History, 1607-1829: A Facsimile Reproduction of Lectures on American Literature, 1829

Synopsis

Reprint of Lectures on American Literature (1829). Designed to exhibit "the history of the thoughts & intellectual labours of our forefathers, as well as their deeds," this brilliantly written book deals with language, education, poetry, fine arts, oratory, & military & naval exploits.

Excerpt

The National Journal of Washington, D. C., in its issue of December 19, 1828, carried a long proposal for publishing by subscription "A Course of Lectures on American Literature, with remarks on some passages of American History." The statement of aim and content was signed by the author of the proposed volume, Samuel Lorenzo Knapp. To disprove the frequent assertion of both foreigners and natives that there was no such thing as American literature, he planned a survey of the American past, including the days before the Revolution. Since he could not cover everything, he would attempt to give "a panoramic effect to the whole." For convenience's sake the two centuries of settlement would be divided into periods of fifty years each and the fourth part would include a history of the events which have made us a nation. Most particularly the book would be "the history of the American mind, and the productions of that mind." It would satisfy the strong desire of the rising generation "to know all things concerning their forefathers." Finally, the author hoped that after parents had read and criticized the book's contents, a revised edition might appear which would be suitable as a school textbook. In such terms was announced the first attempt at a full-length study of American cultural progress.

This modestly ambitious proposal was made by a lawyer and newspaper editor who was best known to his contemporaries as a public speaker. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1783, he had graduated at Phillips Exeter and Dartmouth, studied law under Theophilus Parsons, and for some years from 1809 practiced his profession in his native town. He soon became the leading spread-eagle orator of his region. During 1812-1816 he served as colonel of a local militia regiment. Although it is not clear whether war or oratory kept him from making a success in the legal profession, in 1816 he was thrown into jail for debt. From that time on he wandered from one city to another as free-lance writer, newspaper or magazine editor, and sporadically practitioner of his original profession. From 1824 to 1826 he . . .

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