"The Americans are of our own stock, yet in their treatment of the ludicrous how unlike us they are!"--ANDREW LANG.
WHILE the sentimental school of authors like Mrs. Stowe, Susan Warner, E. P. Roe, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Louisa Alcott probably accounted for more books sold in nineteenth-century England than any other group of American writers, the humorists also were not without their devotees among the British.
No one as yet has succeeded in isolating the first book of American humor. But the first group of American writers who have a connection, even though it now seems lukewarm, with the history of humor were the so-called Hartford or Connecticut Wits, and they may serve as pioneers in the present discussion. Of these by far the most widely known in England was Joel Barlow, who spent much time in London and Paris, abandoned the conservative attitudes fostered by Yale College, and made himself a political writer sufficiently popular to be proscribed by the Pitt ministry. But except for his political and economic pamphlets nothing by Barlow seems to have attracted wide attention in England, although his attempts in the field of verse were not unknown. The Vision of Columbus was brought out in a London edition in 1787, and when expanded into The Columbiad was likewise reprinted, in 1809. A friend even contributed some adulatory "Lines Written on Reading Mr. Barlow's Columbiad" to the Monthly Magazine.1 But his best humorous production, "The Hasty Pudding," attracted little contemporary interest.
Timothy Dwight, another Connecticut Wit, was fairly well known in Scotland and England, but primarily as a theologian, although his Travels were read; and there were those who scanned the western skies for a poet and thought that Dwight might be the first American____________________