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Early American Literature


When Hector St. John de Crèvecœur first published Letters from an American Farmer in England in 1782, an advertisement described the letters as "the genuine production of the American farmer whose name they bear. They were privately written to gratify the curiosity of a friend and are made public because they contain much authentic information little known on this side of the Atlantic: they cannot therefore fail of being highly interesting to the people of England at a time when everybody's attention is directed toward the affairs of America" (27). For the next one hundred and seventy-five years the American reading public--at least that portion that remembered Letters at all--viewed Crèvecœur's work largely as a straightforward natural and social history of young America. Such an attitude is, however, the product of a distorted view of Letters: it stresses the early, optimistic epistles at the expense of the bleaker closing sections of the work, and it fails to distinguish between Crèvecœur and his protagonist, Farmer James.


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