Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 236

Fanny Trollope--whom Mary Shelley met before Trollope's literary fame commenced--wrote a book about her experiences in America--The Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832) ...

My journal reminds me that I read Domestic Manners in October 1999, somewhat early in my Shelley Mania, and some of the notes I took on that book—her account of her experiences in America (and with Americans) during the several years she was here, commencing in 1827.
Her ship arrived in New Orleans, and she immediately complained about the heat, which was much more than agreeable and the mosquitoes (incessant, and most tormenting). She notes that a crocodile ate an entire family. She describes a fire-and-brimstone preacher: The perspiration ran in streams from the face of the preacher; his eyes rolled, his lips were covered with foam ….
She comments caustically about Americans and their leisure: All the freedom enjoyed in America, beyond what is enjoyed in England, is enjoyed by the disorderly at the expense of the orderly ….
She’s saddened by the role(s) of women on the frontier—slaves of the soil, she calls them. But she has little kind to say about women in the city. They powder themselves immoderately, face, neck, and arms, with pulverised starch …. They are also most unhappily partial to false hair, which they wear in surprising quantities ….
Manifestly not impressed with the state of American letters, she refers to the immense exhalation of periodical trash … which is greedily sucked in by all ranks …. The general taste is decidedly bad … Oh, and she refers to American writers as insect authors.
And near the end she blasts us all: If the citizens of the United States were indeed the devoted patriots they call themselves, they would surely not thus encrust themselves in the hard, dry, stubborn persuasion, that they are the first and best of the human race, that nothing is to be learnt, but what they are able to teach, and that nothing is worth having, which they do not possess. The art of man could hardly discover a more effectual antidote to improvement, than this persuasion ….
Seems as if the We’re-Number-One! attitude reigned long ago, as well.[1]
my copy

[1] (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949), 8, 21, 78–79, 105–06, 117, 300, 311, 408–09

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