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TRAVELS OF FOUR YEARS AND A HALF IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DURING 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, AND 1802.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY
A. J. MORRISON
E164 D3 19090 MAIN
- there was not one whose record of his observa-
The impulse to the keeping of a day-book may
teaubriand might have written his book in his tower. Henry Wansey, in his Journal of a Summer, is the Pepys of this cighteenth century group; Parkinson and Cooper are also, in their way, entirely practical; the others, Robin, Chastellux, Schoepf, Castiglioni, Coke, Bayard, von Bülow, and the rest, are political philosophers, topographers of more or less sprightliness, anecdotal, tabulators, or men interested in natural and applied science, all good, and none like John Davis.
In the first place, John Davis was not at all a heralded foreigner. He came to America a very young man, twenty-two years old, to make a living. He could not inspect except in and between places where he found employment. As it happened, his business led him from New York to South Carolina, and (south of New England) he saw the country as it was along the coast before Ohio was a State. He was a sailor with a literary sense and equipment, resolved after a dozen years of the sea to make literature a profession. Being active and industrious, although a writer of meditative verse, he succeeded: the second edition of his book bears the sub-title, “Travels in Search of Independence and Settlement. Portum Inveni."
John Davis was in the writing business, and he could not afford to be habitually a recluse. From the pages of his book an adequate idea may be had of the status of American authorship at the turn of the eighteenth century. That is perhaps the least worth of the book, but since there is not a great deal of direct evidence on this point, it is to
be remarked that Davis took stock of the literary situation at that time, talked with authors at Dickins's shop in Philadelphia, and knew Brockden Brown, the novelist, and Joseph Dennie, the critic. The wherefore of a national literature is not explicable in brief. The opening of the nineteenth century scems to have given promise of sach a thing in America, and John Davis saw something of that. He and his learned friend, Mr. George, who "said, “Where are their poets ? " stated the pro and con for the year 1799, but Davis, was in the right, whether from wisdom, tolerance, or merely because he took the other side.
A certain importance attaches to the beginning of a century, and the Traveller is on the whole fortunate whose notes are made around the rotund zero years. It is a distinction to have seen (year 1800) the author of Arthur Mervyn at work,
embodying virtue in a new novel,” to have been commended, and also abased, by " that Mammoth of literature," the Editor of the Portfolio, to have maintained a literary correspondence, (year 1801 -superscriptions, Long Island and Virginia), full of Pope and the Augustan age, and to have been a spectator at the inauguration of the Federal City. It appears that John Davis was the originator of a Jefferson legend that has persisted a hundred years. And he was the first of the many who, by the interstitial work of fancy, have made of Captain John Smith's story a romance..
The author of these travels walked, with occa, sional recourse to the stage-coach, the horse, or the sloop; he seems to have been the sole traveller of