A posting from Nancy Metz <[log in to unmask]> (June 10):
I am annotating Martin Chuzzlewit for the University of Edinburgh
Companions series and could use some help. The passage that puzzles me
comes from the end of chapter 16. Martin's sympathetic American friend,
Mr. Bevan is remarking on the tyranny of public opinion in America:
If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow, he would be
hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature, and can give me
the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomised our follies
as a people, and not as this or that party; and has escaped the foulest and
most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it
will be a strange name in my ears, believe me. In some cases I could name
to you, where a native writer has ventured on the most harmless and
good-humoured illustrations of our vices or defects, it has been found
necessary to announce, that in a second edition the passage has been
expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise.
Jerome Meckier has argued convincingly that Cooper comes closest to an
American Juvenal or Swift, especially in works like the Monnikins, Homeward
Bound, and Home as Found. And I am aware (from a Forster article on
American censorship in the Examiner) that censorship of abolitionist
literature often took extreme forms. I know as well that a South Carolina
vigilance committee considered suppressing American Notes.
But what about the "harmless and good-natured illustrations of our vices or
defects" "expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise"
in second editions. That's a very specific reference. To what?
Thanks in advance for any clues you can supply.
Addendum from PJM:
I have suggested Washington Irving to Nancy as the author
referred to. Volumes two and three of the Pilgrim edition of
CD's letters give rich proof of their mutual admiration and
affection, and early works of Irving would seem to fit the
satirical pieces CD refers to.