Anti-Americanism in European Literature by Jesper Gulddal (auth.)

By Jesper Gulddal (auth.)

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Sample text

Unlike his friends, Moore had no family fortune to live off, and in 1803 he was forced to take up a position with the British Admiralty as a subordinate official in Bermuda. As it turned out, island living did not appeal to Moore, and after six months of boredom he hired a substitute and went home. On his journey back to Britain, however, he made a detour of several months to the United States and Canada, visiting Niagara Falls and New York, and attending a party in the White House, hosted by President Jefferson.

The protagonist is first exposed to American eating habits shortly after disembarking in New York. At one point, he hears a bell ringing, and as everyone around him immediately rushes off, almost knocking him over in the process, he assumes that the fire alarm has gone off. As it turns out, the bell simply signals that dinner has been served in the nearby boarding house. On sitting down at the table, young Martin experiences American vulgarity at its rapacious worst: All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a famine were expected to set in before breakfast time to-morrow morning, and it had become high time to assert the first law of nature.

Often it is possible to reconstruct wide-ranging webs of connections 44 / anti-americanism in european literature linking writers across generations and national boundaries. Dickens, for example, had read extensively in preparation for this first journey to America. 81 Moore, on his part, was influenced by the Enlightenment theory of American degeneration. 82 Like Dickens, Fanny Trollope also quotes a long, “wonderfully fine” passage from Moore’s epistles,83 but is more directly influenced by Basil Hall’s Travels in North America (1829), yet another unflattering portrait of the United States, on which she comments extensively in Domestic Manners of the Americans.

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