The Oxford Book of American Essays
The charm of the essay lies in the fact that it is not formal, that it may be whimsical in its point of departure, and capricious in its ramblings after it has got itself under way.

The Oxford Book of American Essays

Chosen by Brander Matthews

From Franklin and Emerson to Whitman and Roosevelt, Brander Matthews expertly selected 32 essays on topics literary, political and humorous spanning over a century of this form’s development in America.

Bibliographic Record Introduction



  1. The Ephemera: An Emblem of Human Life, by Benjamin Franklin
  2. The Whistle, by Benjamin Franklin
  3. Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout, by Benjamin Franklin
  4. Consolation for the Old Bachelor, by Francis Hopkinson
  5. John Bull, by Washington Irving
  6. The Mutability of Literature, by Washington Irving
  7. Kean’s Acting, by Richard Henry Dana
  8. Gifts, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  9. Uses of Great Men, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  10. Buds and Bird-voices, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  11. The Philosophy of Composition, by Edgar Allan Poe
  12. Bread and the Newspaper, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
  13. Walking, by Henry David Thoreau
  14. On a Certain Condescension in Foreigners, by James Russell Lowell
  15. Preface to “Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman
  16. Americanism in Literature, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  17. Thackeray in America, by George William Curtis
  18. Our March to Washington, by Theodore Winthrop
  19. Calvin (A Study of Character), by Charles Dudley Warner
  20. Five American Contributions to Civilization, by Charles William Eliot
  21. I Talk of Dreams, by William Dean Howells
  22. An Idyl of the Honey-bee, by John Burroughs
  23. Cut-off Copples’s, by Clarence King
  24. The Théâtre Francais, by Henry James
  25. Theocritus on Cape Cod, by Hamilton Wright Mabie
  26. Colonialism in the United States, by Henry Cabot Lodge
  27. New York After Paris, by William Crary Brownell
  28. The Tyranny of Things, by Edward Sandford Martin
  29. Free Trade vs. Protection in Literature, by Samuel McChord Crothers
  30. Dante and the Bowery, by Theodore Roosevelt
  31. The Revolt of the Unfit, by Nicholas Murray Butler
  32. On Translating the Odes of Horace, by William Peterfield Trent