The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XVII. Writers on American History, 1783–1850

§ 3. Mrs. Warren; Weems; State Histories

Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814), a sister of James Otis, was the wife of James Warren of Boston. Her three-volume History of the American Revolution (1805), a loosely written book which contained many biographical sketches, was popular and for a long time furnished the average New Englander his knowledge of the Revolution. Five years earlier had appeared the most successful historical book of the day, Weems’s Life of Washington. The author was a versatile man, who could be buffoon, fiddler, parson, or hawker of his book as occasion demanded. He had not known Washington, but he created the impression that he wrote from personal knowledge by announcing himself as “formerly Rector of Mt. Vernon Parish.” The book was a romance, interlarded with pious stories. It was slightly esteemed by educated men of the day but was acceptable to the unsophisticated. Except as a curiosity, it is beneath contempt or criticism.