Home  »  Volume XVI: American EARLY NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART I  »  § 9. Mrs. Whitcher; “The Widow Bedott”; Cozzens; Goodrich; Wise; Thorpe; Hammett; McConnel

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.

XIX. Early Humorists

§ 9. Mrs. Whitcher; “The Widow Bedott”; Cozzens; Goodrich; Wise; Thorpe; Hammett; McConnel

In the North and West meanwhile, humorous books were growing steadily in number and importance. During the late forties Mrs. Frances Miriam Whitcher (1811–52) wrote for several journals a series of articles purporting to come from the pen of the Widow Bedott, “an egregiously wise and respectable and broadly humorous matron.” Such was the demand for her writings that after her death two collections were published, The Widow Bedott Papers (1855) and Widow Sprigg, Mary Elmer, and Other Sketches (1867). Her humour is spirited but often obvious. Frederick Swartout Cozzens (1818–69), a New York wine merchant with literature as a hobby, cultivated a pleasant vein of mild, dry humour which produced The Sparrowgrass Papers (1856), describing the experiences of a New York cockney who retires to Yonkers to live. The Travels, Voyages, and Adventures of Gilbert Go-Ahead (1856), recording the deeds of a shrewd clock-selling Yankee in different parts of the world, was probably by the most prodigious literary hack of his day, Samuel Griswold Goodrich (1793–1860), “Peter Parley.” A widely travelled New York naval officer, Henry Augustus Wise (1819–69), wrote several extravagant volumes of sea exploits, of which Tales for the Marines (1855) was probably best known. Thomas Bangs Thorpe (1815–78), a Massachusetts man who went as a journalist to Louisiana and became known as the author of highly coloured tales of the South-west, adopted the name of “Tom Owen, the Bee-Hunter,” an eccentric person who had picturesque adventures on the frontier. Two other men, Samuel A. Hammett (1816–65) of Connecticut and John Ludlum McConnel (1826–62) of Illinois, travelled in the West and South-west and described their experiences in racy volumes.