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Domestic Manners of the Americans

Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope
By: (1779-1863)

Next to de Alexis de Tocquville's almost contemporary Democracy in America, Frances Trollope's work may be the most famous (or at least notorious) dissection of manners and morals of the United States. The work was a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, and particularly in America, where Trollope was reviled as representing the worst of old world prejudices the new republic (though the criticism did nothing to hurt sales).

Accompanied by a son and two daughters, Trollope lived in the United States from 1827 to 1831, spending most of her time in Cincinnati, where she had hoped, when joined by her husband, to open a large department store, which was also to be a place of entertainment and culture. She was, unfortunately, almost entirely ignorant of business practices, and habitually short of money, which her husband was in no position to make up. After leaving Cincinnati she traveled briefly in the eastern states, before returning to England. There is something of a happy ending; Domestic Manners was her first book, and such a success that she turned to writing, producing in her lifetime over a hundred books, which, though they never made her very rich, were more than sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. She passed on her highly disciplined writing habits to her son Anthony (who had not accompanied her to the new world), who produced forty-seven novels as well as several other works. His views of the United States, thanks in part to its attractive young women, were, of course, more benign; indeed in The Duke's Children, the lovely New Yorker Isabel Boncassen is to become the Duchess of Omnium.
It's worth remembering that Frances Trollope's introduction to America was made through what was still something of frontier territory in Ohio, and few historians would argue that refinement and high culture were outstanding features of the Jacksonian era, which she saw first hand. Though some at the time feared that Domestic Manners would lead to a new Anglo-American war, fortunately the critical disputes took place on paper. Eventually passions cooled, and some Americans even came to admit that some of her judgements were just. Mark Twain, for instance, while chiding Trollope for falling for American tall tales (see the story of the crocodile's -- or alligator's -- destruction of a family in Chapter III), also remarked that the reason Domestic Manners was so hated by patriotic Americans was because it was so true.
In any case, it is offered by the reader as a contribution to the American political campaign of 2012.
Introduction by Nicholas Clifford)

First Page:

Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope

Frances Milton Trollope (known as Fanny Trollope) 1780 1863 (Mother of the author Anthony Trollope)

First published in 1832


Entrance of the Mississippi Balize

On the 4th of November, 1827, I sailed from London, accompanied by my son and two daughters; and after a favourable, though somewhat tedious voyage, arrived on Christmas day at the mouth of the Mississippi.

The first indication of our approach to land was the appearance of this mighty river pouring forth its muddy mass of waters, and mingling with the deep blue of the Mexican Gulf. The shores of this river are so utterly flat, that no object upon them is perceptible at sea, and we gazed with pleasure on the muddy ocean that met us, for it told us we were arrived, and seven weeks of sailing had wearied us; yet it was not without a feeling like regret that we passed from the bright blue waves, whose varying aspect had so long furnished our chief amusement, into the murky stream which now received us.

Large flights of pelicans were seen standing upon the long masses of mud which rose above the surface of the waters, and a pilot came to guide us over the bar, long before any other indication of land was visible... Continue reading book >>

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