"THE AMERICAN OUGHT TO LOVE THIS COUNTRY": LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN FARMER, 1782 FIRST EDITION WITH FOLDING MAPS IN SCARCE ORIGINAL BOARDS
(CREVECOEUR, Michel Guillaume Saint Jean de) ST. JOHN, Hector J. Letters from an American Farmer; Describing Certain Provincial Situations, Manners, and Customs, Not Generally Known. London: Printed for Thomas Davies and Lockyer Davis, 1782. Octavo, original blue-gray boards sympathetically respined, uncut. $9500.
First edition of this influential early work on American life and customs, "as literature unexcelled by any American work of the 18th century" (Howes), with two folding maps of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, in scarce original boards.
In Letters from an American Farmer, Crevecoeur became the first to ask and answer, in print, "What is an American?" Born in France, Crevecoeur "emigrated to Canada during the last of the French and Indian Wars. He served under Montcalm, and later seems to have explored near the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. He landed at New York in 1759, took out naturalization papers, traveled extensively in Pennsylvania and New York, and settled with his American wife. He spent idyllic years on his New York farm until the Revolution, when, as a Loyalist, he was forced to flee to New York [where he was imprisoned for three months as a spy] and then to France. During the quiet decade prior to the Revolution, he probably wrote most of the Letters from an American Farmer. In 1783 Crevecoeur returned to America only to discover that his wife was dead, his home burned, and his children had disappeared, as a result of an Indian raid. Eventually he found his children and settled in New York, where as French consul he attempted to cement the friendly relations of the two countries" (Oxford Companion to American Literature).
Crevecoeur's remarkable "letters" offer an account of his experiences in the American colonies. For many years he was the most widely read commentator on America, and his candid observations on American life drew many Europeans across the Atlantic. The cherished notion of this country as a melting pot originates with Crevecoeur: "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world?" Crevecoeur contends that "the American ought therefore to love this country much better than that wherein he or his forefathers were born. Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest; can it want a stronger allurement?" With two pages of advertisements at rear. Sabin 17496. Howes C883. Streeter II:711. Rich I:302. Early owner signature; gift inscription.
Some text leaves cleaned, expert restoration to spine and boards. An excellent and desirable uncut copy in original boards.