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London and the Making of Provincial Literature

Examining the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia, Joseph Rezek claims that the publishing vortex of London inspired a dynamic array of economic and aesthetic practices that shaped an era in literary history.

London and the Making of Provincial Literature
Aesthetics and the Transatlantic Book Trade, 1800-1850

Joseph Rezek

2015 | 296 pages | Cloth $65.00
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. London and the Transatlantic Book Trade
Chapter 2. Furious Booksellers and the "American Copy" of the Waverley Novels
Chapter 3. The Irish National Tale and the Aesthetics of Union
Chapter 4. Washington Irving's Transatlantic Revisions
Chapter 5. The Effects of Provinciality in Cooper and Scott
Chapter 6. Rivalry with England in the Age of Nationalism
Epilogue. The Scarlet Letter and the Decline of London

Appendix. The London Republication of American Fiction, 1797-1832


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


In 1800, a new kind of Irish literature arrived in London. Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, A Hibernian Tale was published by the storied firm of Joseph Johnson, a "formidable figure" in the late eighteenth-century book trade and publisher of famous radicals like Joseph Priestly, William Cowper, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Castle Rackrent relates the decline of the landed Irish gentry through the fictionalized edited narrative of an Irish family's loyal servant, Thady Quirk. The text provides some help for its intended audience; "for the information of the ignorant English reader," its "Preface" remarks, "a few notes have been subjoined by the editor." Late in 1798, Edgeworth sent the completed manuscript to Johnson, but he thought Thady's dialect narrative could benefit from even further explanation than the footnotes provided. At his instigation, she composed a copious "Glossary" defining "terms, and idiomatic phrases," as a new "Advertisement" explains. The text's transnational address established a template that shaped the genre of the Irish national tale, a term coined by Sydney Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806), which stages the marriage of an English traveler and a dispossessed Irish princess. The genre's wide-ranging influence—it "set a tone" for a century of Irish fiction and was of "formative importance for nineteenth-century realism"—depended on its publication in London, where, ironically, all Irish "national" tales received their first editions.

In 1814, Scottish literature arrived in London like never before. That summer, Longman & Co., at the time publisher of more new books than any other firm in the city, issued a novel that told the story of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion from the perspective of an ordinary English gentleman, Edward Waverley. Walter Scott's first foray into fiction, Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, was jointly published by Longman and Archibald Constable, in Edinburgh, where it was printed and from where 70 percent of its first edition were sent to London for distribution. Inspired partly by the Irish national tale, Scott used his eponymous hero as a literary device to guide English readers through the unfamiliar territory of Scotland and Scottish history. Scott aimed "to emulate the admirable Irish portraits drawn by Miss Edgeworth," as he wrote, whose characters "have gone so far to make the English familiar with the character of their gay and kind-hearted neighbors of Ireland." In so doing, he encapsulated the spirit of modern historical consciousness, offering to "world literature" a new genre, according to Georg Lukács, in which "extreme, opposing social forces can be brought into a human relationship with one another." As a best-selling poet, an editor, and the business partner of his Edinburgh printer, the "great Scotch novelist," as he was known at the time, approached London as the principal arena of his success.

In 1820, American literature finally arrived in London. That July, John Murray introduced a new title to his readers: Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, a two-volume collection of literary pieces containing essays by an American traveling in England, sketches about Native Americans, and two romantic tales set in the Hudson River Valley, "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." By this time, The Sketch Book had for over a year been appearing as a part publication in New York; Irving, then residing in England, was eager to find a British publisher. Murray himself initially demurred, and so Irving arranged for the first half of The Sketch Book to be issued at his own expense. As Irving continued to write sketches, the work's future remained uncertain, but luckily he had some powerful friends. Walter Scott persuaded Murray to take a second look, and by spring of 1820, plans were in place for the publication of a handsome two-volume edition, the text of which Irving heavily revised and rearranged with the new format in mind. Buoyed by the prestige of Murray's firm—publisher of Lord Byron, the Quarterly Review, the works of Thomas Moore, and some of Scott's poems and novels—The Sketch Book launched Irving as "the first ambassador whom the New World of Letters sent to the Old." The novels of James Fenimore Cooper appeared soon thereafter; in 1823, with the same publisher. This is what it meant for American literature to arrive in London; with John Murray, it arrived in style.

The most influential Irish, Scottish, and American fictions of the early nineteenth century were routed through the great metropolis of the English-speaking world. This book argues that the centripetal pull of London created a provincial literary formation that shaped the history of modern aesthetics. In seeking success in London, authors like Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper developed a range of literary strategies. To guide English readers through the unfamiliar territory of their fiction, they wrote authenticating prefaces, footnotes, and glossaries; to shore up their authority in the London-centered marketplace, they claimed exclusive local knowledge grounded in personal experience; to promote literary fellowship, they invested transnational marriage plots with allegories of cross-cultural communion; and to purify and exalt literary exchange, they revised texts for London republication and appealed to the special power of "literature" itself. These strategies coalesce around a paradox about artistic production: that literature both transcends nationality and indelibly expresses it. This seeming contradiction preoccupied many writers of the Romantic period who offered competing ideological claims for literature's universality and its embodiment of a particular nation's spirit. In this book, I trace a new genealogy of this paradox to the fiction of provincial authors who navigated a subordinate position within the London-centered marketplace for books. I argue, moreover, that the effects of such navigation helped define the distinctly modern idea that literature inhabits an autonomous sphere in society.

It was through success in London that Irish, Scottish, and American fiction were consecrated according to the logic of what scholars after Pierre Bourdieu have called the "literary field." The city reigned as the cultural capital of the Anglophone Atlantic. Similarly to the way Paris operates in Pascale Casanova's "world republic of letters," but with significant differences, London in the early nineteenth century nurtured a highly concentrated literary scene no English-language author could ignore. Publication in the metropolis was compulsory for provincials seeking profit and legitimacy—at home and abroad—and some of them met that condition strategically, uneasily, and with great success. If, as Eric Hobsbawm has famously claimed, "the national phenomenon cannot be adequately investigated without careful attention to the 'invention of tradition,'" than "invention" of Irish, Scottish, and American literatures must be located within the cross-cultural procedure of distinction only London could perform. These literatures were not born within the nation through an insular process of organic unfolding, nor did they develop as symptoms of nationally delimited historical contexts. They were made in the transatlantic marketplace through an uneven process of struggle and triumph. Many authors from Ireland, Scotland, and North America published in London before 1800, but Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper hailed from cultures newly understood as "national" and as such were the first to be understood as producing, through literary expression, specimens of national culture. Their success became synonymous with national literary emergence itself. Long understood as separate traditions with discrete histories of their own, Irish, Scottish, and American literatures in fact constituted a single, interconnected provincial literature tethered to London.

Provinciality was a relational status acquired through engaging with metropolitan culture or petitioning it for approval. Derived from provincia, Latin for a distant territory under Roman rule (provincia Britannia, for example), and entering Middle English as the term for a bishop's diocese, the modern noun province indicates a region's subordination to centralized power and authority, secular or ecclesiastical. The adjective provincial has always carried such connotations, but only by the turn of the eighteenth century did it become derogatory, a slur—and then specifically with regard to expressive behavior: manners, attire, and, above all, speech (OED). The word provincial, then, acquired negative connotations only as it came to describe modes of expression; it has always been an insult with particularly aesthetic implications. Feeling the sting of this, James Boswell tried to "improve" his Scottish accent while trolling around London. Assured by Samuel Johnson, however, that his "pronunciation was not offensive," Boswell rather unconvincingly advised his "countrymen" that "a small intermixture of provincial peculiarities, may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect." Such linguistic differences shaped the reception of provincials well into the nineteenth century. Francis Jeffrey remarked in a review of Waverley that the novel's Scottish dialect would be "unintelligible to four-fifths of the reading population of the country," and in new footnotes Cooper wrote for the revised London edition of The Last of the Mohicans (1831), he distanced himself from "provincial terms" voiced by his American characters. Irish, Scottish, and American authors carried the burden of provinciality as they hawked their wares in an imperial capital that fancied itself the new Rome.

The making of provincial literature is best understood through attending to the production of books and the circulation of material texts between London and the provincial literary centers of Dublin, Edinburgh, and Philadelphia. These circuits of dissemination were improvised, frustrating, and unreliable, but they formed the condition of possibility for provincial literature to emerge. London's dominance was felt as much by provincial readers and book trades professionals as it was by the authors whose metropolitan successes established them as national heroes. Booksellers reacted to and harnessed London's economic power by making inroads into its marketplace, devising ways to circumvent that marketplace, and developing innovative techniques to reach provincial readers. Readers were beholden to a London book trade that supplied the vast majority of texts, imported or reprinted; some embraced metropolitan culture as a badge of sophistication, while others resented that culture's influence and authority. Situated in the fraught position between local literary scenes and a distant cultural capital, provincial authors, publishers, and readers responded with anger, excitement, resignation, ingenuity, and a fascinating array of economic and aesthetic practices that defined an era in literary history.

Such practices have remained unnoticed despite the surge of scholarly interest in transatlantic literary studies over the last quarter century. Dozens of important books have appeared since Robert Weisbuch's Atlantic Double-Cross (1989) and Paul Gilory's The Black Atlantic (1993), two foundational texts. Most transatlantic scholarship of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has either opened up one side of the Atlantic to a myriad of crossings or influences—in Americanist scholarship, usually with England as a single point of reference—or traced parallel stories in Britain and the United States while conceiving of the two nations in a binary relationship. This binary model of competition, however, does not recognize London as the force that put Irish, Scottish, and American literature on common ground. Comparative scholarship on Scotland and America (a venerable subfield its own), moreover, has not reckoned with the book trade's concrete effects in forming what John Clive and Bernard Bailyn called "England's cultural provinces," nor has it found an appropriate place for Ireland as a provincial analog. The field of transatlantic studies has proliferated to such an extent that it has become difficult to generalize about its methodological commitments, encompassing as it does traditional studies of literary influence, theoretical meditations on Atlantic modernity, and historicized accounts of discrete locales embedded in transatlantic contexts and circuits of exchange. This book takes "literature" as a category of Atlantic modernity to be investigated through the local sites, transatlantic circuits, and cultural pressures of its emergence. It provides further evidence that the burden of proof now lies with those scholars who still wish to treat literary history in strictly national terms. "The nation," as Thomas Bender explains, "cannot be its own context."

The term transatlantic was used often in the period to characterize objects, ideas, and persons that crossed the Atlantic Ocean or phenomena defined by such crossing; it is in this general sense that I adopt it here. Scott, for example, upon reading a parody of his Lay of the Last Minstrel published in Philadelphia, called it a "a tolerable piece of dull Trans-Atlantic wit"; Irving, discussing the importance of "english reviewers," declared that "if these transatlantic censors praise [a book], I have no fear of its success in this country"; and the Quarterly Review, reviewing The Sketch Book, referred to "the publications of our transatlantic brethren." Edgeworth also conceived of the ocean as a conduit for traveling texts. She sustained a number of correspondences with friends "across the Atlantic," as she put it in a letter to the wife of Boston bookseller George Ticknor. These included one Mrs. Griffith, who sent her the latest American novels. "I am very much afraid that I shall never be able to satisfy you about the Last of the Mohicans," Edgeworth wrote on April 20, 1826, "but it is early times with us yet—as we began it only last night." The next day, she wrote an extra line between paragraphs before sending the letter: "April 21—Last night we got into the cavern that is a sublime scene—we begun to be much interested." Edgeworth later made sure the novelist learned of her approval. "If Mr. Cooper, the author, is in London and is known to you," she wrote to Albert Gallatin, "I beg you to make known to him my admiration of his Novels—The Last of the Mohicans especially is a most interesting and original work. I wish he would come to Ireland." Provincial authors were deeply connected to each other through the transatlantic circulation of books, reading, literary influence, claims of artistic affinity, professional relationships, and friendship.

Scholars of American literature have often dismissed the first three decades of the nineteenth century as either as a fall from the republicanism of the Revolutionary era into an insular and liberal nationalism or as a prelude to the more interesting productions of the antebellum period, when the rise of abolitionism, Jacksonian democracy, and the "American Renaissance" finally produced a literary culture worth our careful attention. In fact, this was a period in which a complex and influential provincial aesthetics emerged in concert with the wildly popular literatures of Ireland and Scotland. Irish and Scottish literary texts, especially those by Edgeworth and Scott, were among the most widely reprinted and highly respected works of the time. Nineteenth-century American literature begins with the thorough absorption of these provincial literatures. Everyone knows about Scott's importance—if not Edgeworth's—but few Americanists read their novels with the attention they initially received and still deserve, George Dekker's The American Historical Romance (1987) notwithstanding. In attending to this, by way of the book trade, this study fills a chronological gap between two books that have done much to shape the debate about early American literature and print, Michael Warner's The Letters of the Republic (1990) and Meredith McGill's American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting (2003). I offer the notion of provinciality as a way to comprehend American literature's constitutive entanglement with the print culture of the early nineteenth century and to highlight just how fundamentally transatlantic provinciality was.

Scholars of British literature have recently devoted their attention to the same Irish and Scottish authors whom Americanists have ignored. Romanticism itself—traditionally understood through the work of the six "great" English poets and now conceived more expansively to include all writing of period (poetry and prose, by men and by women)—has been redefined to include specifically Irish and Scottish contributions to the history of the novel, the rise of cultural nationalism, and the aesthetics of empire. But the literary history of Britain makes little sense without also addressing the material presence and popularity of American literature, which flooded the British marketplace especially in the 1820s. It is time for British literary historians to follow the lead of Americanists and acknowledge the importance of transatlantic reprinting. At least six hundred American titles were reprinted in London between 1800 and 1840, long before the well-known successes of The Scarlet Letter (1850) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), including the works of Irving and Cooper and many texts by Charles Brockden Brown, Royall Tyler, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, John Neal, George Tucker, and Sarah Hale (see the Appendix)—and American literature was consistently reviewed in major British literary journals. This book's focus on the importance of Irving's and Cooper's London editions begins a longer process of reconsidering other American writers whose works were published abroad. Irving's and Cooper's fraught provincial aesthetics contributed as much to Romantic-era notions of literary production as the literatures of the Celtic fringe.

More generally, London and the Making of Provincial Literature joins a growing scholarship devoted to connecting the history of material texts with a concern for aesthetics and literary form. An unprecedented number of literary scholars have embraced book history, a field inspired by the rise of digital media and the sense that we are currently experiencing a sea change in the history of communication akin to the invention of the printing press. Meanwhile, many literary critics, impatient with long-standing aversions to questions of aesthetic value, have proposed "a return to aesthetics" that has taken as many forms as there are meanings for the term aesthetics itself: a field of philosophical inquiry into a subject's experience of nature and of the object of art, a rubric for discussing an artwork's formal qualities, and a term for our politicized experience of the material world through our senses. Very few scholars interested in aesthetics use the empirical evidence that grounds book history (although only some have abandoned historicism altogether), while most literary scholars who have embraced book history shy away from questions of aesthetics. Yet provincial literature's necessary struggle with the London book trade helped shape one of the period's most pressing aesthetic questions: the place of "literature" in modernity. A new term, the aesthetics of provinciality, elaborated below, names the representational modes of Irish, Scottish, and American fiction that devised new theories of literature's distinctiveness from the tense crucible of cultural subordination. It is ironic that one result of success in London was the creation of three myths about the rise of Irish, Scottish, and American literatures as independent national traditions. Provincial literature, in contrast, was radically dependent. A different irony follows from this: out of such dependence, such embroilment in the materiality of the marketplace, provincial authors fashioned a powerful vision of the independence of literary experience. In establishing a direct connection between the London-centered book trade and the development of modern aesthetic theory, I argue that the history of books and the history of aesthetics are interdependent and mutually illuminating.


The remainder of this introduction provides (1) the material and theoretical ground for using the Anglophone literary field as a rubric for analysis and (2) the necessary philosophical context for the aesthetics of provinciality (which takes center stage in Chapters 3, 4, and 5). But first, a few words about evidence. This book uses a wide range of textual and material evidence gleaned from rare books archives, manuscript collections, digital archives, and primary and secondary sources. These include data about the distribution of books around the Anglophone Atlantic; the business correspondence of provincial publishers, including Mathew Carey in Philadelphia and Archibald Constable in Edinburgh; formal analyses of novels like Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl, Edgeworth's The Absentee (1812), and Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian (1818); manual textual collations of American texts revised for London republication, including Irving's The Sketch Book and Cooper's The Pioneers; Irving's editorial work at the reprint journal The Analectic Magazine (1813-1815); angry marginalia American readers scribbled in London-printed travel narratives; and numerous transprovincial borrowings and appropriations, including the celebration of the idea of "America" in radical Irish magazines and the American adoption of Walter Scott's song "Hail to the Chief" as a nationalistic anthem during the War of 1812. The book concludes with a rather long close reading of The Scarlet Letter (1850) as an allegory for changes in the structure of the transatlantic book trade at mid-century. I approach such evidence with various disciplinary tools and with different degrees of focus and attention, analytical decisions that vary from case to case. The language of booksellers' correspondence is examined closely because rhetorical analysis reveals the dynamics of provincial publishing far better than an approach that considers such correspondence a mere repository of information. Irving's and Cooper's entirely forgotten process of what I will be calling transatlantic revision is meticulously recorded and analyzed not only because it profoundly suggests their provinciality but also because they incorporated thousands of substantive changes they made for London into subsequent editions—authorial decisions all but lost to history but which inform the scholarly texts and reprints we read today. Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper are my principal focus simply because in their time, they were the most influential literary figures from their respective nations, although their reputations have fared unequally since then. Scott looms particularly large, as he did in the nineteenth century, partly because after immersing myself in the print culture of the period, such an emphasis seemed unavoidable and partly because we need to view his works in a new light as the provincial literary experiments they were. And finally, in an era defined by epochal events like the French, American, and Haitian Revolutions, the expansion of slavery and the British Empire, and the Napoleonic Wars, lesser happenings like the War of 1812 and the 1801 Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland take center stage. Provincial literature arose from the edges of the literary field; minor historical events were its fuel and its fodder.

The Anglophone Literary Field

Irish, Scottish, and American literatures were "made" as material products of the book trade and cultural artifacts of the literary field. Consider Irving, whose transatlantic triumph is as familiar as any story in American literary history. Yet the publication history that established it—his initial difficulties with The Sketch Book, followed by his success with John Murray—was guided by the economic, material, and cultural conditions of a London-centered book trade that alone could establish his arrival on the literary stage. The Sketch Book has stood for two hundred years as a rejoinder to Sydney Smith's contemporaneous jab in the Edinburgh Review: "In the four corners of the globe, who reads an American book?" But the book, as an object, was not American at all. Printed in England and distributed in London with the financial backing and cultural sanction of Murray's firm, the edition of The Sketch Book that reached the four corners of the globe may have been written by an American but it was a product of the London trade. The seven-part periodical printed in New York was never easily available in Britain, even though the texts of a few sketches were reprinted in journals there. In Britain, Murray's heavily revised and transformed two-volume edition was sold. At this time of his career, Irving was ecstatic to find his works all dressed up as London imprints. "Murray is going to make me so fine in print I shall hardly know myself," he wrote to a friend as plans were made after The Sketch Book for a new edition of The History of New York. Aware of the signals that "fine" craftsmanship emanates, Irving reveled in the increased prestige acquired through his association with Murray. The uneven dynamics of the book trade seeped into the deepest level of his authorial identity as print and its materiality became a metaphor for that identity. Through success in London, Irving experienced a bewildering transformation.

Bourdieu's sociological account of literary production can be productively extended beyond the nation to incorporate struggles involving the uneven distribution of cultural capital across an entire linguistic field. The literary field in early nineteenth-century Britain did not put economic success in inverse relation to artistic success, as was the case in Bourdieu's nineteenth-century France. This was true throughout the Anglophone world, where wide popularity reinforced an author's rise to prominence. Bourdieu famously argued that literary and artistic value are produced through a series of relations in society, including economic relations, that determine the definition of literature and art among writers, artists, and those involved in production and reception. Bourdieu considers "not only the direct producers of the work in its materiality (artist, writer, etc.) but also the producers of the meaning and value of the work—critics, publishers, gallery directors and the whole set of agents whose combined efforts produce consumers capable of knowing and recognizing the work of art as such." In the early nineteenth century, provincial authors appealed to metropolitan publishers and readers for the recognition and prestige that they, as producers of the meaning and value of literature, could bestow.

London was the center of the Anglophone literary field because it was the capital of the British Empire, but the literary field's internal divisions cannot be easily mapped according to imperial politics. Those divisions were influenced both by the unstable Irish and Scottish unions of what Michael Hechter has called "internal colonialism" and by the culturally indeterminate disunion of U.S. independence. The United States had of course been politically autonomous since the Revolution, but deep and lasting material, economic, and linguistic ties ensured American cultural dependence for decades to come. In contrast, Scotland was more politically and institutionally embroiled with England than ever before—amalgamated into Great Britain since 1707, central to British nationalism since 1745, and throughout the nineteenth century an integral partner in imperial expansion. Yet in the early nineteenth century, Scotland retained a distinct cultural identity dating back to the Enlightenment and grounded in the provincial capitals of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Meanwhile, Ireland, a predominantly Catholic colony long excluded from Protestant Britain and the benefits of empire, was newly absorbed into the United Kingdom by the Act of Union in 1801, which dissolved Dublin's independent Parliament and ended any hope of home rule.

In the literary field, these relationships were not isolated from one another—and not only because texts traveled across national boundaries. The Act of Union, often considered a limited affair of the British Isles, in fact had far-reaching consequences. The Union extended British copyright across the Irish Sea and shut down a Dublin book trade that, during the eighteenth century, had supplied much of North America with cheap unauthorized reprints. As the Dublin trade declined, booksellers in the United States fulfilled local demand by manufacturing their own reprints and in the process built a provincial publishing industry that confirmed the cultural dominance of London even as it grew significantly on its own. The controversy leading up to and following the Union also created an appetite in England for discourse about Ireland that paved the way of the Irish national tale to emerge. The result of this, I will argue, was that Edgeworth and Owenson theorized an ideal relationship to English readers that banished contentious political debates in favor of the purity of literary exchange. Such idealizations proved highly influential as provincial strategies for success; Walter Scott adapted them in the cross-cultural address of the Waverley novels, and Irving and Cooper, avid readers not only of Scott but also of Irish fiction, adapted them with an American twist.

The advantages of the London book trade were demographic, economic, and material. Its dominance, however, was inflected by the remarkably divergent histories of Irish, Scottish, and American bookselling, as Chapter 1 will demonstrate in detail. At the turn of the century, England's population dwarfed Scotland's by a factor of five, and low English-language literacy rates in Ireland, whose population in 1800 was over half that of England's, kept its reading population comparatively small. The population of the United States almost equaled England's by 1830, but the persistent preference for British reprints and a radical trade deficit in the importation of books—a ratio of twenty to one in the late 1820s—neutralized whatever effect the nation's growing readership may have had on the balance of cultural power. London publishers also held long-standing trade monopolies that consolidated economic resources, shut out competition, and fostered the commodification and specialization of literary publishing. The London-printed book was often an imposing material object. Elegantly bound, composed of gathering after gathering of high-quality paper, marked clearly and precisely in fashionable type, and stamped with the imprimatur of an eminent publisher, such a book carried the London trade's authority out to provincial markets, where readers could easily compare it with their own smaller and scrubby reprints. This produced a hierarchy of printed texts that reinforced geographically inflected cultural hierarchies: the materiality of the London edition powerfully reflected the authority of England itself, built up over centuries and extending far back in time.

The most significant challenge came from Scotland. In the eighteenth century, bookmakers at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment produced editions of equal elegance and importance to their peers in London. In the early nineteenth century, the Scottish trade exploded, as Archibald Constable and William Blackwood launched a series of enterprising publishing ventures, including Constable's Edinburgh Review, founded in 1802; Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, founded in 1817; and the careers of Walter Scott and a constellation of other Scottish authors, all of which, as Ian Duncan has written, "made Edinburgh a literary metropolis to rival London." Dublin, whose book trade was severely curtailed by the Act of Union, and Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, whose bourgeoning trades depended mostly on reprints, did not mount the kind of opposition Edinburgh mustered. Despite this, however, there persisted in Scotland what Jane Millgate has aptly called "the problem of London." London capitalization and partnership enabled the most ambitious Scottish publishing ventures, including Constable's and Blackwood's, and the great majority of Edinburgh-printed books were sent to London for sale and distribution. The Edinburgh Review only mattered, after all, because it left Edinburgh. In the 1820s, moreover, London publishers still issued over 80 percent of new titles within Britain as a whole. The state of the book trade varied from place to place and changed significantly over time; London's dominance was not uniform or monolithic. However, Irish, Scottish, and American authors, readers, and booksellers saw themselves as allies in the literary field and experienced and expressed their subordination in strikingly similar ways. By the 1820s, these similarities were increasingly apparent as provincial literature formed an intertwined and recognizable sector of the market.

The effects of provinciality in many ways confirm Pascale Casanova's provocative extension of Bourdieu in The World Republic of Letters (2004) to describe the cultural geography of "world literary space." Casanova organizes such space along a continuum of dominant and dominated areas, where literary resources are unevenly distributed between the cultural capitals at the centers of the oldest, most established literary nations and impoverished peripheral nations defined by their "aesthetic distance" from such capitals. Authors from dominated nations seek out publication and recognition in the major centers of literary production, "where literary prestige and belief converge in the highest degree." Literary resources are concentrated in those cities whose economies sustain both the production of books and the social world of practitioners who foster debate about the meaning of "literature" itself. Casanova's paradigmatic literary center is modernist Paris, a city whose consecrating authority organized world literary space into rivalries and divisions remarkably non-coincident with the uneven power relations that define the international socioeconomic order. In the early nineteenth century, London dominated its linguistic field with the kind of centralized authority Paris claimed, globally, a century later, but of course no two literary capitals are exactly alike. The importance of translation in modernist Paris did not obtain in a monolingual context, even though Irish, Scottish, and American authors presented their cultures to England in a process James Buzard, referring to Waverley, has called "translation without original." More significantly, London's authority in the nineteenth century, unlike Paris's in the twentieth, did indeed overlap with its political and economic dominance as the capital of empire; London, unlike Paris, incorporated marketplace triumphs into its vision of literary excellence (as I have already mentioned), and London, unlike Paris, did not require peripheral authors to reject local literary taste for the sake of a universal standard. Despite these differences, conceiving of an author's distance from London as "aesthetic distance" has many advantages. It moves beyond the political determinism that has governed the study of Irish, Scottish, and American literature at least since Katie Trumpener's Bardic Nationalism (1997) expanded the Romantic canon under the rubric of empire and the rise of ideology critique made complicity or resistance to the hegemonic U.S. nation-state the most pressing question in American literary studies. The specific Bourdieuian agenda of Casanova's model also offers a concrete vision of literary competition that encourages us to eschew easy myths of cosmopolitanism to mark the tightly wound rivalries that inspired the undeniably Anglo-centric authors, booksellers, and readers in this study. Provincial literature was not determined by national boundaries, nor did it transcend them; it flourished through the specific kind of cross-cultural struggle the literary field required.

How did Anglophone provincials fit into world literature, writ large (if we assume, with Casanova, that it exists)? On the most basic level, they were participants and contributors. Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper all engaged with a multilingual European culture made available to them through the importation of books, translation, and reprinting, as well as their own travels. Their works were translated into multiple foreign languages and published abroad with great success. Edgeworth was particularly admired in Russia, Irving in Spain, Cooper in Germany, and all of these authors in neighboring France. Scott's unparalleled impact on world literature can be seen in the spread of the historical novel as a global genre, from Japan to Brazil. Goethe coined the term Weltliteratur in the 1820s to describe an international literary marketplace that Marx and Engels later traced to the rise of the bourgeoisie. As market-savvy professionals with thoroughly bourgeois values, the authors of this study fared so well in that marketplace, it may even seem like they weren't provincial at all. Yet the Romantic dream (or nightmare) of Weltliteratur, evidenced broadly in dissemination and influence, did not affect their formative struggle within the predominantly Anglophone marketplace that was the arena of their initial consecration. This book is concerned with that initial stage, the material conditions of its possibility, and the influential provincial aesthetics it inspired.

The Aesthetics of Provinciality

A paradox recurs throughout modernity: that a great work of literature is both particular and universal, that it arises from a distinct context defined by a unique worldview with its own internal values, and also that it transcends that context, that worldview, and those values. This is a cliché in our own multicultural times, one repeated in cultural contexts high and low, in countless book reviews and citations for literary awards. It is a paradox and not a simple contradiction because the opposed concepts mutually inform each other in a profoundly circular logic: the representation of particularity provides access to universal truth while universality accrues meaning and importance to the particular. Early nineteenth-century provincials wrote in an era during which the "nation" occupied a privileged relationship to both sides of this paradoxical coin. Literature was newly understood to be particularly national in its essence and, as such, an expression of what makes all nations part of universal human nature. This conception of literature was both attractive to Irish, Scottish, and American authors and deeply problematic. It was attractive because they could fashion themselves in the London marketplace as national spokespersons and their work as nationally distinctive. It was problematic because metropolitan readers were skeptical that representations of Irish, Scottish, or American national particularity had any purchase whatsoever on universality, partly because of English chauvinism but more profoundly because as sociopolitical entities, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States did not fit seamlessly into the category of the nation as the ideology of cultural nationalism defined it. Dependence on London ensured that these inescapable difficulties persisted, and it was out of such difficulties that the aesthetics of provinciality emerged.

Caught in an impossible wish that their works be accepted as both national and universal, provincial authors offered powerful claims for the unique place of literature in society. These claims developed out of the extreme pressure they put on cross-cultural literary exchange as the unavoidable strategy for approaching London. To ease such crossing, they retreated into what Richard Poirier long ago called "a world elsewhere," the belief that "through literature it is possible to create environments radically different from those supported by economic, political, and social systems." Such a retreat was always ideological, as the Marxist critique of bourgeois aesthetics insists. According to that critique, the commodification of literature and the expansion of the reading public in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries led to idealizations of aesthetic experience that reject the marketplace and claim independence for the work of art. Irish, Scottish, and American authors insisted, too, that literary production and exchange is a relatively autonomous endeavor. In turning to London, however, they derived this idea from an embrace of the marketplace, rather than its denial. Their literary sphere is "autonomous" not because of a pure Kantian commitment to nonpurposive aesthetic judgment, nor because they denied the messy world of commodification, but more generally because of an insistence that literature operates according to its own laws. The aesthetics of provinciality consists of a range of representational modes, derived from geographically inflected cultural subordination, that vacillate between national and universal conceptions of art; it takes refuge in the belief that literature enjoys an exalted role in human affairs. Such a belief had roots in Enlightenment theories of taste and received new force with the rise of Romanticism.

In many ways, Enlightenment thinkers provided hostile philosophical conditions for the provincial author who wished to represent his or her culture to English readers. A high premium was placed on resemblance. "[W]e are more pleased, in the course of our reading," writes David Hume in "Of the Standard of Taste" (1757), "with pictures and characters, that resemble objects which are found in our own age or country, than with those which describe a different set of customs." For Hume and others, aesthetic pleasure derives partly from finding correspondences between one's own experience (derived from the senses) and artistic representation. For Joseph Addison, the secondary pleasures of the imagination—those reserved for the experience of art rather than nature—"originate from comparing ideas of an original object with those from some representation of it." Edmund Burke emphasized that for the imagination, "a pleasure is perceived from the resemblance, which the imitation has to the original." The classic works of antiquity achieved this because they were understood to imitate a universal human nature that transcended time and place. The scant praise eighteenth-century writers reserved for novelty did not override their general prejudice against particularity.

Provincial authors found some solace in cultural nationalism, the view of Johann Gottfried Herder, as John Hutchinson describes it, that insists "the essence of a nation is its distinctive civilization, which is the product of its unique history, culture, and geographical profile." Germaine de Staël espoused this view in works that were widely disseminated throughout the Anglophone world, including Corinne; or, Italy (1807), a novel delineating Italian manners and customs, and De l'Allemagne (1810), a study of German culture and philosophy. Staël praised "indigenous" works of literature with deep connections to "national feeling." Buoyed by the increasing authority of vernacular works over the classics, cultural nationalism flourished through the logic of comparison. "Civilization continually tends to make all men look alike and almost really be alike," Staël writes in Corinne, "but one's mind and imagination delight in the differences which characterize nations." Difference, in this view, rather than resemblance, accrues value to the literary. Such ideas were incorporated into provincial literature because of the exogenous address embedded even within the most insular expressions of national culture.

Not everyone shared Staël's delight in transnational comparison, however. Unfortunately for provincial authors, many English readers, critics, and booksellers continued to exult in their assumed superiority. A more fundamental problem was the association of nation with language. "In learning the prosody of a language," writes Staël, in a very Herderian passage, "we enter more intimately into the spirit of the nation by which it is spoken than by any other possible manner of study." It follows that nations without a language lack their own "spirit," a problem elite Americans keenly felt after independence as they tried to found a national literature in the language of England. Irish and Scottish authors often enlisted dialect in the service of national distinctiveness, but dependence on London meant they could never fully leave English behind. English culture, meanwhile, silently absorbed cultural nationalism's valuation of the vernacular through the familiar alchemy of making English seem universal. In his preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802), for example, Wordsworth's "language really used by men" paradoxically invests an inherently local variant, English, with the general significance of "truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative." The provincial author could never make such silent and seamless claims about their chosen language of representation.

The same Enlightenment thinkers invested in resemblance, however, also provided philosophical ground for the cross-cultural literary transaction. In "Of the Standard of Taste," Hume articulated the values of the unbiased critic, who "must preserve his mind free from all prejudice." "When any work is addressed to the public," Hume writes, "though I should have a friendship or enmity with the author, I must depart from this situation; and considering myself as a man in general, forget, if possible, my individual being and my personal circumstances." Through transcending the contingences of the "personal," Humean disinterest grants universality to the observer ("man in general"); this locates value not in representation but in the integrity of judgment. Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) provided a model of sympathy that complemented the selflessness of Hume's ideal critic. Smith's model, almost immediately absorbed as a theory of literature, not only encouraged the spectator or reader to forget his or her own personal interests through identifying with the other but endowed such identification with the highest moral value. "And hence it is," Smith writes, "that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature." Provincial authors appealed to the "benevolent affections" of metropolitan readers in heavily aestheticized Smithian gestures. These appeals shaped the kind of cross-cultural communion they imagined could overcome distance and national difference.

Cross-cultural communion occurred in the very limited sphere of the literary. As John Guillory and Clifford Siskin have argued, by the Romantic period, the category of "literature" had disaggregated from other realms of culture. The aesthetics of provinciality helped define the terms of this disaggregation by claiming for literature its own values and rules. Provincial authors banished politics and prejudice to promote literary exchange as a peaceful elite activity—what Siskin calls the "pleasurable familiarity of Literature." That activity mingled Enlightenment ideals of disinterest and sympathy with a more quintessentially Romantic ideology that insists products of the imagination exist entirely for their own sakes. Literary exchange was imagined to be isolated, protected, and supervised according to rules only specialized practitioners could determine and fulfill. "Exchange" was, indeed, paramount, given the importance of cross-cultural communion, and its necessity marks an obvious difference between the aesthetics of provinciality and a Kantian or Coleridgean notion of aesthetic form as organic or nonpurposive. But even Kant, in the Critique of Judgment (1790), grants aesthetic pleasure a purpose once it is joined with the idea of communication. Regarding "the judgment of taste," Kant writes that "it does not follow that after it has been given as a pure aesthetic judgment no interest can be combined with it." The highest form of interest that can be added to such a judgment is appreciation of its "universal communicability," which "almost infinitely increases its value" through demonstrating an "inclination to society." The value of a judgment's universal communicability—tied to Kant's "common sense"—gives a social function to aesthetics that admits into its compass relations among persons. "In the sphere of aesthetic culture," Terry Eagleton writes, with regard to the Kantian imaginary, "we can experience our shared humanity." Kant never describes pure aesthetic judgment as anything other than a priori determined, but the added indirect value of universal communicability provides a powerful model for a literary sphere defined through its own ideals.

The aesthetics of provinciality comprised a heterogeneous number of strategies and commitments—appeals to readers' sympathy, aestheticized displays of national character, figurations of cross-cultural communion—and different texts exhibit it in widely different ways. Owenson, Scott, and Cooper, for example, were more comfortable with relying on nationally defined conceptions of art than Edgeworth and Irving, for whom such conceptions were especially difficult to swallow, and Edgeworth never fully abandoned literature's didactic function for the more fully escapist fantasies of Irving and Cooper. London was at the center of all this, as subsequent chapters will show. For now, a famous set piece from Waverley can suggest the intertwined relationship between the history of books and the history of aesthetics that this project as a whole attempts to trace. At the end of that novel, Scott unveils a portrait of Waverley and Fergus MacIvor, the Jacobite rebel and Highland chief who guides Waverley through the romanticized political landscape of Scotland. The portrait hangs in the hall of the newly dispossessed Baron of Bradwardine, whose lowland Scottish manor has been artificially restored by the English gentleman who purchased it after the war. By this time, Waverley has married the daughter of Bradwardine, and MacIvor has been executed for treason. Scott's description densely crystallizes the implications of his fictional project:

It was a large and animated painting, representing Fergus Mac-Ivor and Waverley in their Highland dress; the scene a wild, rocky, and mountainous pass, down which the clan were descending in the background. It was taken from a spirited sketch, drawn while they were in Edinburgh by a young man of high genius, and had been painted on a full length scale by an eminent London artist. Raeburn himself (whose Highland chiefs do all but walk out of the canvas) could not have done more justice to the subject.
As many have noted, this portrait encapsulates the aestheticization of history the novel as a whole enacts. Few have asked, how was the portrait made? Scott carefully divides labor between Edinburgh, the location of "high genius," and London, where "eminen[ce]" resides. In Edinburgh, a "young man" makes an unpolished and spontaneous drawing, an ephemeral "sketch" originating, Scott suggests, from deep within the "spirit" of the man himself. This is a Romantic description of the creative process, one that deploys the term genius in its emergent sense to indicate the "exalted ability," as Raymond Williams has written, of a "special kind of person." Scott's location of such genius in Edinburgh—and the use he makes of it, to depict Highland dress and Scotland's sublime scenery—ties it indelibly to national culture.

Yet the drawing transforms significantly as it travels. In London, the once materially insignificant "sketch" expands into "full-length scale" under the auspices of a culturally sanctioned figure, the "eminent London artist," who has distinguished it with his attention and with an elevated medium. Now a painting of magnificent size, it emanates an aura of permanence and authority that defines its artistic power. "The whole piece was generally admired," Scott writes. The return of the sketch from London in its new material form involves the spectacle of its transformation into a serious art object. In mapping the portrait's production onto the geography of his own novel's production and distribution—written and printed in Edinburgh, consecrated and sold mostly in the full-scale London marketplace, received as a triumphant success back home—Scott provides a figure both for the plot of his novel and for its making as a material and literary artifact. The tension in the passage between the organic creativity of "genius" and the deliberate yet authoritative skill of the "artist" reflects the tension within the aesthetics of provinciality between the nationally defined essence of the provincial writer and the aesthetic value he claims while seeking acceptance in the metropolis. It also depends on a retreat from the violent political conflict Scott's novel relegates firmly to the past. This highly self-reflexive moment in Waverley exudes a theory of the "literary" tied ineluctably to the geographically inflected hierarchies of the book trade.

Limits and Structure

The activity of a small group of provincial authors, publishers, and readers could never represent fully the relationship between print culture and literary expression in the early nineteenth century, and I do not claim that it does. I have necessarily left out an enormous amount of material, including poetry. Fiction's evolving position as a newly legitimated genre makes it an ideal site for tracing the struggles of writers who devised representational modes to fit the contours of the marketplace, although this does not preclude my argument's relevance for Irish, Scottish, and American poetry of the same period. Most important, for me, however, this book does not directly address the print culture of the early black Atlantic, which I have written about elsewhere and continue to explore. My research on Edgeworth, Owenson, Scott, Irving, and Cooper has developed concurrently and in relation to research on Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano, and William Hamilton. I cannot proceed without drawing some points of comparison and contrast within this interconnected Anglophone archive. London remained the locus of ambitious book publication for all of these writers; Wheatley's Poems (1773), Sancho's Letters (1782), and Equaino's Interesting Narrative (1789)—like Castle Rackrent and The Sketch Book—were London titles shaped by metropolitan ambitions. Wheatley's transatlantic pilgrimage from Boston to London to oversee the publication of her poetry resonates with the centripetal journeys of elite provincials, and Sancho called Wheatley a "genius in bondage" in an act of judgment deeply evocative of the aesthetic theories explored in this book. Yet early black writing entered the realm of print through processes quite different from those under investigation here. Authors like Edgeworth and Irving may have struggled with an uneven literary field, but early black writers faced a book trade that privileged whiteness and granted them access most often through patrons, editors, and amanuenses. Such differences were compounded and reinforced, of course, by wide differences in class and social status. In The Black Atlantic, Paul Gilroy begins his critique of "the fatal junction of the concept of nationality with the concept of culture" with a powerful indictment of English cultural nationalism, an "aesthetic and cultural tradition" that "reproduced its nationalism and its ethnocentrism by denying imaginary, invented Englishness any external referents whatsoever." In many ways, elite provincials were among those who most fully benefited from such a "fatal junction," however distanced they were from Englishness itself. Gilroy's assessment of black authors' resistance to and exclusion from dominant aesthetic ideologies has heavily influenced my account of the instantiation of those ideologies in this book as an aesthetics of provinciality.

As we shall see, the social and economic inequalities of the Atlantic world provided provincial authors a litany of usable and marketable stereotypes rather than any serious impediment to success. Their fiction depends on a number of essentialized stock figures—dying Indians, dispossessed Irish Catholics, savage and noble Highlanders, enslaved Africans—as signs of national difference and authenticity. These were stereotypes to which their elite and popular readerships responded with eagerness and desire; with roots in stadial theories of history and racial difference, they were part of cultural nationalism's arsenal of ideological weapons. They were also mutually reinforcing as Irish, Scottish, and American authors analogized the manners and customs of their societies' marginalized populations. These authors are not, perhaps, to be congratulated for overcoming the rather mild cultural differences and inequalities they faced in the literary field. Their careers are fascinating, however, precisely for the way provinciality transformed relatively minor rivalries into powerful literary fantasies. Irving writes, in a passage I discuss in Chapter 4, that "it should be the exalted ministry of literature to keep together the family of human nature." Literature has surely done its share of pushing the "family" apart—the category "literature" (as Irving understands it) gained potency partly because it served the interests of a particular class; one of its social functions was to provide an instrument for elite Anglo-American solidarity. As Frederic Jameson reminds us, "All class consciousness of whatever type is Utopian insofar as it expresses the unity of a collectivity." Writers like Irving thought literature provided a precious and glorious collective escape. I am interested in tracing how this idea emerged from the utopian fantasies of provincial writers—both hidden within literary texts and on their surface.


Six chapters progress from booksellers to authors to readers, from the material production and sale of literary texts (Chapters 1 and 2); to the London-centric careers of provincial authors (Chapters 3, 4, and 5); to the vehement reactions of those who rejected England's cultural authority (Chapter 6). The book ends with an epilogue that takes stock of the literary field from the mid-nineteenth century, by which time the balance of cultural power in the Anglophone world had begun to change. The project's chronology derives from the publication dates of two texts that mark its outer limits: Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent (1800) and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850).

Chapter 1 analyzes economic data, patterns of distribution, publication statistics, copyright law, customary trade practices, and discourse about the book trade to establish London's centrality and mark significant changes in provincial publishing in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. It argues that the book trade can benefit from a perspective more radically attuned to transatlantic circulation than historians of the book have hitherto employed. Chapter 2 offers a case study on the publication of Walter Scott's fiction to illustrate one benefit of such a perspective. Scott's wildly popular Waverley novels were printed in Edinburgh but distributed mostly in London, where his Philadelphia publishers, Mathew and Henry Carey, acquired them for reprinting and sale in the United States. The Careys established an unprecedented agreement with Scott's publisher, Archibald Constable, to purchase advance sheets of the novels before official publication. Using booksellers' correspondence and printed texts, I tell a new story about this transatlantic arrangement to argue that the London marketplace affected the transmission of what came to be called the "American Copy" of the Waverley novels.

Chapter 3 reassesses the effect of the 1801 Act of Union on the major fiction of Maria Edgeworth and Sydney Owenson, whose novels were the first to establish the representational modes of the aesthetics of provinciality. Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, The Absentee (1812), and Ormond (1817), as well as Owenson's The Wild Irish Girl (1806), use formal devices like the marriage plot and travel narrative to project an ideal relation with English readers meant to ameliorate the political tensions that defined the relationship between Ireland and England. While Edgeworth defines cross-cultural literary exchange within the universalized moral codes of Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, Owenson embraces the more Romantic fantasy that literature inhabits its own sphere in society. The discourse of national character to which both authors turn both supports and undermines the ideal author-reader relationships their novels enact through narrative form. I argue that politically reductive readings tied to the Act of Union cannot explain aesthetic practices that became hugely influential for Scottish and American authors who also sought out English audiences but for whom the Union itself was not a pressing concern.

Chapter 4 has two major goals: to establish the material presence of American fiction in London and to assess the effects of provinciality on the career of Washington Irving, the first American author to succeed abroad. Most British reprints of American texts were unauthorized ventures pursued by London publishers without the consent of American authors. But Britain, unlike the United States, allowed Americans with the right connections to negotiate copyright protection, a fact that made possible Irving's and Cooper's process of transatlantic revision. I argue that Irving's strategies of revision were shaped by his provinciality, formed initially by his work as an editor of The Analectic Magazine during the War of 1812 and compounded anew as he acquired John Murray as The Sketch Book's London publisher. Irving's work as editor during a time of war inspired an ideological conception of the purity of literary exchange, a commitment that entirely governs the aesthetics of The Sketch Book itself. As a provincial, Irving evacuates his authorial persona of nationalized political commitments even as he offers a number of "American" tales to the marketplace for consumption.

Cooper and Scott, so often paired together, are rarely paired as provincials, and yet as I argue in Chapter 5, an attention to the importance of London has the potential to revise our understanding of the cultural work of their fiction. Many readers of Cooper and Scott have argued that their historical novels embody the needs of their expanding imperial societies. This chapter posits the Anglophone literary field as an equally appropriate arena for these ostensibly nationalist writers and argues that the cross-cultural address embedded in their fiction, and particularly in The Pioneers and The Heart of Mid-Lothian, produces the fantasy of an autonomous literary sphere that minimizes national politics for the sake of unadulterated literary exchange. While Scott's early Waverley novels take their cue from the Irish national tale and embed English readers with broad narrative allegories, Cooper's early Leatherstocking Tales take their cue from Irving and betray an address to such readers through transatlantic revision. Cooper's revisions to The Pioneers for Colburn and Bentley's "Standard Novels" series transformed that novel's marriage plot and its archetypical American hero, Natty Bummpo, into devices for Anglo-American camaraderie, and Scott's The Heart of Mid-Lothian allegorizes its relation to the London marketplace through Jeanie Deans's pilgrimage from Edinburgh to London, climaxing as she arrives in London to appeal to the sympathies of Queen Caroline—a striking figure for the English reader.

Chapter 6 considers provinciality from the perspective of readers in Ireland, Scotland, and the United States who rejected London's authority and channeled their resentment wholeheartedly into the service of a reactionary, anti-English nationalism. It begins with the volatile genre of metropolitan travel writing, in which English writers journey around the Atlantic world and publish their accounts back in London. These narratives infuriated many provincial readers who issued vehement objections in print and in marginalia they scribbled onto the offending books themselves. The chapter then considers two examples of the trans-provincial currents underpinning the nationalisms of Ireland and the United States. In Ireland, many harnessed the memory of America's struggle for independence to define an Irish nationalism that vehemently rejected England. In the United States, meanwhile, nationalists adopted the anti-English rhetoric of Walter Scott's poems to fuel their own defiance of England during the War of 1812. It was during the war that Americans adopted a song from Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake (1810) as the official anthem of American presidents. Now referred to by its first words, "Hail to the Chief"—but never sung with its original words—this song was originally written as the imagined battle cry of a Highland chief who died fighting England.

The Epilogue assesses changes in the transatlantic book trade that resulted in the redistribution of cultural capital around the Anglophone Atlantic and the decline of London as the obvious point of reference for American writers. It does so through the career of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who wrote his earliest stories in the age of Edgeworth, Owenson, Irving, Scott, and Cooper. I argue that The Scarlet Letter (1850) is a profound reflection on the obsolescence of those authors' representational modes, one made possible by epochal changes in the conditions that originally produced them. At the end of the novel, Hester stays in New England to signal the legitimacy of a newly nationalized American marketplace that can accommodate its own ambitious fiction writers. The plot of The Scarlet Letter, as well as the relationship between "The Custom House" and the romance itself, reflects a newly organized literary field that no longer had a clearly authoritative audience to which writers turned for recognition.

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