Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth of July - The View of a British Lady

The following excerpt is taken from Frances Trollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans. Frances, the mother of novelist Anthony Trollope, lived in the United States for three years, chiefly in Cincinnati. Her book created a storm on this side of the Atlantic as Americans felt they were portrayed as ill-mannered boors, but it laid the foundation for her career.

And now arrived the 4th of July, that greatest of all American festivals. On the 4th of July, 1776, the declaration of their independence was signed at the Statehouse in Philadelphia.

On the 4th of July, the hearts of the people seem to awaken from a 364 days’ sleep. They appear high-spirited, gay, animated, social, generous, or at least liberal in expense; and would they but refrain from spitting on that hallowed day, I should say that on the 4th of July, at least, they appeared to be amiable people. It is true that the women have but little to do with pageantry, the splendour, or the gaiety of the day; but, setting this defect aside, it was indeed a glorious sight to behold a jubilee so heartfelt as this; and had they not had the bad taste and bad feeling to utter an annual oration, with unvarying abuse of the mother country, to say nothing of the warlike manifesto called Declaration of Independence, our gracious king himself might look upon the scene and say that it was good; and even rejoice that twelve millions of bustling bodies, at four thousand miles distance from his throne and his altars, should make their own laws and drink their own tea after the fashion that pleased them best.

In Mrs. Trollope's own words: In 1832, I published Domestic Manners of the Americans, which was described by one critic as “a spirited, highly critical account of [my] adventures and travels in the new republic.” Although my candid observations about American life and society were contemptuously dismissed by American reviewers, Domestic Manners of the Americans was enormously popular in England and it launched my career as a writer and social critic.

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