Thursday 30 October 2008

Spirit of theTimes: November 1853

Welcome to Spirit of the Times, the first in a new and occasional series that delves into the ever-expanding world of online resources to recreate what was hot (and, maybe, what was not) in American culture in this month at a certain point in the past. This time, November 1853:
  • Publication of the month: readers of Putnam's Monthly were treated to the first part of Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" (with the second part to come in December).
  • With the inauguration of President Franklin Pierce only a few months old, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act in the near future, it is unsurprising that the issue of slavery dominated popular culture. Even in November 1853, the ramifications of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) were still being felt. The book was both reviewed in the North American Review and rebutted in DeBow's. (Indeed, 1853 also witnessed the publication of William Wells Brown's pioneering novel Clotel; or the President's Daughter and Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home".)
  • For all that the presence of American writers and themes was powerfully felt in the pages of American journals, the importance of English writers to American readers was still highly significant. In November 1853, the North American Review ran a review of Charles Dickens' recently published Bleak House. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, on the other hand, ran the first installment of William Makepeace Thackeray's The Newcomes.
  • And finally: Harper's New Monthly Magazine reviewed the fashions for November, whilst Scientific American featured the following recipe for toothpaste - as well as the advice that "Washing the face, hands and feet before retiring to sleep conduces to health and longevity."

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