By Jesper Gulddal (auth.)
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Extra resources for Anti-Americanism in European Literature
In the early 1800s, this democracy was still a unique experiment and therefore attracted a great deal of interest in Europe, which was still predominantly absolutist. 64 Predictably, they reacted with annoyance, and it was only natural that they should ask whether the American republic really was as exemplary as the Americans professed. Most often the answer to this question was negative. A large part of the political anti-Americanism of this period was directed against the contradictions and inconsistencies that allegedly characterized democracy in America.
Here, Moore begins by conjuring up a vision of Italy, which is celebrated in fairly conventional terms as a land where the poetic spirit of yore has survived until the present day. In Italy, one can still happen on “the ghost of ancient wit” and “the courtly bard,” representatives of the culture of antiquity and the Middle Ages, and in the presence of such characters the modern poet has no difficulty letting himself be inspired by the muses. From this perspective, Moore turns to the United States of the early nineteenth century, representing it as the rude and exceedingly prosaic antithesis of Italy.
Like Dickens’s American Notes, this book raised an outcry among Marryat’s American readership, for Marryat did not care much for the United States either, and his censure was particularly severe regarding what the Americans themselves were most proud of, namely their democratic institutions. Like most conservatives of this period, Marryat had no doubt that democracy was an inferior form of government based on blind faith in the notoriously irrational and fickle masses. This viewpoint is expressed as early as the introduction, where Marryat proposes a distinction between republicanism and democracy.