1858 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Kirke Paulding

Charles D. Cleveland, in Compendium of American Literature (1858; 1859) 211-12.



It is now more than half a century since James Kirke Paulding made his first appearance as an author. He is of the old Dutch stock, and was born in Pleasant Valley, a town in Dutchess County, New York, on the 22d of August, 1778. All the advantages of education which be had were such only as a country school could afford; and at about the age of eighteen, through the assistance of one of his brothers, he obtained a place in a public office in New York City. His sister had married Peter Irving, a merchant of high character, who was afterwards a representative to Congress, and through him he became acquainted with his younger brother, Washington Irving, with whom he contracted an intimate friendship. This resulted in the publication, in 1807, of a series of papers, written sometimes by one and sometimes by the other, and sometimes jointly by both, called Salmagundi, — the principal object of which was to satirize the follies of fashionable life. Contrary to the expectation of the authors, it became very popular, and had a wide circulation, though at this day most of its wit and satire is little appreciated.

The success of this work probably decided the authors to a literary life, who, however, in future pursued their avocations separately. In 1817, Mr. Panlding published the Lay of a Scotch Fiddle, a satirical poem, and Jokeby, a burlesque of "Rokeby," in six cantos; and the next year, a prose pamphlet entitled The United States and England, which was called forth by a criticism in the "London Quarterly" on "Inchiquin's Letters," written by Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll, of Philadelphia. In 1815, he passed part of the summer in a tour through Virginia, where he wrote and afterwards published his Letters from the South, containing sketches of scenery, manners, and character. In 1816, he published The Diverting History of John Bell and Brother Jonathan, the most popular of his satires; in 1818, The Backwoodsman, a descriptive poem; in the next year, the second series of Salmagundi, of which he was the sole author; and in 1823, Konigsmarke, a novel founded on the history of the Swedish settlements on the Delaware, the title of which was afterwards changed to that of Old Times in the New World. In 1824 appeared John Bull in America, or The New Munchausen; in 1826, Merry Tales of the Three Wise Men of Gotham; and, in the two following years, The New Pilgrim's Progress, and The Tales of a Good Woman by u Doubtful Gentleman. In 1831, he published his Dutchman's Fireside, the best of his novels. It is a domestic story of the Old French War, and the scene is laid among the sources of the Hudson and the borders of Lake Champlain. In the three following years appeared Westward Ho, a novel founded on forest-life, the scenery of which is chiefly in Kentucky; Life of Washington; and Slavery in the United States.

From 1837 to 1841, Mr. Paulding was at the head of the Navy Department of the United States, under the Van Buren administration; since which he has retired from public life, and now resides on the east bank of the Hudson, about eight miles above Poughkeepsie. In 1846, he published a new novel, — The Old Continental; and, in 1850, his last work, — The Puritan's Daughter, the scenery of which is laid partly in England and partly in the United States.