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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Richard Lewis
(1700?-1734)


Richard Lewis, a prolific writer, probably came to America from Wales in 1718. He became a schoolmaster and member of the Assembly in Maryland. According to his biographer, J.A. Leo Lemay, no other American poet of the early eighteenth century was so widely reprinted.

Like Ebenezer Cook, Richard Lewis creates a peculiarly American poem using an English poetic model. English pastorals, based upon classical models replete with nymphs and shepherds, idealized rural life and rural scenery, in a verse form that emulated the order and harmony of nature. At the hands of English writers like Pope and Philips, the pastoral increasingly began to show the influence of the eighteenth-century realities of English rural life. With its emphasis upon the rural life and its allegorical impulse, the pastoral would have been a welcome form to adapt in America, the place fast turning from a wilderness into a garden. At the hands of Richard Lewis, the pastoral form was transformed into a mode offering a central critique of English poetry because of its pro-American stance. In applying the pastoral tradition to American poetry, Lewis implicitly claimed that American nature was superior to English or European nature as subject, indeed that English and classical poets might have written better had they had America as their topic.

This text is taken from the London Weekly Register of January 1, 1732. Unless otherwise noted, annotations are from that publication.




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In the Heath Anthology
A Journey from Patapsko to Annapolis, April 4, 1730 (1732)

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