Domestic Manners of the Americans
First edition title page
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback) & E-book|
|Pages||c.200 pp (May change depending on the publisher and the size of the text)|
Domestic Manners of the Americans is an 1832 travel book by Frances Trollope, which follows her travels through America and her residence in Cincinnati, at the time still a frontier town. The text now resides in the public domain.
Frances Trollope traveled to America together with her son Henry, "having been partly instigated by the social and communistic ideas of a lady whom I well remember, a certain Miss Wright, who was, I think, the first of the American female lecturers". (Anthony Trollope - An Autobiography) She briefly stayed at the Nashoba Commune, a Utopian settlement for ex-slaves which Wright had set up in Tennessee, where she was dismayed by the primitive conditions.
The book created a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, as Frances Trollope had a caustic view of the Americans and found America strongly lacking in manners and learning. She was appalled by America's egalitarian middle-class and by the influence of evangelicalism that was emerging during the Second Great Awakening. Trollope was also disgusted by slavery, of which she saw relatively little as she stayed in the South only briefly, and by the popularity of tobacco chewing.
Her views were understandable for a number of reasons. It had been only 15 years since England was at war with the United States and the earlier American Revolutionary War was still remembered; Trollope was a conservative person, a staunch Tory, for whom the idea of democracy was abhorrent; and while in America she was unhappy as a result of financial and marital difficulties.
Trollope "had no profundity of thought ... but she had a seeing eye and a lively pen". Her descriptions are "never boring: she makes us see the lonely clearings and farms, the huge silent rivers, Niagara, untamed and unvulgarised, the clear bright air ..."
The book was both highly controversial and highly successful, selling "like wildfire". It also enabled its author to become a wage-earner and save her family from penury. American author Mark Twain was amused and impressed by Trollope's observations of the Antebellum frontier America he grew up in: "Mrs Trollope was so handsomely cursed and reviled by this nation [for] telling the truth... she was painting a state of things which did not change at once. ... I remember it."