Ohio History Journal

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University of Sheffield

"America through British eyes" has thrown up an enormous

amount of comment and historical writing since the times of Mrs.

Trollope and the waspish Captain Basil Hall. The recent reissue

of an anthology bearing that title1 affords an excuse for adding

yet a few more pages to that subject by calling attention to a work

which is very often ignored when the subject is being studied.

It is a commonplace that accounts of American travels,

written by British authors, were often oblique criticisms of the

British as well as the American way of life;2 that the growth of

English Liberalism was fortified by reassuring examples of the

working of democracy across the Atlantic. America replaced the

continent as the place for the Grand Tour--undertaken by any

young man who wished to make a name for himself in affairs in

England. Sometimes, however, these books were deeper com-

parisons which made their readers think. Of such a class, it

is submitted, was the work of a fifty-four year old publisher--

William Chambers.


William Chambers was the type of person who would have

succeeded in any social milieu. Born in 1800, his success story-

apprentice to a bookseller, publisher of his own books with a

hand press, founder of a journal which bore his name-spanned


1 Allan Nevins, ed., America Through British Eyes (New York, 1948) was

first issued as American Social History as Recorded by British Travellers a quarter

of a century before. Nevins selects as typical examples of British writing on this

subject during the years 1840-70, James Silk Buckingham, Charles Lyell, Alexander

Mackay, W. H. Russell, Edward Dicey, and Anthony Trollope.

2 For earlier accounts, see J. L. Mesick, The English Traveller in America

(New York, 1922), and J. F. McDermott, "A Note on Mrs. Trollope," Ohio State

Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, XLV (1936), 369n. See also W. H. G.

Armytage, "James Stuart's Journey up the River Mississippi in 1830," Mid-America,

XX (1949), 92-100.