Ohio History Journal

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GEORGE G. MERWIN. Edited with an

introduction by C. Harvey Gardiner.

(Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univer-

sity Press, 1966. xviii+102p. $4.50.)

Not widely recognized for what it

really is, an interesting early Ohio book

has been published as the fourth in a

valuable series of "Latin American Travel"

reprints. The book is presented as a New

York publication of Follett, Foster & Com-

pany in 1863, and the editor neither men-

tions the fact that it first came out two

years earlier (1861) in Columbus, Ohio

under the title, Three Years in Chili. By

a Lady of Ohio, nor that the labor of shap-

ing the author's amateurish composition

into very readable printer's copy was per-

formed by young William Dean Howells.

In 1860, finding his editorial post on the

Ohio State Journal temporarily closed out,

Howells turned to various kinds of piece-

work offered by his friend Frank Foster,

a partner in the prospering Columbus pub-

lishing firm mentioned above that had not

yet moved to New York. Howells redid

the anonymous memoirs from Chile either

that spring or the following fall.

The little narrative is quite appealing

in its newly revised form. The editor has

refashioned chapter heads, redone Spanish

that the author knew not at all, both cor-

rected and modernized punctuation and

spelling (e.g., Chili), and furnished a

succinct and adequate introduction.

The author was Loretta L. Merwin

(Mrs. George B.), daughter of Reuben

Wood, who had been chief justice of the

Ohio Supreme Court and, from 1851 till

1853, Democratic governor. Wood had

resigned from the bench in 1853 to accept

an appointment as consul, later minister

to Valparaiso, Chile. Soon bored and disil-

lusioned by his isolated assignment, he

returned to Ohio the next year, naming

his son-in-law George B. Merwin his vice-

consul. Hence the presence of the Merwins

in Chile and the need for tactful anonym-

ity under which the "Lady from Ohio"

launched her account of travel observations

during 1855-1857.

Mrs. Merton's chapters are mainly brief

impressionistic sketches compiled from a

personal journal. Five chapters record the

forty-nine day journey from New York via

Jamaica and the Isthmus of Panama.

Eleven describe Valparaiso, its people and

customs, the writer's problems of domestic

adjustment, and travels round about. Three

tell of the seventy-six day return voyage

via Cape Horn to Boston. In spite of

telescoped-journal dating, the story is al-

most timeless until the middle, when the

author mentions a trip to Santiago on

September 4, 1855. Specific personalities

and historical events, except for earth-

quakes, are sedulously avoided. The point

of view is that of a Midwestern Protestant

provincial in wholly unfamiliar terrain.

The narrative comes most vividly to life

in bits of personal experience, notably in

a fine account of a harrowing trip across

the Isthmus of Panama and quite amus-

ingly in specific interpretations of un-

familiar people and ways in a Spanish

and Indian Roman Catholic culture.


Otterbein College




AMERICANS. By Dieter Cunz. (New

York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1966.

178p.; illustrations, bibliography, and in-

dex. $3.50.)

Dieter Cunz is the Chairman of the Ger-

man Department at Ohio State University.

Among historians he is favorably known

for his articles and books on the history

of the German immigration, a subject

which has been one of his major interests

since his arrival in the United States. The

present volume, intended it would seem

primarily for the younger generation, and