Ebenezer Cook: Contribution as American Author

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      Ebenezer Cook (1667-1733) divided his time between London and Maryland. He was a prolific writer as well as a planter and tobacco merchant, but his claim to fame rests on his satirical poem he published in 1708. The Sotweed Factor; or Voyage to Maryland & Co., written in the form of Hudibrastic verse - so named after Samuel Butler’s satire Hudibras, presents us with the narrator who visits America only to be rooted, Cheated and stripped by his guide, gorse, and clothes and in general, appalled by what he sees as anarchy and squalor of his surroundings. The rollicking tetrameter lines, odd rhymes and syntax help to paint a carnival picture of life on the frontier and in the backwoods and in small towns. He begins the poem with harsh words: Albion rocks: “in the opening lines.” He calls a city “Annapolis / A City Situate on B Plain.” After seven hundred lines he concludes: “Kmbarqu’d and waiting for Wind. I left this dreadful Curse behind.” He declares, “damning America” and also calls on Cod to complete the damnation of American by sending his wrath, because her “No Mans faithful, nor a Woman Chaste”. The satire apparently directed at the American vulgarity, being leveled at the English snobbery, preciousness and sell-satisfaction. In the process of adopting the English form to the American situation, he developed a peculiarly American style of comedy in which the contrast between the genteel and the vernacular is negotiated, to the advantage of the latter, through a use of ironic language.

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