Royall Tyler: Contribution to American Literature

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      Royall Tyler (1757-1826) is another writer who copied the English while insisting that America should develop its own manners, life, and literature and refrain from imitating the customs of Europe. Born in 1756 in Boston and graduated at Harvard he took part in military expedition that put the Shays’ rebellion. As a lawyer in 1787, he visited New York on business pursuant to the rebellion and saw the first play of his life Sheridan’s School for Scandal. Probably he also saw The Provoked Husband and O Keefe’s The Poor Soldier. Apocrypha has that three weeks later he had written his first play The Contrast (1787). Although the play may seem to be silly to modern audience, it is important in the development of American literature. The Contrast demanded a native image of our national character and presented two types that have never left us one is the strong silent man.

      Later it was especially associated with the idea of the West, the other is the Brother - Jonathan Yankee who merged with the “real man” and became the prototype of the Uncle Sam. A sharp satirist, Tyler saw the virtue and weakness of American newness and innocence; themes that underline some of the American most important literature. He moved to Vermont, was Chief Justice of the state’s supreme court from 1807 to 1813 and taught part of that time at the state university. The Contrast was followed by the second and less successful Mad Day in Town (1918-78) a comic opera of which the manuscript has not survived., The Farm House and Land in the Moon were also enacted but their manuscripts do not survive. The texts of four other plays survived. The Island of Barataria is a farce in three acts based on Cervantes's Don Quixote. It was followed by The Judgement of Soloman and The Yankey in London (1809). The Algerine Captive (1797) is his only surviving novel.

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