Modern Chivalry

Modern ChivalryHugh Henry Breckenridge; Ed White, ed.

Hackett Publishing, 2009
ISBN: 9780872209916

Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s monster – composed, revised, and extended from between 1792 and 1815 – is unusual among early US novels. It stands as one of the first novels to present a sustained literary rendition of racial and ethnic dialects; perhaps the first to depict a major historical figure (George Washington); and the first to revel in scatological humor and heavy sexual innuendo. More than any other novel prior to the 1810s, it takes up the details of institutional and cultural controversies of the moment.

Prior to his work on the novel, Brackenridge had been an active nationalist cultural booster for the revolutionary US, publishing political sermons and launching one of the first magazines. After the revolution, he relocated from the eastern seaboard to the interior city of Pittsburgh, where he tried to launch his political career. His political failure resulted in part in his turn to fiction, in part to a long career in law, culminating in a position on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Nonetheless, he remained enmeshed in political controversies. He was arrested and briefly accused of treason in the aftermath of the Whiskey Rebellion, the largest domestic insurrection in US history prior to the Civil War. Later, as a state justice, he was targeted for impeachment amid the increasing fragmentation of the Democratic-Republican Party. Many of these conflicts are central to Modern Chivalry, which depicts the travels of Captain Farrago and his Irish servant Teague O’Regan, one of the most popular literary characters in antebellum fiction.

This new edition of Modern Chivalry compiles the first published versions of its seven constituent volumes. It is the first annotated edition to appear in print, and reprints for the first time Brackenridge’s 1805 comments on his impeachment.

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