Earliest American writers were Englishmen who came to Jamestown, Virginia, the first of the permanent settlements of the English in America.
These writers included John Smith, the author of A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of that Colony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne from thence; William Stratchey, author of True repertory of the wreck and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, July fifteenth, sixteen hundred and ten; and the famous English poet, George Sandys, who completed Ovid’s Metamorphosis on the American soil (“Early Colonial Literature”).
Since none of these writers were acquainted with American culture as we know it, their works must be considered English literature composed on the American soil. Although Smith’s A True Relation was a letter written to his friend in England, it is literary in the modern sense of the word. Like other pieces of historical literature, A True Relation is educational for the modern reader. What is more, the writer’s arrangement of the narrative is rather vibrant, making it by no means appear as everyday writing (Smith). Like Smith, Stratchey also wrote for readers back in England but his writing style was more masterful.
Describing a shipwreck on the way to America, he writes, “The clouds gathering thick upon us, and the winds singing and whistling most unusually…” (Stratchey). In fact, Stratchey’s style is poetic throughout his work, rendering it not only literary but a work of art (Stratchey). Of course, Sandys’ translation of the Metamorphosis is incomparable. It continues to be a well-known piece of literature composed on the American soil by one of the first Englishmen to arrive in Jamestown bringing the spirit of the true English poet to the New World (Sandys).
Because all three writers came from England carrying their own culture to the American soil, their works composed in America were entirely English. Moreover, all three writings mentioned were first published in England. Perusing these interesting, skillfully composed writings leaves no doubt in the modern reader’s mind that these works are literary indeed. Hence, earliest American literature must be described as English and literary. Works Cited “Early Colonial Literature. ” Bibliomania: Free Online Literature and Study Guides. 11 Jan 2009. <http://www. bibliomania. com/2/3/270/1820/21932/1/frameset. html>. Sandys, George.
George Sandys, Ovid’s Metamorphosis (1632). 11 Jan 2009. <http://etext. virginia. edu/latin/ovid/sandys/contents. htm>. Smith, John. A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of that Colony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne from thence. 11 Jan 2009. <http://etext. lib. virginia. edu/etcbin/jamestown-browse? id=J1007>. Stratchey, William. True repertory of the wreck and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, July fifteenth, sixteen hundred and ten. 11 Jan 2009. <http://fas-history. rutgers. edu/clemens/Jamestown/Strachey. html>.