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The Sot-weed Factor: or, A Voyage to Maryland Paperback – 19 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 34 pages
  • Publisher: ValdeBooks (19 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444453629
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444453621
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,799,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Benner TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Aug. 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Ebenezer Cooke is widely hailed as amongst the earliest of American poets, although almost nothing is known about him for sure. His most famous work is "The Sot-Weed Factor: or, A Voyage to Maryland. A Satyr", which was first published in London in 1708 as a 24-page booklet (priced at the princely sum of 6d) under the signature of "Eben. Cook, Gent". The work is a Juvenalian (i.e. bitter and savage) satire, composed in hudibrastic couplets, reading as a swingeing attack on the corrupt and brutish nature of early colonial life in Maryland. The poem recounts the experiences of an impoverished English gent, who, having fallen upon hard times, is lured by the promises of the fortune to be made in the newly established tobacco ("Sot-Weed") trade in the New World. Instead of making his fortune, however, the naïve and overly trusting poet endures a succession of bad experiences, including being robbed of all his clothes whilst sleeping, finally ending up hoodwinked and swindled out of the rest of his money and possessions. He eventually flees the province, cursing its inhabitants to Hell, and returns to England even poorer than he left.

Whether the work is in any way autobiographical is unknown; nor is it entirely clear whether it was truly intended as an indictment of the casual lawlessness and loose morals of the colony in the mid to late 17th century as at first glance it appears; many contend that the work is a dual satire, mocking those without the stamina and resilience to make a go of colonial life. Whatever its true intent, the poem was certainly lauded in its day as witty and subtle praise for the enterprising and tenacious nature of the colonists, parodying the pamphlets of the time that promoted life in the colonies as both easy and lucrative.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Mostly one for the scholars 2 Aug. 2010
By Steve Benner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Ebenezer Cooke is widely hailed as amongst the earliest of American poets, although almost nothing is known about him for sure. His most famous work is "The Sot-Weed Factor: or, A Voyage to Maryland. A Satyr", which was first published in London in 1708 as a 24-page booklet (priced at the princely sum of 6d) under the signature of "Eben. Cook, Gent". The work is a Juvenalian (i.e. bitter and savage) satire, composed in hudibrastic couplets, reading as a swingeing attack on the corrupt and brutish nature of early colonial life in Maryland. The poem recounts the experiences of an impoverished English gent, who, having fallen upon hard times, is lured by the promises of the fortune to be made in the newly established tobacco ("Sot-Weed") trade in the New World. Instead of making his fortune, however, the naïve and overly trusting poet endures a succession of bad experiences, including being robbed of all his clothes whilst sleeping, finally ending up hoodwinked and swindled out of the rest of his money and possessions. He eventually flees the province, cursing its inhabitants to Hell, and returns to England even poorer than he left.

Whether the work is in any way autobiographical is unknown; nor is it entirely clear whether it was truly intended as an indictment of the casual lawlessness and loose morals of the colony in the mid to late 17th century as at first glance it appears; many contend that the work is a dual satire, mocking those without the stamina and resilience to make a go of colonial life. Whatever its true intent, the poem was certainly lauded in its day as witty and subtle praise for the enterprising and tenacious nature of the colonists, parodying the pamphlets of the time that promoted life in the colonies as both easy and lucrative. The work is generally regarded as one of the founding cornerstones of a tradition of southern American humour which spawned the likes of Mark Twain and William Faulkner.

Modern interest in this poetry is more likely to be historical than literary; many readers will probably find the verse stodgy, forced and largely devoid of interest except as an addendum to John Barth's much better known novel of the same title, which draws on the poem itself and dramatises (fictionally and fancifully) the circumstances of its composition.

A heavily bastardised revision of the original poem was published in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1731, with much of the harshest invective toned down and the ending revised, and accompanied by a subsequent poem entitled "Sotweed Redivivus" dating from 1730, in a single binding under the title of "The Maryland Muse" and credited to "E. Cooke, Gent". Both versions were well out of print by the time this current republication of the original work was undertaken in 1865 by literary historian, Brantz Mayer, who added a brief introduction, musing at some length over Cooke's background and intent. Writing without the benefit of Laurence Wroth's much later scholarly reconstruction of Cooke's biography (originally a journal paper but now included in some reprint editions of "The Maryland Muse") Mayer's conjectures are now largely redundant. Some may say--with some justification--that for all anyone knows, they are no less accurate than Wroth's version.

Mayer's main contribution here is really the reinstatement of the original version of the poem, complete with the poet's glossary of terms for the benefit of the "ignorant" English gentry -- this is the version much to be preferred. It is a shame that the Kindle edition does not render the glossary entries as proper linked footnotes, but for the price (roughly equivalent to the original 1708 price, if you use the Retail Price Index for equivalence) I suppose one should not grumble.
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