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William Austin

(1778—1841)


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(1778–1841), graduated from Harvard (1798) and wrote of the restraints of college life in his precocious Rousseauistic Strictures on Harvard University. While training in London for his later successful career as a Boston lawyer and legislator, he wrote the popular Letters from London (1804), which shows British lawyers and statesmen as they appeared to a New England Republican. Of his five uncollected tales, the most famous is Peter Rugg, the Missing Man (1824). This tells of a Bostonian who set out to drive to the city in a blinding storm, and continued to seek it for 50 years, during which his galloping jet horse with its white feet became a common sight, always heralding an approaching storm. This fable passed into New England folklore and has been used by Louise Imogen Guiney and Amy Lowell. It seems to foreshadow Hawthorne and may have influenced him, for he uses the figure of Peter Rugg in A Virtuoso's Collection.

From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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