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Man Without a Country


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Story by E. E. Hale, published in the Atlantic Monthly (1863), reprinted in pamphlet form (1865), and collected in If, Yes, and Perhaps (1868). Written to inspire patriotism during the Civil War, it was suggested by the remark of Vallandigham, a former Ohio congressman, that he did not wish to live in a country that tolerated Lincoln's administration. Although entirely fictious, the story has a realism reminiscent of Defoe. There was a real Philip Nolan, whose true history forms the basis of Hale's complementary novelette, Philip Nolan's Friends (1876). Arthur Guiterman adapted Hale's first story as a libretto for an opera by Damrosch (1937).

On trial with Aaron Burr for conspiracy, Philip Nolan cries out, “Damn the United States. I wish I may never hear of the United States again.” The court-martial accordingly condemns him to a life at sea, where he will be denied any news of his country. His spirit is broken when one day he reads the lines from the Lay of the Last Minstrel,Breathes there a man with soul so deadWho never to himself hath said,“This is my own, my native land.”

Thereafter he is a pathetic figure, desiring to aid the U.S. and showing great bravery in a sea battle during the War of 1812. After 57 years of exile, he dies happily, having learned of his country's increased greatness.

Subjects: Literature.


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