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Modern Chivalry


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Satirical picaresque novel by H. H. Brackenridge. The first two parts were published in 1792, the third and fourth in 1793 and 1797, a revision in 1805, and a final addition in 1815. The influence of Cervantes is obvious, as is in less degree that of Swift, Fielding, and Samuel Butler, but the work is distinguished as the first extended depiction of backwoods life in American fiction.

Captain John Farrago and his servant, Teague O'Regan, set out from the captain's farm in western Pennsylvania to ride through the country and observe the life and manners of the people. Farrago is an intelligent democrat, part Jeffersonian and part independent, inclining to the ideas of Tom Paine. Teague is a red-headed, long-legged Irish immigrant, part fool and part knave, whose unbounded self-assurance arises from his ignorance. At each stage of their journey they meet some foolish group that admires Teague, and the captain must invent excuses to keep them from bestowing various honors on his servant. Each adventure is followed by a chapter of reflections upon the abuses of democracy. Teague is a universal success, meets the President, becomes an idol of politicians, beautiful ladies, and scientists, and is finally appointed collector of excise on whiskey, all of his predecessors in this office having been tarred and feathered. Teague receives the same treatment, and is captured as a strange animal by a philosophic society, which sends him to France. There the tar and feathers wear off, and his only article of clothing being in an imperfect state, he is mistaken for a sansculotte and borne off in triumph. In the later addition, the author describes a settlement founded by the captain and his friends, but the lack of the early comedy and satire exposes his plainly didactic purpose of attempting to raise the standards of democracy.

Subjects: Literature.


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Authors

Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748—1816) writer and judge


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