Among diverse historic fiction, diaries, poetry and other fashions of literature produced during the colonial American Epoch, my self has found comfort in the vivid lines of The Journals of Madam Knight. This diary of her travel from Boston to New York early in the 18th century has anything you could ask for: adventure, humor, sarcasm, prose, verses and the briskest descriptions to expect. I will let this post drift along my considerations, as no formality is necessary.
First stamp: It’s a girl! The most spherical one -not physically, that I ignore-, that who, as nature rules, is a mother. But who is also a teacher, a businesswoman and even gets involved in judicial processes. That who, while pondering the threats of a voracious river in the middle of a manly trip, mentions the horror of wetting her clothes. But more relevantly, a non-self-discriminating female. Compare to Anne Bradstreet… wait, stop for a while: the first American poet was a woman, period. Now restart: Anne Bradstreet, 17th century Puritan, produced poems on various topics throughout her entire life with certain remorse: “Men have precedency, and still excel/ It is but vain, unjustly to wage war,/Men can do best, and Women know it well.” But not Knight. She is solid and she knows it.
Second rock: a genre mash-up. Would you like to read a diary? There’s the journal. Like narrations? There’s the journal. Probably get mellow? There’s the journal. Plastic descriptions? There’s the journal. Verses? There’s the journal. Embedded dialogues? There’s the journal. No text written in America before the 1760’s gets up to her knees on the compacting quality of the different formats. The rest of the offer consists of monotonic, long descriptive texts for record purposes: scurvy, natives, famine, war, settlement, grace.
Third nail: graphic power. Not a single prostituted adjective, and fine precision:
“…having called for something to eat, the woman brought in a twisted thing like a cable, but something whiter; and laying it on the board, tugged for life to bring it into a capacity to spread… The sauce was of a deep purple, which I thought was boil’d in her dye kettle.”
Fourth thorn: distilled humor, intermittently bathing her narrations. Her keen sensibility to differences in social and ethnic groups sometimes permits her to render them absurd and/or ridiculous. Also her evident capacity of self-mockery screams yet another sign of ingenuity. The best examples are too long to be mentioned here, and I will trust my ability to induce my readers to check the full text (link below) and find that for themselves🙂.
As time to regurgitate arrives, I shall say much of the above again. Sarah Kemble Knight came to my rescue, when I thought everything was lost amid drunken sailors, the disappointment of some Englishmen, Pocahontas, theories on reaching a superior level of grace and several other topics I couldn’t care less about. A handful of resources, styles and shapes are intermingled into this multi-layered -literary, historic, sociological- piece, leaving lots of scraps for entertainment. So if you have any interest… there’s the journal!