This varied collection provides comprehensive coverage of sources from the period 1650 to 1850, which witnessed the birth of American literature and the evolution of new and distinctive styles.
Included are verse, short stories, prose fiction, satirical plays and humorous writings by native or naturalized American authors from this period. Also included are a number of sermons, speeches, belles lettres and journals deemed to be of considerable literary interest (e.g. the sermons of Cotton Mather, the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, etc.). A number of authors have been included whose life and literary output extend beyond 1850 (e.g. William Cullen Bryant, 1794-1874), since the bulk of their most important writing occurred within the specified period.
The strength of this collection lies in its broad coverage of both major and minor writers, including Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Stephen Foster, Thomas Paine, Margaret Fuller, James Kirke Paulding, FitzGreene Halleck, Sarah Wentworth Morton, Lydia Sigourney, Estelle Lewis and Frances Sargent Osgood. A printed guide accompanies the collection.