Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole My rating: 3 of 5 stars Published pseudonymously in 1764 by an English politician, The Castle of Otranto is usually praised as the first Gothic novel. It not only set off a craze for novels about haunted castles and abbeys, about predatory dukes and scheming monks and fainting … Continue reading Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

Selected Essays by Samuel Johnson My rating: 4 of 5 stars This Penguin Classics collection of essays by the great English critic and moralist Samuel Johnson is devoted largely to his periodical writing. In its introduction, the editor David Womersley notes that Johnson was known only (if at all) as an editor, lexicographer, and occasional … Continue reading Samuel Johnson, Selected Essays

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur My rating: 5 of 5 stars It might sound odd to call such a ubiquitous text underrated, but I think Letters from an American Farmer is just that. While most people who have taken a course in American literature or history have probably … Continue reading J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple

Charlotte Temple by Susanna Rowson My rating: 2 of 5 stars Often called America's first bestseller, Charlotte Temple (1791) is a short didactic novel of primarily historical interest. In this, it is similar to Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette; both short novels urge their young female readers against corrupting entanglements with men and against extramarital … Continue reading Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple

Samuel Richardson, Pamela

Pamela by Samuel Richardson My rating: 3 of 5 stars As a number of observers have stated, a classic may be defined most simply as any work of art that has endured beyond the time of its production. If it is still in circulation after a few generations, then it is a classic. But this … Continue reading Samuel Richardson, Pamela

Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist

Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist by Charles Brockden Brown My rating: 4 of 5 stars An early American novel—perhaps the most famous one—about a family destroyed by mysterious voices that come out of the air with warnings and commands. Narrated in plainspoken prose by Clara, the sister of the titular Wieland, the novel … Continue reading Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland and Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist