English Writers on America by Washington Irving.

First page of English Writers on America.
English Writers on America is an essay by Washington Irving which it was published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., 1819 - 1820 (this also contains The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle). In this, Irving writes of the animosity between England and America; in particularly, within the literary scene. He begins,
It is with feelings of deep regret that I observe the literary animosity daily growing up between England and America. Great curiosity has been awakened of late with respect to the United States, and the London press has teemed with volumes of travels through the Republic; but they seem intended to diffuse error rather than knowledge; and so successful have they been, that, notwithstanding the constant intercourse between the nations, there is no people concerning whom the great mass of the British public have less pure information, or entertain more numerous prejudices.
He goes on to pay English travellers with a compliment, that "none can equal them for profound and philosophical views of society, or faithful and graphical descriptions of external objects", but before the sentence is even over he observes, "but when either the interest or reputation of their own country comes in collision with that of another, they go to the opposite extreme, and forget their usual probity and candor, in the indulgence of splenetic remark, and an illiberal spirit of ridicule."

English travel writers, he argues, are beset with prejudice, and furthermore, the best of the English travellers appear to head for more remote regions and uncharted paths. When it comes to travelling in America:
... it has been left to the broken-down tradesman, the scheming adventurer, the wandering mechanic, the Manchester and Birmingham agent, to be her oracles respecting America.
 He concedes that America may then be perceived as a 'young nation', but he believes it is one of promise. He goes on to suggest the English have false expectations,
They may have pictured America to themselves an El Dorado, where gold and silver abounded, and the natives were lacking in sagacity; and where they were to become strangely and suddenly rich, in some unforeseen, but easy manner. 
Their disappointment leads to bitterness and "petulance", and when writers indulge their prejudice the English accept it without question when it concerns America:
How warily will they compare the measurements of a pyramid, or the descriptions of a ruin; and how sternly will they censure any inaccuracy in these contributions of merely curious knowledge: while they will receive, with eagerness and unhesitating faith, the gross misrepresentations of coarse and obscure writers, concerning a country with which their own is placed in the most important and delicate relations.
Irving then suggests that he and his fellow Americans should simply ignore it -
I shall not, however, dwell on this irksome and hackneyed topic; nor should I have adverted to it, but for the undue interest apparently taken in it by my countrymen, and certain injurious effects which I apprehended it might produce upon the national feeling. We attach too much consequence to these attacks. They cannot do us any essential injury. The tissue of misrepresentations attempted to be woven round us are like cobwebs woven round the limbs of an infant giant. Our country continually outgrows them. One falsehood after another falls off of itself. We have but to live on, and every day we live a whole volume of refutation.
And he goes on -
For ourselves, therefore, it is comparatively of but little importance whether England does us justice or not; it is, perhaps, of far more importance to herself. She is instilling anger and resentment into the bosom of a youthful nation, to grow with its growth and strengthen with its strength. If in America, as some of her writers are laboring to convince her, she is hereafter to find an invidious rival, and a gigantic foe, she may thank those very writers for having provoked rivalship and irritated hostility. Every one knows the all-pervading influence of literature at the present day, and how much the opinions and passions of mankind are under its control. The mere contests of the sword are temporary; their wounds are but in the flesh, and it is the pride of the generous to forgive and forget them; but the slanders of the pen pierce to the heart; they rankle longest in the noblest spirits; they dwell ever present in the mind, and render it morbidly sensitive to the most trifling collision....
He then adds, "Should she, however, persist in turning it to waters of bitterness, the time may come when she may repent her folly", and warns that though England is hostile one should not copy her example: "Let us guard particularly against such a temper, for it would double the evil instead of redressing the wrong". He concludes,
Let it be the pride of our writers, therefore, discarding all feelings of irritation, and disdaining to retaliate the illiberality of British authors, to speak of the English nation without prejudice, and with determined candor. While they rebuke the indiscriminating bigotry with which some of our countrymen admire and imitate every thing English, merely because it is English, let them frankly point out what is really worthy of approbation. We may thus place England before us as a perpetual volume of reference, wherein are recorded sound deductions from ages of experience; and while we avoid the errors and absurdities which may have crept into the page, we may draw thence golden maxims of practical wisdom, wherewith to strengthen and to embellish our national character.
So,  the question is - what motivated this rather hostile essay? To that I have no answer not knowing enough about Irving or British writing of the period. I am aware that Irving received some perhaps unduly harsh criticism for his writings from English critics, but it's something that requires more research. I do wish I knew more.

But, however ignorant I may be on this topic, this was a fascinating essay and should there be only a modicum of truth it sheds a light on the relations between English and American authors. And it's well written despite it's anger: it's very controlled, very coherent and readable despite its irritation, sometimes generous, and most interesting!

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