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William Cullen Bryant and Bill Bryson Explore Britain

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Essay title: William Cullen Bryant and Bill Bryson Explore Britain

William Cullen Bryant and Bill Bryson explore Britain

The urge to travel to Europe, to visit Britain and face the heritage of founding fathers has been present in the US history and, more importantly psyche, for quite a long time. For romantic poets, essayists and painters, the journey to England was frequently a rite of passage undertaken to face, tame and explore the history of their ancestors. Examples of this movement remain in the works by Thomas Cole and his American picturesque, as a response for Constable's landscape painting, or the journals written by William Cullen Bryant. The latter travelled to Europe as a tourist, writing the account of his journeys in “Letters of a Traveller”. A similar practice still remains and propelled Bill Bryson, an American writer, to travel to Britain in 1970s. The account of his voyage is presented in “Notes from a Small Island”, published in 1995.

What is common for both Bryant and Bryson is that they are Americans who travel to Britain for their own reasons. William Cullen Bryant, at the time he is writing his Letters, is an American journalist, going to Europe for purely job-related assigns. At that time, Bryant is the Editor-in-Chief for New-York Evening Post. The tone, in which Bryant's letters are written, is quite distinguishable. While, admitting certain admiration for England's accomplishments, most noteworthy being the elegant architecture and picturesque, cultivated parks, Bryant is somewhat reluctant to praise mother Britain in any way. Recognised as one of the literary men who created the American nationalism, the author of Letters, abstains from openly complimenting British ways. The only notable exception is made for the parks of London:

Nothing can be more striking to one who is accustomed to the little inclosures called public parks in our American cities, than the spacious, open grounds of London. I doubt, in fact, whether any person fully comprehends their extent, from any of the ordinary descriptions of them, until he has seen them or tried to walk over them.[1]

This observation led Bryant to become a great propagator of parks in New York City. Central Park is his greatest achievement. Bryant foretold the creation of that park with these words:

The population of your city, increasing with such prodigious rapidity; your sultry summers, and the corrupt atmosphere generated in hot and crowded streets, make it a cause of regret that in laying out New York, no preparation was made, while it was yet practicable, for a range of parks and public gardens along the central part of the island or elsewhere, to remain perpetually for the refreshment and recreation of the citizens during the torrid heats of the warm season. There are yet unoccupied lands on the island which might, I suppose, be procured for the purpose, and which, on account of their rocky and uneven surface, might be laid out into surpassingly beautiful pleasure-grounds; but while we are discussing the subject the advancing population of the city is sweeping over them and covering them from our reach.[1]

Admiration for parks and buildings came easier than admiration for people. Bryant seems outpaced toward Britain's inhabitants, perhaps even scornful. He describes people of Darbyshire as “weak of the head”. He even fails to recognise their language as English, as he hires a translator, to aid him in his travels. Upon visiting the Royal Academy, Bryant gives his opinion about the state of British art. On the one hand, he praises the recognition of American sculptor Powers as a great artist, on the other, however, he criticises the works of Turner and Haydon. The works of the former painter are blatantly reviewed as “blotches of white paint, with streaks of yellow and red, and without any intelligible design”. Bryant does not fail to notice that there are not enough works of art by American artists. This tendency of comparing everything in England to America is omnipresent in Bryant's work.

Almost a century and a half after Bryant's journey to Europe, his countryman, Bill Bryson does the same thing. In

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