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W A Y N E R. K I M E New College University of Toronto Washington Irving and The Empire of the West In the North American Review for January, 1840, appeared a lengthy article, entitled “Discovery beyond the Rocky Moun­ tains,” which described in considerable detail “the history [and] the present condition, of discovery, trade, and settlement”1 in the Far West. Its anonymous author began his magisterial survey by describing the travels of Jonathan Carver in 1766-1768, pro­ ceeded to recount the explorations and activities of Alexander MacKenzie, Lewis and Clark, the Hudson’s Bay Company, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company, Captain Benjamin Bonne­ ville, Nathaniel J. Wyeth and others, and concluded by noticing the recently published reports of expeditions by the Rev. Samuel Parker and John K. Townsend.2 The avowed aim of the article was to place in focus the lamentable circumstance that, in spite of the “indefeasible title of the United States to the territory of Oregon,” this rich trading region was at present controlled by British interests. The author observed, however, that only “the blindness and supineness of the Federal Government” in the past could have suffered so unjust a state of affairs to develop. If at present “the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company, with one post at Hudson’s Bay, and the other at the mouth of the Columbia, bestrides the Rocky Mountains like a Colossus,” only the “spirit and decision” of the American people, he warned, can prohibit England from continuing its cynical “game of pretended comcerce , but of real conquest, against the United States.” Thus he concluded with an appeal “the the sense, alike of honor and of ^Anon., “Discovery beyond the Rocky Mountains,” North American Review, L (January 1840), 75-144. The quotation is from p. 144. aThe article was a review of Parker’s Journal of an Exploring Tour beyond the Rocky Mountains, under the Direction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, performed in the Years 1835, 1836 and 1837 . . . (Ithaca, 1838), and of Townsend’s Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River . . . (Philadelphia and Boston, 1839). The author devoted only about one-quarter of his space to these two works, however, and much of that space was taken up by commentary of general import. •The research for this article was made possible by a grant from the Canada Council. 278 Western American Literature interest, on the part of the United States,”3 to assert practical sovereignty over its Western territories. For his summary of the activities of John Jacob Astor, Cap­ tain Benjamin Bonneville, and Nathaniel J. Wyeth, and for his estimates both of the personal qualities of these men and of the national significance of their pioneering commercial enterprises, the author of this article was heavily indebted to Astoria (1836) and The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (1837), Washington Irving’s narratives of Western history.4 He fully concurred, more­ over, with Irving’s opinions expressed in those works concerning the propriety of immediately extending federal influence to the Northwest in order to protect the national interest and to promote American settlement and commerce there. He even digressed from his historical discourse to praise Astoria as a narrative which “adds all the dramatic interest of romance to the intrinsic value of authentic history, and the graces of [Irving’s] peculiarly graphic and beautiful style.”5 It is not altogether surprising, therefore, that “Discovery beyond the Rocky Mountains” soon won em­ phatic praise from the Knickerbocker, the nation’s leading literary periodical, to which Irving was at that time a regular contributor. In the March, 1840 issue of the Knickerbocker appeared a review entitled “The ‘Empire of the West,’” wherein another anonymous author expressed his full agreement with the major burden of the North American Review article and went on to enlarge upon certain kindred topics.6 The enthusiasm of this latter author has now become even more fully understandable, however, for the recent discovery and identification of manuscript fragments of the Knickerbocker review reveal that it was written by Washing­ ton Irving himself.7 8“Discovery beyond the Rocky Mountains,” pp. 93, 144. *See, for...


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