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The Algerine Captive, or The Life and Adventures of Doctor Updike Underhill

3.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  150 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
A predecessor of both the nativist humor of Mark Twain and the exotic adventure stories of Washington Irving, Herman Melville, and Richard Dana, Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive is an entertaining romp through eighteenth-century society, a satiric look at a variety of American types, from the backwoods schoolmaster to the southern gentleman, and a serious exposé of the ...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published July 9th 2002 by Modern Library (first published January 28th 1967)
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Apr 29, 2014 Darlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Royall Tyler's "Barbary captive" narrative has the distinction of being known as the United States' first novel, and it's still a good read today for its take on events in the early republic. Supposedly it's the tale of a young New England doctor named Updike Underhill, who unknowingly signs aboard a slaver as ship's surgeon, only to end up captured by Algerian pirates and sold as a slave himself.

Royall Tyler uses the novel format as an opportunity to make statements about the horrors of America
Christopher Tirri
Feb 16, 2013 Christopher Tirri rated it did not like it
With one of the blandest plots I've ever encountered that is buried under pages of useless exaggerated "factual" details, this novel deserves nothing more than a quick speed read. Maybe it's just me, but I have no interest in having a white dude with a ridiculous name tell me about the horrors of captivity and the wonders of being a Christian Federalist.
Dec 08, 2014 Alexandria rated it liked it
This is a really great read if you can pick up on all the irony and satire - otherwise, it would probably be pretty hard to get through. It's definitely not a book meant to be powered through thoughtlessly. However, with the necessary consideration (and a little guidance), this is a fascinating read. While the beginning is admittedly a little slow and the second half is a little dense, it offers an incredible perspective on "The American Dream" that people still idealize today, despite it's many ...more
May 29, 2014 Greg rated it liked it
Anachronistic, sarcastic, stereotypical…all of these are words that could be used to describe this novel of 18th century American characteristics, complete with an uninformed look (the first such look) at the Islamic world, and a castigation of the slave trade. Tyler was a predecessor to Twain, Irving, and Melville, and I can’t think of another individual who could say the same.

This novel has the benefit of being the first of its kind, and as such, earned its place of distinction. That said, the
Sep 12, 2014 Rachel rated it did not like it
Had to read for class. Did not pick this by choice.
Lena Lee
May 20, 2014 Lena Lee rated it liked it
It was okay. I understand and appreciate it's importance to the Early American literature tradition, but I would not read it again. I think it points out the folly of America's anger toward Algiers for taking its citizens as slaves when America was currently holding millions in slavery at that time, but that it could have been much more effective. Underhill is not a dynamic character. He should have been changed by his experience, but he comes home just as impotent, misogynistic, and ridiculous ...more
Scott Smith
Aug 31, 2010 Scott Smith rated it liked it
This book interesting as a very early American look at the world. The first half is a fun little romp through American society with a clueless Ichabod Crane character in a way Twain would later copy. The second half is a much more somber account of his slavery in Algiers, that tries to make some sort of grand statement but largely falls flat I think. No life changer but an interesting little thing.
Apr 29, 2008 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
As discussed in Jill Lepore's "Prior Convictions" in the 14 Apr. 2008 issue of The New Yorker.

Royall Tyler is, apparently, a Great American Novelist I have never heard of. I now feel that my eleventh-grade English class was deficient.
Oct 12, 2008 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: schoolbooks
Not bad - although he doesn't get captured until halfway through the book! And it's not so much about his captivity as it is a kind of travel narrative.
Hessa AlMukhled
Hessa AlMukhled rated it it was amazing
Aug 20, 2016
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Aug 07, 2016
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Royall Tyler (1757-1826) was an American jurist and playwright who wrote The Contrast in 1787 and published The Algerine Captive in 1797. He also wrote several legal tracts, six plays, a musical drama, two long poems, a semifictional travel narrative, The Yankey in London (1809), and essays. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, he attended the Boston Latin School and then Harvard, where he earned ...more
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