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Letters from an American Farmer
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Letters from an American Farmer

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  354 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Written by an emigrant French aristocrat turned farmer, the Letters from an American Farmer (1782) posed the famous question: "What, then, is the American, this new man?," as a new nation took shape before the eyes of the world. Addressing some of American literature's most pressing concerns and identity issues, these Letters celebrate personal determination, freedom from ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 22nd 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1782)
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Ben Hallman
No, I would never have read Letters From An American Farmer had it not been assigned reading for an English class. No, I never plan on reading it again. But I might as well be pleased that I did read it. I just need a few minutes to figure out why.

The historical significance of this book is much greater than its literary merit. It’s not much of a story, after all, but more of a report on the nascent American nation, with Crevecoeur taking up the thin disguise of Farmer John to send letters to th
...more
Jessica
I don't remember how I fell over this book but I had never heard of it despite it's apparent fame and historical import.

It is painful to read both for its language and its topic. The last 26 pages are the equivalent of "Can't stay here. Leaving soon to live with the Indians. Revolution imminent." Given that my desire for a little more brevity, particularly when nothing new is being provided and there is no "poetry" to the language, is most likely due to my 21st century sensibilities but surely
...more
John Pistelli
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 possibly even history have probably encountered this 1782 book's third chapter, which provides a utopian answer to the question "What Is an American?", the full extent of Crèvecoeur's literary invention and ambition is generally unappreciated. The Letters, often treated as an informative nonfiction tract like F ...more
Mary
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Men are like plants. The goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment" (45).
Carolyn
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am amazed at the low rating many readers have given this. I love the how these letters illustrate what it meant to be American, what private property meant to people in a with roots in feudalism. Simply beautiful.
Kristýna Marková
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
If it weren't for my American lit course, I wouldn't even get to this. Basically the author describes how America is the best country in the world, free from royalty, no social stratification and all that jazz. Not exactly an easy read, and I wouldn't read it again.
Megan
May 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Let no one lie and say that Crevecoeur ever used 50 words to say what could be said with 5000.
Matt Simmons
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I began this book on a whim, recalling that I had taught an excerpt from it--the third letter--in an American literature course that focused on rural writings a few years ago. I had enjoyed that letter immensely, but had always heard that the book had some dark overtures, and was curious to see what those were like. And so, as my bedside reading for a week or so, these Letters were my companion, and I've been mulling over them constantly over the last several days.

First of all, what is this book
...more
Richard French
Apr 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
April 26, 2015

A few weeks ago, I began reading an Everyman edition of this book that's almost 90 years old as background information for a piece of fiction I hope to write,

I was surprised at how clearly and economically Crevecoeur wrote this book -- like a good text from the present day. It's like fiction in some ways. The author's father was a French nobleman, while the narrator-farmer says that he inherited his holdings from his father. He moves away from farming at times and brings his reade
...more
Ben
May 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
As a primary source document from the immediately pre-Revolutionary War period, this book is naturally of interest to history buffs, but - speaking as a member of that tribe myself - I did not love it. The letters have a very desultory character, describing the history of Nantucket, the character of Charleston, and local hummingbirds and snakes, to give just a sample. There is no attempt at a comprehensive study of the American colonies in any sense, and those topics upon which the author alight ...more
Eric
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Disappointing to see this have such a low average score here. The book is written as letters to an Englishman (of which I am), which really added to it. There is romanticising of early America but it's charming in its way. To have it all decline and falter as the book grows darker towards its second half is heart wrenching. I read and discovered this out of interest for the period, perhaps that's why this review contrasts to those who were made to read it by school/college. This book is a long f ...more
J. Alfred
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Probably more up the sociologist or historian's ally than my own, this is still an interesting collection of letters from the eponymous American farmer immediately preceding and during the Revolution. The letter(s) dealing with slavery (the author regards northern and southern slavery to be two very different animals) and the last, after the fighting has started, are the most worthwhile for a casual reader.
Jessica
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
Perfectly OK. Not great, not horrible. Just in the sweet spot of "meh." America is romanticized, but considering the time period, I suppose that's part of the charm, nice and folksy. I actually like the latter half, when it takes a considerably darker turn. I don't know what that says about me and my gloomy, pessimistic sensibilities. I guess the realism here is just the right amount of grit. Other than that, I'm not going to remember it in a few months. Heck, maybe even in a few weeks.
Trevor
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oh hell yes. I love this guy's style. He asserts that basically all Nantucket dwellers were morphine addicts. Crazy 18th century loose relationship with the truth, but I'm sure half of what he says is somewhat valid and it's all pretty compelling stuff. Who doesn't want to know about life on the American frontier before it moved so far west.
Sam Motes
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting look into the mind of a farmer during the formative years of what would become the United States. The melting pot and strong people in charge of their destiny fill the letters. A big thanks to Nathaniel Philbrick to suggestion this read during his discussion on his book Valiant Ambition.
Mark Valentine
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a tool for understanding the 18th Century colonial, reading Crevecoeur is essential. He writes as an observer and unlike Jefferson, who infuses his Notes on the State of Virginia with supporting data, Crevecoeur limits himself to impressions and hearsay. I think it an immensely valuable study on par with Tocqueville.
Abeer Abdullah
Crevecoeur, at least compared to his contemporaries, is sort of a realist, and it's interesting to see a realist's perspective on The New World. I took this for survey of american literature class, and it was refreshing after reading so much unbearable puritan literature. letter 9 was the best.
Ladygwen
Mar 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: hillsdale, 2013
These were an interesting contrast to other views of early America, especially in regards to the revolution. The debate over its fictionalization vs. biography is intriguing.
Ananya
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
don't know why it's given such a low average rating. I liked what is an American
Rob
Aug 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
had to read this in college. I never finished it. It was too hard to get through.
L.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
Jest taka zasada, że jeśli nie ma się nic do powiedzenia, to się milczy. J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, you blew it, man.
€l!na
Dec 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sxoli
θελω η σχολη μου να κατεδαφιστει!!γινεται??????????
Sannie Hald
Letter III: What is an American?
Brian Merritt
Interesting and positive. It's regarded as the first piece of American Literature.
Skittle Booth
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
An interesting peek into the past
A.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read Letter III - "What is an American?"
Sangeeta Paul
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Letter 3!
Calvin Funk
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
As far as early American fiction goes, I thought this was pretty good. I like it for it's literary qualities and it's commentary on early American life.
Thomas
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is one of those old books where a cool guy tells you about things he saw or heard or thought about
James Violand
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American history buffs.
Shelves: own
A Frenchman in pre-Revolutionary America up through 1782 farms in New York and corresponds with an Englishman by letter. Very enlightening.
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Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur (December 31, 1735 – November 12, 1813), naturalized in New York as John Hector St. John, was a French-American writer. He was born in Caen, Normandy, France, to the Comte and Comtesse de Crèvecœur (Count and Countess of Crèvecœur).
More about J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur...