Early American alternate history

   Posted by: rring   in Uncategorized

In the Watkinson we have a copy of Memoir of the Northern Kingdom, by William Jenks, possibly the first American fantasy tale.  It appears from its title-page to be a collection of letters written from the Rev. William Jahnsenykes to his son in 1872, and published in 1901 in “Quebeck.”  This was actually written by Jenks (1778-1866), and published in Boston in 1808.

 Funky?  Oh yeah.

 This is a fantasy satire on Jeffersonian politics and a rare example of early American fantastic fiction, cast as an epistolary history, in which the United States has split into three nations: a Northern Kingdom (New England, New York, and Canada) ruled over by an English viceroy (New England joins the Northern Kingdom after a war with Virginia); a francophone Southern slave-holding kingdom ruled by a branch of the Bonapartes; and the Illinois Republick, which alone retains the principles of the American Revolution.

 For a fuller account of this publication and of Jenks, see the blog by the redoubtable Jeremy Dibbell at the Massachusetts Historical Society, which has Jenks’s papers: ( http://www.masshist.org/blog/454 )


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