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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796–1865)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
IN 1835 there appeared in a Nova-Scotian journal a series of articles satirizing the New England character, as expressed in the person of Sam Slick, a Yankee clock-peddler. Within a few weeks these had become so popular that they were republished in book form, the little duodecimo volume called ‘The Clockmaker, or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville,’ being read by all classes of people. Indeed, the popularity of this skit wholly obscured the importance of the author’s more serious work as a historian and publicist. Thomas C. Haliburton, the inventor of this famous Yankee character, was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, 1796, educated in his native town, and called to the bar there in 1820. Eight years later he was appointed Chief Justice of Common Pleas, and presently transferred to the Supreme Court, in which he sat until 1856, when he removed to England, where he died in 1865.  1
  While his historical work is not important, his ‘History of Nova Scotia’ has done more to make Acadia known to the outside world than any other work except ‘Evangeline,’ and Longfellow acknowledged himself much indebted to Haliburton for material. His ‘Bubbles of Canada’ and ‘Rule and Misrule of the English in America,’ dealing with political situations of importance in his time, and his half-dozen other books, are now forgotten. It is as a humorist only that he is remembered.  2
  Of his ‘Sam Slick’ Professor Felton of Harvard wrote: “We can distinguish the real from the counterfeit Yankee at the first sound of the voice, and by the turn of a single sentence: and we have no hesitation in declaring that Sam Slick is not what he pretends to be; that there is no organic life in him; that he is an impostor, an impossibility, a nonentity.” The London Athenæum, on the other hand, pronounced that “he [the clockmaker] deserves to be entered on our list of friends containing the names of Tristram Shandy, the shepherd of the ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ,’ and other rhapsodical discoursers on time and change, who besides the delight of their discourse possess also the charm of individuality.”  3
  Farcical as is his delineation of the shrewd, conceited, bragging, cozening, hard-working, garrulous Yankee, little as he admires the institutions that produced this type of citizen, it is plain that Judge Haliburton uses the clockmaker and his kind to point the moral against the dullness, lack of enterprise, laziness, and provincial shiftlessness of the Nova-Scotians. He means to sting his fellow-countrymen into effort and action if he can. Whether the book really served for admonition and correction, whether the Yankee clock really struck the hour for the “Bluenose” awakening, as its author fondly believed, at least he created the conventional Yankee of general acceptation,—the lank, awkward figure, ill articulated and ill dressed, with trousers and coat-sleeves too short, with hat too large, with hair too long, with sharp nose, keen eyes, shrewd smile, with flattened vowels and nasal tones, with queer vocabulary and queerer syntax—in short, the Yankee of the stage, of caricature, of tradition, universally believed in (at least across the seas) until Lowell’s genius revealed the true New-Englander in Hosea Biglow. Even as a Pretender, therefore, Sam Slick has his important place in the Republic of Letters,—a place the more important as interest in him becomes more and more merely historic.  4
 
 
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