Mr. Penrose

Mr. Penrose

The Journal of Penrose, Seaman
William Williams, afterword by Sarah Wadsworth
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/09/2013
Format: Paperback 3 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01047-6
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Long neglected as the first American novel, Mr. Penrose narrates the adventures of a British youth who flees an unhappy home life to seek his fortune on the high seas. Having learned the sailor’s trade, Penrose survives a series of nautical mishaps, only to be cast adrift on the Mosquito Coast. When rescue finally comes, Penrose refuses to abandon the new home he has made among the Indians. Equal parts travel narrative, adventure tale, and natural history, the novel reflects on some of the most pressing moral and social issues of its time: imperialism, racial equality, religious freedom, and the nature of ethical, responsible government. Mr. Penrose contains the first unequivocal critique of slavery in a transatlantic novel and the most realistic portrayals of Native Americans in early American fiction. In the afterword to this paperback edition, Sarah Wadsworth imparts new research on the author and his career, shedding light on the novel’s subjects and timely themes, and situating Mr. Penrose at the forefront of the American literary canon.

Author Bio

William Williams (1727-1791) was a professional painter and landscape artist who tutored a young Benjamin West. Williams primarily resided in Philadelphia and New York and is thought to have written Mr. Penrose shortly before the Revolutionary War.

David Howard Dickason (1907-1974) was Professor of English at Indiana University and a specialist in American literature. He discovered William Williams's original manuscript at Indiana University's Lilly Library.

Sarah Wadsworth is Associate Professor of English at Marquette University. She is author of In the Company of Books: Literature and Its "Classes" in Nineteenth-Century America and (with Wayne A. Wiegand) of Right Here I See My Own Books: The Woman's Building Library at the World's Columbian Exposition.


“Sarah Wadsworth expertly positions Williams's novel to contribute to current transnational and postnational scholarship. In this timely edition, she demonstrates that including Mr. Penrose in the conversation about the earliest American novels helps to reveal the rich, complicated nature of their history.”
 — Cristine Levenduski, Associate Professor of English, Emory University

“This new paperback edition of Williams’s novel makes a significant contribution to early American literary and cultural studies. It is well suited to contribute to new scholarly trends, which are moving solidly in the direction of transatlantic study, colonialism, ecocriticism, and indigenous people studies.”
 — Paul Gutjahr, Professor of English, Indiana University

“Long neglected as the first American novel, Mr. Penrose narrates the adventures of a British youth who flees an unhappy home life to seek fortune on the high seas.”

“The novel itself is a fascinating and detailed account of how Penrose, an English castaway in the Americas, survives—and finally flourishes in a multiethnic society. Dickason's editorial intrusions are sparse but judicious: they provide necessary explanations, and they allow readers to immerse themselves in the story. . . . Recommended.”
 — Choice

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Table of Contents

Editor’s Original Acknowledgements
Chapter 1 <no title>
Chapter 2 <no title>
Chapter 3 <no title>
Chapter 4. Second Year of My Lonely Condition
Chapter 5. Third Year of My Residence
Chapter 6. Fourth Year of my Residence
Chapter 7. Fifth Year of my Residence
Chapter 8. <no title>
Chapter 9. Sixth Year of My Residence
Chapter 10. Seventh Year
Chapter 11. <no title>
Chapter 12. Eight Year
Chapter 13. <no title>
Chapter 14. <no title>
Chapter 15. Ninth Year
Chapter 16. Tenth Year
Chapter 17. Eleventh Year
Chapter 18. Twelfth Year
Chapter 19. <no title>
Chapter 20 Thirteenth Year
Chapter 21. <no title>
Chapter 22. Fourteenth Year
Chapter 23. <no title>
Chapter 24. Fifteenth Year
Chapter 25. Sixteenth Year
Chapter 26. <no title>
Chapter 27. Seventeenth Year
Chapter 28. <no title>
Chapter 29. Eighteenth Year
Chapter 30. <no title>
Chapter 31. Nineteenth Year
Chapter 32. <no title>
Chapter 33. Twentieth Year
Chapter 34. Twenty First Year
Chapter 35. Twenty Second Year
Chapter 36. Twenty Third Year
Chapter 37. Twenty Fourth Year
Chapter 38. Twenty Fifth Year
Chapter 39. Twenty Sixth Year
Chapter 40. Twenty Seventh Year
Chapter 41. Twenty Eighth Year
Afterword by Sarah Wadsworth

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