New York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, 1793.
First Edition. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Mrs. Bleecker. , 375, pp. List of subscribers preceding Contents. 1 vols. 12mo. With the Fictionalized Indian Captivity of Maria Kittle. Nineteenth century half polished calf and marbled boards, marbled endpapers; some very minor rubbing, label affixed to front pastedown Evans 25208; Wright I 328. Not in Ayer. Item #365188
Among the works is this volume of early American literature is the first printing of The History of Maria Kittle. The work is a fictionalized story of the real-life captivity of Maria Kittlehuyne and the massacre of her family during King George's War in the 1740s. Bleecker, an early American poet, lived on the New York frontier (north of Albany, near the area where Kittle was captured), and her very real concern over Indian attacks doubtless led her to write the present work. Bleecker was also likely influenced by her experiences during the American Revolution, when her family's flight from the advancing troops of General Burgoyne helped result in the death of her daughter, Abella. The text takes the form of a series of letters from Bleecker to her half-sister, Susanna Ten Eyck. The story is based in fact, yet it is also considered the earliest American fictionalized work based on an Indian captivity, and in fact is one of the earliest fictional works by an American that focuses on Indians. The present printing precedes the first separate printing of the work (Hartford: 1797).
This work “is best approached through the literary tradition of the ‘captivity,’ which clearly gave it its final shape...For about five years, at least, [Mrs. Bleecker’s] life in a remote New York settlement was made precarious by the presence of Indians and British soldiers...Twice she fled from Tomhanick; she lost a little daughter, her mother, and a sister in consequence of these hardships.” (Petter, The Early American Novel).
In 1781 Mr. Bleecker was captured by Tories, and despite ill-health, Mrs. Bleecker set out to rescue him. He was soon delivered, but the strain of the experience seriously affected Mrs. Bleecker’s health, causing increasing despondency, until she died at Tomhanick. “Mrs. Bleecker’s life was perhaps more interesting than her work, and her fortitude and conjugal devotion were of the highest quality” (Kunitz & Haycraft, American Authors 1600-1900).
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