The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 7. Kennedy
To the school of his friend Irving may be assigned the urbane John Pendleton Kennedy (1795–1870). Of excellent Virginia connections, he was born and educated in Baltimore, which, like New York, made rapid progress after the Revolution, first in commerce and then in taste. Having served bloodlessly enough in the War of 1812 and been admitted to the bar, Kennedy lived as merrily as Irving in the chosen circles of his native town. With Peter Hoffman Cruse he issued The Red Book (1818–19), a kind of Baltimore Salmagundi in prose and verse, and after several years devoted to law and politics made a decided success with Swallow Barn (1832), obviously suggested by Bracebridge Hall but none the less notable as a pioneer record of the genial life of a Virginia plantation. Although the story counts for little, Kennedy’s easy humour and real skill at description and the indication of character make the book distinguished. His later novels, Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835), in which he dealt with the Revolution in the Carolinas, and Rob of the Bowl (1838), which has its scene laid in colonial Maryland, are nearer Cooper, with the difference that Kennedy depended, as he had done in Swallow Barn, on fact not invention for almost all his action as well as for his details of topography and costume. Indeed, he founded the career of Horse-Shoe Robinson upon that of an actual partisan with such care that the man is said later to have approved the record as authentic. Decidedly Kennedy’s gift was for enriching actual events with a finer grace and culture than many of the rival romancers could command. His style is clear, his methods always simple and rational. Of his miscellaneous writings The Annals of Quodlibet (1840) is tolerable satire, and the Memoirs of the Life of William Wirt (1849), substantial biography. Kennedy’s range of friendship with other authors was wide; he had a full and honourable public career in city, state, and national affairs.