Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 12. Friedrich Gerstäcker

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXI. Non-English Writings I

§ 12. Friedrich Gerstäcker

Second to Sealsfield is Friedrich Gerstäcker, a great traveller and hunter in both North and South America. Ready to take up his gun and depend upon it for his daily subsistence where nature was wildest and game most plentiful anywhere from the Missouri to the Amazon and beyond, he spent many years roaming about aimlessly before he discovered his ability with the pen. He found friends interested in his Streif und Jagdzüge durch die Vereinigten Staaten Nordamerikas (1844), and he turned to fiction. There followed rapidly upon one another Die Regulatoren von Arkansas (1845); Die Flusspiraten des Mississippi, and other Mississippi pictures (1847–1848); Gold, Ein Californisches Lebensbild (1856)—all blending fiction and actual experience. His most popular work and in many respects his best, Nach Amerika! Ein Volksbuch (1855), describes the fortunes of a shipload of German immigrants landing at New Orleans and making their way up the Mississippi for permanent settlement. Industry and honesty, after learning to adapt themselves to new conditions, succeed in Gerstäcker’s works, while unsteady character and indolence are given stern justice. Gerstäcker cannot be accused of arousing false hopes, for he draws with a realistic pen, and does not fail to emphasize the hardships and disappointments of frontier life. His heart is with the immigrant rather than with the older settler, against whom he warns repeatedly. Similarly Otto Ruppius in his Der Pedlar (1857) and its sequel Das Vermächtnis des Pedlars (1859) aims to give a just view of the German immigrant and refugee in America, and his books deserved their popularity.