Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 17. Dialect Literature

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

§ 17. Dialect Literature

Dialect literature has been popular with Germans in America for its humorous element mainly. We find low German dialects in the works of Lafrentz and Bornemann, but the most successful imitation of Plattdeutsch in Carl Münter’s Nu sünd wi in Amerika. Dietzsch, Heerbrandt, and Bürkle have imitated high German dialects, the first-named that of the Palatinate, the latter two the Swabian speech. The Hessian dialect appears in a most amusing little book by Georg Asmus, called Amerikanisches Skizzebüchelche, Eine Epistel in Versen, in which an immigrant of little cultivation but considerable native wit writes home to his uncle about the strange things that happened to him in America (1874). The method of mingling broken English with German dialect to heighten the comical effect was used by Asmus and also by Karl Adler (Mundartlich Heiteres), but the greatest popular success in this department was achieved by the American writer Charles Godfrey Leland in his Hans Breitmann’s Ballads, a caricature that has often been wrongly taken as a truthful picture of existing conditions—just as Irving’s Knickerbocker History has been of Dutch New York. Sometimes Breitmann’s Ballads are erroneously placed under the head of Pennsylvania German dialect literature.