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Les formes de l'excès dans la culture anglo-américaine

Claudine Raynaud

Excess and Irony in Transatlantic Cable Poetry

Mark Niemeyer

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1The completion of the first successful transatlantic telegraph link in August 1858 was a major technological triumph which sparked an extreme reaction among the American public. Not only was the laying of the cable one of the most ambitious and costly engineering projects of the nineteenth century, but the celebrations in the United States which ensued in the weeks following the establishment of this instantaneous communications link between Europe and America were unprecedented and may well remain unrivaled as an effusion of American merrymaking. One of the most curious manifestations of the festivities was the publication of numerous occasional poems in honor of the achievement. The extent of this outpouring of commemorative verse in the popular press is also quite probably without parallel in American history. What I propose to offer in this paper is a glimpse of the excitement surrounding what at the time seemed a near miraculous exploit and then, through an analysis of the poetry, a suggestion of why this technological feat so took the imagination of mid-century Americans.

  • 1 Cyrus West Field (1819-1892) was an American businessman who accumulated a fortune of a quarter mi (...)
  • 2 For a good account of the history of the transatlantic cable see B. Dibner, 1959. An interesting c (...)

2I would like to begin with a very brief overview of the history of the transatlantic telegraph cable. One reason for the fervor surrounding the successful link was, in fact, the extraordinarily rapid development of the seemingly magical science of telegraphy. The first patent for a telegraphic device was issued in 1837 in England, the same year that Samuel F. B. Morse filed for his patent in the United States. Even before the first commercial telegraph line in America was completed in 1844 between Washington and Baltimore, Morse had already publicly declared his belief in the feasibility of a transatlantic cable. The telegraph network spread quickly, and in 1854 American entrepreneur Cyrus W. Field1 created the "New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company" to link Britain and America, with Morse serving as one of his advisors and collaborators. Although a definitive link between the two sides of the ocean would not be secured until 1866; in August 1858, after several failed attempts, a successful connection was established. Communication, however, was interrupted just twenty-seven days later, and after a period of intermittent and deteriorating signals, the cable remained dead after October 20.2

  • 3 In fact, The Story of the Telegraph, and a History of the Great Atlantic Cable, a 255-page book, w (...)

3The shortness of the cable's life in no way diminished the celebration of its success, however, since few, especially in America, waited very long to revel in the triumph or to characterize it in the most exalted terms. As Charles F. Briggs and Augustus Maverick point out in their contemporary narrative, "it would be difficult to exaggerate any account of the rejoicings" (Briggs and Maverick, 1858, 249).3 Impromptu festivities occurred across the United States, and most major cities held ceremonies marked by parades, speeches, banners, building illuminations, fireworks and gun salutes. On 14 August 1858 Harper's Weekly tried to summarize the nation's excitement:

As might have been expected, the news of so momentous an event, coming long after everyone had despaired and almost ceased to think on the subject, sent an unexampled thrill throughout the length and breadth of the land. From Quebec to New Orleans people are bursting with excitement and joy ("The Atlantic Telegraph", 513).

4What Harper's Weekly was describing, however, was only the beginning. On August 16 and 17 when Queen Victoria sent a congratulatory message to President Buchanan to which he duly responded, the country went wild. The hastily prepared festivities in New York City got so out of hand that the pyrotechnic display organized at the City Hall ended up setting the building on fire partially destroying the upper floor, roof and cupola.

5The New York Evening Post of 26 August reported on the excitement across the country. A dispatch from the western part of the state, for example, entitled "The Madness Ecstasy-Danger of Buffalo's Bursting" wondered "How shall the heart of Buffalo contain its immeasurable felicity? How shall the Queen City find vent for her surcharged feelings?" (1). Another account described the "Fat Men's Procession" in honor of the transatlantic cable which took place in Westfield, Massachusetts. It noted that the program for the day included, "The Deacon / Fat Men Weighing 280 / Fat Men Weighing 250 / Common Fat Men Weighing but 220" and "Mortified Fat Men Weighing but 210" (1). Indeed no one was left out of the revelry.

6So-called "official" celebrations were held in many cities on 1 September. Again, restraint was not the watchword. The Daily Bulletin related the evening program to be held in Philadelphia and included a description of the thirty-four different types of fireworks which would be set off at Broad and Spring Garden Streets. These included: "4. Flights of rockets, gold rain and serpents"; "11. Star of Washington--Commencing with a brilliant centre of purple, violet, gold and crimson, mutating to a revolving star, decorated with the national colors of red, white and blue"; "17. National Coat-of-Arms-Opening with a mutative wheel of many colored fires, and then changing to the National coat-of-arms"; "21. Italian Glory-Commencing with a brilliant Sun, which, after changes, appears in a centre of a halo of beauty." The last, number 34, is listed quite simply as "one of the most extensive pieces ever presented in this city" ("The Great Cable Celebration" 3). Judge Lewis, a speaker at the festivities earlier in the day remarked, with no apparent sense of exaggeration, "We are now celebrating the greatest event that the world has ever witnessed" ("The Great Cable Celebration" 3), and a similar propensity for the superlative can be seen in the Harper's Weekly description of the 1 September celebration in New York as "the noblest fête" the city had ever seen. The paper declared that "Broadway, from end to end, was, from morning till night, one monster procession; the houses were covered with transparencies, flags, and all manner of decorations." Suggesting that the festivities were literally inexpressibly magnificent, it concluded, "To attempt to describe the doings of the day would far transcend our limits" ("The Atlantic Cable," 586).

7Both the general carnival spirit and this penchant for extravagant characterization of the event can be seen in the occasional poetry which appeared in the popular press. Indeed, the very quantity of celebratory verse published was excessive. In the newspapers and magazines across the country, over eighty different poems appeared, almost all of them in the relatively short period between the second week of August and the first week of September. (The total number of appearances is even higher since periodicals of the time often reprinted works published elsewhere, and a poem might thus be carried by five or six different newspapers.) The New York Evening Post published no less than twenty-six poems between 6 August and 19 September, and the Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin printed about the same number in an even shorter span of time. Eighteen cable poems appeared in the Liberator, ten in the Charleston Daily Courier, six in Harper's Weekly and five in the New York Times. Other newspapers that offered verse commemorations of the event include the Wilmington Daily Journal, the Marysville Daily National Democrat, the Washington Daily National Intelliegencer, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, the Hampshire Gazette, the Harrisburg Telegraph, the New York Herald, the New York Tribune, the Pittsfield Sun, the Richmond Enquirer and the Springfield Daily Republican. Nationally distributed magazines such as the Atlantic, Harper's New Monthly Magazine and Littel's Living Age also published transatlantic cable poetry.

8The tone and quality of these lyric expressions, not surprisingly, vary greatly. Many of them are clearly slapped-together affairs meant to capture the madness of the moment. One entitled "The Last Lay" begins "Sound the banjo, beat the drum, / The telegraphic cable's come; / Thump as hard as you are able, / In honor of this ocean cable" / (1). Another, which appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, ends "Phiz! pop! bang! pop! loud the cannon roar! / Ο was there ever such a time in New York streets before? / And now, three lusty cheers for all who helped to lay the wire— / We'll have a glorious time, and set--the City Hall on fire!" ("The Telegraph", 233). These light verses, which echo the mood of the cable festivities, should not be taken solely at face value, however, as they include a clear tone of irony in their expression. While participating in the celebration, they are, at the same time, mocking it. In "The Last Lay", for example, the images of a banjo, a drum and thumping are not necessarily the most appropriate ones to convey the dignity of the "honor" suggested in line four. Likewise, in "The Telegraph", the supposedly onomatopoeic "Phiz! pop! bang! pop!" sounds more like the firing of a child's toy gun or champagne bottles opening than words that in any way convey the sound and majesty of the phrase "loud the cannon roar!" All of these mismatches in tone, including the reference to the burning of the City Hall as part of the festivities, tend to undermine the lofty aspect of the commemorations which is also implied in these verses.

9Other equally light rhymes take the immoderate tone beyond mere celebratory enthusiasm and carry it into imaginary, not to say silly, exaggeration. The otherwise rather stodgy Thomas Wentworth Higginson, for example, at this early point in his career, made extensive use of puns in a rhyme which imagines the reactions of various water creatures to the cable. One version of the poem, entitled "How the Cable Was Received Under Water", begins, "A school of mackerel got dismissed / To ponder this new study; / The alewives paused amid their drink / And thought their heads were muddy; / The lobsters turned, in sudden fears, / As red as when they're boiled; / The whales shed spermaceti tears / Till all the sea was oiled." The poem "Sparking Out of Sight", going a bit further, makes suggestive reference to the official communications between Queen Victoria and the U.S. bachelor president, James Buchanan, implying some sort of budding romance facilitated by the new means of communication. It plays on the nineteenth-century American expression, "to spark", meaning "to engage in courtship; to play the suitor, wooer, or beau" (OED, 2942) and pretends to appreciate the propriety of the hidden aspect of the messages sent between the two leaders: "The custom is--for wrong or right-- / To practice 'sparking' out of sight: / So our old Buck and England's daughter, / Despatch their Business under water" (1). The celebratory tone as well as the humor, playfulness and irreverence of all this eminently light verse is thus excessive and, at the same time, self-mocking of its extreme nature; while it participates in the frenzy surrounding the cable commemorations, it can also be seen to provide a somewhat oblique hint that all of this celebration really is a bit too much, that something is genuinely not quite right with the extreme tone of the rhetoric glorifying the Atlantic cable success.

10Carried over to an analysis of some of the verse commemorating more serious aspects of the transatlantic cable, this suggestion can, I believe, lead to a few valuable insights. What needs to be done is to reread these verses so that the reasons for their excess may be better understood, in order that the criticism they were unable to practice on themselves may be applied and thus a clearer understanding of their significance may be achieved. The briefest survey of the more serious themes of the poems provides a clue as to why their excessive rhetoric was not the object of self-criticism. If the authors of the lighter poems could laugh at the excess of the cable celebrations, few Americans of 1858 were ready to take the sacred domains of science and religion, on the one hand, and American nationalism and America's role in international relations, on the other, as anything but hallowed no matter how excessive their expression, and all of these topics were treated earnestly in transatlantic cable poetry.

11Some of these verses, it seems to me, must be taken primarily at face value. Despite their tendency to employ extreme description, they appear to convey the genuine awe which many people of the mid-nineteenth century must have felt in reaction to the success of the project. One poem, for example, asserts: "We are living, we are dwelling, / In a grand and awful time-- / In an age of thrilling wonder-- / To be living is sublime" ("We are living, we are dwelling", 3). Few of the commemorations treating serious subjects, however, are so pure in their expression and so resist the temptation to interpret the cable's significance from various points of view. One verse which praises the cable rather extravagantly as science's "mightiest child" in the whole history of the world also makes passing reference to Franklin and Morse ("The Atlantic Cable", 4). Another poem, which takes religion as its primary theme and which is peppered with exclamation marks, also credits the two Americans despite the verse's opening line, "Oh, Jehovah! oh Elohim! be the glory all thine own!" ("Hymn," 5).

12The references to Franklin and Morse are not innocent, however, since one clear intent of much of the cable poetry was to praise America, and this despite the fact that many Europeans had been involved in the perfecting of telegraphy and that the British, in particular, had been instrumental in the successful laying of the cable, providing, in fact, a majority of the necessary financing. This American patriotic spirit is suggested in the cover illustration of the 21 August Harper's Weekly which features a large portrait of Cyrus W. Field draped with a length of the Atlantic cable and with the American stars and stripes in the form of an escutcheon at its base. Indeed, some of the most exaggerated aspects of the cable poetry were employed for this nationalistic end. In "The Electro Triune", for example, Franklin, Morse and Field are given godlike status in an almost heretical comparison with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in both the title of the poem and in a characterization of them in line nine as a "trinity sublime" (Bradford, 139). Similarly, in "The Atlantic Cable", John Rollin Ridge blithely ignores the immense contributions of the British and writes,

America! to thee belongs the praise
Of this great crowning deed of modern days
'T was Franklin called the wonder from on high;
'T was Morse who bade it on man's errands fly--
'T was he foretold its pathway 'neath the sea;
A daring Field fulfilled the prophecy! (20).

13Ridge's tribute to the United States amounts, in fact, to a major misrepresentation of the facts.

14Another poem entitled "Franklin and the Telegraph" reviews the entire life of the early American statesman and scientist and implicitly gives him the indirect credit for the successful laying of the Atlantic cable. In fact, the frequent references to Franklin in the cable poems are both abusive and telling. From one point of view, his real influence on the transatlantic link, and on telegraphy more generally, was marginal at best. From another, however, his value as an American icon is obvious, and the opportunity to honor a man, who might be considered the quintessential American, was not to be missed. "Franklin and the Telegraph", for example, describes the inventor's experiments with electricity, but it also mentions his activities during the American Revolution. We are a long way here from praise for the transatlantic cable.

15Two final examples will give an indication of just how unsubtle the poetry's nationalism could become. In "Telegraphic Rhymings", which makes reference to the Niagara, the American ship which participated in the laying of the cable, a supposedly distinctively American dialect is imitated to boast, "Folks say Niagara 'payed' it down, / And hitched it in the Ocean; / I wonder if a thing 'pon airth / Can beat that 'Yankee Notion!'" (5). Another poem, "To the Cable Tow," which echoes a famous line of Bishop Berkeley, saw in the transatlantic cable a literal image of America's leading role in the world:

The westward course of empire yet
Demands a higher speed;
Columbia would go ahead
While Europe lags indeed.
But Field has found a remedy:--
As Europe is so slow,
Our continent, impatient, takes
The eastern world in tow (1).

16Clearly one aim of these poems was to use the cable as a symbol of American superiority, particularly in the area of scientific know-how. In the case of "To the Cable Tow" there is the further suggestion that American preeminence extended to just about every other domain as well. The transatlantic cable, however, really isn't the subject of these poems. The nationalistic rhetoric has become so exaggerated that it has wrested control of not only the spirit, but the object of these writings, and, as such, they can be seen as one more facet of the continual effort throughout the nineteenth century for the United States to assert and define its identity through an attempt to isolate and celebrate all native productions, even if this meant the exaggeration or total distortion of their American element.

17One final theme common to much of the poetry, which I would like to conclude with, tends to contrast with the rather jingoistic tone of the verses I have just mentioned. Many of the poems, in fact, emphasize the idea that the cable would help to promote freedom and peace in the world more than they stress American prominence. In "The Mission of the Cable", for example, the cable is addressed directly and asked whether or not it would seek to instill peaceful thoughts in the nations of the world. The cable responds affirmatively, "Aye, amicable! that I will!" (1). More specifically, however, the poems often suggest, in insistent and extravagant terms, that the cable would promote peace by ensuring harmony in the relations between America and Great Britain. A visual rendition of this idea was offered on the front page of the 14 August issue of Harper's Weekly. Here, two angels or goddesses, one representing the United States and the other England, are seen floating along the length of the cable under the waters of the Atlantic. One of them carries an olive branch while strewn to either side of the cable are the implements and symbols of war which the new invention was supposed to condemn forever to the depths of the ocean.

18In this context, one poem predicted, for example, that the cable "Both peoples now should hold / In bonds of love, in bonds of troth, / Till time's remotest day / Shall show mankind what mighty strength / In kindredship doth lay" (Klipstein, 4) while another saw America and England as "The bridegroom and the bride" (Doane, 8). A third asserts for Americans that the cable "Unites us to our Mother-let us hope forever!" ("Agricola Randol", 547). In one of the most frequently reprinted poems on the cable, Ann S. Stephens closely relates the theme of peace to that of brotherhood with England. In the first stanza she envisions a world where "mind reigns triumphant where slaughter has been". The second stanza includes the suggestion of the peaceful coexistence of the various countries of the world:

Let the joy of the world in rich harmony rise,
Let the sword keep its sheath, and the cannon its thunder;
Now intellect reigns from the earth to the skies,
And science links nations, that war shall not sunder.

19The reason for this bright prospect, however, is clearly presented as the reunion of the Anglo-American family. As in the images already cited, Stephens portrays England as America's mother and writes, "we are close to her breast, / That beautiful land that first gave us existence!" By the last stanza, though, it becomes apparent that what the author is really suggesting is a sort of Anglo-Saxon imperialism that will rule the earth:

Let us join in our might and be earnest for light;
Where Saxon blood burns let it strive for the right;
For mind reigns triumphant where slaughter has been:
Oh God bless our President! God save the Queen! (1).

20Other poems take this same suggestion of a reuniting of a superior race with even greater zeal and less delicacy. In "Lines on the Atlantic Cable" the assertion is made that "Saxon and Saxon from each adverse shore, / Stretch forth their hands, in war to meet no more" ("Barrister", 4). Another poem lauds those who laid the cable with the lines,

Honor to the brave and true!
Skill to plan and will to do;
Strength that nerves, through doubt and pain,
Saxon heart and Saxon brain! (Winter, 1).

21Somewhat more insidiously, a poem by Thomas Buchanan Read foresees all nations living in peaceful harmony, but Anglo-Saxon dominance is clearly understood in his vision of the countries of the world united in "One language and one God!" (1). What most of the poems highlighting Anglo-American reunion have in common is an idealized vision of a supposedly superior racial "family" which suggests that this alliance should serve as the model (or policeman, if need be) for the rest of the world. Thus this rather excessive mid-nineteenth-century American consciousness of Anglo-Saxondom, sparked by the only marginally relevant completion of the transatlantic telegraph cable, displays the same duality that Heinz Ickstadt has identified in its later manifestations in the America of the 1920s: "the polarization between nostalgia for a lost paradise of cultural homogeneity on the one hand and a yearning for a transcendental utopia on the other" (9).

22I would like to conclude this rather wide-ranging examination of the transatlantic cable poetry with a review of how excess and irony operated differently in the three major groups of verses I have described. The point of this reassessment is to provide a suggestion of how one may reconcile the presence of both nationalistic and Anglo-Saxon rhetoric in these writings. As stated above, the excess present in the more purely humorous works is generally undercut within the poems themselves through a use of ironic or inappropriate imagery, creating a self-mocking aspect which suggests that the authors were aware of their own indulgence in rather outrageous expression. If one applies this criticism to the nationalistic or jingoistic poems, their irony, it becomes clear, is that a very specific event, partly, but not entirely the work of citizens of the United States, has become the jumping off point for extreme praise of, not to saying bragging or lying about, all things American. Within the context of mid-nineteenth-century American nationalism, this rhetoric is hardly surprising and falls squarely within the relatively young nation's on-going effort to define and assert its identity for the benefit of both itself and the rest of the world.

23The final group of poems is a bit more complicated, and I would like to offer three interpretations which I feel may clarify this apparently overwhelming desire for certain American writers to assert their country's familial ties with England at this point in the nation's history. These explanations are based on different perspectives, but they do not, I believe, contradict each other. The first is the most purely historical and contains two significant aspects. I would argue that despite America's rampant nationalism and confidence in itself in the 1850s, the failed European revolutions of 1848 left a certain fear in the popular mind. The belief that the United States and Great Britain were the only major free and democratic powers in the world lead many Americans, it seems to me, to look more kindly on the only other nation in the world which not only shared its basic political assumptions, but represented perhaps the world's greatest military power at the time. Additionally, the rise of non-Anglo-Saxon emigration to the United States (including a high percentage of Irish) had begun to make itself felt, and the racist nostalgia for a more homogenous society combined with the desire for a renewed assertion of racial superiority is certainly at least partly responsible for this praise of Anglo-Saxon.

  • 4 While I would not claim to compare the relative lack of severity of British rule over the colonist (...)

24The second suggestion I would make has to do with the colonial condition. In 1858, America found itself in the process of asserting its own cultural distinctiveness, and, like almost any other recently independent nation, it quite naturally turned to the culture it had thrown off, that of its previous colonial dominator, Great Britain.4 Of course, the high esteem many citizens of the United States had for the British model is at least partially due to the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of many Americans of the time, but it can also be seen in the light of colonial imitativeness. As Seamus Deane states, speaking of Ireland to a large extent, American nationalism was on the whole a copy of that by which it felt itself oppressed" (8). In the throes of establishing its own distinctive identity, the United States made use of the British paradigm. Or, as Terry Eagleton explains, like all other groups striving to escape domination (and it seems to me that in this sense cultural and political influence are comparable), Americans of 1858 moved "under the sign of irony, knowing themselves ineluctably parasitic on their antagonists" (Eagleton, 1990, 26). Thus the first major irony of the poems enthusiastically celebrating Anglo-American brotherhood is that they can be seen as part of America's effort to define its own individuality as much as an assertion of genuine affection for the former mother country.

  • 5 For a good account of American imperialism in the nineteenth century, and more specifically of Ame (...)

25My final suggestion, and what I see as the most significant irony of the effusion of pro-British rhetoric in the poetry, is that it masks a very real rivalry between America and England. If America was still in the process of defining itself in 1858, it was also moving onto the stage of world imperialism, and its most powerful competitor in this domain was the United Kingdom. As Edward Said points out, imperialism "is committed to a specific ideology of expansion" (Said, 1993, 186), and from the Revolution on, the United States and Great Britain were continually at loggerheads, and almost always the disputes involved territory.5 In the year 1858, America was only seventy-five years from the treaty which granted it independence, forty-six years from a war which threatened a reversal of that independent status, sixteen years from a disagreement over the boundary of Maine, twelve years from a controversy over the Oregon Territory, ten years from a quarrel over Cuba, and was experiencing ongoing tensions with Great Britain in Hawaii, in the Caribbean, in Central America, in China, in Japan and in the Red River Valley on the border between the United States and Canada. A final irony of the intensely pro-British poetry thus is that it very actively suppresses a real rivalry, if not fear, between the two countries. One poem, in fact, tipped its hand, so to speak, in its final lines, and revealed this anxiety. "Mare Victum" ends with the lines:

For, save our English brothers, who dare be
Our foes, or rivals, on the land or sea?
Nor dare We fight again, as in the Past;
For now that We are One, contention ends;
We are, We must be friends:
This victory is the last! (Stoddard, 656).

26The use of italics for the word "must" is telling. Americans of 1858 had no desire to imagine their most likely and most powerful enemy as exactly that and thus almost desperately chose instead to portray England as family. If this is not the only irony of the exuberance of the transatlantic cable verse, it is perhaps the most deeply embedded.



"Agricola Randol." "The Atlantic Telegraph." Harper's Weekly [New York] 28 Aug. 1858: 547.

"The Atlantic Cable." Charleston Daily Courier 11 Aug. 1858: 4.

"The Atlantic Cable." Harper's Weekly [New York] 11 Sept. 1858: 586.

"The Atlantic Telegraph." Harper's Weekly [New York] 14 Aug. 1858: 513.

"Barrister." "Lines on the Atlantic Cable." Charleston Daily Courier 12 Aug. 1858: 4.

Bradford, Rev. Claudius. "The Electro Triune." Liberator 27 Aug. 1858: 139.

Briggs, Charles F. and Augustus Maverick. The Story of the Telegraph, and a History of the Great Atlantic Cable. New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1858.

Deane, Seamus, 1990. Introduction. Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Ρ, 3-19.

Dibner, Bern, 1959. The Atlantic Cable. Norwalk, Connecticut: Burndy Library.

Doane, Bishop George Washington. "The Wedded Flags-Α Song of the Cable" New York Herald 3 Sept. 1858: 8.

Eagleton, Terry, 1990. "Nationalism: Irony and Commitment." Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 23-39.

"Fat Men's Procession." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

"Franklin and the Telegraph." Daily Evening Bulletin [Philadelphia] 17 Aug. 1858: 1.

"The Great Cable Celebration." Daily Bulletin [Philadelphia] 1 Sept. 1858: 3.

Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. "How the Cable Was Received Under Water." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

"Hymn." New York Times 3 Sept. 1858: 5.

Ickstadt, Heinz, 1993. "Trans-national Democracy and Anglo-Saxondom: Fears and Visions of a Dominant Minority in the 1920's." Ethnic Cultures in the 1920's in North America. Ed. Wolfgang Binder. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1-15.

Klipstein, Louis Frederick. "Song of the British Sea-Faries." Charleston Daily Courier 22 Sept. 1858: 4.

"The Last Lay." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

"The Madness Ecstasy-Danger of Buffalo's Bursting." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

"The Mission of the Cable." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

Read, Thomas Buchanan. "The Cable." Evening Post [New York] 14 Aug. 1858: 1.

Ridge, John Rollin. "The Atlantic Cable." Poems. San Francisco: Henry Payot & Co., 1868.17-21.

Said Edward W, 1993. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf.

"Sparking Out of Sight." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

Stephens, Ann S. "The Cable." Daily Evening Bulletin [Philadelphia] 1 Sept. 1858: 3.

Stoddard, Richard Henry. "Mare Victum." Harper's New Monthly Magazine [New York] Oct. 1858: 653-656.

"The Telegraph." Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper [New York] 11 Sept. 1858: 233.

"Telegraphic Rhymings." New York Tribune 20 Aug. 1858: 5.

"To the Cable Tow." Evening Post [New York] 26 Aug. 1858: 1.

"We are living, we are dwelling." Daily Evening Bulletin [Philadelphia] 10 Aug. 1858: 3.

Winter, William. "Ode." Daily Evening Bulletin 9 Aug. 1858: 1.


1 Cyrus West Field (1819-1892) was an American businessman who accumulated a fortune of a quarter million dollars by the time he was thirty-three. In 1854 he became attracted to the idea of a transatlantic telegraph cable and not only supported the project financially, but remained the most important driving force behind the venture from its inception to its permanent operational status in 1866.

2 For a good account of the history of the transatlantic cable see B. Dibner, 1959. An interesting contemporary account can be found in C. Briggs and A. Maverick, 1858.

3 In fact, The Story of the Telegraph, and a History of the Great Atlantic Cable, a 255-page book, which the authors were able to publish within weeks of the completion of the cable, itself represents part of the cable mania (as well as an early example in America of the popular phenomenon of the instant book).

4 While I would not claim to compare the relative lack of severity of British rule over the colonists in America with other more oppressive forms of colonization (notably when an existing population is subjugated by an outside force alien to it, such as was the case, for example, with Native Americans in their relations with the British and then the newly independent Americans), it is clear, from documents of the Revolution, that many colonists did, at one time or another, see their relationship with Great Britain in terms of intolerable oppression.

5 For a good account of American imperialism in the nineteenth century, and more specifically of America's conflicts with Great Britain, see R. W. Van Alstyne, 1960.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 1996

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