American Lives

An Anthology of Transatlantic Life Writing from the Colonies to 1850

American Lives provides readers with an overview of American biographical writing in a transatlantic context, from its earliest Classical antecedents to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Representative Men. American Lives offers an overview over the practices and conceptions of biography emphasizing the connections between Britain, its colonies, and the early United States. Including excerpts from monograph biographies as well as broadly surveying the field of periodical writings, American Lives covers the richness of life writing in North America and highlights the importance of understanding American biography’s dialogue with fiction, history, and autobiography, both at home and across the Atlantic. In both scope and aim, it is the first comprehensive anthology of American biography and thus documents a field of cultural practice that has hitherto been neglected.


Historical Antecedents and British Theories of Biography

Plutarch: “Life of Alexander.”

Cornelius Nepos: “The Life of T.P. Atticus.”

Tacitus: “Life of Agricola.”

John Dryden: “Life of Plutarch.”

Samuel Johnson: The Life of Savage

Samuel Johnson: “The Dignity and Usefulness of Biography [The Rambler No. 60].”

Samuel Johnson: “Biography How Best Performed [The Idler No. 84].”

Vicesimus Knox: “Occasional Letters. Letter LXXXIV. On Biography.”

James Boswell: The Life of Samuel Johnson

American Theories of Biography before 1800
Supplement 1: Parson Weems and the Lives and Myths of George Washington, 1800-1810
Periodicals and Biography, 1800-1820
Supplement 2: The Trouble with Delaplaine’s Repository, 1814-1819
Periodicals and Biography, 1821-1850
Biography and Biographical Theory in Monographs and Anthologies, 1800-1850