A Joy on the Precipice of Death: John Muir and Robert Louis Stevenson in California
Jacksonian America fascinated and often repelled a succession of British visitors to the United States, who discovered upon their return home a market greedy for accounts of travels in this still new, raw, and unfamiliar democracy. British travel writers and their reviewers worked feverishly throughout the late 1820s and the 1830s to "construct" an America that best suited their own moral and political beliefs about what constituted the ideal political and social organization for Britain. In many ways, the decade was tailor-made for British visitors and analysts eager to see democracy in action and often to find, whether they admitted it or not, evidence of the home country's cultural superiority. The most prominent books on America by British writers in the post-Reform years of the mid-1830s were written by two women, the young actress Frances Kemble Butler, who moved to America in 1832, and Harriet Martineau, who spent two years in America between 1834 and 1836.