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The Infamous Anne Royall: Jacksonian Gossip, Scribbler, and Scold

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Abstract

The widow Anne Royall was America’s first nationally recognized gossip columnist. Both celebrated and highly controversial, she did not begin her career until the age of 57, with the 1826 publication of Sketches of the History, Life and Manners of the United States. Over the next five years, she issued a ten-volume series, Travels in the United States, which consisted of interviews and observations taken in different sections of the country. By then, she had set up shop in Washington, DC, putting out two consecutive newspapers, Paul Pry and The Huntress, so that she remained constantly in print from 1831 to 1854. Courting fame and infamy, Royall was arrested in 1829, charged as a “common scold,” and put on trial. District Court Chief Judge William Cranch presided over her case, debating the finer points of English law over whether the old woman on trial should be punished on the dunking stool. She escaped with a fine, and continued to be a thorn in the side of her enemies.1

Keywords

State Party Peaceful Teaching Black Book Religious Revival Supreme Court Justice 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    As Frank Luther Mott wrote in 1962, her publications were “forerunners of the modern Washington gossip columnist.” See Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism, A History: 1690–1960 (New York: The MacMillan, 1962), 312Google Scholar
  2. Madelon Golden Schilpp and Sharon M. Murphy, Great Women of the Press (carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 1983), 21Google Scholar
  3. Cynthia Earman, “An Uncommon Scold: Treasure Talks Describes the Life of Anne Royall,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 59.1 (January 2000), accessed at: http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0001/royall.htmlGoogle Scholar
  4. Elizabeth J. Clapp, “A Virago-Errant in Enchanted Armor,” Journal of the Early Republic 23.2 (Summer 2003): 207–232, esp. 226–227.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Catherine Allgor, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Helped Build a City and a Government (Charlottes ville: University of Virginia Press, 2000): 5–7, 71–2, 129–132, 243Google Scholar
  6. Fredrika J. Teute, “Roman Matron on the Banks of the Tiber Creek: Margaret Bayard Smith and the Politicization of Spheres in the National Capital,” in A Republic for the Ages: The United States Capital and the Political Culture of the Early Republic, ed. Donald R. Kennon (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1999): 89–121Google Scholar
  7. Margaret Bayard Smith, The First Forty Years of Washington as Portrayed by the Family Letters of Mrs. Samuel Harrison Smith (Margaret Bayard) from the Collection of her Grandson J. Henley Smith, ed. Galliard Hunt (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Bessie Rowlands James, Anne Royall’s U.S.A. (new Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972).Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Alice S. Maxwell and Marion B. Dunlevy, Virago! The Story of Anne Newport Royall (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1985), 32.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    Oliver Goldsmith, Letters from a Citizen of the World, to His Friends in the East Vol. 1 (London, 1760; reprint, Bungay, 1820 )Google Scholar
  11. esp. 320. Royall mentions Goldsmith as one of the influences on her writing. See Anne Royall, Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the United States. By a Traveller (New Haven, 1826), 33.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Royall, Mrs. Royall’s Tour of the South, or, Second Series of Black Books (Washington, DC, 1830), 132–133.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    John F. Marszalek, The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, and Sex in the Andrew Jackson’s White House (baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000), esp. 77–88, 102–3, 132, 136, 171–172; Clapp, “A Virago-Errant,” 223, 227–228; Maxwell and Dunlevy, Virago!, 195.Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    On female gossip in the Eaton affair, see Kirsten Wood, “‘One Woman So Dangerous to Public Morals’: Gender and Power in the Eaton Affair,” Journal of the Early Republic 17.2 (Summer 1997): 237–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. On dueling and male honor, see Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002)Google Scholar
  16. and Andrew Burstein, The Passions of Andrew Jackson (new York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Merrill Peterson, “The Jefferson Image, 1829,” American Quarterly 3.3 (Autumn 1951), 206, 212–214.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    On the culture of honor and the role of newspaper editors in fueling controversy, see Freeman, Affairs of Honor and Kenneth Greenberg, “The Nose, the Lie, and the Duel in the Antebellum South,” American Historical Review 95.1 (February 1990): 57–74Google Scholar
  19. Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (new York: Oxford University Press, 1982)Google Scholar
  20. Nancy Isenberg, Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr (new York: Viking, 2005)Google Scholar
  21. and Jeffrey Pasley, “The Tyranny of Printers”: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  22. 43.
    Thomas Brown, “John Pendleton Kennedy’s ‘Quidlibot’ and the Culture of Jacksonian Democracy,” Journal of the Early Republic 16.4 (Winter 1996): 625–643, esp. 630–632.Google Scholar

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© Kathleen A. Feeley and Jennifer Frost 2014

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