John Rollin Ridge Criticism - Essay

Angie Debo (essay date 1931)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "John Rollin Ridge," in Southwest Review, Vol. XVII, No. 1, Autumn, 1931, pp. 59-71.

[In the following excerpt, Debo provides an overview of Ridge's poetry, concluding that Ridge was "a Cherokee poet only in the sense that he was both a Cherokee and a poet, and that his intellectual bent was all Christian, classical, and American rather than native".]

Most of Ridge's literary work has been lost; probably a great deal of it was of the ephemeral sort that goes to make up much of the output of the journalist. A volume of his verse [Poems] was published posthumously by his wife in 1868. Although somewhat disappointing after the strength and beauty of literary style revealed by his personal correspondence, still these poems throw some additional light on his strange and many-sided personality. As most of his life was spent in banishment from what was felt to be his home, his most interesting poems have to do with the loneliness of his exile. This emotion is dominant in "The Harp of Broken Strings," his best known poem, and also in a poem written when, at the age of twenty-three, exiled from his people, and with a price upon his head, he was crossing the plains to California. It begins:

A wanderer from my distant home,
From those who blest me with their love,
With boundless plains beneath my feet,
And foreign skies my head above; …

The following lines, evidently written two or three years later, express the same loneliness:

Long years have passed, and I have seen thee not,
Save in my waking and my nightly dreams,
When rose our quiet well-remembered cot
In that far land of pleasant woods and streams.

Ridge always felt a mystical companionship with nature that was a part of his Indian heritage. This is sometimes crudely expressed, but he always felt peace and calm descending upon his stormy spirit when he was in the presence of the intimate beauty of shaded streams, the pure remoteness of the stars, or the eternal strength of the snowcapped peaks.

One of his best expressions of this contact with nature is his "Mount Shasta," which begins:

Behold the dread Mount Shasta, where it stands
Imperial midst the lesser heights, and, like
Some mighty unimpassioned mind, companion-
And cold. The storms of Heaven may beat in wrath
Against it, but it stands in unpolluted
Grandeur still; and from the rolling mists upheaves
Its tower of pride e'en purer than before.
The wintry showers and white-winged tempests
Their frozen tributes on its brow, and it
Doth make of them an everlasting crown.

Then there is the "Remembrance of a Summer's Night," which in its fatalism reminds one some-what of "Thanatopsis." As the poet sat beside a lake and watched the stars come out it seemed to him that the earth must burn dimly among her sister planets...

(The entire section is 1309 words.)

Franklin Walker (essay date 1937)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ridge's Life of Joaquin Murieta: The First and Revised Editions Compared," in California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, September, 1937, pp. 256-62.

[In the following essay, Walker analyzes and compares the 1854 first edition of Ridge's novel Joaquín Murieta with the more widely-read revised 1871 edition.]

Until recently it was feared that no copy existed of John Rollin Ridge's life of Joaquin Murieta in its original version of 1854. As late as 1932, Mr. Francis P. Farquhar, in preparing what is known as the Police Gazette version of the Joaquin Murieta story for a reissue by the Grabhorn Press, lamented that Ridge's first...

(The entire section is 3119 words.)

James W. Parins (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Romantic Poet" and "The Romance of Joaquín Murieta" in John Rollin Ridge: His Life and Works, University of Nebraska Press, 1991, pp. 76-94 and 95-112.

[Below, Parins assesses Ridge's love poetry and examines the history behind Joaquín Murieta and Ridge's depiction of the main character.]

Romantic Poet

By 1851 Ridge was writing seriously and attempting to have his work published in publications that circulated more widely than local newspapers. He began writing for the Golden Era in its first year of publication. The Golden Era was begun in San Francisco in 1852 by Rollin M. Daggett and J. Macdonough Foard. The...

(The entire section is 13257 words.)

Peter G. Christensen (essay date 1991-1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Minority Interaction in John Rollin Ridge's The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta," in MELUS, University of Massachusetts, Summer, 1991-1992, pp. 61-72.

[In the following essay, Christensen analyzes Ridge's portrayal of different ethnic groups, including Mexicans, Chinese, and Native Americans, in Joaquín Murieta.]

The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (1854) by John Rollin Ridge (1827-1867) begins two traditions in American literature. Not only is it the first novel written in English by a person of Native American ancestry, it is also the first novel by an American in English treating the Mexican...

(The entire section is 5082 words.)

Karl Kroeber (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "American Indian Persistence and Resurgence," in boundary 2, Vol. XIX, No. 3, Fall, 1992, pp. 1-25.

[In the following excerpt, Kroeber finds Ridge's novel Joaquín Murieta important as a product of Ridge's cultural identity]

In 1854, John Rollin Ridge, a Cherokee, became the first American Indian to publish a novel, The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murietta, the Celebrated Bandit. This blood-and-thunder potboiler will never supersede Madame Bovary as an object of stylistic analysis. Its literary interest, in fact, lies in its journalistic character. Ridge wrote the novel to take advantage of the celebrity of its protagonist, a Robin Hood...

(The entire section is 2343 words.)

Louis Owens (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Origin Mists: John Rollin Ridge's Masquerade and Mourning Dove's Mixed Bloods," in Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, pp. 32-48.

[In the following essay, Owens discusses Joaquín Murieta as a work that expresses the internal conflict Ridge experienced as an individual trapped between Native and white cultures.]

John Rollin Ridge, the first American Indian to publish a novel, arrived in California in 1850, a mixedblood Cherokee fleeing the turmoil set loose by the injustices of the Removal Act. If the "Indian Territory" that would become Oklahoma was a displaced setting wrought out of violence...

(The entire section is 3511 words.)

John Lowe (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "I Am Joaquin!: Space and Freedom in Yellow Bird's The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, The Celebrated California Bandit," in Early Native American Writing: New Critical Essays, edited by Helen Jaskoski, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 104-21.

[In the following essay, Lowe examines Ridge's depiction of the relationship between space and identity in Joaquin Murieta.]

Christopher Newman, that quintessential American abroad, opens Henry James's The American by occupying a huge circular divan at the Louvre; he sits, spreads his arms and legs, and fills up all the space he possibly can. He is, of course, from the West (where else?), where...

(The entire section is 7805 words.)