William II Byrd Criticism - Essay

James R. Masterson (essay date May 1937)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Masterson, James R. “William Byrd in Lubberland.” American Literature 9, no. 2 (May 1937): 153-70.

[In the following essay, Masterson considers whether Byrd's negative impressions of colonial North Carolina were shared by other travelers.]

During the spring and autumn of 1728, as one of the Virginia commissioners appointed to run a boundary between Virginia and North Carolina, Colonel William Byrd had occasion to traverse the border from Currituck Inlet, on the Atlantic coast, to a point in the foothills 241 miles to the west. In The History of the Dividing Line Run in the Year of Our Lord 1728 he disparages not only the border country but the whole...

(The entire section is 7639 words.)

Louis B. Wright (essay date 1940)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wright, Louis B. “The Byrds' Progress from Trade to Genteel Elegance.” In The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class, pp. 312-47. San Marino, Calif.: Huntington Library, 1940.

[In the following excerpt, Wright presents an overview of Byrd's life, interests, attitudes, character, and writing.]

A large part of Byrd's life before his return to Virginia in 1705 had been spent abroad in varied activities that had given him a well-rounded education. Academic learning, business training, and social opportunities had all gone into the experience of the young man who was to become the most accomplished Virginian of his...

(The entire section is 8971 words.)

Pierre Marambaud (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Marambaud, Pierre. “Diarist.” In William Byrd of Westover, 1674-1744, pp. 106-16. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1971.

[In the following excerpt, Marambaud examines Byrd's diaries, which, the critic maintains, are examples of intimate self-expression but also valuable historical documents.]

Byrd's diaries were not published until recently. According to family traditions, he never failed to keep a detailed journal in shorthand when absent from home.1 In fact, as we now know, he kept it at Westover as well as when he was away, and it is fairly probable that he did so throughout most of his adult life, but that a great part of it has...

(The entire section is 4754 words.)

Donald T. Siebert, Jr. (essay date January 1976)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Siebert, Donald T., Jr. “William Byrd's Histories of the Line: The Fashioning of a Hero.” American Literature 47, no. 4 (January 1976): 535-51.

[In the following essay, Siebert argues that the portrait of Byrd painted by most critics fails to appreciate his complexities, and he examines Byrd's Histories of the Line to understand the contrast between the author's private and public personas and his struggle to present a heroic image of himself.]

Among colonial writers, William Byrd of Westover appears most deserving of lapidary inscription and idealizing portrait. He is the earliest and perhaps only American type of “the well-bred gentleman...

(The entire section is 7142 words.)

David Smith (essay date winter 1976-77)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Smith, David. “William Byrd Surveys America.” Early American Literature 11, no. 3 (winter 1976-77): 296-310.

[In the following essay, Smith suggests that the idea of the land survey and the image of the boundary are the central, sustaining metaphors in Byrd's Histories of the Line.]


Thus in the beginning all the world was America.

John Locke, “Of Property,” in The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690)

When John Locke set himself to thinking about a state of nature, it was natural for him to imagine life in “America” as illustrative of most...

(The entire section is 6669 words.)

Ross Pudaloff (essay date fall 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Pudaloff, Ross. “‘A Certain Amount of Excellent English’: The Secret Diaries of William Byrd.” Southern Literary Journal 15, no. 1 (fall 1982): 101-19.

[In the following essay, Pudaloff explores Byrd's secret diaries and contrasts the persona revealed in those works with that presented in his public writings.]

In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Since the...

(The entire section is 8994 words.)

Kenneth A. Lockridge (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Lockridge, Kenneth A. “‘The Female Creed’: Misogyny Enlightened?” In On the Sources of Patriarchal Rage: The Commonplace Books of William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson and the Gendering of Power in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 29-45. New York: New York University Press, 1992.

[In the following excerpt, Lockridge analyzes the reasons for Byrd's tempered yet intense disdain for women as set out in the satirical essay “The Female Creed” that appears in one of his secret diaries.]

At the very moment when he was recording his private fears about himself and about women in his commonplace book, William Byrd was aiming a public dart of misogyny at women in the...

(The entire section is 6345 words.)

Susan Manning (essay date August 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Manning, Susan. “Industry and Idleness in Colonial Virginia: A New Approach to William Byrd II.” Journal of American Studies 28, no. 2 (August 1994): 169-90.

[In the following essay, Manning argues that the “southernness” of Byrd's prose in his History of the Dividing Line is deliberate and self-conscious.]

The inception of American regionalism is routinely identified by scholars in either Robert Beverley or William Byrd II, both native Virginians who wrote intensely local works (The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705; The History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, Run in the Year of Our Lord 1728)...

(The entire section is 9701 words.)