Apiculture and Culture
Books on Bees and Beekeeping, SCUA, UMass Amherst
Moral and financial aspects
Apiculture and culture
A & C
Early apiculture
Early works
Scientific management
Natural history
Natural history
Moral and financial
American bees
Bee business
Check list of works
Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur
Letters from an American farmer : describing certain provincial situations, manners, and customs, and conveying some idea of the state of the people of North America.
Philadelphia : From the press of Mathew Carey, March 4, 1793.
viii, [9]-240 p. ; 17 cm.

Call no.: E163. C95

An ambiguous classic of early American literature, Hector St. John de Crevecoeur's (1735-1813) Letters from an American Farmer has been read as everything from a paean to a pioneering American spirit to a trenchant critique of the same. It has seldom been read as a beekeeping manual, but bees, nevertheless, play a prominent role as metaphors for the new America that Crevecoeur saw emerging during his residence there in the 1770s. Crevecoeur's was an America that offered a degree of personal autonomy unknown in the old world and the promise of a peaceful utopian existence, but that at the same time it was an America accompanied by the daily violence of slavery and the extirpation of Indians.

The ambiguities of Crevecoeur's Letters appear in full fledge in his discussion of bees, a metaphor with potent implications for American society:

My bees, above any other tenants of my farm, attract my attention and respect. I am astonished to see, that nothing exists but what has its enemy; one species pursue and live upon the other: unfortunately our kingbirds are the destroyers of those industrious insects; but, on the other hand, these birds preserve our fields from the depredations of crows, which they pursue on the wing with great vigilance and astonishing dexterity. Thus divided by two interested motives, I have long resisted the desire I had to kill them, until last year, when I thought they increased too much, and my indulgence had been carried too far; it was at the time of swarming when they all came, and fixed themselves on the neighbouring trees, from whence they catched those that returned loaded from the fields. This made me resolve to kill as many as I could; and I was just ready to fire, when a bunch of bees as big as my fist, issued from one of the hives, rushed on one of the birds, and probably stung him, for he instantly screamed, and flew, not as before, in an irregular manner, but in a direct line. He was followed by the same bold phalanx, at a considerable distance, which, unfortunately becoming too sure of victory, quitted their military array and disbanded themselves. By this inconsiderate step they lost all that aggregate of force which had made the bird fly off. Perceiving their disorder, he immediately returned and snapped as many as he wanted; nay, he had even the impudence to alight on the very twig from which the bees had drove him. I killed him and immediately opened his craw, from which I took one hundred and seventy-one bees; I laid them all on a blanket in the sun, and to my great surprise fifty-four returned to life, licked themselves clean, and joyfully went back to the hive; where they probably informed their companions of such an adventure and escape, as I believe had never happened before to American bees!

[ Moral & financial ][ Crevecoeur ][ Bonner ][ Cotton ][ Milton ][ Country curate ]

Crevecoeur title page Crevecoeur passage Crevecoeur passage continued
W. E. B. Du Bois Library * University of Massachusetts Amherst * 154 Hicks Way * Amherst, Mass. 01003-9275
Phone: (413) 545-2780 * Fax: (413) 577-1399 * Email: askanarc@library.umass.edu

© 2006 University of Massachusetts Amherst. Site Policies.
This site is maintained by Special Collections & University Archives