The Quaker City

Writing style and response

Lippard achieved substantial commercial success in his lifetime by purposely targeting a young working-class readership by using sensationalism, violence, and social criticism.[21] Lippard acknowledged the influence of Charles Brockden Brown (1771–1810) on his writing and dedicated several books to him.

Lippard's writing has occasional glimmers of style, but his words are more memorable for quantity than for quality, and his writing for its financial success than for its literary style. He proved that one could make a living by wordsmithing. If he is remembered at all today, it is more for his social thinking, which was progressive, than for his language and literary style. One contemporary reviewer noted Lippard's efforts as a social critic: "It was his business to attack social wrongs, to drag away purple garments, and expose to our shivering gaze the rottenness of vice—to take tyranny by the throat and strangle it to death."[2]

Nonetheless, years after Lippard's death, Mark Twain mentioned him in a letter to home. During the short time Twain spent in Philadelphia working for The Philadelphia Inquirer, he wrote: "Unlike New York, I like this Philadelphia amazingly, and the people in it . . . . I saw small steamboats, with their signs up--"For Wissahickon and Manayunk 25 cents." Geo. Lippard, in his Legends of Washington and his Generals, has rendered the Wissahickon sacred in my eyes, and I shall make that trip, as well as one to Germantown, soon . . . ."

Many of Lippard's fictions were received as historical fact. Probably the most famous person to quote a historical romance by George Lippard as though it were actual history is the late President Ronald Reagan, in a commencement address at Eureka College on June 7, 1957.[22] Reagan quoted from George Lippard's "Speech of the Unknown" in Washington and His Generals: or, Legends of the Revolution (1847), which relates how a speech by an anonymous delegate was the final motivation that spurred delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

After Lippard became successful as a novelist, he tried to use popular literature as a vehicle for social reform.[23]


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