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Barlow, Joel

Entry updated 4 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1754-1812) US diplomat and author, mostly abroad, in France and the UK and elsewhere, from 1788. He is of sf interest for his book-length patriotic poem (see Poetry), The Vision of Columbus: A Poem in Nine Books (1787; exp vt The Columbiad 1807 2vols), the first version of this narrative being a Christian, conservative, nationalistic attempt to create an American Myth of Origin [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] inspired by The Rising Glory of America (1772) by Philip Freneau (1752-1832). In this first version an angel conveys to Columbus an uplifting narrative of the future his discoveries have made possible; in its revised form as The Columbiad, Barlow's heavily rewritten epic argues for secular, scientifically advanced, republican governance, and for the abolition of Slavery; the poem climaxes in a Near Future council held in Mesopotamia, where the delegates unanimously repudiate all Religions and found a World State.

Between the publication of the two versions of his American epic, Barlow became a supporter of the government that took power in France after the Revolution in 1789, and some years later shared the translation of one of the English renderings of Les Ruines, ou méditation sur les révolutions des empires (1791; his trans anon as A New Translation of Volney's Ruins; Or, Meditations on the Revolution of Empires 1802) by M Volney [who see for comments on the possible involvement of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in this translation]. [JC]

Joel Barlow

born Redding, Connecticut: 24 March 1754

died Żarnowiec, Austrian Empire [now Poland]: 26 December 1812 [in transit]

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