Entry updated 15 June 2020. Tagged: Author.
Pseudonym of the unidentified author of the well-written Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery (1820), which sets a Utopia inside a Hollow Earth, and which contains some good-tempered Satire of America aboveground. Some commentators – including J O Bailey, who edited a 1965 facsimile edition of the original text – have assumed Seaborn to have been Captain John Cleves Symmes, whose hollow-earth theories are exploited in the book, and who see for further discussion. It is the case, however, that the Symmesian Hollow Earth is subjected to some Satire in Symzonia, the very title of which is less than adulatory. A more likely figure behind Seaborn may be the author Nathaniel Ames (1796-1835), whose style in his travel books resembles Seaborn's, who was familiar with the works of Jonathan Swift, and whose own travels in the teens of the century, as later described in A Mariner's Sketches (1830), are replicated in the novel. Washington Irving has also been suggested as Seaborn, but there is no evidence Irving ever used any of his pseudonyms to conceal his identity.
The novel itself is narrated by Captain Seaborn, who describes his journey in 1817 to the South Pole; his intention is to enter the Hollow Earth there and to emerge at the North Pole. But within the Earth he discovers the continent of Symzonia, which houses a highly advanced Utopia whose inhabitants' moral and scientific edge over surface dwellers is signalled by the superior whiteness of their skin; they eventually banish Seaborn and his crew for reasons of turpitude. He makes his way to China in 1818 and tells his tale. [JC/PN]
born Dedham, Massachusetts: 17 May 1796
died Providence, Rhode Island: 18 January 1835
- Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery (New York: Jonathan Seymour, 1820) [hb/nonpictorial]
about the author
- Hans-Joachim Lang and Benjamin Lease. "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathaniel Ames" (June 1975 New England Quarterly) [mag/]
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