Test: LSAT Reading

Adapted from the Introduction to Letters from an American Farmer (Crèvecoeur; 1782) by Warren Barton Blake (1912)

Except by naturalization, the author of Letters from an American Farmer was not an American, and he was no ordinary farmer. Yet why quarrel with him for the naming of his book, or for his signing it "J. Hector Saint-John," when the "Hector" of his title-pages and American biographers was only a prenom de faintaisie? We owe some concessions to the author of so charming a book, to the eighteenth-century Thoreau. His life is certainly more interesting than the real Thoreau's—and would be, even if it did not present many contradictions. Our records of that life are in the highest degree inexact; he himself is wanting in accuracy as to the date of more than one event. The records, however, agree that Crèvecoeur belonged to the petite noblesse of Normandy. The date of his birth was January 31, 1735, the place was Caen, and his full name (his great-grandson and biographer vouches for it) was Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecoeur. The boy was well enough brought up, but without more than the attention that his birth gave him the right to expect; he divided the years of his boyhood between Caen, where his father's town-house stood, and the College du Mont, where the Jesuits gave him his education. A letter dated 1785 and addressed to his children tells us all that we know of his school-days; though it is said, too, that he distinguished himself in mathematics. "If you only knew," the reminiscent father of a family exclaims in this letter, "in what shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; how I was fed and dressed!" Already his powers of observation, that were so to distinguish him, were quickened by his old-world milieu.

"From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, "I had a passion for taking in all the antiques that I met with: moth-eaten furniture, tapestries, family portraits, Gothic manuscripts (that I had learned how to decipher) had for me an indefinable charm. A little later on, I loved to walk in the solitude of cemeteries, to examine the tombs and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and what they contained of interest in the way of pictures and sculptures."

The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to be tested soon by a very different class of objects; there were to be no crumbling saints and canvases of bed-chamber grooms for him to study in the forests of America, no reminders of the greatness of his country's past, and the honor of his family.

From school, the future woodsman passed over into England. A distant relative was living near Salisbury; for one reason or another the boy was sent thither to finish his schooling. From England, with what motives we know not, he set out for the New World, where he was to spend his busiest and happiest days. In the Bibliotheca Americana Nova Rich makes the statement that Crèvecoeur was but sixteen when he made the plunge, and others have followed Rich in this error. The lad's age was really not less than nineteen or twenty. According to the family legend, his ship touched at Lisbon on the way out; one cannot decide whether this was just before or immediately after the great earthquake. Then to New France, where he joined Montcalm. Entering the service as cadet, he advanced to the rank of lieutenant; was mentioned in the Gazette; shared in the French successes; drew maps of the forests and block-houses that found their way to the king's cabinet; served with Montcalm in the attack upon Fort William Henry. With that the record is broken off: we can less definitely associate his name with the humiliation of the French in America than with their brief triumphs. Yet it is quite certain, says Robert de Crèvecoeur, his descendant, that he did not return to France with the rag-tag of the defeated army. Quebec fell before Wolfe's attack in September 1759; at some time in the course of the year 1760 we may suppose the young officer to have entered the British colonies, to have adopted his family name of "Saint John" (Saint-Jean), and to have gradually worked his way south, probably by the Hudson. The reader of the Letters hardly supposes him to have enjoyed his frontier life; nor is there any means of knowing how much of that life it was his fortune to lead. In time, he found himself as far south as Pennsylvania. He visited Shippensburg and Lancaster and Carlisle; perhaps he resided at or near one of these towns. Many years later, when his son Louis purchased a farm of two hundred acres from Chancellor Livingstone, at Navesink, near the Blue Mountains, Crèvecoeur the elder was still remembered, and it may have been at this epoch that he visited the place. During the term of his military service under Montcalm, Crèvecoeur saw something of the Great Lakes and the outlying country; prior to his experience as a cultivator, and, indeed, after he had settled down as such, he "travelled like Plato," even visited Bermuda, by his own account. Not until 1764, however, have we any positive evidence of his whereabouts; it was in April of that year that he took out naturalization papers at New York. Some months later, he installed himself on the farm variously called Greycourt and Pine-Hill, in the same state; he drained a great marsh there, and seems to have practiced agriculture upon a generous scale. The certificate of the marriage of Crèvecoeur to Mehitable Tippet, of Yonkers is dated September 20, 1769, and of this union three children were the issue. And more than children: for with the marriage ceremony once performed by the worthy Tetard, a clergyman of New York, formerly settled over a French Reformed Church at Charleston, South Carolina, Crèvecoeur is more definitely than ever the "American Farmer"; he has thrown in his lot with that new country; his children are to be called after their parent's adopted name, Saint-John; the responsibilities of the adventurer are multiplied; his life in America has become a matter more easy to trace and richer, perhaps, in meaning.

1.

Given the author's account of the similarities between Crèvecoeur and Thoreau, which one of the following is most analogous to the comparison made in the passage between the two men?

A singer and a song

A veteran and a war cabinet minister

A king and a queen

A master and apprentice

An adventurer and an explorer

1/18 questions

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