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11.01.04 Cooke, Ebenezer, The Sot-Weed Factor: Or a Voyage to Maryland, published in 1708

Notes Concerning the Author

Not a lot is known about Ebenezer Cooke (1665?—1732?)  except that he was  born in England and spent at least two long periods in the Maryland Colony, and that he wrote one of the earliest notable pieces of Southern (and thus American) literature.

Our Review

Published in London in 1708, the “sot-weed” referred to is tobacco, which was the primary crop and export of the English colonies in North America throughout the colonial period.  A “factor” was the merchant who exported and sold the products of the  plantations, in this case tobacco.  The work is a long satirical poem.   Cooke portrays the life  of the planters, lawyers, clergymen and others of the colonists in a   humourous light.  The portrayal has usually been considered bitter and critical, but some critics have argued that it is not an attack on Maryland but intended as a bit of insider’s fun shared with the  colonists.  The 20th century Northern writer John Barth has published a  fanciful  story about Cooke and his book called The Sot-Weed Factor.

Availability of this Work

This work is available as a free e-book.