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.
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.
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