Philip Freneau (1752-1832) was one of the first Americans to gain wide recognition as a writer. He is generally remembered as the «father of American poetry,» but his prose writings have not always received the attention they deserve. As the editor of three important papers in the late 18th century (The National Gazette. The Jersey Chronicle, and The Time-Piece and Literary Companion) and as a contributor to many others, Freneau produced a large number of political and literary essays.
The «Tomo Cheeki Essays», which were published in 1795 and in 1797, constitute an excellent example of Freneau's prose work. These pseudo-autobiographical accounts of an Indian visiting a city of the Whites are based upon the model of the European «oriental tale,» while simultaneously incorporating American subject matter. The essays are representative of a decisive period of American literary history, since they reveal both Freneau's indebtedness to European culture and his role in the process of overcoming this indebtedness in the beginning creation of an independent national literature. The present edition provides the first complete and separate modern collection of the essays, which gives the reader an opportunity to get acquainted with an important example of early American prose writing that has been virtually inaccessible up to now.