American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

THE SEA SERPENT; OR, GLOUCESTER HOAX (first perf.?; pub. 1819). The versatile William Crafts (1787-1826), a South Carolina lawyer and public official, wrote essays, poems, and dramatic criticism for the Charleston Courier. In rhyming couplets full of witty allusions, his play The Sea Serpent describes what happens when a gullible Captain Jonathan sights a sea monster off the coast of a small New England fishing town. The wily mayor quickly spreads the news and offers a reward for the creature’s capture, hoping to swell the town coffers. What supposedly resembles a monstrous snake is finally caught, but it turns out to be only an albacore. Other characters include two scientists, a pair of lovers whose marriage depends on the monster’s being caught, a painter with a vivid vision of the serpent, and a number of skeptical fishermen. [See also DRAMA OF THE SEA]

Brian T. Carney