The literature of the United States, while still half our own, is pervaded, to a degree not easily estimated, by a foreign element. The relationship between Englishmen and Americans, making them ignorant of their mutual ignorance, operates against the soundness of their judgment on each other's work. Community of speech, which ought to be a bond of union, is often a medium of offence ; for it dispenses with a study of the language, and in studying a language we learn something also of the habits and social histories which are reflected in, and serve to interpret, distinctly alien literatures. Facility of travel, making it easy to acquire first impressions, is a temptation to such hasty estimates as many of the most accomplished Americans have formed of England, and many of the most accomplished Englishmen have formed of America. The least satisfactory works of some of their foremost writers, as Mr Hawthorne's Old Home and Mr Emerson's English Traits, are those associated with their transatlantic experiences. But of the mistakes on both sides, ludicrous and grave, we have had perhaps the larger share. Few Americans have ever so misconceived a British statesman as we misconceived Mr Lincoln, or gone so far astray in regard to any crisis of our history as we did in reference to the moving springs and results of their Civil War. The source of this greater ignorance lies not so much in greater indifference as in greater difficulty. England is one, compact and stable. The United States are many, vast, various, and in perpetual motion. An old country is a study, but a new country is a problem. Antiquity is brought to our firesides in the classics, till Athens and Rome
" To us are nothing novel, nothing strange."
We are more familiar with the Acropolis than with the Western Capitolwith Mt. Soracte than with the Catskills. Our scholars know more about Babylon than about Chicago. Dante immortalises for us the Middle Age; Plantagenet England is revived in Chaucer; the inner life of modern England has a voice in Tennyson and the Brownings. Where is the poet who will reveal to us " the secrets of a land," in some respects indeed like our own, but separated in other respects by differences which the distance of 3000 miles of ocean only half represents; which, starting on another basis, has developed itself with energies hitherto unknown in directions hitherto unimagined 1 Who will become the interpreter of a race which has in two centuries diffused itself over a continent, the resources of which are not more than half discovered, and which has to absorb within itself and harmonise the discordant elements of other races for whom the resources of the Old World are well-nigh exhausted ? Caret vate sacro ; but it does not want poetical aspirations as well as practical daring :
" This land o' ourn I tell ye's gut to be
A better country than man ever see ; I feel my sperit swellin' with a cry
That seems to say, ' Break forth and prophesy.'
O strange New World, thet yet wast never young,
Whose youth from thee by gripin' want was wrung,
Brown foundlin' o' the woods, whose baby bed
Was prowled round by the Injun's cracklin' tread,
An' who grew'st strong thru' shifts an' wants an' pains,
Nursed by stern men with empires in their brains."
II.CONDITIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE.
The number of writers who have acquired some amount of well-founded reputation in the United States is startling. The mere roll of their names would absorb a great part of the space here available for an estimate of the works which best represent them. Mr Griswold informs us that he has in his own library more than 700 volumes of native novels and tales; his list of "remarkable men" is like Homer's catalogue of ships. Almost every Yankee town has indeed its local representatives of literature, reflecting in prose or verse the impulses and tendencies of the time. But while America has given birth to more than a fair proportion of eminent theologians, jurists, economists, and naturalists, hardly any great modern country, excepting Bussia, has in the same number of years produced fewer works of general interest likely to become classical; and Bishop Berkeley's prophecy of another golden age of arts in the Empire of the West still awaits fulfilment. This fact,, mainly attributable to obvious historic causes, is frankly recognised by her own best authors, one of whom has confessed" From Washington, proverbially the city of magnificent distances, through all its cities, states, and territories, ours is a country of beginnings, of projects, of designs, of expectations." The conditions under which the communities of the New World were established, and the terms on which they have hitherto existed, have been unfavourable to Art. The religious and commercial enthusiasms of the first adventurers to her shores, supplying themes for the romancers of a later age, were themselves antagonistic to romance. The spirit which tore down the aisles of St Begulus, and was revived in England in a reaction against music, painting, and poetry, the Pilgrim Fathers bore with them in the "Mayflower," and planted across the seas. The life of the early colonists left no leisure for refinement. They had to conquer nature before admiring it, to feed and clothe before analysing themselves. The ordinary cares of existence beset them to the exclusion of its embellishments. While Dryden, Pope, and Addison were polishing stanzas and adding grace to English prose, they were felling trees, navigating rivers, and fertilising valleys. We had time, amid our wars, to form new measures, to balance canons of criticism, to discuss systems of philosophy; with them
" The need that pressed sorest
Was to vanquish the seasons, the ocean, the forest."
The struggle for independence, absorbing the whole energies of the nation, developed military genius, statesmanship, and oratory, but was hostile to what is called polite literature. The people of the United States have had to act their Iliad, and they have not had time to sing it. They have had to piece together the disjecta membra of various races, sects, and parties, in a pantopolion politeion [Gk.]. Their genius is an unwedded Vulcan, melting down all the elements of civilisation in a gigantic furnace. An enlightened people in a new land, "where almost everyone has facilities elsewhere unknown for making his fortune," it is not to be wondered that the pursuit of wealth has been their leading impulse; nor is it perhaps to be regretted that much of their originality has been expended upon inventing machines instead of manufacturing verses, or that their religion itself has taken a practical turn. One of their own authors confesses that the "common New England life is still a lean impoverished life, in distinction from a rich and suggestive one;" but it is there alone that the speculative and artistic tendencies of recent years have found room and occasion for development. Our travellers find a peculiar charm in the manly force and rough adventurous spirit of the Far West, but the poetry of the pioneer is unconscious. The attractive culture of the South has been limited in extent and degree. The hothouse fruit of wealth and leisure, it has never struck its roots deeply into native soil. Since the Revolution days, when Virginia was the nurse of statesmen, the few thinkers of America born south of Mason and Dixon's lineoutnumbered by those belonging to the single State of Massachusettshave commonly migrated to New York or Boston in search of a university training. In the world of letters at least, the Southern States have shone by reflected light; nor is it too much to say, that mainly by their connection with the North the Carolinas have been saved from sinking to the level of Mexico or the Antilles. Whether we look to India or Louisiana, it would seem that the tropical sun takes the poetic fire out of Anglo-Saxon veins, and the indolence which is the concomitant of despotism has the same benumbing effect. Like the Spartan marshalling his helots, the planter lounging among his slaves was made dead to Art by a paralysing sense of his own superiority. All the best transatlantic literature is inspired by the spirit of confidenceoften of over-confidencein labour. It has only flourished freely in a free soil; and for almost all its vitality and aspirations, its comparatively scant performance and large promise, we must turn to New England. Its defects and merits are those of the national character as developed in the Northern States, and we must seek for an explanation of its peculiarities in the physical and moral circumstances which surround them.
When we remember that the Romans lived under the sky of Italy, that the character of the modern Swiss is like that of the modern Dutch, we shall be on our guard against attributing too much to the influence of external nature. Another race than the Anglo-Saxon would doubtless have made another America; but we cannot avoid the belief that the climate and soil of America have had something to do in moulding the Anglo-Saxon race, in making its features approximate to those of the Red Indian, and stamping it with a new character. An electric atmosphere, and a temperature ranging at some seasons from 50° to 100° in twenty-four hours, have contributed largely to engender that restlessness which is so conspicuous "a note " of the people. A territory which seems boundless as the ocean has been a material agent in fostering an ambition unbridled by traditionary restraints. When European poets and essayists write of nature, it is to contrast her permanence with the mutability of human life. We talk of the everlasting hills, the perennial fountains, the ever-recurring seasons. "Damna tamen celeres reparant ccelestia lunsenos ubi decidimus " In the same spirit Byron contemplates the sea and Tennyson a running stream. In America, on the other hand, it is the extent of nature that is dwelt uponthe infinity of space, rather than the infinity of time, is opposed to the limited rather than to the transient existence of man. Nothing strikes a traveller in that country so much as this feature of magnitude. The rivers like rolling lakes, the lakes which are inland seas, the forests, the plains, Niagara itself, with its world of waters, owe their magnificence to their immensity; and by a transference, not unnatural although fallacious, the Americans generally have modelled their ideas of art after the same standard of size. Their wars, their hotels, their language, are pitched on the huge scale of their distances. " Orphaned of the solemn inspiration of antiquity," they gain in surface what they have lost in age; in hope, what they have lost in memory.
'' _ That untraveiled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when they move,"
is all their own; and they have the arena and the expectations of a continent to set against the culture and the ancestral voices of a thousand years. Where Englishmen remember, Americans anticipate. In thought and action they are ever rushing into empty spaces. Except in a few of the older States, a family mansion is rarely rooted to the same town or district; and the tie which unites one generation with another being easily broken, the want of continuity in life breeds a want of continuity in ideas. The American mind delights in speculative and practical, social and political experiments, as Shakerism, Mormonism, Pantagamy; and a host of authors, from Emerson to Walt Whitman, have tried to glorify every mode of human life from the transcendental to the brutish. The habit of instability, fostered by the rapid vicissitudes of their commercial life and the melting of one class into another, drifts away all landmarks but that of a temporary public opinion; and where there is little time for verification and the study of details, men satisfy their curiosity with crude generalisations. The great literary fault of the Americans thus comes to be impatience. The majority of them have never learnt that " raw haste is half-sister to delay;" that " works done least rapidly, art most cherishes." The makeshifts which were at first a necessity with the Northern settlers have grown into a custom. They adopt ten half measures instead of one whole one; and, beginning bravely, like the grandiloquent preambles to their Constitutions, end sometimes in the sublime, sometimes in the ridiculous.
Many of the artistic as well as many of the social peculiarities of the United States may doubtless be traced to their form of government. After the most obvious wants of life are provided for, Democracy stimulates the production of literature. When the hereditary privileges of rank have ceased to be recognised, the utility, if not the beauty, of knowledge becomes conspicuous. The intellectual world is spurred into activity : there is a race in which the prize is to the swift. Everyone tries to draw the eyes of others by innumerable imperfect efforts with a large insignificant sum total. Art is abundant and inferior: whitewashed wood and brick pass for marble, and rhythmical sjDasms for poetry. It is acknowledged that the prevailing defect of Aristocratic literatures is formality; they are apt to be precise and restricted. A Democratic literature runs the risk of lawlessness, inaccuracy, and irreverence. From both these extremes the Athenian, the Florentine, and the Elizabethan classics were preserved by the artistic inspirations of a flexible tradition. The one is exemplified in the so-called Augustan ages of letters, in the France of Louis XIV. and the England of Queen Anne, when men of genius, caring more to perfect their style than to establish truth, more to captivate the taste than to stir the passions, moved with dipt wings in a charmed circle of thought. The other has its best illustration in the leaders of our own romantic schools, but its most conspicuous development in America; a country which is not only democratic but youthful without the modesty of youth, unmellowed by the past and untrammelled by authority, where the spirit of adventure is unrestrained by feelings of personal loyaltywhere order and regularity of all kinds are apt to be misnamed subserviencewhere vehemence, vigour, and wit are common, good taste, profundity, and imagination rare;a country whose untamed material infects the people, and diverts them from the task of civilisation to the desire of conquest.
American literature is cramped on another side by the spirit of imitation. It has been in great measure an offshoot or prolongation of our own. As English sculptors study at Rome and Naples, the most prominent Western artists in every department have almost invariably inaugurated their careers by travelling in Europe, and writing descriptions of the foreign lands where they have found their richest intellectual culture. They have sought the sources, the themes, the rules, and the sanctions of their art in the Old World, and their highest ambition, like that of all colonists, has hitherto been to receive a favourable verdict, not from the country of their birth, but from that of their ancestors. Even Franklinin some respects an American of the Americanswas in philosophy a practical disciple of Locke, as Jefferson was of the French Revolution. " The literary genius of Great Britain," says De Tocqueville, "still darts its rays into the recesses of the West. . . . The small number of men who write are English in substance, and still more in form." Of the great number of men who have written in America since the date of this criticism, only a few have written much to confute it. Washington Irving, who, in the course of four distinct visits, spent much of his life in Europe, only escapes from the influence of Addison in his Knickerbocker and Dutch sketches. On land at least, Cooperthough in many respects an original writereverywhere remembers Scott. As in the works of the Scotch novelist, the semi-barbarous feudal spirit is represented in conflict with modern law, in those of the American the enterprise of New England is struggling against the ruggedness of nature and a savage life. The writers of the last thirty years have been making strenuous, sometimes spasmodic, efforts after originality, but they are still affected by transatlantic associations. In the style of Mr Motley we cannot help observing the stamp of Carlyle. The Transcendental movement begun by Emerson is admitted to have derived its first impulse from Sartor Remrtus; and among the eccentricities that mark its followers none is more remarkable than their mania for German and Oriental quotations. The tyranny which five centuries' load of classics, in the same tongue, exercises over the mind of a nation not yet a century old is very much strengthened by the non-existence of an international copyright, which leads to the intellectual market being glutted with stolen goods. As long as a publisher in Boston or New York can republish a good book written in Edinburgh or London without paying for it, he is likely to prefer an undertaking which involves no risk and comparatively no outlay, to another which involves both; that is, the republication of the English to the first publication of an American book; for the English book has already attained its reputation, and its popularity in America is secured, while the American book, for the copyright of which he has to pay, has, except in the case of a few authors, still to win its spurs. If the people of the United States had spoken a language of their own, it is probable they would have gained in originality; as it is, they are only now beginning to sign their intellectual declaration of independence,a fact confessed among the latest words of their own greatest prose artist:" Bred in English habits of thought as most of us are, we have not yet modified our instincts to the necessities of our new modes of life. Our philosophers have not yet taught us what is best, nor have our poets sung to us what is most beautiful in the kind of life that we must lead, and therefore we still read the old English wisdom, and harp upon the ancient strings."
III.EARLIER AMERICAN LITERATURE.
We may trace the influence of the foregoing controlling facts or tendencies, subject to various phases of personal power, through the three great periods under which Anglo-American history obviously falls:The Colonial, the Revolutionary, and that of the 19th Century.
1. The Colonial Period.Little of interest in the world of letters has come down to us from the 17th century in the West. Sandys's Ovid, translated on the banks of the James River, dedicated to Charles I., and published 1626, is worthy of note as the first contribution to English literature from America. About the same date the Welsh Puritan Vaughan sent home his Golden Fleece from Newfoundland, and Captain Smith gave to the world his descriptions of Virginia. But the earliest verse that has a real claim to be regarded as American is a doggerel list, by an anonymous author, of New England's annoyances, which, if we remember the datea generation after Spenser had celebrated " the Indian Peru" in his Faery Queenwill confirm our view of the backwoodsman's want of leisure for " polishing his stanza :"
" The place where we live is a wilderness wood,
Where grass is much wanting that's fruitful and good.
* * * *
If fresh meat be wanting to fill up our dish,
We have carrots and pumpkins, and turnips and fish;
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it was not for pumpkins we should be undone."
A little later we have a Puritan version of the Psalms, the worst of many bad; and about 1650 the poems of Anne Bradstreet and Benjamin Thomson, worthy of mention, but scarcely readable. In prose are relics of the sermons and controversies of Boger Williams and John Cotton and Eliot, the apostle of the Indians, with the ponderous Magnolia and witch denunciations of Cotton Mather. The main literary event of the century was the foundation (1636) of Harvard University. Yale College followed at a long interval, and subsequently Princeton College, and Brown University (Rhode Island). In all new countries industrial and commercial interests are at first the strongest. The febrile activity produced by fear of a sterile future leaves little room for speculative imagination. But in the New World, colonised in part by adventurers, in part by religious refugees and enthusiasts, another influence was from the first at work. When her solitudes began to give jJace to cities, the brains of her people were expended on the farm or the exchange with a zeal materially modified by the spirit and formulae of the faith which led the founders of the Northern States across the sea, and continued to infuse a religious element into their enterprises. This element, which elevated the settlers of New England above ordinary emigrants, adding to their strength and giving a faster dye to their morality, was yet, in its original form, no more favourable to freedom or variety of thought than the industrialism by which it was surrounded. But it begat and fostered the Puritan theological literature which was concentrated in the massive yet incisive treatises and discussions of Jonathan Edwards of Connecticut; (1703-1758) who, if not, as asserted by American panegyrists, " the first man of the world during the second quarter of the 18th century," was yet, by the clear vigour of his thought and the force of its expression, one of the foremost figures of that era. An estimate of his rank as a theologian belongs to a distinct branch of the history of American literature. It is enough here to refer to the testimony of all competent judges as to the singular lucidity of his style, and to that of his contemporaries as to the fervour of his eloquence and the modest simplicity of his life. Passages of.his occasional writings, as the description of his future wife, evince a grace and sweetness of temper not always associated with the views of which he was and remains the most salient English advocate. A slightly junior contemporary of Edwards, the exponent kat' exokhen [Gk.] of the otherthat is, the secular side of early American lifewas destined to see the end of one and play a prominent part in opening another era of his country's history. Benjamin Franklin, as long as Utilitarian philosophy endures, will be a name to conjure with. It is clarum et venerabile, though its owner was endowed with as little as possible for a great man of the " faculty divine." Franklin's autobiography, the details of which need not find place here, is as romantic as the life of an unromantic person can be. The incidents of the young candle-moulder the printer's apprentice the ballad-monger wisely discouraged by the wise paternal criticism, " Versemakers are generally beggars " the runaway, eating rolls on the Philadelphia streethis struggling life in London with Ealph of the Dunciadhis return, " correcting the erratum " of his infidelities by marriage with his old Pennsylvanian friendhis success as a printer, economist, statesman, and diplomatisthis triumphs in natural and political philosophy, clenched in Turgot's line, adapted from Manilius
"Eripuit caelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis "
his examination before the House of Commons, resulting in the repeal of the Stamp Act, when Lord Chatham spoke of him as one who was " an honour not to England only, but to human nature"his signature of the Declaration of Independencehis ministry in France and popular triumph with Voltaire, who said, " Je n'ai pu resister au desir de parler un moment la langue de Franklin"the acclamations of shouting multitudes on his return homeMirabeau's announcement of his death (in 1790, in his eighty-fourth year) to the Assembly"the genius which has freed America, and poured a flood of light over Europe, has returned to the bosom of the divinity "are elementary facts of schoolboy history. They are the records of the successive stages of the greatest success achieved in modern times by the genius of commonsense, integrity, and industry indomitable. Franklin's experiments and physical discoveries form a chapter in the history of science; but half of his fame even in this field is due to the precision and clearness of the manner in which they are announced. " The most profound observations," says Lord Jeffrey, " are suggested by him as if they were the most obvious and natural way of accounting for phenomena." The same literary merit characterises the financial pamphlets and treatises which first brought him into celebrity. Both are marked by the same spirit,the love of the Useful, which was his passion through life. Franklin follows Bacon, to an extreme opposed to that of the Platonists, in decrying abstractions. Archytas is said to have apologised for inventing the arch. Franklin is ashamed to have wasted time over pure mathematics in his "magical squares." His aim is everywhere to bring down philosophy, like the lightning, from heaven to earth, "illustrans commoda vitas." His ethicsthose of Confucius or the Seven Sages, modified by the experience and the circumstances of a later ageare embodied in the most famous of popular annuals, Poor Richard's Almanack, in which for twenty-six years he taught his readers (rising to the number of 10,000) "the way to be healthy and wealthy and wise," by following simple utilitarian rules, set forth in plain incisive prose and rhyme, rendered attractive by a vein of quaint humour and the homely illustrations always acceptable to his countrymen. The same train of thought appears in the "Whistle," among the letters from Passy, where his persistent deification of thrift appears side by side with graceful compliments to Mesdames Helvetius and Brillon, records of the aftermath of sentiment that often marks a green old age. Franklin remains the most practical of philosophers in perhaps the most practical of nations.
2. The Revolution Period.It has been often remarked that periods of political national crisis are more favourable to the preparation than to the actual production of literature. Wordsworth's assertion, that poetry is the outcome of emotion recollected in tranquillity, applies with slight modification also to artistic prose. The demands of instant action cast the reflective powers into abeyance, but a stormy era is the seed-time of a later harvest. There is only one exercise of the imagination that it directly stimulatesthat of the orator; and the conditions of his success, save in a few instances, make a drain on his posthumous reputation. In reading even the greatest speeches of the past, divested of the living presence which gave them colour and force, we find it difficult to account for the effect which they are known to have produced. They are the ashes or the fossils of genius. Little that is of permanent literary value is left us of the harangues that were the trumpet-calls of patriotism during the American Revolutionary War. The triumphs of Patrick Henry, who " wielded at will that young democraty," are commemorated in the judicious biography of Wirt, but few of his orations are accurately preserved; and of the speeches of James Otis, which were compared to "flames of fire," we have mainly a tradition. His pamphlet (1762), entitled A Vindication of the conduct of the House of Representatives, is considered to contain the germ of the Declaration of Independence. Among other considerable efforts of eloquence, those of Fisher Ames are worthy of note as being directed in great measure against the excesses of democracy. The master-minds of the era were the statesmen and jurists, who fought for the free soil, sunk the deep foundations, and reared the superstructure of the new Commonwealth. The history of American law is a distinct theme. It must suffice here to mention, as claiming recognition in the field of letters, Washington himself, in his clear and incisive though seldom highly-polished correspondence; his biographer John Marshall, chief justice of the supreme court from 1801 to 1835, one of the early pilots of the state, who left behind him a noble and stainless name, and laid down the first principles of that international code afterwards elaborated by Wheaton; Madison, John Jay, the elder Adams, and Alexander Hamilton, during the war Washington's "most confidential aid," afterwards the presiding genius of the movement represented by the Federalist, the organ of the anti-democratic party. To this he contributed three-fourths of the material, marked, as are all his papers and speeches, by originality of thought, breadth of view, and purity of style. As secretary of the treasury, he became perhaps the greatest of financiers. The general judgment of his countrymen acquiesces in the terms of the tribute paid to his memory by Guizot. " He must be classed among the men who have best known the vital principles and fundamental conditions of a government worthy of its name and mission." Of Hamilton's numerous historical sketches, the most celebrated is his letter to Colonel Laurens giving an account of the fate of Major Andre, in which refinement of feeling and inflexible impartiality of view are alike conspicuous. The great and unhappily the bitter antagonist of the Federalists is one of the most conspicuous figures in the history of American thought. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), President from 1801 to 1809, is the representative in chief of the revolutionary spirit of his age and country. While his rival compeers stood firmly on the defensive against the encroachments of an arbitrary government, his desire was, in politics as in speculation generally, to break with the past. Inspired with patriotic zeal by Patrick Henry's denunciations of the Stamp Act, he came forward prominently in 1769 as a member of the Colonial Assembly of Virginia. In 1776 the main part of the resjionsibility of drawing up the Declaration of Independence fell upon him. In 1784 he was appointed minister of the congress in Paris, where he spent the greater part of six years, and brought back an admiration for those phases of the French Revolution from which the more temperate judgments of Hamilton and Fisher Ames had recoiled. He threw himself heart and soul into the arms of the Democratic party, and in the constitutional struggle that ensued his keener sense of the direction in which popular sympathies were tending, with the weight of his half physical energies, gave him the ascendancy over the wider knowledge and more far-seeing intellects of his adversaries. Jefferson might be termed the Danton of the West, but his forte lay not so much in oratory as in jiolitical management and incisive vivacity. More perhaps than any other great statesman of his age, he aspired to be an author, to which title the best passages in his Notes on Virginia, his Autobiography, and Correspondence, give him a fair claim. His descriptions of scenery in the first are always pleasing and generally graphic. His sketches of Continental society are lively, and his occasional flights of fancy, as the dialogue between the head and heart, at least ingenious. His religion and ethics were those of his friend Tom Paine and the Encyclopédie.
The age of the Titans in transatlantic history abounds in minor literati, whose light effusions, mainly satirical or descriptive sketches in prose and verse, throw a somewhat dim and ragged lustre over its graver page. The bulk of these obvious reflections of the manner and thought of Butler, Pope, and Swift, or of Gay, Prior, and Shenstone, are a penance to wade through, and scarce claim remembrance for their authors. A few stand out conspicuously by the celebrity of the names with which they are associated, or a certain raciness and approach to originality in their style. Of these the chief are :The social caricatures of Judge Brackenridge (who, though born in Scotland, lived in America from infancy), and his doggerel but vigorous lines on Bunker's Hill ; the once popular humorous lyric entitled M'Fingal, by J. Trumbull, also the author of The Progress of Dulness, in the Hudibrastic metre which seems to have been used by imitators to show how intolerable it is in any but the original hands ; the more flowing but on the whole commonplace odes of Philip Freneau, including his patriotic hymns to Washington, with the more musical lyrics the ' ' WildHoneysuckle " and the" Indian Death Song, "andhis prose en titleà Adviceto Authors ; the political satires of Mercy Warren, authoress of Things necessary to a Woman (the obvious model of the more modern squib, Nothing to Wear), and of a History of the Revolution, remembered only as being the first in date ; the patriotic rhapsodies of Phillis Wheatley, interesting as the production of a young negress brought from Africa in 1761, and soon afterwards sold in Boston to the mistress from whom she took her name ; Francis Hopkinson's Battle of the Kegs and his Pretty Storya burlesque closely fashioned after Arbuthnot's John Bullhis New Roof meaning the American constitution, and his satire on the pedantry of the sciences entitled the Salt Box ; Joel Barlow's Hasty Pudding ; the humorous Wants of Man, by Quincy Adams, more prominent as a statesman than as a poet ; and on a similar but higher platform the best of too large a volume of verses, in which the " Triumph of Infidelity " (after the mannerof Cowper), the "Conquest of Canaan, "and "Columbia," are the leading pieces, by the amiable theologian Dr Timothy Dwight. Dwight's prose descriptions, as that of the Notch of the White Mountains and the evening on Lake George, are superior in grace to his efforts in rhyme.
The ballad literature of the revolution days is said to have attracted the attention of Lord Chatham, less probably from its intrinsic merit than from its faithful though rough embodiment of the sentiment that not only moved over the surface, but penetrated the depths of the national life. The anonymous popular literature of a country is the best "abstract and brief chronicle of the time" in which it is produced. The songs current in America during this era, inspired by the same spirit and pitched in the same key, are historically interesting and artistically monotonous. They celebrate in rude verse the achievements of native heroes, like "Bold Hawthorne ;" or ridicule, like "Jack Brag," the British Lion, or, like the " Fate of Burgoyne," the overthrow of vaulting ambition ; or, as in " Wyoming Massacre," bewail the fate of the fallen ; or, as in "Free America," celebrate with schoolboy huzzahs the triumph of the good cause. Among the very rude national anthems of the West, "Yankee Doodle" is remarkable as having been an old Dutch catch adapted into an English satirical chant, and adopted, with conscious or unconscious irony, by the American troops. " Hail Columbia," which as a poetical production takes even a lower rank than " Rule Britannia," was a somewhat later production by Joseph Hopkinson (1798)'; and the "Star-Spanglëd Banner" of Francis S. Key is associated with the traditions of the second British war. As inspired with the spirit of the 18th, though belonging in date to the early years of the 19th century, we may mention in advance the "Pilgrim Fathers" of J. Pierpont; Woodworth's " Old Oaken Bucket ; " " Home, Sweet Home," by J. H. Payne; the humorous burlesque of J. G. Saxe, "Miss MacBride ; " and the verses of the great painter and creditable romancer Washington Allston, with the refrain " We are one."
English philology and literature were during this period represented by the famous Lindley Murray, and Noah Webster (1758-1843), the author of the best dictionary of our language that has appeared since Johnson's. In natural science, the two Bertrams; Alexander Wilson the ornithologist; and Audubon, the literary glory of Louisiana, whose descriptions of animate nature rival those of Buffon, are illustrious names.
IV.THE LITERATURE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
1. In a rapid estimate of the literature of this prolific age we can only signalise its contributions to the several branches of physical and mental science. The United States have during the last two generations been justly proud of the names of Morton and Schoolcraft in ethnology, of Bowditch in mathematics, of Sullivan and Dana in chemistry and mineralogy. Their classical scholarship, which hardly competes with that of England, has yet been fairly maintained by Everett, Felton, Woolsey, Anthon, and Robinson. Dr Marsh is an accomplished English scholar, while Professor Whitney is a learned and accurate philologist, whose researches in Sanscrit are well known and appreciated by European Orientalists. The metaphysical schools of Locke and Reid are nowhere better represented than in America by Dr Bowen and Dr N. Porter. The place of Marshall as a jurist has been worthily filled by Chief-Justice Kent and Judge Story; the latter of whom ranks, by virtue of his essay on classical studies and his graceful descriptions of natural scenery, among the most accomplished of the numerous professional men who have in the New World devoted their leisure hours to lighter literature.
[Orators] The inhabitants of the United States have always been noted for remarkable fluency, sometimes a superfluency of speech. The early years of the century were illustrated by the fiery zeal of Randolph and the practical force and occasional impassioned eloquence of Henry Clay. The great political controversies inherited from the preceding age found their most conspicuous popular exponents in two leading minds laying claim to diverse kinds of greatness, and destined to be in almost incessant antagonism. John C. Calhoun, the most illustrious representative of the Southern States, of whose rights, real or imaginary, he was during his life the foremost champion, was by education and choice a professional statesman. Secretary of War in 1817, and Vice-President of the United States in 1825, he resigned the latter office on occasion of the dispute about the tariff law in 1832, to become the leader of the Opposition ; and in vindicating the attitude of South Carolina was the first to lay the strands of the future Secession war. The most accomplished modern apologist for slavery, it is probable that he only hastened the conflict between opposing principles which was sooner or later inevitable. Calhoun's eloquence, as attested by his auditors and the numerous speeches and papers preserved in the six volumes of his published works, was notable for its earnestness and gravity, the terse polish of its manner, for philosophic generalisations and analytical dialectic. His prevailing sincerity and candour have made his memory respected by those farthest removed from him in sentiment and opinion. Daniel Webster, on the whole the grandest orator of the New World, was during the greater part of his career the champion of Massachusetts and the assertor of her policy. His defence of that State in the Senate (1830) against General Hayne of Carolina, and his oratorical duel with Calhoun (1838), resulting in the temporary overthrow of the doctrine of nullification, are among the most remarkable triumphs of debate in history. Some of his pleadings on criminal trials have an almost terrible jiower. But his literary genius and richness of illustration found freer scope in his famous appeal for the Greeks in 1824, his great speech (1820) on the second centennial anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims, or his address (1825) on laying the cornerstone of Bunker Hill monument. Webster's eloquence, everywhere solid, massive, and on great occasions glowing with a lurid light, is not the mere record of half-forgotten strifes; it is " vital in every part," and belongs to the permanent literature of his country, in whose political arena he was during his life perhaps the most powerful actor. The art of making commemorative speeches, technically called " orations," has been cultivated in North America to excess. The great master in this species of composition was Edward Everett, distinguished by his early association with Lord Byron in Greece, the high dignitiesgovernor of Massachusetts, minister to the court of St James's, and president of Harvardto which he attained, and by the variety of his accomplishments. Mr Everett was for ten years a useful member of Congress. In his literary work he displayed an almost fatal fluency, having contributed to the " North American Review," of which he was for some time editor, upwards of a hundred articles in the space of a few years. These articles are inevitably of unequal merit, but they everywhere evince the ripe scholarship of a highly cultivated mind. The volume by which he is best rememberedtwenty-seven Orationspublished in 1836, is marked by the same characteristics. Discoursing on a wide range of subjectsamong which the refrains are America and Greece, the " Mayflower," the Progress of Discovery, Patriotism, Reform, the Republic, Concord, Lexington, and the inevitable Bunker Hillthese speeches are always able, but seldom inspiring : carefully elaborated and richly adorned, they are the production of the first of rhetoricians rather than a genuine orator.
Among the remaining lawyers and statesmen, remarkably numerous in the States, who have in the course of their professional careers made highly creditable contributions to literature, it may suffice to mention H. Swinton Legare of Charleston, at one time a student of law at Edinburgh, a prominent speaker in the House of Representatives, afterwards President Tyler's attorney-general, who published in the Southern Quarterly and New York Review's a series of masterly criticisms mainly relating to Greek and Roman literature ; J. P. Kennedy of Baltimore, a successful barrister and Congressman, also a vigorous essayist and author of some remarkably lively sketches of country life and manners in the Old Dominion ; Richard H. Wilde, of Georgia, in which State, after surmounting unusual difficulties with remarkable perseverance, he rose at the bar to be attorney-general, author of the song entitled the " Lament of the Captive," and of a Life of Tasso, displaying great research and occasionally subtle criticism, written after two years' residence in Europe ; and, taking higher rank as an author, Richard Dana, a barrister of the early years of the century, and adherent in polities of the old Federalist party in the state. Dana became known in the world of letters as the author of a Fourth of July Oration in 1814, and somewhat later as the contributor to the North American Review of appreciative and discriminating criticisms of the English lake poets. In 1827 hepublishedhisfantastic ghost story of the " Buccaneer " and other poems, to which he continued to add at intervals. Many of his minor verses are characterised by remarkable grace, but they want original force. Among contemporary politicians, Mr Wendell Phillips is the only one who can be called a great orator ; the ease and energy of his style at its best being rarely surpassed. But the speeches of Mr Sumner are eloquent, and his arrangement of facts converging to clench his argument is often masterly.
2. HISTORY, as the reflection of philosophy on the statesmanship and the struggles of the past, seldom comes very early in national literature. The 18th century in America supplied, in letters, journals, and contemporary chronicles, material for more elaborate and comprehensive treatment in the 19th at the hands of George Bancroft, a leading Democrat, who held the post of representative of his country in Great Britain from 1846 to 1849. His great workthree volumes of which are devoted to the Colonisation and seven to the Revolutionary periodpublished at intervals between 1834 and 1874, has been generally accepted as the standard history of the United States up to this time. The book is written for the most part in a sufficiently vigorous style; somewhat defective, however, in elegance, and characterised by a certain monotony and want of ease, which detracts from the pleasure of the reader. Bancroft's statements of matters of fact are generally reliable; but his comments are moulded even more than is usual by the foregone theories of a political partisan. The rival history of Richard Hildreth, which appeared in six volumes, issued in rapid succession (1849-53), while marked by the same Puritan tone, is even more severe in its judgments. The style is more animated, but more prone to the torva voluptas of false rhetoric. The keynote of the sentiment which piervades Mr Hildreth's book is to be found in his keen abolitionist views, previously expressed in a juvenile work of the author, The White Slave. One of its merits is its appreciation of the Federalists, and especially of the genius and character of their leader, Hamilton. Of the host of national biographies in which the West abounds, Sanderson's Lives of the Signers, the historical sketches of G. C. Verplanck, Wirt's Patrick Henry, and the stupendous series edited and largely written by Jared Sparks, may be signalised. Nearly one-half of the works of the most classic American prose writers of the generations previous to our own are historical or biographical. Washington Irving's Conquest of Granada, and his lives of Columbus, the Followers of Mahomet, Goldsmith, and Washington, if not the most original, are among the most interesting of his worksaccurate in their leading estimates, and marked by the usual smoothness and even flow of his style. Irving contemplated a continuation of the record of the early relations of Spain to the New "World, but, with his wonted generosity, abandoned the theme on hearing that the task had been assumed by worthy hands. The works of William H. Prescott , the most artistic historian to whom the United States have hitherto given birth, are remarkable from the difficulties under which they were produced, and for the well-deserved success which they have achieved. This success is due in part to the genius and indomitable industry of the writer, in part to the steady concentration of his powers on the arduous undertaking of which he had at an early age formed a just estimate. In a diary of 1819 (that is, in his twenty-third year) he allows ten years for preliminary studies and ten more for the execution of his taska notable example to his countrymen, nine-tenths of whose literary performances will prove ephemeral, less from lack of ability in the writers than from an utterly inadequate sense of the time and toil that every true Muse demands of her votaries. Ferdinand and Isabella, given to the world in 1838, was written while Mr Prescott was, owing to an accident at college, almost wholly deprived of his sight. His authorities, in a foreign tongue, were read to him by an assistant, and by aid of a wrlting-case for the blind he scrawled the pages of his great work. It soon attained a European as well as an American fame, and superseded all other records of the period of which it treats. No such comprehensive view of Spain at the zenith of her greatness has ever appeared in English. The proportion of its parts and the justice of its estimates are universally acknowledged ; while hypercriticism of the stylegraceful, correct, and sufficiently variedcan only point to the occasional possibility of greater condensation. Among the most notable of the descriptions, which can seldom be detached from the whole into which they are woven, we may refer to the return of Columbus and the contrasted characters of Queen Isabella and Elizabeth. The Conquest of Mexico, written with somewhat improved sight, followed in 1843; that of Peru in 1847. These have attained an even wider popularity than their precursor, owing to the more condensed romance and greater novelty of their themes. They are " open sesames" to an old world of wonders, real, and yet from its strangeness invested with half the charms of fairyland. Few passages of fiction are so enthralling to the youthful reader as the story of Nezahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, the life and exploits of Montezuma, the night retreat from the Aztec capital, or the account of the sun-worshippers in the Golden City. Both works are dramas in which our sympathy is divided between the chivalry of Spain in her heyday and the poetical traditions and innocent patriotism of a vanished race. But their author has never, in the midst of his " Claud-like descriptions" and charmingly vivid narratives, allowed himself to forget that he is writing history. Boys read his Mexico and Peru as they read the Arabian Nights; critics can point to few flaws in the accuracy of the author's judgment. Philip II, Mr Prescott's latest work, has similar excellences in dealing with a less attractive theme. John Lothrop Motley, a distinguished ambassador in foreign courts, and author of the best existing history of Holland, is Mr Prescott's only more recent rival. Less faultless, he is more strikingly original; and the greater complexity of the theme, which he has made his own, calls for the exercise of even higher powers. The Dutch Republic, which appeared in 1856, at once arrested attention by its evidence of careful and long research, comprehensive grasp, rich pictorial power, and the enthusiasm which, only here and there interfering with the impartial judgment of the author, gives colour and life to the work. Mr Motley's style, even to minute turns in his sentences, bears the impress of the influence of Carlyle. The very titles of his chapters, especially in the first volume, seem transferred from the French Revolution. Such are "Sowing the Wind," "The Harvest Ripening," " The First Whirlwind," " The Taciturn against King, Cardinal, and Elector," etc. From the same source he may have caught some of his hero-worship, which, however, by the choice of a worthy object, he has done much to vindicate. The Dutch Republic, preluded by the overture of a masterly and vivid historical survey, is a drama, which facts have made highly sensational, of the most terrific struggle against temporal and spiritual despotism that, within the same space of years, modern times have seen. It is divided, not inappropriately, though perhaps with some regard for effect, into a prologue and five acts, to each of which in succession the name of the Spanish governor for the time is attached. The portraits of those emissaries, particularly those of Granvelle of Arras and Duchess Margaret of Alva, Don John of Lepanto, and Alexander of Parma, are drawn with bold strokes and in lasting colours. Behind the scenes, director of the assailing forces, is the evil genius Philip himself, to whose ghastly figure, writing letters in the Escurial, our attention is called with a wearisome, if not affected, iteration of phrase; while the presence of the great champion, like that of Achilles in the Iliad, is felt at every crisis retrieving the retreat and urging on the victory. The most horrible chapter of modern historythat of the Inquisition is unfolded with a power that brands its records into the memory of the reader; and amid a throng of scenes of pageantry and pathos we may refer to those of the resignation of Charles V., Egmont's triumph at St Quentin and his death, the misery of Mook Heath, the siege of Leyden, and the hero's death. The United Netherlands (1867-69) is a continuation of the same history in the same spirit; but, as regards style, a somewhat calmer and more matured composition. The most thrilling chapters in those four later volumes are the siege of Antwerpwhich compares with that of Syracuse in Thucydidesand that on the wreck of the Armada, unsurpassed in vividness and vigour by either Froude or Kingsley ; to which we should add the episodes of the battle of Ivry and the skirmish at Zutphen, with one of the most eloquent tributes ever paid to the genius and character of Sir Philip Sidney. Of the other full-length pictures, which, with the campaigns of Parma, Spinola, and Maurice, and the intrigues of England and France, divide the interest of the book, are those of Queen Elizabeth (whose habitual treachery, real meanness, and shallow pretences to magnanimity are exposed, as afterwards by Mr Froude), Henry of Navarre, St Aldegonde, the Earl of Leicester, and the great Barneveld, who, with the Prince of Nassau, divides our sympathy at the close of the book. Since the death of Lord Macaulay no equally solid and valuable contribution has been made to historical literature. As supplementary in some measure to the volumes of Mr Prescott, we may mention here the History of Spanish Literature by his coadjutor Geo. Ticknor, incomparably the best, the most comprehensive, most critical, and most interesting work which exists on the subject.
Of other contributions to literary criticism, from which, owing to their superabundance, it is hard to select, those of George S. Hillard, one of the most highly cultured writers in New England; of Henry T. Tuckermann, author of Thoughts on the Poets, an elegant but sentimental essayist; of E. P. Whipple, a critic who, according to Mr Griswold, combines " the strength of the Areopagitica with the liveliness of the Spectator" (!) ; of Margaret Fuller D'Ossoli, a precocious linguist, translator of Eckermanu's Conversations with Goethe, herself a brilliant conversationalist and somewhat cloudy transcendentalist and advocate of the superiority of women to men ; the always lively reviews of Mr Lowell, with numerous papers in the North American and Atlantic lievieics,may be referred to. To these we should add the discriminating " Essays on recent English Poets" contributed to Scribner s Monthly by E. C. Stedman.
3. POLITE LITERATURE, of any excellence, in the lighter branches is, in the West, almost wholly a growth of the present century. The most widely and justly celebrated of transatlantic authors in this field, during its earlier half, was the amiable and versatile Washington Irving. Of his numerous writings, we have referred in last section to those which are directly historical. The rest fall under two heads, according as they are concerned mainly with American or with European themes. On the same principle on which Agassiz, and Folien, and Paine, even Berkeley and Priestley, have been claimed by the United States, Irving is associated with the progress of English literature ; for in virtue of his Scotch jrarentage, and in the course of four distinct and extended visits to Europe 1803-6, 1815-20, 1827-32, and 1841-46he may be said to have become half an Englishman. His style is in the main that of the essayists of Queen Anne, modified by the humour of Charles Lamb; and many of his most effective sketches of life, manners, and society relate to the eastern hemisphere, f Such are his Histories, the Tales of a Traveller, Bracebridge Hall, Newstead and Abbotsford, the Alhambra, and half of the Sketch Book. In reference to those worksthe best passages of which are classicala French critic has said that Irving describes all countries but his own in the style of Addison. In others, however, and these the earliest and latest of his works, he treats of national legend and scenery in a manner peculiar to himself. His first literary efforts, which resulted in the series of papers entitled Salmagundi, were gently satirical descriptions of the features of society in American cities. The History of New York, by "Diedrich Knickerbocker," in point of pure originality his masterpiece, is one of the richest farragoes of fact, fancy, and irony that have ever issued from the press. In later life, his Tour of the PrairiesThe Adventures of Bonneville, and Astoria, are instinct with the spirit of western discovery and adventure. In this, as in other points of view, versatility and grace are his prevailing characteristics. He belonged historically to both worlds, and was equally at home in each; he reflected the quiet philosophy of the Tatler and Spectator, adding to it the pathos which dims the eye of the reader over his "Wife," and "Widow and Son," and "Broken Heart," and " Pride of the Village." He started the vein of burlesque that has run through his country's literature, but under the restraints of taste and temperance that have unfortunately been often discarded. The even grace of his manner often leads hasty critics to do scant justice to the range of his sympathy. His manly but gentle style is at home in Spanish history, English essay, and American legend; in the Alhambra and among the slopes of "Sleepy Hollow," where, as in the famous "Rip Van Winkle," we have some of the earliest models of amusement with grave faces and the melancholy parties of pleasure that are, under various forms of buffoonery, still typical of American humour. Associated with Irving in his Salmagundi, the name of J. K. Paulding deserves a distinct place for the humorous vigour of his character sketches, and his vivid pictures of early colonial life, in the Dutchman's Fireside and Westward Ho! where the features of the contest between the new settlers and the aborigines are brought before us in clear relief. His apologue of " Bull and Jonathan," and the thirteen good farms over which they squabbledfounded on Swift's Tale of a Tubpresents us, in a satire which lies on the border of irony and a rougher form of wit, with an early American view of the relations between his own and the mother country. Some of the same themes have been handled with superior richness of illustration and force by the greatest, with one exception, of transatlantic novelistsJ. Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)a man remarkable no less for the somewhat defiant independence of his character, which led him to defend his countrymen in Europe, where he travelled from 1827-33, and to assail their foibles in America, than by the marked originality of his genius. His first considerable work, The Spy, appeared in 1821, and from its fresh treatment of a patriotic theme obtained a European reputation. His second, The Pioneers (1823), with a vivid representation of the scenery of the author's early life, introducing for the first time his ever-recurring hero the famous Natty Bumpo, or Leather-Stocking, established his place as a new actor on a crowded stage. Then followed The Pilot, in which he first asserted his claim to an empire since indisputably made his own among noveliststhat of the sea; and somewhat later The Last of the Mohicans and The Prairie, in which he asserted a similar sway over the " gardens of the desert" and the hills of the remoter West. While abroad he wrote his Bed Rover and The Bravoa graphic tale of Venice, and flung on the aspersors of his country the American in Europe. Shortly after his return he issued his satirical assault on newspaper editors and other delinquents his Homeward Bound, which led him into several actions for libel, in which he claims to have been almost invariably successfulThe Pathfinder, and The Deerslayer (1840-41). The latter, perhaps the best of the Leather-Stocking series, completes the list of his great novels; to which must be added another important workThe History of the American Navypublished in 1839. There is a certain severity about Cooper's genius, showing itself in a hardness in his style, which restricts the range of his readers. He wastes ^perhaps too many words on descrijitions, is exhaustive where he might have been suggestive, and his plots are apt to be deficient in interest The Red Rover conspicuously excepted. But, deducting the echoes of Scott, to which we have referred, he is American to the core; he needs no slang or affectation to establish his originality, but moves on his own way with something like disdain of comment. His best descriptions as, for example, those of the prairie on fire, of the " Ariel" among the shoals, of the capture of the whale and the panther in The Pioneers, of the last sea-fight in The Rover, of the regatta in The Bravoare unsurpassed. His ships move over the seas like things of life. His hunters traverse the prairies with a sense of possession. His best characters are few; but Natty Bumpo, Bob Yarn, Nightingale, Long Tom Coffin, Hetty Hunter, and Brand Merideth are undying creations. The earliest American romancer of note, Charles Brockden Brown (1771-1810), who came before the world (1797) in Alcuin, a Dialogue on the Rights of Women (first of a mob of tracts on the same theme), set the example on his side of the Atlantic of that love of the anomalous, fantastic, and horrible, represented on our own by Beckford, Walpole, and Godwin, and later by Mrs Radcliffe and Mrs Shelley. His main worksWieland, Ormond, Arthur Mervyn, and Edgar Huntlyare unmistakably the productions of a man of genius. None are wanting in passages of thrilling interest, striking situations, and subtle analysis of character. But they dwell too prevailingly on the night-side of nature on such themes as insanity and somnambulism, and all the repulsive anatomy of mental disease. Brown's account of the yellow fever in Arthur Mervyn may be compared with the corresponding narratives in Thucyclides, Lucretius, and Defoe; and Wieland's confession of the murder of his wife (a favourite subject of Western fiction) is hideously vivid ; but the author's plots as a whole are wanting in method, his bursts of passion are dulled by intervening tediousness, and his style deformed by pedantic circumlocutions. Brown must be credited with considerable originality of conception, and blamed for introducing a morbid vein of thought. His influence is apparent in two novels of Richard Danato whom we have before referredTom Thornton and Paul Felton, in which a more graceful style is employed with almost equal vigour to illustrate similar monstrosities of character on the basis of incidents almost equally unnatural. Of the same school are many of the sketches of Charles F. Hoffmann, as " Ben Blower's Story " of being immured in a steam-boiler, and the " Flying Head;" but alongside of these are others, as his " Winter in the West," "Romance of the Mohawks," and "Adiron-dacks," that are steeped in the fresh atmosphere of the green fields and hills. Hoffmann is also the author of three deservedly popular songs, "Myrtle and Steel," "Sparkling and Bright," and "Rosalie Clare." The influence of those writers, along with that of a profounder analyst, the French Balzac, is apparent in the works of the most morbid genius the modern world of letters has known. In the regions of the strangely terrible, remotely fantastic, and ghastly, Edgar Allan Poe reigns supreme. For clearness of style, aptness of illustration, and subtilty of thought, he distances in this field all his predecessors except Balzac, who in the mental dissecting-room is his only master. But while the Frenchman deals with anomalous realities, the power of the American consists in making unrealities appear natural. One of his great charms is his perpetual interest. Confining his imagination within limited bounds of space, he is never dull, save in his acridly jealous criticisms and miserable attempts at humour. Criticism would hardly strike a line from the longest and perhaps the most thrilling of his narratives, that of " Arthur Gordon Pym." In fictitious verisimilitude it is only equalled by De Quincey's " Flight of the Kalmuck Tartars." With the "Adventure of Hans Pfaall" in his balloon, and the "Descent into the Maelstrom," it is the obvious source of the ingenious pseudo-scientific romances of Jules Verne, which have lately attained so wide a popularity. Poe's most hideous tales, as " Thou art the Man," "The Black Cat," "The Premature Burial," "The Pit and the Pendulum," " The Cask of Amontillado," " The Tell-Tale Heart," are redeemed by their literary merits and their reference, under the form of grotesque circumstances, to dominant fears and passions of mankind. In the " Fall of the House of Usher," "The Domain of Arnheim," " William Wilson," and " Ligeia," a more purely poetic or deeply psychological element is added to the horror. In the " Murders of the Rue Morgue," " The Mystery of Marie Roget," "The Purloined Letter," and "The Gold Bug," he is on the borderland between romance and reality, and seems to prove himself in potentiality the prince of all detectives. We shall have to refer to him again as a poet. The super-subtilty of Balzac and Poe appears with higher qualities in the works of the greatest of New England romancers, on the whole the most artistic of American prose writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Of his style it is impossible speak too highly; for without any of the defects often found in the writings of his countrymen, it has a healthy flavour of nationality. It is accurate and strong, terse and yet full, rich and yet simple, harmonious, varied, and suggestive. These excellences of form give a fascination to his most ordinary themes as to his descriptions of scenery and works of art. The only modern pictures of Italy comparable to those of Rome and her sculptures in Transformation are Ruskin's Venice and the finest stanzas in the fourth canto of Childe Harold. But Hawthorne's scenery can seldom be disentangled from the mood of mind in which he views it, and which constantly associates it with some remoter purpose or underlying allegory. Amid the din of voices in the Custom-house or half-buried in the mosses of his Manse, walking along the Appian Way or gliding down the Assabeth, he dwells among strange visions. The sea-shore tells him secrets of the past, and the prattling village is full of a present sympathy. But the features of nature, and life, and character which he loves to draw are peculiar. They are for the most part sombre and mysterious; not with the sort of mystery that attends unprecedented events and unnatural marvels, but with the mystery which he finds underneath the current of common lives. One of his prevailing thoughts is, things are not what they seemhe is so fond of peering beneath the surface of existence, that in his pages it almost loses its ordinary reality; he tries so constantly to look through life that he scarcely takes time to look at it. The highest art of all is that which comprehends both aspects, and, seeing the face of nature as it is, also penetrates to its hidden meanings. Hawthorne, on the other hand, weaves his fictions, to borrow a phrase from himself, in "the moonlight of romance ; " and while he admits that materials for a better book than he has written " lie scattered on the page of life open before him, he has seldom stooped to gather them."
"Moonlight," he repeats in his preface to the Scarlet Letter, "moonlight in a familiar room, falling so white upon the carpet and showing all its figures so distinctly, making every object so distinctly visible, yet so unlike a morning or noontide visibility, is a medium the most suitable for a romance writer to get acquainted with his illusive guests. The room becomes a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairyland, where the actual and imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other."
Hawthorne has sometimes abandoned this neutral territory, and given us a few short sketches which show that he is eminently capable, when he chooses, of illustrating and characterising common things ; such, among his minor tales, are "The Old Apple Dealer," "Little Annie's Ramble," "A Rill from the Town Pump," "Sights from a Steeple," "The Village Uncle," that well-named "Buds and Bird Voices," and " The Seven Vagabonds," the most humorous and genial of his lighter pieces. His prevailing themes are drawn on a borderland or twilight between two worlds, half real and half ideal; fairy tales, in which human beings are the fairies, and are made to point morals of their own histories. He haunts us, as he himself was haunted, by problems. Of the five volumes of his minor sketches, three at least are filled with allegoriesriddles, some of them hard to read, and open to doubtful because double interpretations. " The Great Stone Face " is a noble piece of writing, apart from the lesson it is intended to convey. " Drowne's Wooden Image " and " The Artist of the Beautiful" are in themselves "beautiful exceedingly." The exquisite pathos of "Lily's Quest" and "Edward Fane's Rosebud" lies on the surface. "Lady Eleanor's Mantle " tells its own story in a parable of the Nemesis of pride; but in "Roger Malvin's Burial," "The Wedding Knell," " Young Goodman Brown," and others, the meaning is either more intricate or more remote. Hawthorne's longer works are all conceived in the same spirit. Their incidents are comparatively few, and might have easily been condensed into one of his shorter tales ; which in their turn might easily have been expanded into elaborate romanceswhat a consummate story, for instance, might have been reared on the basis of "Rappacini's Daughter ! " His forte lies in the analysis of character and situations, rather than the dramatic arrangement of events. " To live in other lives, and to endeavour to learn the secret which was hidden even from themselves," is the purpose set before himself by a character which in one of those romances nearly represents the author. Everywhere he seems to be carrying out this purpose, operating upon some three or four characters, and removing themas he tells us in the introduction to Blithedalea little from the highway of ordinary travel to a theatre where these creatures of his brain may play their phantasmagorical antics without exposing them to too close a comparison with the actual events of real lives. A small group of figures is thus made to work out some problem of life, or at least to throw by their ideal actions a light on some puzzle in the author's mind. The great question over which, in one form or other, he perpetually broods, is the nature of evilthe effect of sin and error on the soul and their relation to virtue and human progress. In the Blithedale Romance, for instance, his theme is that the exaggeration of good may turn to evil. This almost painfully minute anatomy of four lives, relieved by passages of delicate description and a few scenes of thrilling power, is designed to show the blighting effects of a one-sided idea, even though it assumes the guise of a benevolent impulse, when it overrides private and personal claims. In Transformation, or the Romance of Monte Beni, a conception in some respects the converse of this, is wrought out of richer materials ; and we are taught to appreciate the possibilities of good that there may be in evil, by the effect which an impulsive crime has in inspiring a simple instinctive nature with a stronger life. The Scarlet Letter, which is at once the most solid and the subtlest of the author's works, illustrates the fatal influence which a single sin exerts on all the persons whom it involves ; but unlike the Blithedale Romance, which is a dismal tragedy, it ends with a magnificent triumph of expiation. The Scarlet Letter appears to us to be the best analytical novel of this century, the nearest approach to it in artistic finish and psychological penetration being Goethe's Elective Affinities. The House of the Seven Gables has more variety, and mixes humour with its pathos; but the web of this last romance, which has for its moral the malign influences which may be transmitted from one generation to another, is woven of thinner threads. Hawthorne's Protean genius is a power in American thought. His influence as a teacher and an artist is still crescent among the contemporaries from whom lie has lately passed. His symbolic yet real charactersHester and Pearl by the forest brook; Dimmesdale by the scaffold, with the red morning upon his brow; the dead Judge sitting with his watch ; the Cleopatra of Brook Farm plunging in the pool; Miriam and Hilda, and Donatello the Faunare stamped in letters of fine gold on the pages of his country's literature, and the music of his quiet sentences yet lingers on the ear of strangers as of friends. But his name remains as a warning as well as an example. In one sense he was a patriot, glorying in the great deeds of his country's past. Of this feeling the " Gray Champion " and " Howe's Masquerade " give sufficient evidence. At the close of the last he writes, as we may fancy with a grim Puritan smile: " On the anniversary night of Britain's discomfiture the ghosts of the ancient governors of Massachusetts still glide through the portals of the Province House." But as a politician he wrecked himself with the democratic party. He looked upon slavery as " one of those evils which Providence does not leave to be remedied by human contrivances." He had no sympathy with the abolitionists, and at least a half sympathy with the planters. "As regards human progress," he wrote, " let them believe it who can;" and in the preface to his last completed work, as his excuse for laying the scene in Italy," There is in our country no shadow, no ambiguity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong." " Romance and poetry, ivy, lichens, and wallflowers, need ruin to make them grow." Hawthorne lived to see the beginning of what he could only regard as ruin : he did not live to see his country rising stronger after a great struggle with a gloomy wrong.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, the accomplished physician of Harvard, better known as a humourist and author of occasional verses, has contributed to psychological romance two remarkable volumes : Elsie Tenner and The Guardian Angel. The former, and more striking of the two, is a weird tale of destiny, dwelling upon the idea of transmitted qualities in a manner which suggests comparison with The House of the Seven Gables ; but Holmes's story has a more incredible plot, the chief character being a sort of sprite, having mysterious relations to the animal world, a snake-charmer, herself half a snake (as Donatello in Transformation is half a faun), like the Lamia of tradition and Keats, but endowed with the graces of Undine. The vigorous sketch of the hero Langdon, with which the book opens, is impaired by the somewhat obtrusive manner in which he is vaunted as a type of the blue-blooded or Brahmin caste of New England. The same pathological treatment of human nature pervades The Guardian Angel, which turns partly on mysterious physical and psychical affinities. The Margaret of Sylvester Judd, a Unitarian clergyman of Maine, belongs, by virtue of some of the problems with which it deals, to the category of metaphysical novels. This work of decided genius, to which a just tribute is paid by Mr Lowell in his Fable for Critics, has hardly attained the popularity it merits, owing to the slender character of the plot, and the frequency of the dissertations by which the author endeavours to impress his own views of society, art, and religion. But it is a powerful picture of the more ideal sides of New England life; the character of Margaret and Chilion are permanent types, and the whole book is extremely fresh and original. The most genuine successor of Hawthorne is Theodore Winthrop, who left a counting-house in New York for an adventurous life, and fell at Great Bethel in 1861 in his thirty-third year. His best novel, Cecil Dreeme, teems with life-like characterisation, bathed in a poetic element of mystery; and John Brent, the next in merit, is a graphic sketch of romantic incidents in the Far West, drawn from his own experience.
Of tales evincing talent there is a plethora; they lie on the shelves of the libraries "thick as the leaves on Vallombrosa." Among those worthy of note are the pictures of Southern society by W. G. Simms, whose fertile brain is said to have produced fifty volumes in twenty years ; The Bee Hunter, and other narratives of the south-west, by T. B. Thorpe of Baton Rouge ; John Neal's Bachel Dyer and Ruth Elder; the classical romances of Ware, Zenobia and Probus and Julian; Mrs E. 0. Smith's Indian Reminiscences; The Linwoods, Hope Leslie, and other philanthropic tales of New England, by Miss Sedgwick; Mrs Lydia Child's Hobomok, and her Phiiothea, a romance of Pericles and Aspasia, somewhat too sentimental in its style, and not free from anachronisms; with the anti-slavery pictures represented by Mrs Stowe's Uncle Tom, a book which, inspired by ordinary talent and written in an earnest spirit, owed its success to the air of simple narration which pervades it, and its having the aggressive strength of a political pamphlet appearing at the right time in harmony with the passion on one side of an impending struggle. The light but graceful and often incisive sketches of N. P. Willis take a somewhat higher rank. A rapid writer, but at his best a brilliant colourist, his fertile fancy has been employed in almost all the countries of Europe, and in his own, in prose and verse, with more than average success. His Pencillings by the Way and People I have Met are among the most agreeable of books for a leisure hour ; his descriptions are always interesting as well as accurate, and his characters, grave and gay, are generally life-like. His picture of the Indian girl, Nunu, in the Inklings of Adventure, is fascinating and vivacious enough to be worthy of a higher artist.
Books of TRAVEL, among which those of Mr Willis hold a respectable place, superabound in the literature of the West. Nine-tenths of the literary men of America have crossed the Atlantic, and nine-tenths of those who have done so have published their impressions of the Old World, with every variety of good and bad taste, from the Old Home to the Innocents Abroad. After that of his birth, an American author's travels are the first essential of his being. We may next predict his praise of Italy, his half satirical half curious view of England, and his wonder at the Pyramids. Of the multifarious descriptions of Europe to which this habit has given birth, the worthiest of note are those of Hawthorne and Emerson, of Story and Cheever, and Curtis's Nile Notes. In the " Lotus Eating " of the last named we have pleasing reminiscences of the watering-places of his own country. But the most interesting records of western scenery are those of Fremont; Winthrop's Canoe and Saddle, and Life in the Open Air ; and the numerous remarkable " Excursions" of Emerson's leading pupil, H. D. Thoreauhis " Maine Woods," " Cape Cod," and " Merrimack ;" with the vacation voyage to Cuba of the younger Dana.
4. A leading feature of transatlantic literature is its HUMOUR. Humour is a word of many meanings : it begins on the low level of any laughter-provoking absurdity, and rises, as in the speeches of Lear's Fool, to a tragic height. In the Greek classics it shows itself in the Rabelaisian exuberance of Aristophanes or in the Socratic irony : in the English we have an even more subtle appreciation of the curiosities of character, and a deeper sense of the contradiction or conflict between the higher and lower phases of human nature. In Sterne and Fielding, as in Ben Jonson, we have every man in his humour. As developed in America, this quality of the mind seldom penetrates to the undercurrents of life; its insight is clear but not profound; it relies mainly on exaggeration, and a blending of jest and earnest which has the effect of singing comic words to a sad tune, or telling a preposterous story with a grave face. Mr Lowell makes us laugh by his description of a negro " so black that charcoal made a chalk mark upon him," and of a wooden shingle " painted so like marble that it sank in the water." Mr Browne (Artemus Ward) excited the same sort of laughter by his remark in pointing to a hill daubed on his canvas, "the highest part of this mountain is the top." In both cases there is a surprise, excited in the one by a falsehood jjlausibly pretending to be the truth, in the other by a truism asserting itself as a novelty. Similarly, when the latter writer, among his anecdotes of the conscription, tells us that "one young man who was drawn claimed to be exempt because he was the only son of a widowed motherwho supported him," the amusement is all in the unexpected turn of the last three words. In contradistinction to this, the humour of Don Quixote, of Falstaff, of Uncle Toby, of Major Bath, of the Vicar of Wakefield and Sir Roger de Coverley, of Major Pendennis and Bishop Blougram, consists in its truth. What these people do or say never surprises us. It is absurd as a great part of human life is absurd, and, laughing at them, we feel we are laughing at something in ourselves. The best recent instances of this higher kind of humour which American literature affords are to be found in Washington Irving, in Mr Lowell's Biglow Papers (to which, as a considerable national poem, we shall have to revert), in passages of Mr Longfellow's Kavanagh, in Mr Hawthorne's Seven Gables and Seven Vagabonds, and in the prose and verse of Dr Holmes. In his three pleasant volumes, The Autocrat, The Professor, and The Poet at the Breakfast Table, there is much that might have been omitted, more that should have been compressed. They contain too many jokes, good, bad, and indifferent, and are tainted here and there with what we must be excused for regarding as New England slang. But they are pervaded by a genial glow of kindly sympathy, and they exhibit, with a quaint mannerismnot without its attractionspersonages, and situations, and sentiments which we recognise as at once odd and real. Dr Holmes's works have frequent reflections of Montaigne and Burton, and the Nodes Ambrosiance; he mixes pathos and whimsicality after the manner of Lamb and Sterne. His humorous verses, the best known of which, "Daily Trials," "Evening, by a Tailor," and the "Music-grinders," inevitably recall the drolleries of Hood. His genius has, nevertheless, an original vein, less mellow, but at its best as genuine as that of his older masters. Several of the miscellaneous papers, essays, and periodicals belonging to the earlier years of the century, as Salmagundi, The Talisman of Bryant and Verplanck, The Olipodiana of W. G. Clarke, and the Sparrow Grass Papers, are frequently enlivened by sparkles of wit and evidences of keen discrimination. In others we trace the germs of a vicious style which threatens to degrade the lighter literature of the States. The Charcoal Sketches of Joseph Neal _which might be entitled Comicalities of the Mississippi are among the earliest examples of the habit of playing with slang terms characteristic of his successors. An author who relies for effect on giving his imaginary personages such nicknames as " Dawson Dawdle," " Peter Ploddy," " Tippleton Tipps," and " Shiverton Shanks," is more likely to be the cause of wit in others than the source of humour himself. During the last generation in America the anxiety to be national has led many of her minor authors to make themselves ridiculous. To avoid walking like Englishmen, they have gone on all-fours; to escape the imputation of Anglo-Saxon features, they have painted their faces with ochre and put ear-rings through their nostrils; forsaking the speech of Addison and Steele, they have expressed themselves in an unseemly jargon of strange tongues. Of this mocking-bird humour the most legitimate form is that of the Biglow Papers, where the New England dialect is employed with effect to give voice to the sentiments of that district of the country during the national struggle, on one side of which it took the lead. A similar justification may be put forward in behalf of the Californian peculiarities, which are perhaps not too prominent in the often really humorous pieces of Bret Harte. The mixture of two dialects in the Breitmann Ballads is a bolder licence, though for the best of these Mr Leland
may plead the widespread use of the mongrel speech, and the original success of a drollery which has only become tiresome from his not knowing when his readers have had more than enough of it. The parodies of Mr Browne (Artemus Ward) are open to the same criticism. The writer was a man of wit and talent, and therefore his writings are amusing. They are good specimens of the worst style of satire: for the wit that relies on bad spelling is almost as false as that which consists in bad language. In vindication of the " Showman," it must, however, be observed that his sarcasm is generally directed against mean or ridiculous things. But his example has paved, for those who have caught the trick of his phrase and who are unrestrained by his good feeling and good sense, an easy descent to the lowest form of light literature that which panders to the vice of moral scepticism and thrives on the buffoonery of making great and noble things appear mean or ridiculous. The names of those who habitually feed on mental garbage should be left to sink into the oblivion from which they have unfortunately emerged. It is painful but necessary to observe that some of the more considerable writers and thinkers of the New World are apt to condescend on occasion to this burlesque way of writing. American light literature bristles in puns which are at best the " a-b abs" of wit. Of these, Mr Lowell (a severe critic of everything English) has made the worst"Milton is the only man who has got much poetry out of a cataractand that was a cataract in his eye." Mr Leland, the next worst, in his book of travels" If a thing of beauty be a jaw for ever, as the American said of his handsome, scolding wife, then the donkey boys of Cairo are the most jaw-ous and beautiful creatures; for the sound of their voices drieth not up." Eccentricities of this sort, with the graver irreverences which intrude themselves even into the pulpits of the West, should be universally discredited as blasphemies against the first principles of taste. They are as " flat, stale, and unprofitable " as the contortions of a wearied clown. True humouras ever in our classics _must go hand-in-hand with seriousness; it must never forget that behind the comic there is a tragic element in human life. The mere "farce" is contemptible, because it is as unnatural as the expression of a countenance distorted by a continual grin. In forgetfulness of this lies the greatest danger of the recent literature of America, and we can only trust to the higher intellectual instincts and tendencies of the age to detect and resist it.
5. NEW ENGLAND TRANSCENDENTALISM.Religion, the first motive power of thought in America, has continued to flow, both in its old channelthat of the orthodox Puritanism which came down from Eliot and Edwards through Dwight to Hodge and the Princeton Essaysand in another, that of the new forms of faith advocated by W. E. Channing, and with gravely heterodox modifications by Theodore Parker. Criticism of Channing's theological position is apart from our purpose here. He claims notice in a review of literature by the vigour of his conceptions and his graceful and correct expression of them. His earliest considerable essay, the Moral Argument against Calvinism, one of the best known of his numerous controversial works, indicates by its title his prevailing attitude. He relied through life on a priori moral arguments, and employed them as his engines of attack against all persons, institutions, or practices that offended his rigid sense of justice or his enthusiastic benevolencee.g., Napoleon I., War, and Slavery. A generous indignation against wrong, and keen practical sense of the duties of life, are more conspicuous in his writings than speculative power; but his insight into the political position of parties and the jorobability of future conflicts is remarkable. Though at variance with the older creeds of Christendom, Channing's writings are everywhere marked by a reverential spirit, and not unfrequently by a touch of asceticism inherited from the Puritan days, whose abstract doctrines alone he proposed to modify. On the other hand, he admired the higher forms of Art, and in his eloquent essays on Self-culture anticipated much that has been said more recently by Emerson. He loved beauty as well as virtue for itself, and his style, except on rare occasions, is free from the defects of taste so frequent in the writings of his contemporaries. His reviews of Milton and Fenelon abound in passagesas the picture of religious peace in the latter which exhibit the delicacy and the breadth of his sympathies. Theodore Parkerunlike Channingassails the whole basis of the old theology, and frequently errs from arrogance and impetuosity. He had, perhaps, a more powerful but a less highly cultivated mind. He was a pupil of the transcendental movement of New England, to which, because of its influence on literature and its association with the most original thinker of the New World, we must accord some space.
In the early years of this century the mental philosophy of the West, beyond that which was a handmaid to the Calvinistic theology, was limited to commentaries on Locke and Brown and the eclecticism of Cousin, when the republication of Sartor Resartus, and the works of the German idealists which it introduced, gave life and voice to a new intellectual world. Ideas which filter slowly into English soil and abide there for a generation, flash like comets through the electric atmosphere of America. Coleridge and Carlyle were hailed as prophets in Boston while their own countrymen were still examining their credentials. The rate of this transformation was surpassed by its thoroughness. The converts put their teachers to the blush; and in recoil from solid Scotch psychology and practical materialism, rushed to the outer verges of idealism, mysticism, and pantheism. Their quarterly magazine, the Dial, during the space of four years represented their views throughout four volumes of miscellaneous merit. The Dial is a pantheon from which only Calvinists and Utilitarians are excluded, where the worshippers, Parker, Fuller, Alcott, and a host, meet and sing hymns to Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Goethe, Tieck, and Bichter, set to German music ; and pass from antiquated laudations of Homer and Shakespeare to friendly recognitions of new heresies; from thoughts on labour to puffs of poetasters; from Hindoo mythology and Chinese ethics to 19th century truisms about progress and union, prudence and humanity; from soaring among the heights of a modern religion of beauty to raking among the tangled roots and dead leaves of a second-hand Orientalism. But those vapours of idealism might have soon faded into the light of common day, had not all their best aspirations been concentrated and vitalised by Mr R. W. Emerson. His first oration, delivered at Cambridge thirty-five years agothe refrain of which is the independence of American literatureis referred to by recent critics as a landmark in the annals of their country. In this discourseas in the six volumes through which the author enforces the same conceptionsthere is scarce anything of which, taken separately, we need fail to trace the pedigree. Fichte had many years before spoken in the same strain of the vocation and nature of the scholar; the view of science comes from Swedenborg and Schelling; and the dignity of labour from Carlyle. The originality, as is the case with the author's whole system of thought, is in the combinationwhich, it may be, is the only kind of originality now possible. His position, as far as it is tenable, illustrates the fact that the divisions of philosophy are being continually altered as old systems form affinities with new beliefs and historical conditions. Mysticism in the New World has been combined with the opposite extravagances of Mount Lebanon and Oneida Creek, but it has been distinguished from idealism proper by its exaltation of emotion above reasoning. Mr Emerson, defining transcendentalism as "the saturnalia of faith," differs from the older mystics in his absolute rejection of all external authority, his almost arrogant confidence in the sufficiency of the inner light, and his new American preference for the active to the passive sides of life. He has an historical sympathy with the unsatisfied aspirations of all ages, with the daydreams of restlessness in search of rest that inspired the quest of the Sangreal, and led the monks to Christianise the eastern Nirvana; that laid out Brook Farm in Massachusetts, and gave Novalis and Newman back to the fold of Rome : but he will not be drawn by them into any church with walls. All religions are to him " the same wine poured into different glasses." He drinks the wine, and tries to shatter the glasses. His unflinching scepticism pierces the armour of all definite dogmas, while he entrenches himself behind an optimism like that of Spinoza. Mysticism has in the main been fatalistic. As a developed system, its natural home is in the East; where the influence of great uniformities of soil and climate have only in recent years been partially counteracted by the conquering activities of an energetic race. Beneath her burning sun and surrounded by her tropic vegetation, the mass of men were overwhelmed by a sense of their insignificance, and this feeling of subjugation was intensified by absolute forms of government. The same listlessness which permitted a secular and priestly despotism, led its victims to welcome the idea of a final absorption of their individuality. Their philosophical ambition was to pass into the framework of a gigantic nature, to be " rolled round the earth's diurnal course with rocks and stones and trees." There is a relic of this spirit in the ataraxia, apatheia, and eremia [Gk.], which are the aims at once of the Epicurean and Stoic systems; but the doctrines of passive obedience had been banished from Greece as early as the overthrow of the Pythagorean institute. They revived in the dark and middle ages, when the church took upon itself the task of legislating for the intellect; and even the precursors of the Beformation were possessed with an almost oppressive sentiment of resignation. The reproduction of the Oriental spirit in America, in so far as it is genuine and not the mere expression of a love of far-fetched quotations, may be attributed to external influences in some respects comparable to those which weighed on the inhabitants of ancient India. In the Western, as formerly in the Eastern World, nature still struggles to assert her old supremacy, and threatens to domineer over men's minds by the vastness of her empire. But in other respects the conditions are reversed. In place of stagnation and uniform although magnificent decay, we have to deal with the manifold progress of 19th century civilisation in a land where every one is more or less inspired by the resolve of the modern mariner with an ancient name to " sail beyond the sunset" in pursuit of fresh adventures; where the energies of the individual are in constant, and in the long run triumphant, struggle with all that tends to restrict the full sweep of his arm or to retard the freest activities of his mind. Where every moon sees new forests felled, new rivers crossed, new fleets built, new tribes amalgamated, new discussions raised, and new problems solved, mysticism, if it exist at all, must take on a form very different from that handed down from the East of 3000 years ago to the Alexandrians, and transmitted to the European ages of implicit faith by the pseudo Dionysius. Mr Emerson strikes the keynote of the difference when he writes, " Feudalism and orientalism had long enough thought it majestic to do nothing; the modern majesty consists in work." Retaining from the mystics his belief in the supremacy of the higher emotions, he substitutes for a religious creed an idealised view of modern physical science. His combination of stern practical rectitude with an ideal standard is his point of contact with Puritanism. A chivalric nobility, in which beauty and goodness are blended, is at once the goal, the sanction, and the motive of his ethical system. Praise of the virtue which, transcending all prudence and disdaining all consequences, is its own reward, is the refrain of his moral monologue. His severe censure of Goethe's artistic indifferentism recalls the age when the Bible and theological commentaries were regarded as the sum of honest literature. He writes of our great dramatist in the spirit of the men who closed the theatres : " He was the master of the revels to mankind "a sentence far removed from the spirit of modern art-worship. But those which follow, protesting against the opposite extremes of austerity, indicate his divergence on the other side from the old faith of New England.
Mr Emerson is, we believe, most widely known in this country by his Representative Men: by no means the most satisfactory of his works. A series of generally acute criticisms, pervaded by no well-marked ethical idea, it leaves on the mind a somewhat indefinite impression. Its categories are not exhaustive, and it is difficult to determine on what principle they are chosen : but it serves as an interesting point of comparison with the corresponding lectures of the great English advocate of hero-worship, to the suggestions of which it probably owes its existence. Mr Carlyle, whose whole faith is centred in strong individualities, adopts the view of history which practically resolves it into a series of biographies. Mr Buckle, caring little for persons, and confiding rather in general laws, resolves biography into history. Mr Emerson on this question steers a middle course. He believes in great men, "to educate whom the state exists, with the appearance of whom the state expires;" but he regards them as inspired mouthpieces of universal or national ideas rather than as controlling forces. Their mission is not so much to regulate our action as to "fortify our hopes." Possessed of a larger share of the Over Soul which " makes the whole world kin," they apprehend and explain phenomena which have hitherto passed unheeded; but their indirect services are the best. Their examples, more weighty than their acts or discoveries, are perpetual encouragements. The great man is an encyclopaedia of fact and thought; the belief born in his brain spreads like a current over humanity, and he becomes for a time the golden key to the ill-defined ideal of the multitude. But his career should rouse us to a like assertion of our liberties. We ought not to obey, but to follow sometimes by not obeying him. Our author accepts the position upheld by Aristotle and popularised by Macaulay, that different forms of government are adapted to different social conditions; but maintains that the tendency of modern times, attaching more weight to the equality of persons and less to the inequalities of property, is towards Democracy, with which and the industrialism of his age he has in the main a cordial sympathy. He believes in collective wisdom as the best check on collective folly, and, allowing that the state exists for its members, he thinks they can act best in union when all are subject to the fewest external restraints. He differs from Thoreau and others of his disciples in having no share in their selfish isolation. His best essays, woven of two curiously intersecting threads, present us with a unique conjunction of shrewdness and idealism. There never was a mystic with so much of the spirit of the good farmer, the inventor, or the enterprising merchant.
As regards form, Mr Emerson is the most unsystematic of writers. The concentration of his style resembles that of a classic, but, as with others who have adopted the aphoristic mode of conveying their thoughts, he everywhere sacrifices unity to riches of detail. o His essays are bundles of loose ideas tacked together by a common title, handfuls of scraps tossed down before his audience like the contents of a conjurer's hat. He delights in proverbs and apt quotations ; he exaggerates like an American, loves a contradiction for itself, and prefers a surprise to an argument. His epigrams are electric shocks. He sacrifices everything to directness. His terse refinement of phrase and trenchant illustrations are his charm. His ideas are on the scale of a continent; his sentences are adapted for a cabinet of curiositiesbits of mosaic work, sweeping generalisations given in essences. His style, armed with points like the bristles of a hedgehog, wants repose. This feature is conspicuous in the English Traits, where his estimates of men and things, frequently felicitous and generally racy, are often marred by an unpruned violence. His eye is keen, but its range is narrow, and he is ignorant of the fact. Unconsciously infected by the haste which he condemns, he looks at other nations through the folding telescope of a tourist. His representations of our leading writers and statesmen seldom rise above the level of Mr Willis's Pencillings by the Way. His taste is constantly at fault, and an incessant straining after mots often leads him into caricature. His judgments of those whose lives and writings do not square with his theories are valueless; and in dealing with foreign languages he betrays the weakness of his scholarship.
One qualification for a good critic is a well-defined artistic standard, another is the dramatic capacity of placing himself for the time in the position of the person who is being criticised. Mr Emerson has neither of these. With the spirit of a fearless inquirer, he unfortunately blends so much presumption as to feel an absolute indifference regarding the opinions of others; and this in excess constitutes a moral as well as an artistic defect. Thought is free, and the expression of it ought to be so; but when our thought wanders very far from that of the majority of the wise and good, we are bound to watch it, to sift its conclusions, and to state them moderately. Mr Emerson's thought does wander far, and it runs fast; he does not know what moderation in expression means, and his almost childish love of contradiction perpetually, and often justly, provokes offence. He rides rough-shod over the most cherished convictions, or waves them aside with a complacent smile and a sort of divine impudence. Every claim of authority he receives as a challenge to his personal rights, and he stabs the bull Apis, in utter disregard of the historian's warning. His impatient anticipationes natures detract from his reliability in matters of detail, while by a similar carelessness he repeats and contradicts himself with equal frequency. His soundest judgments relate to the men around him, of whom he is at once the panegyrist and the censor. All that is weak and foolish in their mode of life he condemns, all that is noblest and most hopeful he applauds.
Mr Emerson has left his mark on the century; to use a favourite phrase of his own, "he cannot be skipped." Even where his results are least satisfactory, his intense suggestiveness is the cause of thought in others; and as one of the "genetic" powers of modern literature, his fertilising influence will survive his inconclusive speculations. His faults are manifest: a petulant irreverence, frequent superficiality, a rash bravery, an inadequate solution of difficulties deeming itself adequate, are among the chief. But he is original, natural, attractive, and directlimpid in phrase and pure in fancy. His best eloquence flows as easily as a stream. In an era of excessive reticence and cautious hypocrisy he lives within a case of crystal where there are no concealments. We never suspect him of withholding half of what he knows, or of formularising for our satisfaction a belief which he does not sincerely hold. He is transparently honest and honourable. His courage has no limits. Isolated by force of character, there is no weakness in his solitude. He leads us into a region where we escape at once from deserts and from noisy cities ; for he rises above without depreciating ordinary philanthropy, and his philosophy at least endeavours to meet our daily wants. In every social and political controversy he has thrown his weight into the scale of justice, on the side of a rational and progressive liberty ; and his lack of sympathy with merely personal emotions is recompensed by a veneration for the ideal of the race which recalls the beautiful sentiment of Malebranche : " When I touch a human hand I touch heaven."
Half the literary men and all the literary women of this century in America have written verses ; most of them are respectable and many are excellent. But a brief review of the poetry of the West must dwell on the works of four or five authors who most clearly and saliently express the main tendencies of their nation. It must suffice here to name as familiar, or worthy to be so, the graceful vers cle société of Holmes, especially his " Punch Bowl " and " Old Ironsides ; " the patriotic chants of James Percival ; the sparkling fancies of J. B. Drake's "Culprit Fay;" the fashionable satires of Halleck ; the lyrics and romances of the great traveller and prolific author, J. Bayard Taylor ; the well-balanced stanzas of Hillhouse ; the plays of Conrad and Bird; "Woodman, spare that Tree" and the "Whip-poor-Will," by G. P. Morris; A. B. Street's "Settler," and " Forest Walk ; " and, pre-eminent among female minstrels, Mrs Sigourney, whose blank verse descriptions of nature approach those of Bryant ; the youthful prodigies, Lucretia and Maria Davidson ; and Maria Brooks, authoress of the richly imaginative southern romance of Zophiel, whom Southey, her friend and admirer, pronounced to be " the most impassioned of poetesses." We proceed to review the position of the really great poets of the United States, as representing somewhat different manners and modes of thought.
1. THE EUROPEAN SCHOOL.Of these, in our judgment, Mr Longfellow is still the first. His works are free from the defects that stamp the national literature of his country. He has none of the uncouth power and spasmodic exaggeration of his contemporaries. He is all grace, polish, and sweetness. His prose masterpiece, " Hyperion," is the key-note of his minor poems. The source of their inspiration is " Outre Mer " among feudal towers, Flemish towns, and Alpine passes. Like Irving in the variety of his culture and superior in genius, his imagination is Teutonic rather than American. He lingers in Nuremberg, Bruges, and Prague ; and chooses for his emblem of life's river, not the Ohio, nor the Hudson, nor the Assabeth, but the " Moldau's rushing stream." His " New England Tragedies " are perhaps his least successful efforts, partly because dramatic literature has seldom yet flourished in American soil, and partly because his sympathy with the ruder age is not keen enough to enable him to vitalise it. Mr Longfellow has given us the best translations in the world from Swedish, German, Spanish, and Italian authors, and many of his best verses are avowedly suggested by proverbs or sentences, or bits of old romance. A few words from an old French author give him the burden of the " Old Clock on the Stairs ; " a leaf out of Mather's Magnolia Christi is rhymed into the " Phantom Ship ; " the ballad of the Count Arnaldos sets him dreaming over the secret of the sea ; a verse of Euripides is the key-note to his " Voices of the Night ; " a few lines from Goethe gather up the essence of the " Psalm of Life." In the New World, but not of it, he dwells with almost wearisome fondness on the word "old." Volumes of old days, old associations that we cannot buy with gold, quaint old cities, old poets and painters, sweet old songs, old haunted houses, dear old friends, the grey old manse, Nature the dear old nurse, clear old England,on phrases and thoughts like these his fancy broods. American verse is frequently rough-hewn and audacious, sometimes obscure and pedantic; its novelty is often more striking than its truth. Every sentence that Longfellow has penned is as clear as crystal and as pure as snow. He wears his weight of learning lightly as a flower; and though he cannot create, he cannot touch without adorning. He seldom gives us thoughts absolutely new, but he puts our best thoughts in the best language. Critics react against his popularity, and complain of his want of concentration and the conventionality of his epithets (a fault more rare in his later volumes); but his place as the laureate of women and children and gentle men is unassailable; and there are seasons when we prefer his company to that of the grand old masters, when we seek an anodyne rather than a stimulant
" His songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care."
Longfellow's command of verse alone proves him to be a genuine poet. There are passages in the "Arsenal," the "Occultation of Orion," the "Building of the Ship," and the " Household Poems " unsurpassed in melody by any in contemporary English verse. The introduction to " Hiawatha," the closing lines of " Evangeline," and some of the character sketches which preface the " Tales of the Wayside Inn," have a music equally attractive and more decidedly original. The highest flights of Longfellow's imagination are in the strangely-confused old-world story of the " Golden Legend ;" but the work on which his fame most securely rests is "Hiawatha." This poem, in which a series of idylls are strung together on the thread of an idea common to Indian and Scandinavian legend, has that exhilarating flavour of nationality wanting in many of the author's works, and it yields to none of them in artistic finish. The monotony of the verse is like that of a bird's song which has only two or three notes, and yet from its everlasting freshness never palls upon the ear. Most modern attempts to reproduce old ballads put new wine into old bottles; but the American poet has thrown himself as completely into the spirit of aboriginal western life as he has into that of Gothic paganism in the " Challenge of Thor." Like Chibiabos the musician he is at home among the pine-groves and the prairies and " the great lakes of the Northland; " and
" All the many sounds of Nature Borrow sweetness from his singing."
Longfellow's descriptions charm us more than they astonish. Inferior in luxuriance to those of "Enoch Arden," in intensity to those of "Locksley Hall," in subtilty to Browning's Italian pictures, they are superior in simplicity. If they do not adorn Nature as a mistress with the subjective fancies of a lover, they bring her before us as a faithful nurse, careful for her children. In " Evangeline " the poet follows the wheels of the emigrant's waggon over
" Billowy hays of grass, ever rolling in sunshine and shadow ;"
" Over them wander the buffalo herds and the elk and the roebuck."
Hiawatha speaks of Nature with the familiarity of an inhabitant; there is no trace of the grandiose style of the tourist. In the best episodes of the volumeas the account of the hero's childhood and his friendsof the wooing of Minnehahaof the son of the evening starof the ghosts and the faminethe parable of human life, with its incidents of birth, love, and deathof civilisation and decayis told in a narrative of child-like tenderness as well as masculine grasp. He who runs may read it, and yet the whole is lit up by an imagination like an aurora borealis. A recent New York critic ridicules the European view of " Hiawatha " as an American poem. It is true that the feverish ardour of Wall Street has no
place in its pages; but it is none the less manifestly transatlantic and mi generis. In celebrating Red Indian life, it inevitably discloses some of the features of the race which has come into close contact with that life. The New Zealand myth about the strength of the dead enemy passing into his conqueror applies here. Mr Dixon has dwelt very justly on the extent to which the aborigines of America have communicated their spirit to the pioneers before whom they have given way. Hiawatha sings of the decadence of a primitive people in strains that recall by their pathos the old British legends of the death of Arthur, but has also a prophetic side; from the meeting-point of two races it looks before as well as after.
More devoid of national sentiment and local colouring are the remarkable verses of Edgar Allan Poe, to whom we have before referred as a romancer. If the aim of poetry be to astonish or to fascinate, Poe takes a high rank among poets. According to Wordsworth's definition of the art, he has hardly a place among them at all. He teaches nothing, and living in one world writes in another. All we know of the personality of most of the authors we have named adds to the charm of their works. Begarding Poe's career it is otherwise. The vain and captious jealousy of his criticism is as repulsive as his graver defects. It has been said that he is the greatest of American writers in verse. This is an exaggeration of his powers only surpassed by his own exaggeration of them. It is true, however, that by pure intensity of delirium he now and then takes a flight beyond that of any other Western poet. His " Politian " is perhaps the stupidest fragment of a play that exists. But in his lyrics the fervour of his sympathy with himself makes artistic recompense for his want of sympathy for others. The passion of "Annabel Lee " is at a white heat, and is pervaded by a true pathos. The class finish of the best of his verses is unsurpassed, and his musical cadences give a charm even to those which are comparatively meaningless. The " Raven " is at the worst a marvellous piece of mechanism ; and the same delicacy of touch is everywhere visible in the rushing lines of "Annie," "Eulalie," "Ulalume," "Lenore," and the "City in the Sea." The purity of those poems is one of their most remarkable features. Bythesideofthe author's life, they are like nuns in the convent of a disorderly city; but they are at the same disadvantagetheir isolation gives them an air of unreality. The " banners, yellow, glorious, golden," of his fancy " float and flow " on the roof of an imaginary palace.
2. SCHOOL OF AMERICAN SCENERY AND ADVENTURE. The French critic M. De Tocqueville remarks that, in democratic communities, where men are all socially insignificant, poetry will be less apt to celebrate individuals, but will incline to dwell on external nature or on the ideas which concern mankind in general. It will be either descriptive or abstract. The works of Mr Bryant, the earliest considerable American poet, help to vindicate the generalisation. His " Thanatopsis," written in his 19th year, is perhaps the masterpiece of his sombre contemplative imagination. The reason why the author has never surpassed this effort of his youth is to be found partly in the cast of his mind, characterised by a narrow greatness, and partly in the fact that, during the major part of his life, he has been constrained to " scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen " as the editor of a daily newspaper: a fact to which, at the close of his "Green River," he makes a touching reference. Mr Bryant has lived in thronging cities, an honest and energetic politician ; but in his leisure hours his fancy has roamed to breezy hills and valleys and the undulating sea of the prairies. The perpetual autumn of his writings is peculiar. He has written smoothly in various measures, but he is never lively. An American Alastor, he loves " the air that cools the twilight of the sultry day" better than morning " clad in russet vest." In the beautiful verses on the " Death of the Flowers" his ear catches a dirge in the wind.
"The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore,
And sighs to find themf in the wood and by the stream no more."
The high rank grass of the meadow is to his eye the garniture of the graves of a race represented by his " Dis-interred Warrior." His " Evening Wind," " Forest Hymn," "Monument Mountain," "The Burial Place," and "The Past," are set to the same slow music, and pervaded by the thought of life as the avenue of death. If we compare his " Address to a Waterfowl" with Wordsworth's or Shelley's " Skylark," we appreciate the monotony of his mind, which is like that of Cowper without Cowper's occasional vivacity. Mr Bryant stands on a high level, but the space he covers is limited ; he has no touch of humour, and only the distant pathos of prevailing melancholy. Master of his position where he is at home in the woods, he loses his inspiration when he draws near his own cities. His nature-worship has a parallel in the feeling which animates some of the most graphic passages in New England prose ; as when Emerson writes
'' At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. . . . We have crept out of our crowded houses into the night and morning. .... The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history or church or state is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year."
The whole life and writings of the morbidly eccentric genius H. D. Thoreau are a comment on the results of this one-sided spirit. It pervades half the volumes of Theodore Winthrop, a manlier though less original mind. It has taken possession of the poetic advocate of Far Western and wild Indian life, Joaquin Miller, whose " Songs of the Sierras" in their best passages add to Bryant's descriptive power more of the fire of adventure, finding expression in the quicker pulse of the verse. But the lyrics of this writer, though the vehicle of national thought, bear the mark of foreign influence. Their cadences are echoes of Mr Swinburne. The impulse which made captive the "Scholar Gipsy," which the hero of "Locksley Hall" welcomes and then rejects, is a leading feature of Western literature. Imaginative and ardent minds, oppressed by what Mr Arnold calls "this strange disease of modern life," try to escape from the region of the real drama into that of the ideal lyric,"arva, beata petamus arva, divites et insulas,"and have now and then endeavoured to convert it into an actual idyll, as when Thoreau buried himself in a log hut by Walden lake, or Theodore Winthrop, leaving his ledgers in New York, scoured over the crags of Oregon ; or Home, with his " Orion " still unsold, was found mining in a quarry of New South Wales. But this emigre' spirit, when put into practice, ultimately cures itself : a poet, soon tires of working with his hands for a livelihood. The aspirations of Clough's " Bothie" are stifled by the vitiosce curce of a hard life, or terminate in the catastrophes of a fanaticism, such as Hawthorne has branded with his genius in the Blitheclcde Romance. The philosophical refugees find that the solitude they desired charms only by its contrast with the civilisation they have left; as the beauty of the sea is its contrast with the shore. But this wandering impulse, strong in the ancient Greek and the modern English race, has colonised and civilised the world : it is especially strong in the Anglo-American. The very restlessness which makes his cities so noisy bid him long for a remoter rest, and this longing acts in conjunction with more material demands to drive him across the Mississippi, and pioneer the way to the Pacific.
3. TRANSCENDENTAL AND ECCENTRIC SCHOOL. The freshness which breathes through Mr Emerson's essays reappears in his poems : but they are seldom so successful as his prose. Apart from the obscurity of their matter, which is greatfor he has chosen verse as the vehicle of his remoter mysticismthey are defaced by frequent mannerisms and incongruities : most of them are wanting in melody, many in syntax. The writer seems to trust to providence for his rhymes, and changes his metres at will. Nevertheless, his genius has a lyric side, and the imaginative sympathy with nature which makes his prose poetical, prevents his verse, even when awkward, from becoming prosaic. The rippling of rivers, the sough of the pine, the murmur of the harvest, and the whirr of insects pervade and give life to his descriptions. A morning light is thrown over his happiest pages, and some of his quieter reflective pictures are not unworthy of the author of the "Excursion." Interleaved between the gold-dust of Alexandrian rhapsody there are pieces that speak of a love that is neither "initial," "daemonic," nor "celestial," but human. Of these, "The Dirge," "In Memoriam," "The Farewell," the lines "To J. W.," "To Ellen," and the "Threnody," are the most conspicuous. The prevailing tone of the greater part of Emerson's poetry is cheerful. Unlike those of Bryant, his "woodnotes" are those of the spring.
" Thousand minstrels wake within me,
Our music's on the hills,"
is the perpetual refrain of the exulting worshipper of nature. His lines entitled "Good-bye, proud World," breathe the hermit-like spirit of Quarles or Andrew Marvell; but the Puritanism of older days has here assumed another shape. There are other pieces relating to the intercourse of men with each other showing a keen observation of common life and sound worldly wisdom, in neat quatrains and a few vigorous political songs. The " Hymn on Concord Monument" is strong and dignified, while the verses relating to the civil war address the nation in forcible terms both of warning and encouragement. Those practical manifestoes are the more striking from the fact that they are printed by the side of others proclaiming in transcendental enigmas the emptiness of transitory things, the fixity of fate, and the doctrine of the absorption of the individual in the infinite.
Mr Emerson was one of the first to praise the extraordinary rhapsodies of Mr Walt Whitman, which have since attracted too much attention to be passed without notice. But although this author on various occasions displays an uncouth power, his success is in the main owing to the love of novelty, wildness, and even of absurdity, which has infected a considerable class of critics and readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr Whitman does not write in verse; he discards not only rhyme, but all ordinary rhythm. What there is of the latter seems to come by accident in lines of various length, and arranged either on no principle or on one which we have failed to discover. " The Leaves of Grass " is redeemed by a few grand descriptive passages from absolute barbarism both of manner and matter. It is a glorification of nature in her most unabashed forms, an audacious protest against all that civilisation has done to raise men above the savage state. The "Drum Taps," a set of generally vigorous pictures of the war, are less objectionable; the dirge on Lincoln in particular has many qualities of a noble elegy, the imagery is rich though sometimes fantastic, and there is here and there a wild music in the composition,but it is still defaced by pedantic words and unjustifiable, because unnecessary, novelties of phrase.
4. PATRIOTIC AND POLITICAL POETRY.The assertion of Henri Beyle, that politics are like a stone tied round the neck of literature, must be accepted with a reservation; for if the songs make the laws, the battles often make the songs of a nation. The growth of a history on their own soil is, in the minds of most Americans, a requisite to the full development of national art. English history inadequately supplies the desired background, for they cannot associate it with what they see around them. Memories of the Bevolution war have, during this century, been recalled in some stirring verses, as " Paul Bevere's Bide," in Mr Longfellow's " Wayside Inn;" but the most effective national poetry has been suggested by more recent events. The " Biglow Papers," a series of metrical pamphlets, born of the last great social and political struggle of the New World, are among the most original contributions to its literature. Mr James Russell Lowell is the author of several volumes of miscellaneous verse. His earlier efforts, buoyant and vigorous, but bearing the marks of haste, display more impetuosity than power. His genius everywhere appears in contrast to Bryant's. Far from shrinking into solitary places, he loves great cities and their cries, and sets them to rhyme with hearty goodwill. When he goes into the country, it is on a " day in June," to have his blood sent faster through his veins by the spring morning, and not to dream among the autumn woods of " Thanatopsis." His " Allegra," " Fountain," and " Indian Summer Beverie," are marked by the same jubilant energy and the same apparent carelessness. Mr Lowell's diffuseness is only half redeemed by his fluency. He writes cúrrente cálamo ; and, unchecked by any spirit of reverence, contemns what he is pleased to call "the blaspheming past" and the " dotard Orient." In dealing with the forms of nature around him, he shows a keen eye and a fine sense of analogies : his images drawn from history are less successful. Few Americans know how to use the classics with reticence, and Mr Lowell's pages are infected with schoolboy commonplaces. His " Ode to Freedom," "The Present Crisis," with other semi-political and social pieces, are noble and stirring platform verse, but they will not bear analysis. His "Irene," "Bequiem," and "Beggar Bard" are marked by genuine sentiment and true pathos. But the prevailing flaw of his earlier and later serious poemsas "The Cathedral," and "Under the Willows," is the confusion of inspiration with aspiration. In the "Fable for Critics," which may be compared with Leigh Hunt's " Feast of the Poets," he breaks ground on the field in which he has found his harvest. The merit of this piece lies in its candour and the general fairness of its criticisms, in the course of which " the whole tuneful herd " of American authors are reviewed with goodhumoured banter. In several instances, as in the following, he shows himself alive to the defects which he shares with the majority of his countrymen
" Neal wants balance ; he throws his mind always too far,
And whisks out flocks of comets and never a star ;
He has so much muscle, and longs so to show it,
That he strips himself naked to prove he's a poet."
The author's style is rapid and sparkling; his points follow one another like the sparks from a Leyden jar; his love of freedom and truth and detestation of pretence are always admirable; but his earlier poems are constantly defaced by violences.
Mr Lowell informs us that the Mexican war, which he regarded as a crime perpetrated in behalf of slavery, led to the publication, in 1846, of the first of his series of "Biglow Papers." After an interval of thirteen years, the second began to appear in 1861, and closed with the war in 1865. In his preface to those remarkable productions the author makes a successful defence of the language in which they are written. The more homely standards of the present as compared with those of the last century give countenance to his mottoes"Unser Sprach ist auch ein Sprach," and "Vim rebus aliquando ipsa verborum humilitas affert." The essential to the use of a, patois is that it be natural to the writer. Mr Lowell has taken pains to show that the peculiarities of the Yankee dialect are not indigenous; that the pronunciation and meanings given to familiar words, and the employment of words now unknown in England, are authorised by the example of our elder classics. We are more concerned to know that he has been happy in his use of the words and phrases in question. The popularity of his work is in this respect a voucher for his success. The rural dialect seems to suit his genius better than the English of his university. The quasi-dramatic form he has adopted confines within limits a too discursive fancy. The letters of Mr Sawin are excellent examples of the form of satire in which contemptible qualities are stripped of their varnish by the sheer effrontery of the wearer. The style of the book is more trenchant and better matured than that of Lowell's other works, and it is really humorous. The humour of the "Biglow Papers" is broad and obvious. They derive their force from the incisive expression given to the sentiments shared by the author with a large section of his countrymen ; and the lines most frequently quoted owe everything to a startling directness, something bordering on irreverence. Mr Lowell's pioetical powers are set on fire by political zeal, and his animosity sharpens the edge of his most effective verse. The satiric scorn of the lines put into the mouth of Calhoun, with the speeches of Garrison, Phillips, and Sumner, helped to hasten the irrepressible conflict of the contending forces in the Western Continent. The second series of the " Biglow Papers " are animated by the spirit of an uncompromising Unionist as well as that of an Abolitionist. In these the poet's patriotism glows with a deeper fervour, and his songs rise out of the battlefield "like rockets druv' by their own burnin'." The graver poetry of this volume reaches a higher standard than the author has elsewhere attained. The short rural romance entitled " The Courtin'" is one of the freshest bits of pastoral in the language. The stanzas beginning " Under the yallar pines I house," and ending "A nation saved, a race delivered," are his masterpieces.
Mr John Greenleaf Whittier is the political lyrist par excellence of America; and the best of his lyrics have a verve, swing, and fire that impart "to the reader a share of the writer's enthusiasm. His verse, rapid as a torrent, is perpetually overflowing its banks. No one stands more in need of the advice once given to Southey, " squeeze out the whey;" and to no works more than to his is the maxim pleon hemisu pantos [Gk.] more applicable. There are few more graceful tales in verse than those of his " Tent on the Beach." They are remarkable for their smoothness and quiet beauty of sentiment. The music of " River-mouth Rocks," " Revisited," and the " Grave by the Lake " recalls that of Longfellow's best ballads. The most striking is the " Brother of Mercy," Piero Luca, who, like Abu Ben Adhem, loves his fellowmen. The same trust in the divine love which is the sum of Whittier's ardent faith, appears in the beautiful verses entitled "The Eternal Goodness " and " Our Master." The strongest lines in the book, addressed to " Thomas Starr King," have the rare merit of condensation. Of Whittier's national lyrics, the most powerful is " Laus Deo," the burst of acclamation suggested by the passing of Lincoln's constitutional amendment. His narrative power is best illustrated in "Maud Muller," an original and more innocent version of Browning's "Statue and the Bust," springing up in an American meadow.
The critics of one nation must, to a certain extent, regard the works of another from an outside point of view. Few are able to divest themselves wholly of the influence of local standards; and this is pre-eminently the case when the early efforts of a young country are submitted to the judgment of an older country, strong in its prescriptive rights, and intolerant of changes the drift of which it is unable or unwilling to appreciate. English critics are apt to bear down on the writers and thinkers of the New World with a sort of aristocratic hauteur; they are perpetually reminding them of their immaturity and their disregard of the golden mean. Americans, on the other hand, are impossible to please. Ordinary men among them are as sensitive to foreign, and above all to British, censure, as the irritabile genus of other lands. Mr Emerson is permitted to impress home truths on his countrymen, as " Your American eagle is very well; but beware of the American peacock." Such remarks are not permitted to Englishmen : if they point to any flaws in transatlantic manners or ways of thinking with an effort after politeness, it is "the good-natured cynicism of well-to-do age;" if they commend transatlantic institutions or achievements, it is, according to Mr Lowell, " with that pleasant European air of self-compliment in condescending to be pleased by American merit which we find so conciliating." Now that the United States have reached their full majority, it is time that England should cease to assume the attitude of their guardian, and time that they should cease to be on the alert to resent the assumption. Foremost among the more attractive features of transatlantic literature is its freshness. The authority which is the guide of old nations constantly threatens to become tyrannical: they wear their traditions like a chain; and, in the canonisation of laws of taste, the creative powers are depressed. Even in England we write under fixed conditions ; with the fear of critics before our eyes, we are all bound to cast our ideas into similar moulds, and the name of "free-thinker" has grown into a term of reproach. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is perhaps the last English book written without a thought of being reviewed. There is a gain in the habit of self-restraint fostered by this state of things; but there is a loss in the consequent lack of spontaneity; and we may learn something from a literature which is ever ready for adventures. In America the love of uniformity gives place to impetuous impulses : the most extreme sentiments are made audible, the most noxious "have their day, and cease to be ; " and truth being left to vindicate itself, the overthrow of error, though more gradual, may at last prove more complete. A New England poet can write with confidence of his country as the land
" Where no one suffers loss or bleeds
For thoughts that men call heresies."
Another feature of American literature is its comprehensiveness : what it has lost in depth it has gained in breadth. Addressing a vast audience, it appeals to universal sympathies. In the Northern States, where comparatively few have leisure to write well, almost every man, woman, and child can read and does read. Books are to be found in every log-hut, and public questions are discussed by every scavenger. During the war, when the Lowell factory girls were writing verses, the " Biglow Papers " were being recited in every smithy. The consequence is, that (setting aside the newspapers) there is little that is sectional in the popular religion or literature; it exalts and despises no class, and almost wholly ignores the lines that in other countries divide the upper ten thousand and the lower ten million. Where manners make men the people are proud of their peerage, but they blush for their boors. In the New World there are no " Grand Seigniors," and no human vegetables ; and if there are fewer giants, there are also fewer mannikins. American poets recognise no essential distinction between the " Village Blacksmith " and the " caste of Vere de Vere." Burns speaks for the one ; Byron and Tennyson for the other; Longfellow, to the extent of his genius, for both. The same spirit which glorifies labour denounces every form of despotism but that of the multitude. American slavery, being an anachronism based on the antipathies of race, was worse than Athenian slavery. But there is no song of an Athenian slave. When the ancients were unjust to their inferiors, they were so without moral disquietude : the lie had got into the soul. Christianity, which substituted the word " brother " for " barbarian," first gave meaning to the word "humanity." But the feudalism of the Middle Ages long contended successfully against the higher precepts of the church : the teaching of Froissart held its ground against that of Langland. The hero-worship of our greatest living author is apt to degenerate into a reassertion of the feudal spirit. The aspirations of our descendants in the West point, on the other hand, to a freedom which is in danger of being corrupted by licence. But if the vulgarism of demagogic excess is restrained and overcome by the good taste and culture of her nobler minds, we may anticipate for the literature of America, under the mellowing influences of time, an illustrious future. (J. N.)
The above article was written by John Nichol, LL.D.; Professor of Logic and English Literature in Glasgow University, 1862-89; author of The Death of Themistocles and other Poems, Byron and Carlyle in English Men of Letters Series; Robert Burns: A Summary of his Career and Genius; and American Literature, reprinted from Encyclopaedia Britannica, ninth ed.
Washington Irving Edgar Allan Poe
Commentary on above article, American Literature.
(First of three parts)