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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 1: discontinuance of the guide-board (search)
of their very best tonic influences through such thoroughly ideal tales as that writer's Heinrich von Offerdingen, Fouque's Sintram, Hoffmann's Goldene Topf, and Richter's Titan, whether these were read in the original German or in the translations of Carlyle, Brooks, and others. All these books are now little sought, and rather alien to the present taste. To these were added, in English, such tales as Poe's William Wilson and Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Rappaccini's Daughter,; and, in French, Balzac's Le Peau de Chagrin, which Professor Longfellow used warmly to recommend to his college pupils. Works like these represented the prevailing sentiment of a period; they exerted a distinct influence on the moulding of a generation. Their moral was irresistible for those who really cared enough for the books to read them; they needed no guide-boards; the guide-board was for the earlier efforts at realism, before it had proved its strength. Realism has since achieved its maturity,
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 8: local fiction (search)
r delightful sketch called Heart's-ease, describes Miss Lucinda, who, after a lifetime of bondage to her stern father, the Judge, is released by his death, and plunges immediately into the wild delights, before prohibited, of riding on horseback and wearing flowers in her bonnet. Miss Brown, after writing this, heard for the first time of another maiden lady-also the daughter of a very repressive judge — who celebrated a similar emancipation by immediately taking music lessons and studying French, she having been prohibited these indulgences up to the age of fifty. In the same way, since she imagined the two old ladies in the alms-house who divided their joint room by a chalk-line and made calls on each other, she is said to have encountered old ladies who could name the very house where the thing occurred; and after writing Told in the poorhouse, she was informed that the estranged couple were still living. In truth, the writer of realistic fiction must boldly write not merely wha
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 22: more mingled races (search)
ood, who was for more than half a century city missionary at Lowell, and who watched the whole change from American to Irish factory girls, told me that in one respect it brought a distinct moral improvement: the ignorant Irish girls were more uniformly chaste than the Protestant farmers' daughters whom they superseded. Now the French Canadians have replaced the Irish; but a Protestant physician of great experience, whose practice included several large manufacturing villages, almost wholly French, told me that he had never known an illegitimate birth to occur there. At the old North end of Boston, where Irish superseded Americans, and have now given place to Italians and Russian Jews, a city missionary has testified to a moral improvement from the change; the Italians, though quarrelsome, are temperate, and he says that he never saw a Jew intoxicated. No doubt the prisons show a larger proportion of foreigners than of natives, because the foreigners represent the poorer class and
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 32: the disappearance of ennui (search)
occupation. When we look further at it, one is tempted to doubt whether ennui is not, among us Americans, a tradition rather than a reality. Fortunately for the world, we know that certain sins die out as the world goes on; the fact of sin may remain, but the forms change. Ennui is not the vice of a new country, but the slow malaria of an old one. For the purposes of this disease we are still too young. It is, according to Byron, a peculiarly English affliction, although the name be French: For ennui is a growth of English root, Though nameless in our language; we retort The fact for words, and let the French translate That awful yawn which sleep cannot abate. We have still too much of the Puritan in us, as a nation; have too many cares and duties and missions; we still work too hard and marry too young — for ennui, properly so called. We exhibit overwork, not underwork; our appointed disease is not ennui, but nervous prostration. It may be no better; it may even be wors