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VII On literary tonics some minor English critic wrote lately of Dr. Holmes's Life of Emerson: The Boston of his day does not seem to have been a very strong place; we lack performance. This is doubtless to be attributed rather to ignorance than to that want of seriousness which Mr. Stedman so justly points out among the younger Englishmen. The Boston of which he speaks was the Boston of Garrison and Phillips, of Whittier and Theodore Parker; it was the headquarters of those old-time ab
and Lowell; not that they would not have been conspicuous in any case, but that the moral attribute in their natures might have been far less marked.
The great temporary fame of Mrs. Stowe was identified with the same influence.
Hawthorne and Holmes were utterly untouched by the antislavery agitation, yet both yielded to the excitement of the war, and felt in some degree its glow.
It elicited from Aldrich his noble Fredericksburg sonnet.
Stedman, Stoddard, and Bayard Taylor wrote war songs
XXI The decline of the sentimental at a private charitable reading, held lately a in Boston, it was noticed that the younger part of the audience responded but slightly in the way of sympathy to Dr. Holmes's poem on the Moore Festival, while to the older guests the allusions seemed all very familiar and even touching. The waning of sympathy for Moore and his Irish Melodies simply shows the diminished hold of the sentimental upon us, taking that word to represent a certain rather melodramatic self-consciousness, a tender introspection in the region of the heart, a kind of studious cosseting of one's finer feelings. Perhaps it is not generally recognized how much more abundant was this sort of thing forty years ago than now, and how it moulded the very temperaments of those who were born into it, and grew up under it. Byron had as much to do with creating it as any one in England; but more probably it goes back to Rousseau in France; hardly, I should think to Petrarch, to whom