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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, V (search)
orting American authors to a proper humility, because we forget that the invention of printing has in a manner placed all nations on a level. Literature is the only art whose choicest works are easily transportable. Once secure a public library in every town—a condition now in process of fulfilment in our older American States —and every bright boy or girl has a literary Louvre and Vatican at command. Given a taste for literature and there are at hand all the masters of the art—Plato and Homer, Cicero and Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe. Travel is still needed, but not for books—only for other forms of art, for variety of acquaintanceship, and for the habit of dealing with men and women of many nationalities. The most fastidious American in Europe should not look with shame, but with pride and hope, upon those throngs of his fellow-countrymen whom he sees crowding the art-galleries of Europe, looking about them as ignorantly, if you please, as the German barbarians when
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XIII (search)
duction, the moment he undertakes to write history or philosophy or criticism, he feels the need of something besides creative power, something which may be called a literary background. His readers, at any rate, demand for him, if he does not perceive the need of it for himself, that there shall be something which suggests a wide and flexible training, with large vistas of knowledge. They like to see in him that full man who is made, as Lord Bacon says, by reading. One main reason why Homer and Plato and Horace and even Dante seem to supply more of this kind of fulness than can be got from an equivalent study of Balzac and Ruskin, is doubtless because the older authors are remoter, and so make the vista look more wide. The vaster the better; but there must be enough of it, at least, to convey a distinct sensation of background. Of course, when this background obtrudes itself into the foreground, it becomes intolerable; and such books as Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy are tire
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XVII (search)
rt themselves into the work of their authors; thus Chapman so Chapmanizes Homer that in the long run his version fails to give pleasure; andnd here I should utterly dissent from him. The best introduction to Homer in English is Matthew Arnold's Essay on Translating Homer; or ratheHomer; or rather it would be, but for its needless and diffuse length, which prevents many persons from really mastering it; but I do not see how any one, a want of almost all the qualities defined by Arnold as essential to Homer. Mr. Lawton has finely said, at the beginning of his admirable papnd while they are grave and dignified, as his critic says, they are Homer with the fire of Homer—or, in other words, with Homer himself—left Homer himself—left out. But the real translator of the Father of Poetry is, in my judgment, one whom Mr. Boyesen does not name, and perhaps does not yet know, snearest approach that can be had in English to the actual rhythm of Homer. Professor Palmer will now have to solve the further and more diff<
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XX (search)
years to a regular course of Greek writers. He arranged them in a three years course, and when they were ended he began again. The only exception was in case of Homer, whose works he read every year for a month at the seashore—the proper place to read Homer, he said; and, as he also pointed out, there were twenty-four week-days Homer, he said; and, as he also pointed out, there were twenty-four week-days in a month, and by taking a book of the Iliad before dinner, and a book of the Odyssey after dinner, he just finished his pleasant task. On rainy days, when he could not walk, he threw in the Homeric hymns; he moreover read a newspaper once a week, and occasionally ran through a few pages of Virgil and Cicero, just to satisfy himll less between this or that department of literature. Since all advisers bid us read only the best books, why not follow their counsel, and keep to Aeschylus and Homer? Who could have foreseen, in Dr. Popkin's day, the vast expansion of modern literatures, which, after exhausting all the Latin races, keeps opening upon us new
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XXII (search)
icited even a biography. Had Shelley been the contented husband of one wife, or had Poe selected any one city to dwell in and dwelt there, it is certain that the Shelley literature and the Poe literature would have been far slenderer in dimensions, though the genius of the poets might have remained the same. It is the personal qualities, in such cases, that multiply the publications, though it is quite true, on the other side, that Poe might have lived unnoticed in more cities than claimed Homer had it not been for The Raven, and that Shelley might have had as many wives as a Mormon but for The Skylark. As time goes on, it is the thought of the poet more than the gossip about his life which holds and creates literature, and there are always a dozen who wish to unlock the mystery of Hamlet for one who demands positive evidence as to Shakespeare's wedded bliss. But, however we explain it, there is such a tendency of study and criticism toward concentration on single figures, that n
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XXVI (search)
omes to be benefited by an actual return of reputation— as athletes get beyond the period of breathlessness, and come to their second wind. Yet this is constantly happening. Emerson, visiting Landor in 1847, wrote in his diary, He pestered me with Southey—but who is Southey? Now, Southey had tasted fame more promptly than his greater contemporaries, and liked the taste so well that he held his own poems far superior to those of Wordsworth, and wrote of them, With Virgil, with Tasso, with Homer, there are fair grounds of comparison. Then followed a period during which the long shades of oblivion seemed to have closed over the author of Madoc and Kehama. Behold! in 1886 the Pall Mall Gazette, revising through the best critics Sir James Lubbock's Hundred Best Books, dethrones Byron, Shelley, Coleridge, Lamb, and Landor; omits them all, and reinstates the forgotten Southey once more. Is this the final award of fate? No: it is simply the inevitable swing of the pendulum. Southey
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, Index (search)
198, 202, 205. Hale, E. E., 101. Hamerton, P. G., 168. Hardenberg, Friedrich von, 99. Hardy, A. S., 15, 202. Haring, John, 6. Harte, Bret, 11, 57, 58. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 9, 41, 66, 84, 124, 126, 155, 218, 219. Hayley, William, 217, 218. Hayward Memoirs, the, 82, 226. Hazlitt, William, 216. Heine, Heinrich, 90, 109, 142, 159, 189, 229. Hemans, F. D., 179. High-water marks, concerning, 97. Hogg, James, 169. Holmes, O. W., 54, 62, 67, 97, 99, 178, 205. Holt, Henry, 172. Homer, 48, 98, 114, 169, 171, 190, 217. Horace, 16, 48, 99, 114. Houghton, Lord, 19, 56, 62, 94. Howells, W. D., 13, 15, 66, 114, 118, 171, 184, 194, 201, 202, 210, 229. Howe, E. W. 11. Howe, Julia Ward, 67, 100. Hugo, Victor, 49, 56, 68, 110. Humboldt, A. von, 73, 176. Humor, American, perils of, 128. Hutchinson, Ellen M., 101, 102. Huxley, T. H., 137, 158. I. Ideals, personal, 106. Iffland, A. W., 90. International copyright law, 122. Irving, Washington, 1, 2, 3, 4