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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book 40 0 Browse Search
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Walcott Boynton, Reader's History of American Literature 30 0 Browse Search
Cambridge History of American Literature: volume 3 (ed. Trent, William Peterfield, 1862-1939., Erskine, John, 1879-1951., Sherman, Stuart Pratt, 1881-1926., Van Doren, Carl, 1885-1950.) 14 0 Browse Search
Bliss Perry, The American spirit in lierature: a chronicle of great interpreters 10 0 Browse Search
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Olde Cambridge 6 0 Browse Search
Lydia Maria Child, Letters of Lydia Maria Child (ed. John Greenleaf Whittier, Wendell Phillips, Harriet Winslow Sewall) 4 0 Browse Search
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 2 0 Browse Search
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Browsing named entities in Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book. You can also browse the collection for W. D. Howells or search for W. D. Howells in all documents.

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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, The New world and the New book (search)
this American tendency comes to its highest point and is best indicated in the later work of Mr. Howells. Happy is that author whose final admirers are, as heroes used to say, the captives of his bis own genius, and not to take the opinions of others for his guide. And the earlier work of Mr. Howells —that is, everything before The Rise of Silas Lapham, Annie Kilburn, and The Hazard of New Fourer work begins. As the Emperor Alaric felt always an unseen power drawing him on to Rome, so Howells has evidently felt a magnet drawing him on to New York, and it was not until he set up his canveems a high price to pay for the privileges either of genius or of loafing, but it is well that Howells has at last paid it for the sake of the results. It is impossible to deny that he as a criticland; if England prefers dime novels and cut-and-thrust Christmas melodramas, and finds in what Howells writes only transatlantic kickshaws because he paints character and life, we must say, as our f
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, VII (search)
be brought into the discussion. Mr. James has no doubt placed himself as far as possible beyond reach of the Civil War by keeping the Atlantic Ocean between him and the scene where it occurred; but when I recall that I myself saw his youngest brother, still almost a boy, lying near to death, as it then seemed, in a hospital at Beaufort, S. C., after the charge on Fort Wagner, I can easily imagine that the Civil War may really leave done something for Mr. James's development, after all. Mr. Howells has scarcely yet given up taking the heroes of his books from among those who had gone through a similar ordeal, and it will be many years before the force of that great impulse is spent. For one thing, the results of the war have liberated the Southern literary genius, and that part of the nation, so strangely unprolific till within twenty-five years, is now arresting its full share of attention, and perhaps even more than its share. It is difficult to say just how far the influence
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, VIII (search)
irst step toward what you seek. Nowhere will you find a more racy personality than among New England farmers, whose fathers lived before them on the same soil, or perhaps six generations of ancestors, and who, among all restrictions of hard soil and severe competition, have yet kept their separate characteristics. I have spent summer after summer in the country, and have never yet encountered two farmers alike—two who would not, even if drawn by an unsympathetic though acute observer like Howells, stand out on the canvas with as marked an individuality as Silas Lapham. It is so with our native-born population generally. In the best volume of New England stories ever written—it is perhaps needless to say that I refer to Five Hundred Dollars a Year and Other Stories, by Mr. H. W. Chaplin—there is an inimitable scene in a jury-room where the hero, Eli, holds out during many hours for the innocence of a wronged man. The jurymen are commonplace personages enough—a sea captain, a butc
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XIII (search)
Anatomy of Melancholy are tiresome, because they are all made up of background, and that of the craggiest description; but, after all, the books which offer only foreground are also insufficient. I do not see how any one can read the essays of Howells and James and Burroughs, for instance, after reading those of Emerson or Lowell or Thoreau, without noticing in the younger trio a somewhat narrowed range of allusion and illustration; a little deficiency in that mellow richness of soil which carvest that was merely ploughed in. While I am therefore proud, as an American, of the clever writing and even of the genius of many of the authors who owe nothing to colleges; and while I rejoice to see it demonstrated as has been shown by Mr. Howells and Mr. James, that much of the strength and delicacy of English style can be attained without early academic training; I think that it is unsafe to let our criticism stop here. We need the advantage of the background; the flavor of varied c
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XVI (search)
was said of the romantic Muse in Germany —of the Pegasus, or winged horse of Uhland—that, like its colleague, the famous war-horse Bayard, it possessed all possible virtues and but one fault, that it was dead. It is in this decisive way that Mr. Howells and others deal with the plot in stories and dramas; they decline to argue the matter, but simply assert that the plot is extinct. If any one doubts the assertion they would perhaps still decline to argue the matter, and simply extend the assWalpole's old statesman, have been dead these two years; but we don't let anybody know it. In the matter of literary criticism, however, the fact is just the other way. The critics who cling to the plot are not aware of their own demise; but Mr. Howells has found it out. To find it out is justly to silence them; for, as Charles Lamb says in his poem exemplifying the lapidary style, which the late Mr. Mellish never could abide:-- It matters very little what Mellish said, Because he is dead.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XVIII (search)
as we are likely to obtain to a National gallery of eminent persons. It is easily to be seen that no similar gallery of living persons would have much value. It is not, ordinarily, until after a man's death that serious criticism or biography begins. Comparing a few living names, we find that there are already, in the Cleveland catalogue, subsidiary references to certain living persons, as follows:— Holmes, Whittier12 Mrs. Stowe8 Whitman5 Ex-President Cleveland4 Harte3 Blaine, Howells, James2 Hale, Parkman1 These figures, so far as they go, exhibit the same combination of public and literary service with those previously given. Like those, they effectually dispose of the foolish tradition that republican government tends to a dull mediocrity. Here we see a people honoring by silent suffrages their National leaders, and recording the votes in the catalogue of every town library. There is no narrow rivalry between literature and statesmanship, or between either of
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XX (search)
and perennial felicity! no vacillation, no variableness or shadow of turning; no doubting between literature or science, still 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 treasure-houses elsewhere; so that Mr. Howells would bid us all learn Russian and Mr. Boyesen the Scandinavian tongues. Who could have foreseen the relentless Max Miller, marshalling before us by dozens the Oriental religions; and Mr. Fitzgerald concentrating the wonders of them all into Omar Khayyam, who offers no religion whatever, and makes denial more eloquent than faith? Who had then dreamed of the Shakespearian literature, the Dantean literature, the Goethean literature; even the literature of Petrarch, as catalogued by Prof.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XXI (search)
ly such, but if that early period had emotional freedom and epanchement, our old age will have the same. Those who were in the current of the transcendental movement that swept through Europe and America half a century ago, will probably always have a touch of sentimentalism in their sympathies, a little exuberance somewhere, even when the outside is hard or constrained; and even those who belong to a later school may show traces of that which prevailed when they were in their cradles, as Howells's volume of poems opens with the sentimental and even beautiful strains of Forlorn. This, then, was the path through which he came to Silas Lapham and Lemuel Barker; and very likely, when Mr. Henry James's biography comes to be written, he may yet be found to have begun by taking tremulous footsteps in some such romantic path. After all, sentimentalism is a thing immortal, for it represents the slight overplus and excess of youthful emotion; it bears the same relation to the deeper feelin
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XXIII (search)
mpression that there is no honesty in anything but a knock-down blow, and that all finer touches are significant of sin; that boxing is a manly exercise, in short, while fencing is not. It is a curious fact, however, that as the best American manners incline to the French and not the English model, so the tendency of American literary style is to the finer methods, quicker repartees, and more delicate turns. People complain, and with some justice, of a certain thinness in the material of Mr. Howells's conversations; but his phrases are not so thin as the edge of a Damascus blade, and where the life itself is to be reached, this keenness has a certain advantage. We are constantly told by English critics that in real life people do not talk in this way, to which the answer is, that the scene of his novels is not laid in England. Lightness of touch is the final test of power. Ou il n'y a point de delicatesse, il n'y a point de literature. Joubert goes on to add that where there is sh
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XXIV (search)
as if his offences had been seventy times seven. Now, whatever may be said of current tendencies it American literature, it may at least be claimed that our leading novelists do not tilt back their chairs or put their feet upon the table. Mr. Howells, for instance, has his defects, and may be proceeding, just now, upon a theory too narrow; but it is impossible to deny that he recognizes the minor morals of literary art. His sentences hold well together; he does not gush, does not straggle,bearance; he does not, like Clark Russell, keep his heroine for nearly a year running about half-clothed over scorching rocks upon a tropical island, and then go into raptures over the dazzling whiteness of her bosom. So in the use of language, Howells does not, like Hardy, write tactical observation where he means tactful; or, like Haggard, say those sort of reflections. It is a curious thing that on the very points where America formerly went to school to England, we should now have to prai
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