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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 1: discontinuance of the guide-board (search)
ssalle. The new generation, wrote Heine, means to enjoy itself and make the best of the visible; we of the older one bowed humbly before the invisible, yearned after shadow kisses and blue-flower fragrances, denied ourselves, wept and smiled and were perhaps happier than these fierce gladiators who walk so proudly to meet their death-struggle. The blue-flower allusion is to the favorite ideal symbol of the German Novalis; and certainly the young men who grew up fifty or sixty years ago in America obtained some 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 Daug
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 13: the dream of the republic (search)
ally desire to see these Hispano-American states exist as republics, and work out their own salvation; or whether we wish for them the probable fate of the Boer republic, as European colonies. Dr. Jameson, taking his way back to England nominally a prisoner, was immediately sung as a hero by the new poet-laureate, and came very near to being a petted lion in London society. It is a matter seriously to be considered by us whether it is best or not best that every Hispano--American state in America should have its Jameson. This at least may be said: The test of one's real love of liberty and of republican government is that one should not believe them to be the destiny of a single race or language only, but of all nations. Grant that the South Americans are impetuous, turbulent, unsettled; they are not more so than the mixed races whom the Roman Empire left on the British Isles when it withdrew from them. To this day there are no roads on those islands so good, no walls so solid,
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 16: Anglomania and Anglophobia (search)
e Civil War, it seems, a class in the Training College, which Arnold was inspecting, had it as a subject to write an imaginary letter from an English emigrant in America in regard to matters here, and there is really not one per cent., Arnold writes, who does not take the strongest possible side for the Confederates; and you know the Times and the Saturday Review, and by the London penny-a-liners, all studiously working to destroy all English sympathy in the minds of that literary class in America which should be, in case of need, most friendly to England. It is impossible to estimate how much this petty literary antagonism has done to furnish fuel for theceive such scorn in return, this demands of us too much humility or too complete an indifference. Les Contemporains, IV., 299. The so-called jingo feeling in America — which seems, to the present writer, a peril and an anachronism — will never be fully comprehended except by studying the kindred condition of the French mind, a
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 17: English and American gentlemen (search)
w York, in Washington, one often encounters eminent men who have worked with their hands. In England these men would have carried for life the stamp of that experience — some misplaced h, some Yorkshire burr would have stamped them forever. In America the corresponding drawbacks have been easily effaced and swept away. No doubt climate and temperament have something to do with this difference, but the recognized social theory has more. It grows largely out of the changed definition of the word gentleman. In America this altered classification has let down the bars. The word gentleman denotes a class that is henceforward accessible to merit. The other defect of the English standard is that it perpetuates, even inside those who rank as gentlemen, a permanent feudalism, a wholly artificial standard of social subordination. This lasts even to the present time. In the autobiography of Anthony Trollope there is an especial chapter on the question, How a literary man should treat
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 21: international marriages (search)
by public employment, he can fairly expect to reach the ranks of the titled classes; and thenceforward, if he plays his cards well, he may climb higher and higher. This is a privilege wholly different in kind from anything that wealth gives in America. Moreover, some of the best natural instincts assist this tendency. Every parent wishes to provide for his offspring. Now riches have wings, but a place in the peerage has not. The pauper son of the millionaire is nobody, but the earl's son finds such drawbacks as this; while he who merely regards wealth as a personal privilege and as something to be spent wholly for his own gratification, likes naturally to be where that privilege is largest; and this is clearly in Europe, not in America. Women, to whom the external charm of aristocratic life is greatest, and who have only lately begun to philosophize about social progress, are naturally more blinded than men to the real drawbacks of that brilliant society. Hence the greater p
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 27: the antidote to money (search)
owledge is obtained is not the question. Like the snubbed man of the world in the inimitable Dolly Dialogues, these witnesses may at least claim that if they do not meet Lord Mickleham socially they know his valet. Even in the smaller field of America it is known that old John, the black head-waiter at the Ocean House, in Newport, used to furnish regular material for certain lady journalists by his hints of conversations overheard, reminiscences of family history, and even descriptions of dreor more wives than their fellows. But the thing which gives the utmost prestige to wealth is its power to intrench itself in the form of hereditary aristocracy. Great wealth is, in its last analysis, powerless to obtain great social prizes in America, because there are no such prizes. It can at the utmost spend a great deal of money for a while, but that is all it can do. Let us suppose that it can even buy a Presidency-but what is that? Four years of torment, and then the rest is silence.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 28: the really interesting people (search)
ng geologist; if we had looked at his brother, Professor J. D. Whitney, of Harvard, we should have seen a rising philologist. At a certain period of life they exchanged pursuits; the student of languages gave his brother a Sanskrit grammar, and took in exchange his geological tools. Nothing that either has accomplished, although both have done much, is more essentially interesting than this early interchange of life-work. Fortunately for all concerned, there is always a period, even in America, when the young look with a certain admiration and envy on the old, and sometimes, for five minutes at a time, would even change places with them. The old discreetly hold their tongues and accept the sort of supremacy thus forced upon them. So long as they say nothing, the mistaken impression stands. Sir Robert Walpole, who lived to be nearly eighty, remarked of his coeval, Lord Tyrawley, Tyrawley and I have been dead for two years, but we don't tell anybody. Long before reaching that
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 32: the disappearance of ennui (search)
led; domestic service alone is a perpetual conflict. It is only in Europe that one has leisure for ennui. The situation which made until recently the staple of English novels was that which Mrs. Walford's story of Mr. Smith represents-that of a comfortably provided family, where half a dozen maidens toil not, neither do they spin, but simply sit all day looking out of the window, watching for some rich stranger to come and marry them. This dreary condition finds as yet no counterpart in America. The great success of Little Women in England was largely due, no doubt, to the novelty of the situation there rendered — the family of maidens, all poor, all busy, all happy, and all content to wait to be wooed and won as it might please Providence. What with higher education and lectures and clubs and charity work, the difficulty is to find an unoccupied young woman in any family. That old life, so blameless and aimless, seems to have passed away. There are still plenty of maiden aunt