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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, IX (search)
hood; the one representing all promise, the other all despair. Mr. Henry James, who proves his innate kindness of heart by the constancy with which he is always pitying somebody, turns the full fervor of his condolence on Hawthorne for dwelling amid the narrowing influences of a Concord atmosphere. But if those influences gave us The Scarlet Letter and Emerson's Essays, does it not seem almost a pity that we cannot extend that same local atmosphere, as President Lincoln proposed to do with Grant's whiskey, to some of our other generals? The dweller in a metropolis has the advantage, if such it be, of writing immediately for a few thousand people, all whose prejudices he knows and perhaps shares. He writes to a picked audience; but he who dwells in a country without a metropolis has the immeasurably greater advantage of writing for an audience which is, so to speak, unpicked, and which, therefore, includes the picked one, as an apple includes its core. One does not need to be a
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XIV (search)
ountry? Had Mr. Gosse been a New Yorker, writing in a London magazine, would any one on either side of the Atlantic have seriously cared whether Mr. Gosse thought that contemporary England had produced a poet? The reason why the criticisms of these two Englishmen have attracted such widespread notice among us is that they have the accumulated literary weight—the ex oriente lux—of London behind them. We accept them meekly and almost reverently; just as we even accept the criticisms made on Grant and Sheridan by Lord Wolseley, who is, compared to either of these generals, but a carpet knight. It is in some such way that we must explain the meek gratitude with which our press receives it, when Mr. Bryce apologizes for our deficiencies in the way of literature. Mr. Bryce—whom, it is needless to say, I regard with hearty admiration, and I can add with personal affection, since he has been my guest and I have been his—Mr. Bryce has a chapter on Creative Intellectual Power, in which
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XVI (search)
no larger than a fox and had five toes. In science, plot is not only not ignored, but it is almost everything; only it is not called plot, it is called evolution. And conversely, what is called evolution in science is called plot in fiction. Grant that character is first in importance, as it doubtless is, yet plot is the development of character. It is not enough to paint Arthur Dimmesdale, standing with his hand on his heart and despair in his eyes; to paint the hand anatomically correctre happy in having this rose-tinted veil in our temperaments; but the plot and the tragedy are there. The innocent, says Thoreau speaking of life, enjoy the story. They should be permitted to enjoy it, which they cannot do unless they have it. Grant that character is the important thing; but character will soon dwindle and its delineation grow less and less interesting, if we detach it from life. We are all but coral-insects or sea-anemones forming a part of one great joint existence, and w
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XVIII (search)
on named, and enumerated in the Cleveland catalogue. The actual works of the author himself are not included. The list is as follows:— Washington.48 Emerson, Lincoln (each)41 Franklin 37 Webster34 Longfellow33 Hawthorne25 Jefferson23 Grant22 Irving21 Clay19 Beecher, Poe, M. F. Ossoli (each)16 Theodore Parker, Lowell (each)15 John Adams, Sumner (each)14 Cooper, Greeley, Sheridan, Sherman (each)12 Everett11 John Brown, Channing, Farragut (each)10 Garrison, Hamilton, Prescotticates—about the recluse scholar as about the martyr-president. The prominence of Washington and Franklin was to be expected, but that Longfellow should come so near Webster, and that both he and Hawthorne should distinctly precede Jefferson and Grant, affords surely some sensations of surprise. Again, there is something curious in the fact that Poe should stand bracketed, as they say of examination papers, with the Margaret Fuller whom he detested; that the classic Everett should fall so far
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, The new world and the new book, XX (search)
ing with any special reference to the Greeks. The fate of the ancient classics among us was long since settled. When the successor of Dr. Popkin was made President of Harvard College, in 1860, he virtually surrendered his traditions by translating the Greek quotations in his Inaugural Address; and what President Felton did for the elder language, President Eliot did for the Latin when he at the 250th anniversary of that institution, bestowed the honorary degrees in most sonorous English. Grant that the authors now share with all other writers, in all languages and departments, the limitations of the life of man, it is plain that those limitations bring the greatest change to those two languages which were once thought to hold all knowledge in their grasp. But the same stern restriction makes itself felt in all directions; the age has outgrown its few simple and convenient playthings, and must choose amid a myriad of edgetools. There will never be another universal scholar. Th