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John Mitchell (search for this): chapter 11
this respect worse than English toryism, -that it does not even retain a hearty faith in the past. It is better that a man should have eyes in the back of his head than that he should be taught to sneer at even a retrospective vision. One may believe that the golden age is behind us, or before us, but alas for the forlorn wisdom of him who rejects it altogether! It is not the climax of culture that a college graduate should emulate the obituary praise bestowed by Cotton Mather on the Rev. John Mitchell of Cambridge, a truly aged young man. Better a thousand times train a boy on Scott's novels or the Border ballads than educate him to believe, on the one side, that chivalry was a cheat and the troubadours imbeciles, and on the other hand, that universal suffrage is an absurdity and the one real need is to get rid of our voters. The alleged obstacle of material prosperity. 2. It is further alleged that there is serious danger to literature in a period of overwhelming material
John Keats (search for this): chapter 11
ere be an intellectual world outside of science, where is the boundary-line of that world? We pass this line, it would seem, whenever we enter the realm usually called intuitive or inspirational; a realm whose characteristic it is that it is not subject to processes or measurable by tests. The yield of this .outer world may be as real as that of the scientific world, but its methods are not traceable, nor are its achievements capable of being duplicated by the mere force of patient will. Keats, in one of his fine letters, classifies the universe, and begins boldly with things real, as sun, moon, and passages of Shakespeare. Sun and moon lie within the domain of science; not long since, to speak of one instance, came that extraordinary discovery which has revealed in the bright star Algol a system of three and perhaps four stellar bodies, revolving round each other and influencing each other's motions, and this at a distance so great that the rays of light which reveal them left t
Nathaniel Hawthorne (search for this): chapter 11
much of the material of art in its sturdiness, its enthusiasm, and its truthfulness. To deny this is to see in art only something frivolous and insincere. Major John Hathorne put his offenders on trial and convicted and hanged them all. Nathaniel Hawthorne held his more spiritual tribunal two centuries later, and his keener scrutiny found some ground of vindication for each one. The fidelity, the thoroughness, the conscientious purpose, were the same in each. Each sought to rest his work, as all art must in the end rest, upon the absolute truth. The writer kept, no doubt, something of the sombreness of the magistrate; each nevertheless suffered in the woes he studied; and as Nathaniel Hawthorne had a knot of pain in his forehead all winter while meditating the doom of Arthur Dimmesdale, so may the other have borne upon his brow the trace of Martha Corey's grief. A real obstacle. No, it does not seem that the obstacle to a new birth of literature and art in America lies i
David A. Wasson (search for this): chapter 11
his is the case, for instance, with Longfellow's Hiawatha, Lowell's Commemoration Ode, Holmes's Chambered Nautilus, Whittier's Snow-bound, Mrs. Howe's Battle Hymn, Whitman's My Captain, Aldrich's Fredericksburg sonnet, Helen Jackson's Spinning, Thoreau's Smoke, Bayard Taylor's Song of the Camp, Emerson's Daughters of time, Burroughs's Serene I Fold my hands, Piatt's The morning Street, Mrs. Hooper's I slept and dreamed that life was beauty, Stedman's Thou art mine, Thou hast given thy word, Wasson's All's well, Brownlee Brown's Thalatta, Ellery Channing's To-morrow, Harriet Spofford's In a summer evening, Lanier's Marshes of Glynn, Mrs. Moulton's The closed gate, Eugene Field's Little boy Blue, John Hay's The Stirrup Cup, Forceythe Willson's Old Sergeant, Emily Dickinson's Vanished, Celia Thaxter's Sandpiper, and so on. All of these may not be immortal poems, but they are at least the boats which seem likely to bear the authors' names into the future. If it is hard to make individu
ld it please you very much, asks Thackeray's Warrington of Pendennis, to have been the author of Hayley's verses? Yet Hayley was, in his day, as Southey testifies, by popular election the king of theHayley was, in his day, as Southey testifies, by popular election the king of the English poets; and he was held so important a personage that he received, what probably no other author ever has won, a large income for the last twelve years of his life in return for the prospecti 1786, ranks him and the equally forgotten Mason as the two foremost poets of the day; she calls Hayley's poems magnolias, roses, and amaranths, and pronounces his esteem a distinction greater than moof ten who shall read these lines will have to consult a biographical dictionary to find out who Hayley was; while his odd protege, William Blake, whom the fine ladies of his day wondered at Hayley foHayley for patronizing, is now a favorite with lovers of literature and art. It makes indeed a part of the magic of new books that no man can guess securely at their future. I remember vividly the surprise
ackeray's Warrington of Pendennis, to have been the author of Hayley's verses? Yet Hayley was, in his day, as Southey testifies, by popular election the king of the English poets; and he was held so important a personage that he received, what probably no other author ever has won, a large income for the last twelve years of his life in return for the prospective copyright of his posthumous memoirs. Miss Anna Seward, writing to Sir Walter Scott in 1786, ranks him and the equally forgotten Mason as the two foremost poets of the day; she calls Hayley's poems magnolias, roses, and amaranths, and pronounces his esteem a distinction greater than monarchs hold it in their power to bestow. Yet probably nine out of ten who shall read these lines will have to consult a biographical dictionary to find out who Hayley was; while his odd protege, William Blake, whom the fine ladies of his day wondered at Hayley for patronizing, is now a favorite with lovers of literature and art. It makes i
Noah Webster (search for this): chapter 11
undamental difficulty for fallible critics is to determine which is the Pasha's horse and which is the beetle. The Fallibility of Criticim. Even in dealing with the past, it is possible to go hopelessly wrong in one's judgment of individuals, books or writers. For instance, Addison still stands, traditionally, at the head of English prose writers, in respect to style; but from his account of the greatest English poets he omits the names of Shakespeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger, Webster and Marlowe; a tolerably correct list of the leading dramatic poets in the English tongue. One might almost say that he wrote his list through time's telescope reversed. In the same way Ruskin rules out from his list of English poets Shelley and Coleridge. One might hope that the good taste or vanity of the great poets themselves would restore the balance of their own fame, at least, but Tennyson wrote in his later years, I feel as if my life had been a useless life; and Longfellow said,
Nathaniel Parker Willis (search for this): chapter 11
for those whose opportunities for forming a sound judgment are exceptional. The American verdict. It is interesting to note in this connection that in estimating contemporary English writers during the nineteenth century, America was more just than England. The successive leaders of English literature, such as Lamb, Carlyle, Tennyson and Browning, were apt to be recognized first in America. Shelley tells us how utterly ignored Charles Lamb was in his prime by the English public, and Willis tells us that it was not so in America. He says in his Letters from under a Bridge--his only thoroughly attractive book--How profoundly dull was England to the merits of Charles Lamb until he died. . . . America was posterity to him. The writings of all our young authors were tinctured with imitation of his style, when in England (as I personally know) it was difficult to light upon a person who had read Elia. It was an American, Charles Stearns Wheeler, one of Emerson's early disciples, w
Celia Thaxter (search for this): chapter 11
on's Daughters of time, Burroughs's Serene I Fold my hands, Piatt's The morning Street, Mrs. Hooper's I slept and dreamed that life was beauty, Stedman's Thou art mine, Thou hast given thy word, Wasson's All's well, Brownlee Brown's Thalatta, Ellery Channing's To-morrow, Harriet Spofford's In a summer evening, Lanier's Marshes of Glynn, Mrs. Moulton's The closed gate, Eugene Field's Little boy Blue, John Hay's The Stirrup Cup, Forceythe Willson's Old Sergeant, Emily Dickinson's Vanished, Celia Thaxter's Sandpiper, and so on. All of these may not be immortal poems, but they are at least the boats which seem likely to bear the authors' names into the future. If it is hard to make individual predictions, when we turn to the collective forecast for a nation we enter upon a larger and doubtless more difficult subject, which the infinite possibilities of war or other The Collecnational complication make harder tive Forestill. No such forecast can ever cast. go very far for a nation wh
Ralph Waldo Emerson (search for this): chapter 11
his style, when in England (as I personally know) it was difficult to light upon a person who had read Elia. It was an American, Charles Stearns Wheeler, one of Emerson's early disciples, who collected in the Athenaeum library the scattered numbers of Fraser's magazine, thus bringing together the fragments of Sartor Resartus, whiound, Mrs. Howe's Battle Hymn, Whitman's My Captain, Aldrich's Fredericksburg sonnet, Helen Jackson's Spinning, Thoreau's Smoke, Bayard Taylor's Song of the Camp, Emerson's Daughters of time, Burroughs's Serene I Fold my hands, Piatt's The morning Street, Mrs. Hooper's I slept and dreamed that life was beauty, Stedman's Thou art mie, even of Heine,--the hunt has at least been interesting, and we know not what to-morrow may bring forth. Matthew Arnold indignantly protested against regarding Emerson as another Plato, but thought that if he were to be classed with Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus, a better case might be made out; and certainly that is something, w
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