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Sweden (Sweden) (search for this): chapter 7
scurity,—Milnes (Lord Houghton), Sterling, Trench, Alford, and Bailey. No English poem, it was said, ever sold through so many American editions as Festus; nor was Tupper's Proverbial Philosophy far behind it. Translators and publishers quarrelled bitterly for the privilege of translating Frederika Bremer's novels; but our young people, who already stand for posterity, hardly recall her name. I asked a Swedish commissioner at our Centennial Exhibition in 1876, Is Miss Bremer still read in Sweden? He shook his head; and when I asked, Who has replaced her? he said, Bret Harte and Mark Twain. It seemed the irony of fame; and there is no guaranty that this reversed national compliment will, any more than our recognition of her, predict the judgment of the future. If this uncertainty exists when the New World judges the Old, of which it knows something, the insecurity must be greater when the Old World judges the New, of which it knows next to nothing. If the multiplicity of trans
England (United Kingdom) (search for this): chapter 7
es take naturally to the literature of their own congeners, and so with the Latin. As these last have had precedence in organizing the social life of the world, so they still retain it in their literary sway. The French tongue, in particular, while ceasing to be the vehicle of all travelling intercourse, is still the second language of all the world. A Portuguese gentleman said once to a friend of mine that he was studying French in order to have something to read. All the empire of Great Britain, circling the globe, affords to her poets or novelists but a petty and insular audience compared with that addressed by George Sand or Victor Hugo. A Roman Catholic convert from America, going from Paris to Rome, and having audience with a former pope, is said to have been a little dismayed when his Holiness instantly inquired, with eager solicitude, as to the rumored illness of Paul de Kock—the milder Zola of the last generation. In contemporaneous fame, then, the mere accident of nat
France (France) (search for this): chapter 7
be in Paris during the Exposition of 1878 remember well the astonishment produced in the French mind by the discovery that any pictures were painted in England; and the French Millet was at that time almost as little known in London as was his almost namesake, the English Millais, in Paris. If a foreign nation represented posterity, neither of these eminent artists appeared then to have a chance of lasting fame. When we see the intellectual separation thus maintained between England and France, with only the width of the Channel between them, we can understand the separation achieved by the Atlantic, even where there is no essential difference of language. M. Taine tries to convince Frenchmen that the forty English immortals selected by the readers of the Pall Mall Gazette are equal, taken together, to the French Academicians. You do not know them, you say?he goes on. That is not a sufficient reason. The English, and all who speak English, know them well, but, on the other han
Department de Ville de Paris (France) (search for this): chapter 7
ty line. It was after Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu had been asked to hear Voltaire demolish Shakespeare at an evening party in Paris that she made her celebrated answer, when the host expressed the hope that she had not been pained by the criticism: WhyEnglish immortals; and ask who Tennyson is, and what plays Ruskin has written. Those who happened, like myself, to be in Paris during the Exposition of 1878 remember well the astonishment produced in the French mind by the discovery that any picturd the French Millet was at that time almost as little known in London as was his almost namesake, the English Millais, in Paris. If a foreign nation represented posterity, neither of these eminent artists appeared then to have a chance of lasting fr audience compared with that addressed by George Sand or Victor Hugo. A Roman Catholic convert from America, going from Paris to Rome, and having audience with a former pope, is said to have been a little dismayed when his Holiness instantly inqui
judgment of posterity? Consider the companion instances. Next to Uncle Tom's Cabin ranked for a season, doubtless, in European favor, that exceedingly commonplace novel The Lamplighter, whose very name is now almost forgotten at home. It is imposout, as Whitman. There are commonly two ways to eminent social success for an American in foreign society,—to be more European than Europeans themselves, or else to surpass all other Americans in some amusing peculiarity which foreigners suppose tall-accomplished Lowell whom we mourn. In other cases, as with Prescott and Motley, there was the mingled attraction of European manners and a European subject. But a simple and home-loving American, who writes upon the themes furnished by his own lity of treatment, and in style. If he had, like Motley, first gone abroad for a subject, and then for a residence, his European fame would have equalled Motley's. As it is, probably not a person present except our host will recognize his name. Whe
Dublin (Irish Republic) (search for this): chapter 7
ly untried type,—an Indian, as Cooper; a negro, as Mrs. Stowe; a mountaineer, as Miss Murfree; a California gambler, as Bret Harte; a rough or roustabout, as Whitman. There are commonly two ways to eminent social success for an American in foreign society,—to be more European than Europeans themselves, or else to surpass all other Americans in some amusing peculiarity which foreigners suppose to be American. It is much the same in literature. Lady Morgan, describing the high society of Dublin in her day, speaks of one man as a great favorite who always entered every drawing-room by turning a somersault. This is one way of success for an American book; but the other way, which is at least more dignified, is rarely successful except when combined with personal residence and private acquaintance. Down to the year 1880 Lowell was known in England, almost exclusively, as the author of the Biglow Papers, and was habitually classed with Artemus Ward and Josh Billings, except that his
United States (United States) (search for this): chapter 7
America was occupied, and rightly, by the elucidation of our own history,—a thing, I added, which inspired almost no interest in England. This fact being disputed, I said, Let us take a test case. We have in America an historian superior to Motley in labors, in originality of treatment, and in style. If he had, like Motley, first gone abroad for a subject, and then for a residence, his European fame would have equalled Motley's. As it is, probably not a person present except our host will recognize his name. When I mentioned Francis Parkman, the prediction was fulfilled. All, save the host—a man better acquainted with the United States, perhaps, than any living Englishman—confessed utter ignorance: an ignorance shared, it seems, by the only English historian of American literature, Professor Nichol, who actually does not allude to Parkman. It seems to me that we had better, in view of such facts, dismiss the theory that a foreign nation is a kind of contemporaneous poste
M. De Voltaire (search for this): chapter 7
g influences are only redistributed, not abolished, by distance. Whether we look to popular preference or to the judgment of high authorities, the result is equally baffling. Napoleon Bonaparte preferred Ossian, it is said, to Shakespeare; and Voltaire placed the latter among the minor poets, viewing him at best as we now view Marlowe, as the author of an occasional mighty line. It was after Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu had been asked to hear Voltaire demolish Shakespeare at an evening party in ParVoltaire demolish Shakespeare at an evening party in Paris that she made her celebrated answer, when the host expressed the hope that she had not been pained by the criticism: Why should I be pained? I have not the honor to be among the intimate friends of M. de Voltaire. Even at this day the French journalists are quite bewildered by the Pall Mall Gazette's lists of English immortals; and ask who Tennyson is, and what plays Ruskin has written. Those who happened, like myself, to be in Paris during the Exposition of 1878 remember well the astonis
Wendell Holmes (search for this): chapter 7
d comments on the names, like this: Robert Browning, the Scotch poet. There is probably no better manual of universal knowledge than the great French dictionary of Larousse. When people come with miscellaneous questions to the Harvard College librarians, they often say in return, Have you looked in Larousse?Now, when one looks in Larousse to see who Robert Browning was, one finds the statement that the genius of Browning is more analogous to that of his American contemporaries Emerton, Wendell Holmes, and Bigelow than to that of any English poet (celle de n'importe quel poete anglais.) This transformation of Emerson into Emerton, and of Lowell, probably, to Bigelow, is hardly more extraordinary than to link together three such dissimilar poets, and compare Browning to all three of them, or, indeed, to either of the three. Yet it gives us the high-water mark of what contemporaneous posterity has to offer. The criticism of another nation can, no doubt, offer some advantages of its o
J. G. Whittier (search for this): chapter 7
nners and a European subject. But a simple and home-loving American, who writes upon the themes furnished by his own nation, without pyrotechnics or fantastic spelling, is apt to seem to the English mind quite uninteresting. There is nothing which ordinarily interests Europeans less than an Americanism unaccompanied by a war-whoop. The Saturday Review, wishing to emphasize its contempt for Henry Ward Beecher, finally declares that one would turn from him with relief even to the poems of Whittier. There could hardly have been a more exhaustive proof of this local limitation or chauvinisme than I myself noticed at a London dinner-party some years ago. Our host was an Oxford professor, and the company was an eminent one. Being hard pressed about American literature, I had said incidentally that a great deal of intellectual activity in America was occupied, and rightly, by the elucidation of our own history,—a thing, I added, which inspired almost no interest in England. This fact
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