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[211] a paradise nor yet a den of thieves but a good nurse for the farmer, did much in the third decade of the last century to stimulate emigration of a better sort from the mother country to the land of free endeavour. Possession of the soil, and the opportunity to gain more and more of it — as depicted by Crevecoeur-must always act as a stimulus to the human mind. Once reaching these shores, a mobile population would be allured to the West through the virile descriptions of the Mississippi Valley by a Timothy Flint, or through the animated sketches of life and manners by a James Hall. To the literature of travel may also be ascribed much of the attraction exerted by this country upon distinguished foreigners in seasons of stress or misfortune. Napoleon himself once spoke of America as a possible retreat. If Crevecoeur's portrait of the free and social colonist was “embellished with rather too flattering circumstances,” it was not the less true in presenting an ideal that the Americans have striven to realize; it was real in the sense that it governed their better thoughts and actions. By disengaging and projecting the ideal form of American life, such works interpreted the new republic for England and the Continent. More than this, they interpreted one part of the new nation to another. No other class of books can have done so much to consolidate the people; their effect upon character and imagination can hardly be overestimated.

They gave wings to the imagination; and here they are especially significant for the history of literature. As the discovery of America was accompanied by an outburst of poetry in the Renaissance, other causes, naturally, contributing thereto — as the mind of a Shakespeare was caught by a chance description of the “still-vexed Bermoothes” ; so the great advances in geographical discovery and natural science after the middle of the eighteenth century made themselves felt in another generation of poets, and American travels found a quick response in works of literary art. The place of the travellers in the movement known as “the return to nature” would require for adequate treatment nothing short of a dissertation; nor could one always discriminate between the literary preconceptions which the observers brought with them and the ultimate facts about man and his environment which they transmitted to the poets. Yet we recognize in the reports

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