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[332]
“And they desire the same quality in their literature,” he says elsewhere, “a poetry which pierces beneath the exterior of life to the depths of the soul.”

Manifestly, as these references to changing standards in philosophy, religion, and literature make clear, a new spirit was abroad in the land, and though Channing himself had caught much of it from other and earlier sources, it is certain that German philosophy and literature, some of it directly, much more of it indirectly, was, by the third decade of the century, becoming a chief influence in its dissemination.

The impetus toward things German had come, about 1819, with the return to America from Gottingen of George Ticknor, George Bancroft, and Edward Everett, young men, all of them, of brilliant parts. The interest thus aroused was fostered by the coming to Harvard a few years later, as instructor in German, of Charles T. Follen, a political exile. From about this time, some direct knowledge of Kant, Fichte, and Schelling, of Schleiermacher, of Goethe and Schiller — of Goethe probably more than of any other German writer-gradually began to make its way into New England, while the indirect German influence was even greater, coming in part through France in the works of Madame de Stael, Cousin, and Jouffroy, but much more significantly through England, in subtle form in the poetry of Wordsworth, more openly in the writings of Coleridge,1 and, a little later, in the essays of Carlyle.

This interest in German thought and in English romantic literature, moreover, was but the beginning of a wider literary and philosophical awakening which brought with it increasing attention to general European literature, a revitalized attitude toward the classics, and considerable exploration in the realms of Neo-Platonic philosophy and Oriental “Scriptures.”

It is natural that those who began to feel the vital effect upon their own religious convictions of this new spirit in philosophy and literature should have found one another out.

1 There is practically no question that of all these influences the works of Coleridge stand first in importance, and it is due to this fact that New England transcendentalism, in so far as it is a philosophy, bears a closer resemblance to the metaphysical system of Schelling (whose influence on Coleridge is well known) than to that of any other thinker.

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