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[8] unity. The separatist, particularist movements are gradually thrust to one side. In literary history, likewise, we best remember those authors who fall into line with what we now perceive to have been the course of our literary development. The erratic men and women, the “sports” of the great experiment, are ultimately neglected by the critics, unless, like the leaders of political insurrections, those writing men and women have raised a notable standard of revolt. No doubt the apparently unique literary specimens, if clearly understood in their origins and surroundings, would be found rooted in the general laws of literary evolution. But these laws are not easy to codify and we must avoid the temptation to discover, in any particular period, more of unity than there actually was. And we must always remember that there will be beautiful prose and verse unrelated to the main national tendencies save as “the literature of escape.” We owe this lesson to the genius of Edgar Allan Poe.

Let us test these principles by applying them to the earliest colonists. The first book written on the soil of what is now the United States was Captain John Smith's True Relation of the planting of the Virginia colony in 1607. It was published in

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