While there are no other names in the literature of New England
quite comparable with those that have just been discussed, it should be remembered that the immediate effectiveness and popularity of these representative poets and prose writers were dependent upon the existence of an intelligent and responsive reading public.
The lectures of Emerson
, the speeches of Webster
, the stories of Hawthorne
, the political verse of Whittier
, presupposed a keen, reflecting audience, mentally and morally exigent.
The spread of the Lyceum system along the line of westward emigration from New England
as far as the Mississippi
is one tangible evidence of the high level of popular intelligence.
That there was much of the superficial and the spread-eagle in the American
life of the eighteen-forties is apparent enough without the amusing comments of such English travellers as Dickens
, Miss Martineau
, and Captain Basil Hall
But there was also genuine intellectual curiosity and a general reading habit which are evidenced not only by a steady growth of newspapers and magazines but also by the demand for substantial books.
Biography and history began to be widely read, and it was natural that the most notable productiveness in historical