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[94] back in longing from that earlier day to the period of Scott and Wordsworth, and so farther and farther and farther. It is easy for older men to recall when Thackeray and Dickens were in some measure obscured by now forgotten contemporaries, like Harrison Ainsworth and G. P. R. James, and when one was gravely asked whether he preferred Tennyson to Sterling or Trench or Alford or Faber or Milnes. It is to me one of the most vivid reminiscences of my Harvard College graduation (in 1841) that, having rashly ventured upon a commencement oration whose theme was ‘Poetry in an Unpoetical Age,’ I closed with an urgent appeal to young poets to ‘lay down their Spenser and Tennyson,’ and look into life for themselves. Prof. Edward T. Channing, then the highest literary authority in New England, paused in amazement with uplifted pencil over this combination of names. ‘You mean,’ he said, ‘that they should neither defer to the highest authority nor be influenced by the lowest?’ When I persisted, with the zeal of seventeen, that I had no such meaning, but regarded them both as among the gods, he said

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