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On the need of background

Mr. R. W. Gilder, in a recent valuable address at Wesleyan University, gives a list of nearly a score of younger American writers, who owe, as he points out, little or nothing to the college; but he leaves the question still open whether it might not be better for some of them if they had owed the college a little more. Most of those whom he names are writers of fiction, an art in which, as in poetry, the spark of original genius counts for almost everything, and what is called literary training for comparatively little. But poetry and fiction do not constitute the whole of literature. The moment the novelist leaves the little world of his own creating and ventures on the general ground of literary production, the moment he undertakes to write history or philosophy or criticism, he feels the need of something besides creative power, something which may be called a literary background. His readers,

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R. W. Gilder (1)
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