It very often turns out that the demand for a distinctive Americanism really seeks only the external peculiarities that made Joaquin Miller
and Buffalo Bill popular; an Americanism that can at any moment be annihilated by a pair of scissors.
It is something, no doubt, to be allowed even such an amount of nationality as this; and Washington Irving
attributed the English
curiosity about him to the fact that he held a quill in his fingers instead of sticking it in his hair, as was expected.
But it would seem that Mr. Arnold
, on the other hand, disapproved the attempt to set up any claim whatever to a distinctive American temperament; and he has twice held up one of our own authors for reprobation as having asserted that the American
is, on the whole, of lighter build and has ‘a drop more of nervous fluid’ than the Englishman.
This is not the way, he thinks, in which a serious literature is to be formed.
But it turns out that the immediate object of the writer of the objectionable remark was not to found a literature, but simply to utter a physiological caution; the object of the essay in which it occurs—one