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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Literature as an art. (search)
n mere externals; we think, because we live in a new country, we are unworthy of ourselves if we do not Americanize the grammar and spelling-book. In a republic, must the objective case be governed by a verb? We shall yet learn that it is not new literary forms we need, but only fresh inspiration, combined with cultivated taste. The standard of good art is always much the same; modifications are trifling. Otherwise we could not enjoy any foreign literature. A fine phrase in Aeschylus or Dante affects us as if we had read it in Emerson. A structural completeness in a work of art seems the same in the Oedipus Tyrannus as in The scarlet letter. Art has therefore its law; and eccentricity, though often promising as a mere trait of youth, is only a disfigurement to maturer years. It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote Leaves of grass, only that he did not burn it afterwards and reserve himself for something better. A young writer must commonly plough in his first crop, a
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Americanism in literature. (search)
about the tyranny of the ancient classics, as if there were some special peril about it, quite distinct from all other tyrannies. But if a man is to be stunted by the influence of a master, it makes no difference whether that master lived before or since the Christian epoch. One folio volume is as ponderous as another, if it crushes down the tender germs of thought. There is no great choice between the volumes of the Encyclopedia. It is not important to know whether a man reads Homer or Dante: the essential point is whether he believes the world to be young or old; whether he sees as much scope for his own inspiration as if never a book had appeared in the world. So long as he does this, he has the American spirit; no books, no travel, can overwhelm him, for these will only enlarge his thoughts and raise his standard of execution. When he loses this faith, he takes rank among the copyists and the secondary, and no accident can raise him to a place among the benefactors of manki
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, The Greek goddesses. (search)
ched, that it is now found hard to do more than reproduce them. As no sculptor can produce more than a Greek profile, so no poet has yet produced more than a Greek woman. Modern life has not aimed to elevate the ideal, but the average. Common intelligence spread more widely, sweetness and purity protected, more respect for the humblest woman as woman, less faith in the sibyl and the saint,--this is modern life. In the Middle Ages there were glimpses of a new creation. Raphael painted, Dante sang, something that promised more than Greece gave; but it came to nothing. Superstition was in the way; the new woman did not get herself disentangled from a false mythology and an unnatural asceticism, and was never fairly born. Art could not join what God had put asunder; the maid-mother was after all an image less noble than maid or mother separately. That path is closed; I rejoice that we can have no more Madonnas; we have come back to nature and are safe beneath its eternal laws.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Carlyle's laugh and other surprises, X. Charles Eliot Norton (search)
in double columns. There then follow in the same volume papers on Hodson's Twelve years of a Soldier's life in India, on Friends in council, on Brooks's Sermons, on Trollope's West Indies and the Spanish main, on Captain John Brown, on Vernon's Dante, and one on Model Lodging-houses in Boston. When we remember that his Notes of travel and study in Italy was also published in Boston that same year, being reviewed by some one in a notice of two pages in this same volume of the Atlantic, we may well ask who ever did more of genuine literary work in the same amount of time. This was, of course, before he became Professor in the college (1874), and his preoccupation in that way, together with his continuous labor on his translations of Dante, explains why there are comparatively few entries under his name in Atlantic Indexes for later years. Again, he and Lowell took charge of the North American Review in 1864, and retained it until 1868, during which period Norton unquestionably wo
Edward L. Pierce, Memoir and letters of Charles Sumner: volume 4, Chapter 48: Seward.—emancipation.—peace with France.—letters of marque and reprisal.—foreign mediation.—action on certain military appointments.—personal relations with foreigners at Washington.—letters to Bright, Cobden, and the Duchess of Argyll.—English opinion on the Civil War.—Earl Russell and Gladstone.—foreign relations.—1862-1863. (search)
t's), and presented with a pitcher and a sword. Governor Andrew and other members of the State government were ignored in the festivities. It was almost the last effort of the expiring conservatism of Boston to rally on the old lines. The plot was already in progress to put McClellan forward as the opposing candidate to Lincoln in the election of 1864. Sumner wrote to the Duchess of Argyll, Jan. 4, 1863:— I send you a monthly containing three cantos of Longfellow's translation of Dante. I always thought the Paradiso dull and difficult, although at times beautiful with thought and poetry. This translation shows the original as it is in metre, language, and thought. The planting of the Apple Tree By William C. Bryant. seems to me an exquisite poem by a true poet who loves England, and therefore grieves now. We are now occupied with the great question what to do for the new-made freedmen, that their emancipation may be a blessing to them and to our country. It is a
, An artist's creation. (search)
she must not fail of that mission. She was kicking about the bed, by this time, in her nightgown, and holding her pink little toes in all sorts of difficult attitudes, when she suddenly said, looking me full in the face: If my mother was so high up that she had her feet upon a star, do you think that I could see her? This astronomical apotheosis startled me for a moment, but I said unhesitatingly, Yes, feeling sure that the lustrous eyes that looked in mine could certainly.see as far as Dante's, when Beatrice was transferred from his side to the highest realm of Paradise. I put my head beside hers upon the pillow, and stayed till I thought she was asleep. I then followed Kenmure into Laura's chamber. It was dusk, but the after-sunset glow still bathed the room with imperfect light, and he lay upon the bed, his hands clenched over his eyes. There was a deep bow-window where Laura used to sit and watch us, sometimes, when we put off in the boat. Her veolian harp was in th
Cambridge sketches (ed. Estelle M. H. Merrill), The Cantabrigia Club. (search)
offered counsel and congratulation, and, as it had no prejudice in the matter of sex, fair godfathers were present as well, so that like the princess in the olden tale, its christening was full of happiest omens for the future. Its work during the three years has been along various lines, each of its eight departments being presided over by a chairman and two assistants, who provide the programs for the open meetings as well as plan for class work or lectures. In literature, classes in Dante were continued through two seasons, and the Divine Comedy was completed. Current literature classes, too, were made very profitable, and books about which everyone was talking, were reviewed by different members. The history, art and literature of France were the topics for the last season's work in this department, with the happiest results. In art, the Italian Renaissance, that blossoming time in the garden of art, has been the theme for enthusiastic research for two seasons past, an
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Harvard Memorial Biographies, 1861. (search)
f Brougham on The Law reform ; and for the Exhibition, May 7, 1861, an English oration was assigned me as my part, for the subject of which I selected Compromise. My life has thus far been a quiet one, spent principally in study, and not diversified by many events of special interest. In study, my tastes lead me principally towards physical and mathematical science, though I am also fond of philological study and of literature. During my Senior year I have been engaged in reading Dante with Professor Lowell, and have spent many pleasant evenings with him over the pages of the Divina Commedia. Of my devotion to mathematics, I have also given a painful proof by continuing alone the study of that science with Professor Peirce, all the other members of the Mathematical Divison having relinquished the study at the close of the Junior year. The idea of coming to college has been familiar to me ever since I was quite young. During the last part of my attendance at the Engli
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Harvard Memorial Biographies, 1862. (search)
. He did not study for rank, but preferred to devote himself to whatever he thought he most needed. His faculty for learning languages was rather remarkable. Latin was a passion with him. He received a prize at college as at school for verses in that language. He was continually making Latin verses in playing upon words, and in the outset of the national struggle his secedere est se coedere found its way into many of the newspapers. On day he surprised his mother by asking for a copy of Dante, as she knew he had never studied Italian. He said he did not altogether like the less advanced class, and intended to join one which was studying that book. His mother expressed her doubts of his ability to learn the lessons, but fund that, with very slight assistance at first, he was able to do so. He was a very good French scholar, and had given some attention to German and Spanish, which last studies he continued while in the army. In the beginning of the war Arthur had expressed a
George Ticknor, Life, letters and journals of George Ticknor (ed. George Hillard), Chapter 4: (search)
Chapter 4: Rome. Dante and Papal government. taking the veil in high life. Kestner and Goethe. Crollis this morning, and a long talk with him about Dante, and other matters interesting to me. He is one of tor four persons at his house, to study and interpret Dante, and that they made a good deal of progress in it. T, the Neapolitan Minister, who is a great admirer of Dante, A month before this Mr. Ticknor wrote: I discovered that Count Ludolf is a great student of Dante, and I gave nearly all the time I was there [at a ball at Prih model in clay of a statue of Conradin—mentioned by Dante—which he is making for the Crown Prince of Bavaria, rch in Naples, that his grave is rarely noticed; but Dante's verse and Thorwaldsen's statue will prevent him frs of Petrarca and Tasso; the beautiful manuscript of Dante, copied by Boccaccio, and sent as a present to Petrarca; the manuscript of Dante, which claims to have belonged to his son, and the exquisite one which is ornament
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