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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life 11 1 Browse Search
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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 7: a very moral and nice book (search)
odern writer who dares to criticise him. Mr. Howells cannot so much as venture the remark that good Sir Walter's opening chapter of genealogy is sometimes a little long-winded, and that it may be permissible to begin with Chapter Second, but he rouses Mr. Lang's utmost indignation. Mr. Haggard cannot be classed as a dime novelist without protests of amazement and assurances that he is the lineal successor of Scott, and that to have left unread a single story of Haggard's is to have fallen short of the highest culture. Omit, if you will, the Widowed wife and wedded maid, Betrothed, betrayer, and betrayed, but read every word about She-if the phrase be not ungrammatical-or you are lost. It is painful, but really Mr. Lang's confessions recall the case of that New England bookseller in a small town who recently informed an inquirer that he had never heard of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, but that he was probably the husband of Mrs. Mary J. Holmes, who wrote such lovely novels. 1896
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 10: Favorites of a day (search)
merican tales by Hopkinson Smith or Mrs. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, for example, leading in every town. There is no deep national principle involved-only a casual change, like that which takes athletic prizes for a few years from one college and gives them to another. Novels and even whole schools of fiction emerge and disappear like the flash or darkening of a revolving light in a light-house; you must use the glimpse while you have it. The highways of literature are spread over, says Holmes, with the shells of dead novels, each of which has been swallowed at a mouthful by the public, and is done with. Each foreign notability, in particular, should bear in mind on his arrival the remark of Miss Berry's Frenchman about a waning beauty who was declared by her to be still lovely. Yes; but she has only a quarter of an hour to be so (Elle n'a qu'un quart d'heure pour être). The bulk of English fiction fortunately never reaches this country, and the bulk of American fiction as fo
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 14: a disturbed christmas (search)
rifices it has made, and makes, in the war. War ennobles the country; searches it; fires it; acquaints it with its resources; turns it away from false alliances, vain hopes, and theatric attitude; puts it on its mettle — in ourselves our safety must be sought; gives it scope and object; concentrates history into a year; invents means; systematizes everything. We began the war in vast confusion; when we end it all will be system. Emerson in Concord, by his son, p. 89. There is nothing in Judge Holmes's oration which goes quite so far as this. Yet this is the writer whom Matthew Arnold, denying him the name of poet and philosopher, proclaimed as the friend and comforter of those who would live in the spirit. We are left in the conclusion that there are two aspects of everything, and that good comes sometimes of things evil. Read the one poem which has made Bayard Taylor's name immortal, A song of the camp, and consider the peculiar beauty and pathos of this flower of human love i
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 23: the alphabet as a barrier (search)
Chapter 23: the alphabet as a barrier There lies before me a document more than two centuries old, signed by the daughter of a Puritan clergyman, a woman who was also a minister's wife. She had what Dr. Holmes called Brahmin blood, for she probably descended, in the sixth generation, from the sister of Chaucer the poet, an ancestress described in the English family tree as Caterina, soror Galfridi Chaucer, celeberrimi poetae Anglicani. This descendant of Caterina lived in Salem, Massachusetts, during the witch period; and it is on record that some of the poor imprisoned creatures petitioned that their cases might be taken from the jurisdiction of the courts and referred to her for decision. She reared a large family, and many conspicuous men in church and state, army and navy, all over this land, are descended from her. The great and almost startling peculiarity of the commonplace legal document which bears her name is that, like many mothers in Israel of that period, she did
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 28: the really interesting people (search)
as Goethe remarked, the old trees must fall in order to give the younger growth a chance; and it would be wiser to say that the really interesting people are always those who survive. The younger they are, indeed, the more interesting. The older ones have been gauged and measured; they may yet, while they live, do something better than they have ever done, but it will be essentially in the same lines. Gladstone goes on with his statesmanship and his scholarship to the end of life; so did Holmes with his inexhaustible sparkle; but their work did not change; we knew what was coming. The interest of the younger generation lies in the fact that we never know just what to expect from them. If we had looked at the late eminent philologist, Professor William D. Whitney, of Yale University, as he appeared in youth, we should have seen a promising geologist; if we had looked at his brother, Professor J. D. Whitney, of Harvard, we should have seen a rising philologist. At a certain period
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life, Chapter 33: the test of talk (search)
urse the speaker might still have been a saint or a hero at heart, but so far as it went the test was conclusive. In Howells's Lady of the Aroostook the young men were appalled at hearing the only young lady on board remark, as an expression of surprise, that she wanted to know. It pointed unerringly, they thought, to a rusticity of breeding. In time she developed other qualities, and one or both of them fell in love with her; nevertheless, there was a certain justice in their inference. Holmes, varying an old line, says that the woman who calculates is lost ; and it is undoubtedly true that we classify a new-comer, without delay, by his language. What we do not always recognize is that there are grades in this classification. If a stranger begins by saying, We was or He done it, we assign him a low place in the school-room of education. He may be a member of Congress, a college professor; no matter; the inference is the same. His morals, his natural intellect, may rank him f