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Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, A plea for culture. (search)
t least to secure for the poorest American opportunities such as no wealth could buy in Europe. It may take centuries to accomplish it, but it can be done. And it will not take so long as one might imagine. Although the great intellectual institutions of Europe are often nominally ancient, yet their effective life has been chiefly in the last few centuries. A hundred years ago, the British Museum and the Bodleian Library had each but about ten thousand volumes. The Imperial Library at Paris had then but fifty thousand, and the present century has added the most valuable half of its seven hundred thousand books. At the time of our Revolution, there were but three public galleries of art in Europe; and the Louvre, the chief attraction of the most attractive city of the world, is of later origin. One half of the leading German universities are younger than Harvard College. With the immense wealth accumulating in America, and the impulse inherent in democracies to identify one'
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Literature as an art. (search)
e, it is an even chance that it leads him away from favor. Indeed, within the last few years, it has come to be a sign of infinite humor to dispense with even these few rules, and spell as badly as possible. Yet even if you went to London or to Paris in search of this imaginary body of critics, you would not find them; there also you would find the transient and the immortal confounded together, and the transient often uppermost. Even a foreign country is not always, as has been said, a contd and vanished, leaving only memories of wrong behind. Let us not be too exultant; the hasty wealth of New York may do as little. Intellect in this age is not to be found in the circles of fashion; it is not found in such society in Europe, it is not here. Even in Paris, the world's capital, imperialism tainted all it touched; and art survived in spite of it. We, a younger and cruder race, need still to go abroad for our standard of execution, but our ideal and our faith must be our own.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Americanism in literature. (search)
heelwright, who goes to his dinner at the same hour. One would not wish to be unacquainted with the fair maiden who drives by in her basket-wagon in the afternoon; nor with the other fair maiden, who may be seen at her wash-tub in the morning. Both are quite worth knowing; both are good, sensible, dutiful girls: the young laundress is the better mathematician, because she has gone through the grammar school; but the other has the better French accent, because she has spent half her life in Paris. They offer a variety, at least, and save from that monotony which besets any set of people when seen alone. There was much reason in Horace Walpole's coachman, who, having driven the maids of honor all his life, bequeathed his earnings to his son, on condition that he should never marry a maid of honor. I affirm that democratic society, the society of the future, enriches and does not impoverish human life, and gives more, not less, material for literary art. Distributing culture throu
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, A letter to a young contributor. (search)
ast, like our army on the Potomac, as if it never could be thoroughly clothed,--I certainly should never dare to venture into print, but for the confirmed suspicion that the greatest writers have done even thus. Do you know, my dear neophyte, how Balzac used to compose? As a specimen of the labor that sometimes goes to make an effective style, the process is worth recording. When Balzac had a new work in view, he first spent weeks in studying from real life for it, haunting the streets of Paris by day and night, note-book in hand. His materials gained, he shut himself up till the book was written, perhaps two months, absolutely excluding everybody but his publisher. He emerged pale and thin, with the complete manuscript in his hand,--not only written, but almost rewritten, so thoroughly was the original copy altered, interlined, and rearranged. This strange production, almost illegible, was sent to the unfortunate printers; with infinite difficulty a proof-sheet was obtained, wh
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Ought women to learn the alphabet? (search)
Ought women to learn the alphabet? Paris smiled, for an hour or two, in the year 1801, when, amidst Napoleon's mighty projects for remodelling the religion and government of his empire, the ironical satirist, Sylvain Marechal, thrust in his Plrs she had been in hard training for precisely such services; had visited all the hospitals in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Lyons, Rome, Brussels, and Berlin; had studied under the Sisters of Charity, and been twice a nurse in the Protestant Inuloch to revive the same satire in A woman's thoughts on women, when she must have known that in half the retail shops in Paris her own sex rules the ledger, and Mammon knows no Salic law. We find, on investigation, what these considerations woule eighteen hundred bodies left dead before the walls, the vast majority were of women. The Hospital of the Invalides, in Paris, has sheltered, for half a century, a fine specimen of a female soldier, Lieutenant Madame Bulan, now eighty-three years
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Mademoiselle's campaigns. (search)
e to Holland, to conspire nearer home; back to Paris, on the minister's death, to form the faction rmined, after charming the whole population of Paris by her rebel beauty at the Hotel de Ville, escugh Europe. When she sailed from Bordeaux for Paris at last, thirty thousand people assembled to bnce, the royal army under Turenne advancing on Paris, and almost arrived at the city of Orleans, aninfluence could do. And so she rode forth from Paris, one fine morning, March 27, 1652,--rode with ort of five hundred men, met her half-way from Paris. Most of them evidently knew her calibre, werpaign the second. Mademoiselle went back to Paris. Half the population met her outside the wallved! she cried, proudly. I command to-day in Paris, as I commanded in Orleans. Vous me rendez lae nuns of Port-Royal of whom the Archbishop of Paris said that they lived in the purity of angels a one; a thing which we can scarcely believe at Paris; how can it be believed at Lyons? a thing whi[10 more...]
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, The Puritan minister. (search)
d all made it a capital crime. There had been laws against it in England for a hundred years. Bishop Jewell had complained to Queen Elizabeth of the alarming increase of witches and sorcerers. Sir Thomas Browne had pronounced it flat atheism to doubt them. High legal and judicial authorities, as Dalton, Keeble, Sir Matthevw Hale, had described this crime as definitely and seriously as any other. In Scotland four thousand had suffered death for it in ten years; Cologne, Nuremberg, Geneva, Paris, were executing hundreds every year; even in 1749 a girl was burnt alive in Wurtzburg; and is it strange, if, during all that wild excitement, Massachusetts put to death twenty? The only wonder is in the independence of the Rhode Island people, who declared that there were no witches on the earth, nor devils,--except (as they profanely added) the New England ministers, and such as they. John Higginson sums it up best: They proceeded in their integrity with a zeal of God against sin, acco
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, The Greek goddesses. (search)
i., Hymn V. 131, 132. Yet while thus falling but one degree below omnipotence, she possesses a beauty which is beyond that of Aphrodite. If the cowherd Alexander (Paris) judges otherwise, it is merely the taste of a cowherd, as the epigram of Hermodorus fearlessly declares. The busts of Athena seem always grave and sweet; nevera tortoise, as if to imply deliberation, not heedlessness. The conscious look of the Venus dea Medici implies modesty, since she is supposed to be standing before Paris with Hera and Athena. In Homer's hymn to her she is described as ordinarily cold and unimpressable, and only guiding others to love, till Zeus, by his sovereign ise those fair humanities of old religion ; as, when classic architecture had reached perfection, there rose the Gothic, and made the Greek seem cold. Note.--The Paris Revue Britannique of October, 1865. contained a translation of this essay, under the title of Lea Deesses Grecques, in which occurred some amusing variations. Fo
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays, Sappho. (search)
history. Worse, for instance, than the malice of the Greek comedians or of Ovid — since they possibly believed their own stories — was the attempt made by Voltaire to pollute, through twenty-one books of an epic poem, the stainless fame of his own virgin country-woman, Joan of Arc. In that work he revels in a series of impurities so loathsome that the worst of them are omitted from the common editions, and only lurk in appendices, here and there, as if even the shameless printing-presses of Paris were ashamed of them. Suppose, now, that the art of printing had remained undiscovered, that all contemporary memorials of this maiden had vanished, and posterity had possessed no record of her except Voltaire's Pucelle. In place of that heroic image there would have remained to us only a monster of profligacy, unless some possible Welcker had appeared, long centuries after, to right the wrong. The remarkable essay of Welcker, Sappho von einem herrschenden Vorurtheil befreit, Welcker,