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Browsing named entities in Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Book and heart: essays on literature and life.

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ely that change which has also come over the prose novel. Granting that much fiction, at any rate, has a moral expressed or implied, it is to be observed that all fiction has changed its note in other respects within the last century, and must accept its own laws. Formerly conveying its moral often through a symbol, it now conveys it, if at all, by direct narrative. The distinction has never been better put than in a remarkable and little-known letter addressed by Heine on his death-bed (1856) to Varnhagen von Ense, in giving a personal introduction to Ferdinand Lassalle. The new generation, wrote Heine, means to enjoy itself and make the best of the visible; we of the older one bowed humbly before the invisible, yearned after shadow kisses and blue-flower fragrances, denied ourselves, wept and smiled and were perhaps happier than these fierce gladiators who walk so proudly to meet their death-struggle. The blue-flower allusion is to the favorite ideal symbol of the German Noval
urrents of modern democratic life. When the elder Scaliger wrote, in 1561, that work on Poetry which so long ruled the traditions of European literature, he defined the difference between tragedy and comedy to consist largely in this — that tragedy concerned itself only with kings, princes, cities, citadels, and camps; in tragoedia reges, principles, ex urbibus, arcibus, castris. All these things are now changed. Kings, princes, camps, citadels are passing away, and the cities that will soon alone survive them are filled with a democratic world, which awaits its chronicles of joy or pain. The writer of fiction must tell his tale, and leave it to yield its own moral. The careless or hasty reader will often misinterpret it, and would do so were the guide-board ever so conspicuous; but the serious student will bear away an influence proportioned to the hidden wealth of meaning, and this meaning will be more precious in proportion as he has been left to discern it for himself. 1892
ut granting these simple conditions fulfilled, the writer of fiction should surely be allowed henceforth to wind up his story in his own way, without formal proclamation of his moral; or, better still, to leave the tale without technical and elaborate winding up, as nature leaves her stories. His work is a great one, to bring comedy and even tragedy down from the old traditions of kingliness to the vaster and more complex currents of modern democratic life. When the elder Scaliger wrote, in 1561, that work on Poetry which so long ruled the traditions of European literature, he defined the difference between tragedy and comedy to consist largely in this — that tragedy concerned itself only with kings, princes, cities, citadels, and camps; in tragoedia reges, principles, ex urbibus, arcibus, castris. All these things are now changed. Kings, princes, camps, citadels are passing away, and the cities that will soon alone survive them are filled with a democratic world, which awaits its c
mply from the fact that fiction is drawing nearer to life. In real life, as we see it, the moral is usually implied and inferential, not painted on a board; you must often look twice, or look many times, in order to read it. The eminent sinner dies amid tears and plaudits, not in the state-prison, as he should; the seed of the righteous is often seen begging bread. We have to read very carefully between the lines if we would fully recognize the joy of Marcellus exiled, the secret ennui of Caesar with a senate at his heels. Thus it is in daily life — that is, in nature; and yet many still think it a defect in a story if it leaves a single moral influence to be worked out by the meditation of the reader. On my lending to an intelligent young woman, the other day, Mr. Hamlin Garland's remarkable volume, Main-travelled roads, she returned it with the remark that she greatly admired all the stories except the first, which seemed to her immoral. It closed, indeed, as she justly point
very crude literary art will now depend on typography for shades of meaning which should be rendered by the very structure of the sentence. The same fate of banishment is overtaking the exclamation-point, so long used by poets-conspicuously by Whittier — as a note of admiration also. Here, too, as in the other case, the emphasis is now left to render itself; and even the last verse of the poem, which often — to cite Whittier again-contained the detached moral of the lay, is now commonly clippWhittier again-contained the detached moral of the lay, is now commonly clipped off, leaving the reader to draw the moral for himself. The poet now makes his point as best he can, and leaves it without a guide-board; in this foreshadowing precisely that change which has also come over the prose novel. Granting that much fiction, at any rate, has a moral expressed or implied, it is to be observed that all fiction has changed its note in other respects within the last century, and must accept its own laws. Formerly conveying its moral often through a symbol, it now c
the German Novalis; and certainly the young men who grew up fifty or sixty years ago in America obtained some of their very best tonic influences through such thoroughly ideal tales as that writer's Heinrich von Offerdingen, Fouque's Sintram, Hoffmann's Goldene Topf, and Richter's Titan, whether these were read in the original German or in the translations of Carlyle, Brooks, and others. All these books are now little sought, and rather alien to the present taste. To these were added, in English, such tales as Poe's William Wilson and Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Rappaccini's Daughter,; and, in French, Balzac's Le Peau de Chagrin, which Professor Longfellow used warmly to recommend to his college pupils. Works like these represented the prevailing sentiment of a period; they exerted a distinct influence on the moulding of a generation. Their moral was irresistible for those who really cared enough for the books to read them; they needed no guide-boards; the guide-board was for t
Thackeray (search for this): chapter 1
ces, what it is that has brought about this gradual disuse of the overt and visible moral, we shall soon see that it is a part of the general tendency of modern literature to do without external aids to make its meaning clear. There is undoubtedly a tendency to rely more and more upon what has been well called the presumption of brains in the reader. Note, for instance, the steady disappearance of the italic letter from the printed page. Once used as freely as in an epistle from one of Thackeray's fine ladies, it is now employed by careful writers almost wholly to indicate foreign words or book titles; a change in which Emerson and Hawthorne were conspicuous leaders. There is a feeling that only a very crude literary art will now depend on typography for shades of meaning which should be rendered by the very structure of the sentence. The same fate of banishment is overtaking the exclamation-point, so long used by poets-conspicuously by Whittier — as a note of admiration also.
of their very best tonic influences through such thoroughly ideal tales as that writer's Heinrich von Offerdingen, Fouque's Sintram, Hoffmann's Goldene Topf, and Richter's Titan, whether these were read in the original German or in the translations of Carlyle, Brooks, and others. All these books are now little sought, and rather alien to the present taste. To these were added, in English, such tales as Poe's William Wilson and Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Rappaccini's Daughter,; and, in French, Balzac's Le Peau de Chagrin, which Professor Longfellow used warmly to recommend to his college pupils. Works like these represented the prevailing sentiment of a period; they exerted a distinct influence on the moulding of a generation. Their moral was irresistible for those who really cared enough for the books to read them; they needed no guide-boards; the guide-board was for the earlier efforts at realism, before it had proved its strength. Realism has since achieved its maturity,
r those who really cared enough for the books to read them; they needed no guide-boards; the guide-board was for the earlier efforts at realism, before it had proved its strength. Realism has since achieved its maturity, and undoubtedly has won — if it has not already lost again-possession of the field. Whether its sway be, as many think, a permanent change, or only, as I myself believe, a swing of the pendulum, the fact is the same. It is as useless to resist such changes as it was for Lowell to go on lighting his pipe for years with flint and steel, which I well remember his doing, rather than accept the innovation of a friction-match. Realism must hold the field so long as it has a right to do it, and it can only be asked to fulfil the conditions of its being. If we excuse it, as we plainly must, from the perpetuation of the guide-board, we can only ask that it shall go on and do its work so well that no such aid shall be needed; that its moral, where there is one, shall be
Longfellow (search for this): chapter 1
thoroughly ideal tales as that writer's Heinrich von Offerdingen, Fouque's Sintram, Hoffmann's Goldene Topf, and Richter's Titan, whether these were read in the original German or in the translations of Carlyle, Brooks, and others. All these books are now little sought, and rather alien to the present taste. To these were added, in English, such tales as Poe's William Wilson and Hawthorne's The Birthmark and Rappaccini's Daughter,; and, in French, Balzac's Le Peau de Chagrin, which Professor Longfellow used warmly to recommend to his college pupils. Works like these represented the prevailing sentiment of a period; they exerted a distinct influence on the moulding of a generation. Their moral was irresistible for those who really cared enough for the books to read them; they needed no guide-boards; the guide-board was for the earlier efforts at realism, before it had proved its strength. Realism has since achieved its maturity, and undoubtedly has won — if it has not already lo
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