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Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (search for this): chapter 1
e high-water mark of its educated mind. Before the permanent tribunal, copyists and popularizers count for nothing, and even the statistics of common schools are of secondary value. So long as the sources of art and science are mainly Transatlantic, we are still a province, not a nation. For these are the highest pursuits of man, -higher than trades or professions, higher than statesmanship, far higher than war. Jean Paul said: Schiller and Herder were both destined for physicians, but Providence said, No, there are deeper wounds than those of the body,--and so they both became authors. It is observable that in English books and magazines everything seems written for some limited circle,--tales for those who can use French phrases, essays for those who can understand a Latin quotation. But every American writer must address himself to a vast audience, possessing the greatest quickness and common-sense, with but little culture; and he must command their attention as he can. This
stump-speeches, more or less eloquent; and though some moral enlightenment may come from this change of diet, yet to science and art it is a loss. Take away the Lowell and the Cooper Institutes, and all our progress in wealth has secured for the public no increase of purely intellectual culture through lectures. Now there are two aspects to all material successes. They are sublime or base only as they prepare the way for higher triumphs, or displace them. Horace Mann lamented that in European exhibitions the fine arts were always assigned a more conspicuous place than the useful arts. Theodore Parker complained that in Rome the studios were better than the carpenters' shops. Both exulted in the thought that in America these things were better ordered; and both therein approached the verge of concessions which would sacrifice the noblest aims of man. For carpentry and upholstery, good as a beginning, are despicable as an ending. What cultivated person would not prefer poorer
France (France) (search for this): chapter 1
There is no debate about our reapers and sewing-machines. No candid person can compare the trade-lists of American publishers with those received from England, France, and Germany, without admitting that we are hardly yet to be ranked among the productive nations in literature. There are single works, and there are individual porating superficiality into our institutions, literature will come when all is ready, and when it comes will be of the best. It is not enough to make England or France our standard. There is something in the present atmosphere of England which seems fatal to purely literary genius: its fruits do not mature and mellow, but grow Heine was the last German. The French seems the only prose literature of the present day in which the element of form has any prominent place; and literature in France is after all but a favored slave. This surely leaves a clear field for America. But it is peculiarly important for us to remember that we can make no progress
nic more useful for a young writer than to read carefully, in the English Reviews of seventy or eighty years ago, the crushing criticisms on nearly every author of that epoch who has achieved lasting fame. What cannot there be read, however, is the sterner history of those who were simply neglected. Look, for instance, at the career of Charles Lamb, who now seems to us a writer who must have disarmed opposition, and have been a favorite from the first. Lamb's Rosamond gray was published in 1798, and for two years was not even reviewed. His poems appeared during the same year. In 1815 he introduced Talfourd to Wordsworth as his own only admirer. In 1819 the series of Essays of Elia was begun, and Shelley wrote to Leigh Hunt that year: When I think of such a mind as Lamb's, when I see how unnoticed remain things of such exquisite and complete perfection, what should I hope for myself, if I had not higher objects in view than fame? These Essays were published in a volume in 1823;
y side, in The token, about 1827, forty years ago. Willis rose at once to notoriety, but Mr. S. G. Goodrich, the editor of the work, states in his autobiography, that Hawthorne's contributions did not attract the slightest attention. Ten years later, in 1837, these same sketches were collected in a volume, as Twice-told Tales ; but it was almost impossible to find a publisher for them, and when published they had no success. I well remember the apathy with which even the enlarged edition of 1842 was received, in spite of the warm admiration of a few; nor was it until the publication of The scarlet letter, in 1850, that its author could fairly be termed famous. For twenty years he was, in his own words, the obscurest man of letters in America ; and it is the thought to which the mind must constantly recur, in thinking of Hawthorne,--How could any combination of physical and mental vigor enable a man to go on producing works of such a quality in an atmosphere so chilling? Probably
of the work, states in his autobiography, that Hawthorne's contributions did not attract the slightest attention. Ten years later, in 1837, these same sketches were collected in a volume, as Twice-told Tales ; but it was almost impossible to find a publisher for them, and when published they had no success. I well remember the apathy with which even the enlarged edition of 1842 was received, in spite of the warm admiration of a few; nor was it until the publication of The scarlet letter, in 1850, that its author could fairly be termed famous. For twenty years he was, in his own words, the obscurest man of letters in America ; and it is the thought to which the mind must constantly recur, in thinking of Hawthorne,--How could any combination of physical and mental vigor enable a man to go on producing works of such a quality in an atmosphere so chilling? Probably the truth is, that art precedes criticism, and that every great writer creates or revives the taste by which he is appre
or eighty years ago, the crushing criticisms on nearly every author of that epoch who has achieved lasting fame. What cannot there be read, however, is the sterner history of those who were simply neglected. Look, for instance, at the career of Charles Lamb, who now seems to us a writer who must have disarmed opposition, and have been a favorite from the first. Lamb's Rosamond gray was published in 1798, and for two years was not even reviewed. His poems appeared during the same year. In 1815 he introduced Talfourd to Wordsworth as his own only admirer. In 1819 the series of Essays of Elia was begun, and Shelley wrote to Leigh Hunt that year: When I think of such a mind as Lamb's, when I see how unnoticed remain things of such exquisite and complete perfection, what should I hope for myself, if I had not higher objects in view than fame? These Essays were published in a volume in 1823; and Willis records that when he was in Europe, ten years later, and just before Lamb's death,
s 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, as the farmer does, to enrich the soil. Is it luxuriant, astonishing, the wonder of the neighborhood; so much the better,--in let it go! Sydney Smith said, in 1818, There does not appear to be in America, at this moment, one man of any considerable talents. Though this might not now be said, we still stand before the world with something of the Swiss reputation, as a race of thrifty republicans, patriotic and courageous, with a decided turn for mechanical invention. What we are actually producing, even to-day, in any domain of pure art, is very little; it is only the broad average intelligence of the masses that does us any credit. And even this is
n 1798, and for two years was not even reviewed. His poems appeared during the same year. In 1815 he introduced Talfourd to Wordsworth as his own only admirer. In 1819 the series of Essays of Elia was begun, and Shelley wrote to Leigh Hunt that year: When I think of such a mind as Lamb's, when I see how unnoticed remain things of such exquisite and complete perfection, what should I hope for myself, if I had not higher objects in view than fame? These Essays were published in a volume in 1823; and Willis records that when he was in Europe, ten years later, and just before Lamb's death, it was difficult to light upon a person who had read Elia. This brings us to a contemporary instance. Willis and Hawthorne wrote early, side by side, in The token, about 1827, forty years ago. Willis rose at once to notoriety, but Mr. S. G. Goodrich, the editor of the work, states in his autobiography, that Hawthorne's contributions did not attract the slightest attention. Ten years later, in 1
a mind as Lamb's, when I see how unnoticed remain things of such exquisite and complete perfection, what should I hope for myself, if I had not higher objects in view than fame? These Essays were published in a volume in 1823; and Willis records that when he was in Europe, ten years later, and just before Lamb's death, it was difficult to light upon a person who had read Elia. This brings us to a contemporary instance. Willis and Hawthorne wrote early, side by side, in The token, about 1827, forty years ago. Willis rose at once to notoriety, but Mr. S. G. Goodrich, the editor of the work, states in his autobiography, that Hawthorne's contributions did not attract the slightest attention. Ten years later, in 1837, these same sketches were collected in a volume, as Twice-told Tales ; but it was almost impossible to find a publisher for them, and when published they had no success. I well remember the apathy with which even the enlarged edition of 1842 was received, in spite of t
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