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d unknown tongues, or they will turn to some one who can address them in English. On the other hand, these same conditions tempt one to accept a low standard of execution, to substitute artifice for art, and to disregard the more permanent verdict of more fastidious tribunals. The richest thought and the finest literary handling which America has yet produced — as of Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau — reached at first but a small audience, and are but very gradually attaining a wider hold. Renan has said that every man's work is superficial, until he has learned to content himself with the approbation of a few. This is only one half the truth; but it is the half which Americans find hardest to remember. Yet American literature, though its full harvest be postponed for another hundred years, is sure to come to ripeness at last. Our national development in this direction, though slow, is perfectly healthy. There are many influences to retard, but none to distort. Even if the mo
A plea for culture. Theodore Parker somewhere says (borrowing the phrase from what Dr. Johnson said of Scotland) that in America every one gets a mouthful of education, but scarcely any one a full meal. It is the defect of some of our recent debates on this subject, that, instead of remedying the starvation, the reformers propose to deduct from the dinner. The disputants appear to agree in the assumption that an average Senior Sophister is a plethoric monster of learning, and that something must be done to take him down. For this end, some plan to remove his Greek and Latin, others his German, others again his mathematics,--all assuming it as a thing not to be tolerated, that one small head should carry all he knows. Yet surely it needs but little actual observation of our college boys, in their more unguarded moments,--at the annual regatta, for instance, or among the young ladies on Class Day,--to mitigate these fears. The Class Orator does not always impress us with an
noticed that, while the leaders of public affairs in America are usually what are called self-made men, this is not the case with our literary leaders. Among first-class American writers, culture is usually in the second generation; they have usually tumbled about in a library, as Holmes says, in childhood; at all events, they are usually college-bred men. It has been remarked, for instance, that our eight foremost historians — assuming that this list comprises Prescott, Motley, Bancroft, Hildreth, Sparks, Ticknor, Palfrey, Parkman — were all college graduates, and indeed graduated at a single college. The choice of names may be open to question, but the general fact is undoubted. Now if it be true that there are fewer among us who rise from the ranks in literature than in politics, it seems not merely to indicate that literature, as being a finer product than statesmanship, implies more elaborate training; but also that our institutions guarantee such training in the one case, a
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