hen 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 more and more acid until they drop.
Give Ruskin space enough, and he grows frantic and beats the air like Carlyle.
Thackeray was tinged with the same bitterness, but he was the last Englishman who could be said, in any artistic sense, to have a style; as 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 through affectation or spasm, but only by accepting the essential laws of art, which are the same for the whole human race.
Any misconceived patronage — to call anything
aders 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, and not in the other.