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a state on the basis of the town-meeting; they were spreading Christianity, as they understood it, with might and main ; they were opening schools and creating a virtuous and manly public spirit; but for literature, as such, most of them cared little. They made literature possible, just as they made art possible ; but they do not deserve, in the chronicles of literature and art, a disproportionate space.
I believe that the time has come for the student to consider American literature as calmly as he would consider the literature of another country, and under the same limitations of perspective. Some things we have not done at all ; some we have done ill, some passably well, and some better than any other nation in the world. We can afford to recognize this fact and act upon it, Let us no longer praise an author because he is American, or because his booklet was printed in Boston or New York instead of London or Paris. We can afford to be self-respecting. It is the new city, the shoddy family, the growing literature, that is self-assertive. Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, Motley, are all well able to take care of their own reputations. The development of Hawthorne's genius is to be studied as impartially as we study Dante, and in the same quiet way.
And let us not give to John Norton, or Samuel Penhallow, or Mather Byles, or Robert Calef, or Nathaniel Morton, or Percival, or Mrs. Sigourney, time and thought which belong to greater and more lasting names.
Expository criticism of American literature must give way to philosophical criticism. Compendiums and guides and selections have had their work to do. Faithful workers have hunted up, set in order, and described the older American books. We have had enough description ; we want analysis. What has been and what is the environment of our literature ? What have been the relations between cause and effect, between the Saxon mind in England and the Saxon mind in America ? What have American writers thus far done, worthy to be mentioned beside Goethe, Schiller, Hugo, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Carlyle, George Eliot, and all the great writers of this and previous centuries ? What of our books are world's-books, and why? How and why have American writers succeeded and failed ?
The pages which follow-imperfect in execution, but not, I hope, wholly false in method-are a modest endeavor to aid readers in answering these questions.
LITERATURE is the written record of valuable thought, having other than merely practical purpose. Behind literature is race; behind race, climate and environment. The history of American literature is the history of the literature of a part of the English people, under new geographical and political conditions, within the present limits of the United States.
The predecessors of the English in America left unimportant literary remains. The earliest known occupants of the soil,—the people commonly called Mound-Builders, perhaps the ancestors of the North American Indians, *—whose mysterious life is now in some degree made known to us by mounds, exhumed implements and ornaments, died without leaving any written records. They built homes, tilled the soil, worked mines, and reached a civilization higher in some ways than that of their less numerous descendants, the Indian tribes of modern history; but upon American literature they had no influence, and their life in Central and Eastern North
*“Prehistoric America," by the Marquis de Nadaillac. Translated by N. d'Anvers ; edited by W. H. Dall. New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1884.
America is not celebrated by way of memory, even, in any commanding literary production of their last
They had no poet, and they died.”
The life of the North American Indians has been closely connected with the life of the English colonists in the New World, and therefore with their books of travel and history, their poems, and their novels.
The first settlers found the Indians on AmeriThe Indians.
can shores and in American woods; the very existence of the white men was jeopardized by their presence; and the personal and race characteristics of the red men became not only subjects for future romance and song, but matters of grim and direct everyday concern. To this day the Indians, possibly as numerous as in 1607, stand on the outskirts of Caucasian civilization in North America, a problem and a menace, a theme for literature, and a subject for moral and industrial reform.
But “aboriginal American literature," as it has been ambitiously termed, bears to the literature of the United States a far less important relation than Celtic Aboriginal literature bears to English. There is, to be American Literature. sure, a scanty Indian literature, but it has been an influence rather than an entity; and it deserves mention, in a history of American intellectual progress, as an influence merely. The student of pure literature concerns himself with Longfellow's Hiawatha—the nearest approach to an American epicor with the novels of Fenimore Cooper, rather than with the remains of Indian eloquence or the paraphrases of Indian verse. Frequent episodes in the history of the United States prove, to be sure, that Indian oratory sometimes possesses force, or even sublimity; that it may unite poetical thought with bold strength of utterance ; and that measured by one rhetorical test, that of its effect upon a somewhat unimpressible and dogged race, it is not undeserving of study by the speakers of other languages. But here, as in poetry, the Indian race has not been one which has created or preserved a literature, in any large sense, whether by wandering minstrels, by rehearsers of national legends, by picture-writing, or by written words. The materials of literature have been about the race, in nature and life, but these materials have lacked the shaping force of an indigenous culture.
Much, indeed, must be said of the Indian, in studying the works of American writers; in the early narratives of colonization, unimportant as literature but interesting as history, he fills a large place; and in the pages of the two authors just mentioned, his picture stands out prominently, known and examined in many lands. Reserving for a future volume of this work the consideration of other matters concerning this interesting race, it may be said at the outset that two utterly variant presentations of Indian character have been prevalent in America, the second of which has chiefly influenced American literature.
In the first place, it has been maintained by many who have been directly familiar with the Indians in daily life, that they are cruel, vindictive, and treacherous ; incapable of civilization ; and worthy only of