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the philosophy of history. As for the books of travel, they were hack work, unworthy of the reputation of the author, and scarcely belonging to literature at all ; they may charitably be omitted from any summary of Irving's achievements.
At the beginning of this chapter the name of Addison was mentioned as that of a precursor
Irving's of Irving Addison,” says Taine, “ made Quality. morality fashionable"; and so Irving, in better but still somewhat coarse days, threw his powerful influence on the side of right and truth, when a nation's literature was beginning to take form. quote from another writer-contrary to my usual custom-a just estimate of this element in his work :
I cannot bring myself to exclude [Irving's moral quality] from a literary estimate, even in the face of the current gospel of art for art's sake. There is something that made Scott and Irving personally loved by the millions of their readers, who had only the dimmest idea of their personality. This was some quality perceived in what they wrote. Each one can define it for himself; there it is, and I do not see why it is not as integral a part of the authors-an element in the estimate of their future position—as what we term their intellect, their knowledge, their skill, or their art. However you rate it, you cannot account for Irving's influence in the world without it. In his tender tribute to Irving, the great-hearted Thackeray, who saw as clearly as anybody the place of mere literary art in the sum total of life, quoted the dying words of Scott to Lockhart,—“Be a good man, my dear.” We know well enough that the great author of “The Newcomes” and the great author of “The Heart of Midlothian” recognized the abiding value in literature of integrity, sincerity, purity, charity, faith. These are beneficences; and Irving's literature, walk round it and measure it by whatever critical instruments you will, is a beneficent literature. The author loved good women and little children and a pure life; he had faith in his fellow
men, a kindly sympathy with the lowest, without any subservience to the highest; he retained a belief in the possibilty of chivalrous actions, and did not care to envelop them in a cynical suspicion; he was an author still capable of an enthusiasm. His books are wholesome, full of sweetness and charm, of humor without any sting, of amusement without any stain; and their more solid qualities are marred by neither pedantry nor pretension.*
*"Washington Irving,” by Charles Dudley Warner (American Men of Letters series), pp. 302, 303.
What is the connection between theological writing and literature ? Shall theology be Theology classed as a division of science, and science ruled out of literature; or shall literature be said to embrace all written matter, and theology be thus included-since no one will deny that of the mass of printed books the religious proportion is huge ? An English critic defines literature thus : “ By literature we mean the written thoughts and feelings of intelligent men and women, arranged in a way
which will give pleasure to the reader.” Granting that
religious literature” expresses the thoughts and feelings of intelligent people, is all of it arranged in a way which gives the reader pleasure ? Even if it does, what place shall be assigned it in view of another definition : that real literature must have to do with the ideal, with the imaginative? Would the vast army of creed-makers, of framers of theological systems, of expounders of Scripture, of writers of moral advice, from the “fathers” down to the preachers of to-day, admit that their statements were ideal, imaginative, unreal, and not, every one of them, eternal and immutable truth ? Must
we be forced to the conclusion that there is no true religious literature save that produced by William Langland or Bunyan of old, and the writers of moral novels and Sunday-school books to-day-many of whom, in their pictures of life, are certainly highly imaginative? Or, on the other hand, may literature, to borrow a phrase from Whittier, “turn the crank of an opinion-mill ” ?
The answer, I believe, is to be found midway beArt and eth- tween extreme theories. A good man by and religion. no means necessarily makes a good book, while a bad man may write an admirable one. Art shall not be measured by ethics, while, on the other hand, not one dictate of common-sense shows that ethics, as ethics, should be brought to any artistic test. Other things being equal, the national literatures, the books in a literature, which have most successfully given art a purpose (yet not forgetting that ars est celare artem), have won the greatest success." And purpose surely includes conscience, benefit, progress. This union, for twelve hundred years, has been specially insisted upon by English and American literature ; and to it that literature owes manymost-of its triumphs. If Christianity is the best of the world's religions; if at its best it is, as its founder meant it to be, pre-eminently spiritual and unritualistic and undogmatic, then it ought to exert a powerful influence upon literature. So, in fact, it has, in every age.
Leaving these general propositions for the special application, it should be said that it is true that pure litera:ure should have a large element of the ideal,
the imaginative, the unpractical. As literature approaches the commonplace, the worldly, the technical, it loses its power. Theological books and religious writings in general are more closely connected with literature than are books of law, political science, geology, geography, ethnology, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, etc., because theological books, even at their worst, profess to concern themselves with the unseen, instead of the seen, with the realm of faith, rather than that of observed fact or of conclusions drawn from physical phenomena. Frankly admitting that thousands of religious books belong to literature in no true sense, it is clear that the religious department of the book-making art more nearly approaches the literary domain than does any department of scientific or technical work. Religious writing is not destitute of imagination, sometimes of the loftiest kind ; it often blooms into art or bursts into song; and ever, at its best, its head is among the stars, though its feet be on the earth. We know little about the future life ; but to religion that life is all-important; this fact alone tends to idealize religious writing. Therefore, in American literature, as in any other, the ethical, or, indeed, the distinctly theological, division cannot be ignored.
While it must be admitted that American literature has never produced a religious classic, or a religious book distinctly of the first class, it is
theology clear that its religious department has made
The later American
the earlier, gains, which, if not commensurate with as literature. those in other divisions of intellectual progress, are yet considerable. In intellectual ability, and still more