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Edmund
Clarence
Stedman,
b. 1833

heartily praise, is still so incomplete that it cannot justly be reviewed in the pages of a collateral work; and other able writers have made but fragmentary contributions to the general theme. I must pass by, therefore, the names of some who have written well or ill, laboriously or superficially, upon topics discussed in these pages. Edmund Clarence Stedman

must be mentioned, however, for reasons relating to the history of American literature.

The publication of Stedman's “ Victorian Poets," in 1875, and “ Poets of America,” in 1885, marked, it seems to me, a period in the literary progress of the country. One critical reader

may

honestly differ from another; and thus it seems to me that Mr. Stedman's estimate of certain authors, of Landor, Procter, Swinburne, Whitman, or Bayard Taylor, is far too high; and that he has partly failed to indicate our emergence from colonialism and provincialism, by his too kindly insertion of many names of little rhymers and “poetesses” who are beginning to be covered by the cloud of oblivion, or who have never emerged from obscurity. But in his two books, closely connected with each other, and covering the same period, we have a laborious, learned, thoughtful, and complete review of the poetical work of English-speaking authors since 1835; a review as thorough as historical writing ought to be, and in such a chapter as that on Browning, anticipating, I am sure, the ultimate verdict of the poet-artist and critic of the future.

Already the poets of whom Mr. Stedman treats have more readers in America than in England; in a generation the central powers and influences of English thought and literature will have transferred their abode to the great nation of the western world. This change has not yet come, though it impends; and it is well that American criticism soberly anticipates its arrival by a grave, broad, and self-respecting appeal to the canons of universal literature, and not by the didacticism, the small personalities, or the frantic nationalism which once were thought necessary or excusable.

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Toward the close of the eighteenth century, and indeed when the nineteenth century was well advanced, there was little to indicate the commanding place to be held by American historical writing in the literature of the world. The Saxon mind is an observant one; and certainly the early English settlers in America had written sufficiently numerous and voluminous chronicles of their sight-seeings and experiences.

But the admirable diaries of William Bradford, John Winthrop, and Samuel Sewall did not foretell, with any certainty, the coming of a historical literature.

To be a good writer of diaries is one thing ; to be a broad and able historian quite another. Pepys was not a great social analyst, nor Boswell a critical biographer. Prince's “Annals” and Stith's “ History of Virginia,” of all the books recorded in the chapter on “Early Descriptive and Historical Writers," were the only ones we can call precursors of Bancroft's works, or Motley's; and he would certainly be a very patriotic student who would pretend to find in them traces of the powers of a great historian.

All praise, of its kind, belongs

Thomas

to those who patiently treasured perishable information, or who set in order their little stock of colonial records ; but their time was not ripe for the appearance of historians in the truer sense.

Nearly every one of the earliest American historical writers was a man of affairs, a participator in the deeds he described. This was specially true of Smith, Bradford, Winthrop, the Mathers, Sewall, and Stith ; and the remark applies equally well to Thomas Hutchinson, whose name may stand at the chronological head of this later list. When we look at the commanding figures of the Revolutionary leaders in Massachusetts, we are inclined to forget that Hutchinson, for a considerable

Hutchinson, period, was really the “leading spirit of 1711-1780. the Province." * It meant much, in colonial days, for a man to be member of the general court, speaker of the same, chief-justice, member of the provincial council, lieutenant-governor, and gover

Hutchinson, though a Tory, and a legal representative of the authority of the crown, was a native of Boston, a graduate of Harvard, and a genuine New-Englander. Modern readers sometimes forget that a fair share of the intelligence and conscience of the colonies, as well as of their wealth, was on the Tory side. Though Hutchinson became exceedingly, and naturally, unpopular during the patriotic American uprising in the decade before the Revolution; though his house was more than once attacked, its contents burned, and its historical collections dispersed; and though,

* Hosmer, “Life of Samuel Adams," 34.

nor.

finally, Hutchinson was driven from the place of his birth, even before the guns of Lexington and Concord were fired, there is no reason why, in these dispassionate days, he should not be credited with an honest desire to do what he deemed right. Loyalty to conviction certainly cost him more than a similar fidelity to conscience cost the “traitor” Adams, or Hancock, or Otis.

Hutchinson sat in a chair occupied by Winthrop and William Shirley before him, and by John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Sullivan, Elbridge Gerry, Edward Everett, Emory Washburn, and John A. Andrew after him. His intellectual ability was such as to make him worthy of mention in this honorable company. His

His “ History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay,” which, in its comHutchinson's pleted form, brings the story down to the the Province very year of the author's exit from the colsetts Bay." ony, may fairly be called a praiseworthy production, even from the literary standpoint. One old book may be valuable as an original authority, another may be prized for its quaintness of autobiographical detail or social chronicle. Hutchinson's work offers something more than this, and deserves some credit for its literary style. Notwithstanding the marked political opinions of the author, one feels a confidence in his statements greater than that reposed in the writings of the professional moralist Cotton Mather. Naturally, Hutchinson never attained a tithe of the popularity enjoyed by Increase and Cotton Mather in their capacity of historians; politics had crowded literature to the

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