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Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6 by courtesy of the Review of Resiews No. 3 copyright by American Press Assn.; No. 6 copyrighted by Davis & Sanford, N. Y. 1. JOAN FISKE.
2. SIDNEY LANIER. 3. JOAQUIN MILLER.
4. BRET HARTE. 6. SAMUEL L. CLEMENS (“Mark Twain ").
6. EDWARD EVERETT HALE.
his chief characters are often Ameri- money and in reputation, the advance cans sojourning abroad. It was al- made in technique during the last most inevitable that our modern em- generation has been remarkable, and pbasis upon our local and National it has been confined to no one section life should have caused some writers of the country, as any compiler of a to reach out in the direction of the sectional anthology can testify. Pubexotic and the introspective. They are lishers know, through the reports of exceptions that prove the rule, though their readers, that one of their chief the rule scarcely needs the proof they difficulties lies in the fact that now-aafford. The spread of our newspapers days comparatively few manuscripts and the greater interest taken by them are really bad, and that a formidable in literature, the rise of the cheap number fairly good — good magazine, the widely diffused move- enough at least to demand considerament for the creation and support of tion. But with all this improvement a native drama, the partial success of in style, with the equally remarkable the efforts for better laws of copy- spread of literary ambition through right, the addition of English and all classes and all parts of the country, American literature to the school the number of contributors to creative curriculum, and the great prevalence literature of high merit and presumpof the public school system — these tive permanence does not seem to be and similar phenomena may fairly be embarrassingly large. It is not sursaid to have necessitated, not only the prising that when the tidal wave of liberation and expansion of our
the “ best sellers” receded, few National literature during the past traces of its presence were left in the four decades, but also its unparalleled shape of deposits upon the shores of quantitative and qualitative growth. time. But it is disconcerting to look
The last sentence suggests the pro- back over a period of more than a priety of asserting that the democrati- generation and discover how few zation of our recent literature is as novels and collections of short stories marked as its National liberation and and volumes of poetry a young man expansion. Ours is essentially a lit
or woman eager for culture must be erature designed for the greatest good advised to read. There are literally of the greatest number. There are no hundreds of volumes and scores of giants among our men of letters, but writers he or she may read with profit there is a truly extraordinary number and pleasure; there are many books of writers that really count. Never which one ought to read if one wishes before was the average of style so to be cognizant of the best that one's high — whether in newspapers, or countrymen are saying, thinking and magazines, or books. Even in poetry, doing; but to be posted about one's with its restricted rewards both in country and to spend one's time not
unpleasantly and not unprofitably will by means of newspapers, magascarcely seem to the true lover of zines, books, lectures, libraries, schools literature the proper be-all and end-all and universities, literary clubs and of his literary existence.
theatres — that has ever been known What the true lover of literature is in the world. But it may be doubted, forever seeking is the masterpiece that with regret, whether they have often gives rapture, the work that approxi- stirred the pulses or thrilled the mates perfection and is sui generis hearts of those lovers of literature the book that takes its place of divine who, having been born liege subjects right among the classics of its kind - of the Muses and having trained their in a word, the creation of authentic taste upon the supreme classics of the genius. The patriotic American look- ages, are forever demanding from the ing back upon the literary productivity books they read that truly aristocratic of his country for the past half- virtue, the power to produce rapture. century may
point with pride” We have done well in our literary to hundreds of conscientious and evolution during the past half cencreditable minor poets, to a large tury, we have probably done all that number of talented novelists and was humanly possible through literawriters of short stories, to an army
ture to lift the masses of our heteroof versatile miscellaneous writers of geneous population and to weld them ability - journalists in the main – into a united people of high aspiraand to a fairly imposing array of ex- tions, we have made literature, as cellent scholars, competent and in a never before, subserve the greatest few cases brilliant critics, conscien- good of the greatest number; but in tious historians, some working on a the service of literature in and for itlarge and some on a minute scale, and self and in the interests of those to finally to an increasing and important whom it is not only the greatest of the class of what we may conveniently arts but the very breath of their bedesignate as sociological writers." ing, we have done—to put it mildly
— These men and women for in the not superlatively well. We have added literature of our period the American to our territorial possessions, we woman both as reader and as writer have distributed the products of our has more than held her own with the invention and our industry throughAmerican man have done a truly
have done a truly out the world, we have helped to feed noteworthy work in lifting the mass the nations, we have been aggressive of our literature to a comparatively expounders of American ideas, we high level of excellence; they have have won respect for our art and made it perhaps the most extraor- science and stimulated foreign indinarily efficient instrument for the terest in our literature; but we have spread of popular, democratic culture produced, apparently, no book of
world-wide importance since Uncle must surely be that, while the material Tom's Cabin. Perhaps, when we re- aspects of our civilization do greatly flect that the two greatest writers of impress us, they impress us with an very modern times seem to be a Nor- increasing sense of dissatisfaction, wegian and a Russian, we may console not to say dread, which in time proourselves with the thought that we duces a determination to dress the are at least no worse off than most of balance, to reduce our material inthe older countries of Europe in re
terests to their proper subjection to spect to our lack of great representa- our spiritual interests — in brief, to tive writers, and that, of all nations, purify and elevate our democracy. we are probably the best off in respect This sense of moral responsibility for to the beneficent influence of our our own prosperity, this determinaliterature upon the masses. The fact tion to purify our democracy, this inremains, however, that the material creasing realization of the need of conaspects of our civilization are still sidering the interests of the people as those that most impress the world at
a whole above the interests of any large.
class or classes, forms the dominant But we seem to have wandered far note of American life and thought away from the question whether the during the past decade; and, reflectliterature of the past decade is not ing as our literature always does the clearly differentiated from that of the course of our life and thought, it is preceding generation, which saw the naturally the dominating note of our decline of the New England school of
most recent literature. writers, the rise of the South and the This does not mean that in our West in literature, and the practical latter-day literature the
66 mucksupremacy of New York, if not as a raker " has usurped the place of any true literary centre, at least as the or all of the nine Muses. The muckhome of the chief magazines and pub- raker and the magazines and newslishing houses — that is to say, as the papers that employ him have been inliterary emporium of the country. fluential; but they produce journalism, Perhaps we have not wandered so far not literature. It is rather in much of away from this question, after all. the fiction of the period, some of which The statement that it is the material has not been without effect upon aspects of our civilization that most remedial legislation, in the speeches impress the world at large suggests of public men, in the works of econothe question -- the very important mists and sociologists, in biographies
— question — whether it is these aspects and autobiographies of leading public that most impress ourselves. And the servants, and in that increasingly imanswer to this question, with its vital portant class of writings which, for bearing upon our future literature, want of a fitter name, we may call the