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Angler” and Pope's “Dunciad.” Both Winthrop and Bradford, on the other hand, were born before Shakspere was certainly known as a popular playwright. Yet a hasty comparison of Bradford's writing or Winthrop's with Sewall's will show so many more points of resemblance than of difference, both in actual circumstance and in general mood, that it is hard to realise how when Sewall began his memoranda — not to speak of when he finished them — the generation to which Winthrop and Bradford belonged was almost extinct. The three books impress one as virtually contemporary.
How different this social pause was from the social progress of seventeenth-century England may be felt by similarly comparing two familiar English records of the period. Lord Herbert of Cherbury, born in 1582 and dead in 1648, was almost exactly contemporary with Winthrop; his autobiography, written in his last years, is among the most characteristic records of social temper in our language. Fifteen years before Lord Herbert's death, and ten before he began his autobiography, Samuel Pepys was born, whose celebrated diary runs from 1660 to 1669. Pepys stopped writing five years before Sewall began, and so far as age goes he might personally have known Lord Herbert. Yet the whole temper of Herbert is so remote from that of Pepys as to make their writing seem of distinctly different epochs ; the fact that their lives overlapped seems half incredible.
Almost any similar comparison you choose will tell the same story. Compare, for example, your impressions of Essex and of Ralegh with those of Monk and of Marlborough; compare Bacon with Newton, and Elizabeth with William III. Then hastily name to yourself some of the worthics who are
remembered from seventeenth-century America. Bradford and Winthrop, we have named already; Winslow and Dudley, too.
Add to them Standish, Endicott, Roger Williams, and John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians; John Cotton and Richard Mather; Increase Mather, son of the
one and son-in-law of the other; Cotton Mather, who combined the blood of the two immigrant ministers; Sir William Phips; and Sewall, who with Stoughton and the rest sat in judgment on Salem witchcraft. You can hardly help admitting that, though the type of character in America could not remain quite stationary, the change there between the earlier years of the seventeenth century and its close was surprisingly less marked than was the change in England. A little thought will speedily show what this means. Although the type of character which planted itself in New England during the first quarter of the seventeenth century was very Puritan and therefore, from the point of view of its contemporary English literature, very eccentric, it was truly an Elizabethan type. One conclusion seems clear: the native Yankees of 1700 were incalculably nearer their Elizabethan ancestors than were any of their contemporaries born in the mother country.
In this fact, – a fact rarely emphasised, but once perceived hardly to be denied, — we come to a consideration worth pondering. Such historical convulsions as those which declared themselves in the England of the seventeenth century result from the struggling complexity of social and political forces in densely populated regions. Such stagnation of social evolution as marks the seventeenth century in New England is humanly possible only under conditions where the pressure of external fact, social, political, and economic, is relaxed, - under conditions, in short, where the individual type is for a while stronger than environment. Such changes as the course of history brought to seventeenth-century England, which it found in the full vigour of Elizabethan life and left under the constitutional sway of King William III., are changes which must result to individuals just as much as to nations themselves in something which, for want of a more exact word, we may call experience. Such lack of change as marks the America of the seventeenth century indicates the absence of this. Yet even in the America of the seventeenth century a true nation, the nation of which we modern Americans are ourselves a part, was growing towards a maturity which in our time is beginning to reveal itself. Though the phrase seem paradoxical, it is surely true that our national life in its beginnings was something hardly paralleled in other history, a century of untrammelled national inexperience.
LITERATURE IN AMERICA FROM 1600 to 1700
An instructive impression of the character of literature in America during the seventeenth century may be derived from a glance at the titles recorded in Mr. Whitcomb's “ Chrono logical Outlines.”] Speaking roughly, — and in considerations like this minute precision is of little importance, - we may say that out of about two hundred and fifteen of these titles one hundred and ten deal with matters which may unquestionably be described as religious, and that of these all but one name books produced in New England. The next most considerable class of writings includes matters which may be called historical or biographical, beginning with “ The True Relation” of Captain John Smith, - a work hardly to be included in any classification of American literature which should not equally include M. de Tocqueville's study of our democracy and Mr. Bryce's of our contemporary commonwealth ; this list also includes such biographies as those of Cotton Mather, whose main purpose was quite as religious as it was biographical. Out of fifty-five titles thus comprehensively grouped, thirty-seven are of New England origin; the other eighteen, including the separate works of Captain John Smith, come either from Virginia or from the middle colonies. Twenty of Mr. Whitcomb's titles, including such things as “The Freeman's Oath,” of 1639, said to have been the first product of the press in the United States, may be called political ; only three of these twenty are not from New England. Of nineteen other titles, including almanacs and works of scientific character, which may best be classified with miscellanies, all but two originated in this same region. Finally there are nine titles to which the name of literature may properly be applied, if under the head of literature one include not only the poems of that tenth Muse, Mrs. Anne Bradstreet, but the “Bay Psalm Book," and so pervasively theological a poem as Michael Wigglesworth's “ Day of Doom," and the first version of the “ New England Primer.” Of the nine books thus recorded only Sandys's translation of Ovid did not proceed directly from New England.
1 Throughout our consideration of literature in America, Whitcomb's "Chronological Outlines of American Literature,” also published by Macmillan, will prove as generally useful as we shall find Ryland's “ Outlines ” concerning English literature. For the history of literature in America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Professor M. C. Tyler's books, published by Putnam of New York, are indispensable. The extracts from the writers of these centuries in Stedman and Hutchinson's “ Library of American Literature are adequate for all general purposes
Though the precise numbers of this hasty count may be inexact, and the classification itself questionable, the main facts which the classification shows can hardly be denied. In the first place, the intellectual activity of New England so far exceeded that of any other part of the country that in literary history other regions may be neglected. In the second place, the intellectual activity of New England expressed itself chiefly in a religious form; and next in a form which, if the term “history” include diaries and the like, may broadly be described as historical. Out of two hundred and fifteen titles all but forty-eight fall under one or the other of these heads; and of these remaining forty-eight only nine may by any stretch of classification be held pure literature. Meanwhile more than half of Whitcomb's titles are incontestably religious in character; and at least the New England publications which we have hastily classified under the heads of history, politics, miscellany, and even literature itself, are considerably impregnated with religious material.