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self; and those who personally knew him remember him, as Dr. Holmes did, pleasantly and kindly. Yet, after all, one feels in him rather the quality of a dashing adventurer, of an amiably honourable Bohemian, than such secure sense of personal distinction as marked Bryant and Irving and their contemporaries in New England. A school of letters in which a man of Willis's quality could attain the eminence which for years made him conspicuous was certainly declining.

The “Knickerbocker Magazine,” which came to an end in 1864, began to fade about 1857. In that year the “ At

. lantic Monthly ” was started in Boston, and in New York

Harper's Weekly.” Both persist; this date, then, two years after the “ Knickerbocker Gallery” was published, is a convenient one at which to close our first survey of the literature produced in the Middle States. There are certain names which we might have mentioned; Mrs. Kirkland, for example, whom Poe records among the Literati, wrote some sketches of life in the Middle West which are still vivid, and although of slight positive merit, decidedly interesting as history. Hermann Melville, with his books about the South Seas, which Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have declared the best ever written, and with his novels of maritime adventure, began a career of literary promise, which never came to ?! fruition. Certain writers, too, who reached maturity later had already made themselves known,- Bayard Taylor, for example, and George William Curtis ; and in regular journalism Horace Greeley had made the “ New York Tribune” already a strong and important ally of the reforms which were strenuously declaring themselves in New England. But certainly between 1833 and 1857 the “ Tribune,” even with Margaret Fuller and later with George Ripley as its literary critics, had not in New York perspective such characteristic importance as had the “ Knickerbocker Magazine.” What the “Tribune” stood for, was rather an offshoot of some New England energies which we shall consider later.

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The truth is, that the school of letters which began in 1798 with the work of Brockden Brown and persisted throughout the lifetime of Sir Walter Scott in the writings of Irving, of Cooper, and of Bryant, never dealt with deeply significant matters. Almost from the time when Bryant first collected his poems, the literature made in New York and under its influence became less and less important. New York newspapers, to be sure, of which the best examples are the “ Evening Post ” and the “ Tribune,” were steadily gaining in merit and influence; but literature pure and simple was not. If we may hold Poe to have belonged to the general phase of American literary activity which we have been considering, — the only phase which during the first half of the nineteenth century developed itself outside of New England, - we may say that this literary activity reached its acme in the work of Poe, itself for all its merit not deeply significant. And even in Poe's time, and still more surely a little later, the literature of which he proves the most important master declined into such good-humoured trivialities as one finds in the “ Knickerbocker Gallery” and in the life and work of Willis. By the middle of the nineteenth century, in fact, the literary impulse of the Middle States had proved abortive. For the serious literature of America we must revert to New England.

BOOK V

THE RENAISSANCE OF NEW

ENGLAND

BOOK V

THE RENAISSANCE OF NEW ENGLAND

I

SOME GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF NEW ENGLAND

From the time, shortly after 1720, when Franklin left Boston, where Increase and Cotton Mather were still preaching, we have paid little attention to that part of the country. For during the seventy-two years which intervened between Cotton Mather's death and the nineteenth century, Boston was of less literary importance than it was before or than it has been since. To understand its revival, we must call to mind a little more particularly some general characteristics of New England.

A glance at any map will show that Boston, whose geographical position has obviously made it the principal city of that region, may be distinguished from most American cities by the fact that, comparatively speaking, it is not on the way anywhere. The main line of travel from abroad to-day comes to the port of New York. People bound thence for Washington proceed through Philadelphia and Baltimore; people bound westward are pretty sure to tend toward Chicago; people going southwest pass through St. Louis or New Orleans; people going around the world generally sail from San Francisco; but the only people who are apt to make the excursion from New York to Boston and return are those who do so on purpose. Of course, the ease of intercommunication nowadays combines with several other causes to disguise this isolation of the capital city of New

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