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thing more than even the great name of Shakspere includes, — he will have had a glimpse of the natural law which not only governed the course of Shakspere himself and of Elizabethan literature, but has governed in the past and will govern in the future the growth, development, and decline of all literature and of all fine art whatsoever. Lasting literature has its birth when a creative impulse, which we may call imaginative, moves men to break the shackles of tradition, making things which have not been before; sooner or later this impulse is checked by a growing sense of the inexorable limits of fact and of language; and then creative imagination sinks into some new tradition, to be broken only when, in time to come, the vital force of imagination shall revive.

As English literature has grown into maturity, the working of this law throughout its course has become evident. The first impulse, we have seen, gave us the work of Chaucer; the second, which came only after generations, gave us the Elizabethan lyrics and dramas, Spenser and Shakspere, and the final form of the English Bible. This last is probably the greatest masterpiece of translation in the world; it has exercised on the thought and the language of English-speaking people an influence which cannot be overestimated. translation, however, it rather indicates how eager Elizabethan Englishmen were to know the splendours of world-old literature, than reveals a spontaneous impulse towards native expression. Apart from this supreme work, the fully developed literature of the Elizabethan period took on the whole the form of poetry; that of the eighteenth century, on the other hand, took on the whole the form of prose; and as English prose literature has developed, no phase of it has developed more highly than its fiction. Vaguely general though this statement be, it is perhaps enough to indicate an important general tendency. The first form in which the normal literature of any language develops is instinctively poetic; prose comes later; and prose fiction, that intricate combination of

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poetic impulse with prosaic form, comes later still. In 1625 English literature was fully developed only in the forms of lyric and dramatic poetry.

It was about this time that the America with which we shall be concerned came into existence. It began with a number of mutually independent settlements, each of which grew into something like political integrity. When the Constitution of the United States was adopted, somewhat more than a hundred years ago, the sentiment

the sentiment of local sovereignty in the separate States was accordingly too strong to allow the federal power to assume an independent name. As the power thus founded developed into one of the most considerable in modern history, its citizens found themselves driven by this unique fact of national namelessness to a custom which, if misunderstood, is often held presumptuous; they called themselves Americans, a name geographically proper to all natives of the Western Hemisphere, from Canada to Patagonia. By this time the custom thus historically established has given to the name “ America” the sense in which we generally use it. The America with whose literary history we are to be concerned is only that part of the American continent which is dominated by the English-speaking people now subject to the government of the United States.

A literary history of America, then, should concern itself with such lasting expressions in words of the meaning of life as this people has uttered during its three centuries of growingly independent existence; or, in simpler terms, with what America has contributed to the literature of the English language.

Accidents of chronology though the centuries of any era must be, they prove in such study as ours convenient divisions of time, at once easy to remember and characteristically distinct. In the history of America, at least, each century has traits of its own. In 1600 there was no such thing as English-speaking America ; in 1700 all but one of the colonies which have developed into the United States were finally established, and the English conquest of the middle colonies founded by the Dutch or the Swedes was virtually complete. In 1700 every one of the American colonies was loyally subject to the government of King William III.; in 1800 there remained throughout them no vestige of British authority. In 1800, the last complete year of the presidency of John Adams, the United States were still an experiment in government of which the result remained in doubt; the year 1900 has found them, whatever else, a power which seems as established and as important as any in the world. Clearly these three centuries of American history are at least as distinct as three generations in any race.

Again, though the political crises which decided the distinct features of these centuries were far from coincident with the centuries themseives, the typical American character of the seventeenth century differed from that of the eighteenth, and that of the eighteenth from that of the nineteenth, as distinctly as the historical limits of these centuries differed one from the other. In the seventeenth century the typical American, a man of English-speaking race, seemed to himself an immigrant hardly at home in the remote regions where his exiled life was perforce to be passed. In the eighteenth century the typical American, still English at heart, was so far in descent from the immigration that almost unawares his personal ties with the mother country had been broken. By tradition, perhaps, he knew from what part of the old world his ancestors had come, but that old home itself had probably both lost all such traditions of those ancestors and ceased to feel even curiosity about their descendants. For better or worse, this new America had become the only real home of its natives. In the nineteenth century the typical American, politically as well as personally independent of the old world, and English only so far as the traditions inseparable from ancestral law and language must keep him so, has often felt or fancied himself less at one with contemporary Englishmen than with Europeans of other and essentially foreign blood.

Yet, English or not, we Americans are English-speaking still; and English-speaking we must always remain. An accident of language and nothing more, this fact may seem to many. To those who think more deeply it can hardly fail

to mean that for better or worse the ideals which underlie our > blundering conscious life must always be the ideals which

underlie the conscious life of the mother country, and which for centuries have rectified and purified her blunders. Morally and religiously these ideals are immortally consecrated in King James's version of the Bible ; legally and politically these ideals are grouped in that great legal system which, in distinction from the Canon Law or the Civil, may broadly be called the Common Law of England. What these ideals are, every one bred in the traditions of our ancestral language instinctively

knows; but such knowledge is hard to phrase. Perhaps we come as near as may be to truth when we say that in their moral aspect the ideals which underlie our language are comprised in a profound conviction that, whatever our station or our shortcomings, each of us is bound to do right; and that in their legal aspect these ideals may similarly be summarised in the statement that we are bound on earth to maintain our rights. But the rights contemplated by our ancestral law are no abstract ones; they are those which the gradually varying custom and experience of the centuries have proved in actual exercise to be safely favourable to the public and private welfare of men like ourselves.

Vague and general as all this may seem, it has lately come to possess significance hardly paralleled since at the beginning of our Christian era the imperial power, the law and the language,

of Rome dominated what was then the world. Our law and our language, our ideals and our vital energies, which had their earliest origin in England, are at this moment struggling for world-existence with what else in ideals, in law, and in lan


guage have developed themselves otherwise in modern time. Yet for a century or more the two great English-speaking races, the native English and that of independent America, have been so disunited that each has often seemed to the other more hostile than many an alien. There are no feuds fiercer than the feuds of kindred. As we pursue our study, we shall perhaps see how this breach between the two branches of our race has grown. In brief, from the first settlement of Virginia until the moment when the guns of Admiral Dewey brought America unawares but fatally face to face with the problem of Asiatic empire, there has never been an instant when to native Englishmen and to English-speaking Americans the great political problems have presented themselves in the same terms. To-day at last there is little difference. To-day, then, the disunion of sympathy which for a century and more has kept Americans apart from the native English takes on worldwide significance.

An important phase of our study must accordingly be that which attempts to trace and to understand the changes in the native character of the Americans and of the English, which so long resulted in disunion of national sentiment. We can scrutinise them, however, only as they appear in literary history, and mostly in that of America. For our chief business concerns only the question of what contributions America has made, during its three centuries, to the literature of the English language.

Recurring to our rough, convenient division of native Americans into the three types which correspond to these three centuries of American history, we can instantly perceive that only the last, the Americans of the nineteenth century, have produced literature of any importance. The novelists and the historians, the essayists and the poets, whose names come to mind when American literature is mentioned, have all flourished since 1800. The greater part of our study, then, must concern the century just at an end. For all that, the two earlier

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