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warn as with the thunder of the Unseen, and let it charm as with an angel's song, and American Literature shall be no contemptible or insignificant thing. It shall be the teacher of the world.
American Literature will also represent American life and manners. In doing so, it will find abundant and various themes. Our physical scenery, in its wondrous diversity, and its grand features ; the habits of our people in social and domestic life, as diverse from each other, as if they were distinct nations; their various origin, their local customs, furnish a field as wide and as inviting as could well be desired. The New Englander, with his noble and his laughable side ; the New Yorker, with his variety of Dutch and English intermixture; the Southron, with his impetuous, yet generous fire; the settler of the vast valley of the West, with his life of adventures both merry and sad-all these furnish materials for description and the tale, as ample, and as unlike each other, as could well be conceived of. What a splendid use has more than one of our female writers made of the observations of her youth in a New England village. What a grotesque and unmatched humor has another drawn from the Dutch dynasty, and how does the native theme surpass in spirit and force, the foreign one, in the hands of the same graceful and accomplished writer. What freshness has another given to the record of her life in the clearing and the forest; and what ample materials are yet unused, for genius to turn to a golden use, when it shall have the wisdom to look at home for its themes.
Indeed, in respect to variety of manners, and even of physical characteristics of both people and country, we are a confederation of various and distinct nations, more truly than, politically, we are a union of sovereign states. We are the furthest possible from being alike, and from presenting, as we look at each other, the monotonous reflection of the same face eternally repeated. The traveller in the older states even, finds the habits of the people changing with every stage of his journey; while in each motley and mixed assemblage that rushes in and through the newer settlements, there is a tale for the historian, and a scene for the painter.
And yet, though we are thus various, we are still the same. Our political institutions, the levelling operation of social life with us, and the practical views of all, give to all these varieties of character, a certain family likeness, and bind us together by a family sympathy. Openness of manner, directness in intercourse, affability that is gratified to listen, as truly as to talk, an interest in what concerns our neighbors, with a readiness to laugh at everything which pleases us, are characteristics not to be mistaken.
What is more to the purpose, we not only furnish themes to
our writers, but we are pleased that they should make the most copious use of these themes. It is quite an American peculiarity, we believe, that we are not repelled, but rather attracted by those points in our fellow countrymen, which are unlike our own. The three marked nations that dwell together in the British Islands, are bound by a very growling and ill-natured sympathy; and though they may laugh at each other, it is with more heartiness than goodnatúre. But it is not so with us. No works are so popular with American readers, as those which represent American life, especially if it be life under different circumstances from those to which the reader is accustomed.
We may challenge the work to be produced, which represents any American scene with spirit, which is not at once and widely popular, and does not command a ready and extensive sale. Scott and Burns are hardly cherished by their countrymen with a heartier sympathy, intense as their national feeling is, and splendid as is the genius of these favorite writers, than certain American writers have gained from myriads of their countrymen, from the fidelity with which they have depicted American life. Sedgwick, Hoffman, Mary Clavers, H. B. Stowe, Hawthorne, and the younger Dana, with others, not a few, are instances and proofs of this remark. And yet it is but recently that these themes have not been thought too homespun and common-place to be worthy our writers. It is only a few years at most, that this vein of truly native ore has been wrought. The stores are rich and exhaustless, which it may furnish hereafter.
American Literature will be an earnest literature, and therefore a literature of power. The American people are peculiar for giving themselves with their whole soul to whatever they take in hand. They aim to master it entirely. It is their genius to distance all competitors, whatever may be the odds against themselves. Whatever is to be known in respect to the subject, they are sure to learn. Whatever is to be done, they are stronghearted to undertake. In commerce, in navigation, in the me. chanic arts, they show the genius which Burke, in his time, had the acuteness to see, and the candor to describe, as unsurpassed by “the perseverance of Holland,” “the activity of France," and “the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise.” In the fine arts, we are beginning to show the same earnestness, and to win similar success. Allston and Powers are great names, even by the side of the greatest in Europe. The ardor of our youth, and the devotedness which we give to every object, will certainly be seen in our literature, as in every other pursuit. It will make our philosophers acute and exhausting, learned yet independent. Our historians it will teach to be men of thorough research, and of original and reliable judgment. It will lead the essayist and reviewer to master the subjects of which they treat, and to speak out their thoughts with a determined purpose to be heard. In eloquence, it will utter thoughts that are true, with a force and fire which cannot be resisted. In poetry it will by and by produce men who, having toiled early and late, to master all the resources of verse, and to gather the spoils of all literature, shall pour out their souls in strains of such bewitching music and passionate energy, that the world shall listen and own their power. It cannot be but this will be the result of our national earnestness, as applied to literature.
An earnest literature will have peculiar excellences. It will not be superficial-content if it is pleasant in its air, and pointed in expression, like the literature of France. Nor will it be satisfied with the highest activity of intellect, and the most splendid flights of genius; but it will require that this activity be expended for a worthy result, and genius be consecrated to an object equal to its splendor. A literature like the German, ingenious, peculiar, startling, nay, most elaborate and profound, but exhausting itself in its own activity, will not satisfy the fiery, but sober earnestness of the American mind. A literature with the faults of the English, conventional and clannish, conceited and dogmatic, and so far, with all its unrivalled excellences, weak and narrow-such a literature it will rise above, and will be strong in the energy of its convictions, in the intensity of its feelings, and in the power to give utterance to both. To whatever it devotes itself, it will not only master it, but the men to whom it commends it, by the resistless influence of its own strong heart. There is a magic in earnestness, wherever it is seen and felt. It wakens and inspires. It kindles thought and transmits sympathy. A literature permeated by earnestness as a distinctive element, will be a literature of power.
American Literature will be pervaded by a religious and a Christian spirit. When we speak of a literature as Christian, we do not intend simply, nor mainly, a literature largely made up of books of devotion and Theology. This will be the case, it is true, when the people are eminently religious; but a literature may have much Theology, and yet very far from being Christian. Nor do we require that a preaching tone, alike unsuitable and affected, should run through its poetry and its fiction; but we do intend that Christian Truth should be recognised as the highest wisdom and the highest truth, and that the Christian Morality should be honored as supreme, by its own right. In such a literature, a specious and scoffing Infidelity will neither he avowed nor insinuated, nor will a profane and irreverent use of spiritual truths be allowed to point a jest, or enliven a tale; but a sober and reverent recognition of the religious in man will everywhere be sustained, as alike courteous and dignified. There will be no confounding of the obvious distinctions between virtue and vice; no artful and seducing twilight diffused over rules of conduct, that shine out clear as the sun; there will be no innocent adulterers, no sentimental villains, no roluptuous, yet modest angels to fascinate and befool a generation of youth, and hand them over to the corruption of sensualism and crime. Its morality will be pure, but not obtrusive; it will be decided, though courteous and graceful. Nor need it be feared that such a literature will put constraint upon genius. She will have all the room that she chooses-provided that she “overstep not the modesty of nature.” Nature on the one hand is not an ascetic nor a prude, nor on the other is she an atheist nor a harlot.
We are sure that American Literature will be eminently a Christian literature, for two reasons. The Americans are, and ever have been, a religious people. They have been animated by a fervent faith in religious truth, and by a true regard for the Christian morality. Nothing strikes the eye of the most hasty traveller more obviously, than the number of churches that are scattered everywhere, all of which have been erected by the voluntary zeal of the people themselves. The rapidity with which the numerous infant settlements, that year by year rush into life, are supplied with religious institutions, puts to shame the tardy negligence with which older nations, with the spoils of ages at the command of the church, provide for the natural increase of a slow-growing population. No fact is more obvious and better established, than that the American people, as a people, hold the verities of the Christian Faith with strong and earnest conviction, and render an unfeigned reverence to all the manifestations of religious feeling. A strong and deeply seated regard for morality is the public feeling of our countrymen. In no country is vice more heartily rebuked, and all outrages upon morality more offensive to the public feeling. But in our country, the people are eminently the patrons of literature. Whatever pleases them, they purchase and read; whatever offends them, they leave untouched. The writer who consults only his interest, will be slow to offend convictions so sacred, and feelings so hallowed. Whatever his own principles may be, he will not choose to outrage those of his readers, by scoffing irreverence or ribald license.
We have additional security from the fact that few of our writers will desire to do so. In most cases, they are of the people -connected with them by the ordinary intercourse of life, and feeling a strong sympathy with them. Their own convictions, and their own feelings, will in few cases allow them to utter sentiments decidedly unchristian. We take still further hope from the fact that literature, everywhere throughout the world, is assuming a higher tone, and becoming outwardly, and we believe, sincerely, more reverential and believing. We cannot but be con
fident, therefore, that it will be the glory of American Literature, beginning, as it is, to take to itself a character, at so bright an era, that it shall be ever pure from infidel scoffing and licentious corruption; that its truth, its freedom, and its earnestness shall be consecrated to the high service of giving new sanctions to the highest of truths, and new sacredness to the holiest of duties--the truths and duties which connect us with God and with the unseen world.
If “they who deny God, destroy man's nobility," as Lord Bacon affirms, then may we believe that the nation whose literature is the most Christian, will, if equal in other points, be the noblest, from this one cause; a literature, whose philosophy shall be the most profound; whose eloquence shall be the most lofty; whose poetry shall be the tenderest and the most sublime; whose fiction shall be the truest to nature, and the heart of man; and of which the language shall be at once the most appropriate, the most expressive, and the nearest to inspiration. Let such be the surpassing, because the Christian, Literature of America.
Such are the signs of promise, such the ample and splendid materials, in view of which we rest in the conclusion, that American Literature will be peculiar and great. Is it suggested, that though there be promise, there will be no perfection; though the materials are abundant, that they will never be shaped into a mature and finished literature, because of uncongenial influences and fatal hindrances? We ask what these hindrances are? What is there in the atmosphere of American institutions, and American society, which shall- shed a withering blight upon all literary efforts, and prevent them from attaining to consummate excellence ?
It may be answered that we have no “literary estate”-no class permanently devoted to literature as a pursuit
. We reply, what if we have no such class as yet ; this does not forbid that one should be formed. As a country, we are in our youth ; physical appliances and comforts were first to be cared for, and would necessarily occupy our energies. We are now passing from this first period, and already see the beginnings of such a class, as far as we desire to see them. We are of the opinion with Coleridge, that “ Literature should never be pursued as a trade;" but that it is far better it should be prosecuted in connexion with some other pursuit, that our leading writers may come freshly and constantly in contact with living men.
Such a literary class may not be able to produce works of laborious and curious research, nor will they fill the bookstores with the luxuries of literary trifling; but they will have an energy and freshness which shall more than compensate for such deficiencies, and will be saved from the one-sidedness which the mere man of letters cannot but acquire. Every great writer must have a life of his own, and in the real world, in order to be