« VorigeDoorgaan »
We propose in this article to enter on no proper discussion of American literature, but merely to present such an array of carefully ascertained and interesting facts, with brief and hastily written but deliberately formed opinions, as will guide the intelligent reader to a just estimate of the general intellectual activity in the United States; reserving for a separate article an account of the books that have recently issued from the American press. We have been over the field with some care, having in the last few months examined with more or less attention a larger number of American books, in the various
*"The Prose Writers of America. With a Survey of the Intellectual History, Condition, and Prospects of the Country." By Rufus Willmot Griswold. 1 vol. Svo, pp. 552. Fourth edition. London: Richard Bentley, 1849. “The Poets and Poetry of America, to the Middle of the Nineteenth century.” By Rufus Willmot Griswold, 1 vol. 8vo, pp. 550. Eleventh edition. Philadelphia: A. Platt, is 51. “The Female Poets of America.” By Rufus Willmot Griswold. 1 vol. 8vo, pp. 400. Second edition., Philadelphia: H. C. Baird, 1850. “De la Littérature et des Hommes de Lettres des Etats-Unis d'Amerique." Par Eugène A. Vail, Auteur de la Notice sur les Indiens de l'Amerique du Nord, 8vo, pp. 617. Paris, 1841.
departments of literature, than a majority of our readers will be apt to believe were ever written. The library of the British Museum contains an immense number of American Histories, Biographies, Reviews, &c., and is by no means deficient in what with more propriety may be called American Literature, though the privilege that we enjoy, while occupied with these pages, of consulting a library in which there are thirteen thousand works composed in the United States, leaves on our mind an impression that Mr. Panizzi might, with some advantage to British students, suggest the bestowal of a few hundred guineas more on the speculation, the poetry, romance, and aesthetical dissertation of the cultivators of their language across the Atlantic. We cannot but think, despite the contrary judgment of some wise persons who have dé. bated this point, that the distinct history of the American mind should be commenced, far back, in the times of the first Puritans in New England. There is a national character in America; it is seen, very decided and strongly marked, in the free northern States; and making every proper allowance for the Dutch element and its influence in New York, 19
that national character was born in England, cast out from thence because it was not agreeable to a majority of the people, and has remained until now, unchanged in its essentials, where it first found a home, in the area of civilization ever widening from the British settlements on this continent. The history of American literature begins in the good old days of the Dudleys, the Cottons, Nortons, and Mathers, or earlier still, in those of John MILtoN, who has been claimed as the “most American author that ever lived.” And with justice. For what had that stern and sublime intelligence in common with kingly domination, or hierarchical despotism, against both of which he made “all Europe ring from side to side ’’ 2 And are not his immortal books on State and Church polities the very fixed and undecaying expression of the American ideas on these subjects? Philosophers.-Before the commencement of this century, America had but one great man in philosophy; but that one was illustrious. From the days of Plato there has been no life of more simple and imposing grandeur, than that of Jonathan Edwards, who, while living as a missionary at Northampton, then on the confines of civilization, set up his propositions, which have remained as if they were mountains of solid crystal in the centre of the world. We need not repeat the praises of Edwards, by Robert Hall, Mackintosh, Stewart, Chalmers, and the other great thinkers of Britain and of the Contiment, who have admitted the amazing subtlety and force of his understanding. In America, his doctrines were constantly discussed among theologians, but until the present generation he had scarcely a disciple or an antagonist deserving of much consideration. Of writers now living who have treated with most ability and earnestness his Doctrine of the Will, we may mention Dr. Day, late President of Yale College, Professor Tappan of New York, Professor Upham of Maine, and Professor Bledsoe of Louisiana; but there are many others who have written with acuteness against the great necessitarian, or in his defence. The text-books of the old country—the works of the Scotch metaphysicians, or those of Locke, were used commonly in the schools, and for fifty years there was scarcely a pretence of originality or independence; but in 1829, the late James Marsh, then President of the University of Vermont, republished, with a masterly Preliminary Essay, the Aids to Reflection, by Coleridge, which was destined in the United States to have an influ
ence altogether more powerful than it has had in England; and soon after was commenced the propagation of the Franco-German philosophy, in translations of its leading expositions, and the composition of original works, which, in number and character, now constitute a philosophical literature, many-sided indeed, but abounding in able and ingenious dissertations on the chief points which have interest in the modern schools. We have space only for a sort of catalogue raisonné of a few of the most conspicuous living writers in this department. Professor Upham, of Bowdoin College, is known to the religious world by “Memoirs of Madame Guyon,” and other works illustrating a belief in Christian perfection, and as the translator of “Jahn's Biblical Antiquities.” His metaphysical productions consist of a “Philoso: phical and Practical Treatise on the Will;" “Elements of Mental Philosophy, embracing the two Departments of the Intellect and the Sensibilities;” the same work abridged; and “Outlines of Imperfect and Disordered Mental Action.” These works have passed through many editions, and are very largely used as text-books. They are, in the main, eclectic and Anglo-Scottish, but have some original and striking views, particularly in regard to the sensibilities, in his chapters concerning which he discusses very amply and clearly the distinctions between the intellectual and sensitive parts of our nature. Professor C. S. Henry, D.D., of the University of New York, an accomplished scholar, whose first considerable work was a “Compendium of Christian Antiquities,” is best known by an “Epitome of the History of Philosophy," from the French, with additions, and a translation, with commentaries, of “Cousin's Elements of Psychology.” In all his writ: ings he agrees with Cousin. Henry P. Tappan, D.D., is the author of an admira: ble “System of Logic,” to which is prefixed an “Introductory View of Philosophy in General, and a Preliminary View of the Reason;” the most able and satisfactory reply that has ever appeared to the doc' trines of “Edwards on the Will;" a volume on “University Education,” and many im: portant papers in the reviews. S. S. Sch: mucker, D.D., Professor of Theology at Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, is a voluminous writer in metaphysics and theology, and is noticed here chiefly for his “Psychology; or Elements of a new System of Mental Phi; losophy on the Basis of Consciousness and Common Sense.” What is “new” in this work is rather in classification and terminol