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really great. He must be laden with fruit, gathered with his own hand, and from his own experience of joy and woe, of conflict and victory; and therefore, we argue good to our literature, if it is to have no “ Grub-street” community to maintain-poor, envious, hungry, and venal.
Not, indeed, that it is not well that men of wealth and leisure should give themselves to the elegancies of literature, and become interested in its pursuits, both as critics and authors. Let them by all means gather expensive libraries, and form literary circles, to charm by their presence, and aid by their countenance. Let the men who have fairly proved their competency to make literature a sole employment, give to it their undivided energies. But let our writers, in their training at least, be found in some active pursuit, or some honorable station, and we augur favorably to the independence, the power, and the individuality of our literature.
“ But literature, to flourish, must be rewarded—amply and generously rewarded. America can furnish no noble patrons, and few wealthy purchasers of books." We confess the fact, that we have no noble protectors of literature; but we deny the inference. There may be advantages from the patronage of rank; but there is certain servility and prostitution. Freedom has been found essential to the vigorous growth of literature. An ignorant and bigoted censorship is its brutal foe. And so is that depressing influence, which the man of rank must ever exert upon the man of thought. An aristocracy may in the main be accomplished; it may be liberal, it may be generous, and thoughtfully courteous towards the man of letters; and yet the patron can never forget, and the patronized will not fail to remember, that in their relative position, conventional nobility takes precedence of the nobility of nature. If the man of thought meekly acquiesces in this state of things, he cannot but be constrained in the presence even of the most courteous of patrons; while through the whole intellectual atmosphere, a depressing and unnatural influence will prevail, as stilling as the chokedamp. Let the free thought be spoken out, that greatness of nature is not necessarily the fellow of greatness of rank, and the harmony of things is disturbed. But all men of rank, even in England, are not courteous and refined towards those above them in genius and culture. The uncultured noble will now and then break out in offensive and insulting words, which shall chafe the proud yet sensitive spirit. So much for patronage. Give us rather the patronage of our own self-respect. Give us the inspiration of the thought, that with us, nothing can hinder intellect from taking the rank which God has marked upon her brow.
“ But writers must have purchasers, and whence are these to come?" We reply_from the people. We grant that there are among us fewer purchasers of heavy and expensive works, than in older countries—fewer, who, as a thing of course, will buy a copy of every book that is issued, to place upon the shelves of unread and ponderous libraries. The scale of rewarding literary labor is not as generous as it is elsewhere; and yet the case is far from being as bad as it might be. There is a constant and ready sale for all those works, which constitute the staple of literature, especially of literature for the people. Instances might be named to show, that for works of scientific interest there is a greater demand with us than in England; that the purses of our poor scholars are worth more to remunerate certain authors, and of the highest order too, than the wealth, and taste, and rank of Great Britain. We have multitudes of professional men, who buy their books as regularly as they buy their bread. We have a wide and still widening circle of reading men in easy circumstances, who are the regular purchasers of all the books that are really valuable. We have multitudes on multitudes in whom the taste for substantial reading is increasing and just commencing. A successful author, whether of a larger or smaller work, is sure of a generous recompense. There are transatlantic writers, who would be eager to exchange the American against the English sale of their works, even at the American rate of paying.
“But a writer must have an audience worthy of himself-he writes not for money as his highest stimulus, but under the inspiring feeling that he speaks to hundreds and thousands of his fellows, who will appreciate his efforts, and will be kindled by them to noble thoughts and noble deeds. Such an audience cannot be found in America."—Why not in America ? Because literature is popular with the million, shall not the thousands be excited by the intense activity about them, to the highest attainment possible? Because there are myriads, who think superficially, shall not men of genius and enterprise be led to think profoundly, and thus bring others up to their own height? Intellect, in a country like ours, is the element of our being; we live by it-we are formed by its energies. All the movements of society, the great and the small, the political and the religious, wait on eloquence as their impulse and guide. Our history in the past is not a record of passive changes, wrought by the sluggish flood of time; but is a succession of monuments of triumphs of mind over mind. Every day that we live, witnesses some effort of genius, shaping our destiny. There is no literature, the world over, in which mind has such omnipotence over mind. No country in which the wakeful and strong spirit can march so directly to the minds of its fellows, and mould them at its will, and leave upon them the impress of itself. No country in which forms are of so little account, and the reality of so much; no country in which reverence for old principles and old customs stands so little in the way of the truth, demonstrated and enforced. Hence, our literature is characterized above all the world beside, by its appeals to principle, and the tasking of the mind to the highest efforts to influence others. Where can a writer ask for a higher inspiration than is furnished here? Where can he find one that is so noble and spirit-stirring, as there is in the thought, that he has before him a multitude of wakeful men, whom he can approach with as little prejudice as is possible, and on whom he can try the utmost that argument and illustration, eloquence and description can accomplish? The time may not be far distant, when the English writer shall esteem his transatlantic audience nobler than the one which he finds at home; when he shall think oftener, as he writes, of those who are to read him in America, than of his critics in England.
“ But there may be intellectual power, without culture of the highest order-there may be much mental excitement with little mental refinement.” We grant it, and know well that here is our deficiency and our danger-danger that the highest cultivation of language shall not be sought, and the monitions of a just taste shall be too little regarded by the majority of our writers and readers. For this cultivation time is requisite, and the general advance of society. This advance with us is sure, and even rapid. It is of ignorance and stupidity alone that it is said, that this advance is only in things gross and physical. Everything testifies that it is equally rapid in all that pertains to the highest culture. Scholarship with us is becoming more and more profound ; accuracy in minute particulars, more and more esteemed ; language is cultivated with a constant reference to the use of it with skill and effect; and whatsoever is essential to an intellect, that shall be graceful in its movements, and finished in its culture, is sought after with greater assiduity. Criticism is becoming more and more rigid, and yet more truly liberal. In some quarters, it would seem that mere refinement had advanced so far as to be tending to enervation, and grace is substituted for strength. No candid and observant man will deny that, as the strong proportions and noble features of our country's literature are more and more developed, they are softened and shaped by the indescribable graces of spiritual beauty.
It might seem to be in place, to refer to the actual achievements of the literature of America, as an argument for what it may be expected to accomplish ; to look upon the past and the present, as signs of higher promise for the future. The argument is a just one, and no American can ponder upon the inference which it warrants, without just pride, and still more exulting hope. But to review our literature, would lead us aside from the theme proposed. To speak freely and fully of our great writers, asserting their merit, and defending them from illiberal criticism, would unreasonably prolong this essay. Besides, there is less occasion for this argument year by year. Transatlantic critics, fiery in spirit, and brazen in audacity, may now and then indulge in wholesale
and sarcastic remarks concerning the superficial and contemptible character of American literature. But the generous and fair, all the world over, are more and more offended with such criticism, and are welcoming our writers to a high place in the world's regard, with more and more deference in their manner. American literature speaks for herself across the sea, and there is the less need that the most ardent of her defenders should speak for her. Our great writers in some departments of science, and even of letters, are already the instructors of England, and their elaborate works are owned as authorities.
Two of our writers may, however, be named without invidious distinction, because each occupies a place so peculiarly his own. They are Prescott and Webster. Of these, the historian has given to Spain herself, the best histories of her proudest and most significant period, and of the conquest of one of her most important colonies. The materials for these histories were both gathered from annals recorded in a foreign language, and locked up in jealous archives. These ancient chronicles were not only to be deciphered from this dialect by a stranger from that new world, which Isabella's favorite captain brought to light, but by that stranger, when denied the use of his own eyesight; in a service too, which more than any other, requires the keenest optics of the inquirer. In spite of this double disadvantage, an American scholar has writen two histories, which are owned, by haughty Spain herself, to be more complete than any which she herself has produced'; histories, accurate in research, just and acute in philosophy, sound in principle, and clothed in a clear and easy style.
Of Webster, we speak not as of a man, filling all the stations to which he has been called, with a dignity peculiar and uniform, whether the keen strifes of the bar, the higher conflicts of the senate, or the still more exalted labors of the statesman. We lose sight of him as the politician or the partisan, in the brightness of the lustre with which he is invested as a contributor to our literature. For if the writings of Burke are justly deemed one of the noblest possessions of which English literature can boast, then may those of Webster be enrolled upon the permanent records of the literature of America. We open these writings; what just thought displays itself in every line ; what massive sense loads every sentence.
What a sound philosophy is condensed into maxims that shall always last. What complete and exhausting hold of the subject; what splendor of diction, now rising into lofty declamation, and then stooping with grace to the level march of some great argument—here scathing with an unsparing sarcasm, and there hurled in a thunder-bolt of defiance. As we trace in these writings the progress of his mind, we see him first rejoicing in the luxuriance of his youthful promise ; then in the pride of his
powers a mailed warrior with all his armor on; and then calm in ihe dignified and mellowed wisdom of a mind fully ripe—and in all his progress, we say of him, as a star of our own literature, what he himself has said of the greatest of our citizens—“he is all-all our own”_Webster is an American.
We name not the other stars that are now ushering in the dawn of American literature. They will occur to the minds of all. But as we behold them, each shining with its own peculiar light, we say with exulting pride—“if these be the morning stars of American literature, glorious indeed shall be the rising of the Day.”
TASTE AND MORALS:-THE NECESSITY OF ÆSTHETIC CULTURE TO THE HIGHEST MORAL EXCELLENCE.
By Prof. Henry N. Day, Western Reserve College, Ohio.
It is now a century since Baumgarten gave reality, by giving a name, to the Science of Taste. Whatever opinions may be entertained in regard to the etymological appropriateness of the term, æsthetics, by which this new science was denominated, the ready reception of the name, and the general and rapid extension of it in the different European languages, abundantly show how wide-felt was the necessity of its introduction. The asthetic element of our nature, that element which finds its employment and its gratification in the forms of things, as distinguished from their essences, is working in society now, with a force and a prevalence that are giving character to the age, and are moulding the destiny of coming generations. Whether this rising force shall ultimately prove to be an antagonist or an auxiliary to the sensualizing influences now at work in society, will depend, under a redeeming Providence, upon the vigilance, the sagacity, and the energy of the wise and good, who, from their elevated position, observing the rise and tendency of the blind instinctive impulses of society, interpose in time to guide them in safe and beneficent directions.
It is in art, comprehending the various embodiments of the beautiful by human skill, as distinguished from nature—the repository of the Divine creations, that the taste finds its first food and entertainment. It imports a certain degree of cultivation and development, that the beautiful forms in the natural world give pleasure. And it is in impure Art—if the designation may be allowed to distinguish that department of Art in which the end of