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many others who in various departments of literature have written works honourable to themselves, their sex, the country, and the age.
For a survey of our poetical literature I refer to the eighth edition, recently published, of The Poets and Poetry of America. Not all the specimens in that book are fruits of genius or high cultivation. It was designed to show what had been accomplished in the most difficult field of intellectual exertion in the first half century of our national existence. With much of the highest excellence it includes nothing inferior to some of the contents of the most celebrated anthologies of other countries; and while the whole showed a remarkable diffusion of taste and refinement of feeling, we could point to Mrs. Brooks, Mr. Bryant, Mr. Dana, Mr. Halleck, Mr. Longfellow, and others, as poets of whom any people would be proud.
There is indeed no reason why poetry should not be cultivated here as successfully as in any country. The nature of humanity is the same in all the ages, and man is for ever the theme of the poet's noblest song. Paradise Lost, nor the Inferno, nor Hyperion, nor almost any great poem of any nation is founded on authentic annals. Scriptures are true, and old mythologies survive; the gods of Greece yet live, the sound of the triton's conch is mingling with the roar of waves, and nymphs still stir the forest leaves; and
Fable is love's world, his home, his birth-place.
But, were there a necessity of local and special influences, the dim vistas which have been opened to us of ancient civilization on this continent, the shadowy views we have of the strange adventure and heroic achievements of the many-charactered colonists who first invaded its different latitudes, and the long and singular wars by which nation after nation was annihilated, offer boundless fields for the heroic bard; while our dark old forests, rivers like flowing seas, and lakes which claim fraternity with oceans, valleys, and mountains, and caverns in which whole nations of the Old World might be hidden, and climates and seasons which are our peculiar heritage, are prolific of subjects and illustrations for the poetry of description.
Little has yet been done toward an American drama. Plays, to be successful on the stage, must be « abstracts and brief chronicles of the time.” Their living principle must be the spirit of the age and people. Whether the swell and surge of our revolution, which cannot even now be said to have entirely subsided, bear to the present fragments that may be completed and reproduced, or contemporary life be represented in the comedy of manners, or subjects of any other period or description be chosen, the drama must still have its chorusses, not written by the author, but evoked by him from his audiences in appeals to their hearts. The weak and wicked policy of the government respecting copyrights, inducing a deluge of the most worthless foreign literature, and placing under a ban most of those who would give utterance to the true voice of the people, is undermining the foundations of our nationality; but the success of the plays of Bird and Conrad, and the failure of those of Longfellow and Willis, show that there still is patriotism enough among us to prefer works with the American inspiration to those of any degree of artistic merit without it. Besides the authors already mentioned, Mr. Hillhouse, Mr. John Howard Payne, Mr. Epes Sargent, Mr. George H. Calvert, Mr. Cornelius Mathews, Mr. Rufus Dawes, Mr. Lawton Osborne, and Mrs. Mowatt, have written dramatic pieces of literary merit, some of which have been acted with considerable success.
The relation of the plastic arts to poetry is immediate, and the shortest survey of our intellectual history would be incomplete without some reference to the noble works of our painters and sculptors. We may point with pride to Copley, many of whose best pictures grace the collections of his native town; to West, every where reverenced by the greatest critics ;* Allston who in the world left
* Mr. West produced a series of compositions from sacred and profane history, profoundly studied, and executed with the most facile power, which not only were superior to any former productions of English art, but, far surpassing contemporary merit on the continent, were unequaled at any period below the school of the Caracci.-Sir Thomas Lawrence.
In his department Mr. West was the most distinguished artist of the age in which he lived.—Sir Martin Archer Shee.
William Beckford, the finest critic of art in our age, exclaims of Mr. West's Lear: «See how his nostril is inflated, like an Arab's in a thunder-storm! I solemnly declare the figure of Lear is as fine
no one worthy to receive his mantle;* to Stuart and Inman, equal to the first in portraiture; and to Vanderlyn, Leslie,t Sully, Durand, Cole, Wier, Huntington, Leutze, and others, whose places are in the front rank of living painters. With the same feeling we may regard Greenough, whose majestic Washington/ sits in grand repose before the capitol; Powers, in whom Thorwaldsen saw the restorer of a glory to the marble it had scarcely known since the days of Praxitiles; and Crawford, Clevenger, and others who promise to make our country a resting place for the eyes of future generations as they travel backward toward Rome and Athens.
Having thus as fully as seemed practicable in such narrow limits exhibited our Intellectual Progress and Condition, attempting to show that considering the facts of our political and social history we have already advanced far beyond the boundaries of reasonable anticipation, we pause on the shore of the dim future to catch the sounds of the voices which are to give expression to the mind of the people, and obtain glimpses of the symbols by which will be shadowed forth their spirit. More than any other nation ours has influenced the character of the last and the present age, but our power has been in acts and institutions, of whose teachings we look for impressive confirmations in our works of taste, imagination and reflection.
Doubtless our literature must continue to be influenced in a large degree by the literatures of other countries. The still increasing facilities of communication between all parts of the world, bringing remotest nations into closer proximity than were formerly cities of the same empire; and the extending and deepening power of the press, which in effect is making of one language all peoples, as they were before the confusion on the plains of Shinar, are rapidly subverting the chief national distinctions, and preparing the way perhaps for the realization of Goethe's idea of a Literature of the World.Ş
as the Laocoon, and the tone is as fine as fine can be....Oh gracious God! he must have been inspired when he painted this—there are drama, expression, drawing, every thing."
The best composer of modern times and equal to Corregio in finish, when he pleased.— Allston. Lawrence, Shee, Beckford, Allston, against the cant of the sciolists.
* What Washington was as a statesman, Channing as a moralist, that was Allston as an artist.Mrs. Jameson.
t 'The finest interpreter of the spirit of Shakspeare the world has yet seen. -Mrs. Jameson.
We regard Mr. Greenough's Washington as one of the greatest works of sculpture of modern times.- Edward Everett.
$I always consult foreign nations, and advise every one to do te same. National literature will do but little. The epoch of a literature of the world is at hand, and every one ought to labour te hasten it-Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe.
But the day of such a consummation is still distant. The New Civilization, of which our fathers were the apostles, is first to be universally diffused. All hereditary distinctions of rank, all differences of political privileges, all restraints upon the freedom of private judgment, are to be broken down. We may adopt, we are adopting, many peculiarities, in manners and opinions, from the various older nations from which our country was settled, and with which we have free and intimate intercourse; but the recognition of the freedom and dignity of man is to be the vital principle in our literature—its distinctive and diffusive element.
The growth of American Literature cannot be forced by any hotbed process. Except by the acknowledgment of foreign copyrights,* which indeed is needed as much for the protection of morals as for the protection of letters, little can be done for it by any general legislation. Our authors, if admitted to a fair competition with foreigners, will take care of their own interests. But professed
* For the information of readers unacquainted with the operation of the present system, it may be necessary to state more particularly than has been done in the text, some of the ways in which it tends to weaken the mind and deprave the heart of the nation. Its literature is the richest boon we receive from the Past, and the literature of the Present, if fairly represented in the republications, would, upon the whole, no doubt, have a most salutary influence. But the dental of copyright to foreigners effectually deprives us of most of the really great works with which the presses of Europe are teeming, while it gives us nearly all they produce that is frivolous and vicious. It costs a great deal of money as well as labour to prepare the market for large works; there must be much advertising, a large distribution of copies, elaborate abstracts in reviews and journals, and many other means to create a demand; and the expenses of these means must be added to those of the mechanical manufacture. Yet now, as has been shown by numerous instances, as soon as a house with enterprise and capital has issued a readable impression of a work, and secured for it such a circulation as promises a fair remunera. tion, some base fellow is sure to bring out on dingy brown paper and small type a deluge of cheap copies, with which he reaps all the advantages of the first publisher's efforts, and leaves him with his stock unsold, and his investment unreturned. It is true that, notwithstanding these dangers, a few of the more indispensable histories and other fruits of true cultivation are reprinted here: but they are generally issued in the most compact and cheap style, sometimes much abridged, and nearly always without those charts and plates which add so much to the value of many foreign editions. A recognition of the foreign author's right of property would at once remedy this part of the evil entirely.
On the other hand, there is extraordinary activity in the republication of the light and licentious literature of the time. It is sickening to lean over the counters of the shops where cheap books are sold, and survey the trash with which the criminal folly of the government is deluging the countryEvery new issue deepens the wide spread depravity, and extends the demand for its successor. As but little capital is required for the business, and the returns are quick, these leprous spots are constantly springing up in the cities; and to gratify the prurient tastes which they create, the literary sewers of Paris and London are dragged for the filthiest stuff which floats or sinks in their turbid waters. The demoralization increases, and the novels of Paul de Kock, disgusting as they are, in the original, (in which a racy style and sparkling wit render them attractive, despite their moral deformity,) are made worse by the addition of gross obscenity by the translator ; and from those of Eugene Sue the reflective portions, which serve to neutralize the effects of the narrative, are left out. All private morals, all domestic peace, fly before this withering curse which the Congress persists in sustaining, by its refusal to recognise the rights of the foreign author. For, if the respectable publishers could be protected in their business, they would furnish good editions of good books, that would give a healthy tone to the common sentiment, and drive this profii. gate literature into oblivion; if the foreign author were protected in his rights, he would be but a competitor of the native author, and would have an inducement to support those liberal principles of society which are here established, thus strengthening them here, and diffusing them in his own country; and if the American were thus admitted to a competition in his own market with the European, our best intellects would be busy with the instruction of the people, which is now in so large a degree surrendered to the supporters of aristocracies.
Within the last year how many fathers, like one in Richmond, (whose testimony at a recent trial in that city attracted to the subject an indignant but momentary attention,) have pointed to these stolen poisons as the prime cause of the demoralization of their daughters,—how many murders, in all parts of the country, have been traced to the same fruitful source of crime and woe! That the literature of a country sinks with its morals, needs hardly to be suggested.
authors alone are not to create a great National Literature; such a literature is not to be a result of any direct effort for its production. It must be in a large degree but an incidental consequence of energetic and well directed action for the moral and spiritual liberation and elevation of man. To this end, the strong-minded and thoroughly educated, leading the onward march of the race, combating every species of error, in morals and physics, in religion and legislation, and never taking a thought whether they are speaking or writing in an American style, or on an American subject, will strike out such sparks from the intellect as will shine like stars into the farthest future ages.
Leaving literature, then, as an object of special public regard, to take care of itself, we must instruct the mind and improve the heart of the people, must develope the great souls that are every day born into the world. The number of colleges need not be increased. It would be better perhaps if half we have were abandoned, and their resources given to the rest. But we need a great university, into which only learned men can enter, where there can be a more thorough literary and scientific culture, where the genius of the Past can be made more familiar, where the genius of the Present can be strengthened and directed : a university that shall have to other schools the relation of a mint to the mines, giving form and authority to the first order of understandings which in them are brought to light. There is no more pernicious error than that the whole people should be instructed alike. There must be a class, the end of whose lives shall be to search after and reveal beauty and truth, a class acting upon the nation, but acted upon both by it and by all nations and all ages. And we need libraries, and learned institutions, and galleries of art. These things are coming rapidly. Their necessity is discerned, and the “voluntary principle” in our free states is doing far more than has been elsewhere effected by coercion, to sustain whatever is really calculated in any way to unfold human nature. Our wise and liberal merchants, manufacturers, farmers, and professional men,—we have no drones,--are beginning to understand that the true doctrine of Progress is comprised in the word Culture. Late events, that have saddened the heart of the intelligent patriot, have brought with them cheering proofs of a conservative element in our society, and the suffering and dishonour which have been caused by the uncultivated and reckless, may be atoned for by the life they will impart to energies that have hitherto been dormant. Literature, the condensed and clearly expressed thought of the country, will keep pace with its civilization; and without any straining after originality, without any tricks of diction, without any aim but to press the truth directly, earnestly and courageously upon the popular heart, under the inspiration of an