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and Corwin. Of these, Webster and Everett may be in. stanced as setting forth in their highest excellence the literary claims of American oratory. The former was distinguished for his breadth and strength of mental grasp, and for lucid and cogent statement. His language is more purely Saxon than that of any rival, whether English or American; his style is uninvolved and harmonious, while his imagery, never far-fetched, often rises to the sublime. The latter combined more erudition and versatility with, perhaps, less of emphasis in statement. His diction is more classical, and his style more complex and ornate. The poet, the scholar, and the statesman commingle their peculiar excellencies in his oratory.
Later History.-History, too, within the present century, has assumed in our literature its highest office. From the mere chronicles and isolated memoranda of the last century it has come to be a lively record of related events. Not simply the doings of an individual or a state, but both the influences and motives inciting such doings and their effects upon subsequent affairs,—these are matters which now engage the attention of the historian no less heartily than statistics and matter-of-fact details. Thus treated, the events of history become not simply records of the past, inert matter of information, but significant data, whereby even to guess at future events, and thus, in a measure, to anticipate experience.
Such a mastery of the resources of history-under which we include biography also-is associated in American literature with the names of Bancroft, Prescott, Irving, and Motley. These writers have brought to bear upon their several themes of treatment a wealth of information, a discrimination in selection of material, a comprehensiveness and clearness of view, a fervor of treatment and a felicity of style which have rendered their works permanently valuable. Indeed, it is conceded that theirs have superseded, in learning, in philosophical treatinent, and in literary finish, all previous works on the same subjects, and that they have won for our literature a lasting and honorable report.
Not to mention all who have graced this field of our literature-though all of them less conspicuously than the foregoing—we shall name in this place Jared Sparks, Hil. dreth, Cooper, Lossing, and Parkman.* The first has given us well-written biographies of prominent Revolutionary characters: Hildreth, an unadorned but reliable History of the United States ; Lossing, a minute and popular FieldBook of the Revolution ; Cooper has all but dramatized the exploits of the American sailor in his Naval History of the United States, making up in vivid description and patriotic sentiment what he lacks in fullness of detail; and Parkman, in his Conspiracy of Pontiac and Pioneers of France in the New World, has presented a picturesque and authentic account of some of the most thrilling events of French and Indian warfare in our country.
Later Poetry. In a new country like our own-new in natural aspect, in social experience, in political complexion, in fine, in all that appertains to the free growth of the individual and society—it was fair, doubtless, to expect that a. characteristic Muse should inspire the souls of its poets, and that our poetry should be as distinctive as our civilization. That such was not the case during the first two centuries of our existence we have already shown.
The poetry of that early period, though aspiring to cele
* Others of our prominent historical writers are John S. C. Abbott, Jacob Abbott, J. R. Albach, J. N. Arnold, Thomas H. Benton, Cocke, George L. Craik, George T. Curtis, J. W. Draper, Horace Greeley, J. T. Headley, McKenny and Hall, J. G. Palfrey, George Ticknor. Of biographical writers, the Abbotts, S. A. Allibone, W. T. Coggeshall George W. P. Custis, George T. Curtis, Benjamin Franklin (autobi. ographer), Parke Godwin, R. W. Griswold, J. T. Headley, P. C. Headley, A. S. Mackenzie, John Marshall, James Parton, S. M. Schmucker, W. B. Stone, George Ticknor, George Townsend, Weemg and Robert C. Winthrop.
brate new themes, was slavishly English. There was a ludicrous incompatibility, too, between the theme and its poetic garb. The deeds of simply brave and honest men were exalted in swelling words and extravagant figures, becoming rather to Homeric heroes and gods; and in a frenzy of religious ardor, attempts were made to create out of the events of Israelitish history an epic rivaling Paradise Lost. These efforts, as we have already seen, were productive of but little poetry and much grandiose rhyming. How far its decay went toward fertilizing a new poetic soil we know not, but certain it is that the present century has witnessed, in our country, a flowering of poetic genius which we fear not to pronounce as both indigenous and praiseworthy.
No one will claim that America has produced any such lonely and peerless geniuses as Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, Shakspeare, Pope, and Burns. Neither has the world since their time, if we may except one or two names. No; the Muse of America cannot claim, as yet, to have borne one transcendent son or daughter, but she may, and does, claim to have originated national and good poetry. And if popularity with the most intelligent reading public of the world, either in the past or present, be granted as a mark of excellence and as a presage of enduring fame, then England her. self has produced no poetry, since that of the writers above named, of a more winning music and sentiment, or of a more imperishable nature, than that of the American poets of the last quarter century.
The most prominent of these poets are Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier, Poe, Holmes, Lowell, and Saxe. Long. fellow, though an ardent lover of the storied haunts of Europe-particularly of Germany—and though inclining to facts and scenes around which cling mossy and ivied memories, is no copyist, but invests with a peculiar charm both the old and the new. His Hiawatha, in its varied incidents, figures, phrases, and vivid portraiture, is one of the most unique poems in the English language; his Evangeline, one of the happiest experiments, both artistically and poetically considered, in modern hexameter verse; whilst his Tales of a Wayside Inn, Voices of the Night, and many others of his poems, flow with a melody and limpid beauty which, if not always, or even generally, national, is yet true to Nature and to the poet.
Bryant is more American. His theatre of thought and fancy is the woods, the fields, and the streams of his native · land. To describe in lifelike lines and colors the multiform features of Nature, to interpret their speech and the lessons of beauty, sublimity, and moral import they stand ready to impart to the sympathetic bard,—this is mainly Bryant's office among our poets. The Forest Hymn and Thanatopsis alone are emphatic witnesses to the truth of this.
Whittier is recognized as the American lyrist. His verses evince strong feeling, strongly, and sometimes pungently, expressed. A bitter, uncompromising enemy of slavery, and a zealous advocate of the national cause in the late rebellion, the whole energy of his poetic genius has expressed itself in lyrics like Barbara Frietchie and Voices of Freedom. His gentler moods are reflected in the Songs of Labor; and his love for the rural, the social, and the domestic has melodized itself in Snow-Bound and A Tent on the Beach. His poems are not only characteristic, but, in incidents, imagery, and sentiment, singularly Americannay, New-Englandish.
Poe, although popularly known by only a few of his poems, is yet the intensest and most idiosyncratic of all our poets. Leading a life now of the wildest excitement, and anon of the deepest melancholy-a being of caprice and impulse, devoid of principle and natural sensibilityhis poems embody in a striking manner the same unlovely elements. Though passages of exquisite beauty and singular vigor abound, yet there is generally evident an incoherence and obscurity of idea, and a labored mechanism of versification, which mark them as being the product of An erratic mind and a diseased heart. Even Annabel Lee, his sweetest poem, is sadly marred by the fault-finding and despairing tone which pervades it.
Holmes, Saxe, and Lowell represent the claims of our poets in the realm of wit and humor. The first, by virtue of his clever satires, has won the name of the “Pope of America.” Most of his poems, however, like those of Saxe, are short and varied in theme, and, in concise and sparkLing phrase and apt figure, delineate and caricature men and manners. Pathos, too, of the most genuine quality characterizes the writings of these poets.
Lowell, in his first and second series of The Biglow Papers, has achieved the most sustained effort in the vein of humorous composition, and certainly the most characteristic and national one of the three. “The humor of the Biglow Papers is 'audible and full of vent,' racy in hilarious hyperbole, and it has that infusion of poetry necessary to the richest and deepest humor. The book is a national birth, and it possesses that element of nationality which has been the most enduring part of all the best and greatest births in literature and art. . . . The life of art, poetry, and humor must be found at home or nowhere. And the crowning quality of Lowell's book is, that it was found at home. It could not have been written in any other country than America.”*
Washington Allston, John Pierpont, Richard H. Dana, James A. Hillhouse, Charles Sprague, James G. Percival, Fitz-Greene Halleck, J. R. Drake, Charles F. Hoffman, George H. Boker, Alfred B. Street, George P. Morris, J. K. Paulding, John H. Payne, and N. P. Willis,f though some
* North British Review, Nov., 1860.
+ The names of the best known of our later poets are—T. B. Aldrich, J. G. Holland, E. Hopper, S. W. Patten, T. B. Read, Theo. Tilton, R. G. White, Bret Harte, J. J. Piatt, Walt Whitman, G. D. Prentice, G. W. Cutter, and A. Pike. Of poetesses we have had not a few. Prominent among them are the names of Mrs. Sigourney, Alice Cary, Phæbe Cary, Harriet B. Stowe, Julia W. Howe, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Ellett, Mrs. Brooks, Lucy Larcom, Mrs. Peters, Miss Gould, Mrs. Child, Mrs. Hewitt, Mrs. E. Oakes Smith, Mrs. Osgood. (See Supplement B.)