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spiracy of Pontiac, by Francis Parkman, of Boston. During a tour in the Far West, where he hunted the buffalo and fraternized with the Indians, the author gained that practical knowledge of aboriginal habits and character which enabled him to delineate the subject chosen with singular truth and effect. Having faithfully explored the annals of the French and Indian war, he applied to its elucidation the vivid impressions derived from his sojourn in forest and prairie, his observation of Indian life, and his thorough knowledge of the history of the Red Men. The result is not only a reliable and admirably planned narrative, but one of the most picturesque and romantic yet produced in America. Few subjects are more dramatic and rich in local associations; and the previous discipline and excellent style of the author have imparted to it a permanent attraction. Pioneers of France in the New World, is a charming historical narrative from the same pen.
Belles Lettres. Influence of British Essayists. FRANKLIN. DENNIE. Signs
of Literary Improvement. JONATHAN OLDSTYLE. WASHINGTON IRVING. His Knickerbocker. Sketch-Book. His other WORKS. Popularity Tour on the Prairies. Character as an Author. DANA. WILDE. HUDSON. GRISWOLD. LOWELL. WHIPPLE. TICKNOR. WALKER. WAYLAND. JAMES. EMERSON. Transcendentalists. MADAME OSSOLI. Emerson's Essays. ORVILLE DEWEY. Humorous Writers. Belles Lettres. TUDOR. Wirt. SANDS. FAY. WALSH. MITCHELL. KIMBALL. American Travellers. Causes of their Success as Writers. Fiction. CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN. His Novels. JAMES FENIMORE COOPER. His Novels — their Popularity and Characteristics. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. His Works and Genius. Other American Writers of Fiction.
THE colloquial and observant character given to English literature by the wits, politicians, and essayists of Queen Anne's time — the social and agreeable phase which the art of writing exhibited in the form of the Spectator, Guardian, Tatler, and other popular works of the kind, naturally found imitators in the American colonies. The earliest indication of a taste for belles lettres is the republication, in the newspapers of New England, of some of the fresh lucubrations of Steele and Addison. The Lay Preacher, by Dennie, was the first successful imitation of this fashionable species of literature: more characteristic, however, of the sound common sense and utilitarian instincts of the people, were the essays of Franklin, commenced in his brother's journal, then newly established at Boston. Taste for the amenities of intellectual life, however, at this period, was chiefly gratified by recourse to the emanations of the British press; and it is some years after that we perceive signs of that native impulse in this sphere which proved the germ of American literature. “If we are not mistaken in the signs of the times,” says Buckminster (in an oration delivered at Cambridge, and published in the Anthology, a Boston magazine, which, with the Port Folio, issued at Philadelphia, were the first literary journals of high aims in America) “the genius of our literature begins to show symptoms of vigor, and to meditate a bolder flight. The spirit of criticism begins to plume itself, and education, as it assumes a more learned form, will take a higher aim. If we are not misled by our hopes, the dream of ignorance is at least broken, and there are signs that the period is approaching when we may say of our country, Tuus jam regnat Apollo.” This prophecy had received some confirmation in the grace and local observation manifest in a series of letters which appeared in the New York Chronicle, signed Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. - the first productions of Washington Irving, the Goldsmith of America, who was born in New York, April 6, 1783. Symptoms of alarming
disease soon after induced a voyage to Europe; and he returned to the Island of Manhattan, the scene of his boyish rambles and youthful reveries, with a mind expanded by new scenes, and his natural love of travel and elegant literature deepened. Although ostensibly a law student in the office of Judge Hoffman, his time was devoted to social intercourse with his kindred, who were established in business in New York, and a few genial companions, to meditative loiterings in the vicinity of the picturesque river so dear to his heart, and to writing magazine papers. The happy idea of a humorous description of his native town, under the old Dutch governors, was no sooner conceived than executed with inimitable wit and originality. Not then contemplating the profession of letters, he did not take advantage of the remarkable success that attended this work, of which Sir Walter Scott thus speaks in one of his letters to an American friend: “I beg you to accept my best thanks for the uncommon degree of entertainment which I have received from the most excellently jocose history of New York. I am sensible that as a stranger to American parties and politics, I must lose much of the concealed satire of the piece; but I must own that, looking at the simple and obvious meaning only, I have never read anything so closely resembling the style of Dean Swift as the annals of Diedrich Knickerbocker. I have been employed these few evenings in reading them aloud to Mrs. S. and two ladies who are our guests, and our sides have been absolutely sore with laughing. I think, too, there are passages which indicate that the author possesses power of a different kind, and has some touches which remind me much of Sterne.” Salmagundi, which Mr. Irving had previously undertaken, in conjunction with Paulding, proved a hit, and established the fame of its authors; it was in form and method of publication imitated from the Spectator, but in details, spirit, and aim, so exquisitely adapted to the latitude of New York, that its appearance was hailed with a delight hitherto unknown; it was, in fact, a complete triumph of local genius. From these pursuits, the author turned to commercial toil, in connection with which he embarked for England in 1815; and while there, a reverse of fortune led to his resuming the pen as a means of subsistence. In his next work, the Sketch-Book, Sir Walter's opinion of his pathetic vein was fully realized; The Wife, The Pride of the Village, and The Broken Heart, at once took their places as gems of English sentiment and description. Nor were the associations of home inoperative; and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow first gave a “local habitation,” in our fresh land, to native fancy. His impressions of domestic life in Great Britain were soon after given to the public in Bracebridge Hall, and some of his continental experiences embodied in the Tales of a Traveller. Soon after, Mr. Irving visited Spain to write the Life of Columbus, to which we have before alluded. His sojourn at the Alhambra, and at Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey, are the subjects of other graceful and charming volumes; while Astoria, or Anecdotes of an Enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains, and the Life of Mohammed, proved solid as well as elegant contributions to our standard literature; and the Life of Washington, a standard national biography.
There are writers who have so ministered to our enjoyment as to become associated with our happiest literary recollections. The companionship of their works has been to us as that of an entertaining and cherished friend, whose converse cheers the hours of languor, and brightens the period of recreative pleasure. We are wont to think and to speak of them with quite a different sentiment from that which prompts us to speculate upon less familiar and less endeared productions. There is ever within us a sense of obligation, an identification of our individual partiality with the author, when the fruits of his labors are alluded to, his merits discussed, or his very name mentioned. The sensitiveness appropriate to the writer's self seems, in a manner, transferred to our own bosoms; his faults are scarcely recognized, and we guard his laurels as if our own efforts had aided in their winning, and our own happiness was involved in their preservation. Such feelings obtain, indeed, to a greater or less extent, with reference to all the master spirits in literature, whose labors have been devoted, with signal success, to the gratification and elevation of humanity. But the degree of permanency for such tributary sentiment in the general mind depends very much upon the field of effort selected by the favorite author, and his own peculiar circumstances and character. Subjects of temporary interest, however admirably treated, and with whatever applause received, are obviously ill calculated to retain, for any considerable length of time, a strong hold upon human regard; and, notwithstanding the alleged inconsistency between an author's personal character and history and the influence of his works, the motives adduced by Addison for prefacing the Spectator with an account of himself are deeply founded in human nature. Not merely contemporary sentiment, but after opinion in relation to literary productions, will be materially affected by what is known of the author. The present prevailing tendency to inquire, often with a truly reprehensible minuteness, into whatever in the most distant manner relates to the leading literary men of the age, affords ample evidence of this truth. Indeed, we may justly anticipate that literary, if not general biography, will, ere long, from the very interest manifested in regard to it, attain an importance, and ultimately a philosophical dignity, such as shall engage in its behalf the sedulous labors of the best endowed and most accomplished minds.
The occasion which first induced Geoffrey Crayon to delineate, and those which have suggested his subsequent pencillings, were singularly happy; and the circumstances under which these masterly sketches were produced, nay, the whole history of the man, are signally fitted to deepen the interest which his literary merits necessarily excited. In saying this, we are not unmindful of the prejudices so ungenerously forced upon the attention of the absentee, and so affectingly alluded to in the opening of his first work after returning from Europe; but do we err in deeming those prejudices as unchargeable upon the mass of his countrymen as they were essentially unjust and partial? Nay, are we not, in this volume, with our author's characteristic genuineness of feeling and simplicity, assured of his own settled and happy sense of the high place he occupies in the estimation and love of Americans ?
The Tour on the Prairics appeared in 1836. It is an unpretending account, comprehending a period of about four weeks, of travelling and hunting excursions upon the vast western plains. The local features of this interesting region have been displayed to us in several works of fiction, of which it has formed the scene; and more formal illustrations of the extensive domain denominated The West, and its denizens, have been repeatedly presented to the public. But in this volume one of the most extraordinary and attractive portions of the great subject is discussed, not as the subsidiary part of a romantic story, nor yet in the desultory style of epistolary composition, but in the deliberate, connected form of a retrospective narration. When we say that the Tour on the Prairies is rife with the characteristics of its author, no ordinary eulogium is bestowed. His graphic power is manifest throughout. The boundless prairies stretch out illimitably to the fancy, as the eye scans his descriptions. The athletic figures of the riflemen, the gayly arrayed Indians, the heavy buffalo, and the graceful deer, pass in strong relief and startling contrast before us. We are stirred by the bustle of the camp at dawn, and soothed by its quiet or delighted with its picturesque aspect under the shadow of night. The imagination revels amid the green oak clumps and verdant pea vines, the expanded plains and the glancing river, the forest aisles and the silent stars. Nor is this all. Our hearts thrill at the vivid representations of a primitive and excursive existence; we involuntarily yearn, as we read, for the genial activity and the perfect exposure to the influences of Nature in all her free magnificence, of a woodland and adventurous life; the morning strain of the bugle, the excitement of the chase, the delicious repast, the forest gossiping, the sweet repose beneath the canopy of heaven - how inviting, as depicted by such a pencil!
Nor has the author failed to invigorate and render doubly attractive these descriptive drawings, with the peculiar light and shade of his own rich humor, and the mellow softness of his ready sympathy. A less skilful draughtsman would, perhaps, in the account of the preparations for departure (Chapter III.), have spoken of the hunters, the fires, and the steeds - but who, except Geoffrey Crayon, would have been so quaintly mindful of the little dog, and the manner in which he regarded the operations of the farrier? How inimitably the Bee Hunt is portrayed! and what have we of the kind so racy as the account of the Republic of Prairie Dogs, unless it be that of the Rookery in Bracebridge Hall? What expressive portraits are the delineations of our rover's companions! How consistently drawn throughout, and in what fine contrast, are the reserved and saturnine Beatte, and the vain-glorious, sprightly, and versatile Tonish! A golden vein of vivacious, yet chaste comparison – that beautiful, yet rarely well-managed species of wit, and a wholesome and pleasing sprinkling of moral comment — that delicate and often most efficacious medium of useful impressions - intertwine and vivify the main narrative. Something, too, of that fine pathos which enriches his earlier productions, enhances the value of the present. He tells us, indeed, with commendable honesty, of his new appetite for destruction, which the game of the prairie excited; but we