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city on the 17th of January, 1771. An invalid from infancy, he had the dreamy moods and roaming propensity incident to poetical sympathies; after vainly attempting to interest his mind in the law, except in a speculative manner, he became an author, at a period and under circumstances which afford the best evidence that the vocation was ordained by his idiosyncrasy. With chiefly the encouragement of a few cultivated friends in New York to sustain him, with narrow means and feeble health, he earnestly pursued his lonely career, inspired by the enthusiasm of genius. His literary toil was varied, erudite, and indefatigalyle. He edited magazines and annual registers, wrote political essays, a geography, and a treatise on architecture, translated Volney's Travels in the United States, debated at clubs, journalized, corresponded, made excursions, and entered ardently into the quiet duties of the fireside and the family. His character was singularly gentle and pure; and he was beloved, even when not appreciated. It is by his -novels, however, that Brown achieved renown. They are remarkable for intensity and supernaturalism. His genius was eminently psychological; Godwin is his English prototype. To the reader of the present day, these writings appear somewhat limited and sketch-like; but when we consider the period of their composition, and the disadvantages under which they appeared, they certainly deserve to be ranked among the wonderful productions of the human mind. Brown delighted to analyze the phenomena of consciousness, to bring human nature under mystic or extraordinary influences, and mark the consequences. In Orinond, Arthur Mervyn, Fane Talbot, Edgar Huntley, and Wieland, we have such agencies as pestilence, somnambulism, rare coincidence, and ventriloquism, brought to act upon individuals of excitable or introspective character, and the result is often thrilling. The descriptions are terse and suggestive, the analysis thorough, and the feeling high-strung and reflective. The pioneer of American fiction was endowed with rare energy of conception, and a style attractive from its restrained earnestness and minute delineation. He died at the close of his thirty-ninth year. Had his works been as artistically constructed as they were profoundly conceived and ingeniously executed, they would have become standard. As it is, we recognize the rare insight and keen sensibility of the man, acknowledge his power to " awaken terror and pity,” and lament the want of high finish and effective shape visible in these early and remarkable fruits of native genius.
The first successful novel by an American author was the Spy. A sprevious work by the same author, entitled Precaution, had made comparatively little impression. It was strongly tinctured with an English flavor, in many respects imitative, and, as it afterwards appeared, written and printed under circumstances which gave little range to Cooper's real genius. In 1823, he published the Pioneers. In this and the novel immediately preceding it, a vein of national association was opened, an original source of romantic and picturesque interest revealed, and an epoch in our literature created. What Cooper had the bold invention to undertake, he had the firmness of purpose and the elasticity of spirit to pursue with unflinching zeal. Indeed, his most characteristic trait was self-reliance. He commenced the arduous career of an author in a new country, and with fresh materials : at first, the tone of criticism was somewhat discouraging; but his appeal had been to the popular mind, and not to a literary clique, and the response was universal and sincere. From this time, he gave to the press a series of prose romances conceived with so much spirit and truth, and executed with such fidelity and vital power, that they instantly took captive the reader. His faculty of description, and his sense of the adventurous, were the great sources of his triumph. Refinement of style, poetic sensibility, and melodramatic intensity, were elements that he ignored; but when he pictured the scenes of the forest and prairie, the incidents of Indian warfare, the vicissitudes of border life, and the phenomena of the ocean and nautical experience, he displayed a familiarity with the subjects, a keen sympathy with the characters, and a thorough reality in the delineation, which at once stamped him as a writer of original and great capacity. It is true that in some of the requisites of the novelist he was inferior to many subsequent authors in the same department. His female characters want individuality and interest, and his dialogue is sometimes forced and ineffective; but, on the other hand, he seized with a bold grasp the tangible and characteristic in his own land, and not only stirred the hearts of his countrymen with vivid pictures of colonial, revolutionary, and emigrant life, with the vast ocean and forest for its scenes, but opened to the gaze of Europe phases of human existence at once novel and exciting. The fisherman of Norway, the merchant of Bordeaux, the scholar at Frankfort, and the countess of Florence, in a brief period, all hung with delight over Cooper's daguerreotypes of the New World, transferred to their respective languages. This was no ordinary triumph. It was a rich and legitimate fruit of American genius in letters. To appreciate it we must look back upon the period when the Spy, the Pioneers, the Last of the Mohicans, the Pilot, the Red Rover, the Wept of the Wish-tonWish, the Water Witch, and the Prairie, were new creations, and remember that they first revealed America to Europe through a literary medium. In the opinion of some critics, the unity and completeness of Cooper's fame have been marred by those novels drawn from foreign subjects and induced by a long residence in Europe; by his honest but injudicious attempts to reform his countrymen in some of their particular habits and modes of thought or action; and also by his persistency in issuing volume after volume of fiction, less directly inspired by observation, and comparatively devoid of interest. Whatever truth may exist in such a view of his course, it is to be considered that all temporary defects are soon forgotten in those memorials of individual genius which have the stamp of the author's best powers, and the recognition of the world. Leather-Stocking and Long Tom Coffin are standard characters; the woodland landscapes, the sailing matches of men-of-war, the sea-fights, wrecks, and aboriginal heroes, depicted, as they are, by Cooper to the very life, and in enduring colors, will be identified both with his name and country, and ever vindicate his claims to remembrance. His youth was passed in a manner admirably
fitted to develop his special talent, and provide the resources of his subsequent labors. Born in Burlington, N. J., on the 15th of September, 1789, he was early removed to the borders of Otsego Lake, where his father, Judge Cooper, erected a homestead, afterwards inhabited and long occupied by the novelist. He was prepared for college by the Rector of St. Peter's Church, in Albany, and entered Yale in 1802. Three years after, having proved an excellent classical student, and enjoyed the intimacy of several youth afterwards eminent in the land, he left New Haven, and joined the United States navy as a midshipman. After passing six years in the service, he resigned, married, and soon after established himself'on his paternal domain, situated amid some of the finest scenery and rural attraction of his native state. Thus Cooper was early initiated into the scenes of a newly-settled country and a maritime life, with the benefit of academical training and the best social privileges. All these means of culture and development his active mind fully appreciated; his observation never slumbered, and its fruits were industriously garnered.
His nautical and Indian tales form, perhaps, the most characteristic portion of our literature. The Bravo is the best of his European novels, and his Naval History is valuable and interesting. He was one of the most industrious of authors; his books of travel and biographical sketches are numerous, and possess great fidelity of detail, although not free from prejudice. Cooper represents the American mind in its adventurous character; he glories in delineating the 66 monarch of the deck;” paints the movements of a ship at sea as if she were, indeed, “ a thing of life;" follows an Indian trail with the sagacity of a forest-king; and leads us through storms, conflagration, and war with the firm, clear-sighted, and all-observant guidance of a master-spirit. His best scenes and characters are indelibly engraven on the memory. His best creations are instinct with nature and truth. His tone is uniformly manly, fresh, and vigorous. He is always thoroughly American. His style is national; and when he died in the autumn of 1851, a voice of praise and regret seemed to rise all over the land, and a large and distinguished assembly convened soon after, in New York, to listen to his eulogy - pronounced by the poet Bryant.
Hawthorne is distinguished for the finish of his style, and the delicacy of his psychological insight. He combines the metaphysical talent of Brown with the refined diction of Irving. For a period of more than twenty years he contributed, at intervals, to annuals and magazines, the most exquisite fancy sketches and historical narratives, the merit of which was scarcely recognized by the public at large, although cordially praised by the discriminating few. These papers have been recently collected under the title of Twice-told Tales, and Mosses from an Old Manse ; and, seen by the light of the author's present reputation, their grace, wisdom, and originality are now generally acknowledged. But it is through the two romances entitled the Scarlet Letter, and the House of the Seven Gables, that Hawthorne's eminence has been reached. They are remarkable at once for a highly finished and beautiful style, the most charining artistic skill, and
intense characterization. To these intrinsic and universal claims they add that of native scenes and subjects. Imagine such an anatomizer of the human heart as Balzac, transported to a provincial town of New England, and giving to its houses, streets, and history the analytical power of his genius, and we realize the triumph of Hawthorne. Bravely adopting familiar materials, he has thrown over them the light and shadow of his thoughtful mind, eliciting a deep significance and a prolific beauty: if we may use the expression, he is ideally true to the real. His invention is felicitous, his tone magnetic; his sphere borders on the supernatural, and yet a chaste expression and a refined sentiment underlie his most earnest utterance; he is more suggestive than dramatic. The early history of New England has found no such genial and vivid illustration as his pages afford. At all points his genius touches the interests of human life, now overflowing with a love of external nature as gentle as that of Thomson, now intent upon the quaint or characteristic in life with a humor as zestful as that of Lamb, now developing the horrible or pathetic with something of John Webster's dramatic terror, and again buoyant with a fantasy as aerial as Shelley's conceptions. And, in each instance, the staple of charming invention is adorned with the purest graces of style. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, educated at Bowdoin College, and after having filled an office in the Salem custom-house, and the post-office of his native town, lived a year on a community farm, and acted as United States consul at Liverpool for several years, was settled in the pleasant country town of Concord, Mass. He died with the pure and permanent fame of genius, having embalmed the experience he enjoyed in Italy and England in the romances of the Marble Faun and Our Old Home.
- What we admire in this writer's genius is his felicity in the use of common materials. It is very difficult to give an imaginative scope to a scene or a topic which familiarity has robbed of illusion. It is by the association of ideas, by the halo of remembrance and the magic of love, that an object usually presents itself to the mind under fanciful relations. From a foreign country our native spot becomes picturesque; and from the hill of manhood the valley of youth appears romantic; but that is a peculiar and rare mental alchemy which can transmute the dross of the common and the immediate into gold. Yet so doth Hawthorne. His Old Apple Dealer yet sits by the Old South Church, and the Willey House is inscribed every summer-day by the penknives of ambitious cits. He is able to illustrate, by his rich invention, places and themes that are before our very eyes and in our daily speech. His fancy is as free of wing at the north end of Boston, or on Salem turnpike, as that of other poets in the Vale of Cashmere or amid the Isles of Greece. He does not seem to feel the necessity of distance, either of time or space, to realize his enchantments. He has succeeded in attaching an ethereal interest to home subjects, which is no small triumph. Somewhat of that poctic charm which Wilson has thrown over Scottish life in his Lights and Shadows, and Irving over English in his SketchBook, and Lamb over metropolitan in his Elia, has Hawthorne cast around New England, and his tales here and there blend, as it were, the traits which endear these authors. His best efforts are those in which the human predominates. Ingenuity and moral significancy are finely displayed, it is true, in his allegories; but sometimes they are coldly fanciful, and do not win the sympathies as in those instances where the play of the heart relieves the dim workings of the abstract and supernatural. Hawthorne, like all individualities, must be read in the appropriate mood. This secret of appreciation is now understood as regards Wordsworth. It is due to all genuine authors. To many, whose mental aliment has been exciting and coarse, the delicacy, meek beauties, and calm spirit of these writings will but gradually unfold themselves; but those capable of placing themselves in relation with Hawthorne will discover a native genius for which to be grateful and proud, and a brother whom to know is to love. He certainly has done much to obviate the reproach which a philosophical writer, not without reason, has cast upon our authors, when he asserts their object to be to astonish rather than please.” *
There is a host of intermediate authors between the three already described in this sphere of literature, of various and high degrees, both of merit and reputation, but whose traits are chiefly analogous to those of the prominent writers we have surveyed. Some of them have ably illustrated local themes, others excelled in scenic limning, and a few evinced genius for characterization. Paulding, for instance, in Westward Ho, and the Dutchman's Fireside, has given admirable pictures of colonial life; Richard H. Dana, in the Idle Man, has two or three remarkable psychological tales; Timothy Flint, James Hall, Thomas, and more recently M'Connell, of Illinois, have written very graphic and spirited novels of western life; John P. Kennedy, of Baltimore, has embalmed Virginia life in the olden time in Swallow Barn, and Fay that of modern New York; Gilmore Simms, a prolific and vigorous novelist, in a similar form has embodied the traits of southern character and scenery; Hoffman, the early history of his native state; Dr. Robert Bird, of Philadelphia, those of Mexico; William Ware has rivalled Lockhart's classical romance in his Letters from Palmyra, and Probus ; Allston's artist-genius is luminous in Monaldi ; Judd in Margaret has related a tragic story arrayed in the very best hues and outlines of New England life; and Edgar A. Poe, in his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, evinces a genius in which a love of the marvellous and an intensity of conception are united with the wildest sympathies, as if the endowments of Mrs. Radcliffe and Coleridge were partially united in one mind. In adventurous and descriptive narration we have Melville and Mayo. John Neal struck off at a heat some halfscore of novels that, at least, illustrate a facility quite remarkable; and, indeed, from the days of the Algerine Captive and the Foresters — the first attempts at such writing in this country — to the present day, there has been no lack of native fictions. The minor specimens which possess the highest literary excellence are by Irving, Willis, and Longfellow; but their claims rest entirely on style and sentiment; they are brief and polished, but more graceful than impressive.
* Leaves from the Diary of a Dreamer.