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The American Spirit In Literature, A Chronicle Of Great Interpreters
     

The American Spirit In Literature, A Chronicle Of Great Interpreters

by Bliss Perry
 

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CONTENTS

I. THE PIONEERS

II. THE FIRST COLONIAL LITERATURE

III. THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION

IV. THE REVOLUTION

V. THE KNICKERBOCKER GROUP

VI. THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS

VII. ROMANCE, POETRY, AND HISTORY

VIII. POE AND WHITMAN

IX. UNION AND

Overview

CONTENTS

I. THE PIONEERS

II. THE FIRST COLONIAL LITERATURE

III. THE THIRD AND FOURTH GENERATION

IV. THE REVOLUTION

V. THE KNICKERBOCKER GROUP

VI. THE TRANSCENDENTALISTS

VII. ROMANCE, POETRY, AND HISTORY

VIII. POE AND WHITMAN

IX. UNION AND LIBERTY

X. A NEW NATION

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE




THE AMERICAN SPIRIT IN LITERATURE



CHAPTER I. THE PIONEERS

The United States of America has been from the beginning in a perpetual
change. The physical and mental restlessness of the American and the
temporary nature of many of his arrangements are largely due to the
experimental character of the exploration and development of this
continent. The new energies released by the settlement of the colonies
were indeed guided by stern determination, wise forethought, and
inventive skill; but no one has ever really known the outcome of the
experiment. It is a story of faith, of

Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.

An Alexander Hamilton may urge with passionate force the adoption of the
Constitution, without any firm conviction as to its permanence. The most
clear-sighted American of the Civil War period recognized this element
of uncertainty in our American adventure when he declared: "We are
now testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so
dedicated, can long endure." More than fifty years have passed since
that war rearmed the binding force of the Constitution and apparently
sealed the perpetuity of the Union. Yet the gigantic economic and social
changes now in progress are serving to show that the United States has
its full share of the anxieties which beset all human institutions in
this daily altering world.

"We are but strangers in an inn, but passengers in a ship," said Roger
Williams. This sense of the transiency of human effort, the perishable
nature of human institutions, was quick in the consciousness of the
gentleman adventurers and sober Puritan citizens who emigrated from
England to the New World. It had been a familiar note in the poetry of
that Elizabethan period which had followed with such breathless interest
the exploration of America. It was a conception which could be shared
alike by a saint like John Cotton or a soldier of fortune like John
Smith. Men are tent-dwellers. Today they settle here, and tomorrow they
have struck camp and are gone. We are strangers and sojourners, as all
our fathers were.

This instinct of the camper has stamped itself upon American life and
thought. Venturesomeness, physical and moral daring, resourcefulness
in emergencies, indifference to negligible details, wastefulness
of materials, boundless hope and confidence in the morrow, are
characteristics of the American. It is scarcely an exaggeration to
say that the "good American" has been he who has most resembled a good
camper. He has had robust health--unless or until he has abused it,--a
tolerant disposition, and an ability to apply his fingers or his brain
to many unrelated and unexpected tasks. He is disposed to blaze his own
trail. He has a touch of prodigality, and, withal, a knack of keeping
his tent or his affairs in better order than they seem. Above all, he
has been ever ready to break camp when he feels the impulse to wander.
He likes to be "foot-loose." If he does not build his roads as solidly
as the Roman roads were built, nor his houses like the English houses,
it is because he feels that he is here today and gone tomorrow. If he
has squandered the physical resources of his neighborhood, cutting the
forests recklessly, exhausting the soil, surrendering water power and
minerals into a few far-clutching fingers, he has done it because he
expects, like Voltaire's Signor Pococurante, "to have a new garden
tomorrow, built on a nobler plan." When New York State grew too crowded
for Cooper's Leather-Stocking, he shouldered his pack, whistled to his
dog, glanced at the sun, and struck a bee-line for the Mississippi.
Nothing could be more typical of the first three hundred years of
American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781406865707
Publisher:
Echo Library
Publication date:
04/01/2008
Pages:
108
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)

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