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material comforts, it was natural for us to look to her also for our intellectual aliment. And we did so. Scarcely forty years ago, the “ Edinburgh Review” thus wrote:"Literature, the Americans have none; no native literature, we mean. *
* But why should the Americans write books, when a six weeks' passage brings them, in their own tongue, our sense, science, and genius, in bales and hogsheads ?” At this very plain language, which had a good deal of truth in it, we were much and very foolishly offended. We might have answered the reviewer, amply, thus : " True, we have had as yet but little literature of our own. We have had a greater, a higher, a nobler work to do than to write books. We have had to found a great nation. A vast continent was before us to be subdued. The means whereby to live' were first to be provided. Dwellings were to be built; school-houses and church edifices were to be erected ; literary, scientific, and religious educational institutions were to be founded; and then, in the natural course of things, would come forth and be embodied the creations of the intellect, the fancy, and the imagination. In short, instead
. of writing any great work, we were acting a still greater one. We were creating those very subjects upon which the future historian, traveller, essayist, poet, might eni ploy his pen for the delight and instruction of other generations." Such might have been our answer; and who would not have acknowledged its conclusiveness ?
But as soon as our “gristle was hardened into the bone of manhood,” we began to think of setting up for ourselves; and then, indeed, we began to think for ourselves. And here we have an answer, as correct as I can give, to the question, what is American Literature; namely, that it is the product of those minds that have been nurtured, trained, developed, matured, on our own soil, by the manners, habits, scenery, circumstances, and institutions peculiar to ourselves. This answer, too, determines, with considerable precision, the date of American Literature,—that its native growth and development commenced with our Revolutionary period. Our first thoughts were, of course, directed to our own condition, to our relations to the mother country, to our forms of government, and to the great principles of political government, of public economy, and of civil liberty; and then came forth, Minerva-like, a literature of a political character, to which, for strength, clearness, and comprehensiveness of thought, for just and sound reasoning, and for effective and lofty eloquence, the world had never seen the parallel; showing that the high encomium passed by Edmund Burke upon our first colonial Congress was no less just than beautiful. This literature is em
I Vol. xxxi. p. 141, December, 1818.
bodied in the speeches and letters of James Otis, the elder Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jay, Madison, and other patriots of the Revolution. Thenceforward, by degrees, as our strength increased, as our views expanded, as our facilities for learning were multiplied, as our scholarship assumed a higher and a higher grade, we entered, successively, the various fields of literature, and reaped rich and still richer harvests from them all, so that our dear, good old mother is now proud to acknowledge us as her own, and to confess that in some of the walks of science we have, in our onward march, left even her behind.' In History, she acknowledges that Irving, Prescott, Bancroft, Hildreth, and Motley, are equal to any on her side of the Atlantic. In Theology and Biblical Literature, Dwight and Barnes have, probably, as miany readers in England as here; while no review in that department in Great Britain is superior, for varied and profound learning, to “ The Bibliotheca Sacra.' As a novelist, the English Reviews themselves being judges, Mrs. Stowe is without a rival in either hemisphere. As many copies, probably, of Bryant and Longfellow have been sold in England, as of Coleridge, or Wordsworth, or Tennyson ; while many annotated and elucidated editions of classic authors by our own scholars are extensively studied in English schools. So that now “ The Edinburgh Review” might ask with truth the reverse question—"Who does not read an American book ?"
Having fixed the date of the origin of our native literature at the latter half of the last century, the question arose with what author I should begin. Here there seemed little difficulty in deciding. The great light of the last century was, undoubtedly, Jonathan Edwards, distinguished not more for his learning and piety, than for his originality of genius, and a mind unmistakably American in its habits of thought and action. But after him, the number that might, with some show of reason, put in their claim to come within the scope of such a work, increased more and more, until it has, within the past thirty years, become so great as to be really embarrassing. And here, doubtless, will be found the chief failing of my humble volume; here is a field ample enough for the most vituperative critic to exercise his skill in. Many will see that some favorite piece—or, it may be, some favorite author-has been left out; and may hastily ask why it is so. It is enough to reply that I could not put in every thing,—no, not a hundredth part of what
1 “ The London Quarterly Review," for December, 1841, (only twenty-three years after the extract from “The Edinburgh Review" just quoted was written,) in reviewing Dr. Robinson's Palestine, thus writes :-“We are not altogether pleased that for the best and most copious work on the geography and antiquitios
of the Holy Land, though written in English, we should be indebted to an Amne1 rican divine."
has been written. Even the TITLES of all the books written by American authors would fill a volume half as large as this. But, if it will be any gratification to these querists, I will candidly acknowledge that I myself see, after my book is now made up, many ways in which it might be improved, and that many authors are not noticed in it who should be. It will be a pleasure, however, to make amends for whatever sins of omission or of commission may be pointed out to me, should my book reach another edition and be put in the stereotyped, permanent form. In the mean time, I earnestly hope that any friend-or foe, if I have one-will candidly and freely communicate to me his views. Each one will look at the subject from a different stand-point; and I will sincerely thank all to do what they can to place me in their own position, that I may, as far as possible, see with their eyes.
But, whatever want of judgment may be laid to my charge, either in deciding upon the authors to be admitted into my
book, or of taste in selecting from their works, I trust that no one will be able with justice to impugn my honesty. I have at least endeavored, uninfluenced by fear or favor, to represent my authors fairly, and to let them speak out whatever sentiments were dearest to their hearts. To have done otherwise, would have been as dishonorable as unjust. One, for instance, has made Freedom the chief burden of his writings; another has been most interested in the cause of Temperance, -both subjects peculiarly American; and the warmest feelings of my heart, and my own lifelong prin. ciples, have here fully harmonized with my sense of justice, to represent the humanity and philanthropy, as well as the cultivated intellect, of my accomplished countrymen.
In conclusion, I would only remark that I can desire no greater favor to be shown by the public to this, than has been extended to my two former volumes. My publishers—and no author could in this respect be more highly favored—have done their part, as before, in a style of great beauty; so that no series of books, I believe, have ever been offered to the public at so moderate a price, considering their amount of reading matter and their mechanical execution.
And now, having prepared this book, as my others, neither to please any clique or sect, nor to favor any particular latitude or special market, nor to defer to any false sentiments, but to promote the cause of sound learning and education, in harmony with pure Christian morals, the best interests of humanity, and the cause of universal truth, I submit it to the judgment of an in. telligent public.
CHARLES D. CLEVELAND.
PHILADELPHIA, April 6, 1858.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
The hearty praise bestowed by the public upon the first edition of this book, the rapid sale which it met with, together with the numerous kind and commendatory letters that I received from authors and others, were, of course, very grateful to my feelings ; and it was to me no less a duty than a pleasure to show myself not unmindful of such kindness, by doing all I could-and, I would hope, not without success—to make the second edition every way more deserving. No one could see or feel the deficiencies of my book so much as myself; but I had this consolation, that the most competent to decide upon its merits would be those best able to appreciate the difficulties in preparing it, and therefore most ready to make every allowance for its defects. And so it proved.
My book was, however, the subject of some ungracious strictures on two grounds,-sins of omission and sins of commission. In proof of the first, one critic set forth a list of thirty-one names not to be found in the work. To this accusation I could only plead guilty, and that, too, to an extent much greater than the charge; for in the preface to the first edition (written, of course, after the rest of the book was printed) I candidly acknowledged that I found I had omitted many names that deserved a place in the volume quite as much, at least, as some who were in it, and I declared my purpose to do my best to remedy the defect in the second edition. This I did, to as great an extent as was consistent
my plan, by introducing sixty additional authors, with extracts from their works. But even now I am aware that there are some writers, of much merit in their way, who will not be found in these pages, and that I may still be censured for omissions. So let it be. I well knew, when I began my work, that I had undertaken a task very difficult of accomplishment, and that, what
, ever might be my success, I should be exposed to the displeasure
of those who would feel themselves aggrieved, either because sufficient prominence had not been given to their favorite pieces and authors, or because they themselves were not noticed."
But, besides the difficulties and embarrassments in deciding upon the authors to be admitted and the selections to be made, I felt,-depressingly felt,-from first to last, how little the general character and style of many authors could be appreciated by the few extracts I could take from their writings; and more than once I thought that I might not inaptly be compared to the simpleton in Hierocles, who, when he had a house for sale, carried about a brick in his pocket as a specimen. But the idea also occurred to me that the Grecian was not so far wrong, after all; for if the brick gave no idea of the size or architecture of the building, it showed, at least, of what material it was composed. So I comforted myself with the reflection that very many who, in this age of business activity, would have no time to read the entire works of an author, and therefore could not have a full appreciation of his genius, would still get from my book some notion of his character, his turn of thought, his style, and his power,—and that this would be far better than to know nothing of him at all.
But my sins of commission were still more grievous,--the antislavery extracts introduced into my book. For these I have not one word of apology to offer. Every sentiment of my mind and every pulsation of my heart is, and always has been, on the side of liberty and the right of every human being to its fullest enjoyment, believing, with Cowper, that
“ 'Tis Liberty alone that gives the flower
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume;
I candidly acknowledge that I am so simple-minded as really to believe (not "make-believe') in the declaration of the Scriptures that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men ;" and in the Declaration of Independence, that “every man has an in
1 A writer in the “ North American Review,” some years ago, pleasantly remarked, “We have among us little companies of people, each of which • keeps its poet,' and, not content with that, proclaims from its small corner, with a most conceited air, that its poet is the man of the age."