Page images
PDF
EPUB

HENRY REED.

BEST METHOD OF READING. It is not unfrequently thought that the true guidance for habits of reading is to be looked for in prescribed courses of reading, pointing out the books to be read, and the order of proceeding with them. Now, while this external guidance may to a certain extent be useful, I do believe that an elaborately prescribed course of reading would be found neither desirable nor practicable. It does not leave freedom enough to the movements of the reader's own mind; it does not give free enough scope to choice. Our communion with books, to be intelligent, must be more or less spontaneous. It is not possible to anticipate how or when an interest may be awakened in some particular subject or author, and it would be far better to break away from the prescribed list of books, in order to follow out that interest while it is a thoughtful impulse. It would be a sorry tameness of intellect that would not, sooner or later, work its way out of the track of the best of any such prescribed courses. This is the reason, no doubt, why they are so seldom attempted, and why, when attempted, they are so apt to fail.

SYLLABUS.

The literary life of America dates from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The principal poets contemporary with Byron were Drake and Hallech.

Many of the American poets of the first part of the century were famous for a single poem.

Among the poems were Hail Columbia, The Star-Spangled Banner, Home, Sweet Home, etc.

The older poets of the present day were rising into notice.
Bryant was known before 1825.
Longfellow, Whittier, Emerson, and Lowell were known before 1840.

The principal poems of Drake are The Culprit Fay and The American. Flag.

Poe belongs to the first half of the century.

Other poets of the time were Washington Allston, N. P. Willis, George P. Morris, Alfred B. Street, Frances Osgood, H. F. Gould, John Pierpont, James Gates Percival.

A few dramatic writings were produced.
Charles Brockden Brown was the first American novelist.

James Fennimore Cooper ranks highest among American novelists who had appeared before 1850.

Scientific writers were Wilson, Audubon, Silliman, Thompson, and others.

Theology was represented in the Trinitarian branch of the church by Lyman Beecher, John M. Mason, Moses Stuart, etc., and in the Unitarian by William Ellery Channing, Henry Ware, Sr., and his sons fienry and William Ware, Andrews Norton, and others.

Moses Stuart was one of the finest Biblical scholars of the age.

The works of Channing belong essentially to literature, and he is better known by his Essays than by his theological writings.

The most prominent writer of the time was Washington Irving.

Prescott had written before 1850 his History of Ferdinand and Isabella, Conquest of Mexico, and Conquest of Peru.

Other writers of history and biography were Jared Sparks, William Wirt, John Marshall, Timothy Flint, etc.

Oratory flourished in the early days of the Republic.

Among the chief orators and statesmen were John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Alexander and Edward Everett.

Margaret Fuller was a friend of Emerson. She, with Emerson, edited the "Dial.”

Henry Reed was one of the most promising of American critics.

Horace Binney Wallace, like Reed, gave great promise of excellence as a critic. Both were natives of Philadelphia.

Lydia Maria Child was a prolific and delightful writer.
Mrs. Kirkland wrote humorous sketches of Western pioneer life.
Verplanck edited Shakespeare's works with notes.

Griswold furnished numerous volumes of biographical sketches of authors, with selections from their works.

Noah Webster completed his Dictionary in 1828.
Worcester's Dictionary was completed in 1846.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

1850-1882. O period was ever marked with footsteps of progress like

art, in literature and humanity. It is encouraging to see, the world over, that the most valuable product of intellectual culture is a higher moral culture, and that both are mainly the results of written or spoken thoughts. It is impossible to estimate the value of literature—the refining influence of its poetry, the thought quickened by its philosophy, the nobler action shaped by its oratory, and the kindlier sympathy induced by its stories of every-day life.

It is well for a nation to pay just tribute to its great thinkers and writers. It was said of a Danish poet* that “his death set a whole empire weeping,” and no more touching evidence of the refining, beneficent influence of poetry and true thinking, in our own country, could be given than the universal bereavement lately felt in the death of our loved poets, and the sage whom his own generation delights to honor, and whom posterity with clearer vision will perceive in truer relations. †

* Adam Gottlob Ohlenschläger (1779-1850). + You cannot see the mountain near.--Emerson's Essay on Shakespeare the Poel

Poets.

LONGFELLOW. It is perhaps not too much to say that there never was a poet more widely loved than HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW. The man was not less loved than his songs. All the genial spirit of his lays emanated from his own genial spirit.

"All the many sounds of nature

Borrowed sweetness from his singing,
All the hearts of men were softened
By the pathos of his music.

*
He is dead, the sweet musician!
He, the sweetest of all singers !
He has gone from us forever,
He has moved a little nearer
To the Master of all music,

To the Master of all singing!” Thus he sang of Hiawatha's poet-friend, and it now may be fitly said of himself.

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (1807-1882) was born at Portland, Me. He graduated at Bowdoin College in 1825. A professorship of modern languages was offered him, and to further qualify himself for the position, he spent three years in France, Spain, Italy, and Germany. In 1829 he entered upon the duties of his professorship at Bowdoin. On the resignation of George Ticknor from the chair of modern languages at Harvard, Longfellow was elected to that position. Again he went abroad-this time to study the languages of the North. Returning the next year, he assumed his professorship at Cambridge, in which position he remained until 1854. He still, however, continued to reside in Cambridge, in the “Craigie House," memorable not only as the Revolutionary headquarters of Washington, but as being the college quarters of several of the distinguished men of the country besides Longfellow.* Mr. Longfellow purchased the house in 1843, the same year in which he married Miss Appleton.

* Mrs. Craigie, when in reduced circumstances, let out rooms in the grand old mansion to the students of Harvard-to Everett, Worcester, Sparks and others.

The care with which the poet prepared himself for every Juty is clearly reflected in his writings. The song of the Builders was his creed :

“Build, to-day, then, strong and sure,

With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.”

Could we sum up the daily labors of the hardest-working men, they would not seem more laborious than the work of our greatest literary men. While at Bowdoin as a studentconsequently before his eighteenth year-Longfellow had written the Hymn of the Moravian Nuns, Sunrise on the Hills, and The Spirit of Poetry. Many of his early works are reminiscences of foreign travels. Outre Mer, a Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea, and his translation of Coplas de Manriqué (verses of Manriqué *) appeared in 1835. Hyperion, a prose romance, was published in 1839, also a collection of poems called Voices of the Night. He was at this time contributing to the “North American Review” and to the “Knickerbocker Magazine.” In 1841 Ballads and other Poems wis published, and in 1842, Poems on Slavery. His first drama, The Spanish Student, was written in 1843. The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems followed in 1845. The same year he published The Poets and Poetry of Europe, with biographical sketches. Many of the translations he made himself, In 1847 the most celebrated of his poems, Evangeline, appeared, and in 1849, Kavanah, a Tale; then followed a volume of poems called The Seaside and the Fireside, and in 1851 that most melodious drama, The Golden Legend. In 1855, Hiawatha, an Indian Eddu, appeared, unrhymed and with no attempt at alliteration even, the beautiful trochaic measure flowing on so softly that rhyme was not needed. Miles Standish was written in 1858, in the same measure as Evangeline. The Tales of a Wayside Inn was the next collection of poems. Flower-de-Luce and New England Tragedies appeared the same year (1863). Again Mr. Longfellow visited Europe, and, returning, published in 1870 a translation of Dante's Divina Comedia, and in 1872 his second drama, The

* Jorge Manriqué, a Sparish poet of the fifteenth century.

« PreviousContinue »