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and consciously trying to write effectively, he often wrote absurdly; but the man's ear was true. In reading any page of his aloud, you will find your voice dwelling where the sense requires it to dwell. Critics have remarked that if you wish to distinguish between the style of Addison and that of Steele, all you need do is to apply a vocal test. Addison's ear was so delicate that you require little art to bring out the emphasis of his periods ; Steele wrote more for the eye. In other words, Steele comparatively lacked a trait which Addison and Brockden Brown possessed an instinctive sense' of formal phrasing.

If we regard Brockden Brown only as an imitator, - and as such he is perhaps most significant, — we may instructively remark that the literature of America begins exactly where the pure literature of a normally developed language is apt to leave off. A great literature, originating from the heart of

. the people, declares itself first in spontaneous songs and ballads and legends; it is apt to end in prose fiction. With laboured prose fiction our American literature begins. The laboured prose fiction of Brown has traits, however, which distinguish it from similar work in England. To begin with, the sense of horror which permeates it is not conventional but genuine. Brockden Brown could instinctively feel, more deeply than almost any native Englishman since the days of Elizabeth, what mystery may lurk just beyond human ken. In the second place, Brown's work, for all its apparent confusion, proves consused chiefly by impotent, futile attempt to assure his point of view by autobiographic device. In the third place he reveals on almost every page an instinctive sense of rhythmical form.

Brown's six novels are rather long, and all hastily written; and in his short, invalid life he never attempted any other form of fiction. As one considers his work, however, one may well incline to guess that if he had confined his attempts to single episodes, - if he had had the originality, in short, to invent

the short story, - he might have done work favourably comparable with that of Irving or Poe or even Hawthorne. Brockden Brown, in brief, never stumbled on the one literary form which he might have mastered; pretty clearly that literary form was the sort of romantic short story whose motive is mysterious; and since his time that kind of short story has proved itself the most characteristic phase of native American fiction.



The name of Washington Irving reminds us rather startlingly how short is the real history of American letters. Although he has been dead for a little more than forty years, many people still remember him personally ; and when in 1842 he went as President Tyler's minister to Spain, he passed through an England where Queen Victoria had already been five years on the throne, and he presented his credentials to Queen Isabella II., who, although long exiled from her country, is still a not very old lady in Paris. Yet in one sense this Irving, who has not yet faded from living memory, may be called, more certainly than Brockden Brown, the first American man of letters. At least, he was the first whose work has remained popular ; and the first, too, who was born after the Revolution had made native Americans no longer British subjects but citizens of the United States. His parents, to be sure, were foreign, his father Scotch, his mother English ; but he himself was born in New York in 1783. He was not very strong; his early habits were rather desultory and his education irregular; he studied law and was admitted to the bar, but never practised much; and at the age of twenty-one

he was sent abroad for his health. There he remained two years.

His distinctly American character first becomes salient during this trip abroad, at that time an unusual experience. He was of simple origin ; his family were in respectable trade. Born in England, he might have been as accomplished a.id agreeable as he ever became, but he could hardly have

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been received on equal terms by the polite society of Europe. Going abroad, as an American citizen, however, he took from the beginning a social position there which he maintained to the end. He was cordially received by people of rank, and incidentally had little to do with those of the station which would have been his had his family never emigrated to this side of the Atlantic. He was among the first, in short, of that distinguished body of Americans, of whom later examples are such men as Ticknor, Everett, Sumner, Motley, and Lowell, who have proved during the nineteenth century the social dignity of American letters.

In 1806, Irving returned home; the next year, in company with one or two kinsmen, he began writing a series of essays called the “Salmagundi Papers.” Only his subsequent emi

« nence has preserved from blameless oblivion these conventional survivals of the eighteenth century. About this time occurred an episode which deeply influenced his whole life: he fell in love with a young girl whose death at seventeen almost broke his heart. When she died he was at her bedside; and throughout his later life he could not bear to hear her name mentioned. The tender melancholy which one recognises all through his writings was probably due to this bereavement; and the intense simplicity and faithfulness of his pure and ideal love is characteristic not only of the man but of his country.

In 1809 he published his first considerable book, - the “Knickerbocker History of New York.” Shortly thereafter he devoted himself to business; and in 1815 he went abroad in connection with his affairs. There, after a few years, commercial misfortune overtook him. In 1819 he brought out his “ Sketch Book ; from that time forth he was a professional man of letters. He remained abroad until 1832, spending the years between 1826 and 1829 in Spain, and those between 1829 and 1832 as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Coming home, he resided for ten years


at Tarrytown on the Hudson, in that house “Sunnyside ” which has become associated with his name. From 1842 to 1846 he was Minister to Spain. He then finally returned home, crowning his literary work with his “Life of Washington,” of which the last volume appeared in the year of his death, 1859.

Irving was the first American man of letters to attract wide attention abroad. The “Knickerbocker History ” was favourably received by contemporary England; and the “Sketch Book” and “ Bracebridge Hall,” which followed it, were from the beginning what they have remained, -as popular in England as they have been in his native country. The same, on the whole, is true of his writings about Spain ; and, to somewhat slighter degree, of his “ Life of Goldsmith” and his “Life of Washington.” The four general classes of work here mentioned followed one another in fairly distinct succession through his half-century of literary life. We may perhaps get our clearest notion of him by considering them in turn.

The “ Knickerbocker History of New York ” has properly lasted. The origin of this book resembles that of Fielding's " Joseph Andrews ” some seventy years before, and of Dickens's “ Pickwick Papers ” some twenty-five years later. All three began as burlesques and ended as independent works of fiction, retaining of their origin little more trace than occasional extravagance.

In 1807 one Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchill had published “ A Picture of New York,” said to be ridiculous, even among works of its time, for ponderous pretentiousness. The book had such success, however, that Irving and his brother were moved to write a parody of it. Before long Irving's brother tired of the work, which was left to Irving himself. As he wrote on, his style and purpose underwent a change. Instead of burlesquing Mitchill, he found himself composing a comic history of old New York, and incidentally introducing a good deal of personal and polit

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