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Title: A History of American Literature Since 1870
Author: Pattee, Fred Lewis
Language: English
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      This book often uses periods where we would expect to see
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A HISTORY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE SINCE 1870

by

FRED LEWIS PATTEE

Professor of the English Language and Literature in the Pennsylvania
State College. Author of "A History of American Literature,"
"The Poems of Philip Freneau," "The Foundations of
English Literature," etc.



[Illustration]

D. Appleton-Century Company
Incorporated
New York      London

Copyright, 1915, by
The Century Co.

All Rights Reserved, Including the
Right to Reproduce This Book, or
Portions Thereof, in Any Form.

Printed in U. S. A.



    TO DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
    AND THE DARTMOUTH MEN
    OF THE EIGHTIES, STUDENTS
    AND PROFESSORS,
    AMONG WHOM I FIRST
    AWOKE TO THE MEANING
    OF LITERATURE AND OF
    LIFE, THIS BOOK IS INSCRIBED
    WITH FULL HEART.



PREFACE


American literature in the larger sense of the term began with Irving,
and, if we count _The Sketch Book_ as the beginning, the centennial
year of its birth is yet four years hence. It has been a custom,
especially among the writers of text-books, to divide this century
into periods, and all have agreed at one point: in the mid-thirties
undoubtedly there began a new and distinct literary movement. The names
given to this new age, which corresponded in a general way with the
Victorian Era in England, have been various. It has been called the Age
of Emerson, the Transcendental Period, the National Period, the Central
Period. National it certainly was not, but among the other names
there is little choice. Just as with the Victorian Era in England,
not much has been said as to when the period ended. There has been no
official closing, though it has been long evident that all the forces
that brought it about have long since expended themselves and that a
distinctively new period has not only begun but has already quite run
its course.

It has been our object to determine this new period and to study its
distinguishing characteristics. We have divided the literary history of
the century into three periods, denominating them as the Knickerbocker
Period, the New England Period, and the National Period, and we have
made the last to begin shortly after the close of the Civil War with
those new forces and new ideals and broadened views that grew out of
that mighty struggle.

The field is a new one: no other book and no chapter of a book has ever
attempted to handle it as a unit. It is an important one: it is our
first really national period, all-American, autochthonic. It was not
until after the war that our writers ceased to imitate and looked to
their own land for material and inspiration. The amount of its literary
product has been amazing. There have been single years in which have
been turned out more volumes than were produced during all of the
Knickerbocker Period. The quality of this output has been uniformly
high. In 1902 a writer in _Harper's Weekly_ while reviewing a book by
Stockton dared even to say: "He belonged to that great period between
1870 and 1890 which is as yet the greatest in our literary history,
whatever the greatness of any future time may be." The statement is
strong, but it is true. Despite Lowell's statement, it was not until
after the Civil War that America achieved in any degree her literary
independence. One can say of the period what one may not say of earlier
periods, that the great mass of its writings could have been produced
nowhere else but in the United States. They are redolent of the new
spirit of America: they are American literature.

In our study of this new national period we have considered only those
authors who did their first distinctive work before 1892. Of that large
group of writers born after the beginning of the period and borne into
their work by forces that had little connection with the great primal
impulses that came from the Civil War and the expansion period that
followed, we have said nothing. We have given the names of a few of
them at the close of chapter 17, but their work does not concern our
study. We have limited ourselves also by centering our attention upon
the three literary forms, poetry, fiction, and the essay. History we
have neglected largely for the reasons given at the opening of chapter
18, and the drama for the reason that before 1892 there was produced no
American drama of any literary value.

We would express here our thanks to the many librarians and assistants
who have cooperated toward the making of the book possible, and
especially would we tender our thanks to Professor R. W. Conover of the
Kansas Agricultural College who helped to prepare the index.

    F. L. P.

State College, Pennsylvania,



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                            PAGE

        I  THE SECOND DISCOVERY OF AMERICA                3

       II  THE LAUGHTER OF THE WEST                      25

      III  MARK TWAIN                                    45

       IV  BRET HARTE                                    63

        V  THE DISCOVERY OF PIKE COUNTY                  83

       VI  JOAQUIN MILLER                                99

      VII  THE TRANSITION POETS                         116

     VIII  RISE OF THE NATURE WRITERS                   137

       IX  WALT WHITMAN                                 163

        X  THE CLASSICAL REACTION                       186

       XI  RECORDERS OF THE NEW ENGLAND DECLINE         220

      XII  THE NEW ROMANCE                              244

     XIII  LATER POETS OF THE SOUTH                     271

      XIV  THE ERA OF SOUTHERN THEMES AND WRITERS       294

       XV  THE LATER POETS                              321

      XVI  THE TRIUMPH OF THE SHORT STORY               355

     XVII  SHIFTING CURRENTS OF FICTION                 385

    XVIII  THE ESSAYISTS                                416

           INDEX                                        441



    A HISTORY OF
    AMERICAN LITERATURE
    SINCE 1870



    A HISTORY OF
    AMERICAN LITERATURE
    SINCE 1870



CHAPTER I

THE SECOND DISCOVERY OF AMERICA


I

We are beginning to realize that the Civil War marks a dividing line in
American history as sharp and definitive as that burned across French
history by the Revolution. That the South had been vastly affected
by the war was manifest from the first. The widespread destruction
of property, the collapse of the labor system, and the fall of the
social régime founded on negro slavery, had been so dramatic and so
revolutionary in their results that they had created everywhere a
feeling that the ultimate effects of the war were confined to the
conquered territory. Grady's phrase, "the new South," and later the
phrase, "the end of an era," passing everywhere current, served to
strengthen the impression. That the North had been equally affected,
that there also an old régime had perished and a new era been
inaugurated, was not so quickly realized. The change there had been
undramatic; it had been devoid of all those picturesque accompaniments
that had been so romantic and even sensational in the South; but with
the perspective of half a century we can see now that it had been no
less thoroughgoing and revolutionary.

The first effect of the war had come from the sudden shifting of vast
numbers of the population from a position of productiveness to one of
dependence. A people who knew only peace and who were totally untrained
even in the idea of war were called upon suddenly to furnish one of
the largest armies of modern times and to fight to an end the most
bitterly contested conflict of a century. First and last, upwards
of two millions of men, the most of them citizen volunteers, drawn
all of them from the most efficient productive class, were mustered
into the federal service alone. It changed in a moment the entire
equilibrium of American industrial life. This great unproductive army
had to be fed and clothed and armed and kept in an enormously wasteful
occupation. But the farms and the mills and the great transportation
systems had been drained of laborers to supply men for the regiments.
The wheatfields had no harvesters; the Mississippi the great commercial
outlet of the West, had been closed by the war, and the railroads were
insufficient to handle the burden.

The grappling with this mighty problem wrought a change in the North
that was a revolution in itself. The lack of laborers in the harvest
fields of the Middle West called for machinery, and the reaper and
the mowing machine for the first time sprang into widespread use; the
strain upon the railroads brought increased energy and efficiency and
capital to bear upon the problem of transportation, and it was swiftly
solved. Great meat-packing houses arose to meet the new conditions;
shoes had to be sent to the front in enormous numbers and to produce
them a new and marvelous machine was brought into use; clothing in
hitherto unheard-of quantities must be manufactured and sent speedily,
and to make it Howe's sewing machine was evolved. It was a period of
giant tasks thrust suddenly upon a people seemingly unprepared. The
vision of the country became all at once enlarged. Companies were
organized for colossal undertakings. Values and wealth arose by leaps
and bounds. Nothing seemed impossible.

The war educated America. It educated first the millions of men who
were enrolled in the armies. With few exceptions the soldiers were
boys who had never before left their native neighborhoods. From the
provincial little round of the farm or the shop, all in a moment they
plunged into regions that to them were veritable foreign lands to
live in a world of excitement and stress, with ever-shifting scenes
and ever-deepening responsibilities, for three and four and even five
years. Whole armies of young men came from the remote hills of New
England. Massachusetts alone sent 159,000. The diffident country lad
was trained harshly in the roughest of classrooms. He was forced to
measure himself with men.

The whole nation was in the classroom of war. The imperious call
for leaders of every grade and in all ranks of activity developed
everywhere out of raw material captains of men, engineers, organizers,
business directors, financiers, inventors, directors of activities,
on a scale before undreamed of in America. It was a college course
in which were developed efficiency and self-reliance and wideness
of vision and courage and restless activity, and it produced a most
remarkable generation of men.

The armies in the field and those other armies that handled the
railroads and the mills and the finances and supplies, were sons all of
them of a race that had been doubly picked in the generations before,
for only the bravest and most virile in body and soul had dared to
break from their old-world surroundings and plunge into the untracked
West, and only the fittest of these had survived the rigors of pioneer
days. And the war schooled this remnant and widened their vision and
ground out of them the provincialism that had held them so long to
narrow horizons. It was not until 1865 that Emerson could write, "We
shall not again disparage America now we have seen what men it will
bear." But the chief difference between these men and the early men
that had so filled him with apprehension in the thirties and the
forties, was in the schooling which had come from the five years of
tension when the very life of the nation was in danger.

The disbanding of the armies was followed by a period of restlessness
such as America had never before known. The whole population was
restless. "War," says Emerson, "passes the power of all chemical
solvents, breaking up the old adhesions and allowing the atoms of
society to take a new order." The war had set in motion mighty forces
that did not stop when peace was declared. Men who had been trained
by the war for the organizing and directing of vast activities turned
quickly to new fields of effort. The railroads, which had been vastly
enlarged and enriched by the war, pushed everywhere now with marvelous
rapidity; great industries, like the new oil industry, sprang into
wealth and power. The West, lying vast and unbroken almost from the
farther bank of the Mississippi, burst into eager life, and the tide
of migration which even before the war had turned strongly toward
this empire of the plains quickly became a flood. Railroads were
pushed along the wild trails and over the Rocky Mountains. The first
transcontinental road was completed in 1868. The great buffalo herds
were exterminated in the late sixties and early seventies; millions of
acres of rich land were preëmpted and turned over to agriculture; the
greatest wheat and corn belts the world has ever known were brought
into production almost in a moment; bridges were flung over rivers
and cañons; vast cities of the plain arose as by magic. Everywhere
a new thrill was in the air. The Civil War had shaken America into
eager, restless life. Mark Twain, who was a part of it all, could say
in later days: "The eight years in America from 1860 to 1868 uprooted
institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people,
transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so
profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot
be measured short of two or three generations."[1]

To-day we can begin to see the effect which the mighty exodus that
followed the war had upon the East. It was little short of revolution.
New England had taken the leading place in precipitating the struggle
between the States, and she had done it for conscience' sake, and now,
though she had won all she had asked, by a curious turn of fate she
was repaid for her moral stand by the loss of her leadership and later
almost of her identity, for the westward movement that followed the war
was in New England a veritable exodus. There had always been emigration
from the older States and it had gradually increased during the gold
rush period and the Kansas-Nebraska excitement, but the tide had never
been large enough to excite apprehension. Now, however, all in a moment
the stream became a torrent which took away, as does all emigration
from older lands, the most active and fearless and progressive spirits.
Whole districts of farming land were deserted with all their buildings
and improvements. New Hampshire in 1860 had a population of 326,073;
in 1870 the population had shrunk to 318,300, and that despite the
fact that all the cities and manufacturing towns in the State had
grown greatly during the ten years, the increase consisting almost
wholly of foreigners. According to Sanborn, "more than a million
acres cultivated in 1850 had gone back to pasturage and woodland in
1900."[2] All growth since the war has been confined to the cities and
the larger manufacturing towns, and this growth and the supplying of
the deficit caused by the emigration of the old stock have come from an
ever-increasing influx of foreigners. Boston has all but lost its old
identity. In Massachusetts in 1900 nearly one-half of the population
was born of foreign parentage. New England in a single generation lost
its scepter of power in the North, and that scepter gradually has been
moving toward the new West.


II

But the change wrought by the war was far more than a rise of new
activities and a shifting of population. A totally new America grew
from the ashes of the great conflict. In 1860, North and South alike
were provincial and self-conscious. New York City was an enormously
overgrown village, and Boston and Philadelphia and Charleston were
almost as individual and as unlike one another as they had been in the
days of the Revolution. There had been nothing to fuse the sections
together and to bring them to a common vision. The drama of the
settlement had been fierce and piteous, but it had been a great series
of local episodes. The Revolution had not been a melting pot that
could fuse all the sections into a unity. The war which had begun in
New England had drifted southward and each battle, especially toward
the end, had been largely a local affair. Until 1860, there had been
no passion fierce enough to stir to the very center of their lives all
of the people, to melt them into a homogeneous mass, and to pour them
forth into the mold of a new individual soul among the nations. The
emphasis after 1870 was not upon the State but upon the _Nation_. As
early as 1867 a writer in the _North American Review_ declared that,
"The influence of our recent war in developing the 'National Sentiment'
of the people can hardly be overestimated."[3] Now there came national
banks, national securities, a national railroad, a national college
system,--everywhere a widening horizon. Provincialism was dying in
every part of the land.

Until 1860, America had been full of the discordant individuality of
youth. Its characteristics, all of them, had been characteristics of
that turbulent, unsettled period before character had hardened into its
final form. From 1820 to 1860 the nation was adolescent. In everything
at least that concerned its intellectual life it was imitative and
dependent. It was in its awkward era, and like every youth was uncouth
and sensitive and self-conscious. It asked eagerly of every foreign
visitor, "And what do you think of us?" and when the answer, as in
the case of Moore or Marryat or Dickens, was critical, it flew into a
passion. It was sentimental to silliness. As late as 1875 the editor
of _Scribner's_ declared that a large number of all the manuscripts
submitted to publishing houses and periodicals were declined because of
their sentimentality, and most of the published literature of the time,
he added, has "a vast deal of sentimentality sugared through it." That
was in 1875; a few years before that date Griswold had published his
_Female Poets of America_, and there had flourished the _Token_, the
_Forget-Me-Not_, and the _Amaranth_. Adolescence is always sad:

        And I think as I sit alone,
          While the night wind is falling around,
        Of a cold white gleaming stone
          And a long, lone, grassy mound.

The age had sighed and wept over _Charlotte Temple_, a romance which
went through edition after edition, and which, according to Higginson,
had a greater number of readers even in 1870 than any single one of the
Waverley Novels.

But even as it sighed over its _Charlotte Temple_ and its _Rosebud_
and its _Lamplighter_, it longed for better things. It had caught a
glimpse, through Irving and Willis and Longfellow and others, of the
culture of older lands. America had entered its first reading age. In
1844 Emerson spoke of "our immense reading and that reading chiefly
confined to the productions of the English press." In its eagerness
for culture it enlarged its area of books and absorbed edition after
edition of translations from the German and Spanish and French. It
established everywhere the lyceum, and for a generation America sat
like an eager school-girl at the feet of masters--Emerson and Beecher
and Taylor and Curtis and Phillips and Gough.

But adolescent youth is the period, too, of spiritual awakenings, of
religious strugglings, and of the questioning and testing of all
that is established. For a period America doubted all things. It read
dangerous and unusual books--Fourier, St. Simon, Swedenborg, Jouffroy,
Cousin. It challenged the dogmas of the Church. It worked over for
itself all the fundamentals of religion. A reviewer in the first volume
of _Scribner's_ remarks of the fall books that, as usual, theology has
the best of it. "Our poets write theology, our novels are theological
... even our statesmen cannot write without treating theology."[4] The
forties and fifties struggled with sensitive conscience over the great
problems of right and wrong, of altruism and selfish ambition. The age
was full of dreams; it longed to right the wrongs of the weak and the
oppressed; to go forth as champions of freedom and abstract right; and
at last it fought it out with agony and sweat of blood in the midnight
when the stars had hid themselves seemingly forever.

The Civil War was the _Sturm und Drang_ of adolescent America, the
Gethsemane through which every earnest young life must pass ere he find
his soul. He fails to understand the spirit of our land who misses this
great fact: America discovered itself while fighting with itself in a
struggle for things that are not material at all, but are spiritual and
eternal. The difference between the America of 1850 and that of 1870
is the difference between the youth of sixteen and the man of thirty.
Before the war the bands of America had played "Annie Laurie" and
"Drink to Me only with Thine Eyes"; after the war they played "Rally
round the Flag" and "Mine Eyes have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the
Lord."


III

The effect of the war upon American literature has been variously
estimated. Stedman has been quoted often: "The Civil War was a general
absorbent at the crisis when a second group of poets began to form. The
conflict not only checked the rise of a new school, but was followed by
a time of languor in which the songs of Apollo seemed trivial to those
who had listened to the shout of Mars."[5] It was Richardson's opinion
that "little that was notable was added to the literature of the
country by the Civil War of 1861.... The creative powers of our best
authors seemed somewhat benumbed, though books and readers multiplied
between 1861 and 1865."[6] And Greenough White dismisses the matter
with the remark that "after the war, Bryant, Longfellow, and Taylor,
as if their power of original production was exhausted, turned to
translation."[7]

All this lacks perspective. Stedman views the matter from the true
mid-century standpoint. Poetry to Stedman and Stoddard and Hayne and
Aldrich and Taylor was an esoteric, beautiful thing to be worshiped
and followed for itself alone like a goddess, a being from another
sphere than ours, to devote one's soul to, "like the lady of Shalott,"
to quote Stevenson, "peering into a mirror with her back turned on all
the bustle and glamour of reality." Keats had been the father of this
group of poets which had been broken in upon rudely by the war, and
it had been the message of Keats that life with its wretchedness and
commonplaceness and struggle was to be escaped from by means of Poesy:

        Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
        Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
        But on the viewless wings of Poesy.

But poetry is the voice of life; it is not an avenue by which to escape
from life's problems. The poet springs from his times and voices his
era because he must. If his era smothers him, then so much the less
poet he. No war can check the rise of a new school of poets if the soul
of that new age is one to be expressed in poetry.

What Stedman and the others failed to see was the new American soul
which had been created by the war and which the new school, trained in
the old conceptions of poetry, was powerless to voice. If the creative
powers of the leading authors were numbed, if Bryant and Longfellow and
Taylor felt that their power of original production was exhausted and
so turned to translation, it was because they felt themselves powerless
to take wing in the new atmosphere.

The North before the war had been aristocratic in its intellectual
life, just as the South had been aristocratic in its social régime.
Literature and oratory and scholarship had been accomplishments of
the few. J. G. Holland estimated in 1870 that the lecturers in the
widespread lyceum system when it was at its highest point, "those men
who made the platform popular and useful and apparently indispensable,
did not number more than twenty-five." The whole New England period
was dominated by a handful of men. The Saturday Club, which contained
the most of them, had, according to Barrett Wendell, twenty-six
members "all typical Boston gentlemen of the Renaissance." Howells
characterizes it as a "real aristocracy of intellect. To say Prescott,
Motley, Parkman, Lowell, Norton, Higginson, Dana, Emerson, Channing,
was to say patrician in the truest and often the best sense, if not the
largest." It is significant that these were all Harvard men. The period
was dominated by college men. In addition to the names mentioned by
Howells, there might be added from the New England colleges, Webster,
Ticknor, Everett, Bancroft, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Holmes, Parker,
Clarke, Phillips, Sumner, Thoreau, Parsons, and Hale. Excepting Poe,
who for a time was a student at the University of Virginia and at West
Point, and Whittier, who was self-educated, and two women, Margaret
Fuller and Mrs. Stowe, who lived in the period when colleges were
open only for men, the list contains all the leading authors of the
mid-period in America.

With few exceptions these names come from what Holmes denominates "the
Brahmin caste of New England," a term which he uses to distinguish
them from what he called "the homespun class"--"a few chosen families
against the great multitude." "Their family names are always on
some college catalogue or other." From 1830 to 1870 the creation of
literature was very little in the hands of the masses; it was in the
hands of these scholars, of this small and provincial "aristocracy of
intellect." Holmes, who gloried in the fact that he lived in Boston,
"the hub of the universe," on Beacon Street, "the sunny street that
holds the sifted few," may be taken as a type of this aristocracy.
It was a period of the limited circle of producers, and of mutual
admiration within the circumference of that circle. Each member of
the group took himself with great seriousness and was taken at his
own valuation by the others. When the new democratic, after-the-war
America, in the person of Mark Twain, came into the circle and in the
true Western style made free with sacred personalities, he was received
with frozen silence.

The school, on the whole, stood aloof from the civil and religious
activities of its period. With the exception of Whittier, who was not
a Brahmin, the larger figures of the era took interest in the great
issues of their generation only when these issues had been forced into
the field of their emotions. They were bookish men, and they were prone
to look not into their hearts or into the heart of their epoch, but
into their libraries. In 1856, when America was smoldering with what
so soon was to burst out into a maelstrom of fire, Longfellow wrote
in his journal, "Dined with Agassiz to meet Emerson and others. I was
amused and annoyed to see how soon the conversation drifted off into
politics. It was not till after dinner in the library that we got upon
anything really interesting."[8] The houses of the Brahmins had only
eastern windows. The souls of the whole school lived in the old lands
of culture, and they visited these lands as often as they could, and,
returning, brought back whole libraries of books which they eagerly
translated. Even Lowell, the most democratic American of the group,
save Whittier, wrote from Paris in 1873, "In certain ways this side is
more agreeable to my tastes than the other." And again the next year
he wrote from Florence: "America is too busy, too troubled about many
things, and Martha is only good to make puddings."

Howells in his novel, _A Woman's Reason_, has given us a view of this
American worship of Europe during this period. Says Lord Rainford,
who has been only in Boston and Newport: "I find your people--your
best people, I suppose they are--very nice, very intelligent, very
pleasant--only talk about Europe. They talk about London, and about
Paris, and about Rome; there seems to be quite a passion for Italy;
but they don't seem interested in their own country. I can't make it
out.... They always seem to have been reading the _Fortnightly_, and
the _Saturday Review_, and the _Spectator_, and the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_, and the last French and English books. It's very odd."

Europe colors the whole epoch. Following Irving's _Sketch Book_,
a small library was written by eager souls to whom Europe was a
wonderland and a dream. Longfellow's _Outre Mer_ and _Hyperion_,
Tuckerman's _Italian Sketch Book_, Willis's _Pencillings by the Way_,
Cooper's _Gleanings in Europe_, Sanderson's _Sketches of Paris_,
Sprague's _Letters from Europe_, Colton's _Four Years in Great
Britain_, Taylor's _Views Afoot_, Bryant's _Letters of a Traveller_,
Curtis's _Nile Notes of a Howadji_, Greeley's _Glances at Europe_, Mrs.
Stowe's _Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands_, Norton's _Notes of Travel
and Study in Italy_, Hawthorne's _Our Old Home_, Calvert's _Scenes and
Thoughts in Europe_, and, after the war, Howells's _Venetian Life_, and
Hay's _Castilian Days_ are only the better-known books of the list.
"Our people," complained Emerson, "have their intellectual culture from
one country and their duties from another," and it was so until after
the Civil War had given to America a vision of her own self. _Innocents
Abroad_ was the first American book about Europe that stood squarely on
its own feet and told what it saw without sentimentality or romantic
colorings or yieldings to the conventional. After _Innocents Abroad_
there were no more rhapsodies of Europe.

America was a new land with a new message and new problems and a
new hope for mankind--a hope as great as that which had fired the
imagination of Europe during the years of the French Revolution, yet
American writers of the mid-century were content to look into their
books and echo worn old themes of other lands. The Holmes who in
his youth had written _Old Ironsides_ was content now with _vers de
société_,

        I'm a florist in verse, and what _would_ people say
        If I came to a banquet without my bouquet?

And with the thrill and rush of a new nation all about him, Stoddard
could sit in his study turning out pretty Herrick-like trifles like
this:

        Why are red roses red?
        For roses once were white,
        Because the loving nightingales
          Sang on their thorns all night--
        Sang till the blood they shed
        Had dyed the roses red.

It was a period when both Europe and America were too much dominated
by what Boyesen called "the parlor poet," "who stands aloof from life,
retiring into the close-curtained privacy of his study to ponder upon
some abstract, bloodless, and sexless theme for the edification of a
_blasé_, over-refined public with nerves that can no longer relish the
soul-stirring passions and emotions of a healthy and active humanity."
In Europe, the reaction from this type of work came with Millet, the
peasant painter of France, with Tolstoy and the Russian realists, with
Balzac and Flaubert in France, with Hardy in England, with Ibsen and
Björnson in Norway, workers with whom art was life itself.

America especially had been given to softness and sentimentalism.
During the mid-century era, the period of Longfellow, the lusty new
nation, which was developing a new hope for all mankind, had asked for
bread and it had been given all too often "lucent syrops tinct with
cinnamon." The oratory had been eloquent, sometimes grandiloquent. The
prose, great areas of it, had been affected, embellished with a certain
florid youngmanishness, a honey-gathering of phrases even to the point
of bad taste, as when Lowell wrote of Milton: "A true Attic bee, he
made boot on every lip where there was a taste of truly classic honey."
It was the time when ornateness of figure and poeticalness of diction
were regarded as essentials of style.

To understand what the Civil War destroyed and what it created, at
least in the field of prose style, one should read the two orations
delivered at the dedication of the Gettysburg battle-field. Here was
the moment of transition between the old American literature and the
new. Everett, the eloquent voice of New England, correct, polished,
fervid, massing perfect periods to a climax, scholarly, sonorous of
diction, studied of movement, finished, left the platform after his
long effort, satisfied. The eyes of the few who could judge of oratory
as a finished work of art had been upon him and he had stood the test.
Then had come for a single moment the Man of the West, the plain man of
the people, retiring, ungainly, untrained in the smooth school of art,
voicing in simple words a simple message, wrung not from books but from
the depths of a soul deeply stirred, and now, fifty years later, the
oration of Everett can be found only by reference librarians, while the
message of Lincoln is declaimed by every school-boy.

The half-century since the war has stood for the rise of nationalism
and of populism, not in the narrower political meanings of these
words, but in the generic sense. The older group of writers had been
narrowly provincial. Hawthorne wrote to Bridge shortly before the war:
"At present we have no country.... The States are too various and too
extended to form really one country. New England is really as large a
lump of earth as my heart can take in."[9] The war shook America awake,
it destroyed sectionalism, and revealed the nation to itself. It was
satisfied no longer with theatrical effects without real feeling. After
the tremendous reality of the war, it demanded genuineness and the
truth of life. A new spirit--social, dramatic, intense--took the place
of the old dreaming and sentiment and sadness. The people had awakened.
The intellectual life of the nation no longer was to be in the hands of
the aristocratic, scholarly few. Even while the war was in progress a
bill had passed Congress appropriating vast areas of the public lands
for the establishment in every State of a college for the people "to
promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes
in the several pursuits and professions of life," and it is significant
that Lincoln, the first great President of the people, signed the bill.


IV

The chief output of the new era was in the form of realistic fiction.
America, shaken from narrow sectionalism and contemplation of Europe,
woke up and discovered America. In a kind of astonishment she wandered
from section to section of her own land, discovering everywhere
peoples and manners and languages that were as strange to her even as
foreign lands. Mark Twain and Harte and Miller opened to view the wild
regions and wilder society of early California and the Sierra Nevadas;
Eggleston pictured the primitive settlements of Indiana; Cable told
the romance of the Creoles and of the picturesque descendants of the
Acadians on the bayous of Louisiana; Page and Harris and F.H. Smith
and others caught a vision of the romance of the old South; Allen
told of Kentucky life; Miss French of the dwellers in the canebrakes
of Arkansas; and Miss Murfree of a strange people in the Great Smoky
Mountains of Tennessee. In twenty years every isolated neighborhood in
America had had its chronicler and photographer.

The spirit of the New America was realistic. There had been dreaming
and moonlight and mystery enough; now it wanted concrete reality.
"Give us the people as they actually are. Give us their talk as they
actually talk it," and the result was the age of dialect--dialect
poetry, dialect fiction, dialect even to coarseness and profanity.
The old school in the East stood aghast before what they termed this
"Neo-Americanism," this coarse "new literature of the people." Holland
in 1872 found "Truthful James" "deadly wearisome." He hoped that the
poet had "found, as his readers have, sufficient amusement in the
'Heathen Chinee' and the 'Society upon the Stanislaus' and is ready for
more serious work." From this wearisome stuff he then turned to review
in highest terms Stoddard's _Book of the East_, a land which Stoddard
had never visited save in dreams.

The reviewer of Maurice Thompson's _Hoosier Mosaics_ four years later
speaks of the author as a promising acquisition to "the invading Goths
from over the mountains." Stedman viewed the new tide with depression
of soul. In a letter to Taylor in 1873 he says:

    _Lars_ is a poem that will _last_, though not in the wretched,
    immediate _fashion_ of this demoralized American period.
    Cultured as are Hay and Harte, they are almost equally
    responsible with "Josh Billings" and the _Danbury News_ man for
    the present _horrible_ degeneracy of the public taste--that is,
    the taste of the present generation of book-buyers.

    I feel that this is not the complaint of a superannuated
    Roger de Coverley nor Colonel Newcome, for I am in the prime
    and vigor of active, noonday life, and at work right here in
    the metropolis. It is a clear-headed, wide-awake statement
    of a disgraceful fact. With it all I acknowledge, the demand
    for good books also increases and such works as Paine's
    _Septembre_, etc., have a large standard sale. But in poetry
    readers have tired of the past and don't see clearly how to
    shape a future; and so content themselves with going to some
    "Cave" or "Hole in the Wall" and applauding slang and nonsense,
    spiced with smut and profanity.[10]

This is an extreme statement of the conditions, but it was written by
the most alert and clear-eyed critic of the period, one who, even while
he deplored the conditions, was wise enough to recognize the strength
of the movement and to ally himself with it. "Get hold of a dramatic
American theme," he counsels Taylor, "merely for policy's sake. The
people want Neo-Americanism; we must adopt their system and elevate
it." Wise advice indeed, but Taylor had his own ideals. After the
failure of _The Masque of the Gods_ he wrote Aldrich: "If this public
won't accept my better work, I must wait till a new one grows up.... I
will go on trying to do intrinsically good things, and will not yield a
hair's breadth for the sake of conciliating an ignorant public."[11]


V

The exploiting of new and strange regions, with their rough manners,
their coarse humor, and their uncouth dialects, brought to the front
the new, hard-fought, and hard-defended literary method called realism.
For a generation the word was on every critic's pen both in America and
abroad. No two seemed perfectly to agree what the term really meant, or
what writers were to be classed as realists and what as romanticists.
It is becoming clearer now: it was simply the new, young, vigorous tide
which had set in against the decadent, dreamy softness that had ruled
the mid years of the century.

The whole history of literature is but the story of an alternating
current. A new, young school of innovators arises to declare the old
forms lifeless and outworn. Wordsworth at the opening of the nineteenth
century had protested against unreality and false sentiment--"a dressy
literature, an exaggerated literature" as Bagehot expressed it--and
he started the romantic revolt by proposing in his poems "to choose
incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe
them, throughout, as far as was possible in a selection of language
really used by men." Revolt always has begun with the cry "back to
nature"; it is always the work of young men who have no reverence
for the long-standing and the conventional; and it is always looked
upon with horror by the older generations. Jeffrey, in reviewing the
_Lyrical Ballads_, said that the "Ode on Intimations of Immortality"
was "beyond doubt the most illegible and unintelligible part of the
publication. We can pretend to give no analysis or explanation of it."
At last the revolt triumphs, and as the years go on its ideas in turn
are hardened into rules of art. Then suddenly another group of daring
young souls arises, and, setting its back upon the old, blazes out a
new pathway toward what it considers to be truth and nature and art.
This new school of revolt from the old and outworn we call always the
new romantic movement. It is only the new generation pressing upon
the old, and demanding a fresh statement of life in terms of truth to
present conditions.

In America, and indeed in Europe as well, the early seventies called
for this new statement of art. No more _Hyperions_, no more conceits
and mere prettinesses, no more fine phrasing, no more castles in Spain,
but life real and true, naked in its absolute faithfulness to facts. It
was a revolt. If we call the age of Longfellow a romantic period, then
this revolt of the seventies was a _new_ romanticism, for romanticism
always in broadest sense is a revolution against orthodoxy, against
the old which has been so long established that it has lost its first
vitality and become an obedience to the letter rather than to the
spirit.

The new movement seemed to the Brahmins of the older school a veritable
renaissance of vulgarity. Even Lowell, who had written the _Biglow
Papers_, cried out against it. The new literature from the West and the
South was the work of what Holmes had called "the homespun class," "the
great multitude." It was written, almost all of it, by authors from no
college. They had been educated at the printer's case, on the farm,
in the mines, and along the frontiers. As compared with the roll of
the Brahmins the list is significant: Whitman, Warner, Helen Jackson,
Stockton, Shaw, Clemens, Piatt, Thaxter, Howells, Eggleston, Burroughs,
F. H. Smith, Hay, Harte, Miller, Cable, Gilder, Allen, Harris, Jewett,
Wilkins, Murfree, Riley, Page, Russell. The whole school thrilled with
the new life of America, and they wrote often without models save as
they took life itself as their model. Coarse and uncouth some parts of
their work might be, but teeming it always was with the freshness, the
vitality, and the vigor of a new soil and a newly awakened nation.


VI

The new period began in the early seventies. The years of the war and
the years immediately following it were fallow so far as significant
literary output was concerned. "Literature is at a standstill in
America, paralyzed by the Civil War," wrote Stedman in 1864, and at a
later time he added, "For ten years the new generation read nothing
but newspapers." The old group was still producing voluminously, but
their work was done. They had been borne into an era in which they
could have no part, and they contented themselves with reëchoings of
the old music and with translations. In 1871 _The London School Board
Chronicle_ could declare that, "The most gifted of American singers are
not great as creators of home-bred poetry, but as translators," and
then add without reservation that the best translations in the English
language had been made in America. It was the statement of a literal
fact. Within a single period of six years, from 1867 to 1872, there
appeared Longfellow's _Divina Commedia_, C. E. Norton's _Vita Nuova_,
T. W. Parsons' _Inferno_, Bryant's _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, Taylor's
_Faust_ and C. P. Cranch's _Æneid_.

It was the period of swan songs. Emerson's _Terminus_ came in 1866;
_Last Poems_ of the Cary sisters, Longfellow's _Aftermath_ and
Whittier's _Hazel Blossoms_ appeared in 1874; and Holmes's _The Iron
Gate_ was published in 1880. Lowell, the youngest of the group, alone
seemed to have been awakened by the war. His real message to America,
the national odes and the essays on Democracy which will make his name
permanent in literature, came after 1865, and so falls into the new
period.

The decade from 1868 is in every respect the most vital and significant
one in the history of America. The tremendous strides which were then
made in the settlement of the West, the enormous increase of railroads
and steamships and telegraphs, the organization of nation-wide
corporations like those dealing with petroleum and steel and coal--all
these we have already mentioned. America had thrown aside its
provincialism and had become a great neighborhood, and in 1876 North,
South, East, and West gathered in a great family jubilee. _Scribner's
Monthly_ in 1875 commented feelingly upon the fact:

    All the West is coming East.... The Southern States will be
    similarly moved.... There will be a tremendous shaking up
    of the people, a great going to and fro in the land.... The
    nation is to be brought together as it has never been brought
    before during its history. In one hundred years of intense
    industry and marvelous development we have been so busy that we
    never have been able to look one another in the face, except
    four terrible years of Civil War.... This year around the old
    family altar at Philadelphia we expect to meet and embrace as
    brothers.[12]

The Centennial quickened in every way the national life. It gave for
the first time the feeling of unity, the realization that the vast
West, the new South, and the uncouth frontier were a vital part of the
family of the States. Lowell, so much of whose early heart and soul had
been given to Europe, discovered America in this same Centennial year.
In Cincinnati he was profoundly impressed with the "wonderful richness
and comfort of the country and with the distinctive Americanism that
is molding into one type of feature and habits so many races that had
widely diverged from the same original stock.... These immense spaces
tremulous with the young grain, trophies of individual, or at any rate
unorganized, courage and energy, of the people and not of dynasties,
were to me inexpressibly impressive and even touching.... The men
who have done and are doing these things know how things should be
done.... It was very interesting, also, to meet men from Kansas and
Nevada and California, and to see how manly and intelligent they were,
and especially what large heads they had. They had not the manners of
Vere de Vere, perhaps, but they had an independence and self-respect
which are the prime element of fine bearing."[13] A little of a certain
Brahmin condescension toward Westerners there may be here, but on
the whole it rings true. The East was discovering the West and was
respecting it.

And now all of a sudden this Neo-Americanism burst forth into
literature. There is a similarity almost startling between the
thirties that saw the outburst of the mid-century school and the vital
seventies that arose in reaction against it. The first era had started
with Emerson's glorification of the American scholar, the second had
glorified the man of action. The earlier period was speculative,
sermonic, dithyrambic, eloquent; the new America which now arose was
cold, dispassionate, scientific, tolerant. Both had arisen in storm
and doubt and in protest against the old. Both touched the people, the
earlier era through the sentiments, the later through the analytical
and the dramatic faculties. In the thirties had arisen _Godey's Lady's
Book_; in the seventies _Scribner's Monthly_.

So far as literature was concerned the era may be said really to
have commenced in 1869 with _Innocents Abroad_, the first book from
which there breathed the new wild spirit of revolt. In 1870 came
Harte's _Luck of Roaring Camp_, thrilling with the new strange life
of the gold coast and the Sierra Nevada, and Warner's _My Summer in
a Garden_, a transition book fresh and delightful. Then in 1871 had
begun the deluge: Burroughs's _Wake-Robin_, with its new gospel of
nature; Eggleston's _Hoosier Schoolmaster_, fresh with uncouth humor
and the strangeness of the frontier; Harte's _East and West Poems_;
Hay's _Pike County Ballads_, crude poems from the heart of the people;
Howells's first novel, _Their Wedding Journey_, a careful analysis of
actual social conditions; Miller's _Songs of the Sierras_; Carleton's
_Poems_; King's _Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada_, a book of travel
glorifying not Europe but a picturesque section of America; and the
completed version of Leland's _Hans Breitmann's Ballads_, a book which
had waited fourteen years for a publisher who had the courage to bring
it out. In 1873 came Celia Thaxter's _Poems_, Aldrich's _Marjorie
Daw_, H. H.'s _Saxe Holm Stories_, Wallace's _Fair God_ and O'Reilly's
_Songs of the Southern Seas_; in 1875 James's _Passionate Pilgrim_,
Thompson's _Hoosier Mosaics_, Gilder's _The New Day_, Lanier's _Poems_,
Catherwood's _A Woman in Armor_, Woolson's _Castle Nowhere_ and
Irwin Russell's first poem in _Scribner's_; in 1877 Burnett's _That
Lass o' Lowrie's_ and Jewett's _Deephaven_; in 1878 Craddock's _The
Dancing Party at Harrison's Cove_ in the _Atlantic Monthly_, Richard
M. Johnston's _Life of Stephens_; in 1879 Cable's _Old Creole Days_,
Tourgee's _Figs and Thistles_, Stockton's _Rudder Grange_, and John
Muir's _Studies in the Sierras_, in _Scribner's_. All the elements of
the new era had appeared before 1880.

The old traditions were breaking. In 1874 the editorial chair of
the _Atlantic Monthly_, the exclusive organ of the old New England
régime, was given to a Westerner. In 1873 came the resurgence of
Whitman. The earlier school had ignored him, or had tolerated him
because of Emerson, but now with the new discovery of America he also
was discovered, and hailed as a pioneer. The new school of revolt in
England--Rossetti, Swinburne, Symonds--declared him a real voice, free
and individual, the voice of all the people. Thoreau also came into his
true place. His own generation had misunderstood him, compared him with
Emerson, and neglected him. Only two of his books had been published
during his lifetime and one of these had sold fewer than three hundred
copies. Now he too was discovered. In the words of Burroughs, "His
fame has increased steadily since his death in 1862, as it was bound to
do. It was little more than in the bud at that time, and its full leaf
and flowering are not yet."


VII

The new age was to express itself in prose. The poetry of the earlier
period, soft and lilting and romantic, no longer satisfied. It was
effeminate in tone and subject, and the new West, virile and awake,
defined a poet, as Wordsworth had defined him in 1815, as "a man
speaking to men." America, in the sturdy vigor of manhood, wrestling
with fierce realities, had passed the age of dreaming. It had now to
deal with social problems, with plans on a vast scale for the bettering
of human conditions, with the organization of cities and schools
and systems of government. It was a busy, headlong, multitudinous
age. Poetry, to interest it, must be sharp and incisive and winged
with a message. It must be lyrical in length and spirit, and it
must ring true. If it deal with social themes it must be perfect in
characterization and touched with genuine pathos, like the folk songs
of Riley and Drummond, or the _vers de société_ of Bunner and Eugene
Field. If it touch national themes, it must be strong and trumpet
clear, like the odes of Lowell and Lanier. It must not spring from
the far off and the forgot but from the life of the day and the hour,
as sprung Whitman's Lincoln elegies, Joaquin Miller's "Columbus," and
Stedman's war lyrics. Not many have there been who have brought message
and thrill, but there have been enough to save the age from the taunt
that it was a period without poets.

In a broad sense, no age has ever had more of poetry, for the message
and the vision and thrill, which in older times came through epic and
lyric and drama, have in the latter days come in full measure through
the prose form which we call the novel. As a form it has been brought
to highest perfection. It has been found to have scope enough to
exercise the highest powers of a great poet, and allow him to sound all
the depths and shallows of human life. It has been the preacher of the
age, the theater, the minstrel, and the social student, the prophet
and seer and reformer. It has been more than the epic of democracy; it
has been horn-book as well and shepherd's calendar. It has been the
literary form peculiarly fitted for a restless, observant, scientific
age.

The influence of Dickens, who died in 1870, the opening year of the
period, cannot be lightly passed over. It had been his task in the
middle years of the century to democratise literature, and to create
a reading public as Addison had done a century earlier, but Addison's
public was London, the London that breakfasted late and went to the
coffee house. Dickens created a reading public out of those who had
never read books before, and the greater part of it was in America. His
social novels with their break from all the conventions of fiction,
their bold, free characterization, their dialect and their rollicking
humor and their plentiful sentiment, were peculiarly fitted for
appreciation in the new after-the-war atmosphere of the new land. Harte
freely acknowledged his debt to him and at his death laid a "spray of
Western pine" on his grave. The grotesque characters of the Dickens
novels were not more grotesque than the actual inhabitants of the
wild mining towns of the Sierras or the isolated mountain hamlets of
the South, or of many out-of-the-way districts even in New England.
The great revival of interest in Dickens brought about by his death
precipitated the first wave of local color novels--the earliest work of
Harte and Eggleston and Stockton and the author of _Cape Cod Folks_.

This first wave of Dickens-inspired work, however, soon expended
itself, and it was followed by another wave of fiction even more
significant. In the first process of rediscovering America, Harte,
perhaps, or Clemens, or Cable, stumbled upon a tremendous fact which
was destined to add real classics to American literature: America was
full of border lands where the old régime had yielded to the new, and
where indeed there was a true atmosphere of romance. The result was a
type of fiction that was neither romantic nor realistic, but a blending
of both methods, a romanticism of atmosphere and a realism of truth to
the actual conditions and characters involved.

This condition worked itself out in a literary form that is seen now
to be the most distinctive product of the period. The era may as truly
be called the era of the short story as the Elizabethan period may be
called the era of the drama and the early eighteenth century the era of
the prose essay. The local color school which exploited the new-found
nooks and corners of the West and South did its work almost wholly by
means of this highly wrought and concentrated literary form. Not half a
dozen novelists of the period have worked exclusively in the novel and
romance forms of the mid-century type. A group of writers, including
Harte, Clemens, Cable, Mrs. Cooke, Miss Jewett, Mrs. Wilkins-Freeman,
Miss Brown, Miss Murfree, Harris, R. M. Johnston, Page, Stockton,
Bierce, Garland, Miss King, Miss French, Miss Woolson, Deming, Bunner,
Aldrich, have together created what is perhaps the best body of short
stories in any language.

The period at its end tended to become journalistic. The enormous
demand for fiction by the magazines and by the more ephemeral journals
produced a great mass of hastily written and often ill considered work,
but on the whole the literary quality of the fiction of the whole
period, especially the short stories, has been high. Never has there
been in any era so vast a flood of books and reading, and it may also
be said that never before has there been so high an average of literary
workmanship.



CHAPTER II

THE LAUGHTER OF THE WEST


American literature from the first has been rich in humor. The
incongruities of the new world--the picturesque gathering of peoples
like the Puritans, the Indians, the cavaliers, the Dutch, the negroes
and the later immigrants; the makeshifts of the frontier, the vastness
and the richness of the land, the leveling effects of democracy, the
freedom of life, and the independence of spirit--all have tended to
produce a laughing people. The first really American book, Irving's
_Knickerbocker's History of New York_, was a broadly humorous
production. The mid period of the nineteenth century was remarkably
rich in humor. One has only to mention Paulding and Holmes and Saxe
and Lowell and Seba Smith and B. P. Shillaber. Yet despite these names
and dozens of others almost equally deserving, it must be acknowledged
that until the Civil War period opened there had been no school of
distinctly American humorists, original and nation-wide. The production
had been sporadic and provincial, and it had been read by small
circles. The most of it could be traced to older prototypes: Hood,
Thackeray, Lamb, Douglas Jerrold, Dickens. The humor of America, "new
birth of our new soil," had been discovered, but as yet it had had no
national recognition and no great representative.

As late as 1866, a reviewer of "Artemus Ward" in the _North American
Review_, published then in Boston, complained that humor in America
had been a local product and that it had been largely imitative. It
was time, he declared, for a new school of humorists who should be
original in their methods and national in their scope. "They must
not aim at copying anything; they should take a new form.... Let
them seek to embody the wit and humor of all parts of the country,
not only of one city where their paper is published; let them force
Portland to disgorge her Jack Downings and New York her Orpheus C.
Kerrs, for the benefit of all. Let them form a nucleus which will
draw to itself all the waggery and wit of America."[14] It was the
call of the new national spirit, and as if in reply there arose the
new school--uncolleged for the most part, untrained by books, fresh,
joyous, extravagant in its bursting young life--the first voice of the
new era.

The group was born during the thirties and early forties, that second
seedtime of American literature. Their birth dates fall within a period
of ten years:

    1833. David Ross Locke, "Petroleum V. Nasby."
    1834. Charles Farrar Browne, "Artemus Ward."
    1834. Charles Henry Webb, "John Paul."
    1835. Samuel Langhorne Clemens, "Mark Twain."
    1836. Robert Henry Newell, "Orpheus C. Kerr."
    1839. Melvin DeLancy Landon, "Eli Perkins."
    1841. Thomas Nast.
    1841. Charles Heber Clark, "Max Adler."
    1841. James Montgomery Bailey, "The Danbury News Man."
    1841. Alexander Edwin Sweet.
    1842. Charles Bertrand Lewis, "M. Quad."

To the school also belonged several who were born outside of this magic
ten years. There were Henry Wheeler Shaw, "Josh Billings," born in
1818; and Charles Henry Smith, "Bill Arp," born in 1823. At least three
younger members must not be omitted: Robert Jones Burdette, 1844; Edgar
Wilson Nye, "Bill Nye," 1850; and Opie Read, 1852.


I

In a broad way the school was a product of the Civil War. American
humor had been an evolution of slow growth, and the war precipitated
it. The election of Lincoln in 1860 was the beginning. Here was a
man of the new West who had worked on flatboats on the Ohio, who had
served as a soldier in a backwoods troop, who had ridden for years
on a Western circuit, and in rough and ready political campaigns had
withstood the heckling of men who had fought barehanded with the
frontier and had won. The saddest man in American history, he stands
as one of the greatest of American humorists. His laughter rings
through the whole period of the war, man of sorrows though he was, and
it was the Western laughter heard until now only along the great rivers
and the frontier and the gold coast of the Pacific. He had learned it
from contact with elemental men, men who passed for precisely what
they were, men who were measured solely by the iron rule of what they
could do; self-reliant men, healthy, huge-bodied, deep-lunged men to
whom life was a joy. The humor that he brought to the East was nothing
new in America, but the significant thing is that for the first time
it was placed in the limelight. A peculiar combination it was, half
shrewd wisdom, "hoss sense," as "Josh Billings" called it, the rest
characterization which exposed as with a knife-cut the inner life as
well as the outer, whimsical overstatement and understatement, droll
incongruities told with all seriousness, and an irreverence born of the
all-leveling democracy of the frontier.

"It was Lincoln's opinion that the finest wit and humor, the best
jokes and anecdotes, emanated from the lower orders of the country
people,"[15] and in this judgment he pointed out the very heart of the
new literature that was germinating about him. Such life is genuine; it
rests upon the foundations of nature itself. Lincoln, like the man of
the new West that he was, delighted not so much in books as in actual
contact with life. "Riding the circuit for many years and stopping at
country taverns where were gathered the lawyers, jurymen, witnesses,
and clients, they would sit up all night narrating to each other their
life adventures; and the things which happened to an original people,
in a new country, surrounded by novel conditions, and told with the
descriptive power and exaggeration which characterized such men,
supplied him with an exhaustless fund of anecdotes which could be made
applicable for enforcing or refuting an argument better than all the
invented stories of the world."[16]

It was the new humor of the West for the first time shown to the whole
world. Lincoln, the man of the West, had met the polished East in the
person of Douglas and had triumphed through very genuineness, and now
he stood in the limelight of the Presidency, transacting the nation's
business with anecdotes from the frontier circuits, meeting hostile
critics with shrewd border philosophy, and reading aloud with unction,
while battles were raging or election returns were in doubt, from
"Artemus Ward," or "Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby," or _The Flush Times
of Alabama and Mississippi_--favorites of his because they too were
genuine, excerpts not from books but from life itself.


II

Glimpses there already had been of the new humor of the West. George
W. Harris (1814-1868), steamboat captain on the Tennessee River,
had created that true child of the West, "Sut Lovengood"; Augustus
B. Longstreet (1790-1870) in _Georgia Scenes_ had drawn inimitable
sketches of the rude life of his region; and Joseph G. Baldwin
(1815-1864), like Lincoln, himself a lawyer who had learned much on
his frontier circuit, in his _Flush Times_ had traced the evolution of
a country barrister in a manner that even now, despite its echoes of
Dickens, makes the book a notable one.

But the greatest of them all, the real father of the new school
of humorists, the man who gave the East the first glimpse of the
California type of humor, was George Horatio Derby (1823-1861), whose
sketches over the signature "John Phoenix" began to appear in the early
fifties. Undoubtedly it would amaze Derby could he return and read of
himself as the father of the later school of humor. With him literary
comedy was simply a means now and then of relaxation from the burdens
of a strenuous profession. He had been graduated from West Point in
1846, had fought in the Mexican War, and later as an engineer had been
entrusted by the government with important surveys and explorations
in the far West and later in Florida, where he died at the age of
thirty-eight of sunstroke. He was burdened all his life with heavy
responsibilities and exacting demands upon his energies. He had little
time for books, and his writings, what few he produced, were the result
wholly of his own observations upon the picturesque life that he found
about him in the West.

In his _Phoenixiana_, published in 1855, we find nearly all of the
elements that were to be used by the new school of humorists. First,
there is the solemn protestation of truthfulness followed by the story
that on the face of it is impossible. "If the son of the reader ...
should look confidingly into his parent's face, and inquire--'Is that
true, Papa?' reply, oh, reader, unhesitatingly--'My son, it is.'" To
make the story still more plausible he quotes "Truthful James." He may
then proceed with a story like this:

    He glanced over the first column [of Phoenix's _Pictorial_]
    when he was observed to grow black in the face. A bystander
    hastened to seize him by the collar, but it was too late.
    Exploding with mirth, he was scattered into a thousand
    fragments, one of which striking him probably inflicting some
    fatal injury, as he immediately expired, having barely time
    to remove his hat, and say in a feeble voice, "Give this to
    Phoenix." A large black tooth lies on the table before us,
    driven through the side of the office with fearful violence at
    the time of the explosion. We have enclosed it to his widow
    with a letter of condolence.

"_Truthful James_"--we think of Bret Harte, and we think of him
again after passages like this: "An old villain with a bald head and
spectacles punched me in the abdomen; I lost my breath, closed my eyes,
and remembered nothing further."

Derby was the first conspicuous writer to use grotesque exaggerations
deliberately and freely as a provocative of laughter. Irving and
many others had made use of it, but in _Phoenixiana_ it amounts to
a mannerism. He tells the most astonishing impossibilities and then
naïvely adds: "It is possible that the circumstances may have become
slightly exaggerated. Of course, there can be no doubt of the truth
of the main incidents." In true California style he makes use often
of specific exaggeration. Two men trip over a rope in the dark "and
then followed what, if published, would make two closely printed royal
octavo pages of profanity." So popular was the Phoenix _Herald_ that
"we have now seven hundred and eighty-two Indians employed night and
day in mixing adobe for the type molds."

The second characteristic of Derby's humor was its irreverence. To him
nothing was sacred. The first practical joker, he averred, was Judas
Iscariot: he _sold_ his Master. Arcturus, he observed, was a star
"which many years since a person named Job was asked if he could guide,
and he acknowledged he couldn't do it." "David was a Jew--hence, the
'Harp of David' was a Jew's-harp."

He delights in the device of euphemistic statement used so freely
by later humorists. The father of Joseph Bowers, he explains, was
engaged in business as a malefactor in western New York, but was
annoyed greatly by the prejudices of the bigoted settlers. He emigrated
suddenly, however, with such precipitation in fact that "he took
nothing with him of his large property but a single shirt, which he
happened to have about him at the time he formed his resolution."
Finally he "ended his career of usefulness by falling from a cart in
which he had been standing, addressing a numerous audience, and in
which fall he unfortunately broke his neck."

He abounds in true Yankee aphorisms--"when a man is going down,
everybody lends him a kick," "Where impudence is wit, 'tis folly to
reply." He uses unexpected comparisons and whimsical _non sequiturs_:
he sails on "a Napa steam packet of four cat-power"; "the wind blew,"
he declared, "like well-watered roses." R. W. Emerson, he was informed,
while traveling in upper Norway, "on the 21st of June, 1836, distinctly
saw the sun in all its majesty shining at midnight!--in fact, all
night. Emerson is not what you would call a superstitious man, by any
means--but, he left."

It was Derby who wrote the first Pike County ballad. "Suddenly we hear
approaching a train from Pike County, consisting of seven families,
with forty-six wagons, each drawn by thirteen oxen." Elsewhere he
has described the typical "Pike": "His hair is light, not a 'sable
silvered,' but a _yeller_, gilded; you can see some of it sticking out
of the top of his hat; his costume is the national costume of Arkansas,
coat, waistcoat, and pantaloons of homespun cloth, dyed a brownish
yellow, with a decoction of the bitter barked butternut--a pleasing
alliteration; his countenance presents a determined, combined with a
sanctimonious expression." "Now rises o'er the plains in mellifluous
accents, the grand Pike County Chorus:

        Oh, we'll soon be thar
        In the land of gold,
        Through the forest old,
        O'er the mounting cold,
        With spirits bold--
        Oh, we come, we come,
        And we'll soon be thar.
          Gee up, Bolly! whoo, up, whoo haw!"

Not much was added to Western humor after Derby. Mark Twain's earliest
manner had much in it that smacks of "Phoenix." The chapters entitled,
"Phoenix Takes an Affectionate Leave of San Francisco," "Phoenix is
on the Sea," and "Phoenix in San Diego" might have been taken from
_Roughing It_. Just as truly the chapters, "Inauguration of the New
Collector" and "Return of the Collector," "Thrilling and Frantic
Excitement Among Office Seekers" might have been written by Orpheus
C. Kerr. Yet despite such similarities, the later school did not
necessarily filch from "Phoenix": they learned their art as he had
learned it from contact with the new West. All drew from the same model.


III

For the new humor, which was to be the first product of the new period
in American literature, was Western humor of the "John Phoenix" type.
It came from three great seed places: the Mississippi and its rivers,
the California coast, and, later, the camps of the Civil War. It was
the humor of the gatherings of men under primitive conditions. It was
often crude and coarse. It was elemental and boisterous and often
profane. To the older school of poets and scholars in the East it
seemed, as it began to fill all the papers and creep even into the
standard magazines, like a veritable renaissance of vulgarity. "The
worlds before and after the Deluge were not more different than our
republics of letters before and after the war,"[17] wrote Stedman to
William Winter in 1873, and the same year he wrote to Taylor in Europe,
"The whole country, owing to _contagion_ of our American newspaper
'exchange' system, is flooded, deluged, swamped, beneath a muddy tide
of slang, vulgarity, inartistic bathers [_sic_], impertinence, and
buffoonery that is not wit."[18]

Many of the new humorists had been born in the East, but all of them
had been drilled either in the rough school of the West or in the
armies during the war. Shaw had been a deckhand on an Ohio River
steamer; Browne had been a tramp printer both in the East and the West,
and had lived for a time in California; Clemens had been tramp printer,
pilot on the Mississippi, and for five years miner and newspaper
man on the Western coast; Webb and Nye and Newell had seen life in
California; Locke had edited country papers in northern Ohio, and C.
H. Smith, Landon, Bailey, Sweet, Lewis, and Burdette had been soldiers
in the Civil War. All of them had been thrown together with men under
circumstances that had stripped them and the life about them of all the
veneer of convention and class distinction.

One thing the group had in common: they were newspaper men; most of
them had worked at the case; all of them at one time or another were
connected with the press. The new humor was scattered by the newspapers
that after the war spread themselves in incredible numbers over
America. The exchange system, complained of by Stedman, became nation
wide. The good things of one paper were seized upon by the others and
sown broadcast. Humorous departments became more and more common,
until staid old papers like the _Boston Advertiser_ had yielded to the
popular demand. The alarm voiced by Stedman in his letter to Taylor
was taken up by the more conservative magazines. The humor of to-day
is written for the multitude, complained the ponderous old _North
American Review_, "that uncounted host which reads for its romance _The
Ledger_ and _The Pirate of the Gulf_. Common schools make us a nation
of readers. But common schools, alas! do little to inculcate taste or
discrimination in the choice of reading. The mass of the community has
a coarse digestion.... It likes horse-laughs."[19] But it is useless to
combat the spirit of the age.

The wave rolled on until it reached its height in the mid seventies.
From journals with an incidental humorous column there had arisen the
newspaper that was quoted everywhere and enormously subscribed for
solely because of the funny man in charge. The _Danbury News_, the
local paper of a small Connecticut city, swelled its subscription list
to 40,000 because of its editor Bailey. The vogue of such a paper
was not long. At different periods there arose and flourished and
declined "Nasby's" _Toledo Blade_, "Lickshingle's" _Oil City Derrick_,
Burdette's _Burlington Hawkeye_, "M. Quad's" _Detroit Free Press_,
Peck's _Sun_, Sweet's _Texas Siftings_, Read's _Arkansaw Traveller_,
and many others.

The greater part of this newspaper humor was as fleeting as the flying
leaves upon which it was printed. It has disappeared never to be
regathered. Even the small proportion of it that was put by its authors
into book form has fared little better. From all the host of literary
comedians that so shook the period with laughter not over four have
taken anything even approaching a permanent place. These four are
Browne, Locke, Nast, and Shaw.


IV

Charles Farrar Browne, "Artemus Ward," the first of the group to gain
recognition, was born of Puritan ancestry in Waterville, Maine, in
1834. Forced by the death of his father in 1847 to rely upon his own
efforts for support, he became a typesetter on the Skowhegan _Clarion_,
and later, after a wandering career from office to office, served
for three years in Boston as a compositor for Snow and Wilder, the
publishers of _Mrs. Partington's Carpet Bag_. His connection with
Shillaber, the editor of this paper, turned his mind to humorous
composition, but it was not until after his second wander period in
the South and West that he discovered the real bent of his powers. His
career as a humorist may be said to have begun in 1857, when, after
two years at Toledo, Ohio, he was called to the local editorship of
the Cleveland _Plain-Dealer_ and given freedom to inject into the dry
news columns all the life and fun that he chose. He began now to write
articles purporting to describe the struggles and experiences of one
"Artemus Ward," an itinerant showman who was as full of homely wisdom
and experience as he was lacking in book learning and refinement. The
letters instantly struck a popular chord; they were copied widely.
After serving three years on the _Plain-Dealer_ their author was called
to New York to become the editor of the brilliant but ill-starred
comic magazine, _Vanity Fair_. The following year, 1861, he began to
lecture, and in 1863 and 1864 he made a six-months' lecture tour of the
Pacific Coast. The free, picturesque life of the new cities and the
wild camps delighted him. In Virginia City he spent three marvelous
weeks with Mark Twain, then a reporter on the local paper. Returning
across the Plains, he visited the Mormons. The trip was the graduate
course of the young humorist. Not until after his California training
was he completely in command of his art. Then in 1866 at the height
of his powers he went to London, where his success was instant and
unprecedented. He was made an editor of _Punch_, he was discussed in
all quarters, and his lectures night by night were attended by crowds.
But the end was near. He died of quick consumption March 6, 1867.

The secret of Browne's success as a humorist lay, first of all, in the
droll personality of the man. It was the opinion of Haweis, who heard
him in London, that his "bursts of quaint humor could only live at all
in that subtle atmosphere which Artemus Ward's presence created, and
in which alone he was able to operate."[20] He made use of all the
humorous devices of his favorite, John Phoenix, and to them he added
what may be called the American manner of delivering humor: the setting
forth with perfect gravity and even mournfulness his most telling jokes
and then the assuming of a surprised or even a grieved expression when
the audience laughed.

Furthermore, to Phoenix's devices he added cacography, the device of
deliberate misspelling so much used by later humorists. He seems to
have adopted it spontaneously as a matter of course. He was to take the
character of an ignorant showman and naturally he must write as such a
man would write. The misspelling of "Artemus Ward" has character in it.
In his hands it becomes an art, and an art that helps make vivid the
personality of the old showman. "Artemus Ward" is not a mere Dickens
gargoyle: he is alive. Witness this:

    If you say anything about my show say my snaiks is as harmliss
    as the new born Babe.

    In the Brite Lexington of yooth, thar aint no sich word as fale.

    "Too troo, too troo!" I answered; "it's a scanderlis fact."

He is not at all consistent in his spelling; he is as prodigal as
nature and as careless. The mere uninspired cacographist misspells
every word that it is possible to misspell, but Browne picks only key
words. His art is displayed as much in the words he does not change
as in those with which he makes free. He coins new words with telling
effect. Of his wife he observes: "As a flap-jackist she has no equal.
She wears the belt." And he makes free with older words in a way that
is peculiarly his own: "Why this thusness."

The third element he added to the humor of Phoenix was a naïve
drollery, a whimsical incongruity, that was peculiar to himself.
He caught it from no one, and he imparted it to no one. It can be
described only as "Artemus Ward." It lives even apart from his presence
in much of the writing that he has left behind him. It is as useless to
try to analyze it as it were to describe the odor of apples. One can
only quote examples, as for instance this from his adventure "Among the
Free Lovers":

    The exsentric female then clutched me frantically by the arm
    and hollered:

    "You air mine, O you air mine!"

    "Scacely," I sed, endeverin to git loose from her. But she
    clung to me and sed:

    "You air my Affinerty!"

    "What upon arth is that?" I shouted.

    "Dost thou not know?"

    "No, I dostent!"

    "Listin man & I'll tell ye!" sed the strange female; "for
    years I hav yearned for thee. I knowd thou wast in the world
    sumwhares, tho I didn't know whare. My hart sed he would cum
    and I took courage. He _has_ cum--he's here--you air him--you
    air my Affinerty! O 'tis too mutch! too mutch!" and she sobbed
    agin.

    "Yes," I anserd, "I think it is a darn sight too mutch!"

    "Hast thou not yearned for me?" she yelled, ringin her hands
    like a female play acter.

    "Not a yearn!" I bellerd at the top of my voice, throwin her
    away from me.

Whatever we may think of the quality of this, we must agree that it
is original. If there is any trace of a prototype it is Dickens. The
characters and the situation are heightened to grotesqueness, yet one
must be abnormally keen in palate to detect any Dickens flavor in the
style. It is "Artemus Ward" and only "Artemus Ward." All that he wrote
he drew from life itself and from American life. It is as redolent of
the new world as the bison or the Indian. He wrote only what had passed
under his eye and he wrote only of persons. Unlike Mark Twain, he could
cross the continent in the wild days of '64 and see nothing apparently
but humanity.

The world of Charles Farrar Browne was the child's world of wonder.
He was a case, as it were, of arrested development, a fragment of the
myth-making age brought into the nineteenth century. His "Artemus
Ward" was a latter-day knight-errant traveling from adventure to
adventure. The world to him, even as to a child, was full of strange,
half mythical beings: Shakers, Spiritualists, Octoroons, Free Lovers,
Mormons, Champions of Woman's Rights, Office Seekers, "Seseshers,"
Princes, and heirs to Empires. The hero is tempted, imposed upon,
assaulted, but he always comes out first best and turns with copious
advice which is always moral and sensible and appropriate. To the woman
who had claimed him as her affinity he speaks thus:

    I'm a lawabiding man, and bleeve in good, old-fashioned
    institutions. I am marrid & my orfsprings resemble me, if I am
    a showman! I think your Affinity bizniss is cussed noncents,
    besides bein outrajusly wicked. Why don't you behave desunt
    like other folks? Go to work and earn a honist livin and not
    stay round here in this lazy, shiftless way, pizenin the moral
    atmosphere with your pestifrous idees! You wimin folks go back
    to your lawful husbands, if you've got any, and take orf them
    skanderlous gownds and trowsis, and dress respectful like other
    wimin. You men folks, cut orf them pirattercal wiskers, burn up
    them infurnel pamplits, put sum weskuts on, go to work choppin
    wood, splittin fence rales, or tillin the sile. I pored 4th. my
    indignashun in this way till I got out of breth, when I stopt.

This is not "Artemus Ward" talking; it is Charles Farrar Browne,
and it is Browne who rebukes the Shakers, the Spiritualists, the
Committee from the Woman's Rights Association, and the office-seekers
about Lincoln, who gives advice to the Prince of Wales and Prince
Napoleon, who stands by the flag when the mob destroys his show down
among the "Seseshers," and who later addresses the draft rioters at
Baldwinsville. Browne was indeed a moral showman. Every page of his
work is free from profanity and vulgarity. He is never cheap, never
tawdry, never unkind to anything save immorality and snobbishness. His
New England ancestry and breeding may be felt in all he wrote. At heart
he was a reformer. He once wrote: "Humorous writers have always done
the most toward helping virtue on its pilgrimage, and the truth has
found more aid from them than from all the grave polemists and solid
writers that have ever spoken or written."

Beneath his kindly, whimsical exterior there was a spirit that could be
blown into an indignation as fierce even as Mark Twain's. While he was
local editor of the _Plain-Dealer_ he burst out one day in this fiery
editorial:

    A writer in the Philadelphia _Ledger_ has discovered that Edgar
    A. Poe was not a man of genius. We take it for granted that the
    writer has never read Poe. His lot in life was hard enough,
    God knows, and it is a pity the oyster-house critics, snobs,
    flunkeys, and literary nincompoops can't stop snarling over
    his grave. The biography of Poe by Griswold--which production
    for fiendish malignity is probably unequaled in the history of
    letters--should, it would seem, have sufficed. No stone marks
    the spot where poor Poe sleeps, and no friendly hand strews
    flowers upon his grave in summer-time, but countless thousands,
    all over the world, will read and admire his wildly beautiful
    pages until the end of time.[21]

This knightly spirit led him to warfare upon everything that was merely
sentimental or insincere. He burlesqued the gushing love songs of the
period, advertising in his program to render at appropriate intervals
"Dearest, Whenest Thou Slumberest Dostest Thou Dreamest of Me?" and
"Dear Mother, I've Come Home to Die by Request." He burlesqued the
sensational novels of the day in _Roberto, the Rover_, and _Moses, the
Sassy_. Only once did he ever read the _Ledger_, he avers, and that was
after his first experience with New England rum:

    On takin the secund glass I was seezed with a desire to break
    winders, & arter imbibin the third glass I knockt a small boy
    down, pickt his pocket of a New York _Ledger_, and wildly
    commenced readin Sylvanus Kobb's last Tail.

He is still read and still republished. There is a perennial charm
about his work that raises it above the times that produced it, and
that promises to make it permanent. His originality, his unfailing
animal spirits which came of the abounding life of the new America, his
quaint characterization which has added a new figure to the gallery
of fiction, his Americanism, his vein of kindliness and pathos that
underlies all that he wrote, his indignation at snobbery and all in
the life of his day that was not genuine and pure, and finally the
exquisite pathos of his later years, all combine to make him remembered.


V

Among the literary progeny of "Artemus Ward" the most noteworthy,
perhaps, was "Petroleum V. Nasby," who became so familiar a figure
during the war. The creator of this unique character was David Ross
Locke, a native of the State of New York, and, like Browne, a
wandering printer from early boyhood. When the "Artemus Ward" letters
began to appear in the Cleveland _Plain-Dealer_, Locke was editor of
the Bucyrus _Journal_, a few miles to the westward. Their success
spurred him to imitation, but it was not until the firing upon Fort
Sumter that he succeeded at all in attracting attention. Wingert's
Corners, a small hamlet in Crawford County, Ohio, had petitioned
the legislature to remove all negroes from the State. There was a
humorous element in such a proposition from such a source. Why not
give the bellicose little community an appropriate spokesman, a sort
of "copperhead" "Artemus Ward," and have him declare it totally free
and independent of the State? The result was a letter in the Findlay
_Jeffersonian_, of which Locke was then the editor, dated "Wingert's
Corners, March the 21, 1861," and signed "Petroleum V. Nasby." The
"Nasby Letters" had begun. The little Ohio hamlet soon proved too small
a field for the redoubtable Democrat, and to give free play to his
love of slavery and untaxed whisky, his hatred of "niggers" and his
self-seeking disloyalty, he was removed to "Confedrit X Roads (wich
is in the Stait of Kentucky)," from which imaginary center letters
continued to flow during the war and the reconstruction era that
followed.

No humorist ever struck a more popular chord. The letters were
republished week by week by the entire Northern press, and they were
looked for by the reading public as eagerly as if they were reports
of battles. The soldiers in the Federal armies read them with gusto,
and Lincoln and Chase considered them a real source of strength to the
Union cause.

Like most political satires, however, the letters do not wear well.
They were too much colored by their times. To-day the atmosphere of
prejudice in which they were written has vanished, and the most telling
hits and timely jokes raise no smile. A generation has arisen which
must have foot-notes if it is to read the letters. We wonder now what
it was that could have so captivated the first readers.

"Nasby" has little of "Artemus Ward's" whimsical drollery; indeed,
the old Democrat resembles the showman, his prototype, only in his
rusticity, his ignorance of culture, and his defiance of the laws of
spelling. One is Launcelot Gobbo, the other is Touchstone; one is a
mere clown, the other a true humorist, as genuine as life itself is
genuine. It is the duty of the clown to be a buffoon, to imitate and
to come to grief. He essays all the parts of the acrobats only to roll
ignominiously in the dust. Then to the amazement of the beholders he
makes a leap that surpasses them all. "Nasby" at one time or another
enters every sphere of the political life of his day and generally with
small glory to himself. Through "influence" he becomes postmaster of
"Confedrit X Roads," and through "influence" he loses his position.

    The die is cast! The guilloteen hez fallen! I am no longer
    postmaster at Confedrit X Roads, wich is in the stait uv
    Kentucky. The place that knowd me wunst will know me no more
    forever; the paper wich Deekin Pogram takes will be handed out
    by a nigger; a nigger will hev the openin uv letters addressed
    to parties residin hereabouts containin remittances; a nigger
    will have the riflin uv letters adrest to lottery managers and
    extractin the sweets therfrom; a nigger will be--but I couldn't
    dwell upon the disgustin theme no longer.

This is mere clownishness, and yet no type of humor could have been
more acceptable to the time that read it. The Revolutionary War had had
its "McFingal," who loudly preached Toryism and as a reward was beaten
about and even tarred and feathered. Periods of strife and prejudice
always demand a clown, one who concentrates in a single personality
the evils of the time. "Nasby" stands for blatant copperheadism, just
as "McFingal" stands for Toryism, and as a result he delighted the
multitude. His schemes and ideas and adventures were all exaggerated,
and the persons he dealt with, like President Johnson and his circle,
were heightened to the point of caricature. Magnified fifty diameters,
the evil or the evil personage, like all things seen under the
magnifying glass, becomes grotesque and startling. The people at first
laugh and then they cry out, "Away with this thing; it is unendurable."

Refinement is not to be expected in political satires that came hot
from a period of prejudice and war, but the coarseness of the "Nasby"
letters goes beyond the bounds of toleration even in such writings.
They smack of the coarseness of the armies of the period. They reek
with whisky until one can almost smell it as one turns the pages. The
uncouth spelling simply adds to the coarseness; it adds nothing to the
reality of the characterization. There is an impression constantly that
the writer is straining for comic effect. He who is capable of such
diction as, "They can swear to each other's loyalty, which will reduce
the cost of evidence to a mere nominal sum," would hardly be guilty
of such spellings as "yeelded," "pekoolyer," and "vayloo," the last
standing for "value."

The effect of the letters in forming sentiment in the North at critical
periods was doubtless considerable, but such statements as the
much-quoted one of George S. Boutwell at Cooper Union that the fall of
the Confederacy was due to "three forces--the army, the navy, and the
Nasby letters"--must be taken with caution as too much colored by the
enthusiastic atmosphere in which it was spoken. Their enormous vogue,
however, no one can question. East and West became one as they perused
the remorseless logic of these patriotic satires. Strange as it may
seem to-day, great numbers of the earlier readers had not a suspicion
that "Nasby" of "Confedrit X Roads" was not as real a person even as
"Jeff" Davis. According to Major Pond, "one meeting of the 'faithful'
framed a resolution commending the fidelity to Democratic principles
shown in the Nasby letters, but urging Mr. Nasby, for the sake of
policy, not to be so outspoken."[22] In the presence of such testimony
criticism must be silent. Realism can have no greater triumph than that.


VI

Periods of prejudice and passion tend always to develop satirists.
The Civil War produced a whole school of them. There was "Bill Arp,"
the "Nasby" of the South, philosopher and optimist, who did so much
to relieve Southern gloom during the reconstruction era; there was
"Orpheus C. Kerr," who made ludicrous the office-seeking mania of the
times; and, greatest of them all, including even "Nasby," there was
Thomas Nast, who worked not with pen but with pencil.

No sketch of American humor can ignore Nast. His art was constructive
and compelling. It led the public; it created a new humorous
atmosphere, one distinctively original and distinctively American.
Nast was the father of American caricature. It was he who first made
effective the topical cartoon for a leader; who first portrayed an
individual by some single trait or peculiarity of apparel; and who
first made use of symbolic animals in caricature, as the Tammany
tiger, the Democratic jackass, and the Republican elephant--all three
of them creations of Nast. His work is peculiarly significant. He
created a new reading public. Even the illiterate could read the
cartoons during the war period and the Tweed ring days, and it was
their reading that put an end to the evils portrayed. General Grant
when asked, "Who is the foremost figure in civil life developed by the
Rebellion?" replied instantly, "I think Thomas Nast. He did as much as
any one man to preserve the Union and bring the war to an end."[23]


VII

In all the humorous writings of the period there was a deep
undercurrent of wisdom. Ever since the days of Franklin, the typical
American has been a maker of aphorisms quaintly expressed. The man who
for years has wrestled with Nature on frontier or farm has evolved
a philosophy of his own. American life has tended to produce unique
individualities: "Sam Slicks," "Natty Bumppos," "Pudd'nhead Wilsons,"
"David Harums," and "Silas Laphams,"--men rich in self-gained wisdom,
who talk in aphorisms like Lincoln's, "Don't swap horses when you are
crossing a stream."

There has been evolved what may be called the American type of
aphorism--the concentrated bit of wisdom, old it may be, but expressed
in such a quaint and striking way as to bring surprise and laughter.
The humor may come from the homeliness of the expression, or the
unusual nature of the compared terms, or the ludicrous image brought
suddenly to the mind. Examples are easily found: "Flattery is like
kolone water, tew be smelt of, but not swallowed"; "It is better to be
a young June bug than an old bird of paradise"; "The man who blows his
own trumpet generally plays a solo"; and "A reasonable amount of fleas
is good fer a dog--keeps him from broodin' over bein' a dog."

The leader of the latter-day proverbialists was Henry Wheeler Shaw,
a native of Massachusetts, a student for a time at Hamilton College,
and then for twenty years a deckhand, farmer, and auctioneer in Ohio.
He was forty before he began to write. His "Essay on the Mule,"
1859, found no favor. Rewritten the next year in phonetic spelling
and submitted to a New York paper as "A Essa on the Muel, bi Josh
Billings," it became quickly famous. The people of the early seventies
wanted local color. the tang, as it were, of wild fruit,--life, fresh,
genuine, and first-hand. They gave a languid approval to Holmes's
_Poet of the Breakfast Table_, but bought enormous editions of _Josh
Billings' Farmers' Allmanax_. The edition of 1870 sold 90,000 copies in
three months; that of 1871 sold no fewer than 127,000.

The humor of "Josh Billings" is confined to his aphorisms. In his
longer writings and indeed in his lectures, as we read them to-day, he
is flat and insufferable. He has little of the high spirits and zest
and lightness of "Phoenix" and "Ward": he began his humorous work too
late in life for such effects; but he surpasses them all in seriousness
and moral poise. That the times demanded misspelling and clownishness
is to be deplored, for Shaw was a philosopher, broad and sane; how
broad and sane one can see best in _Uncle Esek's Wisdom_, a column
contributed for years to the _Century Magazine_, and, at the request of
J. G. Holland, printed in ordinary spelling.

"With me everything must be put in two or three lines," he once
declared, but his two or three lines are always as compressed as if
written by Emerson. He deals for the most part with the moral side of
life with a common sense as sane as Franklin's. So wide was the field
of his work that one may find quotations from him on nearly every
question that is concerned with conduct. His stamp is on all he wrote.
One may quote from him at random and be sure of wisdom:

    The best cure for rheumatism is to thank the Lord it ain't the
    gout.

    Building air castles is a harmless business as long as you
    don't attempt to live in them.

    Politeness haz won more viktorys than logick ever haz.

    Jealousy is simply another name for self-love.

    Faith was given to man to lengthen out his reason.

    What the moral army needs just now is more rank and file and
    fewer brigadier generals.


VIII

The great tide of comic writings became fast and furious in the
seventies. In 1872 no fewer than nine comic papers were established
in New York alone: _The Brickbat_, _The Cartoon_, _Frank Leslie's
Budget of Fun_, _The Jolly Joker_, _Nick-nax_, _Merryman's Monthly_,
_The Moon_, _The Phunny Fellow_, _The Thistle_, and perhaps others.
Some died after the first issue, some persisted longer. Every year
saw its own crop of comics rise, flourish and die. In 1877 _Puck_ was
established, the first really successful comic paper in America; in
1881 appeared _Judge_; and in 1883 _Life_, the first to succeed without
politics.

Very little of all this humorous product can be called literature;
the greater part of it already has passed into oblivion; yet for all
that the movement that produced it cannot be neglected by one who
would study the period. The outburst of humor in the sixties and the
seventies was indeed significant. Poor though the product may have
been, it was American in background and spirit, and it was drawn from
no models save life itself. For the first time America had a national
literature in the broad sense of the word, original and colored by
its own soil. The work of every one in the school was grounded in
sincerity. The worker saw with his own eyes and he looked only for
truth. He attacked sentimentality and gush and all that was affected
and insincere. Born of the great moral awakening of the war, the humor
had in it the Cervantes spirit. Nast, for instance, in his later years
declared, "I have never allowed myself to attack anything I did not
believe in my soul to be wrong and deserving of the worst fate that
could befall it." The words are significant. The laughter of the period
was not the mere crackling of thorns under a pot, not a mere fusillade
of quips and puns; there was depth in it and purpose. It swept away
weakness and wrongs. It purged America and brought sanity and health of
soul. From the work of the humorists followed the second accomplishment
of the period: those careful studies in prose and verse of real life in
the various sections of America.


BIBLIOGRAPHY[24]

  GEORGE HORATIO DERBY. (1823-1861.) _Phoenixiana, or Sketches and
  Burlesques by John Phoenix_, N. Y. 1855; _The Squibob Papers_,
  N. Y. 1859; _Phoenixiana, or Sketches and Burlesques by John
  Phoenix_. Introduction by John Kendrick Bangs. Illustrated by
  Kemble. N. Y. 1903.

  CHARLES FARRAR BROWNE. (1834-1867.) _Artemus Ward, His Book_.
  N. Y. 1862; _Artemus Ward, His Travels_. 1. Miscellaneous. 2.
  Among the Mormons, N. Y. 1865; _Betsey Jane Ward. Hur Book of
  Goaks_. N. Y. 1866; _Artemus Ward in London and Other Papers_.
  N. Y. 1867; _Artemus Ward's Panorama as Exhibited in Egyptian
  Hall, London_. Edited by his executors, T. W. Robertson and E.
  P. Hingston. N. Y. 1869; _The Genial Showman_, London, 1870;
  _Artemus Ward, His Works Complete_, with a biographical sketch by
  M. D. Landon. N. Y. 1875; _The Complete Works of Artemus Ward_.
  London. 1910.

  DAVID ROSS LOCKE. (1833-1888.) _Divers Views, Opinions, and
  Prophecies of Yours Trooly, Petroleum V. Nasby_. 1865; _Nasby
  Papers_. With an Introduction by G. A. Sala. London. 1866;
  _Swingin' Round the Cirkle. By Petroleum V. Nasby. His Ideas of
  Men, Politics, and Things, During 1866_. Illustrated by Thomas
  Nast. Boston. 1867; _Ekkoes from Kentucky. By Petroleum V.
  Nasby_. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. Boston. 1868; _The Struggles
  (Social, Financial, and Political) of Petroleum V. Nasby_. With
  an Introduction by Charles Sumner. Illustrated by Thomas Nast.
  Boston. 1872; _Nasby in Exile_. Toledo. 1882.

  THOMAS NAST. (1840-1902.) _Thomas Nast. His Period and His
  Pictures._ By Albert Bigelow Paine. 1904; _Life and Letters of
  Thomas Nast_, Albert Bigelow Paine, 1910.

  HENRY WHEELER SHAW. _Josh Billings: His Sayings_. New York.
  1865; _Josh Billings on Ice and Other Things_. N. Y. 1868; _Josh
  Billings' Farmers' Allmanax for the Year 1870_. N. Y. 1870;
  _Old Probabilities; Contained in One Volume. Farmers' Allmanax
  1870-1880_. N. Y. 1879; _Josh Billings' Old Farmers' Allmanax,
  1870-1879_. N. Y. 1902; _Complete Comic Writings of Josh
  Billings_ with biographical introduction. Illustrated by Thomas
  Nast. N. Y.; _Life of Henry W. Shaw_, by F. B. Smith. 1883.



CHAPTER III

MARK TWAIN


With Mark Twain, American literature became for the first time really
national. He was the first man of letters of any distinction to be
born west of the Mississippi. He spent his boyhood and young manhood
near the heart of the continent, along the great river during the
vital era when it was the boundary line between known and unknown
America, and when it resounded from end to end with the shouts and the
confusion of the first great migration from the East; he lived for six
thrilling years in the camps and the boom towns and the excited cities
of Nevada and California; and then, at thirty-one, a raw product of
the raw West, he turned his face to the Atlantic Coast, married a rare
soul from one of the refined families of New York State, and settled
down to a literary career in New England, with books and culture and
trips abroad, until in his old age Oxford University could confer upon
him--"Tom Sawyer," whose schooling in the ragged river town had ended
before he was twelve--the degree that had come to America only as borne
by two or three of the Brahmins of New England. Only America, and
America at a certain period, could produce a paradox like that.

Mark Twain interpreted the West from the standpoint of a native. The
group of humorists who had first brought to the East the Western
spirit and the new laughter had all of them been reared in the older
sections. John Phoenix and Artemus Ward and Josh Billings were born in
New England, and Nasby and many of the others were natives of New York
State. All of them in late boyhood had gone West as to a wonderland and
had breathed the new atmosphere as something strange and exhilarating,
but Mark Twain was native born. He was himself a part of the West; he
removed from it so as to see it in true perspective, and so became its
best interpreter. Hawthorne had once expressed a wish to see some part
of America "where the damned shadow of Europe has never fallen." Mark
Twain spent his life until he was thirty in such unshadowed places.
When he wrote he wrote without a thought of other writings; it was as
if the West itself was dictating its autobiography.


I

The father of Mark Twain, John Clemens, a dreamer and an idealist,
had left Virginia with his young wife early in the twenties to join
the restless tide that even then was setting strongly westward. Their
first settlement was at Gainsborough, Tennessee, where was born their
first son, Orion, but they remained there not long. Indeed, like all
emigrants of their type, they remained nowhere long. During the next
ten or eleven years five other children were born to them at four
different stations along the line of their westward progress. When
the fifth child arrived, to be christened Samuel Langhorne, they were
living at Florida, Missouri, a squalid little hamlet fifty miles west
of the Mississippi. That was November 30, 1835. Four years later they
made what proved to be their last move, settling at Hannibal, Missouri,
a small river town about a hundred miles above St. Louis. Here it
was that the future Mark Twain spent the next fourteen years, those
formative years between four and eighteen that determine so greatly the
bent of the later life.

The Hannibal of the forties and the fifties was hardly a town one
would pick deliberately for the education of a great man of letters.
It lay just a few miles above the northern line of Pike County--that
Pike County, Missouri, that gave name to the shiftless, hand-to-mouth,
ague-shaken type of humanity later to be celebrated so widely as
the Pike. Hannibal was not a Pike community, but it was typically
southwestern in its somnolent, slave-holding, care-free atmosphere. The
one thing that forever rescued it from the commonplace was the River,
the tremendous Mississippi, source of endless dreams and romance. Mark
Twain has given us a picture, perfect as an etching, of this river and
the little town that nestled beside it:

    After all these years I can picture that old time to myself
    now, just as it was then: the white town drowsing in the
    sunshine of a summer's morning; the streets empty, or pretty
    nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water
    Street stores, with their splint-bottomed chairs tilted back
    against the wall, chins on breast, hats slouched over their
    faces, asleep--with shingle shavings enough around to show
    what broke them down; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along
    the sidewalk, doing a good business in water-melon rinds and
    seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered
    around the "levee"; a pile of "skids" on the slope of the
    stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in
    the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the
    wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the
    wavelets against them; the great Mississippi, the majestic,
    the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along,
    shining in the sun; the dense forest away on the other side;
    the "point" above the town, and the "point" below, bounding the
    river glimpse and turning it into a sort of sea, and withal
    a very still and brilliant and lonely one. Presently a film
    of dark smoke appears above one of these remote "points";
    instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and
    prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, "S-t-e-a-m boat a-comin'!"
    and the scene changes! The town drunkard stirs, the clerks wake
    up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every house and store
    pours out a human contribution, and all in a twinkling the
    dead town is alive and moving. Drays, carts, men, boys, all go
    hurrying to a common center, the wharf. Assembled there, the
    people fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a wonder
    they are seeing for the first time.... The furnace doors are
    open and the fires glaring bravely; the upper decks are black
    with passengers; the captain stands by the big bell, calm,
    imposing, the envy of all; great volumes of the blackest smoke
    are rolling and tumbling out of the chimneys--a husbanded
    grandeur created with a bit of pitch pine just before arriving
    at a town; the crew are grouped on the forecastle; the broad
    stage is run far out over the port bow, and an envied deck-hand
    stands picturesquely on the end of it with a coil of rope in
    his hand; the pent steam is screaming through the gage-cocks;
    the captain lifts his hand, a bell rings, the wheels stop; then
    they turn back, churning the water to foam, and the steamer is
    at rest. Then such a scramble as there is to get aboard, and to
    get ashore, and to take in freight, and to discharge freight,
    all at one and the same time; and such a yelling and cursing as
    the mates facilitate it all with! Ten minutes later the steamer
    is under way again, with no flag on the jack-staff and no black
    smoke issuing from the chimneys. After ten more minutes the
    town is dead again, and the town drunkard asleep by the skids
    once more.[25]

It was the romance of this river, the vastness and the mystery of it,
the great unknown world which lay beyond those "points" where all
things disappeared, that made of the boy a restless soul, a dreamer
and an idealist--that made of him indeed the Mark Twain of the later
years. His books nowhere rise into the pure serene of literature unless
touched at some point by this magic stream that flowed so marvelously
through his boyhood. The two discoverers of the Mississippi were De
Soto and Mark Twain.

The first crisis in the boy's life came in his twelfth year, when the
death of his father sent him as an apprentice to a country newspaper
office, that most practical and most exacting of all training schools
for youth. Two years on the Missouri _Courier_, four years on the
Hannibal _Journal_, then the restlessness of his clan sent him
wandering into the East even as it had sent Artemus Ward and Nasby
into the West. For fifteen months he served as compositor in New York
City and Philadelphia, then a great homesickness for the river came
upon him. From boyhood it had been his dream to be the pilot of a
Mississippi steamboat; all other professions seemed flat and lifeless
compared with that satisfying and boundless field of action; and it
is not strange that in April, 1857, we find him installed as Horace
Bixby's "cub" at the beginning of a new career.

During the next four years he gave himself heart and soul to the almost
superhuman task of committing to memory every sandbar and point and
landmark in twelve hundred miles of a shifting, treacherous river.
The difficulties he has explained fully in his book. It was a college
course of four years, and no man ever had a better one. To quote his
own words:

    In that brief, sharp schooling I got personally and familiarly
    acquainted with all the different types of human nature that
    are to be found in fiction, biography, or history. When I find
    a well-drawn character in fiction or biography, I generally
    take a warm personal interest in him, for the reason that I
    have known him before--met him on the river.[26]

It taught him far more than this. The pilot of a great Mississippi boat
was a man with peculiar responsibilities. The lives of the passengers
and the safety of the cargo were absolutely in his hands. His authority
was above even the captain's. Only picked men of courage and judgment
with a self-reliance that never wavered in any crisis were fit material
for pilots. To quote Horace Bixby, the most noted of them all:

    There were no signal lights along the shore in those days,
    and no searchlights on the vessels; everything was blind, and
    on a dark, misty night in a river full of snags and shifting
    sand-bars and changing shores, a pilot's judgment had to be
    founded on _absolute certainty_.[27]

Under such conditions men were valued only for what they actually could
do. There was no entrance into the inner circle of masters of the
river save through genuineness and real efficiency. Sentimentalizing
and boasting and sham died instantly in that stern atmosphere. To live
for four years in daily contact with such men taught one coarseness of
speech and an appalling fluency in the use of profanity, but it taught
one at the same time to look with supreme contempt upon inefficiency
and pretense.

The "cub" became at length a pilot, to be entrusted after a time
with some of the finest boats on the river. He became very efficient
in his hard-learned profession so conspicuously so that he won the
commendation even of Bixby, who could say in later years, "Sam Clemens
never had an accident either as a steersman or as a pilot, except once
when he got aground for a few hours in the _bagasse_ (cane) smoke,
with no damage to any one."[28] But the war put a sudden end to the
piloting. The river was closed, and in April, 1861, he went reluctantly
back to Hannibal. "I loved the profession far better than any I have
ever followed since," he declared in his later years, "and I took a
measureless pride in it." It is very possible that but for the war
and the change which it wrought upon the river, Mark Twain might have
passed his whole life as a Mississippi pilot.


II

After a few weeks in a self-recruited troop that fell to pieces before
it could join the Confederate army, the late pilot, now twenty-six
years old, started by stage coach across the Plains with his brother
Orion, who had just been appointed secretary to the new Governor of
Nevada. It was Mark Twain's entry upon what, in college terms, may be
called his graduate course. It was six years long and it covered one of
the most picturesque eras in the history of Western America.

For a few restive months he remained at Carson City as his brother's
assistant, then in characteristic fashion he broke away to join
the excited tide of gold seekers that was surging through all the
mountains of Nevada. During the next year he lived in mining camps with
prospectors and eager claim-holders. Luck, however, seemed against
him; at least it promised him little as a miner, and when the Virginia
City _Enterprise_, to which he had contributed letters, offered him a
position on its staff of reporters, he jumped at the opportunity.

Now for two years he lived at the very heart of the mining regions of
the West, in Virginia City, the home of the Comstock lode, then at
its highest boom. Everything about him--the newness and rawness of
things, the peculiar social conditions, the atmosphere of recklessness
and excitement, the money that flowed everywhere in fabulous
quantities--everything was unique. Even the situation of the city was
remarkable. Hingston, who visited it with Artemus Ward while Mark
Twain was still a member of the _Enterprise_ staff, speaks of it as
"perched up on the side of Mt. Davidson some five or six thousand feet
above sea level, with a magnificent view before us of the desert....
Nothing but arid rocks and sandy plains sprinkled with sage brush. No
village for full two hundred miles, and any number of the worst type of
Indians--the Goshoots--agreeably besprinkling the path."[29] Artemus
Ward estimated its population at twelve thousand. He was impressed
by its wildness, "its splendid streets paved with silver ore," "its
unadulterated cussedness," its vigilance committee "which hangs the
more vicious of the pestiferous crowd," and its fabulous output of
silver which is "melted down into bricks the size of common house
bricks, then loaded into huge wagons, each drawn by eight and twelve
mules, and sent off to San Francisco."[30]

It was indeed a strange area of life that passed before the young
Mississippi pilot. For two winters he was sent down to report the new
legislature of the just-organized territory, and it was while engaged
in this picturesque gala task that he sent back his letters signed for
the first time Mark Twain. That was the winter of 1863. It was time
now for him to seek a wider field. Accordingly, the following May he
went down to San Francisco, where at length he found employment on the
_Morning Call_.

Now for the first time the young reporter found himself in a literary
atmosphere. Poets and sketch-writers and humorists were everywhere.
There was at least one flourishing literary journal, the _Golden Era_,
and its luxuriously appointed office was the literary center of the
Pacific Coast. "Joaquin Miller recalls from an old diary, kept by him
then, having seen Adah Isaacs Menken, Prentice Mulford, Bret Harte,
Charles Warren Stoddard, Fitzhugh Ludlow, Mark Twain, Orpheus C. Kerr,
Artemus Ward, Gilbert Densmore, W. S. Kendall, and Mrs. Hitchcock
assembled there at one time."[31] Charles Henry Webb was just starting
a literary weekly, the _Californian_, and when, a year later, Bret
Harte was made its editor, Mark Twain was added to the contributing
staff. It was the real beginning of his literary career. He received
now helpful criticism. In a letter written in after years to Thomas
Bailey Aldrich he says:

    Bret Harte trimmed and trained and schooled me patiently until
    he changed me from an awkward utterer of coarse grotesqueness
    to a writer of paragraphs and chapters that have found a
    certain favor in the eyes of even some of the very decentest
    people in the land.[32]

To the _Californian_ and the _Era_ he now contributed that series
of sketches which later was drawn upon for material for his first
published book. But the old restlessness was upon him again. He struck
out into the Tuolumne Hills with Jim Gillis as a pocket miner and for
months lived as he could in shacks and camps, panning between drenching
showers worthless gravel, expecting every moment to find gold. He found
no gold, but he found what was infinitely richer. In later years in a
letter to Gillis he wrote:

    It makes my heart ache yet to call to mind some of those days.
    Still it shouldn't, for right in the depths of their poverty
    and their pocket-hunting vagabondage lay the germ of my coming
    good fortune. You remember the one gleam of jollity that shot
    across our dismal sojourn in the rain and mud of Angel's
    Camp--I mean that day we sat around the tavern and heard that
    chap tell about the frog and how they filled him with shot.
    And you remember how we quoted from the yarn and laughed over
    it out there on the hillside while you and dear old Stoker
    panned and washed. I jotted the story down in my note-book that
    day, and would have been glad to get ten or fifteen dollars
    for it--I was just that blind. But then we were so hard up. I
    published that story, and it became widely known in America,
    India, China, England, and the reputation it made for me has
    paid me thousands and thousands of dollars since.[33]

The publication in New York, May 1, 1867, of _The Celebrated Jumping
Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches_ and the delivery a week
later by the author of _The Jumping Frog_ of a lecture on the Sandwich
Islands marks the end of the period of preparation in Mark Twain's
life. A new American author had arrived.


III

Send this Mississippi pilot, printer, adventurer, miner in rough camps
of the Sierras, to Paris, Italy, Constantinople, and the Holy Land, and
what will be his impressions? For an answer we must read _The Innocents
Abroad_. It will be no _Outre Mer_, we are certain of that, and no
_Pencillings by the Way_. Before a line of it was written an atmosphere
had been created unique in American literature, for where, save in the
California of 1867, was there ever optimism, nay, romanticism, that
could reply instantly to the young reporter who asked to be sent on a
Don Quixote pilgrimage to Europe and the Orient, "Go. Twelve hundred
and fifty dollars will be paid for you before the vessel sails, and
your only instructions are that you will continue to write at such
times and from such places as you deem proper, and in the same style
that heretofore secured you the favor of the readers of the _Alta
California_"?

It was not to be a tour of Europe, as Longfellow and Willis and Taylor
had made it, the pilgrimage of a devotee to holy shrines; it was to
be a great picnic with sixty-seven in the picnic party. Moreover, the
recorder of it was bound by his instructions to report it in the style
that had won him California fame. It was to be a Western book, written
by a Westerner from the Western standpoint, but this does not imply
that his Western readers expected an illiterate production full of
coarseness and rude wit. California had produced a school of poets and
romancers; she had serious literary journals, and she was proud of
them. The letters, if California was to set her stamp of approval upon
them, must have literary charm; they must have, moreover, freshness
and originality; and they must sparkle with that spirit of humor which
already had begun to be recognized as a native product.

We open the book and linger a moment over the preface:

    Notwithstanding it is only the record of a picnic, it has a
    purpose, which is, to suggest to the reader how _he_ would be
    likely to see Europe and the East if he looked at them with
    his own eyes instead of the eyes of those who traveled in
    those countries before him. I make small pretence of showing
    any one how he _ought_ to look at objects of interest beyond
    the sea--other books do that, and therefore, even if I were
    competent to do it, there is no need.

    I offer no apologies for any departures from the usual style of
    travel-writing that may be charged against me--for I think I
    have seen with impartial eyes, and I am sure I have written at
    least honestly, whether wisely or not.

Let us read the book straight through. We are impressed with the fact
that, despite the supposition of its first readers, it is not primarily
a humorous work. It is a genuine book of travels. It is first of all an
honest record, even as its author averred. In the second place it is
the book of a young man, a young man on a lark and full of the highest
spirits. The world is good--it is a good show, though it is full of
absurdities and of humbugs that should be exposed. The old stock jokes
of the grand tour--the lack of soap, the charge for candles, the
meeting of supposed foreigners who break unexpectedly into the best of
English, and all the well-known others--were new to the public then and
they came with freshness. Then it is the book of one who saw, even as
he claimed, with his own eyes. This genuine American, with his training
on the river and the wild frontier where men and things are what they
_are_, no more and no less, will be impressed only with genuineness. He
will describe things precisely as he sees them. Gibraltar "is pushed
out into the sea on the end of a flat, narrow strip of land, and is
suggestive of a 'gob' of mud on the end of a shingle"; of the Coliseum:
"everybody recognizes at once that 'looped and windowed' bandbox with a
side bitten out"; and of a famous river: "It is popular to admire the
Arno. It is a great historical creek with four feet in the channel and
some scows floating around. It would be a very passable river if they
would pump some water into it." That was not written for a joke: it
was the way the Arno honestly impressed the former Mississippi pilot.

He is not always critical. Genuineness and real worth never fail to
impress him. Often he stands before a landscape, a city, a cathedral,
as enthusiastic as any of the older school of travelers. The book is
full of vivid descriptions, some of them almost poetic in their spirit
and diction. But things must be what they pretend to be, or they will
disgust him. Everywhere there is scorn for the mere echoer of the
enthusiasm of others. He will not gush over an unworthy thing even if
he knows the whole world has gushed over it. Da Vinci's "Last Supper,"
painted on a dilapidated wall and stained and scarred and dimmed, may
once have been beautiful, he admits, but it is not so now. The pilgrims
who stand before it "able to speak only in catchy ejaculations of
rapture" fill him with wrath. "How can they see what is not visible?"
The work of the old masters fills him always with indignation. They
painted not Hebrews in their scriptural pieces, but Italians. "Their
nauseous adulation of princely patrons was more prominent to me and
claimed my attention more than the charms of color." "Raphael pictured
such infernal villains as Catherine and Marie de Medicis seated in
heaven conversing familiarly with the Virgin Mary and the angels (to
say nothing of higher personages), and yet my friends abuse me because
I am a little prejudiced against the old masters."

Here we have a note that was to become more and more emphatic in Mark
Twain's work with every year he lived: his indignation at oppression
and insincerity. The cathedrals of Italy lost their beauty for him
when he saw the misery of the population. He stood before the Grand
Duomo of Florence. "Like all other men I fell down and worshiped it,
but when the filthy beggars swarmed around me the contrast was too
striking, too suggestive, and I said 'O sons of classic Italy, _is_ the
spirit of enterprise, of self-reliance, of noble endeavor, utterly dead
within ye? Curse your indolent worthlessness, why don't you rob your
church?' Three hundred happy, comfortable priests are employed in that
cathedral."

Everywhere he strikes out at sentimentality. When he learns how Abelard
deliberately sacrificed Héloïse to his own selfish ideals, he bursts
out: "The tons of sentiment I have wasted on that unprincipled humbug
in my ignorance! I shall throttle down my emotions hereafter, about
this sort of people, until I have read them up and know whether they
are entitled to any tearful attentions or not." He is eager to see a
French "grissette," but having seen one, bursts out in true Artemus
Ward fashion: "Aroint thee, wench! I sorrow for the vagabond student
of the Latin Quarter now, even more than formerly I envied him.
Thus topples to the earth another idol of my infancy." The story of
Petrarch's love for Laura only fills him with pity for the outrageously
treated "Mr. Laura," the unknown husband of the heroine, who bore the
burden but got none of the glory, and when they tell the thrilling
legend of the old medieval castle, he makes only the comment, "Splendid
legend--splendid lie--drive on!"

It was a blow at the whole school of American travel writers; it marked
the passing of an era. Bret Harte in the first volume of the _Overland
Monthly_ (1868), was the first to outline the Western standpoint:

    The days of sentimental journeyings are over. The dear old book
    of travel ... is a thing of the past. Sentimental musings on
    foreign scenes are just now restricted to the private diaries
    of young and impressible ladies and clergymen with affections
    of the bronchial tubes.... A race of good humored, engaging
    iconoclasts seem to have precipitated themselves upon the old
    altars of mankind, and like their predecessors of the eighth
    century, have paid particular attention to the holy church.
    Mr. Howells has slashed one or two sacred pictorial canvases
    with his polished rapier; Mr. Swift has made one or two neat
    long shots with a rifled Parrott, and Mr. Mark Twain has used
    brickbats on stained glass windows with damaging effect.
    And those gentlemen have certainly brought down a heap of
    rubbish.[34]

It was the voice of the new West and of the new era. With _The
Innocents Abroad_ begins the new period in American literature. The
book is full of the new after-the-war Americanism that did its own
thinking, that saw with its own eyes, that put a halo upon nothing
save genuineness and substantial worth. It must not be forgotten
that America even in the new seventies was still mawkish with
sentimentality. The very year _The Innocents Abroad_ appeared, _Gates
Ajar_ sold twenty editions. Mark Twain came into the age like the Goths
into Rome. Stand on the solid earth, he cried. Look with your own
eyes. Worship nothing but truth and genuineness. Europe is no better
than America. Como is beautiful, but it is not so beautiful as Tahoe.
Why this eternal glorification of things simply and solely because
it is the conventional thing to glorify them? "The critic," he wrote
in later years to Andrew Lang, "has actually imposed upon the world
the superstition that a painting by Raphael is more valuable to the
civilizations of the earth than is a chromo; and the august opera more
than the hurdy gurdy and the villagers' singing society; and the Latin
classics than Kipling's far-reaching bugle note; and Jonathan Edwards
than the Salvation Army."[35] The new American democracy was speaking.
To the man who for four years had learned in the school of Horace Bixby
there was no high and no low save as measured, not by appearances or by
tradition, but by intrinsic worth.


IV

It has been customary in libraries to place the earlier works of Mark
Twain on the same shelf as those of Artemus Ward and Josh Billings.
To the thousands who laughed at him as he lectured from year to year
he was a mere maker of fun. The public that bought such enormous
editions of _The Innocents Abroad_ and _Roughing It_ bought them as
books to laugh over. What shall we say to-day of Mark Twain's humor? A
generation has arisen to whom he is but a tradition and a set of books;
what is the verdict of this generation?

First of all, it is necessary that we examine the man himself. Nature
seems to have forced him into the ranks of the comedians. From his
mother he inherited a drawl that was inexpressibly funny; he had a
laughable personality, and a laughable angle from which he looked at
life. He could no more help provoking mirth than he could help being
himself. Moreover, he had been thrown during his formative years into a
veritable training school for humorists. On the river and in the mines
and the raw towns and cities of the West, he had lived in a gale of
high spirits, of loud laughter, of practical jokes, and droll stories
that had gone the rough round of the boats or the camps. His humor,
therefore, was an echo of the laughter of elemental men who have been
flung into conditions full of incongruities and strange contrasts. It
is the humor of exaggeration run wild, of youthful high spirits, of
rough practical jokes, of understatement, of irreverence, and gross
absurdity.

But the personality of Mark Twain no longer can give life to his humor;
the atmosphere in which it first appeared has gone forever; the man
himself is becoming a mere legend, shadowy and more and more distorted;
his humor must be judged now like that of Cervantes and Shakespeare,
apart from author and times. How does it stand the test? Not at all
well. There are the high spirits of the new West in it--that element
has not evaporated--and there is in it a personal touch, a drollery
that was his individual contribution to humor. There was a certain
drawl in his pen as well as in his tongue. It is this alone that saves
much of his humorous work from flatness. Concerning _The Jumping Frog_,
for instance, Haweis asks in true British way, "What, I should like to
know, is the fun of saying that a frog who has been caused to swallow
a quantity of shot cannot jump so high as he could before?" The answer
is that there is no fun save in the way the story is told; in other
words, save in the incomparable drawl of Mark Twain's pen. One can only
illustrate:

    The feller ... give it back to Smiley, and says, very
    deliberate, "Well, I don't see no pints about that frog that's
    any better'n any other frog."

    "May be you don't," Smiley says. "May be you understand
    frogs, and may be you don't understand 'em; may be you've had
    experience, and may be you ain't, only a amature, as it were.
    Any ways I've got _my_ opinion, and I'll risk forty dollars
    that he can out-jump any frog in Calaveras county."

    And the feller studied a minute, and then says, kinder sad
    like, "Well, I'm only a stranger here, and I ain't got no frog;
    but if I had a frog, I'd bet you!"

Or take this episode from _The Innocents Abroad_ where he tells of his
sensations one night as a boy upon awakening and finding the body of a
murdered man on the floor of his room:

    I went away from there. I do not say that I went away in any
    sort of a hurry, but I simply went--that is sufficient. I went
    out at the window, and I carried the sash along with me. I did
    not need the sash, but it was handier to take it than it was
    to leave it, and so I took it. I was not scared, but I was
    considerably agitated.

All this and the hundreds of pages like it in _The Innocents Abroad_
and _Roughing It_ and the later books is excellent drollery, but had
Mark Twain written nothing else than this he would be as dead now as an
author as even "Doesticks." His drollery is best in the work that lies
nearest to the source of his first inspiration. As the Western days
faded from his memory, his comedy became more and more forced, until it
could reach at last the inane flatness of _Adam's Diary_ and flatter
still, _Eve's Diary_.

The humor that lives, however, is not drollery; it must be embodied
in a humorous character like Falstaff, for instance, or Don Quixote.
The most of Mark Twain's fun comes from exaggerated situations with
no attempt at characterization, and therein lies his weakness as a
humorist. Huckleberry Finn and Colonel Sellers come the nearest to
being humorous creations, but Huckleberry Finn is but a bit of _genre_,
the eternal bad boy in a Pike County costume, and Colonel Sellers is
but a preliminary study toward a character, a shadowy figure that we
feel constantly to be on the point of jumping into greatness without
ever actually arriving. Narrowly as he may have missed the mark in
these two characters, Mark Twain cannot be classed with the great
humorists.


V

There are three Mark Twains: there is Mark Twain, the droll comedian,
who wrote for the masses and made them laugh; there is Mark Twain, the
indignant protester, who arose ever and anon to true eloquence in his
denunciation of tyranny and pretense; and there is Mark Twain, the
romancer, who in his boyhood had dreamed by the great river and who
later caught the romance of a period in American life. The masterpiece
of the first is _The Jumping Frog_, of the second _The Man that
Corrupted Hadleyburg_, and of the third _Life on the Mississippi_ and
_Roughing It_.

It is this third Mark Twain that still lives and that will continue
to live in American literature. He saw with distinctness a unique
area of American life. As the brief and picturesque era faded away
he caught the sunset glory of it and embodied it in romance--the
steamboat days on the river in the slavery era, the old régime in the
South, the barbarism of the Plains, the great buffalo herds, the wild
camps in the gold fields of Nevada and California. In half a dozen
books: _Roughing It_, _Life on the Mississippi_, _The Gilded Age_ (a
few chapters of it), _Tom Sawyer_, _Huckleberry Finn_, _Pudd'nhead
Wilson_, he has done work that can never be done again. The world
that these books depict has vanished as completely as the Bagdad of
Haroun al Raschid. Not only has he told the story of this vanished
world, illustrating it with descriptions and characterizations that
are like Flemish portraits, but he has caught and held the spirit of
it, and he has thrown over it all the nameless glow of romance. It is
as golden a land that he leads us through as any we may find in Scott,
and yet it was drawn from the life with painstaking care. Scott and
Bulwer and Cooper angered Mark Twain. They were careless of facts, they
were sentimental, they misinterpreted the spirit of the times they
depicted and the men and women who lived in them, but these six books
of Mark Twain may be placed among the source books of American history.
Nowhere else can one catch so truly certain phases of the spirit of the
mid-nineteenth century West. Over every page of them may be written
those words from the preface of _The Innocents Abroad_, "I am sure I
have written at least honestly, whether wisely or not."

The books are six chapters of autobiography. _Tom Sawyer_ and
_Huckleberry Finn_ are recollections of that boyhood by the river after
so long a time had elapsed that the day-dreams and boyish imaginings
were recorded as real happenings; _Life on the Mississippi_ records
that romantic adventure of his young manhood as he recalled it in later
days when the old piloting era had vanished like a dream of boyhood;
_The Gilded Age_, a book of glorious fragments, has in it his uncle
James Lampton drawn from life and renamed Colonel Sellers; _Roughing
It_ bubbles over with the joy and the high spirits and the excitement
of those marvelous days when the author and the West were young
together; and _Pudd'nhead Wilson_ gives the tragedy of slavery as it
passed before his boyish eyes. These books and _The Innocents Abroad_
are Mark Twain's contribution to the library of American classics. The
rest of his enormously large output, despite brilliant passages here
and there, does not greatly matter.

They are not artistic books. The author had little skill in
construction. He excelled in brilliant dashes, not in long-continued
effort. He was his own Colonel Sellers, restless, idealistic, Quixotic.
What he did he did with his whole soul without restraint or sense of
proportion. There is in all he wrote a lack of refinement, kept at a
minimum, to be sure, by his wife, who for years was his editor and
severest critic, but likely at any moment to crop out. His books, all
of them, are monotones, a running series of episodes and descriptions
all of the same value, never reaching dramatic climax. The episodes
themselves, however, are told with graphic intensity; some of them are
gems well-nigh perfect. Here is a picture of the famous pony express of
the Plains:

    The pony-rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of
    spirit and endurance. No matter what time of the day or night
    his watch came on, and no matter whether it was winter or
    summer, raining, snowing, hailing, or sleeting, or whether
    his "beat" was a level straight road or a crazy trail over
    mountain crags and precipices, or whether it led through
    peaceful regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must be
    always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind.
    He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight,
    starlight, or through the blackness of darkness--just as it
    happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer
    and fed and lodged like a gentleman; kept him at his utmost
    speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up to the
    station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient
    steed, the transfer of rider and mailbag was made in the
    twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eager pair and were out
    of sight before the spectator could hardly get the ghost of a
    look.

    We had had a consuming desire, from the beginning, to see a
    pony-rider, but somehow or other all that had passed us and all
    that met us managed to streak by in the night, and so we heard
    only a whiz and a hail, and the swift phantom of the desert was
    gone before we could get our heads out of the windows. But now
    we were expecting one along every moment, and we would see him
    in broad daylight. Presently the driver exclaims:

    "Here he comes!"

    Every neck is stretched further, and every eye strained wider.
    Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck
    appears against the sky, and it is plain that it moves. Well,
    I should think so! In a second or two it becomes a horse and
    rider, rising and falling, rising and falling--sweeping toward
    us nearer and nearer--growing more and more distinct, more and
    more sharply defined--nearer and still nearer, and the flutter
    of the hoofs comes faintly to the ear--another instant a whoop
    and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider's hand,
    but no reply, and man and horse burst past our excited faces,
    and go winging away like a belated fragment of a storm.

The steamboat race and the explosion in chapter four of _The Gilded
Age_ have few equals in any language for mere picturing power. He deals
largely with the out-of-doors. His canvases are bounded only by the
horizon: the Mississippi, the great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, Mono
Lake, the Alkali Deserts, and the Sierras--he has handled a continent.
Only Joaquin Miller and John Muir have used canvases as vast.
Huckleberry Finn's floating journey down the river on his raft has in
it something of the spirit of _The Odyssey_ and _Pilgrim's Progress_
and _Don Quixote_. Had Mark Twain's constructive skill and his ability
to trace the growth of a human soul been equal to his picturing power,
his Defoe-like command of detail and situation, and his mastery of
phrase and of narrative, he might have said the last word in American
fiction. He was a product of his section and of his education. College
and university would have made of him an artist like Holmes, brilliant,
refined, and messageless. It would have robbed him of the very
fountain-head of his power. It was his to work not from books but from
life itself, to teach truth and genuineness of life, to turn the eyes
of America from the romance of Europe to her own romantic past.


VI

If Artemus Ward is Touchstone, Mark Twain is Lear's Fool. He was a
knightly soul, sensitive and serious, a nineteenth-century knight
errant who would protect the weak of the whole world and right their
wrongs. The genuineness and honesty that had been ground into his
soul on the river and in the mines where a man was a man only when he
could show true manliness, were a part of his knightly equipment. When
financial disaster came to him, as it had come to Scott, through no
fault of his own, he refused to repudiate the debt as he might have
done with no discredit to himself, and, though old age was upon him, he
set out to earn by his own efforts the whole enormous amount. And he
discharged the debt to the full. He had, moreover, the true knight's
soul of romance. The _Morte d'Arthur_ and the chronicles of Joan of
Arc, his favorite reading, contained the atmosphere that he loved. He
fain would have given his generation "pure literature," but they bade
him back to his cap and bells. Richardson, as late as 1886, classed him
with the purveyors of "rude and clownish merriment" and advised him to
"make hay while the sun shines."[36]

So he jested and capered while his heart was heavy with personal
sorrows that came thick upon him as the years went by, and with the
baseness and weakness and misery of humanity as the spectacle passed
under his keen observation. Yet in it all he was true to himself. That
sentence in the preface tells the whole story: "I have written at least
honestly." His own generation bought his books for the fun in them;
their children are finding now that their fathers bought not, as they
supposed, clownish ephemeræ, but true literature, the classics of the
period.

And yet--strange paradox!--it was the cap and bells that made Mark
Twain and that hastened the coming of the new period in American
literature. The cap and bells it was that made him known in every
hamlet and in every household of America, north and south and east and
west, and in all lands across all oceans. Only Cooper and Mrs. Stowe of
all our American authors are known so widely. This popularity it was
that gave wings to the first all-American literature and that inspired
a new school of American writers. After Mark Twain American literature
was no longer confined to Boston and its environs; it was as wide as
the continent itself.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  MARK TWAIN. (1835-1910.) _The Celebrated Jumping Frog of
  Calaveras County and Other Sketches_, 1867; _The Innocents
  Abroad_, 1869; _Roughing It_, 1872; _The Gilded Age_ (with C.
  D. Warner), 1873; _Old Times on the Mississippi_ (_Atlantic
  Monthly_), 1875; _Tom Sawyer_, 1876; _Life on the Mississippi_,
  in book form, 1882; _Huckleberry Finn_, 1884; _A Connecticut
  Yankee in King Arthur's Court_, 1889; _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, 1894;
  _Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc_, 1896; _Following the
  Equator_, 1897; _Christian Science_, 1907; Writings of Mark
  Twain, 25 vols., 1910; _My Mark Twain_, by W. D. Howells, 1911;
  _Mark Twain, a Biography_, by Albert Bigelow Paine, 1912.



CHAPTER IV

BRET HARTE


In his _Chronological Outlines of American Literature_, Whitcomb
mentions only thirteen American novels published during the seven
years before 1870: Taylor's _Hannah Thurston_, _John Godfrey's
Fortunes_, and _Story of Kennett_; Trowbridge's _The Three Scouts_;
Donald G. Mitchell's _Doctor Johns_; Holmes's _The Guardian Angel_;
Lanier's _Tiger-Lilies_, the transition novel of the decade as we
shall see later in our study of Lanier; Louisa M. Alcott's _Little
Women_; Beecher's _Norwood_; Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's _The Gates
Ajar_; Higginson's _Malbone_; Aldrich's _Story of a Bad Boy_; and Mrs.
Stowe's _Oldtown Folks_. To study the list is to realize the condition
of American fiction during the sixties. It lacked incisiveness and
construction and definite color; it droned and it preached.

Before pronouncing the decade the feeblest period in American fiction
since the early twenties of the century, let us examine the most lauded
novel written in America between 1860 and 1870, _Elsie Venner_ (1861).
Strictly speaking, it is not a novel at all: it is another Autocrat
volume, chatty, discursive, brilliant. The Brahmins, sons and grandsons
of ministers, might enter the law, medicine, teaching, literature, the
lyceum lecture field--they never ceased to preach. New England for two
centuries was a vast pulpit and American literature during a whole
period was written on sermon paper. "The real aim of the story," the
Autocrat naïvely observes in his preface, "was to test the doctrine of
'original sin' and human responsibility." He is in no hurry, however.
We read four chapters before we learn even the heroine's name. A novel
can reasonably be expected to center about its title character: Elsie
Venner speaks seventeen times during the story, and eleven of these
utterances are delivered from her death-bed at the close of the book.
There is no growth in character, no gradual moving of events to a
culmination, no clear picture even of the central figure. Elsie is a
mere case: the book, so far as she is concerned, is the record of a
clinic. But even the clinic is not suffered to move uninterruptedly.
Digressions are as frequent as even in the Autocrat papers. A widow
is introduced for no apparent reason, studied for a chapter, and then
dropped from the narrative. We never feel like one who has lost himself
for a time in the life of another in a new world under new skies; we
feel rather like one who is being personally conducted through New
England by a skilful guide. Note this partial prospectus of what he has
to show: Newburyport, Portsmouth, Portland, caste in New England, rural
schools, Northampton and Mt. Holyoke, mountain vegetation, rattlesnakes
in Massachusetts, the New England mansion house, school compositions,
the old type of meeting house, varieties of school girls, the old-time
India merchant, oysters in New England, hired help, colonial chimneys,
young ladies' seminaries, the hemlock tree. The topics are interesting
ones and they are brilliantly treated, often at length, but in a
novel, even one written by Dr. Holmes, such things are "lumber." The
novel is typical of the fiction of the era. It is discursive, loosely
constructed, vague in its characterization, and lacking in cumulative
force.

It is significant that the magazines of the period had very little use
for the native product. Between 1864 and 1870, _Harper's Magazine_
alone published no fewer than ten long serials by English novelists:
_Denis Duval_ by Thackeray; _The Small House at Allington_ by Trollope;
_Our Mutual Friend_ by Dickens; _The Unkind Word_, _Woman's Kingdom_,
and _A Brave Lady_ by Dinah Mulock Craik; _Armadale_ by Wilkie Collins;
_My Enemy's Daughter_ by Justin M'Carthy; _Anteros_ by the Author of
_Guy Livingstone_ [G. A. Lawrence]; and _Anne Furness_ by the Author of
_Mabel's Progress_ [Mrs. T. A. Trollope]. Even the _Atlantic Monthly_
left its New England group of producers to publish Charles Reade's
_Griffith Gaunt_ in twelve instalments. In 1871 _Scribner's Monthly_
began the prospectus of its second volume with this announcement:

    Our contributors are among the best who write in the
    English language. George MacDonald--"the best of living
    story-writers"--will continue his beautiful story, entitled
    _Wilfred Cumbermede_, throughout the volume. We have the
    refusal of all Hans Christian Andersen's stories at the
    hand of his best translator, Mr. Horace E. Scudder. We have
    engaged the pen of Miss Thackeray, now regarded as the finest
    story-writer among the gifted women of Great Britain--not even
    excepting George Eliot. Mrs. Oliphant has written especially
    for us an exquisitely characteristic story, etc.

The feebleness of the period was understood even at the time. Charles
Eliot Norton wrote Lowell in 1874: "There is not much in the magazine
[_Atlantic_] that is likely to be read twice save by its writers, and
this is what the great public likes. There must be a revival of letters
in America, if literature as an art is not to become extinct. You
should hear Godkin express himself in private on this topic."[37]

No wonder that the book-reviewer of _Harper's Magazine_ for May, 1870,
with nothing better before him than _Miss Van Kortland_, Anonymous;
_Hedged In_, by Miss Phelps; and _Askaros Kassis_, by DeLeon, should
have begun his review, "We are so weary of depending on England,
France, and Germany for fiction, and so hungry for some genuine
American romance, that we are not inclined to read very critically
the three characteristic American novels which lie on our table." No
wonder that when Harte's _The Luck of Roaring Camp_ in the _Overland
Monthly_ was read in the _Atlantic_ office, Fields sent by return mail
a request "upon the most flattering terms" for another story like it,
and that the same mail brought also papers and reviews "welcoming the
little foundling of California literature with an enthusiasm that half
frightened its author."[38]

The new American fiction began with Bret Harte.


I

To turn from Mark Twain to Bret Harte is like turning from the great
river on a summer night, fragrant and star-lit, to the glamour and
unreality of the city theater. No contrast could be more striking.
Francis Brett Harte, born August 25, 1839, was preëminently a man
of the East and preëminently also a man of the city. He was born
at Albany, New York, he spent his childhood in Providence, Rhode
Island, in Philadelphia, in Lowell, Massachusetts, in Boston and other
places, and the formative years between nine and eighteen he passed
in Brooklyn and New York City. He lived all his young life in an
atmosphere of culture. His father, a Union College man, a scholar, and
a teacher who knew French and Spanish and Italian, Latin and Greek,
had accumulated a large and well-selected library in which the boy,
frail and sensitive, too frail in his early years to attend school,
spent much of his childhood, reading Shakespeare and Froissart at six
and Charles Dickens at seven. His mother, a woman of culture, directed
his reading, and criticized with discernment his earliest attempts
at poetry. It was the training school for a poet, a Bryant or a
Longfellow, who should look to the older art for models and be inspired
with the dream that had sent Irving and Willis and Taylor as pilgrims
to the holy lands of literature across the sea.

The turning point in Harte's life came in 1854, when he was in his
fifteenth year. His biographer, Merwin, tells the story:

    In 1853 his mother [who had been a widow for nine years] went
    to California with a party of relatives and friends, in order
    to make her home there with her elder son, Henry. She had
    intended to take with her the other two children, Margaret
    and Francis Brett; but as the daughter was in school, she
    left the two behind for a few months, and they followed in
    February, 1854. They traveled by the Nicaragua route, and after
    a long, tiresome, but uneventful journey, landed safely in San
    Francisco.[39]

The mother must have remarried shortly after her arrival in California,
for two sentences later on the biographer records that "They went the
next morning to Oakland across the Bay, where their mother and her
second husband, Colonel Andrew Williams, were living."

The young poet had been transplanted into new and strange soil and
he took root slowly. During the next year, making his home with his
mother at Oakland, he attempted to teach school and then to serve
as an apothecary's assistant, but he made little headway in either
profession. His heart was far away from the rough, new land that he had
entered. He wrote poems and stories and sketches and sent them to the
Eastern magazines; he read interminably, and dreamed of literature just
as Aldrich and Timrod and Hayne and Stedman and Stoddard were even then
dreaming of it on the other side of the continent.

The next two years of his life, despite the efforts of his biographers,
are vague and conjectural. It was his wander period. He began as tutor
in a private family in Humboldt County, then, according to Charles
Warren Stoddard, "he was an express messenger in the mountains when the
office was the target of every lawless rifle in the territory; he was
glutted with adventurous experiences."[40] Not for long, however. He
seems to have spent the rest of the two years--prosaic anticlimax!--as
a type-setter on the _Humboldt Times_ and the _Northern California_, as
a teacher in the town of Union, and as a drug clerk. That he ever was a
miner is gravely to be doubted. He had small taste for roughing it and
little sympathy with the typical California life of the times. He was
a poet, rather, a man of the city, a reader of romance, how wide and
attentive a reader we may judge from _Condensed Novels_ which he soon
after began to contribute to the San Francisco press.

The events in his life during the next fourteen years in San Francisco
are quickly summarized. For the greater part of it he was connected
with the _Golden Era_, first as a type-setter and later as an editor
and contributor. In 1862 he was married. Two years later he was
appointed Secretary of the California Mint, an office that allowed
him abundant time for literary work. He was connected with Webb's
brilliant and short-lived _Californian_, first as contributor and
later as editor, and in 1868, when the _Overland Monthly_, which was
to be the _Atlantic_ of Western America, was founded, he was made the
editor. _The Luck of Roaring Camp_ in the second number and _Plain
Language from Truthful James_ in the September, 1870, number, brought
him a popularity that in suddenness and extent had had no precedent in
America, save in the case of Mrs. Stowe and _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. The
enormous applause intoxicated him; California became too narrow and
provincial; and in 1871 he left it, joyous as one who is returning home
after long exile.


II

If we may trust Harte's own statement, made, it must be remembered, in
the retrospect of later years, he set out deliberately to add a new
province to American literature. During the period between 1862 and
1867, he wrote, according to his own statement, "_The Society upon the
Stanislaus_ and _The Story of M'liss_--the first a dialectical poem,
the second a California romance--his first efforts toward indicating a
peculiarly characteristic Western American literature. He would like
to offer these facts as evidence of his very early, half-boyish, but
very enthusiastic belief in such a possibility--a belief which never
deserted him, and which, a few years later, from the better known pages
of the _Overland Monthly_, he was able to demonstrate to a larger and
more cosmopolitan audience in the story of _The Luck of Roaring Camp_,
and the poem of _The Heathen Chinee_."[41]

But the poem and the romance were not his first efforts toward a
peculiarly characteristic Western American literature. His first
vision of the literary possibilities of the region had been inspired
by Irving, and he wrote in the _Sketch Book_ manner during the
greater part of his seventeen years upon the Pacific Coast. Behind
the California of the gold and the excitement lay three hundred years
of an old Spanish civilization. What Irving had done for the Hudson
why could he not do for the Mission lands and the Spanish occupation,
"that glorious Indian summer of California history, around which so
much poetical haze still lingers--that bland, indolent autumn of
Spanish rule, so soon to be followed by the wintry storms of Mexican
independence and the reviving springs of American conquest"?[42] It was
a vision worthy of a Hawthorne. That it possessed him for years and was
abandoned with reluctance is evident to one who examines his early work.

He voiced it in _The Angelus, Heard at the Mission Dolores, 1868_, in
the same volume of the _Overland Monthly_ that contained _The Luck of
Roaring Camp_:

        Borne on the swell of your long waves receding,
          I touch the further Past--
        I see the dying glow of Spanish glory,
          The sunset dream and last.

        Before me rise the dome-shaped Mission towers;
          The white Presidio;
        The swart commander in his leathern jerkin,
          The priest in stole of snow.

        Once more I see Portata's cross uplifting
          Above the setting sun;
        And past the headland, northward, slowly drifting
          The freighted galleon.

It must not be forgotten that his _Legend of Monte del Diablo_, a
careful Irvingesque romance, appeared in the _Atlantic Monthly_ as
early as 1863. During the same period he wrote _The Right Eye of the
Commander_, _The Legend of Devil's Point_, _The Adventure of Padre
Viventio_, and many short pieces, enough, indeed, to make up a volume
the size of _The Sketch Book_.

Despite its echoes of Irving, it is significant work. Harte was the
first to catch sight of a whole vast field of American romance. Again
and again he recurs to it in his later poetry and prose; notably in
_Concepcion de Arguello_ and its prose version on page 191 of the first
volume of the _Overland Monthly_, _A Convert of the Mission_, _The
Story of a Mine_, _In the Carquinez Woods_, and in _Gabriel Conroy_,
that chaotic book which has in it the materials for the greatest of
American romances. Whenever he touches this old Spanish land he throws
over it the mellow Washington Irving glow that had so thrilled him
in his earlier years, and he writes with power. The Spanish part of
_Gabriel Conroy_ is exquisite; its atmosphere is faultless:

    If there was a spot on earth of which the usual dead monotony
    of the California seasons seemed a perfectly consistent
    and natural expression, that spot was the ancient and
    time-honored _pueblo_ and Mission of the blessed St. Anthony.
    The changeless, cloudless, expressionless skies of the summer
    seemed to symbolize that aristocratic conservatism which
    expelled all innovation and was its distinguishing mark....

    As he drew rein in the court-yard of the first large _adobe_
    dwelling, and received the grave welcome of a strange but
    kindly face, he saw around him everywhere the past unchanged.
    The sun shone as brightly and fiercely on the long red tiles
    of the low roofs, that looked as if they had been thatched
    with longitudinal slips of cinnamon, even as it had shone for
    the last hundred years; the gaunt wolf-like dogs ran out and
    barked at him as their fathers and mothers had barked at the
    preceding stranger of twenty years before. There were the few
    wild, half-broken mustangs tethered by strong riatas before the
    veranda of the long low _Fonda_, with the sunlight glittering
    on their silver trappings; there were the broad, blank expanses
    of whitewashed _adobe_ wall, as barren and guiltless of record
    as the uneventful days, as monotonous and expressionless as the
    staring sky above; there were the white, dome-shaped towers of
    the Mission rising above the green of olives and pear trees,
    twisted, gnarled and knotted with the rheumatism of age. ...
    The steamers that crept slowly up the darkening coast line were
    something remote, unreal, and phantasmal; since the Philippine
    galleon had left its bleached and broken ribs in the sand in
    1640, no vessel had, in the memory of man, dropped anchor in
    the open roadstead below the curving Point of Pines.

Meager and fragmentary as these Spanish sketches are, they nevertheless
opened the way for a new school of American romance.


III

Harte's first story with other than a legendary theme was _M'liss_,
written for the _Golden Era_ sometime before 1867. For the student
of his literary art it is the most important of all his writings,
especially important because of the revision which he made of it later
after he had evolved his final manner. It is transition work. The
backgrounds are traced in with Irving-like care; the character of the
schoolmaster is done with artistic restraint and certainty of touch.
M'liss is exquisitely handled. There is nothing better in all his work
than this study of the fiery, jealous little heart of the neglected
child. It is not necessarily a California story; it could have
happened as well even in New England. It is not _genre_ work, not mere
exploiting of local oddities; it is worked out in life itself, and it
strikes the universal human chord that brings it into the realm of true
art.

But even in the earlier version of the story there are false notes.
The names of the characters strike us as unusual: M'liss, McSnagley,
Morpher, Clytemnestra, Kerg, Aristides, Cellerstina. We feel that the
author is straining for the unusual; and we feel it more when the Rev.
Joshua McSnagley comes upon the scene:

    The reverend gentleman was glad to see him. Moreover, he
    observed that the master was looking "peartish," and hoped he
    had got over the "neuralgy" and "rheumatiz." He himself had
    been troubled with the dumb "ager" since last conference. But
    he had learned to "rastle and pray." Pausing a moment to enable
    the master to write his certain method of curing the dumb
    "ager" upon the book and volume of his brain, Mr. McSnagley
    proceeded to inquire after Sister Morpher. "She is an adornment
    to Christewanity, and has a likely growin' young family," added
    Mr. McSnagley.

Somehow it does not ring true. The author is thinking of the effect
he hopes to produce. He must fill his reader with wonder. "A saintly
Raphael-face, with blond beard and soft blue eyes, belonging to the
biggest scamp in the diggings, turned toward the child and whispered,
'Stick to it, M'liss.'" That sentence is the key to the author's later
manner. "Life in California is a paradox," he seems everywhere to say,
"just look at this."

The transition from F. B. Harte the poet and romancer to Bret Harte the
paradox maker and showman came through Dickens. It was the Dickens era
in America. The great novelist had made his second tour of the country
between November, 1867, and April, 1868, and his journeyings had been
a triumphal progress. All classes everywhere were reading his books,
and great numbers knew them literally by heart. Dickens wrote home from
Washington, "Mr. Secretary Staunton (War Minister) was here.... He is
acquainted with the minutest details of my books. Give him a passage
anywhere and he will instantly cap it and go on with the context....
Never went to sleep at night without first reading something from my
books which were always with him."[43] The same could have been said
of Harte himself. Says Pemberton, "His knowledge of his [Dickens's]
books was unrivaled.... He could have passed Charles Calverley's
famous Pickwick Examination Paper with honors."[44] Everybody knew
his Dickens; for a generation men could not speak of the man with
moderation. Even a critic like Moncure D. Conway could say of _Oliver
Twist_ and _The Old Curiosity Shop_: "To this day I cannot help
suspecting the sanity of any one who does not concede that they are the
two best novels ever written."[45] The death of Dickens in 1870 let
loose all over America a flood of eulogy and increased enormously the
already great sales of his books.

The art of Dickens was peculiar. He had found in the lower strata of
the population of London, that vast settling pool of Great Britain,
a society made up of many sharply individualized personalities,
abnormalities in body and soul, results of the peculiar inflexible
characteristics of the English race and their hard and fast social
distinctions. From fragments of this lower London Dickens built him a
world of his own and peopled it with composite creations such as one
finds nowhere save in the folklore of a primitive people--creatures as
strange as their names, Quilp, Scrooge, Cratchit, Squeers, Snagsby. So
tremendously did he believe in them, that we believe in them ourselves.
So overflowing was he with high spirits and boisterous laughter that
before we realize it we have surrendered completely and are living
hilariously not in a land of actual men and women, but in the world
that never was and never can be save in the books of Dickens. He never
analyzed, he never sought the heart of things, or got at all below
the surface of his characters; he was content simply to exhibit his
marvelous creations with all their ludicrous incongruities, and the
show is so entertaining and the showman exhibits it with such zest,
such joyous abandon, that we stand like children and lose ourselves in
wonder and enjoyment.

We can see now that the time was ripe for a California Dickens. There
was a prepared audience--the whole nation was reading the great
novelist of the people. California, moreover, was in the fierce
light of the gold excitement--anything that came from it would find
eager readers. It was a veritable Dickens land, more full of strange
types than even the slums of London: Pikes, Greasers, Yankees,
Chinese, gamblers, adventurers from all the wild places of the world,
desperadoes, soldiers of fortune, restless seekers for excitement and
gold. Everything was ready. Harte doubtless blundered into his success;
doubtless he did not reason about the matter at all, yet the result
remains the same: he came at the precise moment with the precise form
of literature that the world was most sure to accept. It came about as
the most natural thing in the world. Saturated with Dickens as he had
been from his childhood, it is not strange that this motley society and
its amazing surroundings should have appealed to him from the objective
and the picturesque side; it is not strange that, even as did Dickens,
he should have selected types and heightened them and peopled a new
world with them; it is not strange that he should have given these
types Dickens-like names: Miggles, McCorkle, Culpepper Starbottle,
Calhoun Bungstarter, Fagg, Twinkler, Rattler, Mixer, Stubbs, Nibbles.
His work is redolent of Dickens. Sometimes we seem to be reading a
clever parody after the fashion of the _Condensed Novels_, as for
instance this from _The Romance of Madrono Hollow_:

    There was not much to hear. The hat was saying to the ribbons
    that it was a fine night, and remarking generally upon the
    clear outline of the Sierras against the blue-black sky. The
    ribbons, it so appeared, had admired this all the way home,
    and asked the hat if it had ever seen anything half so lovely
    as the moonlight on the summit? The hat never had; it recalled
    some lovely nights in the South in Alabama ("in the South in
    Ahlabahm" was the way the old man had heard it), but then
    there were other things that made the night seem so pleasant.
    The ribbons could not possibly conceive what the hat could be
    thinking about. At this point there was a pause, of which Mr.
    Folinsbee availed himself to walk very grimly and craunchingly
    down the gravel walk toward the gate. Then the hat was lifted,
    and disappeared in the shadow, and Mr. Folinsbee confronted
    only the half-foolish, half-mischievous, but wholly pretty face
    of his daughter.

_M'liss_ is full of such echoes. A little later than _M'liss_, when he
was required to furnish the _Overland_ with a distinctly Californian
story, he set about examining his field precisely as Dickens would
have done. "What are some of the most unusual phases of this unique
epoch?" he asked himself. During a short period women and children
were rare in the remote mining districts. What would result if a baby
were born in one of the roughest and most masculine of the camps? It
is not hard to conjecture how Dickens would have handled the problem;
_The Luck of Roaring Camp_ is Harte's solution. The situation and the
characters are both unique. They would have been impossible in any
other place or at any other moment in the world's history. So with all
of Harte's later stories: undoubtedly there may have been a Roaring
Camp and undoubtedly there were Cherokee Sals and Kentucks, undoubtedly
the gold rush developed here and there Jack Hamlins and Tennessees and
Uncle Billys and Yuba Bills. The weakness of Harte is that he takes
these and peoples California with them. Like Dickens, he selects a few
picturesque and grotesque exceptions and makes of them a whole social
system.

Harte had nothing of the earnestness and the sincerity of the older
master; after a time he outgrew his manner, and evolved a style of
his own--compressed, rapid, picturesque; but this early point of view
he never changed. He sought ever for the startling and the dramatic
and he elaborated the outside of it with care. He studied the map of
California for picturesque names, just as Dickens studied the street
signs of London. He passed by the common materials of human life to
exhibit the strange phenomena of one single accidental moment in a
corner of America.

Once he had begun, however, there was no possibility of stopping.
The people demanded work like _The Luck of Roaring Camp_ and would
accept nothing else. It is pathetic to see him during the early years
of his great fame, trying to impress upon the reading public that he
is a poet after the old definition of the word. The _Atlantic_ had
paid him $10,000 to write for a year work like _The Luck of Roaring
Camp_. He gave four stories, and he gave also five careful poems of
the Longfellow-Whittier type. By 1873 he had put forth no fewer than
fourteen books, nine of them being poems or collections of his poetry.
In vain. The public ordered him back to the mines and camps that even
then were as obsolete as the pony express across the Plains.

Despite his biographers, the latter part of his life is full of
mystery. After seven years of literary work in New York City, he
went in 1878 as consul to Crefeld, Germany. Two years later he was
transferred to Glasgow, Scotland, where he remained for five years. The
rest of his life he spent in London, writing year after year new books
of California stories. He never returned to America; he was estranged
from his family; he seemed to wish to sever himself entirely from all
that had to do with his earlier life. He died May 5, 1902, and was
buried in Frimby churchyard, in Surrey.


IV

A novelist must rise or fall with his characters. What of Harte?
First of all we must observe that he makes no attempts at character
development. Each personage introduced is the same at the close of
the story as at the opening. He has no fully studied character: we
have a burning moment, a flashlight glimpse--intense, paradoxical,
startling, then no more. We never see the person again. The name may
appear in later sketches, but it never designates the same man. Colonel
Starbottle is consistent from story to story only in make-up, in stage
"business," and the well known "gags"--as, for instance, a succession
of phrases qualified by the adjective "blank." "Yuba Bill" is Harte's
synonym for stage driver, "Jack Hamlin" for gambler. We have a feeling
constantly that the characters are brought in simply to excite wonder.
Gabriel Conroy devotes his life for years to the finding of his sister
Grace. He leaves his wife to search for her; he can think of nothing
else; yet when at length he does find her among the witnesses in a
courtroom he takes it as a mere commonplace. A moment later, however,
when told that his wife, for whom we know he cares nothing at all, has
given birth to a son, he falls headlong in a swoon.

His characters may perhaps be true to facts; he may be able to give the
prototype in every case; and yet we are not convinced. The stories told
by the college freshman at home during his first Christmas vacation
may all be true, and yet they may give a very false idea of college
life in its entirety. So it is with Harte. The very year that he landed
in California a procession of one thousand children, each child with
a flower in his hand, marched one day in San Francisco. _The Luck of
Roaring Camp_ gives no such impression. In all save the remotest camps
there were churches and worshipers, yet who would suspect it from
Harte's tales? California has never accepted Harte's picture of its
life, just as the South has never accepted _Uncle Tom's Cabin_. It is
not fair to picture an era simply by dwelling on its exceptions and its
grotesque possibilities. Art must rest upon the whole truth, not upon
half truths.

The truth is that the man had no deep and abiding philosophy of life;
he had indeed no philosophy at all. In the words of his discerning
biographer, Merwin,

    There was a want of background, both intellectual and moral,
    in his nature. He was an observer, not a thinker, and his
    genius was shown only as he lived in the life of others. Even
    his poetry is dramatic, not lyric. It was very seldom that
    Bret Harte, in his tales or elsewhere, advanced any abstract
    sentiment or idea; he was concerned only with the concrete;
    and it is noticeable that when he does venture to lay down
    a general principle, it fails to bear the impress of real
    conviction. The note of sincerity is wanting.[46]

The fact that his rascals in a crisis often do deeds of sublime heroism
must not deceive us, despite the author's protestations of a great
moral purpose underlying his work.

    Without claiming to be a religious man or a moralist, but
    simply as an artist, he shall reverently and humbly conform to
    the rules laid down by a Great Poet who created the parables
    of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, whose works have
    lasted eighteen hundred years, and will remain when the
    present writer and his generation are forgotten. And he is
    conscious of uttering no original doctrine in this, but of only
    voicing the beliefs of a few of his literary brethren happily
    living, and one gloriously dead, who never made proclamation of
    this from the housetops.[47]

This is insincere to the point of bathos. We feel like saying, "Bah!"
Harte makes his villains heroes at the crisis simply to add _finesse_
to his tale. He is dealing with paradoxes; he is working for his
reader's wonder. If in a moment where pity is expected, woman is harsh
and man tender; if the reputed good man is a rascal at the supreme
test, and the reputed rascal proves suddenly to be a saint, it adds to
the effectiveness of the tale.

Everywhere there is the atmosphere of the theater. The painted
backgrounds are marvels of skill. There are vast color effects, and
picturesque tableaux. There is a theatric quality about the heroines;
we can see the make-up upon their faces. Too often they talk the
stagiest of stage talk as in the first parting scene between Grace
Conroy and Arthur Poinset. The end is always a drop-curtain effect.
Even _Tennessee's Partner_ must have its appropriate curtain. We
can imagine a double curtain for _The Outcasts of Poker Flat_: the
first tableau showing the two dead women in the snow, the second the
inscription over the body of Oakhurst, the gambler. Instead of closing
the book with a long breath as after looking at a quivering section of
human life, we say, "How strange! What brilliant work!" and we feel
like clapping our hands for a tableau of all the cast, the spot light,
and the quick curtain.

Bret Harte had no real affection for the West; he never again visited
it; he never even wrote to the friends he had left there. With Mark
Twain it was greatly different. The West to him was home; he loved it;
he recorded its deepest life with sympathy. To Harte it was simply a
source of literary material. He skimmed its surface and found only the
melodramatic and the sensational.


V

And yet after all the real strength of Bret Harte came from his contact
with this Western soil. Irving and Dickens and the early models that
had so molded him served only to teach him his trade; the breath of
life in his works all came from the new life of the West. It would be
impossible for one to live during seventeen years of his early life in
an atmosphere like that of the west coast and not be transformed by it.
Taking his work altogether there is in it far more of California than
there is of Dickens or of all the others of the older writers. Only a
few things of the life of the West seem to have impressed him. He lived
fifteen years in San Francisco yet we see almost nothing of that city
in his work; the dramatic career of the Vigilantes he touched upon
almost not at all. He selected the remote mining camps for his field
and yet he seems to have been impressed by very few of the types that
were found in them. Only a few of them ring true at every point, Yuba
Bill the stage driver is one. We feel that he was drawn by a master who
has actually lived with his model. Yuba Bill is the typical man of the
region and the period--masterful, self-reliant, full of a humor that is
elemental. There is no prolonged study of him. We see him for a tense
moment as the stage swings up to the station, and then he is gone. He
is as devoid of sentimentality as even Horace Bixby. The company have
been shouting "Miggles!" at the dark cabin but have got no reply save
from what proves later to have been a parrot:

    "Extraordinary echo," said the Judge.

    "Extraordinary d--d skunk!" roared the driver contemptuously.
    "Come out of that, Miggles, and show yourself. Be a man."

    Miggles, however, did not appear.

    Yuba Bill hesitated no longer. Taking a heavy stone from the
    road, he battered down the gate, and with the expressman
    entered the enclosure....

    "Do you know this Miggles?" asked the Judge of Yuba Bill.

    "No, nor don't want to," said Bill shortly.

    "But, my dear sir," expostulated the Judge, as he thought of
    the barred gate.

    "Lookee here," said Yuba Bill, with fine irony, "hadn't you
    better go back and sit in the coach till yer introduced? I'm
    going in," and he pushed open the door of the building.

That rings true. If one were obliged to ride at night over a wild,
road-agent-infested trail there is no character in all fiction whom we
would more gladly have for driver than Yuba Bill. We would like to see
more of him than the brief glimpses allowed us by his creator.

The humor in Harte is largely Western humor. There is the true
California ring in such conversations, for instance, as those in the
earlier pages of _Uncle Jim and Uncle Billy_. It is an atmosphere
rather than a series of hits. One finds it in _The Outcasts of Poker
Flat_:

    A few of the committee had urged hanging him [Oakhurst] as a
    possible example, and a sure method of reimbursing themselves
    from his pockets of the sums he had won from them. "It's agin
    justice," said Jim Wheeler, "to let this yer young man from
    Roaring Camp--an entire stranger--carry away our money." But a
    crude sentiment of equity residing in the breasts of those who
    had been fortunate enough to win from Mr. Oakhurst overruled
    this narrower local prejudice.

This atmosphere of humor shimmers through all of the stories. There is
never uproarious merriment, but there is constant humor. The conjugal
troubles of the "old man" in _How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's Bar_
are thus touched upon:

    His first wife, a delicate, pretty little woman, had suffered
    keenly and secretly from the jealous suspicions of her husband,
    until one day he invited the whole Bar to his house to expose
    her infidelity. On arriving, the party found the shy, _petite_
    creature quietly engaged in her household duties and retired
    abashed and discomfited. But the sensitive woman did not easily
    recover from her shock of this extraordinary outrage. It was
    with difficulty she regained her equanimity sufficiently to
    release her lover from the closet in which he was concealed and
    escape with him. She left a boy of three years to comfort her
    bereaved husband. The old man's present wife had been his cook.
    She was large, loyal, and aggressive.

His characters are exceptions and his situations are theatric, yet for
all that he cannot be ignored. He caught the spirit of the early mining
camps and with it the romantic atmosphere of the old Spanish Colonial
civilization that was swept away by the Anglo-Saxon rush for gold. His
name cannot fail to go down with the era he recorded, and to identify
oneself forever with an era, even though that era be a brief and
restricted one, is no small achievement. He is the writer of the epic
of the gold rush of the middle century in America, and whatever the
quality of that epic may be, it can never be forgotten. He said in 1868:

    It may not have been an heroic era; it may have been a
    hard, ugly, unworked, vulgar and lawless era; but of such
    are heroes and aristocracies born. Three hundred years, and
    what a glamor shall hang about it!... A thousand years, and
    a new Virgil sings the American Æneid with the episode of
    Jason and the California golden fleece, and the historians
    tell us it is a myth! Laugh, my pioneer friends, but your
    great-great-great-great-grandchildren shall weep reverential
    tears. History, as was said of martyrdom, is "mean in the
    making" but how heroic it becomes in the perspective of five
    centuries![48]

And in many ways his work is really of epic strength. He dealt with
elemental men, often with veritable demigods, as Yuba Bill. His
canvases are as broad as those even of Mark Twain. His human drama is
played before a truly Western background. While Tennessee is being
tried for his life, "Above all this, etched on the dark firmament, rose
the Sierra, remote and passionless, crowned with remoter passionless
stars." At moments of crisis the narrative always moves with power. The
wolves and the fire in the story _In the Carquinez Woods_ are intensely
vivid and lurid in their presentation. The ride from Simpson's Bar is
told with the graphic thrill of an eye-witness, and the description of
the snow-storm at the opening of _Gabriel Conroy_ reminds one of Thomas
Hardy.


VI

Finally, Harte was the parent of the modern form of the short story.
It was he who started Kipling and Cable and Thomas Nelson Page. Few
indeed have surpassed him in the mechanics of this most difficult of
arts. According to his own belief, the form is an American product. We
can do no better than to quote from his essay on _The Rise of the Short
Story_. It traces the evolution of a peculiarly American addition to
literature.

    But while the American literary imagination was still under
    the influence of English tradition, an unexpected factor was
    developing to diminish its power. It was _humor_, of a quality
    as distinct and original as the country and civilization
    in which it was developed. It was first noticeable in the
    anecdote or "story," and, after the fashion of such beginnings,
    was orally transmitted. It was common in the bar-rooms, the
    gatherings in the "country store," and finally at public
    meetings in the mouths of "stump orators." Arguments were
    clinched and political principles illustrated by "a funny
    story." It invaded even the camp meeting and pulpit. It at
    last received the currency of the public press. But wherever
    met it was so distinctly original and novel, so individual
    and characteristic, that it was at once known and appreciated
    abroad as "an American story." Crude at first, it received
    a literary polish in the press, but its dominant quality
    remained. It was concise and condense, yet suggestive. It was
    delightfully extravagant, or a miracle of under-statement.
    It voiced not only the dialect, but the habits of thought of
    a people or locality. It gave a new interest to slang. From
    a paragraph of a dozen lines it grew into half a column, but
    always retaining its conciseness and felicity of statement. It
    was a foe to prolixity of any kind; it admitted no fine writing
    nor affectation of style. It went directly to the point. It was
    burdened by no conscientiousness; it was often irreverent; it
    was devoid of all moral responsibility, but it was original!
    By degrees it developed character with its incident, often,
    in a few lines, gave a striking photograph of a community
    or a section, but always reached its conclusion without an
    unnecessary word. It became--and still exists as--an essential
    feature of newspaper literature. It was the parent of the
    American "short story."[49]

Harte has described the genesis of his own art. It sprang from the
Western humor and was developed by the circumstances that surrounded
him. Many of his short stories are models. They contain not a
superfluous word; they handle a single incident with graphic power;
they close without moral or comment. The form came as a natural
evolution from his limitations and powers. With him the story must of
necessity be brief. He who depicts the one good deed in a wicked life
must of necessity use a small canvas. At one moment in his career Jack
Hamlin or Mother Shipton or Sandy does a truly heroic deed, but the
author must not extend his inquiries too far. To make a novel with
Mother Shipton as heroine would be intolerable.

Harte was unable to hold himself long to any one effort. Like Byron, he
must bring down his quarry at a single spring; he had no patience to
pursue it at length. _Gabriel Conroy_ is at the same time the best and
the worst American novel of the century. It is the best in its wealth
of truly American material and in the brilliant passages that strew its
pages; it is the worse in that it utterly fails in its construction,
and that it builds up its characters wholly from the outside. Its
hero, moreover, changes his personality completely three times during
the story, and its heroine is first an uneducated Pike maiden of the
Southwest, then a Spanish señorita:

    Features small, and perfectly modeled; the outline of the small
    face was a perfect oval, but the complection was of burnished
    copper.... The imperious habit of command; an almost despotic
    control of a hundred servants; a certain barbaric contempt
    for the unlimited revenues at her disposal that prompted the
    act, became her wonderfully. In her impatience the quick blood
    glanced through her bronzed cheek, her little slipper tapped
    the floor imperiously and her eyes flashed in the darkness.

Later we learn that she had been adopted into this Spanish family
after her lover had abandoned her in the earlier chapters, and had
been given her complexion by means of a vegetable stain. But there is
still another lightning change. At the end of the book she becomes a
Pike again and weakly marries the unrepentant rascal who earlier had
betrayed her. In the words of Artemus Ward, "it is too much." It is not
even good melodrama, for in melodrama the villain is punished at the
end.

Bret Harte was the artist of impulse, the painter of single burning
moments, the flashlight photographer who caught in lurid detail one
dramatic episode in the life of a man or a community and left the rest
in darkness.


VII

In his later years Harte's backgrounds became less sharp in outline.
His methods grew more romantic; his atmospheres more mellow and golden.
The old Spanish dream of the days of his early art possessed him again,
and he added to his gallery of real creations--M'liss, Yuba Bill, Jack
Hamlin, Tennessee's Partner--one that perhaps is the strongest of
them all, Enriquez Saltillo, the last of a fading race. Nothing Harte
ever did will surpass that creation of his old age. In _Chu Chu_,
_The Devotion of Enriquez_, and _The Passing of Enriquez_ we have the
fitting close of the work of the romancer of the west coast. For once
at least he saw into the heart of a man. Listen to Enriquez as he makes
his defense:

    Then they say, "Dry up, and sell out"; and the great bankers
    say, "Name your own price for your stock, and resign." And
    I say, "There is not gold enough in your bank, in your San
    Francisco, in the mines of California, that shall buy a Spanish
    gentleman. When I leave, I leave the stock at my back; I shall
    take it, nevarre!" Then the banker he say, "And you will go
    and blab, I suppose?" And then, Pancho, I smile, I pick up my
    mustache--so! and I say: "Pardon, señor, you haf mistake. The
    Saltillo haf for three hundred year no stain, no blot upon him.
    Eet is not now--the last of the race--who shall confess that
    he haf sit at a board of disgrace and dishonor!" And then it
    is that the band begin to play, and the animals stand on their
    hind legs and waltz, and behold, the row he haf begin.

It is the atmosphere of romance, for the mine which had caused all the
trouble had been in the family three hundred years and it had become
a part of the family itself. When it passed into the hands of the new
régime, when his wife, who also was of the new régime, deserted him,
then passed Enriquez. The earth that for three hundred years had borne
his fathers opened at the earthquake and took him to herself. It was
the conception of a true romancer. The work of Bret Harte opened and
closed with a vision of romance, a vision worthy even of a Hawthorne.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  BRET HARTE. (1839-1902.) _The Lost Galleon and Other Tales_
  [Poems], 1867; _Condensed Novels and Other Papers_, 1867; _The
  Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches_, 1870; _Plain Language
  from Truthful James_, 1870; _The Pliocene Skull_, 1871; _Poems_,
  1871; _East and West Poems_, 1871; _The Heathen Chinee and Other
  Poems_, 1871; _Poetical Works_, 1872; _Mrs. Skagg's Husbands_,
  1873; _M'liss: An Idyl of Red Mountain_, 1873; _Echoes of the
  Foot-Hills_ [Poems], 1875; _Tales of the Argonauts_, 1875;
  _Gabriel Conroy_, 1876; _Two Men of Sandy Bar_, 1876; _Thankful
  Blossom_, 1877; _The Story of a Mine_, 1878; _Drift from Two
  Shores_, 1878; _The Twins of Table Mountain_, 1879; Works in
  five volumes, 1882; _Flip, and Found at Blazing Star_, 1882; _In
  the Carquinez Woods_, 1884; _On the Frontier_, 1884; _Maruja_,
  1885; _By Shore and Sedge_, 1885; _Snow Bound at Eagle's_, 1885;
  _A Millionaire of Rough-and-Ready_, 1887; _The Crusade of the
  Excelsior_, 1887; _The Argonauts of North Liberty_, 1888; _A
  Phyllis of the Sierras_, 1888; _Cressy_, 1889; _The Heritage of
  Dedlow Marsh_, 1889; _A Waif of the Plains_, 1890; _A Ward of the
  Golden Gate_, 1890; _A Sappho of Green Springs_, 1891; _Colonel
  Starbottle's Client_, 1892; _A First Family of Tasajara_,
  1892; _Susy: a Story of the Plains_, 1893; _Sally Dows and
  Other Stories_, 1893; _A Protégé of Jack Hamlin's_, 1894; _The
  Bell-Ringer of Angel's_, 1894; _In a Hollow of the Hills_, 1895;
  _Clarence_, 1895; _Barker's Luck_, 1896; _Three Partners_, 1897;
  _Tales of Trail and Town_, 1898; _Stories in Light and Shadow_,
  1898; _Mr. Jack Hamlin's Meditation_, 1899; _From Sandhill to
  Pine_, 1900; _Under the Redwoods_, 1901; _Openings in the Old
  Trail_, 1902; _Life of Bret Harte_, by T. Edgar Pemberton, 1903;
  _Bret Harte_, by Henry W. Boynton, 1905; _The Life of Bret Harte
  with Some Account of the California Pioneers_, by Henry Childs
  Merwin, 1911.



CHAPTER V

THE DISCOVERY OF PIKE COUNTY


The new era of vulgarity in literature, complained of by Stedman,
came as a revolt against mid-century tendencies. The movement was not
confined to America. In the early seventies, as we have seen, Millet
and his Breton peasants for a time took possession of French art;
Hardy with his Wessex natives caught the ear of England; Björnson made
the discovery that in the Scandinavian peasant lay the only survival
of the old Norse spirit; and the Russians Tourgenieff and Tolstoy
cast aside the old mythology and told with minuteness the life of the
peasant and the serf. Everywhere there was a swing toward the wild and
unconventional, even toward the coarse and repulsive. The effeminacy of
early Tennysonianism, the cloying sweetness of the mid-century annual,
Keatsism, _Hyperionism_, Heineism, had culminated in reaction. There
was a craving for the acrid tang of uncultivated things in borderlands
and fields unsown.

In America had sprung up a group of humorists who had filled the
newspapers and magazines of the era with that masculine laughter which
was echoing along the Mississippi and the Ohio and the gold camps of
the Sierras. They were pioneers; they were looking for incongruities
and exaggerations, and quite by accident they discovered a new American
type, the Pike,--strange creature to inspire a new literature.


I

America has evolved four types, perhaps five, that are unique "new
birth of our new soil": the Yankee of the Hosea Biglow and Sam Lawson
variety; the frontiersman and scout exemplified in Leather Stocking;
the Southern "darky" as depicted by Russell, Harris, Page, and others;
the circuit rider of the frontier period; and the Pike.

    "A Pike," says Bayard Taylor, "in the California dialect, is
    a native of Missouri, Arkansas, Northern Texas, or Southern
    Illinois. The first emigrants that came over the plains were
    from Pike County, Missouri; but as the phrase, 'a Pike County
    man,' was altogether too long for this short life of ours, it
    was soon abbreviated into 'a Pike.' Besides, the emigrants from
    the aforementioned localities belonged evidently to the same
    _genus_, and the epithet 'Western' was by no means sufficiently
    descriptive.... He is the Anglo-Saxon relapsed into
    semi-barbarism. He is long, lathy, and sallow; he expectorates
    vehemently; he takes naturally to whisky; he has the 'shakes'
    his life long at home, though he generally manages to get rid
    of them in California; he has little respect for the rights of
    others; he distrusts men in 'store clothes,' but venerates the
    memory of Andrew Jackson."[50]

Although he had not yet been named, the Pike had already figured in
American literature. George W. Harris had published in 1867 _Sut
Lovengood's Yarns_, a true piece of Pike literature; Longstreet had
drawn the type with fidelity in _Georgia Scenes_, Baldwin's _Flush
Times_, and the sketches of such ephemeral writers as Madison Tensas,
Sol Smith, T. W. Lane, T. A. Burke, and J. L. McConnel, the author of
_Western Characters_, had drawn the first broad outlines. In all this
work he was simply the crude, uncouth Westerner, the antithesis of the
man of the East.

The first to discover him in his California phase and to affix to
him for the first time in any book of moment the name Pike was "John
Phoenix" who in _Phoenixiana_ drew, as we have seen, a sketch which has
scarcely been improved upon by later writers. It was not until 1871,
however, that the name Pike and the peculiar type denoted by the name
became at all known to the reading public.

The instant and enormous vogue of Pike literature came almost by
accident. Bret Harte late in the sixties had dashed off in a happy
moment a humorous account of an attempt made by two California gamblers
to fleece an innocent Chinaman who turned out to be anything but
innocent. He had entitled the poem "Plain Language from Truthful James"
and had thrown it aside as a trifle. Some months later during the last
exciting moments before going to press with an edition of the _Overland
Monthly_ it was discovered that the form was one page short. There
was nothing ready but this poem, and with misgivings Harte inserted
it. The result was nothing less than amazing. It proved to be the
most notable page in the history of the magazine. The poem captured
the East completely; it was copied and quoted and laughed at in every
corner of the country. It swept through England and beyond. _The Luck
of Roaring Camp_ and the two or three strong pieces that followed it
had given Harte a certain vogue in the East, but now he swiftly became
not only a national, but an international figure. The fame of the
"Heathen Chinee," as the poem was now called, brought out of obscurity
other poems written by Harte during his editorial days, among them
"The Society upon the Stanislaus," and it gave wings to other verses
that he now wrote in the "Heathen Chinee" meter and stanza--"Dow's
Flat" and "Penelope." Quickly there were added "Jim," "Chiquita," "In
the Tunnel," and "Cicely," all of them dealing not with the "heathen
Chinee" of his first great strike, but with that other picturesque
figure of early California, the Pike.

                      It was _gold_,--in the quartz,
                        And it ran all alike;
                      And I reckon five oughts
                        Was the worth of that strike;
        And that house with the coopilow's his'n,--which the same isn't
            bad for a Pike.

These poems with others were published in 1871 with the title _East and
West Poems_. The Pike County pieces in the volume number altogether
seven; John Hay's _Pike County Ballads_, which came out in book form at
almost the same moment, numbered six--thirteen rather remarkable poems
when one considers the furore that they created and the vast influence
they exerted upon their times.

For a decade and more Pike County colored American literature. In 1871
J. G. Holland summed up the situation:

    The "Pike" ... has produced a strange and startling sensation
    in recent literature.... With great celerity he has darted
    through the columns of our newspapers, the pages of our
    magazines, while quiet, well-behaved contributors have stood
    one side and let him have his own wild way. And it began to
    seem, at one time, as if the ordinary, decent virtues of
    civilized society could stand no chance in comparison with the
    picturesque heroism of this savage in dialect.[51]

Much of Harte's fiction deals with this type. Save for Yuba Bill, who
was evidently a Northerner, the New Orleans gamblers like Oakhurst and
Jack Hamlin, and the Spanish and Mexican natives, his characters were
prevailingly Pikes. The dialect in all of his work is dominated by
this Southwestern element. In _The New Assistant at the Pine Clearing
School_, for instance, the leader of the strike discourses like this:
"We ain't hankerin' much for grammar and dictionary hogwash, and we
don't want no Boston parts o' speech rung in on us the first thing in
the mo'nin'. We ain't Boston--We're Pike County--we are." Tennessee's
Partner was a Pike, and Uncle Jim and Uncle Billy, and Kentuck and
Sandy--glorified to be sure and transformed by California and the
society of the mines, but none the less Pikes.

Following Harte and Hay came the outburst of local color fiction.
_The Hoosier Schoolmaster_, _Cape Cod Folks_, _Sam Lawson's Fireside
Stories_, _Hoosier Mosaics_, _Deephaven_, _Old Creole Days_, _In the
Tennessee Mountains_ were but the beginning. For two decades and more
American fiction ran to the study of local types and peculiar dialect.
The movement was not confined to prose. The Pike County balladry was
continued by Sidney Lanier and Irwin Russell with their songs and
ballads of the negro quarters, Will Carleton with his farm ballads,
James Whitcomb Riley with his Hoosier studies, Drummond with his tales
of the "Habitant" of the Canadian frontier, and by Eugene Field, Sam
Walter Foss, Holman F. Day, and scores of others down to Robert W.
Service, the depicter of the Yukon and the types of the later gold rush.


II

Whether the Pike County balladry began with Bret Harte or with John
Hay, is a question at present unsettled. Mark Twain was positive that
Hay was the pioneer. His statement is important:

    "It was contemporaneously supposed," he wrote after Hay's
    death, "that the _Pike County Ballads_ were inspired or
    provoked by the Pike County balladry of Bret Harte, and they
    were first accepted as imitations or parodies. They were not
    written later, they were written (and printed in newspapers)
    earlier. Mr. Hay told me this himself--in 1870 or '71, I should
    say. I believe--indeed, I am quite sure--that he added that
    the newspapers referred to were obscure western back-woods
    journals and that the ballads were not widely copied. Also he
    said this: That by and by, when Harte's ballads began to sweep
    the country, the noise woke his (Hay's) buried waifs and they
    rose and walked."[52]

To this testimony may be added Howells's belief that Hay's ballads
were prior to Harte's and that "a comparative study will reveal their
priority,"[53] and the statement of W. E. Norris, a schoolmate of the
poet, that "the ballads appeared as fugitive pieces in the newspapers,
as I remember, and the attention they attracted induced the author to
compile them with others in book form."[54]

A comparative study of the poems certainly reveals the fact that one
set was influenced by the other. "Cicely" and "Little Breeches" have
very much in common. They are in the same meter, and in one place they
have practically identical lines:

    But I takes mine straight without sugar, and that's what's the
    matter of me.--_Cicely._

        I want a chaw of terbacker,
          And that's what's the matter with me.

            --_Little Breeches._

There are similarities in others of the poems:

        Don't know Flynn,--
        Flynn of Virginia,--
        Long as he's been 'yar?
        Look 'ee here, stranger,
        Whar _hev_ you been?

            --_In the Tunnel._

        Whar have you been for the last three year.
          That you haven't heard folks tell
        How Jimmy Bludso passed in his checks
          The night of the _Prairie Belle_?

            --_Jim Bludso._

It must be confessed that a study of the ballads and of the other
poetical works of the two poets leaves one with the impression that
Harte was first in the field. Hay's six Pike County ballads stand
isolated among his poems. Everything he wrote before them and after
them is in an utterly different key. One feels as he reads him straight
through--the earlier lyrics, _Castilian Days_, the later lyrics, _The
Bread-winners_, _The Life of Lincoln_--that these poems came from an
impulse, that they must have been thrown off in quick succession all
at one time in answer to some sudden impression. One feels, therefore,
more like trusting a contemporary biographical sketch than the
unsupported impressions of contemporaries thirty years after the event.
A sketch of John Hay, written by Clarence King in April, 1874, records
that when Hay returned from Spain in 1870

    All the world was reading Mr. Bret Harte's "Heathen Chinee"
    and Mr. Hay did what all the world was doing.... He read
    all the poems, but "Chiquita" and "Cicely," which gave him
    particular pleasure, puzzled him and set him to thinking....
    He saw how infinitely nobler and better than nature they were,
    but, having been born and brought up as a Pike himself, he saw
    that they were not nature. He wrote "Little Breeches" for his
    own amusement--at least we have heard this is his account of
    the matter--to see how a genuine Western feeling expressed in
    genuine Western language, would impress Western people.... The
    ballads were written within a few days of each other: two of
    them in a single evening.[55]

This seems all the more reasonable after we have considered Hay's
earlier poetic ideals. He had been born into a refined home in the
middle West, the son of a doctor and a New England mother, and he had
grown up amid books and intellectual ideals. At the age of thirteen
he had been sent to his uncle in Pike County, Illinois, to attend a
private school which proved to be of such excellent quality that three
years later he was prepared to enter the Sophomore class at Brown.
His life at Providence awakened within him new ideals. He was invited
into the literary circle of the little city where he came to know Mrs.
Whitman, whose life at one time had touched that of Poe, and more
significant still, Nora Perry, the poet, a kindred soul. Graduating at
nineteen, the poet of his class, he went back to Warsaw, the little
Mississippi River town of his boyhood, dreaming the dreams of a poet.
But the outlook for the young dreamer was a depressing one. "I am
removed to a colder mental atmosphere," he wrote to Miss Perry. In
the West, "I find only a dreary waste of heartless materialism, where
great and heroic qualities may indeed bully their way up into the
glare, but the flowers of existence inevitably droop and wither."[56]
He wrote much poetry during this early period--translations of Heine,
Longfellow-like poems of beauty, and stirring lyrics to Miss Perry,
who kept alive his poetic dreams with letters and poems, among them
her "After the Ball" which she had shown him before it appeared in the
_Atlantic_. No Pike County notes in this period: he was filled with
the vision that even then was inspiring the little transition school
of poets struggling along the old paths: Stedman, Stoddard, Aldrich,
Hayne, Sill, and the others.

But there was no place in the young West for such dreams. He burned
much of the poetry he had written and set out sternly to study law in
his uncle's office. "I feel that Illinois and Rhode Island are entirely
antipathetic," he confessed to Miss Perry. Within him he felt the fires
even of genius, he wrote, "but when you reflect how unsuitable such
sentiments are to the busy life of the Mississippi Valley, you may
imagine then what an overhauling I must receive--at my own hands too.
There is, as yet, no room in the West for a genius."[57]

No more poetry. He turned from it out of sheer sense of duty and began
with the law. But he was to be no lawyer. In his uncle's office in
Springfield he came into intimate contact with Lincoln, and before his
law studies had matured at all, he found himself in Washington, the
assistant secretary of the new President. Poetry now was out of the
question. The war took his every moment, and after the war there was
diplomatic service abroad, at Paris, at Vienna, at Madrid. The literary
product of this latter period is as far from Pike work as Rhode Island
was from Illinois. One may find it in the section of his poems headed
"Wanderlieder"--beautiful lyrics of the Longfellow type--"Sunrise in
the Place de la Concorde," "The Monks of Basle," "Ernst of Edelsheim,"
and the like. He brought with him too when he returned in 1870 his
Spanish _Sketch Book_, _Castilian Days_, the work of a poet, golden
atmosphered, vivid, delightful. In the five years that followed on the
_Tribune_ staff he wrote for the magazines his best poems. He was a
lyrist with a pen of gold, impassioned at times and impetuous:

        Roll on, O shining sun,
          To the far seas,
        Bring down, ye shades of eve,
          The soft, salt breeze!
        Shine out, O stars, and light
        My darling's pathway bright,
        As through the summer night
            She comes to me.

And this entitled "Lacrimas":

                God send me tears!
        Loose the fierce band that binds my tired brain,
        Give me the melting heart of other years,
                And let me weep again!

               *       *       *       *       *

                We pray in vain!
        The sullen sky flings down its blaze of brass;
        The joys of life are scorched and withery pass:
                I shall not weep again.

Strange company indeed for the Pike County poems. Hay himself was
silent about the ballads; he seemed reluctant to talk about them; in
later days we know he viewed them with regret.

With Harte the problem is simpler. He wrote from the first all
varieties of humorous verse: broad farce like the "Ballad of the Emeu"
and the "California Madrigal"; rollicking parodies like "The Tale of
a Pony," "The Willows. After Edgar A. Poe," and "The Lost Tails of
Miletus"; extravaganzas like "The Stage-Driver's Story" and "To the
Pliocene Skull." His Pike verses are in full accord with the greater
part of all he wrote both in verse and prose. They are precisely what
we should expect from the author of the California Pike tales. That
he was in one small part of his work an echo of Hay is exceedingly
unlikely. If the _Pike County Ballads_ were, as Mark Twain averred,
first published in "obscure Western backwoods journals" before "The
Heathen Chinee" had appeared, the chances that Harte saw them are
so small that it is hardly worth taking the time to consider them,
especially when it is further averred that they "were not widely
copied." At present the advantage is all with Harte; at present he may
be hailed as the father of the Pike balladry and so of the realistic
school of poetry in America. The question is not closed, however,
nor will it be until the letters and journals of John Hay have been
finally given to the world.


III

But even though the _Pike County Ballads_ were not the first in the
field, even though they were suggested by Harte's work, they were none
the less valuable and influential. Hay wrote them from full experience.
They rang true at every point as Harte's sometimes did not. Their
author had lived from his third until his thirteenth year in full
view of the Mississippi River; like Mark Twain he had played about
the steamboat wharf, picking up the river slang and hearing the rude
stories of the pilots and the deck hands. Warsaw, moreover, was on the
trail of the Western immigration, a place where all the border types
might be studied. Later, in Pittsfield, the county seat of Pike County,
he saw the Pike at home untouched by contact with others--the Golyers,
the Frys, the Shelbys, and all the other drinkers of "whisky-skins."

Hay has painted a picture not only of a few highly individualized
types; he has drawn as well a background of conditions. He has made
permanent one brief phase of middle Western history. It was this
element of truth to nature--absolute realism--that gave the poems their
vogue and that assured them permanence. Harte's ballads were read as
something new and astonishing and theatric; they created a sensation,
but they did not grip and convince. Hay's ballads were true to the
heart of Western life.

The new literature of the period was influenced more by the _Pike
County Ballads_ than by the _East and West Poems_. The ballads were
something new in literature, something certainly not Bostonian,
certainly not English--something that could be described only as
"Western," fresh, independent, as the Pike himself was new and
independent among the types of humanity. John Hay was therefore a
pioneer, a creator, a leader. His was one of those rare germinal minds
that appear now and then to break into new regions and to scatter seed
from which others are to reap the harvest.


IV

In the same remarkable year in which appeared _East and West Poems_ and
_Pike County Ballads_ and so many other notable first volumes, there
began in _Hearth and Home_ Edward Eggleston's study of early Indiana
life, entitled _The Hoosier Schoolmaster_. Crude as the novel is in
its plot and hasty as it is in style and finish, it nevertheless must
be numbered as the third leading influence upon the literature of the
period.

The extent to which it was influenced by Harte cannot be determined.
The brother and biographer of the novelist insists that "the quickening
influence that led to the writing of the story" was the reading of
Taine's _Art in the Netherlands_. He further records that his brother
one day said to him:

    "I am going to write a three-number story founded upon your
    experiences at Ricker's Ridge, and call it _The Hoosier
    Schoolmaster_." Then he set forth his theory of art--that the
    artist, whether with pen or brush, who would do his best work,
    must choose his subjects from the life that he knows. He cited
    the Dutch painters and justified his choice of what seemed
    an unliterary theme, involving rude characters and a strange
    dialect perversion, by reference to Lowell's success with _The
    Biglow Papers_.[58]

If Eggleston was not influenced by Harte, then it is certain that he
drew his early inspiration from the same fountain head as Harte did.
Both were the literary offspring of Dickens. One cannot read far in
_The Hoosier Schoolmaster_ without recognizing the manner and spirit
of the elder novelist. It is more prominent in his earlier work--in
the short story, _The Christmas Club_, which is almost a parody, in
the portraits of Shockey and Hawkins and Miranda Means, and in the
occasional moralizing and goody-goodiness of tone.

There are few novelists, however, who contain fewer echoes than
Eggleston. He was a more original and more accurate writer than Harte.
We can trust his backgrounds and his picture of society implicitly at
every point. Harte had saturated himself with the fiction of other men;
he had made himself an artist through long study of the masters, and he
looked at his material always with the eye of an artist. He selected
most carefully his viewpoint, his picturesque details, his lights and
shadows, and then made his sketch. Eggleston, on the other hand, had
made no study of his art. He had read almost no novels, for, as he
expressed it, he was "bred 'after the straitest sect of our religion'
a Methodist." All he knew of plot construction he had learned from
reading the Greek tragedies.

His weakness was his strength. He silenced his conscience, which
rebelled against novels, by resolving to write not fiction but truth.
He would make a sketch of life as it actually had been lived in Indiana
in his boyhood, a sketch that should be as minute in detail and as
remorselessly true as a Millet painting. It was not to be a novel; it
was to be history. "No man is worthy," he declared in the preface to
_The Circuit Rider_, "to be called a novelist who does not endeavor
with his whole soul to produce the higher form of history, by writing
truly of men as they are, and dispassionately of those forms of life
that come within his scope."

When Eggleston, later in his life, abandoned fiction to become a
historian, there was no break in his work. He had always been a
historian. Unlike Harte, he had embodied in his novels only those
things that had been a part of his own life; he had written with loving
recollection; he had recorded nothing that was not true. He had sought,
moreover, to make his novels an interpretation of social conditions
as he had known them and studied them. "What distinguishes them [his
novels]," he once wrote, "from other works of fiction is the prominence
which they give to social conditions; that the individual characters
are here treated to a greater degree than elsewhere as parts of a study
of society--as in some sense the logical result of the environment."[59]

Novels like _The End of the World_ and _The Circuit Rider_ are in
reality chapters in the history of the American people. They are
realistic studies, by one to the manner born, of an era in our national
life that has vanished forever.


V

Edward Eggleston was born in Vevay, Indiana, December 10, 1837. His
father, a member of an old Virginia family, after a brilliant course at
William and Mary College, had migrated westward, settled in Indiana,
and just as he was making himself a notable figure in the law and the
politics of his State, had died when his eldest son, Edward, was but
nine years old. The son had inherited both his father's intellectual
brilliancy and his frail physique. Though eager for knowledge, he was
able all through his boyhood to attend school but little, and, though
his father had provided for a college scholarship, the son never found
himself able to take advantage of it. He was largely self-educated. He
studied whenever he could, and by making use of all his opportunities
he was able before he was twenty to master by himself nearly all of the
branches required for a college degree.

His boyhood was a wandering one. After the death of his father, the
family removed to New Albany and later to Madison. At the age of
thirteen he was sent to southern Indiana to live with an uncle, a large
landowner, and it was here in the lowlands of Decatur County that he
had his first chance to study those primitive Hoosier types that later
he was to make permanent in literature. Still later he lived for a year
and a half with his father's people in Virginia.

Before he was nineteen he had chosen his profession. The tense
Methodist atmosphere in which he had been reared had had its effect. He
would be a preacher, a circuit rider, one of those tireless latter-day
apostles that had formed so picturesque a part of his boyhood. "How did
he get his theological education? It used to be said that Methodist
preachers were educated by the old ones telling the young ones all they
knew; but besides this oral instruction [he] carried in his saddle bags
John Wesley's simple, solid sermons, Charles Wesley's hymns, and a
Bible."[60]

Eggleston's saddle bags contained far more than these. He read
Whitfield and Thomas à Kempis, the _OEdipus Tyrannus_ in the Greek,
and all the history and biography that he could buy or borrow. His
"appointment" was in southeastern Indiana, a four-weeks' circuit
with ten preaching places far apart in the Ohio River bottoms with
their scattering population of malarial Pikes and their rude border
civilization. He began his work with enthusiasm. He lived with his
people; he entered intimately into their affairs; he studied at first
hand their habits of life and of thought. It was an ideal preparation
for a novelist, but the rough life was in no way fitted for his frail
physique. After six months he broke down almost completely and was sent
into the pine forests of Minnesota to recuperate. For several years he
was connected with the Minnesota conference. He held pastorates in St.
Paul and other places, but his health still continuing precarious, he
at length retired to Chicago as an editor of the _Little Corporal_, a
juvenile paper later merged in _St. Nicholas_. This step turned his
attention to literature as a profession. From Chicago he was called to
Brooklyn to the staff of the _Independent_, of which he later became
the editor, and the rest of his life, save for a five years' pastorate
in Brooklyn, he devoted to literature.


VI

The Western novels of Edward Eggleston are seven in number. One of
them, _The Mystery of Metropolisville_, deals with frontier life in
Minnesota, a stirring picture of a vital era; all the others are laid
in Indiana or eastern Ohio in that malarial, river-bottom, Pike area
that had been familiar to his boyhood. Two of them are historical
novels: _The Circuit Rider_, which deals with Indiana life during the
early years of the century before the War of 1812, and _The Graysons_,
a stirring tale involving Abraham Lincoln, who had lived in the State
from 1816 to 1830. _The End of the World_ described the Millerite
excitement of Eggleston's early boyhood; the others, _The Hoosier
Schoolmaster_, _Roxy_, and _The Hoosier Schoolboy_, were studies of
sections of life that he had known intimately. One other novel he
wrote, _The Faith Doctor_, the scene of which is laid in New York, and
many short stories and juveniles.

The atmosphere and the characters of these Western stories strike us
as strangely unreal and exaggerated to-day. In his short story, _The
Gunpowder Plot_, Eggleston complained that "whenever one writes with
photographic exactness of frontier life he is accused of inventing
improbable things." It seems indeed like a world peopled by Dickens,
these strange phantasmagoria, "these sharp contrasts of corn-shuckings
and camp-meetings, of wild revels followed by wild revivals; these
contrasts of highwayman and preacher; this _mélange_ of picturesque
simplicity, grotesque humor, and savage ferocity, of abandoned
wickedness and austere piety."[61] But grotesque and unreal as it is,
it is nevertheless a true picture of the West in which Lincoln spent
his boyhood. Every detail and every personage in all the novels had an
exact counterpart somewhere in that stirring era.

The novelist, however, is not content with a mere graphic picture.
He is a philosopher. _The Circuit Rider_, for instance, the most
valuable study in the series, brings home to the reader the truth of
the author's dictum that "Methodism was to the West what Puritanism was
to New England." "In a true picture of this life," he adds, "neither
the Indian nor the hunter is the center-piece, but the circuit rider.
More than any one else, the early circuit preachers brought order out
of this chaos. In no other class was the real heroic element so finely
displayed."

The figure of the circuit rider as he strides through the book,
thundering the "Old Homeric epithets of early Methodism, exploding them
like bomb-shells--'you are hair-hung and breeze-shaken over hell,'"
has almost an epic quality. "Magruder was a short stout man, with wide
shoulders, powerful arms, shaggy brows, and bristling black hair.
He read the hymns two lines at a time, and led the singing himself.
He prayed with the utmost sincerity, but in a voice that shook the
cabin windows and gave the simple people a deeper reverence for the
dreadfulness of the preacher's message."

It was his business to preach once or twice a day and three times
on the Sabbath in a parish that had no western bounds. He talked of
nothing but of sin and wrath and judgment to come. His arrival in
the settlement cast over everything an atmosphere of awe. He aroused
violent antagonisms. The rough element banded together to destroy
his influence. They threatened him with death if he entered certain
territory, but he never hesitated. He could fight as well as he could
pray. They would fall broken and bruised before his savage onslaught
and later fall in agony of repentance before his fiery preaching. His
sermons came winged with power.

    He hit right and left. The excitable crowd swayed with
    consternation, as in a rapid and vehement utterance, he
    denounced their sins, with the particularity of one who had
    been familiar with them all his life.... Slowly the people
    pressed forward off the fences. All at once there was a loud
    bellowing cry from some one who had fallen prostrate outside
    the fence, and who began to cry aloud as if the portals of an
    endless perdition were yawning in his face.... This outburst of
    agony was fuel to the flames, and the excitement now spread to
    all parts of the audience.... Captain Lumsden ... started for
    his horse and was seized with that curious nervous affection
    which originated in these religious excitements and disappeared
    with them. He jerked violently--his jerking only adding to his
    excitement.

Eggleston has caught with vividness the spirit of this heroic age and
brought it to us so that it actually lives again. The members of the
conference at Hickory Ridge have gathered to hear the bishop read the
appointments for the year:

    The brethren, still in sublime ignorance of their destiny, sang
    fervently that fiery hymn of Charles Wesley's:

        Jesus, the name high over all,
          In hell or earth or sky,
        Angels and men before him fall,
          And devils fear and fly.

    And when they reached the last stanzas there was the ring of
    soldiers ready for battle in their martial voices. That some
    of them would die from exposure, malaria, or accident during
    the next year was probable. Tears came to their eyes, and they
    involuntarily began to grasp the hands of those who stood next
    to them as they approached the climax of the hymn....

        Happy if with my latest breath
          I may but gasp His name,
        Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
          "Behold, behold the Lamb!"

    Then, with suffused eyes, they resumed their seats, and the
    venerable Asbury, with calmness and a voice faltering with age,
    made them a brief address:

    "General Wolfe," said the British Admiralty, "will you go and
    take Quebec?" "I'll do it or die," he replied. Here the bishop
    paused, looked round about upon them, and added, with a voice
    full of emotion, "He went and did both. We send you first to
    take the country allotted to you. We want only men who are
    determined to do it or die! Some of you, dear brethren, will
    do both. If you fall, let us hear that you fell like Methodist
    preachers at your post, face to the foe, and the shout of
    victory on your lips!"

    The effect of this speech was beyond description. There were
    sobs, and cries of "Amen," "God grant it," "Hallelujah!" from
    every part of the old log church. Every man was ready for the
    hardest place, if he must.

With the circuit rider Eggleston undoubtedly added another type to the
gallery of American fiction.


VII

The novels of Eggleston have not the compression, the finish,
the finesse of Harte's. Some of his works, notably _The Hoosier
Schoolmaster_, were written at full speed with the press clattering
behind the author. Often there is to the style a mawkish Sunday-school
juvenile flavor. There is often a lack of art, of distinction, of
constructive skill. But there are compensations even for such grave
defects. There is a vividness of characterization and of description
that can be compared even with that of Dickens; there is the ability to
sketch a scene that clings to the memory in all its details. The trial
scene in _The Graysons_ is not surpassed for vividness and narrative
power in any novel of the period. And, finally, there is a realism in
background and atmosphere that makes the novels real sources of history.

The influence of Eggleston's work was enormous. He helped to create
a new reading public, a public made up of those who, like himself,
had had scruples against novel reading. He was an influence in the
creating of a new and healthy realism in America. What Hay was to the
new school of local color poets, Eggleston was to the new school of
novelists. Harte was a romanticist; Eggleston was a realist. From Harte
came the first conception of a new and powerful literature of the West.
Eggleston was the directing hand that turned the current of this new
literature into the channel of realism.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  JOHN HAY. (1838-1905.) _The Pike County Ballads and Other
  Pieces_, (167 pages), 1871; _Jim Bludso of the Prairie Belle,
  and Little Breeches_, illustrated by Eytinge (23 pages), 1871;
  _Castilian Days_, 1871; _The Bread-winners_, 1883; _Poems by John
  Hay_, 1890 and 1899; _A Poet in Exile: Early letters of John
  Hay._ Edited by Caroline Ticknor, 1910.

  EDWARD EGGLESTON. (1837-1902.) _Mr. Blake's Walking-Stick_, 1870;
  _The Hoosier Schoolmaster_, 1871; _The End of the World_, 1872;
  _The Mystery of Metropolisville_, 1873; _The Circuit Rider_,
  1874; _The Schoolmaster's Stories_, 1874; _Roxy_, 1878; _The
  Hoosier Schoolboy_, 1883; _Queer Stories_, 1884; _The Graysons_,
  1888; _The Faith Doctor_, 1891; _Duffels_ (short stories), 1893;
  _The First of the Hoosiers_, by George Cary Eggleston, 1903.



CHAPTER VI

JOAQUIN MILLER


The work of Harte and even of Hay is the work of an onlooker rather
than a sharer. One feels that both were studying their picturesque
surroundings objectively for the sake of "copy"; but Joaquin Miller,
like Mark Twain, may be said to have emerged from the materials he
worked in. He could write in his later years, "My poems are literally
my autobiography." "If you care to read further of my life, making
allowance for poetic license, you will find these [poems] literally
true." In some ways he is a more significant figure than either Harte
or Hay. No American writer, not even Thoreau or Whitman, has ever been
more uniquely individual, and none, not even Mark Twain, has woven into
his writings more things that are peculiarly American, or has worked
with a more thorough first-hand knowledge of the picturesque elements
that went into the making of the new West. He is the poet of the
American westward march, the poet of "the great American desert," the
poet preëminently of the mountain ranges from Alaska to Nicaragua as
John Muir is their prose interpreter.


I

The life of Miller is a series of foot-notes to his poems. He was born
on the line of the westward march. In the valuable autobiographical
preface to the Bear edition of his poems he writes: "My cradle was a
covered wagon, pointed west. I was born in a covered wagon, I am told,
at or about the time it crossed the line dividing Indiana from Ohio."
That was in 1841, and the name given him was Cincinnatus Hiner Miller.
His parents, like those of Mark Twain, were of that restless generation
that could abide nowhere long, but must press ever on and on westward.
His mother's people had migrated from the Yadkin River country in North
Carolina with the Boones, "devoted Quakers in search of a newer land";
his grandfather Miller was a Scotchman, a restless pioneer who had
fallen at Fort Meigs, leaving a family of small children to come up
as they could in the wilderness. One of them, the father of the poet,
picked up in a varied career along the border certain elements of book
learning that enabled him to teach school in the settlement towns of
Ohio and Indiana.

The boy's earliest memories were of the frontier with its land
clearing, its Indian neighbors, and its primitive hardships. Schooling
he received at the hands of his father. The first book that he could
remember was Frémont's _Explorations_, read aloud to the family by
the father until all knew it literally by heart, maps and all. Lured
by its enthusiastic descriptions and by reports of a former pupil
who had gone to Oregon and by the new act of Congress which gave to
every homesteader six hundred and forty acres of land free, on March
17, 1852, with "two big heavily laden wagons, with eight yoke of oxen
to each, a carriage and two horses for mother and baby sister, and a
single horse for the three boys to ride," the family set out across the
wild continent of America. "The distance," he records, "counting the
contours of often roundabout ways, was quite, or nearly, three thousand
miles. The time was seven months and five days. There were no bridges,
no railroad levels, nothing of the sort. We had only the road as nature
had made it. Many times, at night, after ascending a stream to find a
ford, we could look back and see our smoldering camp-fires of the day
before."

That heroic journey into the unknown West with its awful dangers, its
romantic strangeness, its patriarchal conditions, its constant demand
for self-dependence, made an indelible impress on the young lad. It
was a journey of Argonauts, one of the thousands of journeys that made
picturesque a whole epoch. He has described it in some of the most
stirring of his poems. All through his poetry occur stanzas like this:

        What strength! what strife! what rude unrest!
        What shocks! what half-shaped armies met!
        A mighty nation moving West,
        With all its steely sinews set
        Against the living forests. Hear
        The shouts, the shots of pioneer,
        The rending forests, rolling wheels,
        As if some half-checked army reels,
        Recoils, redoubles, comes again,
        Loud-sounding like a hurricane.

He has described it too in prose that is really stirring. His
dedicatory preface to _The Ship in the Desert_, London, 1876, is a poem
of the Whitman order. Note a stanza like this:

    How dark and deep, how sullen, strong and lionlike the mighty
    Missouri rolled between his walls of untracked wood and cleft
    the unknown domain of the middle world before us! Then the
    frail and buffeted rafts on the river, the women and children
    huddled together, the shouts of the brawny men as they swam
    with the bellowing cattle, the cows in the stormy stream
    eddying, whirling, spinning about, calling to their young,
    their bright horns shining in the sun. The wild men waiting
    on the other side; painted savages, leaning on their bows,
    despising our weakness, opening a way, letting us pass on to
    the unknown distances, where they said the sun and moon lay
    down together and brought forth the stars. The long and winding
    lines of wagons, the graves by the wayside, the women weeping
    together as they passed on. Then hills, then plains, parched
    lands like Syria, dust and alkali, cold streams with woods,
    camps by night, great wood fires in circles, tents in the
    center like Cæsar's battle camps, painted men that passed like
    shadows, showers of arrows, the wild beasts howling from the
    hills.

Two years with his parents on the new Oregon farm, and the lad ran away
to the mines. "Go, I must. The wheels of the covered wagon in which I
had been born were whirling and whirling, and I must be off." For a
time he was cook in a mining camp, but it was work impossible for a
boy of thirteen, and soon he was on his wanderings again, first with
one Ream, an adventurer, then with Mountain Joe, a trader in half-wild
horses. He was drawn into Gibson's fight with the Modocs, was wounded
frightfully by an arrow that pierced close to the base of the brain,
and later was nursed back to life by a squaw who had adopted him in
place of her son who had fallen in the battle. "When the spring came
and Mount Shasta stood out white and glorious above the clouds, I
hailed him as a brother." And again he stole away and joined another
band of Indians. "When the Modocs arose one night and massacred
eighteen men, every man in the Pit River Valley, I alone was spared and
spared only because I was _Los bobo_, the fool. Then more battles and
two more wounds." For a long time his mind was like that of a child.
The Indians indeed, as he records, treated him "as if [he] had been
newly born to their tribe."

    Soon I was stronger, body and soul. The women gave me
    gold--from whence?--and I being a "renegade," descended to San
    Francisco and set sail for Boston, but stopped at Nicaragua
    with Walker. Thence up the coast to Oregon, when strong enough.
    I went home, went to college some, taught school some, studied
    law at home some; but ever and ever the lure of the mountains
    called and called, and I could not keep my mind on my books.
    But I could keep my mind on the perils I had passed. I could
    write of them, and I did write of them, almost every day. _The
    Tale of the Tall Alcalde_, _Oregonian_, _Californian_, _With
    Walker in Nicaragua_--I had lived all these and more; and they
    were now a part of my existence.... Meantime I was admitted to
    the bar. Then came the discovery of gold in Idaho, Montana, and
    so on, and I was off like a rocket with the rest.

To call Miller illiterate, as many, especially in printing offices
which have handled his copy, have done, is hardly fair. His father,
it must be remembered, was a schoolmaster with the Scotch reverence
for serious books and for education, and the boy's early schooling
was not neglected. To say, on the other hand, as many, including the
poet himself, have said, that he received a college education, is
also to speak without knowledge. He did complete a course in Columbia
University, Eugene, Oregon, in 1859, but it was an institution in no
way connected with the present University of Oregon. It was, rather, a
mission school maintained by the Methodist Church South, and, according
to Professor Herbert C. Howe of the University of Oregon, "its
instruction was, at its utmost stretch, not enough to carry its pupils
through the first half of a high school course, and most of its pupils
were of grammar grade." It was closed suddenly early in the Civil-War
period because of the active Southern sympathies of its president, who
was himself very nearly the whole "university." It is significant that
at almost the same time the Eugene _Democratic Register_ edited by
Miller was suppressed for alleged disloyalty to the Union.

For a period the poet undoubtedly did apply himself with diligence to
books. Of his fellow students at Eugene he has recorded, "I have never
since found such determined students and omnivorous readers. We had all
the books and none of the follies of the great centers." The mania for
writing had seized him early. Assisted by his father, he had recorded
the events of his trip across the plains in a journal afterwards burned
with his parental home in Oregon. "The first thing of mine in print was
the valedictory class poem, 'Columbia College.'" Undoubtedly during
this period he read widely and eagerly. "My two brothers and my sister
were by my side, our home with our parents, and we lived entirely to
ourselves, and really often made ourselves ill from too much study. We
were all school teachers when not at college."

Living away from the centers of culture, with books as exotic things
that came from without, almost as from another world, Miller, like many
another isolated soul, grew to maturity with the feeling that something
holy lay about the creation of literature and that authors, especially
poets, were beings apart from the rest of men. Poetry became to him
more than an art: it became a religion. "Poetry," he declared in his
first London preface, "is with me a passion which defies reason." It
was an honest declaration. During the sixties as express messenger
in the Idaho gold fields, as newspaper editor, and judge, he wrote
verse continually--"I lived among the stars"--but he preserved of all
he wrote only a few rather colorless pieces which he published in
1868 with the title _Specimens_. The next year he issued at Portland,
Oregon, _Joaquin et al_, a book of one hundred and twenty-four pages.
It was his salute to the literary world. He addressed it "To the Bards
of San Francisco Bay," and his address sheds light upon the timid young
poet:

        I am as one unlearned, uncouth,
        From country come to join the youth
        Of some sweet town in quest of truth,
          A skilless Northern Nazarine,
        From whence no good can ever come.
        I stand apart as one that's dumb:
        I hope, I fear, I hasten home,
            I plunge into my wilds again.

He followed his book down to what was to him the glorious city of art
and of soul that would welcome him with rapture, for was he too not
a bard? Says Charles W. Stoddard, "Never had a breezier bit of human
nature dawned upon me this side of the South Seas than that poet of the
Sierra when he came to San Francisco in 1870."[62]

But the great Western city, as did New York a few months later, went on
totally unaware of his advent. The bards even of San Francisco Bay did
not come to the borders of the town to welcome the new genius. They
seemed unaware of his presence. Harte was inclined to be sarcastic,
but finally allowed the _Overland Monthly_ to say a word of faint
praise for the young poet, despite what it termed his "pawing and
curvetting." "His passion," it declared in a review written probably
by Ina Coolbrith, "is truthful and his figures flow rather from his
perception than his sentiment." But that was all. He considered himself
persecuted. His associates in the law had made fun of the legal term
in the title of his book, had hailed him as "Joaquin" Miller, and had
treated him as a joke. "I was so unpopular that when I asked a place
on the Supreme Bench at the Convention, I was derisively told: 'Better
stick to poetry.' Three months later, September 1, 1870, I was kneeling
at the grave of Burns. I really expected to die there in the land of
my fathers." He would support himself as Irving had supported himself
with his pen. He sought cheap quarters in the great city and began to
write. February 1, 1871, he recorded in his diary: "I have nearly given
up this journal to get out a book. I wanted to publish a great drama
called 'Oregonian,' but finally wrote an easy-going little thing which
I called 'Arazonian,' and put the two together and called the little
book _Pacific Poems_. It has been ready for the printer a long time."

He took the manuscript from publisher to publisher until, as he
declares, every house in London had rejected it. His reception by
Murray shows the general estimate of poetry by London publishers in the
early seventies:

    He held his head to one side, flipped the leaves, looked in,
    jerked his head back, looked in again, twisted his head like a
    giraffe, and then lifted his long finger:

    "Aye, now, don't you know poetry won't do? Poetry won't do,
    don't you know?"

    "But will you not read it, please?"

    "No, no, no. No use, no use, don't you know?"

Then in desperation he printed a part of it at his own expense under
the title _Pacific Poems_ and sent out copies broadcast to the press.
Never was venture so unpromising crowned with results so startling. The
little book was hailed everywhere as something remarkable. The _St.
James Gazette_ declared that the poem "Arazonian"--that was Miller's
early spelling of the word--was by Browning. The new author was traced
to his miserable lodgings and made a lion of, and before the year was
over the whole original manuscript of _Pacific Poems_ had been brought
out in a beautiful edition with the title _Songs of the Sierras_.
Its author's real name did not appear upon the title page. The poems
were by "Joaquin Miller," a name destined completely to supersede the
more legal patronymic. "The third poem in my first London book," he
explains, "was called 'California,' but it was called 'Joaquin' in
the Oregon book. And it was from this that I was, in derision, called
'Joaquin.' I kept the name and the poem, too, till both were at least
respected."[63]

Few American books have been received by the English press, or any
press for that matter, with such unanimous enthusiasm. Miller was
the literary discovery of the year. The _London Times_ declared the
book the "most remarkable utterance America has yet given"; the
_Evening Standard_ called it poetry "the most original and powerful."
The pre-Raphaelite brotherhood counted its author as one of their
own number, and gave him a dinner. Browning hailed him as an equal,
and the press everywhere celebrated him as "the Oregon Byron." The
reason for it all can be explained best, perhaps, in words that
W. M. Rossetti used in his long review of the poet in the _London
Academy_: "Picturesque things picturesquely put ... indicating strange,
outlandish, and romantic experiences." The same words might have been
used by a reviewer of Byron's first Eastern romance on that earlier
morning when he too had awakened to find himself famous. The book,
moreover, was felt to be the promise of stronger things to come. "It is
a book," continued Rossetti, "through whose veins the blood pulsates
with an abounding rush, while gorgeous subtropical suns, resplendent
moons, and abashing majesties of mountain form ring round the
gladiatorial human life."


II

Of Miller's subsequent career, his picturesque travels, his log cabin
life in Washington, D. C., his Klondike experiences and the like, it is
not necessary to speak. There was always an element of the sensational
about his doings and his equipment. To the majority of men he was a
_poseur_ and even a mountebank. At times indeed it was hard for even
his friends to take him with seriousness. How was one, for instance,
to approach in serious mood _As It Was in the Beginning_, 1903, a book
twelve inches by five, printed on coarse manila wrapping stock, bound
in thin yellow paper, and having on the cover an enormous stork holding
in his bill President Roosevelt as an infant? Those who were closest to
him, however, are unanimous in declaring that all this eccentricity was
but the man himself, the expression of his own peculiar individuality,
and that he was great enough to rise above the conventionalities of
life and be himself. C. W. Stoddard, who of all men, perhaps, knew him
most intimately in his earlier period, maintained that

    People who knew him wondered but little at his pose, his
    Spanish mantle and sombrero, his fits of abstraction or
    absorption, his old-school courtly air in the presence of
    women--even the humblest of the sex. He was thought eccentric
    to the last degree, a bundle of affectations, a crank--even a
    freak. Now I who have known Joaquin Miller as intimately as
    any man could know him, know that these mannerisms are natural
    to him; they have developed naturally; they are his second
    nature.[64]

Hamlin Garland, Charles F. Lummis, and many others who have known the
poet intimately have spoken in the same way. His mannerisms and his
eccentric point of view arose from the isolation in which his formative
years were passed, his ignorance of life, his long association with
highly individualized men in the mines and the camps and the mountains,
and his intimate knowledge of the picturesque Spanish life of Mexico
and Central America. His education had been peculiar, even unique. "All
that I am," he declares in _My Own Story_,[65] "or ever hope to be I
owe them [the Indians]. I owe no white man anything at all." He had
never been a boy, he was utterly without sense of humor, and he had a
native temperament aside from all this, that was all his own--need we
say more?


III

When one approaches the poetry of Joaquin Miller, one is at first
confused by the lavishness of it, the strength, and then swiftly the
dreary weakness of it. It is like his own landscapes, abounding in vast
barrens and flats, with here and there glimpses of glittering peaks and
vast ranges, and now and then oases full of marvelous revel of color
and strange birds and tropic flowers. Three-fourths of all he wrote is
lifeless and worthless, but the other quarter is to American poetry
what the Rockies are to the American landscape. Few poets have so
needed an editor with courage to reject and judgment to arrange. Miller
himself has edited his poems with barbarous savageness. He has not
hesitated to lop off entire cantos, to butcher out the whole trunk of
a poem, leaving only straggling and unrelated branches, to add to work
in his early manner stanzas after his later ideals, and to revamp and
destroy and cast utterly away after a fashion that has few precedents.
He has done the work with a broad-ax when a lancet was needed. His
editings are valuable, indeed, only in the new prose matter that he has
added as foot-note and introduction.

The key to Miller's poetry is an aphorism from his own pen: "We must,
in some sort, live what we write if what we write is to live." The
parts of his work that undoubtedly will live are those poems that
deal most closely with the material from which he sprang and of which
his early life was molded. He is the poet of the frontier and of the
great mid-century exodus across the Plains. Poems like "The Heroes of
Oregon," and "Exodus for Oregon," are a part of the national history.
They thrill at every point with reality and life.

        The Plains! the shouting drivers at the wheel;
        The crash of leather whips; the crush and roll
        Of wheels; the groan of yokes and grinding steel
        And iron chain, and lo! at last the whole
        Vast line, that reach'd as if to touch the goal,
        Began to stretch and stream away and wind
        Toward the west, as if with one control;
        Then hope loom'd fair, and home lay far behind;
        Before, the boundless plain, and fiercest of their kind.

And again

        Then dust arose, a long dim line like smoke
        From out of riven earth. The wheels went groaning by,
        Ten thousand feet in harness and in yoke,
        They tore the ways of ashen alkali,
        And desert winds blew sudden, swift and dry.
        The dust! it sat upon and fill'd the train!
        It seemed to fret and fill the very sky.
        Lo! dust upon the beasts, the tent, the plain,
        And dust, alas! on breasts that rose not up again.

Pictures of the Plains, the Indian camp, the mine, the mountain, the
herd, the trail, are to be found scattered everywhere in his work.
One finds them in the most unlikely places--diamonds embedded often
in whole acres of clay. In so unpromising a book as _As It Was in the
Beginning_ with its grotesque introduction explaining in characteristic
mixed metaphor that "When, like a sentinel on his watch tower, the
President, with his divine audacity and San Juan valor, voiced the real
heart of the Americans against 'race suicide,' I hastened to do my
part, in my own way, ill or well, in holding up his hands on the firing
line"--even in this book one finds sudden flashes of truest poetry.
He is describing winter on the Yukon. About him are an eager band of
gold-seekers ready to press north:

        The siege of Troy knew scarce such men;
        The cowards had not voyaged then,
        The weak had died upon the way.

He describes with realism the horrors and the beauties of the Arctic
night, then at last the rising of the sun after the long darkness:

        Then glad earth shook her raiment wide,
        As some proud woman satisfied,
        Tiptoed exultant, till her form,
        A queen above some battle storm,
        Blazed with the glory, the delight
        Of battle with the hosts of night.
        And night was broken, light at last
        Lay on the Yukon. Night had past.

In passages like these the imagination of the poet breaks out for a
moment like the moon from dark clouds, but all too often it is _only_
for a moment.

He is the poet preëminently of the mountains of the Northwest.
The spell of them was on him as it was on John Muir. At times in
their presence he bursts into the very ecstasy of poetry; sonorous
rhapsodies and invocations in which he reaches his greatest heights:

        Sierras, and eternal tents
        Of snow that flash o'er battlements
        Of mountains! My land of the sun,
        Am I not true? have I not done
        All things for thine, for thee alone,
        O sun-land, sea-land thou mine own?

There is a sweep and vastness about him at his best that one finds in
no other American poet. No cameo cutting for him, no little panels, no
parlor decorations and friezes. His canvas is all out of doors and as
broad as the continent itself:

        Oh, heart of the world's heart! West! my West!
        Look up! look out! There are fields of kine,
        There are clover-fields that are red as wine;
        And a world of kine in the fields take rest,
        And ruminate in the shade of the trees
        That are white with blossoms or brown with bees.
        There are emerald seas of corn and cane;
        There are cotton fields like a foamy main,
        To the far-off South where the sun was born.

The wild freedom of the Western air beats and surges in his lines:

        Room! room to turn round in, to breathe and be free,
        To grow to be giant, to sail as at sea
        With the speed of the wind on a steed with his mane
        To the wind, without pathway or route or a rein.
        Room! room to be free where the white border'd sea
        Blows a kiss to a brother as boundless as he;
        Where the buffalo come like a cloud on the plain,
        Pouring on like the tide of a storm-driven main,
        And the lodge of the hunter to friend or to foe
        Offers rest; and unquestion'd you come or you go.
        My plains of America! Seas of wild lands!
        From a land in the seas in a raiment of foam,
        That has reached to a stranger the welcome of home,
        I turn to you, lean to you, lift you my hands.

Or again this magnificent apostrophe to the Missouri River:

        Hoar sire of hot, sweet Cuban seas,
          Gray father of the continent,
        Fierce fashioner of destinies,
          Of states thou hast upreared or rent,
        Thou know'st no limit; seas turn back
          Bent, broken from the shaggy shore;
        But thou, in thy resistless track,
          Art lord and master evermore.
        Missouri, surge and sing and sweep!
        Missouri, master of the deep,
        From snow-reared Rockies to the sea
        Sweep on, sweep on eternally!

And grandest of all, the poem that has all America in it and the
American soul, perhaps the grandest single poem of the period,
"Columbus":

        Behind him lay the gray Azores,
          Behind the Gates of Hercules;
        Before him not the ghost of shores;
          Before him only shoreless seas.
        The good mate said: "Now must we pray,
          For lo! the very stars are gone,
        Brave Adm'r'l speak; what shall I say?"
        "Why, say: 'Sail on! sail on! and on!'"

In his enthusiasm for the mountains and the American landscape Miller
was thoroughly sincere. Despite all his posturing and his fantastic
costumes he was a truly great soul, and he spoke from his heart when
he said in 1909: "But pity, pity, that men should so foolishly waste
time with either me or mine when I have led them to the mighty heart
of majestic Shasta. Why yonder, lone as God and white as the great
white throne, there looms against the sapphire upper seas a mountain
peak that props the very porch of heaven; and yet they bother with and
want to torment a poor mote of dust that sinks in the grasses at their
feet."[66]


IV

This leads us to the second phase of Miller's personality: he was a
philosopher, a ponderer upon the deeper things of the spirit. He had
inherited with his Scotch blood a religious strain, and a large section
of his poetry deals with regions far indeed from his Sierras. He has
written much upon the common fundamentals of humanity: religion, love,
honor, courage, truth, and the like. In his "Vale! America," written in
Italy during his second European sojourn, he could say,

        I have lived from within and not from without,

And again

        Could I but return to my woods once more,
        And dwell in their depths as I have dwelt,
        Kneel in their mosses as I have knelt,
        Sit where the cool white rivers run,
        Away from the world and half hid from the sun,
        Hear winds in the wood of my storm-torn shore,
        To tread where only the red man trod,
        To say no word, but listen to God!
        Glad to the heart with listening--
        It seems to me that I then could sing,
        And sing as never sung man before.

There was within him indeed something of the recluse and the hermit.
No one of the period, not even Muir or Burroughs, approached Nature
with more of worship. He would live with her and make her central in
every point of his life. In his later years he built him a cabin on the
heights above San Francisco Bay with a tremendous outlook of sea and
mountain and sky, and lived there the rest of his life.

        I know a grassy slope above the sea,
        The utmost limit of the westmost land.
        In savage, gnarl'd, and antique majesty
        The great trees belt about the place, and stand
        In guard, with mailed limb and lifted hand,
        Against the cold approaching civic pride.
        The foamy brooklets seaward leap; the bland
        Still air is fresh with touch of wood and tide,
        And peace, eternal peace, possesses, wild and wide.

He became more and more solitary, more and more of a mystic as the
years went on. Even from the first, as Rossetti pointed out, there is
an almost oriental pantheism in him. It came perhaps from his Indian
training. "Some curious specimens," Rossetti observed, "might be culled
of the fervid interfusion of external nature and the human soul in his
descriptive passages. The great factors of the natural world--the sea,
the mountains, the sun, moon, and stars--become personalities, animated
with an intense life and dominant possession."

But Miller was by no means a satyr, as many have pictured him,
delighting in wildness for the mere sake of wildness. He overflowed
with humanity. No man was ever more sensitive or more genuinely
sympathetic. In his later years he sat above the tumult a prophet and
seer, and commented and advised and warned. Great areas of his poetry
have nothing to do with the West, nothing at all with the manner and
the material that are so naturally associated with his name. For
decades his voice was heard wherever there was oppression or national
wrong. He wrote sonorous lyrics for the Indians, the Boers, the Russian
Jews; he wrote the ringing "Cuba Libre" which was read by the Baroness
de Bazus in the leading American cities before the Spanish war; he
championed the cause of woman; and everywhere he took the side of the
weaker against the strong. In this he resembles Mark Twain, that other
prophet of the era. The freedom of the new West was in both of them,
the true American "hatred of tyranny intense." He was won always by
gentleness and beauty: he wrote a _Life of Christ_, he wrote _The City
Beautiful_, and _Songs of the Soul_.

But almost all that he wrote in this pet field of his endeavor perished
with its day. Of it all there is no single poem that may be called
distinctive. He moralizes, he preaches, he champions the weak, but he
says nothing new, nothing compelling. He is not a singer of the soul:
he is the maker of resounding addresses to the peaks and the plains
and the sea; the poet of the westward march of a people; the poet of
elemental men in elemental surroundings--pioneers amid the vastness of
the uttermost West.


V

It is easy to find defects in Miller's work. Even the sophomore can
point out his indebtedness to Byron and to Swinburne--

        The wine-dark wave with its foam of wool--

his Byronic heroes and overdrawn heroines; his diction excessive in
alliteration and adjectives; his barbarous profusion of color; his
overworking of the word "tawney"; his inability to tell a story; his
wordiness and ramblings; his lack of distinctness and dramatic power.
One sweeps away the whole of this, however, when one admits that
three quarters of all that Miller wrote should be thrown away before
criticism begins.

The very faults of the poet serve as arguments that he _was_ a
poet--a poet born, not a poet made from study of other poets. He was
not classic: he was romantic--a poet who surrendered himself to the
music within him and did not care. "To me," he declared in his defense
of poesy, "the savage of the plains or the negro of the South is a
truer poet than the scholar of Oxford. They may have been alike born
with a love of the beautiful, but the scholar, shut up within the
gloomy walls, with his eyes to a dusty book, has forgotten the face
of Nature and learned only the art of utterance."[67] This is one of
the keys to the new era that opened in the seventies. It explains the
new laughter of the West, it explains the Pike balladry, it explains
the new burst of democratic fiction, the studies of lowly life in
obscure environments. "To these poets," he continues; "these lovers of
the beautiful; these silent thinkers; these mighty mountaineers, far
away from the rush and roar of commerce; these men who have room and
strength and the divine audacity to think and act for themselves--to
these men who dare to have heart and enthusiasm, who love the beautiful
world that the Creator made for them, I look for the leaven of our
loaf."

Miller comes nearer to Mark Twain than to any other writer, unless
it be John Muir. True, he is wholly without humor, true he had never
been a boy, and in his mother's words had "never played, never had
playthings, never wanted them"; yet notwithstanding this the two men
are to be classed together. Both are the recorders of a vanished era of
which they were a part; both emerged from the material which they used;
both wrote notable prose--Miller's _Life Among the Modocs_ and his
other autobiographic picturings rank with _Life on the Mississippi_;
both worked with certainty in one of the great romantic areas of human
history. There is in the poems of Miller, despite all their crudity,
a sense of adventure, of glorious richness, of activity in the open
air, that is all his own. His Byronism and his Swinburneism were but
externals, details of manner: the song and the atmosphere about it were
his own, spun out of his own observation and colored by his own unique
personality.

His own definition of poetry determines his place among the poets and
explains his message: "To me a poem must be a picture," and it must,
he further declared, be drawn always from Nature by one who has seen
and who knows. "The art of poetry is found in books; the inspiration
of poetry is found only in Nature. This book, the book of Nature, I
studied in the wilderness like a monk for many years." The test of
poetry, he maintained, is the persistence with which it clings in the
memory, not the words but the picture. Judged by this standard, _Songs
of the Sierras_, which is a succession of gorgeous pictures that cling
in the imagination, must rank high.

It was his ideal to draw his generation away from their pursuit of gold
and their slavery in the artificial round of the cities, their worship
of European culture, European architecture, European books, and show
them the beauties of their own land, the glories of the life out of
doors, the heroism and sacrifice of the pioneers who made possible the
later period.

"Grateful that I was born in an age of active and mighty enterprise,
and exulting, even as a lad, in the primitive glory of nature, wild
woods, wild birds, wild beasts, I began, as my parents pushed west
through the wilderness, to make beauty and grandeur the god of my
idolatry, even before I yet knew the use of words. To give expression
to this love and adoration, to lead others to see grandeur, good, glory
in all things animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, was my
early and has ever been my one aspiration."

He would be the prophet of a new era. To the bards who are to come he
flings out the challenge: "The Old World has been written, written
fully and bravely and well.... Go forth in the sun, away into the
wilds, or contentedly lay aside your aspirations of song. Now, mark
you distinctly, I am not writing for nor of the poets of the Old
World or the Atlantic seaboard. They have their work and their way of
work. My notes are for the songless Alaskas, Canadas, Californias,
the Aztec lands and the Argentines that patiently await their coming
prophets."[68]


VI

The treatment of Miller by his own countrymen has never been so
laudatory as that accorded him by other lands, notably England, but
his complaint that his own people neglected him is groundless. All the
leading magazines--the _Atlantic_, _Scribner's_, the _Independent_,
and the rest--opened their columns to him freely. That reviews of his
work and critical estimates of him generally were more caustic on this
side the Atlantic came undoubtedly from the fact that the critic who
was to review him approached his book always in a spirit of irritation
at the British insistence that an American book to be worth the reading
must be redolent of the wild and the uncouth, must deal with Indians,
and buffaloes, and the various extremes of democracy. Miller has been
the chief victim of this controversy--a controversy, indeed, which
was waged through the whole period. The eccentricities of the man and
his ignorance and his picturesque crudeness, set over against the
extravagant claims of British writers, aroused prejudices that blinded
the American critic to the poet's real worth.

On the whole the English have been right. Not that American literature
to be of value must be shaggy and ignorant, a thing only of Pikes and
slang and dialect. It means rather that the new period which opened
in the seventies demanded genuineness, reality, things as they are,
studies from life rather than studies from books; that it demanded not
the reëchoing of outworn ideals and measures from other lands, but the
spirit of America, of the new Western world, of the new soul of the new
republic. And what poet has caught more of this fresh new America than
the singer of the Sierras, the singer of the great American deserts,
and the northern Yukon?


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  JOAQUIN MILLER. (1841-1913.) _Specimens_, 1868; _Joaquin et
  al_, 1869; _Pacific Poems_, 1870; _Songs of the Sierras_, 1871;
  _Songs of the Sunlands_, 1873; _Unwritten History: Life Amongst
  the Modocs_ (with Percival Mulford), 1874; _The Ship in the
  Desert_, 1875; _First Families of the Sierras_, 1875; _Songs of
  the Desert_, 1875; _The One Fair Woman_, 1876; _The Baroness of
  New York_, 1877; _Songs of Italy_, 1878; _The Danites in the
  Sierras_, 1881; _Shadows of Shasta_, 1881; _Poems, Complete
  Edition_, 1882; _Forty-nine: a California Drama_, 1882; _'49: or,
  the Gold-seekers of the Sierras_, 1884; _Memorie and Rime_, 1884;
  _The Destruction of Gotham_, 1886; _Songs of the Mexican Seas_,
  1887; _In Classic Shades and Other Poems_, 1890; _The Building of
  the City Beautiful, a Poetic Romance_, 1893; _Songs of the Soul_,
  1896; _Chants for the Boer_, 1900; _True Bear Stories_, 1900; _As
  It Was in the Beginning_, 1903; _Light: a Narrative Poem_, 1907;
  _Joaquin Miller's Poetry_, Bear Edition, 1909.



CHAPTER VII

THE TRANSITION POETS


The second generation of poets in America, those later singers born
during the vital thirties in which had appeared the earliest books of
the older school, began its work during the decade before the Civil
War. It was not a group that had been launched, as were the earlier
poets of the century, by a spiritual and moral cataclysm, or by a new
strong tide in the national life. It was a school of deliberate art,
the inevitable classical school which follows ever upon the heels of
the creative epoch.

It came as a natural product of mid-century conditions. America, hungry
for culture, had fed upon the romantic pabulum furnished so abundantly
in the thirties and the forties. It looked away from the garish
daylight of the new land of its birth into the delicious twilight of
the lands across the sea, with their ruins and their legends and their
old romance.

We have seen how it was an age of sugared epithet, of adolescent
sadness and longing, of sentiment even to sentimentality. Its dreams
were centered in the East, in that old world over which there hung the
glamour of romance. "I hungrily read," writes Bayard Taylor of this
epoch in his life, "all European books of travel, and my imagination
clothed foreign countries with a splendid atmosphere of poetry and
art.... Italy! and Greece! the wild enthusiasm with which I should
tread those lands, and view the shrines 'where young Romance and Love
like sister pilgrims turn'; the glorious emotions of my soul, and the
inspiration I should draw from them, which I now partly feel. How my
heart leaps at the sound of:

        Woods that wave on Delphi's steep,
        Isles that gem the Ægean deep.

The isles of Greece! hallowed by Homer and Milton and Byron! My words
are cold and tame compared with my burning thoughts."[69]

The increasing tide of translations that marked the thirties and the
forties, the new editions of English and continental poets--Shelley,
Keats, Heine; the early books of the Victorians--Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, the young Tennyson--came across the sea to these sensitive
souls like visitants from another planet. "I had the misfortune,"
Taylor writes in 1848, "to be intoxicated yesterday--with Tennyson's
new poem, 'The Princess.'... For the future, for a long time at least,
I dare not read Tennyson. His poetry would be the death of mine. His
intense perception of beauty haunts me for days, and I cannot drive it
from me."[70]

Poetry was a thing to be spoken of with awed lips like love or the
deeper longings of the soul. It was an ethereal thing apart from the
prose of life; it was beauty, melody, divinest art--a thing broken into
harshly by the daily round, a thing to be stolen away to in golden
hours, as Stoddard and Taylor stole away on Saturday nights to read
their poets and their own poems, and to lose themselves in a more
glorious world. "My favorite poet was Keats, and his was Shelley, and
we pretended to believe that the souls of these poets had returned to
earth in our bodies. My worship of my master was restricted to a silent
imitation of his diction; my comrade's worship of his master took the
form of an ode to Shelley.... It is followed in the volume before me by
an airy lyric on 'Sicilian Wine,' which was written out of his head, as
the children say, for he had no Sicilian wine, nor, indeed, wine of any
other vintage."[71]

It explains the weakness of the whole school. All too often did these
young poets of the second generation write from out their heads rather
than their hearts. They were practitioners of the poetic art rather
than eager workers in the stuff that is human life. They were inspired
not by their times and the actual life that touched elbows with theirs
in their toil from day to day; they were inspired by other singers.
Poetry they wove from poetry; words from words. Song begotten from
other song perishes with its singer. To endure, poetry must come from
"that inexpressible aching feeling of the heart"--from the impact
of life upon life; it must thrill with the deepest emotions of its
creator's soul as he looks beyond his books and all the printed words
of others into the yearning, struggling world of men.


I

The members of this second generation of poets fall into two distinct
groups: first, those who caught not at all the new note that came into
American life and American literature after the war, and so, like the
survivors of the earlier school, went on to the end only echoing and
reëchoing the earlier music; and, secondly, those transitional poets
who yielded to the change of times and retuned their instruments to
the new key. Of the first group four only may be mentioned: Thomas
Buchanan Read (1822-1872), George Henry Boker (1823-1890), Bayard
Taylor (1825-1878), and Richard Henry Stoddard (1825-1903). None of
these may be called a poet of the transition; none of these, not even
Taylor, caught the new spirit of recreated America; none of them added
to poetry any notes that have influenced the song or the life or the
spirit of later years. They were poets of beauty without a message, and
they caught no new vision of beauty.

The work of the group began early, only a few years later than that of
the major singers. Taylor's _Ximena_ appeared in 1844; Boker's _Lesson
of Life_ and Read's _Poems_ in 1847; and Stoddard's _Footprints_ in
1849. By 1870 they had settled into their final manner. It was theirs
to strike the last notes, ineffective and all too often decadent, of
that mid-century music that had begun with Bryant and Poe, with Emerson
and Whittier, with Willis and Longfellow.


II

We may pause a moment with Taylor. His personality in the early
seventies undoubtedly was more potent in America than that of any other
poet. His was the leading poetic voice of the Centennial of 1876, that
great national gathering that marks in a way the birth of the new
American spirit.

But Taylor was not at all an original force. His power lay in his
picturesque personality. His Macaulay-like memory charged with enormous
store of literature from all lands and at instant command; his bluff
and hearty manner; and the atmosphere of romance which surrounded
him, made him a marked man wherever he went. He appealed to the
imagination of adolescent America. Like Byron, he had traveled far in
the mysterious East; there was the sensuousness and dreaminess of the
Orient about him; he had "ripened," as he expressed it, "in the suns of
many lands."

The weakness of Taylor was the weakness of Stoddard, of Aldrich, of
the early Stedman, of all the poets of beauty. They had drunk like the
young Tennyson of the fatal draft of Keats. To them beauty concerned
itself with the mere externals of sense. Keats is the poet of rich
interiors, of costly hangings, and embroidered garments. To read him
is to come into the presence of rare wines, of opiates that lap one
in long forgetfulness, of softly whispering flutes and viols, of rare
tables heaped with luscious dainties brought from far, of all the
golden East can bring of luxury of furnishings and beauty of form and
color. "A thing of beauty," he sings, "is a joy forever," but beauty
to Keats is only that which brings delight to the senses. Of beauty
of the soul he knows nothing. His women are Greek goddesses: nothing
more. In Keats, and later in his disciples, Taylor and Stoddard and
Aldrich, we never come face to face with souls in conflict for eternal
principles. Shelley looked at life about him and reacted upon it. He
showed us Prometheus bound to the rock for refusal to yield to tyrannic
law, and then liberated by the new soul of human love. He believed that
he had a vision of a new heaven and earth with Reason as its god and
Love its supreme soul, and he beat out his life in eagerness to bring
men into this new heaven in the clouds. Keats reacted upon nothing save
the material which he found in books: translations from the Greek,
Spenser, Shakespeare, that earlier adolescent dreamer Marlowe, Milton,
Coleridge. With the exception of hints from "Christabel" which we
find worked into "The Eve of St. Agnes" and "Lamia," Keats never got
nearer his own century than Milton's day. He turned in disgust from
the England about him--that England with its Benthamite individualism,
inheritance from the French Revolution, which even then was culminating
in all the misery and riot and civil strife that later we find pictured
in the novels of Dickens and Kingsley--he turned from it to the world
of merely sensuous delight, where selfishly he might swoon away in a
dream of beauty.

Taylor and Stoddard and the early Aldrich reacted not at all on the
America that so sadly needed them. They added sentiment to the music of
Keats and dreamed of the Orient with its life of sensuous surfeit:

        The Poet came to the land of the East
          When spring was in the air:
        The Earth was dressed for a wedding feast,
         So young she seemed and fair;
        And the Poet knew the land of the East--
          His soul was native there.

               *       *       *       *       *

        And further sang the Nightingale:
          _Your_ bower not distant lies.
        I hear the sound of a Persian lute
          From the jasmined window rise,
        And, twin-bright stars, through the lattice bars,
          I saw the Sultana's eyes.

        The Poet said: I will here abide,
          In the Sun's unclouded door;
        Here are the wells of all delight
          On the lost Arcadian shore:
        Here is the light on sea and land,
          And the dream deceives no more.

"Taylor, Boker, Stoddard, Read, Story, and their allies," confessed
Stedman in his later years, "wrote poetry for the sheer love of it.
They did much beautiful work, with a cosmopolitan and artistic bent,
making it a part of the varied industry of men of letters; in fact,
they were creating a civic Arcadia of their own."[72]

But in making this civic Arcadia of their own they deliberately
neglected the opportunity of reacting upon the actual civic life of
their own land in their own and later times. They lived in one of the
great germinal periods in the history of the race and they deliberately
chose to create a little Arcadia of their own.

No man of the century, save Lowell, was given the opportunity to react
upon the new world of America at a critical moment such as was given
to Taylor at the Centennial in 1876. Subject and occasion there were
worthy of a Milton. A new America had arisen from the ashes of the
war, eager and impetuous. A new era had begun whose glories we of a
later century are just beginning to realize. Who was to voice that
era? The land needed a poet, a seer, a prophet, and in Taylor it had
only a dreamer of beauty, gorgeous of epithet, musical, sensuous. "The
National Ode," when we think of what the occasion demanded, must be
classed as one of the greatest failures in the history of American
literature. Freneau's "The Rising Glory of America," written in 1772,
is an incomparably better ode. There are no lines in Taylor's poem
to grip the heart and send the blood into quicker beat; there are no
magnificent climaxes as in Lowell's odes:

        Virginia gave us this imperial man.

        Mother of States and undiminished men,
        Thou gavest us a country giving him.

        New birth of our new soil, the first American.

There is excessive tinkling of rimes; there is forcing of measures that
could have come only of haste; there is lack of incisiveness and of
distinctive poetic phrases that cling in the memory and become current
coin; there is lack of vision and of message. The poet of beauty was
unequal to his task. There was needed a prophet and a creative soul,
and the lack of such a leader at the critical moment accounts in part
perhaps for the poetic leanness of the period that was to come.


III

The poets of the second group, the transition poets, for the most part
were born during the thirties. Like Taylor and Stoddard, they were
poets of beauty who read other poets with eagerness and wrote with
deliberation. Their early volumes are full of exquisitely finished work
modeled upon Theocritus and Heine, upon Keats and Shelley. They reacted
but little upon the life about them; they railed upon America as crude
and raw, a land without adequate art, and were content to fly away into
the world of beauty and forget.

Then suddenly the war crashed in their ears. For the first time they
caught a vision of life, of their country, of themselves, and for the
first time they burst into real song. "For eight years," wrote the
young Stedman in 1861, "I have cared _nothing_ for politics--have been
disgusted with American life and doings. Now for the first time I am
proud of my country and my grand heroic brethren. The greatness of the
crisis, the Homeric grandeur of the contest, surrounds and elevates
us all.... Henceforth the sentimental and poetic will fuse with the
intellectual to dignify and elevate the race."[73]

Edmund Clarence Stedman was of old New England stock. He had inherited
with his blood what Howells termed, in words that might have emanated
from Dr. Holmes himself, "the quality of Boston, the honor and passion
of literature." He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, October 8, 1833.
Bereft of his father when he was but two years of age, and later,
when he was a mere child, forced to leave his mother and live with an
uncle who could little supply the place that only father and mother
can fill in a boy's life, he grew into a headstrong, moody youth who
resented control. He was a mere lad of fifteen when he entered Yale,
the youngest member indeed of his class, and his rustication two years
later was only a natural result. Boyishness and high spirits and
impetuous independence of soul are not crimes, however, and the college
in later years was glad to confer upon him his degree.

Returning to Norwich, the home of his uncle, he pursued for a time the
study of law. Later he connected himself with the local newspaper, and
in 1853, at the age of twenty, he was married. Two years later, he left
newspaper work to become the New York representative of a firm which
was to engage in the manufacture and sale of clocks. Accordingly in the
summer of 1855 he took up for the first time his residence in the city
that was to be so closely connected with the rest of his life.

The clock factory made haste to burn and Stedman again was out of
employment, this time in the great wilderness of New York. For a time
he was a real estate and commission broker, later he was a clerk in
a railroad office. Still later he attracted wide attention with his
ephemeral poem "The Diamond Wedding," and on the strength of this work
became a correspondent of the _Tribune_. In 1861 he went to the front
as war correspondent of the Washington _World_, and his letters during
the early years of the struggle were surpassed by those of no other
correspondent. In 1862 he was given a position in the office of the
Attorney-General and a year later he began his career as a broker in
Wall Street, a career that was to hold him in its grip for the rest of
his life.

Pan and Wall Street are far from synonymous. There was poetry in
Stedman's soul; there were within him creative powers that he felt
were able to place him among the masters if he could but command time
to study his art. He worshiped beauty and he was compelled to keep his
eye upon the stock-ticker. He read Keats and Tennyson, Moschus and
Theocritus, but it was always after the freshness of his day had been
given to the excitement of the market place. Time and again he sought
to escape, but the pressure of city life was upon him. He had a growing
family now and there were no resources save those that came from his
office. It was a precarious business in which he engaged; it was
founded upon uncertainty; failure might come at any moment through no
fault of his own. Several times during his life he was on the brink of
ruin. Time and again his health failed him, but he still struggled on.
The financial chapter of his biography is one of the most pathetic in
literary annals. But through toil and discouragement, amid surroundings
fatal to poetic vision, he still kept true to his early literary
ideals, and his output when measured either in volumes or in literary
merit is remarkable.

The first period of Stedman's poetic life produced little save
colorless, passionless lyrics, the echoes of a wide reading in other
poets. He went, like all of his clan, to books rather than life. He was
early enamoured of the Sicilian idylists. It was a dream that never
quite deserted him, to make "a complete, metrical, English version
of the idyls of Theocritus, Moschus, and Bion"--an idle dream indeed
for a vigorous young poet in a land that needed the breath of a new
life. Why dawdle over Theocritus when fields are newly green and youth
is calling? Stedman himself seems to have misgivings. "When the job
[the collecting of the various texts] was nearly ended, I reflected
that one's freshest years should be given to original work, and such
excursions might well be deferred to the pleasures of old age. My time
seemed to have been wasted."[74]

During this earlier period poetry was to him an artistic thing to be
judged coldly from the standpoint of art and beauty. He worked with
extreme care upon his lines. For a time he considered that he had
reached his highest level in "Alcetryon," and he waited eagerly for
the world to discover it. William Winter, his fellow poet of beauty,
hailed it as "not unworthy of the greatest living poet, Tennyson";
Professor Hadley of Yale pronounced it "one of the most successful
modern-antiques that I have ever seen." Then Lowell, with one of his
flashes of insight, told the whole truth: "I don't believe in these
modern antiques--no, not in Landor, not in Swinburne, not in any of
'em. They are all wrong. It is like writing Latin verses--the material
you work in is dead." It was the voice of an oracle to the young
poet. Twenty-three years later he wrote of his chagrin when Lowell
had praised his volume in the _North American Review_ and had said
nothing of his _pièce de résistance_ "Alectryon." "Finally I hinted
as much to him. He at once said that it was my 'best piece of work,'
but no 'addition to poetic literature,' since we already have enough
masterpieces of that kind--from Landor's _Hamadryad_ and Tennyson's
_OEnone_ down to the latest effort by Swinburne or Mr. Fields.... Upon
reflection, I thought Lowell right. A new land calls for new song."[75]

The episode is a most significant one. It marks the passing of a whole
poetic school.

To the war period that followed this era in the poet's life belong the
deepest notes of Stedman's song. In his _Alice of Monmouth_, he is no
longer the mere poet of beauty, he is the interpreter of the thrill,
the sacrifice, the soul of the great war. The poem has the bite of life
in it. "The Cavalry Song" thrills with the very soul of battle:

        Dash on beneath the smoking dome,
          Through level lightnings gallop nearer!
        One look to Heaven! no thoughts of home:
          The guidons that we bear are dearer.
                  CHARG-E!
          Cling! Clang! forward all!
          Heaven help those whose horses fall!
              Cut left and right!

The poem "Wanted--a Man" written in the despondent autumn of 1862, came
not from books, but hot from a man's heart:

        Give us a man of God's own mold,
          Born to marshal his fellow men;
        One whose fame is not bought or sold
          At the stroke of a politician's pen;
          Give us the man of thousands ten,
        Fit to do as well as to plan;
          Give us a rallying-cry, and then,
        Abraham Lincoln, give us a MAN!

        O, we will follow him to the death,
          Where the foeman's fiercest columns are!
        O, we will use our latest breath,
          Cheering for every sacred star!
          His to marshal us high and far;
        Ours to battle, as patriots can
          When a Hero leads the Holy War!--
        Abraham Lincoln, give us a MAN!

Poems like this will not die. They are a part of the deeper history of
America. They are worth more than ships or guns or battlements. Only a
few notes like this did Stedman strike. Once again its deep note rang
in "The Hand of Lincoln":

        Lo, as I gaze, that statured man,
          Built up from yon large hand, appears:
        A type that Nature wills to plan
          But once in all a people's years.

        What better than this voiceless cast
          To tell of such a one as he,
        Since through its living semblance passed
          The thought that bade a race be free!

Another deep note he struck in that war period that so shook him, a
note called forth by personal bereavement and put into immortal form in
"The Undiscovered Country," a song that was to be sung at the funerals
of his wife and his sons, and later at his own:

        Could we but know
          The land that ends our dark, uncertain travel,
        Where lie those happier hills and meadows low--
          Ah, if beyond the spirit's inmost cavil,
        Aught of that Country could we surely know,
              Who would not go?

Aside from a handful of spontaneous love songs--"At Twilight,"
"Autumn Song," "Stanzas for Music," "Song from a Drama," "Creole Love
Song"--nothing else of Stedman's poetic work greatly matters. He is a
lyrist who struck a few true notes, a half dozen perhaps--thin indeed
in volume, but those few immortal.

As the new period progressed, the period in America that had awakened
to the full realization that "a new land needs new song," he became
gradually silent as a singer and gave himself more and more to prose
criticism, a work for which nature had peculiarly endowed him.


IV

In this transition group, poets of external beauty, _Spätromantiker_
yet classicists in their reverence for rule and tradition and in
their struggle for perfection, the typical figure is Thomas Bailey
Aldrich (1836-1907). By birth he was a New Englander, a native of
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he spent that boyhood which he made
classic in the _Story of a Bad Boy_. Three years in New Orleans
whither his father had moved for business reasons, years that seem
to have made slight impression upon him, and then, his father dying
and a college course becoming out of the question, he went with his
mother to New York, where he resided for fourteen years, or between
1852 and 1866. It was a period of activity and of contact with many
things that were to influence his later life. He held successively
the positions of counting-room clerk, junior literary critic on the
_Evening Mirror_, sub-editor of the _Home Journal_, literary adviser
to Derby and Jackson, and managing editor of the _Illustrated News_.
He formed a close friendship with Taylor and Stoddard and Stedman, and
he saw something of the Bohemian group that during the late fifties
and early sixties made headquarters at Pfaff's celebrated resort, 647
Broadway. Then came his call to Boston as editor of _Every Saturday_,
his adoption as a Brahmin, his residence on Beacon Street, and his
admission to the inner circle of the _Atlantic Monthly_.

Aldrich's literary life was from first to last a struggle between his
Bohemian New York education and his later Brahmin classicism. His first
approach to poetry had been through G. P. Morris and Willis on the
_Mirror_ and the _Journal_. From them it was that he learned the strain
of sentimentalism which was to produce such poems as "Mabel, Little
Mabel," "Marian, May, and Maud," and "Babie Bell." Then swiftly he had
come under the spell of Longfellow's German romance, with its Emma of
Ilmenau maidens, its delicious sadness and longing, and its worship of
the night--that dreamy old-world atmosphere which had so influenced
the mid century. It possessed the young poet completely, so completely
that he never freed himself entirely from its spell. Longfellow was his
poet master:

        O Poet-soul! O gentle one!
          Thy thought has made my darkness light;
          The solemn voices of the night
        Have filled me with an inner tone.

        I'll drink thy praise in olden wine,
          And in the cloak of fine conceite
          I'll tell thee how my pulses beat,
        How half my being runs to thine.

Then had come the acquaintance with Taylor and Stoddard, and through
them the powerful influence of Keats and Tennyson.

To study the evolution of Aldrich as a poet, one need not linger
long over _The Bells_ (1855), that earliest collection of echoes and
immaturities; one will do better to begin with his prose work, _Daisy's
Necklace_, published two years later, a book that has a significance
out of all proportion to its value. As we read it we are aware for the
first time of the fact which was to become more and more evident with
every year, that there were two Aldriches: the New York romanticist
dreaming over his _Hyperion_, his Keats, his Tennyson, and the Boston
classicist, severe with all exuberance, correct, and brilliant. The
book is crude, a mere _mélange_ of quotations and echoes, fantastic
often and sentimental, yet one cannot read a chapter of it without
feeling that it was written with all seriousness. When, for example,
the young poet speaks of "The Eve of St. Agnes," we know that he
speaks from his heart: "I sometimes think that this poem is the most
exquisite definition of one phase of poetry in our language. Musical
rhythm, imperial words, gorgeous color and luxurious conceit seemed
to have culminated in it." But in the Prologue and the Epilogue of
the book there is the later Aldrich, the classicist and critic, who
warns us that the work is not to be taken seriously: that it is a mere
burlesque, an extravaganza.

In his earlier work he is a true member of the New York school. He
looks at life and poetry from the same standpoint that Taylor and
Stoddard had viewed them in their attic room on those ambrosial nights
when they had really lived. Taylor's _Poems of the Orient_, inspired by
Shelley's "Lines to an Indian Air" and by Tennyson's "Recollections of
the Arabian Nights," made a profound impression upon him. Stoddard, who
soon was to issue his _Book of the East_, was also to the young poet
like one from a rarer world. When in 1858 Aldrich in his twenty-second
year issued his gorgeous oriental poem, _The Course of True Love Never
Did Run Smooth_, he dedicated it to Stoddard, "under whose fingers this
story would have blossomed into true Arabian roses." To his next volume
he was to add _Cloth of Gold_, a grouping of sensuous lyrics breathing
the soul of "The Eve of St. Agnes": "Tiger Lilies," "The Sultana,"
"Latakia," "When the Sultan Goes to Ispahan," and others. Even as
Taylor and Stoddard, he dreamed that his soul was native in the East:

            I must have known
        Life otherwhere in epochs long since fled,
        For in my veins some Orient blood is red,
        And through my thoughts are lotus blossoms blown.

Everywhere in this earlier work sensuous beauty, soft music faintly
heard in an atmosphere breathing sandal-wood, and oriental perfume:

        Lavender and spikenard sweet,
        And attars, nedd, and richest musk.

Everywhere rich interiors, banquets fit for Porphyro to spread for
Madeline, and, dimly seen in the spice-breathing twilight, the maiden
of his dreams:

        The music sang itself to death,
          The lamps died out in their perfume:
        Abbassa, on a silk divan,
          Sate in the moonlight of her room.
        Her handmaid loosed her scented hair
          With lily fingers; from her brow
        Released the diamond, and unlaced
          The robe that held her bosom's snow;
        Removed the slippers from her feet
          And led her to an ivory bed.

Had Aldrich persisted in such work, he would have become simply another
Stoddard, an echoer of soft sweetness, out of print in the generation
following his death. But for Aldrich there was a restraining force.
The classicist, the Brahmin, within the sentimental young poet was
to be awakened by the greatest of the classicists and the Brahmins,
Dr. Holmes, himself. "You must not feed too much on 'apricots and
dewberries,'" he wrote in 1863. "There is an exquisite sensuousness
that shows through your words and rounds them into voluptuous swells
of rhythm as 'invisible fingers of air' lift the diaphanous gauzes.
Do not let it run away with you. You love the fragrance of certain
words so well that you are in danger of making nosegays when you
should write poems.... Your tendency to vanilla-flavored adjectives
and patchouli-scented participles stifles your strength in cloying
euphemisms."[76]

Wise criticism, but the critic said nothing of a deeper and more
insidious fault. There was no originality in Aldrich's earlier work.
Everywhere it echoed other poetry. Like Taylor and Stoddard, the poet
had so saturated himself with the writings of others that unconsciously
he imitated. One can illustrate this no better perhaps than by
examining a passage which Boynton in a review of the poet cites as
beauty of the highest order. It is from the poem "Judith":

        Thy breath upon my cheek is as the air
        Blown from a far-off grove of cynnamon,
        Fairer art thou than is the night's one star;
        Thou makest me a poet with thine eyes.

Beautiful indeed it is, but one cannot help thinking of Keats' "Eve's
one star" and Marlowe's:

        Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air
        Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
        Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter.

               *       *       *       *       *

        Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.

One has, too, an uneasy feeling that the whole poem would never have
been written but for Arnold's "Sohrab and Rustum" and Tennyson's
narratives.

Aldrich's later life was a prolonged struggle against the poetic
habits of this New York period of his training. The second side of his
personality, however, that severe classical spirit which made war with
his romantic excesses, more and more possessed him. "I have a way,"
he wrote in 1900, "of looking at my own verse as if it were written
by some man I didn't like very well, and thus I am able to look at it
rather impersonally, and to discover when I have fallen into mere 'fine
writing,' a fault I am inclined to, while I detest it."[77]

Imitation was his besetting sin. It was his realization of this fact
more than anything else that caused him to omit from later editions
such wide areas of his earlier work. Of the forty-eight poems in _The
Bells_ he suffered not one to be reprinted; of his second volume he
reprinted only two fragments: "Dressing the Bride" and "Songs from the
Persian"; of the forty-seven lyrics in his third volume he admitted
only seven into his definitive edition, and of the twenty in his fourth
volume he spared but five. Of the vast number of lyrics that he had
produced before the edition of 1882 only thirty-three were deemed of
enough value to be admitted into his final canon.

It was not alone on account of its lack of finish that this enormous
mass of poetical material was condemned. The poet had been born with
nothing in particular to say. Nothing had compelled him to write save
a dilettante desire to work with beautiful things. His life had known
no period of storm and stress from which were to radiate new forces.
His poems had been therefore not creations, but exercises to be thrown
aside when the mood had passed. Exquisite work it often was, but there
was no experience in it, no depth of life, no color of any soil save
that of the dream-world of other poets.

The Aldrich of the later years became more and more an artist, a seeker
for the perfect, a classicist. "The things that have come down to us,"
he wrote once to Stedman, "the things that have _lasted_, are perfect
in form. I believe many a fine thought has perished being inadequately
expressed, and I know that many a light fancy is immortal because of
its perfect wording."[78] He defended himself again and again from the
charge that he was a mere carver of cherry stones, a maker of exquisite
trifles. "Jones's or Smith's lines," he wrote in 1897, "'to my lady's
eyebrow'--which is lovely in every age--will outlast nine-tenths of the
noisy verse of our stress and storm period. Smith or Jones who never
dreamed of having a Mission, will placidly sweep down to posterity
over the fall of a girl's eyelash, leaving our shrill didactic singers
high and dry on the sands of time."[79]

He has summed it up in his "Funeral of a Minor Poet":

        Beauty alone endures from age to age,
        From age to age endures, handmaid of God,
        Poets who walk with her on earth go hence
          Bearing a talisman.

And again in his poem "Art":

        "Let art be all in all," one time I said
        And straightway stirred the hypercritic gall:
        I said not, "Let technique be all in all,"
          But art--a wider meaning.

His essay on Herrick was in reality an apology for himself: "It
sometimes happens that the light love song, reaching few or no ears at
its first singing, outlasts the seemingly more prosperous ode which,
dealing with some passing phase of thought, social or political, gains
the instant applause of the multitude.... His workmanship places him
among the masters.... Of passion, in the deeper sense, Herrick has
little or none. Here are no 'tears from the depth of some divine
despair,' no probing into the tragic heart of man, no insight that goes
much further than the pathos of a cowslip on a maiden's grave."

All this is true so far as it goes, but it must never be forgotten that
beauty is a thing that concerns itself with far more than the externals
of sense. To be of positive value it must deal with the soul of man and
the deeps of human life. A poet now and then may live because of his
lyric to a girl's eyelash, but it is certain that the greater poets
of the race have looked vastly deeper than this or they never would
have survived the years. Unless the poet sees beyond the eyelash into
the soul and the deeps of life, he will survive his generation only
by accident or by circumstance, a fact that Aldrich himself tacitly
admitted in later years by dropping from the final edition of his poems
all lyrics that had as their theme the merely trivial.

To the early Aldrich, life had been too kind. He had known nothing
of the bitterness of defeat, the losing battle with fate, the
inexorableness of bereavement. He had little sympathy with his times
and their problems, and with his countrymen. Like Longfellow, he lived
in his study and his study had only eastern windows. Herrick, whom he
defended as a poet immortal because of trifles made perfect, can never
be charged with this. No singer ever held more to his own soil and the
spirit of his own times. His poems everywhere are redolent of England,
of English meadows and streams, of English flowers. He is an English
poet and only an English poet. But so far as one may learn from his
earlier work, Aldrich might have lived in England or indeed in France.
From such lyrics as "The Winter Robin" one would guess that he was
English. Surely when he longs for the spring and the return of the jay
we may conclude with certainty that he was not a New Englander.

During his earlier life he was in America but not of it. Even the war
had little effect upon him. He was inclined to look at life from the
standpoint of the aristocrat. He held himself aloof from his generation
with little of sympathy for the struggling masses. He was suspicious
of democracy: "We shall have bloody work in this country some of these
days," he wrote to Woodberry in 1894, "when the lazy _canaille_ get
organized. They are the spawn of Santerre and Fouquier-Tinville."[80]
And again, "Emerson's mind would have been enriched if he could have
had more terrapin and less fish-ball."

The mighty westward movement in America after the war concerned him not
at all. Much in the new literary movement repelled him. He denounced
Kipling and declared that he would have rejected the "Recessional" had
it been offered to the _Atlantic_. Realism he despised:

        The mighty Zolaistic Movement now
        Engrosses us--a miasmatic breath
        Blown from the slums. We paint life as it is,
        The hideous side of it, with careful pains
        Making a god of the dull Commonplace,
        For have we not the old gods overthrown
        And set up strangest idols?

A poet should be a leader of his generation. He should be in sympathy
with it; he should interpret the nation to itself; he should have
vision and he should be a compeller of visions. It is not his mission
weakly to complain that the old is passing and that the new is
strange and worthless. The America of the seventies and the eighties
was tremendously alive. It was breaking new areas and organizing a
new empire in the West; it was lifting up a splendid new hope for all
mankind. It needed a poet, and its poets were looking eastward and
singing of the fall of my lady's eyelash.


V

The best refutation of Aldrich is furnished by Aldrich himself. The
years between 1881 and 1890, the period of his editorship of the
_Atlantic Monthly_, were a time of small production, of pause and
calm, of ripening, of final adjustment. Following his resignation of
the editorship, he began again actively to produce poetry and now for
ten or twelve years he worked in contemporary life--in occasional and
commemorative odes, monodies and elegies; in studies of the deeper
meanings of life; in problems of death and of destiny. The volumes of
1891, 1895, and 1896 contain the soul of all his poetry. From them he
omitted practically nothing when at last he made up the definitive
edition of his work. The Aldrich of the sixties and the seventies had
been trivial, artificial, sentimental; the Aldrich who wrote in the
nineties had a purpose: he worked now in the deeps of life; he was
in earnest; he had a message. It is significant in view of his oft
expressed theories of poetry that when in 1897 Stedman asked him to
indicate his best lyrics for publication in the _American Anthology_,
he chose these: "Shaw Memorial Ode," "Outward Bound," "Andromeda,"
"Reminiscence," "The Last Cæsar," "Alice Yeaton's Son," "Unguarded
Gates," "A Shadow of the Night," "Monody on Wendell Phillips,"
"To Hafiz," "Prescience," "Santo Domingo," "Tennyson," "Memory,"
"Twilight," "Quits"--all but one of them, "Prescience," first published
after 1891. There are no "apricots and dewberries" about these masterly
lyrics; they deal with no such trivialities as the fall of an eyelash.
They thrill with the problems of life and with experience. It was
not until this later period that the poet could say to a bereaved
friend: "You will recall a poem of mine entitled 'A Shadow of the
Night.' There is a passage here and there that might possibly appeal
to you"--a severe test, but one that reveals the true poet. What has
he for his generation? What has he for the crises of life, inevitably
must be asked at last of every poet. His change of ideals he voiced in
"Andromeda":

        The smooth-worn coin and threadbare classic phrase
        Of Grecian myths that did beguile my youth
        Beguile me not as in the olden days:
        I think more grace and beauty dwell with truth.

Now in the rich afternoon of his art the poet is no longer content to
echo the music of masters. He has awakened to the deeper meanings of
life; he is himself a master; he now has something to say, and the
years of his apprenticeship have given him a flawless style in which to
say it. No other American poet has approached the perfect art of these
later lyrics. Who else on this side of the water could have written
"The Sisters' Tragedy," with its melody, its finish, its distinction of
phrase?

        Both still were young, in life's rich summer yet;
        And one was dark, with tints of violet
        In hair and eye, and one was blonde as she
        Who rose--a second daybreak--from the sea
        Gold tressed and azure-eyed.

And, moreover, in addition to all this it is a quivering section of
human life. One reads on and on and then--sharply draws his breath at
the rapier thrust of the closing lines.

What a world of distance between the early sensuous poet of the New
York school and the seer of the later period who could pen a lyric
beginning,

        O short-breathed music, dying on the tongue
        Ere half the mystic canticle be sung!
        O harp of life so speedily unstrung!
        Who, if 't were his to choose, would know again
        The bitter sweetness of the last refrain,
        Its rapture and its pain?

Or this in its flawless perfectness:

        At noon of night, and at the night's pale end,
          Such things have chanced to me
        As one, by day, would scarcely tell a friend
          For fear of mockery.

        Shadows, you say, mirages of the brain!
          I know not, faith, not I.
        Is it more strange the dead should walk again
          Than that the quick should die?

A few of his later sonnets, "Outward Bound," redolent of his early
love of the sea, "When to Soft Sleep We Give Ourselves Away," "The
Undiscovered Country," "Enamored Architect of Airy Rhyme," and "I Vex
Me Not with Brooding on the Years," have hardly been surpassed in
American literature.

It was from this later period that Aldrich chose almost all of
his poems in that compressed volume which was to be his lasting
contribution to poetry, _A Book of Songs and Sonnets_. It is but a
fraction of his work, but it is all that will survive the years. He
will go down as the most finished poet that America has yet produced;
the later Landor, romantic yet severely classical; the maker of trifles
that were miracles of art; and finally as the belated singer who awoke
in his later years to message and vision and produced with his mastered
art a handful of perfect lyrics that rank with the strongest that
America has given to song.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  JAMES BAYARD TAYLOR. (1825-1878.) _Ximena; or, the Battle of
  Sierra Morena, and other Poems_, Philadelphia, 1844; _Rhymes
  of Travel, Ballads, Lyrics, and Songs_, Boston and London,
  1851; _Poems of the Orient_, Boston, 1854; _Poems of Home and
  Travel_, 1855; _The Poet's Journal_, 1862; _The Picture of St.
  John, a Poem_, 1866; _Translation of Faust_, 1870-1871; _The
  Masque of the Gods_, 1872; _Lars: a Pastoral of Norway_, 1873;
  _The Prophet: a Tragedy_, 1874; _Home Pastorals, Ballads, and
  Lyrics_, 1875; _The National Ode_, 1876; _Prince Deukalion_,
  1878; _Poetical Works_, Household Edition, 1880, 1902; _Life and
  Letters of Bayard Taylor_, edited by Marie Hansen Taylor and
  Horace E. Scudder. 2 vols. 1884; _Bayard Taylor_, American Men of
  Letters Series, A. H. Smyth. 1896; _Life of Bayard Taylor_, R. H.
  Conwell.

  RICHARD HENRY STODDARD. (1825-1903.) _Footprints_, New York,
  1849; _Poems_, Boston, 1852; _Songs of Summer_, Boston, 1857;
  _The King's Bell_, New York, 1862; _Abraham Lincoln: an Horatian
  Ode_, New York, 1865; _The Book of the East, and Other Poems_,
  Boston, 1871; _Poems_, New York, 1880; _The Lion's Cub, with
  Other Verse_, New York, 1890; _Recollections, Personal and
  Literary_, by Richard Henry Stoddard. Edited by Ripley Hitchcock,
  New York, 1903.

  EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN. (1833-1908.) _The Prince's Ball_, New
  York, 1860; _Poems, Lyrical and Idyllic_, New York, 1860; _The
  Battle of Bull Run_, New York, 1861; _Alice of Monmouth. An Idyl
  of the Great War and Other Poems_, New York, 1863; _The Blameless
  Prince, and Other Poems_, Boston, 1869; _The Poetical Works of
  Edmund Clarence Stedman_, Boston, 1873; _Favorite Poems_. Vest
  Pocket Series, 1877; _Hawthorne and Other Poems_, 1877; _Lyrics
  and Idyls with Other Poems_, London, 1879; _The Poetical Works
  of Edmund Clarence Stedman_. Household Edition, 1884; _Songs
  and Ballads_, 1884; _Poems Now First Collected_, 1897; _Mater
  Coronata_, 1901; _The Poems of Edmund Clarence Stedman_, 1908;
  _Life and Letters of Edmund Clarence Stedman_. By Laura Stedman
  and George M. Gould. 2 vols. New York, 1910.

  THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH. (1836-1907.) _The Bells. A Collection
  of Chimes_, New York, 1855; _Daisy's Necklace and What Came of
  It. A Literary Episode_ [Prose], New York, 1857; _The Course of
  True Love Never Did Run Smooth_, New York, 1858; _The Ballad
  of Babie Bell, and Other Poems_, New York, 1859; _Pampinea,
  and Other Poems_, New York, 1861; _Poems_. With Portrait, New
  York, 1863; _The Poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich_. Boston, 1865;
  _Cloth of Gold, and Other Poems_, 1874; _Flower and Thorn. Later
  Poems_, 1877; _Friar Jerome's Beautiful Book, and Other Poems_,
  1881; _XXXVI Lyrics and XII Sonnets_, 1881; _The Poems of Thomas
  Bailey Aldrich_. Illustrated by the Paint and Clay Club, 1882;
  _Mercedes, and Later Lyrics_, 1884; _The Poems of Thomas Bailey
  Aldrich_. Household Edition, 1885; _Wyndham Towers_, 1890; _The
  Sisters' Tragedy, with Other Poems, Lyrical and Dramatic_,
  1891; _Mercedes. A Drama in Two Acts, as Performed at Palmer's
  Theatre_, 1894; _Unguarded Gates, and Other Poems_, 1895; _Later
  Lyrics_, 1896; _Judith and Holofernes, a Poem_, 1896; _The
  Works of Thomas Bailey Aldrich_, Riverside Edition, 1896; _The
  Poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich_. Revised and Complete Household
  Edition, 1897; _A Book of Songs and Sonnets Selected from the
  Poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich_, 1906; _The Life of Thomas Bailey
  Aldrich_, by Ferris Greenslet, 1908.



CHAPTER VIII

RISE OF THE NATURE WRITERS


One phase of the new discovery of America following the Civil
War--return to reality, insistence upon things as they are--expressed
itself in nature study. While the new local color school was ransacking
the odd corners of the land for curious types of humanity, these
writers were calling attention to the hitherto unnoticed phenomena of
fields and meadows and woodlands. Handbooks of birds and trees, nature
guides and charts of all varieties were multiplied. Nature study became
an art, and it ranged all the way from a fad for dilettantes to a
solemn exercise in the public school curriculum.


I

The creator and inspirer and greatest figure of this school of nature
writers was Henry David Thoreau. In point of time he was of the
mid-century school that gathered about Emerson. He was born in 1817,
two years earlier than Lowell, and he died in 1862, the first to break
the earlier group, yet in spirit and influence and indeed in everything
that makes for the final fixing of an author's place in the literary
history of his land, he belongs to the period after 1870.

His own generation rejected Thoreau. They could see in him only an
imitator of Emerson and an exploiter of newnesses in an age grown weary
of newnesses. They did not condemn him: they ignored him. Of his first
book, _A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers_, 1849, printed at
Thoreau's expense, only two hundred and nineteen copies had been sold
in 1853 when the remainder of the edition was returned to the author.
_Walden; or, Life in the Woods_ fared somewhat better because of the
unique social experiment which it recorded, but not enough better to
encourage its author ever to publish another book. After the death of
Thoreau, Emerson undertook to give him permanence by editing four or
five posthumous volumes made up of his scattered magazine articles and
papers, but even this powerful influence could not arouse enthusiasm.
The _North American Review_, which in 1854 had devoted seven
patronizing lines to _Walden_, took no note of Emerson's editings until
the _Letters to Various Persons_ appeared in 1865. Then it awoke in
anger. To publish the letters of an author is to proclaim that author's
importance, and what had Thoreau done save to live as a hermit for two
years in the woods? He was a mere eccentric, a "Diogenes in his barrel,
reducing his wants to a little sunlight"; one of "the pistillate
plants kindled to fruitage by the Emersonian pollen." "It is something
eminently fitting that his posthumous works should be offered us by
Emerson, for they are strawberries from his own garden." He was an
egotist, a poser for effect, a condemner of what he could not himself
attain to. "He condemns a world, the hollowness of whose satisfactions
he had never had the means of testing." "He had no humor"; "he had
little active imagination"; "he was not by nature an observer." "He
turns commonplaces end for end, and fancies it makes something new of
them." His nature study was only "one more symptom of the general liver
complaint." "I look upon a great deal of the modern sentimentalism
about Nature as a mark of disease."

The review was from no less a pen than Lowell's and it carried
conviction. Its author spread it widely by republishing it in _My
Study Windows_, 1871, and including it in his collected works. It was
the voice of Thoreau's generation, and to England at least it seems
to have been the final word. Stevenson after reading the essay was
emboldened to sum up the man in one word, a "skulker." The effect was
almost equally strong in America. During the period from 1868 to 1881,
not one of the author's volumes was republished in a new edition. When
in 1870 Thomas Wentworth Higginson, his foremost champion in the dark
period, had attempted to secure the manuscript journal for possible
publication, he was met by Judge Hoar, the latter-day guardian of
Concord, with the question: "Why should any one wish to have Thoreau's
journal printed?"

That was the attitude of the seventies. Then had come the slow revival
of the eighties. At the beginning of the decade H. G. O. Blake, into
whose hands Thoreau's papers had fallen, began to publish extracts
from the journals grouped according to days and seasons: _Early Spring
in Massachusetts_, 1881. _Summer_, 1884, and _Winter_, 1888. The
break came in the nineties. Between 1893 and 1906 were published, in
addition to many individual reprints of Thoreau's books, the Riverside
edition in ten volumes, the complete journal in fourteen volumes, and
the definitive Walden edition in twenty volumes. A Thoreau cult had
arisen that hailed him as leader and master. After all the years he had
arrived at his own. In the case of no other American has there been so
complete and overwhelming a reversal of the verdict of an author's own
generation.

Lowell devoted his whole essay to a criticism of Thoreau as a
Transcendental theorist and social reformer. To-day it is recognized
that fundamentally he was neither of these. His rehabilitation has
come solely because of that element condemned by Lowell as a certain
"modern sentimentalism about Nature." It is not alone because he was
a naturalist that he has lived, or because he loved and lived with
Nature: it was because he brought to the study of Nature a new manner,
because he created a new nature sentiment, and so added a new field
to literature. Instead of having been an imitator of Emerson, he is
now seen to have been a positive original force, the most original,
perhaps, save Whitman, that has contributed to American literature.

The first fact of importance about Thoreau is the fact that he wrote
day after day, seldom a day omitted for years, the 6,811 closely
printed pages of his journal, every part done with thoroughness and
finish, with no dream that it ever was to be published. It is a fact
enormously significant; it reveals to us the naked man; it furnishes a
basis for all constructive criticism. "My journal," he wrote November
16, 1850, "should be the record of my love. I would write in it only
of the things I love, my affection for an aspect of the world, what
I love to think of." And again, "Who keeps a journal is purveyor to
the gods." And still again, February 8, 1841, "My journal is that of
me which would else spill over and run to waste, gleanings from the
field which in action I reap. I must not live for it, but, in it, for
the gods. They are my correspondents, to whom daily I send off this
sheet, post-paid. I am clerk in their counting house, and at evening
transfer the account from day-book to ledger." He was not a poser for
effect, for it is impossible for one to pose throughout 6,811 printed
pages wrought for no eyes save his own and the gods. His power came
rather from the fact that he did not pose; that he wrote spontaneously
for the sheer love of the writing. "I think," he declares in one
place, "that the one word that will explain the Shakespeare miracle
is unconsciousness." The word explains also Thoreau. Again he adds,
"There probably has been no more conscious age than the present."
The sentence is a key: in a conscious age, a classical age building
on books, watchful of conventions and precedents, Thoreau stood true
only to himself and Nature. Between him and the school of Taylor and
Stoddard there was the whole diameter. He was affected only by the
real, by experience, by the testimony of his own soul. "The forcible
writer," he wrote February 3, 1852, "stands boldly behind his words
with his experience. He does not make books out of books, but he has
been _there_ in person."

In his nature observations Thoreau was not a scientist. It was not his
object to collect endless data for the purpose of arriving at laws
and generalizations. He approached Nature rather as a poet. There was
in him an innate love for the wild and elemental. He had, moreover, a
passion for transcending, or peering beyond, those bounds of ordinary
experience and capturing the half-divined secrets that Nature so
jealously guards. His attitude was one of perpetual wonder, that wonder
of the child which has produced the mythology of the race. Always was
he seeking to catch Nature for an instant off her guard. His eyes were
on the strain for the unseen, his ears for the unheard.

    I was always conscious of sounds in Nature which my ears could
    not hear, that I caught but a prelude to a strain. She always
    retreats as I advance. Away behind and behind is she and her
    meaning. Will not this faith and expectation make itself ears
    at length? I never saw to the end, nor heard to the end, but
    the best part was unseen and unheard.--February 21, 1842.

Nature so absorbed him that he lived constantly in an eager, expectant
atmosphere. "I am excited by this wonderful air," he writes, "and go,
listening for the note of the bluebird or other comer." It was not what
he saw in Nature that was important; it was what he felt. "A man has
not seen a thing who has not felt it." He took stock of his sensations
like a miser. "As I came home through the woods with my string of fish,
trailing my pole, it being now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a
woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage
delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him raw; not
that I was hungry then, except for that wildness which he represented."
It was by this watchfulness for the elemental, this constant scrutiny
of instincts and savage outcroppings, that he sought to master the
secret that baffled him. He would keep himself constantly in key,
constantly sensitive to every fleeting glimpse of harmony that Nature
might vouchsafe him.

Nature stirred him always on the side of the imagination. He loved
Indian arrow-heads, for they were fragments of a mysterious past; he
loved twilight effects and midnight walks, for the mystery of night
challenged him and brought him nearer to the cosmic and the infinite:

    I have returned to the woods and ... spent the hours of
    midnight fishing from a boat by moonlight, serenaded by owls
    and foxes, and hearing, from time to time, the creaking note of
    some unknown bird close at hand. These experiences were very
    memorable and valuable to me--anchored in forty feet of water,
    and twenty or thirty rods from the shore ... communicating
    by a long flaxen line with mysterious nocturnal fishes which
    had their dwelling forty feet below, or sometimes dragging
    sixty feet of line about the pond as I drifted in the gentle
    night breeze, now and then feeling a slight vibration along
    it, indicative of some life prowling about its extremity, of
    dull uncertain blundering purpose there.... It was very queer,
    especially in dark nights, when your thoughts had wandered to
    vast and cosmogonal themes in other spheres, to feel this faint
    jerk which came ... to link you to Nature again.

Burroughs, like most scientists, slept at night. His observations
were made by day: there is hardly a night scene in all his works; but
Thoreau abounds in night scenes as much even as Novalis or Longfellow.
He was at heart a mystic and he viewed Nature always from mystic
standpoints. In "Night and Moonlight" he writes:

    Is not the midnight like Central Africa to most of us? Are we
    not tempted to explore it--to penetrate to the shores of its
    lake Tchad, and discover the sources of the Nile, perchance the
    Mountains of the Moon? Who knows what fertility and beauty,
    moral and natural, are there to be found? In the Mountains of
    the Moon, in the Central Africa of the night, there is where
    all Niles have their hidden heads.

It was to discover these Mountains of the Moon, these mysterious
sources of the Nile, forever so far away and yet forever so near, that
Thoreau went to Nature. He went not to gather and to classify facts;
he went to satisfy his soul. Burroughs is inclined to wonder and even
laugh because of the many times he speaks of hearing the voice of
unknown birds. To Burroughs the forest contained no unknown birds; to
Thoreau the forest was valuable only because it _did_ contain unknown
birds. His straining for hidden melodies, his striving for deeper
meanings, his dreaming of Mountains of the Moon that might become
visible at any moment just beyond the horizon--it is in these things
that he differs from all other nature writers. He was not a reporter;
he was a prophet. "My profession is always to be on the alert, to find
God in nature, to know His lurking places, to attend all the oratorios,
the operas in nature. Shall I not have words as fresh as my thought?
Shall I use any other man's word?"

To him Nature was of value only as it furnished message for humanity.
"A fact," he declared, "must be the vehicle of some humanity in order
to interest us." He went to Nature for tonic, not for fact; he sought
only truth and freedom and spontaneousness of soul. He had no desire to
write a botany, or an ornithology; rather would he learn of Nature the
fundamentals of human living. "I went into the woods because I wished
to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and
see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to
die, discover that I had not lived." Burroughs went into the woods to
know and to make others to know, Thoreau went in to think and to feel;
Burroughs was a naturalist, Thoreau a _super_naturalist.

Thoreau belongs completely to the later period: he is as thoroughly
of American soil as even Mark Twain or Lincoln or Whitman. While
Longfellow and Lowell, Taylor and Aldrich, and the rest of their school
were looking eagerly to Europe, Thoreau was completely engrossed with
his own land. "No truer American ever existed than Thoreau," wrote
Emerson in his essay. "His preference of his country and condition
was genuine, and his aversion from English and European manners and
tastes almost reached contempt.... He wished to go to Oregon, not to
London." It was this new-worldness, this freshness, this originality
that made him the man of the new era. He went always to the sources;
his work is redolent at every point of American soil. His images, his
illustrations, his subject matter, all are American. His style, after
he had outgrown an early fondness for Carlyle, is peculiarly his own,
wonderfully simple and limpid and individual. Often it flows like
poetry:

    The sun is near setting away beyond Fair Haven. A bewitching
    stillness reigns through all the woodland, and over all the
    snowclad landscape. Indeed, the winter day in the woods or
    fields has commonly the stillness of twilight. The pond is
    perfectly smooth and full of light. I hear only the strokes of
    a lingering woodchopper at a distance and the melodious hooting
    of an owl.--December 9, 1856.

And what is this but poetry?

    On the morning when the wild geese go over, I, too, feel
    the migratory instinct strong within me, and anticipate the
    breaking up of winter. If I yielded to this impulse, it would
    surely guide me to summer haunts. This indefinite restlessness
    and fluttering on the perch no doubt prophesy the final
    migration of souls out of nature to a serener summer, in long
    harrows and waving lines, in the spring weather, over that
    fair uplands and fertile Elysian meadows, winging their way at
    evening, and seeking a resting place with loud cackling and
    uproar.--January 29, 1859.

Thoreau was one of the most tonic forces of the later period. His
inspiration and his spirit filled all the later school of Nature
writers. One cannot read him long, especially in his later and more
unconscious work, and find oneself unmoved. He inspires to action,
to restlessness of soul. Take an entry like that of January 7, 1857,
made during one of the most tumultuous of New England winter storms:
"It is bitter cold, with a cutting N.W. wind.... All animate things
are reduced to their lowest terms. This is the fifth day of cold,
blowing weather," and so on and on till one fairly hears the roaring
of the storm. Yet, despite the blast and the piercing cold, Thoreau
goes out for his walk as usual and battles with the elements through
miles of snow-smothered wilderness. "There is nothing so sanative, so
poetic, as a walk in the woods and fields even now, when I meet none
abroad for pleasure. Nothing so inspires me, and excites such serene
and profitable thought." His battle with the wind and the cold and the
wilderness grips us as we read. We too would rush into the storm and
breast it and exult in it; we too would walk with Nature under the open
skies, in the broad, wholesome places, and view the problems of life
with serene soul. It is this dynamic element of Thoreau that has given
him his following. He is sincere, he is working from the impulses of
his soul, he is genuine. He is not a scientist: he is a poet and a
seer. When we walk with Burroughs, we see as with new eyes; when with
Thoreau, we feel. With Burroughs we learn of signs and seasons and
traits; with Thoreau we find ourselves straining ears to catch the
deeper harmonies, the mysterious soul of Nature, that somehow we feel
to be intertwined eternally with the soul of man.


II

The transition from Thoreau to John Burroughs was through Thomas
Wentworth Higginson. Wilson Flagg (1805-1884) had contributed to the
early volumes of the _Atlantic_ a series of bird studies Irving-like in
atmosphere and sentiment, but he had made little impression. He was too
literary, too much the child of the mid century. In his study of the
owl, for instance, he could write: "I will not enter into a speculation
concerning the nature and origin of those agreeable emotions which are
so generally produced by the sight of objects that suggest the ideas
of decay and desolation. It is happy for us, that, by the alchemy of
poetry, we are able to turn some of our misfortunes into sources of
melancholy pleasure, after the poignancy of grief has been assuaged
by time," and so on and on till he got to midnight and the owl. It is
a literary effort. There is lack of sincerity in it: the author is
thinking too exclusively of his reader. The difference between it and a
passage from Thoreau is the difference between a reverie in the study
and a battle in the woods. Higginson, who followed in the _Atlantic_
with "April Days," "The Life of Birds," and the other studies which he
issued as _Out-Door Papers_ in 1863, avoided the over-literary element
on one hand and the over-scientific on the other and so became the
first of what may be called the modern school of nature writers.

As we read Higginson's book to-day we find style and method curiously
familiar. For the first time in American literature we have that
chatty, anecdotal, half-scientific, half-sentimental treatment of
out-door things that soon was to become so common. It is difficult
to persuade oneself that a paper like "The Life of Birds," for
instance, was not written by the Burroughs of the earlier period.
_Out-Door Papers_ and _Wake-Robin_ are pitched in the same key. Who
could be positive of the authorship of a fragment like this, were not
Higginson's name appended:

    To a great extent, birds follow the opening foliage northward,
    and flee from its fading, south; they must keep near the food
    on which they live, and secure due shelter for their eggs. Our
    earliest visitors shrink from trusting the bare trees with
    their nests; the song-sparrow seeks the ground; the blue-bird
    finds a box or hole somewhere; the red-wing haunts the marshy
    thickets, safer in the spring than at any other season; and
    even the sociable robin prefers a pine-tree to an apple-tree,
    if resolved to begin housekeeping prematurely. The movements of
    birds are chiefly timed by the advance of vegetation; and the
    thing most thoroughly surprising about them is not the general
    fact of the change of latitude, but their accuracy in hitting
    the precise locality. That the same cat-bird should find its
    way back, every spring, to almost the same branch of yonder
    larch-tree--that is the thing astonishing to me.

The most notable thing, however, about Higginson's out-door papers was
their ringing call for a return to reality. It was he who more than any
one else created interest in Thoreau; and it was he who first gained
attention with the cry, "Back to nature." "The American temperament,"
he declared, "needs at this moment nothing so much as that wholesome
training of semi-rural life which reared Hampden and Cromwell to
assume at one grasp the sovereignty of England.... The little I have
gained from colleges and libraries has certainly not worn so well as
the little I learned in childhood of the habits of plant, bird, and
insect.... Our American life still needs, beyond all things else, the
more habitual cultivation of out-door habits.... The more bent any
man is on action, the more profoundly he needs the calm lessons of
Nature to preserve his equilibrium." To the new generation of writers
he flung a challenge: "Thoreau camps down by Walden Pond and shows us
that absolutely nothing in Nature has ever yet been described--not a
bird or a berry of the woods, not a drop of water, not a spicula of
ice, nor winter, nor summer, nor sun, nor star." And again, "What do we
know, for instance, of the local distribution of our birds? I remember
that in my latest conversation with Thoreau last December, he mentioned
most remarkable facts in this department, which had fallen under his
unerring eyes."

This was published in the _Atlantic_, September, 1862. In May, 1865, as
if in answer to the challenge, there appeared in the same magazine John
Burroughs's "With the Birds," a paper which he had written two years
before. The army life of Higginson and later his humanitarian work
in many fields put an end to his out-door writings, but not to his
influence.


III

John Burroughs was born on a farm in Roxbury, New York, just below the
Otsego County made famous by Cooper and the Leather-stocking Tales. His
boyhood until he was seventeen "was mainly occupied," to quote his own
words, "with farm work in the summer, and with a little study, offset
by much hunting and trapping of wild animals in winter." One must study
this boyhood if one is to understand the man's work:

    From childhood I was familiar with the homely facts of the
    barn, and of cattle and horses; the sugar-making in the maple
    woods in early spring; the work of the corn-field, hay-field,
    potato-field; the delicious fall months with their pigeon
    and squirrel shootings; threshing of buckwheat, gathering of
    apples, and burning of fallows; in short, everything that
    smacked of, and led to, the open air and its exhilarations. I
    belonged, as I may say, to them; and my substance and taste, as
    they grew, assimilated them as truly as my body did its food.
    I loved a few books much; but I loved Nature, in all those
    material examples and subtle expressions, with a love passing
    all the books of the world.[81]

Of schooling he had little. "I was born," he once wrote, "of and among
people who neither read books nor cared for them, and my closest
associations since have been alien to literature and art." The usual
winter term in his native district, a year or two in academy courses
after he was seventeen--that was the extent of his formal education. At
twenty he was married, at twenty-seven, after having drifted about as a
school teacher, he settled at Washington in a position in the Treasury
Department that held him closely for nine years.

It was a period of self-discipline. His intellectual life had been
awakened by Emerson, and he had followed him into wide fields. He read
enormously, he studied languages, he trained himself with models of
English style. His love of the country, legacy of the boyhood which he
never outgrew, impelled him to a systematic study of ornithology. Birds
were his avocation, his enthusiasm; by and by they were to become his
vocation.

In 1861, when he was twenty-four, he came for the first time in contact
with _Leaves of Grass_, and it aroused him like a vision.

    It produced the impression upon me in my moral consciousness
    that actual Nature did in her material forms and shows; ... I
    shall never forget the strange delight I had from the following
    passage, as we sat there on the sunlit border of an autumn
    forest:

        I lie abstracted, and hear beautiful tales of things, and the
              reasons of things;
        They are so beautiful, I nudge myself to listen.
        I cannot say to any person what I hear--I cannot say it to
              myself--it is very wonderful;
        It is no small matter, this round and delicious globe, moving so
              exactly in its orbit forever and ever, without one jolt,
              or the untruth of a single second;
        I do not think it was made in six days, nor in ten thousand
              years, nor in ten billions of years;
        Nor planned and built one thing after another, as an architect
              plans and builds a house.

It was the touch that he needed. There was in him a strain of wildness
even as in Thoreau, an almost feminine shrinking from the crowd, a
thinking of Nature as something apart from man, a retreat and an
antidote; Whitman added the human element, the sympathetic touch, the
sense of the value of man.

Burroughs's first work appeared that same year in the New York
_Leader_, a series of papers under the heading "From the Back
Country"--crude things compared with Higginson's polished work, yet
filled with a genuineness and a freshness that were notable. All of
his earlier sketches were the work of a careful observer who wrote
from sheer love of Nature. Moreover, they were the work of a dreamer
and a poet. As the years took him farther from that marvelous boyhood,
the light upon it grew softer and more golden. He dreamed of it in the
spring when the bluebird called and the high-hole; he dreamed of it on
his walks in the city suburbs when the swallows greeted him and the
warblers. His _Atlantic_ paper "With the Birds," now the first chapter
of his published works, begins with the sentence, now suppressed, "Not
in the spirit of exact science, but rather with the freedom of love and
old acquaintance, would I celebrate some of the minstrels of the field
and forest." And years later, when he wrote the general introduction to
his works, he could say:

    My first book, _Wake-Robin_, was written while I was a
    government clerk in Washington. It enabled me to live over
    again the days I had passed with the birds and in the scenes
    of my youth. I wrote the book sitting at a desk in front of
    an iron wall. I was keeper of a vault in which many millions
    of bank notes were stored. During my long periods of leisure I
    took refuge in my pen. How my mind reacted from the iron wall
    in front of me and sought solace in memories of the birds and
    of summer fields and woods! Most of the chapters of _Winter
    Sunshine_ were written at the same desk. The sunshine there
    referred to is of a richer quality than is found in New York
    and New England.

That was the secret of the early work of John Burroughs: to him Nature
was a part of his boyhood, with boyhood's light upon it. He dreamed
of her when the city homesickness was upon him and when he wrote of
her he wrote from a full heart. He felt every line of it; the light
that plays over it is indeed of "richer quality" than is found over
any actual hills. A part of his early popularity came undoubtedly from
the sentiment which he freely mingled with his studies of field and
woodland.

    There is something almost pathetic in the fact that the birds
    remain forever the same. You grow old, your friends die or
    remove to distant lands, events sweep on and all things are
    changed. Yet there in your garden or orchard are the birds
    of your boyhood, the same notes, the same calls, and, to
    all intents and purposes, the identical birds endowed with
    perennial youth. The swallows, that built so far out of your
    reach beneath the eaves of your father's barn, the same ones
    now squeak and chatter beneath the eaves of your barn. The
    warblers and shy wood birds you pursued with such glee ever so
    many summers ago, and whose names you taught to some beloved
    youth who now, perchance, sleeps amid his native hills, no
    marks of time or change cling to them; and when you walk out
    to the strange woods, there they are, mocking you with their
    ever renewed and joyous youth. The call of the high-holes, the
    whistle of the quail, the strong piercing note of the meadow
    lark, the drumming of the grouse--how these sounds ignore the
    years, and strike on the ear with the melody of that springtime
    when the world was young, and life was all holiday and
    romance.[82]

The twenty years following his first _Atlantic_ paper were the years
of his professional life. He left his clerkship at Washington in 1873
to become a national bank inspector, and until 1884, when he finally
retired to rural life, he was busy with his duties as receiver of
broken banks, examiner of accounts, and financial expert. During
the two decades he published his most distinctive nature volumes:
_Wake-Robin_, _Winter Sunshine_, _Birds and Poets_, _Locusts and Wild
Honey_, and _Pepacton_, a small output for a man between the years of
twenty-six and forty-six, yet one that is significant. Not a page of
it had been written in haste, not a page that his later hand had found
it necessary to revise. The primal freshness of youth is upon the
books; they are as full of vitality and sweetness as a spring morning.
Doubtless they are all the better for being the enthusiasms of hours
stolen from a dry profession. It is tonic to read them. They are never
at fault either in fact or in influence; they are the work of a trained
observer, a scientist indeed, yet one who has gone to Nature like a
priest to the holy of holies with the glow in his heart and the light
on his face.

During the following decade, or, more exactly, the period between 1884
and 1894, he added four more books, three of them, _Fresh Fields_,
_Signs and Seasons_, and _Riverby_, devoted to Nature, though with
more and more of the coldly scientific spirit. These with the five
earlier volumes stand alone as Burroughs's contribution to the field
that he has made peculiarly his own. They contain his freshest and most
spontaneous work.

To read these volumes is like going out ourselves into the forest
with an expert guide who sees everything and who has at his command
an unlimited store of anecdote and chatty reminiscence of birds and
animals and even plants. To Burroughs, Nature was sufficient in
herself. He loved her for the feelings she could arouse within him,
for the recollections she could stir of the springtime of his life,
for the beauty and the harmony that everywhere he found, and for the
elemental laws that he saw on all sides at work and that stirred his
curiosity. He had no desire to study Nature to secure evidences of a
governing personality. He would draw no moral and offer no solutions
of the problem of good and evil. Of the fortunes of the spirit of man
he cared but little; as for himself, serene, he would fold his hands
and wait. He was no mystic like Thoreau, listening for higher harmonies
and peering eagerly beyond every headland to discover perchance the
sources of the Nile. Upon him there was no necessity save to observe,
to record, to discover new phenomena, to enlarge the store of facts,
to walk flat-footed upon the material earth and observe the working of
the physical mechanics about him and to teach others to observe them
and to enjoy them. To appreciate the difference between Burroughs and
Thoreau one has but to read them side by side. For instance, on March
21, 1853, Thoreau makes this entry:

    As I was rising this crowning road, just beyond the old lime
    kiln, there leaked into my open ear the first peep of a hyla
    from some far pool ... a note or two which scarcely rends the
    air, does no violence to the zephyr, but yet leaks through all
    obstacles and far over the downs to the ear of the listening
    naturalist, as it were the first faint cry of the new-born
    year, notwithstanding the notes of birds. Where so long I have
    heard the prattling and moaning of the wind, what means this
    tenser, far-piercing sound?

Burroughs writes of the same subject in this way:

    From what fact or event shall we really date the beginning of
    spring? The little piping frogs usually furnish a good starting
    point. One spring I heard the first note on the 6th of April;
    the next on the 27th of February; but in reality the latter
    season was only about two weeks earlier than the former.... The
    little piper will sometimes climb a bullrush to which he clings
    like a sailor to a mast, and send forth his shrill call. There
    is a Southern species, heard when you have reached the Potomac,
    whose note is far more harsh and crackling. To stand on the
    verge of a swamp vocal with these, pains and stuns the ear.

Then in a foot-note:

    The Southern species is called the green hyla. I have since
    heard them in my neighborhood on the Hudson.

Never was there writer who kept his feet more firmly on solid earth. He
takes nothing for granted; he is satisfied only with the testimony of
the senses, and his own senses. Everything--example, allusion, figure
of speech, subject and predicate--comes from him in the concrete.
Everything is specific, localized, dated. He was in accord with his era
that demanded only reality. It is the task of the writer, he declared,
"to pierce through our callousness and indifference and give us fresh
impressions of things as they really are."

How permanent is such work? How valuable is it? Is Nature then a
thing simply to be observed and classified and reduced to formulæ? To
determine the average day on which the bluebird comes, or the wild
geese fly, or the hyla calls, is there virtue in that? To Burroughs,
Nature was a thing to be observed accurately for new facts to add to
the known. Of Thoreau he wrote: "Ten years of persistent spying and
inspecting of Nature and no new thing found out." Do we ask of the poet
and the seer simply for mere new material phenomena found out to add to
our science? The supreme test that must come at last to all literature
is the question: How much of human life is there in it? How much "Thus
saith the Lord"? Who seeks for material things with eyes, however keen,
and dreams of no sources of the Nile, no vision that may come perchance
from supernatural power latent in bird and leaf and tendril, is a
scientist, however charming he make his subject or however sympathetic
be his attitude. Judged by such a standard, Burroughs falls short, far
short of a place with the highest. He must decrease, while Thoreau
increases. He must be placed at last among the scientists who have
added facts and laws, while Thoreau is seated with the poets and the
prophets.

But though he be thus without vision and without message, save as
an invitation to come to material Nature and learn to observe is a
message, Burroughs has a charm of manner and a picturesqueness of
material that are to be found in few other writers of the period. His
power lies in his simplicity and his sincerity. He is more familiar
with his reader than Thoreau. He is never literary, never affected;
he talks in the most natural way in the world; he tells story after
story in the most artless way of homely little happenings that
have passed under his own eye, and so charming is his talk that we
surrender ourselves like children to listen as long as he will. When
we read Thoreau we are always conscious of Thoreau. His epithets,
his distinction of phrase, his sudden glimpses, his unexpected turns
and climaxes, his humor, for in spite of Lowell's dictum, he is full
of humor, keep us constantly in the presence of literature; but with
Burroughs we are conscious of nothing save the birds and the season
and the fields. We are walking with a delightful companion who knows
everything and who points out new wonders at every step.

The poetry of Burroughs faded more and more from his work with every
book, and the spirit of the scientist, of the trained observer
impatient of everything not demonstrable by the senses, grew upon
him, until at length it took full control and expressed itself as
criticism, as scientific controversy, and as philosophical discussion.
_Riverby_, 1894, with its prefatory note stating that the volume was
"probably my last collection of out-of-door papers," marks the point of
division between the two periods. If we follow the Riverside edition,
at present [1914] the definitive canon, eight books preceded _Riverby_
and eight followed it. The groups are not homogeneous; it is not to be
gathered that on a certain date Burroughs abandoned one form of essay
and devoted himself exclusively to another, but it is true that the
work of his last period is prevailingly scientific and critical. His
_Indoor Studies_, 1889, _Whitman, a Study, and Literary Values_ are
as distinctively works of literary criticism as Arnold's _Essays in
Criticism_; his _Light of Day_ discusses religion from the standpoint
of the scientist; his _Ways of Nature_ is scientific controversy; and
his _Time and Change_ and _The Summit of the Years_ are philosophy.

It is in this second period that Burroughs has done his most
distinctive work, though not perhaps his most spontaneous and
delightful. By temperament and training he is a critic, a scientific
critic, an analyzer and comparer. Only men of positive character,
original forces, attract him: Emerson and Whitman, and later
Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Arnold, men who molded the intellectual life
of their age. His first published book had been a critical study,
_Notes on Walt Whitman_, 1867, a work the most wonderful in many ways
of his whole output. It came at a critical moment, in those pregnant
closing years of the sixties, and it struck clear and full the note of
the new period. Burroughs's later studies of Whitman are more finished
and more mature than this never-republished volume, but they lack
its clarion quality. It is more than a defense and an explanation of
Whitman: it is a call to higher levels in literature and art, a call
for a new definition of poetry, a condemnation of that softness and
honey sweetness of song that had lured to weakness poets like Taylor
and Stoddard. Poetry henceforth must be more than mere beauty for
beauty's sake: it must have a message; it must come burning from a
man's soul; it must thrill with human life.

And it is here that Burroughs stands as a dominating figure. He was
the first of American critics to insist without compromise that poetry
is poetry only when it is the voice of life--genuine, spontaneous,
inevitable. "How rare," he complained in later years, "are real
poems--poems that spring from real feeling, a real throb of emotion,
and not from a mere surface itching for expression." This has been the
key to all his criticism: literature is life, the voicing of a man's
soul. Moreover, it is a voicing of the national life, the expression of
a nation's soul:

    All the great imaginative writers of our century have felt,
    more or less, the stir and fever of the century, and have
    been its priests and prophets. The lesser poets have not felt
    these things. Had Poe been greater or broader he would have
    felt them, so would Longfellow. Neither went deep enough to
    touch the formative currents of our social or religious or
    national life. In the past the great artist has always been at
    ease in Zion; in our own day only the lesser artists are at
    ease, unless we except Whitman, a man of unshaken faith, who
    is absolutely optimistic, and whose joy and serenity come from
    the breadth of his vision and the depth and universality of his
    sympathies.[83]

The literary criticism of Burroughs--four volumes of it in the final
edition, or nearly one-fourth of his whole output--may be classed with
the sanest and most illuminating critical work in American literature.
Lowell's criticism, brilliant as it is at times, is overloaded with
learning. He belongs to the school of the early reviewers, ponderous
and discursive. He makes use of one-third of his space in his essay on
Thoreau before he even alludes to Thoreau. He is self-conscious, and
self-satisfied; he poses before his reader and enjoys the sensation
caused by his brilliant hit after hit. Stedman, too, is often more
literary than scientific. Often he uses epithet and phrase that have
nothing to commend them save their prettiness, their affectation of
the odd or the antique. He is an appreciator of literature rather
than critic in the modern sense. Burroughs, however, is always simple
and direct. He is a scientific critic who compares and classifies and
seeks causes and effects. He works not on the surface but always in the
deeper currents and always with the positive forces, those writers who
have turned the direction of the literature and the thinking of their
generation. In marked contrast with Stedman, he can place Longfellow
and Landor among the minor singers: "Their sympathies were mainly
outside their country and their times." He demands that the poet have a
message for his age. He says of Emerson: "Emerson is a power because he
partakes of a great spiritual and intellectual movement of his times;
he is unequivocally of to-day and New England."

Burroughs's nature essays, charming as they are and full as they are of
a delightful personality, will be superseded by others as careful and
as charming; Burroughs's criticism was the voice of an era, and it will
stand with the era. It was in his later years that he put forth his
real message.


IV

John Burroughs is the historian of a small area; he has the home
instinct, the hereditary farmer's love for his own fields and woods,
and the haunts of his childhood. He is contemplative, tranquil,
unassertive. John Muir was restless, fervid, Scotch by temperament
as by birth, the very opposite of Burroughs. He was telescopic, not
microscopic; his units were glaciers and Yosemites, Sierras and Gardens
of the Gods.

The childhood of Muir was broken at eleven by the migration of his
family from their native Scotland to the wilderness of Wisconsin, near
the Fox River. After a boyhood in what literally was a new world to
him, he started on his wanderings. By accident he found himself in the
University of Wisconsin, where he studied for four years, the first
author of note to be connected with the new state college movement,
the democratizing of education. He pursued no regular course, but
devoted himself to chemistry, botany, and other natural sciences that
interested him, and then, to quote his own words, "wandered away on a
glorious botanical and geological excursion, which has lasted nearly
fifty years and is not yet completed, always happy and free, poor and
rich, without thought of a diploma, of making a name, urged on and on
through endless, inspiring, Godful beauty."

First he went to Florida, walking all the way, and sleeping on the
ground wherever night overtook him; then he crossed to Cuba, with
visions of South America and the Amazon beyond; but malarial fever,
caused by sleeping on swampy ground, turned him away from the tropics
toward California, where he arrived in 1868. The tremendous scenery
of this west coast, those American Alps edging a continent from the
Sierras to the Alaskan glaciers, so gripped his imagination and held
him that he forgot everything save to look and wonder and worship. For
years he explored the region, living months at a time in the forests of
the Yosemite, in the wild Alpine gardens and glacial meadows of the
Sierra, in passes and cañons, moving as far north as Alaska, where he
was the first to see the great glacier now called by his name, sleeping
where night overtook him, disdaining blanket or shelter, and returning
to civilization only when driven by necessity. After years of such
wandering he became as familiar with the mighty region, the tremendous
western wall of a continent, as Thoreau was with Concord or Burroughs
was with the banks of the Pepacton.

Unlike Burroughs, Muir sent down no roots during his earlier formative
period; he was a man without a country, anchored to no past, a soul
unsatisfied, restless, bursting eagerly into untrodden areas, as hungry
of heart as Thoreau, but with none of Thoreau's provincialism and
transcendental theories. In 1869 in the Big Tuolumne Meadows he was
told of a marvelous, but dangerous, region beyond, and his account of
the episode illumines him as with a flash-light:

    Recognizing the unsatisfiable longings of my Scotch Highland
    instincts, he threw out some hints concerning Bloody Cañon, and
    advised me to explore it. "I have never seen it myself," he
    said, "for I never was so unfortunate as to pass that way. But
    I have heard many a strange story about it, and I warrant you
    will at least find it wild enough." Next day I made up a bundle
    of bread, tied my note-book to my belt, and strode away in the
    bracing air, full of eager, indefinite hope.

His first out-of-doors article, a paper on the Yosemite glaciers, was
published in the New York _Tribune_ in 1871. Later he contributed
to the _Overland Monthly_, to _Harper's_, and _Scribner's Monthly_
articles that have in them an atmosphere unique in literature. What
sweep and freedom, what vastness of scale, what abysses and gulfs,
what wildernesses of peaks. It is like sweeping over a continent in a
balloon. One is ever in the vast places: one thrills with the author's
own excitement:

    How boundless the day seems as we revel in these storm-beaten
    sky-gardens amidst so vast a congregation of onlooking
    mountains.... From garden to garden, ridge to ridge, I drifted
    enchanted, now on my knees gazing into the face of a daisy, now
    climbing again and again among the purple and azure flowers
    of the hemlocks, now down among the treasuries of the snow,
    or gazing afar over domes and peaks, lakes and woods, and the
    billowy glaciated fields of the upper Tuolumne, and trying to
    sketch them. In the midst of such beauty, pierced with its
    rays, one's body is all a tingling palate. Who wouldn't be a
    mountaineer! Up here all the world's prizes seem nothing.--July
    26, 1869.

    I chose a camping ground on the brink of one of the lakes,
    where a thicket of hemlock spruce sheltered me from the night
    wind. Then after making a tin cupful of tea, I sat by my
    campfire reflecting on the grandeur and significance of the
    glacial records I had seen. As the night advanced, the mighty
    rock-walls of my mountain mansion seemed to come nearer, while
    the starry sky in glorious brightness stretched across like a
    ceiling from wall to wall, and fitted closely down into all
    the spiky irregularities of the summits. Then, after a long
    fireside rest, and a glance at my note-book, I cut a few leafy
    branches for a bed, and fell into the clear, death-like sleep
    of the mountaineer.

    No pain here, no dull empty hours, no fear of the past, no
    fear of the future. These blessed mountains are so compactly
    filled with God's beauty, no petty personal hope or experience
    has room to be.... Perched like a fly on this Yosemite dome, I
    gaze and sketch and bask, oftentimes settling down into dumb
    admiration without definite hope of ever learning much, yet
    with the longing, unresisting effort that lies at the door of
    hope, humbly prostrate before the vast display of God's power,
    and eager to offer self-denial and renunciation with eternal
    toil to learn any lesson in the divine manuscript.--July 20,
    1869.

To read Muir is to be in the presence not of a tranquil, chatty
companion like Burroughs, who saunters leisurely along the spring
meadows listening for the birds just arrived the night before and
comparing the dates of the hyla's first cry; it is rather to be with a
tempestuous soul whose units are storms and mountain ranges and mighty
glacial moraines, who strides excitedly along the bare tops of ragged
peaks and rejoices in their vastness and awfulness, who cries, "Come
with me along the glaciers and see God making landscapes!" One gets
at the heart of Muir in an episode like this, the description of a
terrific storm in the Yuba region in December, 1874:

    The force of the gale was such that the most steadfast monarch
    of them all rocked down to its roots with a motion plainly
    perceptible when one leaned against it. Nature was holding high
    festival, and every fiber of the most rigid giants thrilled
    with glad excitement. I drifted on through the midst of this
    passionate music and motion across many a glen, from ridge
    to ridge; often falling in the lee of a rock for shelter, or
    to gaze and listen. Even when the glad anthem had swelled to
    its highest pitch, I could distinctly hear the varying tones
    of individual trees--spruce, and fir, and pine, and leafless
    oak. ... Toward midday, after a long, tingling scramble
    through copses of hazel and ceanothus, I gained the summit of
    the highest ridge in the neighborhood; and then it occurred
    to me that it would be a fine thing to climb one of the trees
    to obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the Æolian
    music of its topmost needles.... Being accustomed to climb
    trees in making botanical studies, I experienced no difficulty
    in reaching the top of this one, and never before did I enjoy
    so noble an exhilaration of motion. The slender tops fairly
    flapped and swished in the passionate torrent, bending and
    swirling backward and forward, round and round, tracing
    indescribable combinations of vertical and horizontal curves,
    while I clung with muscles firm braced, like a bobolink on a
    reed.

He had more humor than Burroughs, more even than Thoreau, a sly Scotch
drollery that was never boisterous, never cynical. In the Bloody Cañon
he meets the Mono Indians and finds little in them that is romantic:

    The dirt on their faces was fairly stratified and seemed so
    ancient in some places and so undisturbed as almost to possess
    a geological significance. The older faces were, moreover,
    strangely blurred and divided into sections by furrows that
    looked like cleavage joints, suggesting exposure in a castaway
    condition on the mountains for ages. Viewed at a little
    distance they appeared as mere dirt specks on the landscape.

Like Thoreau, he was a mystic and a poet. He inherited mysticism with
his Scotch blood as he inherited wildness and the love of freedom. He
was not a mere naturalist, a mere scientist bent only on facts and
laws: he was a searcher after God, even as Thoreau. As one reads him,
one feels one's soul expanding, one's horizons widening, one's hands
reaching out for the infinite. The message of Muir is compelling and
eager:

    Next to the light of the dawn on high mountain-tops, the
    alpenglow is the most impressive of all the terrestrial
    manifestations of God;... stay on this good fire mountain and
    spend the night among the stars. Watch their glorious bloom
    until dawn, and get one more baptism of light. Then, with fresh
    heart, go down to your work, and whatever your fate, under
    whatever ignorance or knowledge you may afterwards chance to
    suffer, you will remember these fine, wild views, and look back
    with joy.

And again after his joyous study of the water ouzel, a prose lyric,
rapturous and infectious, he cries:

    And so I might go on, writing words, words, words; but to what
    purpose? Go see him and love him, and through him as through a
    window look into Nature's warm heart.

The output of Muir, especially of books, has been small. To one who
cares nothing for money and who is indifferent to fame, it is hard to
offer inducements. He wrote only to please himself; he would not be
commanded or bribed or begged, for why should one write words when the
Sierras are in bloom and the winds are calling in the upper peaks?
The public at large knows little of him, compared with what it knows
of Burroughs or even of Thoreau. His influence, therefore, has been
small. Though he had published many magazine articles, it was not until
1894 that he published _The Mountains of California_, his first book.
_Our National Parks_ came in 1901, and _My First Summer in the Sierra_
in 1911. The last is Muir's journal, kept on the spot, full of the
thrill and the freshness of the original day. If it be a sample of the
journal which we have reason to believe that he kept with Thoreau-like
thoroughness almost to the time of his death--he died in December,
1914--the best work of John Muir may even yet be in store.

Muir was more gentle than Thoreau or Burroughs, and more sympathetic
with everything alive in the wild places which he loved. Unlike
Burroughs, he has named the birds without a gun, and, unlike Thoreau,
he has refused to kill even fish or rattlesnakes. He could look on even
the repulsive lizards of his region, some of them veritable monsters in
size and hideousness, with real affection:

    Small fellow-mortals, gentle and guileless, they are easily
    tamed, and have beautiful eyes, expressing the clearest
    innocence, so that, in spite of prejudices brought from cool,
    lizardless countries, one must soon learn to like them. Even
    the horned toad of the plains and foothills, called horrid, is
    mild and gentle, with charming eyes, and so are the snake-like
    species found in the underbrush of the lower forests.... You
    will surely learn to like them, not only the bright ones,
    gorgeous as the rainbow, but the little ones, gray as lichened
    granite, and scarcely bigger than grasshoppers; and they will
    teach you that scales may cover as fine a nature as hair or
    feather or anything tailored.

And there is no more sympathetic, interpretative study among all the
work of the nature-writers than his characterization of the Douglas
squirrel of the Western mountains:

    One never tires of this bright chip of Nature, this brave
    little voice crying in the wilderness, observing his many works
    and ways, and listening to his curious language. His musical,
    piney gossip is savory to the ear as balsam to the palate; and
    though he has not exactly the gift of song, some of his notes
    are sweet as those of a linnet--almost flute-like in softness;
    while others prick and tingle like thistles. He is the
    mocking-bird of squirrels, pouring forth mixed chatter and song
    like a perennial fountain, barking like a dog, screaming like a
    hawk, whistling like blackbirds and sparrows; while in bluff,
    audacious noisiness he is a jay.

Emerson visited Muir during his trip to the West Coast, climbed the
precarious ladder that led to his room in the Yosemite sawmill, and
passed a memorable afternoon. "He is more wonderful than Thoreau," he
said, and he tried long to induce him to leave the mountains for the
East, and to live in the midst of men. But to Muir the leaving of the
Yosemite and the Sierra was like leaving God Himself. To him the city
was the place of unnatural burdens, of money that dulls and kills the
finest things of the soul, of separation from all that is really vital
in the life of man.

His style is marked by vividness and fervid power. He makes a scene
stand out with sharpness. He is original; there are in his work no
traces of other writings save those of the Bible, with which he
was saturated, and at rare intervals of Thoreau. Often there is a
rhetorical ring to his page, a resonant fullness of tone that can be
described only by the word eloquent. In passages describing storm or
mountain majesty there is a thrill, an excitement, that are infectious.
The prose of John Muir may be summed up as sincere and vigorous,
without trace of self-consciousness or of straining for effect. Few
writers of any period of American literature have within their work
more elements of promise as they go down to the generations to come.


V

Beginning with the late sixties, out-of-door themes more and more
took possession of American literature. Burroughs was only one in
an increasing throng of writers; he was the best known and most
stimulating, and soon, therefore, the leader and inspirer. The
mid-nineteenth century had been effeminate in the bulk of its
literary product; it had been a thing of indoors and of books: the
new after-the-war spirit was masculine even at times to coarseness
and brutality. Maurice Thompson (1844-1901), one of the earliest of
the new period, perceived the bent of the age with clearness. "We
are nothing better than refined and enlightened savages," he wrote
in 1878. "The wild side of the prism of humanity still offers its
pleasures to us.... Sport, by which is meant pleasant physical and
mental exercise combined--play in the best sense--is a requirement of
this wild element, this glossed over heathen side of our being, and the
bow is its natural implement."[84] It was the apology of the old school
for the new era of sport. Thompson would direct these heathen energies
toward archery, since it was a sport that appealed to the imagination
and that took its devotees into the forests and the swamps, but there
was no directing of the resurging forces. Baseball and football
sprang up in the seventies and grew swiftly into hitherto unheard-of
proportions. Yachting, camping, mountaineering, summer tramping in
the woods and the borders of civilization swiftly became popular. The
Adirondacks and the Maine forests and the White Mountains sprang into
new prominence. As early as 1869 Stedman had complained that _The
Blameless Prince_ lay almost dead on the shelves while such books as
Murray's _Adventures in the Wilderness_ sold enormously. For a time
indeed W. H. H. Murray--"Adirondack Murray"--did vie even with Bonner's
_Ledger_ in popularity. He threw about the wilderness an alluring,
half romantic atmosphere that appealed to the popular imagination and
sent forth, eager and compelling, what in later days came to be known
as "the call of the wild." His books have not lasted. There is about
them a declamatory, artificial element that sprang too often from the
intellect rather than the heart. Charles Dudley Warner in his _In the
Wilderness_, 1878, and William H. Gibson in such books as _Camp Life in
the Woods_, sympathetically illustrated by their author, were far more
sincere and wholesome. Everywhere for a decade or more there was appeal
for a return to the natural and the free, to the open-air games of the
old English days, to hunting and trapping and camping--a masculine,
red-blooded resurgence of the savage, a return to the wild. The earlier
phase of the period may be said to have culminated in 1882 with the
founding of _Outing_, a magazine devoted wholly to activities in the
open air.

The later eighties and the nineties are the period of the bird books.
C. C. Abbott's _A Naturalist's Rambles About Home_, 1884; Olive Thorne
Miller's _Bird Ways_, 1885; Bradford Torrey's _Birds in the Bush_,
1885; and Florence Merriam Bailey's _Birds Through an Opera Glass_,
1889, may be taken as representative. Bird life and bird ways for a
period became a fad; enthusiastic observers sprang up everywhere;
scientific treatises and check lists and identification guides like
Chapman's _Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America_, began to appear
in numbers. What the novelists of locality were doing for the unusual
human types in isolated corners of the land, the nature writers were
doing for the birds.

Of all the later mass of Nature writings, however, very little is
possessed of literary distinction. Very largely it is journalistic
in style and scientific in spirit. Only one out of the later group,
Bradford Torrey, compels attention. Beyond a doubt it is already safe
to place him next in order after Burroughs and Muir. He is more of
an artist than Burroughs, and he is more literary and finished than
Muir. In his attitude toward Nature he is like Thoreau--sensitive,
sympathetic, reverent. It was he who edited the journals of Thoreau in
their final form, and it was he also who after that experience wrote
what is undoubtedly the most discriminating study that has yet been
made of the great mystic naturalist.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  JOHN BURROUGHS. (1837----.) _Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and
  Person_, New York, 1867; _Wake-Robin_, 1871; _Winter Sunshine_,
  1875; _Birds and Poets_, 1877; _Locusts and Wild Honey_, 1879;
  _Pepacton_, 1881; _Fresh Fields_, 1884; _Signs and Seasons_,
  1886; _Indoor Studies_, 1889; _Riverby_, 1894; _Whitman, a
  Study_, 1896; _The Light of Day_, 1900; _Literary Values_, 1904;
  _Far and Near_, 1904; _Ways of Nature_, 1905; _Leaf and Tendril_,
  1908; _Time and Change_, 1912; _The Summit of the Years_, 1913;
  _Our Friend John Burroughs_. By Clara Barrus. 1914.

  JOHN MUIR. (1838-1914.) "Studies in the Sierras," a series
  of papers in _Scribner's Monthly_, 1878; _The Mountains of
  California_, 1894; _Our National Parks_, 1901; _Stickeen, the
  Story of a Dog_, 1909; _My First Summer in the Sierra_, 1911;
  _The Story of My Boyhood and Youth_, 1913; _Letters to a Friend_,
  1915.

  WILLIAM HAMILTON GIBSON. (1850-1896.) _Camp Life in the Woods and
  the Tricks of Trapping and Trap-Making_, 1876; _Pastoral Days,
  or Memories of a New England Year_, 1882; _Highways and Byways,
  or Saunterings in New England_, 1883; _Happy Hunting Grounds, a
  Tribute to the Woods and Fields_, 1886; _Strolls by Starlight and
  Sunshine_, 1890; _Sharp Eyes_, 1891; _Our Edible Toadstools and
  Mushrooms_, 1895.

  CHARLES CONRAD ABBOTT. (1843----.) _The Stone Age in New
  Jersey_, 1876; _Primitive Industry_, 1881; _A Naturalist's
  Rambles About Home_, 1884; _Upland and Meadow_, 1886; _Wasteland
  Wanderings_, 1887; _Days out of Doors_, 1889; _Outings at Odd
  Times_, 1890; _Recent Rambles_, 1892; _Outings in a Tree-Top_,
  1894; _The Birds About Us_, 1894; _Notes of the Night_, 1895;
  _Birdland Echoes_, 1896; _The Freedom of the Fields_, 1898;
  _Clear Skies and Cloudy_, 1899; _In Nature's Realm_, 1900.

  "OLIVE THORNE MILLER"--HARRIET MANN MILLER. (1831----.) _Little
  Folks in Feathers and Fur_, 1879; _Queer Pets at Marcy's_,
  1880; _Bird Ways_, 1885; _In Nesting Time_, 1888; _Four Handed
  Folk_, 1890; _Little Brothers of the Air_, 1890; _Bird-Lover in
  the West_, 1894; _Upon the Tree Tops_, 1896; _The First Book
  of Birds_, 1899; _True Bird Stories_, 1903; _With the Birds in
  Maine_, 1904; and others.

  BRADFORD TORREY. (1843-1912.) _Birds in the Bush_, 1885; _A
  Rambler's Lease_, 1889; _The Foot-Path Way_, 1892; _A Florida
  Sketch-Book_, 1894; _Spring Notes from Tennessee_, 1896; _A World
  of Green Hills_, 1898; _Every-Day Birds_, 1900; _Footing It in
  Franconia_, 1900; _The Clerk of the Woods_, 1903; _Nature's
  Invitation_, 1904; _Friends on the Shelf_, 1906.

  FLORENCE MERRIAM BAILEY. (1863----.) _Birds Through an Opera
  Glass_, 1889; _My Summer in a Mormon Village_, 1895; _A Birding
  on a Bronco_, 1896; _Birds of Village and Field_, 1898; _Handbook
  of Birds of Western United States_, 1902.

  FRANK BOLLES. (1856-1894.) _Land of the Lingering Snow_, 1891;
  _At the North of Bearcamp Water: Chronicles of a Stroller in New
  England from July to December_, 1893; _From Blomidon to Smoky_,
  1895.



CHAPTER IX

WALT WHITMAN


Whitman and Thoreau stand as the two prophets of the mid century, both
of them offspring of the Transcendental movement, pushing its theories
to their logical end, both of them voices in the wilderness crying to
deaf or angry ears, both of them unheeded until a new generation had
arisen to whom they had become but names and books. Thoreau was born
in 1817; Whitman in 1819, the year of Lowell, Story, Parsons, Herman
Melville, J. G. Holland, Julia Ward Howe, and E. P. Whipple, and of the
Victorians, Kingsley, Ruskin, George Eliot, and Arthur Hugh Clough.
Whitman published _Leaves of Grass_, his first significant volume, in
1855, the year of _Hiawatha_, of _Maud_, and of Arnold's _Poems_. He
issued it again in 1856 and again in 1860--a strange nondescript book
rendered all the more strange by the fact, thoroughly advertised in
the second edition, that it had won from Emerson the words: "I find it
the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet
contributed.... I greet you at the beginning of a great career." But
even the compelling name of Emerson could not sell the book; little
notice, in fact, was taken of it save as a few voices expressed horror
and anger; and when in 1862 Whitman became lost in the confusion
of the war, he had made not so much impression upon America as had
Thoreau at the time of his death that same year. Until well into the
seventies Walt Whitman seemed only a curious phenomenon in an age grown
accustomed to curious phenomena.

The antecedents and the early training of Whitman were far from
literary. He came from a race of Long Island farmers who had adhered
to one spot for generations. No American was ever more completely a
product of our own soil.

        My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this
              air,
        Born here of parents born here,
        From parents the same, and their parents' parents the same.

They were crude, vigorous plowmen, unbookish and elemental. The father
was the first to break from the soil and the ancestral environment, but
he left it only to become a laborer on buildings in the neighboring
city of Brooklyn.

The boyhood of Whitman was passed in the city, though with long
vacations in the home of his grandparents on Long Island. His schooling
was brief and desultory. He left the schools at twelve to become office
boy for a lawyer and from that time on he drifted aimlessly from
one thing to another, serving for brief periods as doctor's clerk,
compositor in a country printing office, school teacher in various
localities, editor and proprietor of a rural weekly, stump speaker in
the campaign of 1840, editor of various small journals, contributor of
Hawthornesque stories and sketches to papers and magazines, writer of a
melodramatic novel, and in 1846 editor of the Brooklyn _Daily Eagle_.
But he could hold to nothing long. In 1848 he was induced by a stranger
who had taken a fancy to him to go to New Orleans as editor of the
_Crescent_ newspaper, but within a year he was back again in New York,
where for the next few years he maintained a half-loafing, half-working
connection with several papers and periodicals.

It was during this period that he made himself so thoroughly familiar
with the middle and lower strata of New York City life. He spent hours
of every day riding on Broadway vehicles and on Fulton ferry boats
and making himself boon companion of all he met. He knew the city as
Muir knew the peaks and mountain gardens of the Sierra, and he took
the same delight in discovering a new specimen of humanity on a boat
or an omnibus that Muir might take in finding a new plant on an Alaska
glacier.

    I knew all the drivers then, Broadway Jack, Dressmaker, Balky
    Bill, George Storms, Old Eliphant, his brother, Young Eliphant
    (who came afterward), Tippy, Pop Rice, Big Frank, Yellow Joe,
    Pete Callahan, Patsey Dee, and dozens more; for there were
    hundreds. They had immense qualities, largely animal--eating,
    drinking, women--great personal pride, in their way--perhaps
    a few slouches here and there, but I should have trusted the
    general run of them, in their simple good will and honor, under
    all circumstances.[85]

    Almost daily, later ('50 to '60), I cross'd on the boats,
    often up in the pilot-houses where I could get a full sweep,
    absorbing shows, accompaniments, surroundings. What oceanic
    currents, eddies, underneath--the great tides of humanity also,
    with ever-shifting movements. Indeed, I have always had a
    passion for ferries; to me they afford inimitable, streaming,
    never-failing, living poems. The river and bay scenery, all
    about New York island, any time of a fine day--hurrying,
    splashing sea-tides--the changing panorama of steamers, all
    sizes.... My old pilot friends, the Balsirs, Johnny Cole, Ira
    Smith, William White, and my young ferry friend, Tom Gere--how
    well I remember them all.[86]

       *       *       *       *       *

    I find in this visit to New York, and the daily contact and
    rapport with its myriad people, on the scale of the oceans
    and tides the best, most effective medicine my soul has yet
    partaken--the grandest physical habitat and surroundings of
    land and water the globe affords.[86]

The earlier Whitman is a man _par excellence_ of the city as Muir is of
the mountains and Thoreau of the woods.


I

A jungle of writings has sprung up about Whitman; as many as four
biographies of him have appeared in a single year, yet aside from two
or three careful studies, like those of Perry and Carpenter, no really
scholarly or unbiased work has been issued. Before the last word can
be spoken of the poet there must be an adequate text with variorum
readings and chronological arrangement. The present definitive edition
is a chaos, almost useless for purposes of study. New and old are mixed
indiscriminatingly. The "Chants Democratic," for instance, of the
earlier editions have been dismembered and scattered from end to end
of the book. All of the older poems were in constant state of revision
from edition to edition, until now patches from every period of the
poet's life may be found on many of them. Large sections of the earlier
editions were omitted, enough indeed at one time and another to make up
a volume. The fact is important, since the material rejected by a poet
at different stages in his evolution often tells much concerning his
art.

There is, moreover, a strange dearth of biographical material at
critical points in Whitman's life, notably during that formative period
preceding the first issue of _Leaves of Grass_. In his later years
he talked of his own experiences and aims and ideals with the utmost
freedom; through Traubel, his Boswell, he put himself on record with
minuteness; his poetic work is all autobiographical; and almost all of
his editions are prefaced by long explanations and defenses, yet of
the really significant periods of his life we know little. A crude man
of the people, a Broadway rough, as he described himself, who has been
writing very ordinary poems and stories and editorials--how ordinary we
can easily judge, for very many of them have been preserved--suddenly
brings out a book of poems as unlike any earlier work of his or any
previous work of his nation or language as an issue of the _Amaranth_
or the _Gem_ would be unlike the book of _Amos_. What brought about
this remarkable climax? Was it the result of an evolution within the
poet's soul, an evolution extending over a period of years? Did it
come as a sudden inspiration or as a deliberate consummation after a
study of models? We do not know. There are no contemporary letters, no
transition poems, no testimony of any friend to whom the poet laid bare
his soul. At one period we have verses like these:

        We are all docile dough-faces,
          They knead us with the fist,
        They, the dashing Southern lords,
          We labor as they list;
        For them we speak--or hold our tongues,
          For them we turn and twist.

Then suddenly without warning we have this:

        Free, fresh, savage,
        Fluent, luxuriant, self-content, fond of persons and places,
        Fond of fish-shape Paumanok, where I was born,
        Fond of the sea--lusty-begotten and various,
        Boy of the Mannahatta, the city of ships, my city,

               *       *       *       *       *

        Solitary, singing in the West, I strike up for a new world.

That is the problem of Walt Whitman, a problem the most baffling and
the most fascinating in the later range of American literature.


II

There can be little doubt that the primal impulse in the creation of
_Leaves of Grass_ came from the intellectual and moral unrest of the
thirties and the forties. Whitman caught late, perhaps latest of all
the writers of the period, the Transcendental spirit that had so
unsettled America and the rest of the world as well. "What a fertility
of projects for the salvation of the world!" Emerson had cried in
1844. Who "will ever forget what was somewhat vaguely called the
'Transcendental Movement' of thirty years ago"? Lowell had asked in
1865. "Apparently set astir by Carlyle's essays on the 'Signs of the
Times,' and on 'History,' the final and more immediate impulse seemed
to be given by 'Sartor Resartus.' At least the republication in Boston
of that wonderful Abraham à Sancta Clara sermon on Falstaff's text of
the miserable forked radish gave the signal for a sudden mental and
moral mutiny.... The nameless eagle of the tree Ygdrasil was about to
set at last, and wild-eyed enthusiasts rushed from all sides, eager
to thrust under the mystic bird that chalk egg from which the newer
and fairer creation was to be hatched in due time."[87] Whitman was a
product of this ferment. He took its exaggerations and its wild dreams
as solemn fact. He read Emerson and adopted his philosophy literally
and completely: "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." "He
who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of
goodness." "Insist on yourself; never imitate." "Welcome evermore to
gods and men is the self-helping man. For him all doors are flung wide;
him all tongues greet, all honors crown, all eyes follow with desire.
Our love goes out to him." "Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that
iron string." "With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do,"
and so on and on.

All criticism of Whitman must begin with the fact that he was
uneducated even to ignorance. He felt rather than thought. Of the
intellectual life in the broader sense--science, analysis, patient
investigation--he knew nothing. When he read he read tumultuously,
without horizon, using his emotions and his half conceptions as
interpreters. A parallel may be drawn between him and that other
typical product of the era, Mrs. Eddy, the founder of the Christian
Science cult. Both were mystics, almost pathologically so; both were
electric with the urge of physical health; both were acted upon by the
transcendental spirit of the era; both were utterly without humor; and
both in all seriousness set about to establish a new conception of
religion.

        I too, following many, and followed by many, inaugurate a
              Religion.

To Whitman the religious leader of an era was its poet. He would
broaden the conception of the Poet until he made of him the leader and
the savior of his age.

        The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality,
        His insight and power encircle things and the human race,
        He is the glory and extract, thus far, of things, and of the
              human race.
        The singers do not beget--only THE POET begets,
        The singers are welcomed, understood, appear often enough--but
              rare has the day been, likewise the spot, of the birth of
              the maker of poems,
        Not every century, or every five centuries, has contained such a
              day, for all its names.

With assurance really sublime he announced himself as this poet of the
new era, this new prophet of the ages:

        Bearded, sunburnt, gray-necked, forbidding, I have arrived
        To be wrestled with.

        I know perfectly well my own egotism,
        I know my omnivorous words, and I cannot say any less,
        And would fetch you, whoever you are, flush with myself.

He hails as comrade and fellow savior even Him who was crucified:

        We few, equals, indifferent of lands, indifferent of times,
        We, inclosers of all continents, all castes--allower of all
              theologies,
        Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
        We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the
              disputers, nor anything that is asserted,
        We hear the bawling and din--we are reached at by divisions,
              jealousies, recriminations on every side,
        They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade,
        Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up
              and down, till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and
              the diverse eras,
        Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and women of races,
              ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.

He too would give his life to the lowly and the oppressed; he too would
eat with publicans and sinners; he too would raise the sick and the
dying:

        To any one dying--thither I speed, and twist the knob of the
              door,
        Turn the bed-clothes toward the foot of the bed,
        Let the physician and the priest go home.
        I seize the descending man, and raise him with resistless will.
        O despairer, here is my neck,
        By God! you shall not go down! Hang your whole weight upon me.
        I dilate you with tremendous breath--I buoy you up,
        Every room of the house do I fill with an armed force,
        Lovers of me, bafflers of graves.
        Sleep! I and they keep guard all night,
        Not doubt--not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,
        I have embraced you.

The poetic message of Whitman, the new message that was, as he
believed, "to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion,"
he summed up himself in the phrase "The greatness of Love and
Democracy"--Love meaning comradeship, hearty "hail, fellow, well met"
to all men alike; Democracy meaning the equality of all things and all
men--_en masse_. He is to be the poet of the East and the West, the
North and the South alike; he is to be the poet of all occupations,
and of all sorts and conditions of men. He salutes the whole world
_in toto_ and in detail. A great part of _Leaves of Grass_ is taken
up with enumerations of the universality and the detail of his poetic
sympathy. He covers the nation with the accuracy of a gazetteer, and
he enumerates its industries and its population, simply that he may
announce, "I am the poet of these also."

The appearance of Whitman marks the first positive resurgence of
masculinity in mid-century America. He came as the first loud protest
against sentimentalism, against Longfellowism, against a prudish
drawing-room literature from which all life and masculine coarseness
had been refined. Whitman broke into the American drawing-room
as a hairy barbarian, uncouth and unsqueamish, a Goth let loose
among ladies, a Vandal smashing the bric-à-brac of an over-refined
generation. He came in with a sudden leap, unlooked-for, unannounced,
in all his nakedness and vulgarity like a primitive man, and proceeded
to sound his barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. He mixed
high and low, blab and divinity, because he knew no better. Like the
savage that he was he adorned himself with scraps of feathers from his
reading--fine words: _libertad_, _camerado_, _ma femme_, _ambulanza_,
_enfans d'Adam_; half understood fragments of modern science; wild
figures of speech from the Transcendental dreamers which he took
literally and pushed to their logical limit. And he poured it all out
in a mélange without coherence or logical sequence: poetry and slang,
bravado and egotism, trash and divinity and dirt. At one moment he
sings:

        Smile, O voluptuous, cool-breathed Earth!
        Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees!
        Earth of departed sunset! Earth of the mountains, misty-topt!
        Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just tinged with
              blue!
        Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the river!
        Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and clearer for my
              sake!
        Far-swooping elbowed Earth! Rich, apple-blossomed Earth!
        Smile, for Your Lover comes!

And the next moment be bursts out:

        Earth! you seem to look for something at my hands,
        Say, old Top-knot! what do you want?

And he does it all honestly, unsmilingly, and ignorantly. It is because
he had so small a horizon that he seems so to project beyond the
horizon. To understand him one must understand first his ignorance.

But if he is a savage, he has also the vigor and dash and abounding
health of the savage. He enters upon his work with unction and
perfect abandonment; his lines shout and rush and set the blood of
his reader thrilling like a series of war whoops. His first poem, the
"Proto-Leaf," is, to say the least, exhilarating. Read straight through
aloud with resonant voice, it arouses in the reader a strange kind of
excitement. The author of it was young, in the very tempest of perfect
physical health, and he had all of the youth's eagerness to change the
course of things. His work is as much a gospel of physical perfection
as is _Science and Health_. It is full of the impetuous passions of
youth. It is not the philosophizing of an old savant, or of an observer
experienced in life, it is the compelling arrogance of a young man in
full blood, sure of himself, eager to reform the universe. The poems
indeed are

        Health chants--joy chants--robust chants of young men.

The physical as yet is supreme. Of the higher laws of sacrifice, of
self-effacement, of character that builds its own aristocracy and
draws lines through even the most democratic mass, the poet knows
really nothing. He may talk, but as yet it is talk without basis of
experience.

The poems are youthful in still another way: they are of the young
soil of America; they are American absolutely, in spirit, in color, in
outlook. Like Thoreau, Whitman never had all his life long any desire
to visit any other land than his own. He was obsessed, intoxicated,
with America. He began his reckoning of time with the year 1775 and
dated his first book "the year 80 of the States." A large section of
his poems is taken up with loving particularization of the land--not of
New England and New York alone, but of the whole of it, every nook and
corner of it. For the first time America had a poet who was as broad
as her whole extent and who could dwell lovingly on every river and
mountain and village from Atlantic to Pacific.

        Take my leaves, America!
        Make welcome for them everywhere, for they are your own
               offspring.
        Surround them, East and West!

He glories in the heroic deeds of America, the sea fight of John Paul
Jones, the defense of the Alamo, and his characterization of the
various sections of the land thrills one and exhilarates one like a
glimpse of the flag. What a spread, continent-wide, free-aired and
vast--"Far breath'd land, Arctic braced! Mexican breezed!"--one gets in
the crescendo beginning:

        O the lands!
        Lands scorning invaders! Interlinked, food-yielding lands!

It is the first _all_ American thrill in our literature.

The new literary form adopted by Whitman was not a deliberate and
studied revolt from the conventional forms of the times: it was rather
a discovery of Walt Whitman by himself. Style is the man: the "easily
written, loose-fingered chords" of his chant, unrimed, lawless; this
was Whitman himself. How he found it or when he found it, matters not
greatly. It is possible that he got a hint from his reading of Ossian
or of the Bible or of Eastern literature, but we know that at the end
it came spontaneously. He was too indolent to elaborate for himself
a deliberate metrical system, he was too lawless of soul to be bound
by the old prosody. Whatever he wrote must loaf along with perfect
freedom, unpolished, haphazard, incoherent. The adjective that best
describes his style is _loose_--not logical, rambling, suggestive. His
mind saunters everywhither and does not concentrate. In other words,
it is an uneducated mind, an unfocused mind, a primitive mind.

The result was that, despite Whitman's freshness and force and stirring
Americanism, he made little impression in the decade following the
first _Leaves of Grass_. Emerson's commendation of him had been caused
by his originality and his uncouth power, but none of the others of the
mid-century school could see anything in the poems save vulgarity and
egotistic posing. Lowell from first to last viewed him with aversion;
Whittier burned the book at once as a nasty thing that had soiled him.
The school of Keats and Tennyson, of Longfellow and Willis, ruled
American literature with tyrannic power, and it was too early for
successful revolution.


III

The Civil War found Whitman young; it left him an old man. There seems
to have been no middle-age period in his life. He had matured with
slowness; at forty, when he issued the 1860 _Leaves of Grass_, he was
in the very prime of youth, the physical still central. There had been
no suffering in his life, no grip of experience; he spoke much of the
soul, but the soul was still of secondary importance. He wrote to his
mother in 1862:

    I believe I weigh about two hundred, and as to my face (so
    scarlet) and my beard and neck, they are terrible to behold.
    I fancy the reason I am able to do some good in the hospitals
    among the poor languishing and wounded boys, is that I am so
    large and well--indeed like a great wild buffalo, with much
    hair. Many of the soldiers are from the West, and far North,
    and they take to a man that has not the bleached, shiny and
    shaven cut of the cities and the East.[88]

The world of the 1860 _Leaves of Grass_ is a world as viewed by a
perfectly healthy young man, who has had his way to the full. The
appeal of it is physiological rather than spiritual. It ends the first
period of Whitman's poetical life.

His next book, _Drum-Taps_, came in 1866. Between the two had come the
hospital experience of 1862-1865, from which had emerged the Whitman of
the later period.

He had been drawn into this hospital experience, as into everything
else in his life, almost by accident. It had come to him after no
hard-fought battle with himself; it was the result of no compelling
convictions. The war had progressed for a year before it assumed
concrete proportions for him. It required the news that his brother was
lying desperately wounded at Fredericksburg to move his imagination.
When he had arrived at the front and had found his brother in no
serious condition after all, he had drifted almost by accident into
the misery of the ambulance trains and the hospitals, and before he
had realized it, he was in the midst of the army nurses, working as if
he had volunteered for the service. And thus he had drifted on to the
end of the war, a self-appointed hospital worker, touching and helping
thousands of sinking lives.

And he gave during those three years not only his youth but also his
health of body. He was weakened at length with malaria and infected
with blood poisoning from a wound that he had dressed. Moreover, the
experience drained him on the side of his emotions and his nervous
vitality until he went home to become at last paralytic and neurotic.
The strain upon him he has described with a realism that unnerves one:

        I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
        Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so
              sickening, so offensive,
        While the attendant stands beside me holding the tray and pail.
        I am faithful, I do not give out,
        The fractur'd thigh, the knee, the wound in the abdomen,
        These and more I dress with impassive hand (yet deep in my
              breast a fire, a burning flame).

The war allowed Whitman to put into practice all his young manhood's
dream of saviorship. It turned him from a preacher into a prophet and a
man of action, one who took his earlier message and illustrated it at
every point with works. It awakened within him a new ideal of life. He
had been dealing heretofore with words:

        Words! book-words! What are you?
        Words no more, for harken and see,
        My song is there in the open air, and I must sing,
        With the banner and pennant a-flapping.

No longer does he exult in his mere physical body. Lines like these he
now edits from his early editions:

        How dare a sick man, or an obedient man, write poems for these
              States?

Also lines like these:

        O to be relieved of distinctions! to make as much of vices as
              virtues!
        O to level occupations and the sexes! O to bring all to common
              ground! O adhesiveness!
        O the pensive aching to be together,--you know not why, and I
              know not why.

He omits everywhere freely now from the early editions, not from
the "Children of Adam," however, though Emerson advised it with
earnestness. The Whitmans were an obstinate race. "As obstinate as a
Whitman," had been a degree of comparison; and here was one of them
who had taken a position before the world and had maintained it in the
face of persecution. Retreat would be impossible; but it is noteworthy
that he wrote no more poems of sex and that he put forth no more of his
tall talk and braggadocio. Swiftly he had become the poet of the larger
life: the immaterial in man, the soul.

_Drum-Taps_, 1866, gives us the first glimpse of this new Whitman. The
tremendous poem, "Rise, O Days, from Your Fathomless Deeps," marks
the transition. In it he declares that he had, with hunger of soul,
devoured only what earth had given him, that he had sought to content
himself simply with nature and the material world.

        Yet there with my soul I fed, I fed content, supercilious.

He does not condemn this earlier phase of his development:

        'Twas well, O soul--'twas a good preparation you gave me,
        Now we advance our latest and ampler hunger to fill.
        Now we go forth to receive what the earth and the sea never gave
              us.

Now for the first time he realizes the meaning of Democracy, the deep
inner meaning of Man and America.

        Long had I walk'd my cities, my country roads through farms,
              only half satisfied,
        One doubt nauseous undulating like a snake, crawl'd on the
              ground before me,
        Continually preceding my steps, turning upon me oft, ironically
              hissing low;
        The cities I loved so well I abandon'd and left, I sped to the
              certainties suitable to me,
        Hungering, hungering, hungering, for primal energies and
              Nature's dauntlessness,
        I refresh'd myself with it only, I could relish it only,
        I waited the bursting forth of the pent fire--on the water and
              air I waited long;
        But now I no longer wait, I am fully satisfied, I am glutted,
        I have witness'd the true lightning, I have witness'd my cities
              electric,
        I have lived to behold man burst forth.

It is the same thrill that had aroused Stedman, and made him proud
for the first time of his country. Henceforth the poet will sing
of Men--men not as magnificent bodies, but as triumphant souls.
_Drum-Taps_ fairly quivers and sobs and shouts with a new life. America
has risen at last--one feels it in every line. The book gives more of
the actual soul of the great conflict and of the new spirit that arose
from it than any other book ever written. "Come up from the Fields,
Father," tells with simple pathos that chief tragedy of the war, the
death message brought to parents; "The Wound-Dresser" pictures with
a realism almost terrifying the horrors of the hospitals after a
battle; "Beat! Beat! Drums!" arouses like a bugle call; such sketches
as "Cavalry Crossing a Ford," "Bivouac on a Mountain Side," and "A
March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown," are full of the
thrill and the excitement of war; and finally the poems in "Memories
of President Lincoln": among them "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard
Bloom'd," "O Captain! My Captain!" and "Hush'd Be the Camps To-day,"
come near to the highest places yet won by elegaic verse in English.


IV

In June, 1865, after he had served for a short time as a clerk in the
Interior Department at Washington, Whitman had been discharged on the
ground that he kept in his desk an indecent book of which he was the
author. As a result of the episode, W. D. O'Connor, an impetuous young
journalist, published in September the same year a pamphlet entitled
_The Good Gray Poet_, defending Whitman as a man incapable of grossness
and hailing him as a new force in American literature. Despite its
extravagance and its manifest special pleading, the little book is
a notable one, a document indeed in the history of the new literary
period. It recognized that a new era was opening, one that was to be
original and intensely American.

    It [_Leaves of Grass_] is, in the first place, a work
    purely and entirely American, autochthonic, sprung from our
    own soil; no savor of Europe nor of the past, nor of any
    other literature in it; a vast carol of our own land, and
    of its Present and Future; the strong and haughty psalm
    of the Republic. There is not one other book, I care not
    whose, of which this can be said. I weigh my words and have
    considered well. Every other book by an American author
    implies, both in form and substance, I cannot even say the
    European, but the British mind. The shadow of Temple Bar and
    Arthur's Seat lies dark on all our letters. Intellectually,
    we are still a dependency of Great Britain, and one
    word--colonial--comprehends and stamps our literature.... At
    most, our best books were but struggling beams; behold in
    _Leaves of Grass_ the immense and absolute sunrise! It is all
    our own! The nation is in it! In form a series of chants,
    in substance it is an epic of America. It is distinctly and
    utterly American. Without model, without imitation, without
    reminiscence, it is evolved entirely from our own polity and
    popular life.

The defense fell for the most part on deaf ears. It had been Whitman's
dream that the great poet of democracy was to be the idol of the common
people, the poet loved and read even by the illiterate.

        The woodman that takes his ax and jug with him shall take me
              with him all day,
        The farm-boy, plowing in the field, feels good at the sound of
              my voice.

But the common people heard him not gladly: they preferred Longfellow.
The American average man--"en masse"--sees no poetry in him. Moreover,
he has been rejected very largely by the more educated. It has been
his curious experience to be repudiated by democratic America and to
be accepted and hailed as a prophet by the aristocratic intellectual
classes of England and of Europe generally. Swinburne, W. M. Rossetti,
Symonds, Dowden, Saintsbury, Tennyson, and very many others accepted
him early and at full value, as did also Freiligrath, Schmidt, and
Björnson. A cult early sprang up about him, one composed largely of
mystics, and revolutionists, and reformers in all fields.

In 1871, Whitman issued what unquestionably is his most notable prose
work, _Democratic Vistas_. It is pitched in major key: it swells
O'Connor's piping note into a trumpet blast. Boldly and radically it
called for a new school of literature. The old is outgrown, it cried;
the new is upon us; make ready for the great tide of Democratic poetry
and prose that even now is sweeping away the old landmarks.

To the new era it was what Emerson's _American Scholar_ was to
the period that had opened in the thirties. It was our last great
declaration of literary independence. Emerson, the Harvard scholar,
last of a long line of intellectual clergymen, had pleaded for the
aristocracy of literature, the American scholar, the man thinking his
own thoughts, alone, the set-apart man of his generation; Whitman
pleaded for the democracy of literature, for an American literature
that was the product of the mass, a literature of the people, for the
people, and by the people. Emerson had spoken as an oracle: "What
crowded and breathless aisles! What windows clustering with eager
heads!" Whitman was as one crying in the wilderness, uncouth, unheeded
save by the few. Emerson was the clarion voice of Harvard; Whitman
was the voice of the great movement that so soon was to take away the
scepter from Harvard and transfer it upon the strong new learning
of the West. His message was clear and it came with Carlyle-like
directness:

    Literature, strictly considered, has never recognized the
    People, and, whatever may be said, does not to-day.

    Our fundamental want to-day in the United States, with closest,
    amplest reference to present conditions, and to the future, is
    of a class, and the clear idea of a class, of native authors,
    literati, far different, far higher in grade than any yet
    known, sacerdotal, modern, fit to cope with our occasions,
    lands, permeating the whole mass of American mentality, taste,
    belief, breathing into it a new breath of life.

He has this to say of the poets who thus far had voiced America:

    Touch'd by the national test, or tried by the standards of
    democratic personality, they wither to ashes. I say I have not
    seen a single writer, artist, lecturer, or what-not, that has
    confronted the voiceless but ever erect and active, pervading,
    underlying will and typic aspiration of the land, in a spirit
    kindred to itself. Do you call these genteel little creatures
    American poets? Do you term that perpetual, pistareen,
    paste-pot work, American art, American drama, taste, verse? I
    think I hear, echoed as from some mountaintop afar in the west,
    the scornful laugh of the Genius of these States.

America has not been free. She has echoed books; she has looked too
earnestly to the East.

    America has yet morally and artistically originated nothing.
    She seems singularly unaware that the models of persons,
    books, manners, &c., appropriate for former conditions and for
    European lands, are but exiles and exotics here.

Our literature must be American in spirit and in background, and only
American.

    What is the reason our time, our lands, that we see no fresh
    local courage, sanity, of our own--the Mississippi, stalwart
    Western men, real mental and physical facts, Southerners, &c.,
    in the body of our literature? especially the poetic part
    of it. But always instead, a parcel of dandies and ennuyés,
    dapper little gentlemen from abroad, who flood us with their
    thin sentiment of parlors, parasols, piano-songs, tinkling
    rimes, the five-hundredth importation--or whimpering and crying
    about something, chasing one aborted conceit after another,
    and forever occupied in dyspeptic amours with dyspeptic women.
    While, current and novel, the grandest events and revolutions,
    and stormiest passions of history, are crossing to-day with
    unparallel'd rapidity and magnificence over the stages of our
    own and all the continents, offering new materials, opening new
    vistas, with largest needs, inviting the daring launching forth
    of conceptions in literature, inspired by them, soaring in
    highest regions, serving art in its highest.

       *       *       *       *       *

    America demands a poetry that is bold, modern, and
    all-surrounding and kosmical, as she is herself. It must in no
    respect ignore science or the modern, but inspire itself with
    science and the modern. It must bend its vision toward the
    future, more than the past. Like America, it must extricate
    itself from even the greatest models of the past, and, while
    courteous to them, must have entire faith in itself, and the
    products of its own democratic spirit only.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Faith, very old, now scared away by science, must be
    restored, brought back by the same power that caused her
    departure--restored with new sway, deeper, wider, higher than
    ever. Surely, this universal ennui, this coward fear, this
    shuddering at death, these low, degrading views, are not always
    to rule the spirit pervading future society, as it has in the
    past, and does the present.

The book came winged with a double message: it was a defense and an
explanation of Walt Whitman, the poet of democracy, and it was the
call for a new era in American literature. In both aspects it was
notable, notable as Wordsworth's early prefaces were notable. It was
both an effect and a cause. The same impulse that launched it launched
also Thoreau and the nature school, Bret Harte and the Pike County
balladists, Mark Twain and the vulgarians, Howells and realism, and all
the great wave of literature of locality. Its effect and the effect of
_Leaves of Grass_ that went with it has been a marked one. After these
two books there could be no more dilettanteism in art, no more art for
mere art's sake, no more imitation and subservience to foreign masters;
the time had come for a literature that was genuine and compelling,
one that was American both in message and in spirit.


V

1871 was the culminating year of Whitman's literary life. He was at the
fullness of his powers. His final attack of paralysis was as yet a year
away. For the exhibition of the American Institute he put the message
of _Democratic Vistas_ into poetic form--"After All, not to Create
Only"--a glorious invitation to the muses to migrate to America:

        Placard "Remov'd" and "To Let" on the rocks of your snowy
              Parnassus,

a perfect hexameter line it will be noted, as also this:

        Ended, deceas'd through time, her voice by Castaly's fountain.

And the same year he put forth an enlarged and enriched _Leaves of
Grass_, including in it the splendid "Passage to India," celebrating
the opening of the Suez Canal, a poem that is larger than the mere
geographic bounds of its subject, world-wide as they were, for it is a
poem universe-wide, celebrating the triumphs of the human soul.

        We too take ship, O soul,
        Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
        Fearless for unknown shores on waves of ecstasy to sail,
        Amid the wafting winds (thou pressing me to thee, I thee to me,
              O soul),
        Caroling free, singing our song of God.

        Passage to more than India!
        Are thy wings plumed indeed for such far flights?
        O soul, voyagest thou indeed on voyages like those?
        Disportest thou on waters such as those?
        Soundest below the Sanscrit and the Vedas?
        Then have thy bent unleash'd.

The poems grouped around this splendid outburst, as indeed all the rest
of his poems until illness and age began to dim his powers, are pitched
in this major key. No poet in any time ever maintained himself longer
at such high levels. His poems which he entitled "Whispers of Heavenly
Death," are all of the upper air and the glory of the released soul
of man. Not even Shelley has more of lyric abandon and pure joy than
Whitman in such songs as "Darest Thou Now, O Soul":

        Then we burst forth, we float,
        In Time and Space, O soul, prepared for them,
        Equal, equipt at last (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O
              soul.

And what deeps and abysses in a lyric like this:

        A noiseless patient spider,
        I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
        Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
        It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
        Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

        And you, O my soul, where you stand,
        Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
        Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to
              connect them,
        Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor
              hold,
        Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul!

And then at last, paralyzed and helpless, his work done, the body he
had gloried in slipping away from him, there came that magnificent
outburst of faith and optimism that throws a glory over the whole of
American poetry, the "Prayer of Columbus":

        My terminus near,
        The clouds already closing in upon me,
        The voyage balk'd, the course disputed, lost,
        I yield my ships to Thee.

        My hands, my limbs grow nerveless,
        My brain feels rack'd, bewildered,
        Let the old timbers part, I will not part,
        I will cling fast to Thee, O God, though the waves buffet me,
        Thee, Thee at least I know.

Sometime the poems of Whitman will be arranged in the order in which
he wrote them, and then it will be seen that the poems by which he is
chiefly judged--the chants of the body, the long catalogues of things
(reduced greatly by the poet in his later editings), the barbaric
yawp and the egotism--belong to only one brief period in his literary
development; that in his later work he was the poet of the larger life
of man, the most positive singer of the human soul in the whole range
of English literature. If the earlier Whitman is the singer of a type
of democracy that does not exist in America except as an abstract
theory, the later Whitman is the singer of the universal heart of man.
The Whitman that will endure emerged from the furnace of the Civil War.
In his own words:

    Without those three or four years and the experiences they
    gave, _Leaves of Grass_ would not now be existing.[89]

And again,

    I know very well that my "Leaves" could not possibly have
    emerged or been fashion'd or completed, from any other era than
    the latter half of the nineteenth century, nor any other land
    than democratic America, and from the absolute triumph of the
    national Union arms.[90]

He is not always easy reading; he is not always consecutive and
logical. He said himself that the key to his style was suggestiveness.

    I round and finish little, if anything; and could not,
    consistently with my scheme. The reader will always have his or
    her part to do, just as much as I have had mine. I seek less to
    state or display any theme or thought, and more to bring you,
    reader, into the atmosphere of the theme or thought--there to
    pursue your own flight.

He is oracular; he talks darkly, like the priestess in the temple, in
snatches and Orphic ejaculations, and we listen with eagerness. Had he
been as clear and as consecutive as Longfellow he would not have had
at all the vogue that has been his. Somehow he gives the impression
constantly to his reader, as he gave it in earlier years to Thoreau,
that there is something superhuman about him. He is a misty landscape
illuminated by lightning flashes. We feel that we are near lofty
mountains; now and then we catch glimpses of a snowy peak, but only for
a moment. The fitful roll of the thunder excites us and the flashes
sometimes terrify, and the whole effect of the experience is on the
side of the feelings. There is little clear vision. Or, perhaps, a
better figure: taking his entire work we have the great refuse heap of
the universe. He shows it to us with eagerness; nothing disgusts him,
nothing disconcerts him. Now he pulls forth a diamond, now a potsherd,
and he insists that both are equally valuable. He is joyous at every
return of the grappling hook. Are not all together in the heap; shall
the diamond say to the potsherd, I am better than thou?

He was early touched by the nature movement of the mid century. With
half a dozen poems he has made himself the leading American poet of
the sea. In all of his earlier work there breathes the spirit of the
living out-of-doors until he may be ranked with Thoreau and Muir and
Burroughs. It was the opinion of Burroughs that "No American poet has
studied American nature more closely than Whitman, or is more cautious
in his uses of it." He is not the poet of the drawing-room--he is
the poet of the vast sweep of the square miles, of the open sky, of
the cosmos. "Democracy most of all affiliates with the open air," he
contended; "is sunny and hardy and sane only with Nature--just as much
as art is." And it was his mission, as he conceived it, "to bring
people back from their persistent strayings and sickly abstractions, to
the costless average, divine, original concrete."

He is not a scientist with Nature; he does not know enough to
be a scientist, and his methods and cast of mind are hopelessly
unscientific. He is simply a man who feels.

    You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific
    about birds and trees and flowers and water craft; a
    certain free margin, and even vagueness--perhaps ignorance,
    credulity--helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the
    sentiment of feather'd, wooded, river, or marine nature
    generally. I repeat it--don't want to know too exactly, or the
    reasons why.

Such a paragraph is worth a chapter of analysis, and so also is a poem
like this:

        When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
        When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
        When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
              and measure them,
        When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much
              applause in the lecture-room,
        How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
        Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
        In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
        Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

His intellect is not so developed as his emotions. He cannot think; he
can feel. And after all is not the essence of all poetry, of all the
meanings of life, of the soul, of Nature in its message to man, a thing
not of the intellect but of the sensitive spirit of man?


VI

Of Whitman's poetic form there is still much to learn. In its earlier
phases there was a sprawliness about it that at times was almost fatal
to poetic effects, but he grew more metric with every edition and more
and more pruned out the worst of his lines, such for instance as this:

        Or, another time, in warm weather, out in a boat, to lift the
              lobster-pots, where they are sunk with heavy stones (I
              know the buoys).

His lines are not prose, even the worst of them. There is a roll about
them, a falling of the voice at stressed intervals, an alternate
time-beat, crude at times, violated often, yet nevertheless an
obedience to law.

It is impossible for any poet, however lawless and apathetic to rules,
to compose year after year without at last falling into a stereotyped
habit of manner, and evolving a metric roll that is second nature. That
Whitman was not conscious of any metric law within himself goes without
saying. He believed that he was as free as the tides of the ocean and
the waves that rolled among the rocks--lawless, unconfined.

    I have not only not bother'd much about style, form, art,
    etc., but I confess to more or less apathy (I believe I
    have sometimes caught myself in decided aversion) toward
    them throughout, asking nothing of them but negative
    advantages--that they should never impede me, and never under
    any circumstances, or for their own purposes only, assume any
    mastery over me.[91]

But a study of Whitman reveals the fact that certain laws _did_ more
and more assume mastery over him. With every year the time-beat of his
poems grew increasingly hexametric. One may go through his later poems
and find on the average a full hexameter line on every page. I quote at
random:

        To the cities and farms I sing as they spread in the sunshine
              before me.

        How shall the young man know the whether and when of his brother?

        Behold thy fields and farms, thy far-off woods and mountains.

His ear unconsciously seemed to demand the roll of the dactyl, then a
cesura after from five to seven beats, then a closing roll longer or
shorter as his mood struck him. The greater number of his later lines
open as if the line was to be a hexameter: "Over the breast of the
spring," "Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat," "Passing the apple tree
blows," "Coffin that passes through lakes," and so on and on.

But one can make a broader statement. The total effect of the
poems after 1870, like the "Song of the Redwood," for instance, is
hexametric, though few of the lines may be hexameters as they stand.
One might arrange this song like this:

        A California song, | a prophecy and indirection,
        A thought impalpable | to breathe as air, a chorus
        Of dryads, fading departing, | or hamadryads departing,
        A murmuring, fateful giant | voice out of the earth and sky,
        Voice of a mighty dying | tree in the redwood forest
        Dense. Farewell my brethren, | Farewell O earth and sky,
        Farewell ye neighboring waters, | my time has ended, my term
        Has come along the northern coast | just back from the rockbound
              shore,
        And the caves in the saline air | from the sea in the Mendocino
        Country with the surge for base | and accompaniment low and
              hoarse,
        With crackling blows of axes | sounding musically driven
        By strong arms driven deep | by the sharp tongues of the axes,
        There in the redwood forest | dense I heard the mighty
        Tree in its death chant chanting.

Crude hexameters these undoubtedly, requiring much wrenching and
eliding at times, yet for all that as one reads them aloud one cannot
escape the impression that the total effect is hexametric. May it not
be that the primal time beat for poetry is the hexameter, and that
the prehistoric poets evolved it spontaneously even as the creator of
_Leaves of Grass_ evolved it?


VII

To insist that Whitman has had small influence on later poetry because
none of the later poets has made use of his chant is feeble criticism.
No poet even _can_ make use of his verse form without plagiarism, for
his loose-fingered chords and his peculiar time-beat, his line-lengths,
his wrenched hexameters--all this was Whitman himself. In all other
ways he enormously influenced his age. His realism, his concrete
pictures, his swing and freedom, his Americanism, his insistence upon
message, ethic purpose, absolute fidelity to the here and now rather
than to books of the past--all have been enormously influential. He is
the central figure of the later period, the voice in the wilderness
that hailed its dim morning and the strong singer of its high noon.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  WALT WHITMAN. (1819-1892.) During the lifetime of the poet there
  were issued ten editions of _Leaves of Grass_, with the following
  dates: 1855, 1856, 1860, 1867, 1871, 1876, 1881, 1888, 1889, 1891.

  Among his other publications were the following: 1866.
  _Drum-Taps_; 1870. _Passage to India_; 1871. _Democratic Vistas_;
  1875. _Memoranda During the War_; 1876. _Specimen Days and
  Collect_; 1876. _Two Rivulets_; 1888. _November Boughs_; 1891.
  _Good Bye My Fancy._

  Among the works published after his death the most important are:
  1897. _Calamus: a Series of Letters Written During the Years
  1868-1880 to a Young Friend._ Edited by R. M. Bucke; 1898. _The
  Wound Dresser: Letters Written from the Hospitals in Washington
  During the War of the Rebellion._ Edited by R. M. Bucke; 1904.
  _Diary in Canada._ Edited by W. S. Kennedy; 1910. Complete Prose
  Works, 10 vols. with biographical matter by O. L. Triggs, 1902;
  _Poems_, with biographical introduction by John Burroughs, 1902.

  Among the great mass of biographies and studies may be mentioned
  the following: _The Good Gray Poet_, W. D. O'Connor, 1865;
  _Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person_, John Burroughs,
  1867; _Whitman: a Study_, John Burroughs, 1893; _In Re Walt
  Whitman_, R. M. Bucke, H. Traubel, and T. B. Harned, 1893; _Walt
  Whitman, the Man_, T. Donaldson, 1896; _Walt Whitman: a Study_,
  J. Addington Symonds, 1897; _Walt Whitman (the Camden Sage) as
  Religious and Moral Teacher: a Study_, W. Norman Guthrie, 1897;
  _Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman_, E. P. Gould, 1900; _Walt
  Whitman's Poetry_, E. G. Holmes, 1901; _Walt Whitman the Poet
  of the Wider Selfhood_, M. T. Maynard, 1903; _Walt Whitman_, J.
  Platt, 1904; _A Life of Walt Whitman_, Henry B. Binns, 1905; _A
  Vagabond in Literature_, A. Rickett, 1906; _Walt Whitman; His
  Life and Works_, Bliss Perry, 1906; _Days with Walt Whitman.
  With Some Notes on His Life and Work_, Edward Carpenter, 1906;
  _With Walt Whitman in Camden_ (_March 28-July 14, 1880_), Horace
  Traubel, 1906; _Walt Whitman._ English Men of Letters Series.
  George Rice Carpenter, 1909; _Approach to Walt Whitman_, C. E.
  Noyes, 1910; _Democracy and Poetry_, F. B. Gummere, 1911; _Walt
  Whitman_, Basil de Selincourt, 1914. A bibliography of Whitman's
  writings is appended to O. L. Triggs's _Selections_, 1898.



CHAPTER X

THE CLASSICAL REACTION


The nineteenth century both in Europe and America was a period of
revolt, of breakings away from tradition, of voices in the wilderness.
It was the age of Byron and Shelley, of Carlyle and Tolstoy, of Heine
and Hugo. Literature came everywhere as the voice of revolution. It
rang with protest--Dickens and George Eliot, Kingsley, Whittier, and
Mrs. Stowe; it dreamed of a new social era--Fourier and the sons
of Rousseau in France, the Transcendentalists in America; it let
itself go in romantic abandon and brought back in a flood feeling and
sentiment--the _spätromantiker_ and Bulwer-Lytton and Longfellow.
Everywhere conviction, intensity, travail of soul.

The school died in the last quarter of the century consumed of its
own impetuous spirit, and it left no heirs. A feminine age had
come, an age of convention and of retrospect. The romantic gave way
to the inevitable classic; the hot passion of revolt to the cool
fit of deliberate art. In America, the New England school that had
ruled the mid years of the century became reminiscent, fastidious,
self-contained, to awake in sudden realization that it no longer was a
power, that its own second generation were women led by Aldrich, James,
Howells, immigrants from New York and the West. The early leaders,
Emerson, Whittier, Lowell, all intensity and conviction, had been
replaced by the school of deliberate workmen who had no message for
their times, only technique and brilliancy.


I

This reaction from the New England school can be studied nowhere more
convincingly than in the personalities and work of Henry James, father
and son. The elder James, companion of Carlyle and Emerson and Alcott,
disciple and interpreter of Swedenborg and Sandeman, was a typical
product of the mid-century school--mystical, intense, concerned with
the inner rather than the other aspects of man. "Henry James was
true comfort," Emerson wrote in his diary in 1850; "wise, gentle,
polished, with heroic manners and a serenity like the sun." He pursued
no profession, but like Alcott devoted his life to philosophy and to
literature. He wrote for the few a small handful of books, mostly
forgotten now, though he who would read them will find them clothed in
a richness of style and a felicity of expression that reminds one of
the prose of the greater periods of English literature.[92]

The son of this mid-century genius, Henry James, Jr., cultured, cold,
scientific, disciple of Turgenieff, of Flaubert and Daudet, Maupassant
and Zola--"grandsons of Balzac"--stands as the type of the "later
manner," the new school that wrote without message, that studied with
intensity the older models, that talked evermore of its "art."

"We know very little about a talent," this younger James has written
in his essay on Stevenson, "till we know where it grew up." The James
family, we know, grew up outside the New England environment, in the
State of New York--first at Albany, where the future novelist was born
in 1843, then until he was twelve in New York City. But this in reality
tells us nothing. The boy grew up in London rather than New York. The
father had inherited means that permitted a retired and scholarly life.
Following the birth of Henry, his second son, he had taken his family
for a year and a half to England, and he had come back, both he and his
wife, to quote his son's words, "completely Europeanized." "Had _all_
their talk for its subject, in my infant ears, that happy time?--did it
deal only with London and Piccadilly and the Green Park?... I saw my
parents homesick, as I conceived, for the ancient order."[93] He grew
up in the presence of imported books and papers, the smell of whose ink
fresh from London and the Strand fed his imagination.

Even his playmates transported him into the old world. It was one
Louis De Coppet, a small boy, "straight from the Lake of Geneva," that
first really aroused in him "the sense of Europe ... that pointed
prefigurement of the manners of 'Europe,' which, inserted wedge-like,
if not to say peg-like, into my young allegiance was to split the
tender organ into such unequal halves. His the toy hammer that drove
in the very point of the golden nail. It was as if there had been a
mild magic in that breath, however scant, of another world."[94] While
other lads were reading their juveniles, the young James was poring
over _Punch_. "From about 1850 to 1855," he writes in his essay on
Du Maurier, speaking of himself in the third person, "he lived, in
imagination, no small part of the time, in the world represented by the
pencil of Leech.... These things were the features of a world which he
longed so to behold that the familiar woodcuts grew at last as real to
him as the furniture of his home."


II

Such was the early environment of Henry James. Refinement and rare
culture breathed upon his cradle and surrounded his whole boyhood like
an atmosphere. He was kept sheltered from the world without, as from
something coarse and degrading. He was not allowed to attend the public
schools. "Considering with much pity our four stout boys," the father
wrote to Emerson in 1849, "who have no playroom within doors and import
shocking bad manners from the street, we gravely ponder whether it
wouldn't be better to go abroad for a few years with them, allowing
them to absorb French and German and get such a sensuous education as
they cannot get here."[95]

The plan did not mature until 1855 when the boy was twelve. In the
_interim_ tutors were employed for his education who instructed
him with desultory, changing methods, allowing him always to take
apparently the paths of his preference. In these same paths he seems to
have continued during the four years of his residence abroad with his
parents in London, Geneva, Boulogne-sur-Mer, and Paris. All harshness
he avoided, all sharpness of discipline--mathematics, examinations. He
would sit, boy as he was, only in the places of beauty and refinement.
"The whole perfect Parisianism I seemed to myself always to have
possessed mentally--even if I had but just turned twelve."[96]

One does not understand Henry James who neglects this formative period
of his life. He returned to America an esthete, a dreamer, with his
heart in the lands of culture, dissatisfied with the rush and rudeness
that were preparing a new world for its future. He was too frail in
health to enter the armies which soon were recruiting about him for the
great war; he had no inclination, because of his father's prejudice,
to undertake a college course; he shrank from the usual professions
open to young men of his class. He did for a year attend lectures at
the Harvard Law School, but it was with no thought of preparing for a
legal career. He dreamed of literature as a profession. He would woo
the muse, but the muse he would woo "was of course the muse of prose
fiction--never for the briefest hour in my case the presumable, not
to say the presuming, the much-taking-for-granted muse of rime, with
whom I had never had, even in thought, the faintest flirtation." For
this profession he trained himself as deliberately and as laboriously
as if it were the violin that he was to master, or the great organ. He
read industriously, especially in the French; he resided now in Boston,
where his father at last had settled, now in France, now in Italy. Like
Story, the sculptor, whom in so many ways he resembled, he would live
at the richest centers of his art. Finally, in the late seventies,
he took up his residence permanently abroad to return only as a rare
visitant.


III

Henry James more than any other American author stands for
specialization, for a limited field cultivated intensively and
exclusively. Poetry, as he has explained, was no part of his endowment;
he never attempted it even at the age when all men are poets; romance
never attracted him. He approached his chosen field of prose fiction
deliberately as a scientist, and prepared himself for it as a man
studies medicine. He began as he ended--more crude in his art to be
sure, more conventional, more youthful in thought and diction, yet not
fundamentally different from his final manner.

His first published work, _The Story of a Year_, which appeared in
the March, 1865, number of the _Atlantic_, at first reading seems
little different from the hundreds of tales of the Civil War that were
appearing everywhere during the period. It is full of a young man's
smartness and literary affectations: "In early May, two years ago, a
young couple I wot of," etc. "Good reader, this narrative is averse to
retrospect," etc. And yet the story, despite its youthfulness, contains
all the elements that we now associate with the fiction of Henry
James. It is first of all a slight story--not so slight as some of the
later work, but nevertheless a mere episode expanded into a novelette;
furthermore, it was written not so much for the displaying of movement
of incident as for the analysis of movements of feeling and the growth
of elements of character: "I have to chronicle," he says at one point,
"another silent transition." Then too its ending suggests the French
school:

    "No, no, no," she almost shrieked, turning about in the path.
    "I forbid you to follow me."

    But for all that he went in.

We stand uncertain, startled, piqued--then the suggestion comes surging
over us: Perhaps the author means that she married him after all! Could
she do it? Did she do it? And then we find with a thrill of surprise
that he has given us the full answer in his previous analysis of her
character. It is finesse, it is the careful adjustment of parts, it is
deliberate art.

There are other characteristics in the story that were to mark all the
work of James. The tale, for instance, leaves us unmoved. We admire
its brilliancy, but at no point does it grip us with its tragedy or
its comedy. The faithlessness of the heroine and the death of the
hero alike leave us cold. We do not care. Sympathy, the sympathy of
comprehension, that sympathy that enters into the little world the
author has created and for a time loses itself as if it were actually
native there--of this there is nothing. It is all objective, external
phenomena observed and recorded on a pad--a thing alone of the
intellect.

That James should have followed this story with an essay on "The
Novels of George Eliot" is no mere coincidence. How completely he had
saturated himself with all the work of the great English sibyl, appears
on every page. Her faithfulness to her material, her vivid photographs,
her devotion to science which little by little crushed out her woman's
heart, her conception of the novel as the record of a dissection--the
reactions of human souls under the scalpel and the microscope, her
materialism that refused all testimony save that of the test-tube and
the known reagents, that reduced man to a problem in psychology--all
this made its reflex upon the young student. He too became a scientist,
taking nothing for granted, stripping himself of all illusions,
relegating the ideal, the intuitive, the spiritual to the realm of the
outgrown; he too became a taker of notes--"The new school of fiction in
France is based very much on the taking of notes," he remarks in his
essay on Daudet. "The library of the great Flaubert, of the brothers
Goncourt, of Emile Zola, and of the writer of whom I speak, must have
been in a large measure a library of memorandum-books."[97] In his
earlier work at least, he was George Eliot with the skill and finesse
of Maupassant, and he may be summed up with his whole school in the
words he has put into the mouth of his own Anastasia Blumenthal: "It
was meager," he makes her say of the singing of Adelina Patti, "it was
trivial, it lacked soul. You can't be a great artist without a great
passion."


IV

During the first period of his literary life, the period that ended
somewhere in the early nineties, James took as the subject of his study
that vagrom area that lies on the borderland between the old culture
of Europe and the new rawness of America. Howells has made much of the
longings of certain classes in the older parts of his native land to
visit the European cities, and he has pictured more than once their
idealizations of foreign things, their retrospections and dreamings.
James showed these Americans actually in Europe, their manners as seen
against the older background, their crudeness and strength; and in
doing so he produced what was widely hailed as the new international
novel. There was nothing really new about it. James wrote of Americans
in Europe just as Mark Twain wrote of Americans on the Mississippi
or in California. As a scientist he must deal only with facts which
had passed under his own observation--that was his much-discussed
"realism"--and the life that he was most familiar with was the life of
the pensions and grand hotels of Rome and Switzerland and Paris and
London.

His world in reality was small. He had been reared in a cloister-like
atmosphere where he had dreamed of "life" rather than lived it. It is
almost pathetic to think of him going up to the Harvard Law School
because in a vague way it stood for something which he had missed and
longed to feel. "I thought of it under the head of 'life,'" he says. He
had played in his childhood with books rather than boys; he had been
kept away from his natural playmates because of their "shocking bad
manners"; he had never mingled with men in a business or a professional
way; he had never married; he stood aloof from life and observed
it without being a part of it. Americans he knew chiefly from the
specimens he had found in Europe during his long residences; European
society he knew as a visitor from without. With nothing was he in
sympathy in the full meaning of the word, that sympathy which includes
its own self in the group under observation.

For ten years he wrote studies, essays on his masters, George Eliot,
Balzac, Daudet, and stories that were not greatly different from
these essays--analyses of types, and social conditions, and of the
reactions that follow when a unit of one social system is thrust into
another. In 1875 he enlarged his area with _Roderick Hudson_, a novel
of length, and he followed it with _The American_, _The Europeans_,
_Daisy Miller_, and others, all of them international in setting. In
his later period, the period, say, after 1890, he confined himself
to the depicting of society in London, the rapid change toward
unconventionality in manners that marked the end of the century. He was
so far now from contact with his native land that of necessity he must
cease to use it as his source of literary material.

The earlier group of stories center about a comparatively few
types. First, there are the young men of the Roland Mallet, Ralph
Touchett order, "highly civilized young Americans," he calls them in
_Confidence_, "born to an easy fortune and a tranquil destiny"; "men
who conceive of life as a fine art." His novels are full of them,
creatures of whim who know nothing of the bitterness of struggle, who
drift from capital to capital of Europe mindful only of their own
comfort, highly sensitive organisms withal, subject to evanescent
emotions which they analyze with minuteness, and brilliant at every
point when their intellectual powers are called into play. They talk
in witty flashes for hours on end and deliver finished lectures at
the call of an epigram. They cannot talk without philosophizing or
hear a maiden laugh without analysis. They are brilliant all the time.
The conversation of Gilbert Osmond and Mrs. Merle fills Isabel with
amazement: "They talked extremely well; it struck her almost as a
dramatic entertainment, rehearsed in advance." Page after page they
talk in a staccato, breathless profusion of wit, epigram, repartee,
verbal jewels worthy of Alexander Pope flying at every opening of the
lips--is even French culture as brilliant as this? Mr. Brand in _The
Europeans_ listening to the Baroness Münster, bursts out rapturously
at last, "Now I suppose that is what is called conversation, real
conversation. It is quite the style we have heard about--the style of
Madame de Staël, of Madame Récamier."

Within this narrow circle of Europe-visiting, highly civilized,
occupationless men and women, James is at his best. Had he not been
reared by Henry James, Senior? Had he not lived his whole life in the
charmed circle of the highly civilized? But once outside of this small
area he ceases to be convincing. Of the great mass of the American
people he knows but little. He has seen them only at a distance.

        As some rich woman, on a winter's morn,
        Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge
        Who with numb, blacken'd fingers makes her fire ...
        And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts
        Of that poor drudge may be,

so of James when he attempts to portray the great mass of his
countrymen. One needs to examine only the case of Christopher Newman
in _The American_. Given a man who left home at eight years of age to
work in the mills, who at length manufactures wash tubs, then leather,
and at last by sheer Yankee impudence and energy makes himself a
millionaire at forty. Thrust this man suddenly into the circles of
French nobility, place him in the presence of the Countess de Belgrade
and ask yourself if he will talk like this:

    She is a woman of conventions and proprieties; her world is
    the world of things immutably decreed. But how she is at home
    in it, and what a paradise she finds it. She walks about in it
    as if it were a blooming park, a Garden of Eden; and when she
    sees "This is genteel," or "This is improper," written on a
    mile-stone she stops ecstatically, as if she were listening to
    a nightingale or smelling a rose.

This is not Christopher Newman; this is no American self-made man
talking; it is Henry James himself. Did he realize his mistake when
his art was more mature and his judgment more ripe? Collate the
changes which he made thirty years later for the final edition of _The
American_. Newman is asked, for instance, if he is visiting Europe for
the first time. According to the earlier version he replies, "Very much
so"; according to the latest version, "Quite immensely the first." Is
more proof needed? All his average Americans--Daisy Miller, Henrietta
Stackpole, Casper Goodwood, and the others, fall short in the same
way. Objectively they are true to life. As a painter of external
portraits, as a depicter of tricks of personality, of manners, of all
that makes up a perfect external likeness, James is surpassed not
even by Howells; but he fails to reach the springs of life. Howells's
Silas Lapham is a living personality; James's Christopher Newman is
a lay figure in Yankee costume. For James knows Americans chiefly as
he has studied them in pensions and hotels along the grand tour. He
has not been introduced to them, he has simply watched them--their
uneasiness in their new element, their attempts at adjustment, their
odd little mistakes; he hears them talk at the tables around him--their
ejaculations, their wonder, their enthusiasm, and he jots it all down.
He has no sympathy, he has no feeling, he has no object, save the
scientific desire to record phenomena.

This material he weaves into novels--stories, but not stories told with
narrative intent, not stories for entertainment or wonder or sensation.
The story is a clinic, a dissection, a psychological seminar. _What
Maisie Knew_ is an addition to the literature of child study. It is
as if he had set himself to observe case after case for his brother,
William James, to use as materials for psychological generalizations
and a final treatise. The data are often inaccurate because of the
observer's personal equation; it does not always conform with the
results of our own observing--we wonder, for instance, if he is as far
afield in his pictures of the European aristocracy as in those of his
average Americans--yet the process is always the same.

Rapidity of movement is foreign to his method; he is not concerned
with movement. On the portrait of one lady he will expend two hundred
thousand words. Basil in _The Bostonians_ passes the evening with his
Cousin Olive: the call occupies nine chapters; Verena Tarrant calls
on Miss Chancellor: it is two chapters before either of them moves
or speaks. It transports us back into the eighteenth century to the
nine-volume novel. At every step analysis, searchings for the springs
of thought and act--philosophizing. Lord Warburton stands before Miss
Archer to propose marriage, but before we hear his voice we must
analyze minutely his sensations and hers. Her first feeling was alarm.
"This alarm was composed of several elements, not all of which were
disagreeable; she had spent several days in analyzing them," etc. A
review of this analysis fills a page. Then we study the psychology
of the lover. First, he wonders why he is about to propose: "He
calculated that he had spent about twenty-six hours in her company. He
had summed up all this--the perversity of the impulse, the--" etc.,
etc. A proposal each step and speech of which is followed by a careful
clinic to determine the resultant emotion, and a rigid analysis of
all the elements that combined to produce that particular shade of
emotion and no other, can hardly satisfy the demands of the average
modern reader of fiction. It is the province of the novel to produce
with verisimilitude an area of human life and to make the reader for a
swift period at home in that area; it is not the record of a scientific
investigation.


V

James has dealt almost wholly with exceptions and unusual cases. His
"Bostonians" are not typical Bostonians at all--it is not too strong to
declare that they are abnormalities; his "Europeans" are almost as bad;
his characters studied along the grand tour are rare exceptions if we
compare them with the great average American type. Of strong, elemental
men and women, the personalities shown by novelists like Fielding and
Tolstoy and Hardy and Mark Twain, he knows nothing. He is feminine
rather than masculine; he is exquisite rather than strong. In his essay
on Turgenieff he records that the great Russian was never one of his
admirers. "I do not think my stories struck him as quite meat for men."

There is a lack, too, of seriousness: the novels really accomplish
nothing. "The manner," according to Turgenieff's opinion, "is more
apparent than the matter." Style is preferred to message. There is
no humor, no stirring of emotions, nothing pitched above the key of
perfect refinement--the reader does not feel and therefore does not
care. It is a mere intellectual exercise, a problem in psychology.

That James himself was aware of this weakness we learn from his essay
on Daudet. Of Sidonie Chebe he writes, "She is not _felt_," and again,
"His weakness has been want of acquaintance with his subject. He has
not _felt_ what he has observed." It is a judgment that sweeps over
the whole fiction of Henry James. He has never been possessed by his
subject or by his characters, he has never been seized and hurried
along by his stories, he has never told them because they had to be
told, he has never written a single sentence with held breath and
beating heart, and as a result his work can never find for long an
audience save the select few; an audience indeed that at length must
become as restricted as that which now reads the exquisite creations of
the elder James, his father.

There is another element that must be weighed before we can understand
fully the work of this writer, an element that is distinctly
classical. The basis underlying all of this mass of analysis is
self-consciousness. Never was author more subjective and more enamoured
of his own psychological processes than Henry James. Never does he lose
sight of himself. These characters of his are all of them Henry James.
They slip out of their costumes at slightest provocation to talk with
his tones, to voice his philosophy, to follow his mental processes. In
externals they are true to model though not always deeply; the hands
are the hands of Christopher Newman, but the voice is the voice of
Henry James.

The tendency to self-consciousness has colored everything. Even his
criticism has had its personal basis. It has consisted of studies
in expatriation: the life of Story, that prototype of James; the
life of Hawthorne, that exposition of the rawness of America and the
unfitness of the new land for the residence of men of culture; _The
American Scene_--that mental analysis tracing every shade of emotion
as he revisits what has become to him a foreign land. His literary
essays cover largely the experiences of his apprenticeship. They trace
the path of his own growth in art. They are strings of brilliants,
flashing, often incomparable, but they are not criticism in the highest
sense of the word criticism. Few men have said such brilliant things
about Balzac, Maupassant, Daudet, Stevenson as James, yet for all that
a critic in the wider sense of the term really he is not. He lacks
perspective, philosophy, system. He makes epigrams and pithy remarks.
The ability to project himself into the standpoint of another, to view
with sympathy of comprehension, he did not have. Within his limited
range he could measure and the rules of art he could apply with
brilliancy, but he could not feel.

Self-study, the pursuit of every fleeting impression, became in the
author at last a veritable obsession. In his later books like _Notes
of a Son and Brother_, for instance, and _The American Scene_, his
finger is constantly upon his own pulse. He seeks the source of his
every fleeting emotion. He does not tell us why he did not want to
enter Harvard; he tries rather to trace the subtle thread of causation
that could have led him not to _want_ to want to go. When _A Small Boy
and Others_ appeared the world cried out, "Is it possible that at last
Henry James has revealed himself?" whereas the truth was that few men
ever have revealed themselves more. All this endless dissection and
analysis and scrutiny of the inner workings is in reality an analysis
of Henry James himself. Objective he could not be. He could only stand
in his solitude and interpret his own introspections.

And his solitude it has been and his self-contemplation that have
evolved his later manner. A consciously wrought-out style like Pater's
or Maupassant's comes always as a result of solitude, of self-conscious
concentration, of classicism. Eternal contemplation of manner can
result only in mannerism more and more, until mannerism becomes
the ruling characteristic. Classicism perishes at last of its own
refinement.


VI

The evolution of William Dean Howells is a problem vastly different. To
place Howells as a leader of those forces of refinement that followed
after the New England period is seemingly to ignore the facts of his
origin and his early training, for the little river town on the Ohio
where he was born in 1837 was as far removed from New England manners
and sentiments as was even the Hannibal of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry
Finn. He was reared to despise Yankees as a mean-spirited race, and he
spent his childhood and young manhood in close contact with the rough,
virile material that was shaping up the great West.

Howells was of the third generation in Ohio, a Westerner of the
Westerners. His grandfather, a Welsh manufacturer, "came to this
country early in the nineteenth century and settled his family in a
log cabin in the Ohio woods, that they might be safe from the sinister
influences of the village where he was managing some woolen mills."[98]
He finally settled down as a druggist and bookseller in a small
village, and his son, perhaps from contact with his father's wares,
developed a passion for literature--strange acquisition, it would seem,
to gain in the wilderness.

It was from this literary father rather than from his mother, who was
from the river-faring folk of the region, that the young William Dean
Howells was to derive his early love for books. He seems to have been
a Henry James, Senior, with Southwestern training and environment and
a lack of means that forbade his following the path of his desires. He
too was a Swedenborgian and a mystic, and he too, despite unfavorable
surroundings, kept in his household a literary atmosphere. Moore's
_Lalla Rookh_, Thomson's _Seasons_, Dickens, Scott, Cowper, Burns, he
read to his family--poetry the most of it, for "his own choice was
for poetry, and most of our library, which was not given to theology,
was given to poetry." An unusual character indeed in the headlong,
practical West of the mid century! While the mother was about her tasks
and the children were shelling peas for dinner, he would sit and tell
of Cervantes and the adventures of Don Quixote, transporting the little
group into castles in Spain, and creating visions and longings that
were to dominate the whole life of his little son. He watched with
pleasure the literary tendencies of the boy: "when I began to show a
liking for literature he was eager to guide my choice."

The father satisfied his literary longings by editing country
newspapers and serving as reporter at various times at the State
capital during sessions of the legislature. He remained in no place
long. With what Howells has called "the vagarious impulse which is so
strong in our craft," he removed his family to new fields of labor with
surprising regularity. There was little chance for schooling. Almost
from infancy the boy was a part of his father's printing office. In _A
Boy's Town_, that delightful autobiographic fragment told in the third
person, he has given a glimpse of this early period:

    My boy was twelve years old by that time and was already a
    swift compositor, though he was still so small that he had to
    stand on a chair to reach the case in setting type on Tyler's
    inaugural message. But what he lacked in stature he made up
    in gravity of demeanor; and he got the name of "The Old Man"
    from the printers as soon as he began to come about the office,
    which he did almost as soon as he could walk. His first attempt
    in literature, an essay on the vain and disappointing nature
    of human life, he set up and printed off himself in his sixth
    or seventh year; and the printing office was in some sort his
    home, as well as his school, his university. He could no more
    remember learning to set type than he could remember learning
    to read.

The autobiographical writings of Howells leave us with the impression
of a gentle, contemplative boy given rather to reading and dreaming in
a solitary corner than to Mark-Twain-like activities with Tom Sawyers
and Huck Finns. Though by birth and rearing he was a complete Westerner
of the river section, mingling freely with all its elements, he seems
never to have taken root in the region or to have been much influenced
by it. He has spoken somewhere of De Quincey as a man "eliminated from
his time and place by his single love for books." Howells, like James,
was a detached soul. From his earliest youth he was not a resident
of Ohio, but a resident of the vaster world of literature. He read
enormously and with passion, and from his boyhood he seems--also like
Henry James--to have had no dream of other than a literary career.
He saw not the headlong West that surged about him but the realms of
poetry and romance. "To us who have our lives so largely in books," he
wrote in later years, "the material world is always the fable, and the
ideal the fact. I walked with my feet on the ground, but my head was
in the clouds, as light as any of them.... I was living in a time of
high political tumult, and I certainly cared very much for the question
of slavery which was then filling the minds of men; I felt deeply the
shame and wrong of our fugitive slave law; I was stirred by the news
from Kansas, where the great struggle between the two great principles
in our nationality was beginning in bloodshed; but I cannot pretend
that any of these things were more than ripples on the surface of my
intense and profound interest in literature."[99]

It is suggestive that his earliest "passions" among the authors
were Goldsmith, Irving, and Cervantes, and later Pope, Macaulay,
and Curtis--the most of them literary artists and finishers, with
grace of style and softness and dreaminess of atmosphere, rather than
stormy creators who blazed new trails and crashed into the unknown
with lawless power. He taught himself the use of literary English by
painstaking imitation of the classics which took his young fancy. His
passion for Pope was long continued. When other boys in the schools
were shirking their English grammar, Howells week after week and month
after month was toiling at imitations of the great master of incisive
English, "rubbing and polishing at my wretched verses till they did
sometimes take on an effect, which, if it was not like Pope's, was
like none of mine." From him "I learned how to choose between words
after a study of their fitness." Juveniles and boys' books of adventure
he seems never to have known. From the first he was enamoured of the
classics, and of the classics best fitted to educate him for the career
that was to be his: "my reading from the first was such as to enamour
me of clearness, of definiteness."

Never was youth more industrious in his efforts at self-mastery. He
wasted not a moment. He discovered Macaulay and read him as most boys
read pirate stories. "Of course I reformed my prose style, which had
been carefully modeled after that of Goldsmith and Irving, and began
to write in the manner of Macaulay, in short, quick sentences and with
the prevalent use of brief Anglo-Saxon words." His health began to
suffer from his application, but he worked steadily on. He produced
quantities of poems and even a novel or two which he either destroyed
or consigned to the oblivion of the newspaper upon which he worked.
Later he enlarged the field of his literary apprenticeship by securing
a position on a Columbus journal, or as he has himself expressed it,
he was "for three years a writer of news paragraphs, book notices, and
political leaders on a daily paper in an inland city."[100] Then he
began to enlarge his literary field by contributing "poems and sketches
and criticisms for the _Saturday Press_ of New York."[100]

In December, 1859, he issued his first book, _Poems of Two Friends_,
a small volume of rather ordinary verses written in conjunction with
J. J. Piatt, and a few months later he published a campaign life of
Abraham Lincoln, a book more notable for its effect upon its author's
fortunes than for any quality it may have had, for it was as a result
of it that he was sent in 1861 to Italy for a glorious four years
of graduate study, if we may so term it, in Italian literature and
language and life.

One cannot dwell too carefully upon these years of Howells's literary
apprenticeship. As one reads his published work one finds from the
first no immaturities. He burst upon the reading public as a finished
writer. When his work first began to appear in the East, the _North
American Review_ of Boston voiced its astonishment:

    We made occasion to find out something about him, and what
    we learned served to increase our interest. This delicacy,
    it appeared, was a product of the rough and ready West, this
    finish the natural gift of a young man with no advantage of
    college training, who, passing from the compositor's desk
    to the editorship of a local newspaper, had been his own
    faculty of the humanities. But there are some men who are born
    cultivated.[101]

But Howells was not born cultivated; he achieved cultivation by a
process of self-discipline that has few parallels in the history of
literature. He is a classicist as James is a classicist. If his style
is clear and concise, if he knows as few modern authors the resources
of the English tongue, it is because he gave without reserve to the
mastering of it all the enthusiasm and time and strength of his
youth and young manhood. He was not a genius: he was a man of talent
of the Pope-Macaulay order that makes of literature not a thing of
inspirations and flashes and visions, but a profession to be learned as
one learns the pipe organ after years of practice, as an art demanding
an exquisite skill to be gained only by unremitting toil.


VII

The Howells of the earlier period was a poet. Speaking of the winter
of 1859-60, which saw the publication of his first volume, he writes:
"It seemed to me as if the making and the reading of poetry were to go
on forever, and that was to be all there was to it." "Inwardly I was a
poet, with no wish to be anything else, unless in a moment of careless
affluence I might so far forget myself as to be a novelist."

His reading more and more was in the poets. Heine he read with passion,
and Longfellow and Tennyson, and then Heine, evermore Heine. "Nearly
ten years afterwards Mr. Lowell wrote me about something of mine that
he had been reading: 'You must sweat the Heine out of your bones as men
do mercury.'" The seven poems which Lowell accepted and printed in the
_Atlantic_ in 1860 and 1861 are redolent of Heine, with here and there
traces of Longfellow. When he came East just before his appointment
to Venice it was as a poet, and a poet making a pilgrimage to the
mother-land of poesy.

New England was to him indeed a land of dreams and romance. "As the
passionate pilgrim from the West," to use his own words, "approached
his Holy Land at Boston," he felt like putting the shoes from off his
feet. New England was the home of Emerson and Longfellow and Holmes, of
Whittier and Hawthorne and Lowell, and all the _Atlantic_ immortals,
and he appreciated it as Irving and Willis had appreciated old England
earlier in the century, or as Longfellow and Taylor had appreciated the
continent of Europe.

Following this passionate pilgrimage with its glimpses of the New
England Brahmins, came the transfer of the young Westerner to Venice,
"the Chief City," as he somewhere has termed it, "of sentiment and
fantasy." It was like stepping from the garish light of to-day into
the pages of an old romance. The duties of his office were light,
the salary was fifteen hundred dollars a year, and he was enabled to
give, to use his own words, "nearly four years of nearly uninterrupted
leisure" to a study of Italian literature and to poetic composition.
We may catch glimpses of what the four years meant to the eager young
Westerner in _A Foregone Conclusion_ and _A Fearful Responsibility_,
stories that center about an American consul at Venice. The poetic
quality of the period was heightened in the second year of his official
life by his marriage--spring and Venice and a bride with whom to
share them--no wonder that he completed a long poem in _terza rima_,
"dealing," as he has expressed it, "with a story of our Civil War in a
fashion so remote that no editor would print it," and that he deluged
the magazines of two continents with poems and poetic sketches.

For the earlier Howells was a poet--until one realizes it one fails
completely to understand him. He turned from poetry reluctantly,
compelled by the logic of his time and by the fact that he had no
compelling message for his age. He was of the contemplative, classical
school, more at home in the eighteenth century than in the stormy
nineteenth. He published in 1867 _No Love Lost, A Romance of Travel_,
in unrimed pentameters, a refined, leisurely poem classical in form and
spirit. He issued editions of his poems in 1873 and 1886, and again
as late as 1895, but the age refused to regard him as a poet and he
was forced into other fields. "My literary life," he observes almost
sadly as he reviews his Venetian period, "almost without my willing it,
had taken the course of critical observance of books and men in their
actuality."[102]

From poetry Howells turned to sketches, a variety of composition
which he had cultivated since his boyhood. Irving had been one of
his earliest passions, and following Irving had come Ik Marvel and
Hawthorne and Curtis--gentle, contemplative writers with the light of
poetry upon their work. Even like Irving and Longfellow and Taylor,
he would record the strange new world in which he found himself. "I
was bursting with the most romantic expectations of life in every
way, and I looked at the whole world as material that might be turned
into literature." He lived note-book in hand. Everything was new and
entrancing, even the talk of servants on the street or the babble of
children at their play. It was all so new, so romantic, so removed from
the world that he always had known. He would reproduce it in its naked
truth for his countrymen; he would turn it all into literature for the
magazines of America, and he would republish it at length as a new
_Sketch Book_.

_Venetian Life_ belongs on the same shelf as _Outre Mer_ and _Views
Afoot_ and _Castilian Days_--prose sketches with the golden light
of youth upon them. _Italian Journeys_ is the first and best of
a long series of sentimental "bummelings" that its author was to
record--delicious ramblings, descriptions, characterizations--realistic
studies, we may call them, made by a poet. Nothing that Howells ever
wrote has been better than these earlier travel sketches, half poetry,
half shrewd observation. In his later travel sketches--_Tuscan Cities_,
_London Films_, _Certain Delightful English Towns_, and the like--this
element grew constantly less and less. Wiser they undoubtedly are, and
more scholarly and philosophic, but the freshness and poetic charm of
the earlier Howells is not in them. The philosopher has taken the place
of the poet.


VIII

The first period of Howells's literary life, the period of sketches
and prose studies, covers the fifteen years of his connection with
the _Atlantic Monthly_, first from 1866 to 1871 as assistant editor,
and then from 1871 to 1881 as editor. He had returned from Venice a
cosmopolitan and an accomplished Italian scholar. There was no trace
of the West upon him; it was as if he had always lived in Boston. His
sketches now centered about Cambridge life, just as earlier they had
centered upon Italian themes--careful little character studies like
"Mrs. Johnson" and "My Doorstep Acquaintance," little sentimental
journeys like "A Pedestrian Tour" and "A Day's Pleasure," and chatty
talks about himself and his opinions and experiences, something after
the manner of Dr. Holmes, a variety of composition in which he was to
grow voluminous in later years.

His book reviewing in the _Atlantic_ during this period is notable from
the fact that almost all of the chief works of the new national period
of which he was a part passed under his pen. Freshness and truth and
originality never failed to arrest his attention; he was a real force
in the directing of the _Atlantic_ element of the American reading
public toward the rising new school of authors, but aside from this his
criticism is in no way significant. His art and his enthusiasm were
in his sketches--American sketches now with the light of Europe over
them. _Their Wedding Journey_ is an American counterpart to _Italian
Journeys_, and it is made coherent by introducing a married pair on
their bridal tour and describing places and manners as they became
acquainted with them. The interest comes not at all from the narrative;
it comes from the setting. It is an American sentimental journey over
which the author strives to throw the soft light of European romance.
Rochester was like Verona; and Quebec--"on what perverse pretext was it
not some ancient town of Normandy?"

Sketches, pictures of life, studies of manners, these are the object of
the book. The author is not writing to record incidents, for there are
few incidents to record. "That which they [the bridal pair] found the
most difficult of management," he declares, "was the want of incident
for the most part of the time; and I who write their history might
also sink under it, but that I am supported by the fact that it is
so typical in this respect. I even imagine the ideal reader for whom
one writes as yawning over these barren details with the life-like
weariness of an actual traveling companion of theirs."

As a story from the standpoint of Bonner's _New York Ledger_, then in
the high tide of its prosperity, it was dreary reading. But it was
true in every line, true of background, and true to the facts of human
life as Howells saw those facts. "Ah! poor real life, which I love,"
he exclaims, after a minute sketch of a commercial traveler and some
loud-voiced girls on the train, "can I make others share the delight I
share in thy foolish and insipid face?"

But this earlier Howells gives us more than real life: he gives us
real life touched with the glow of poetry, for the poet in Howells
died a lingering death. It seems as if novel-writing had come to him,
as he declares all of his literary life had come, almost without his
willing it. It grew gradually and naturally out of his sketch-writing.
In his early sketch books he had studied places and "men in their
actuality," and he would now make his sketches more comprehensive and
bind them with a thread of narrative. A sketch like "A Day's Outing"
in _Suburban Sketches_, and a "novel" like _Their Wedding Journey_
differ only in the single element of quantity. _A Chance Acquaintance_,
the record of another sentimental journey, with its careful sketches
along the St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, and at Quebec, and its
_Pride-and-Prejudice_-like study of a typical Bostonian and a Western
girl, has more of story than the earlier book, but it is still a sketch
book rather than a novel. _Private Theatricals_, his fourth essay at
fiction, is so minute a study of a particular summer boarding house and
its patrons that it was never allowed to get beyond serial publication,
at least one can think of no other reason for its suppression, and
_The Undiscovered Country_ might be entitled _Sketches Among the
Spiritualists and the Shakers_.

The Howells of this earlier period has little of story and little of
problem. His object is to present men and manners "in their actuality."
_A Foregone Conclusion_, the most idyllic of his novels, in reality is
an added chapter to _Venetian Life_, written in the retrospect of later
years. The golden light of Venice is over it, a Venice now more mellow
and poetic because it is a part of the author's vanishing youth--his
_alma mater_, as it were; more golden every year. The springtime is in
every page of it.

    The day was one of those that can come to the world only in
    early June at Venice. The heaven was without a cloud, but a
    blue haze made mystery of the horizon where the lagoon and
    sky met unseen. The breath of the sea bathed in freshness the
    city at whose feet her tides sparkled and slept.... The long
    garland of vines that festoons all Italy seemed to begin in
    the neighboring orchards; the meadows waved their long grasses
    in the sun, and broke in poppies as the sea-waves break in
    iridescent spray; the poplars marched in stately procession on
    either side of the straight, white road to Padua, till they
    vanished in the long perspective.

One loves to linger over this early Howells, despite all his
diffuseness and his lack of dramatic power. One knows that there is a
fatal weakness in the attempted tragedy of the priest, that the tale
does not grip and compel and haunt the soul as such a tale must if it
be worth telling at all, that its ending is sprawling and conventional,
and yet one cannot but feel that there is in it, as there is in all
of the work of this earlier period of the author's life, youth and
freshness and beauty--and poetry. These earlier studies are not merely
cold observations upon life and society, analysis as of reactions in
a test-tube; these are the creations of a young poet, a romancer, a
dreamer: the later manner was an artificial acquirement like the taste
for olives.


IX

Howells's second literary period begins with the year 1881 when he
resigned the editorship of the _Atlantic Monthly_ and settled in the
country at Belmont to devote all his time to the writing of fiction for
the _Century_ magazine. During the decade that followed he produced
his two strongest works, _A Modern Instance_, and _The Rise of Silas
Lapham_, and also _A Woman's Reason_, _The Minister's Charge_, _Indian
Summer_, and others. He had found his life work. During the earlier
period he had been, as it were, experimenting; he had published fifteen
books, only five of which were novels, but it was clear now that the
five pointed the way he was to go.

He began now with larger canvas and with more sweep and freedom. No
more idyllic sketches now: his business was to make studies at full
length of American character and American manners. He would do for New
England what Jane Austen had done for her narrow little corner of old
England. He too had "the exquisite touch," to use the words of Sir
Walter Scott, "which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters
interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment." Like
her he would bring no message and analyze no passion more intense than
the perplexity of a maiden with two lovers; and like her he would deal
not with the problems of the soul of man, but with the manners of a
small province.

His essay on Henry James in the _Century_ of November, 1882, the
proclamation of the new Howells, raised a tempest of discussion that
did not subside for a decade. "The stories," he declared, "were all
told long ago; and now we want to know merely what the novelist
thinks about persons and situations." "The art of fiction has become
a finer art in our day than it was with Dickens and Thackeray. We
could not suffer the confidential attitude of the latter now, nor the
mannerism of the former, any more than we could endure the prolixity of
Richardson or the coarseness of Fielding. These great men are of the
past--they and their methods and interests; even Trollope and Reade
are not of the present." And of the new novel--"The moving accident is
certainly not its trade; and it prefers to avoid all manner of dire
catastrophes." James he classified not as a story-teller, but as a
character-painter, and he proceeded to set forth the thesis that "the
novelist's main business is to possess his reader with a due conception
of his characters and the situations in which they find themselves. If
he does more or less than this he equally fails." "It is, after all,
what a writer has to say rather than what he has to tell that we care
for now-a-days."

But the Howells of the eighties was not ready yet for grounds so
advanced when it came to his own work. The romancer within him died
hard. "I own," he admitted, "that I like a finished story," and he
proceeded to tell finished stories with plots and moving accidents
and culminating ends. _A Woman's Reason_ is as elaborate in plot and
incident as a novel by Mrs. Braddon, and it has as conventional an
ending. The heroine, apparently deserted by her lover, is forced to
live in a humble boarding house where she is wooed persistently by a
member of the English nobility. She is true, however, to her old lover,
who after having lived years on a desert island which for a time we
are permitted to share with him, returns at last to rescue her, and
the marriage crowns the book with gold. _A Modern Instance_ and _The
Rise of Silas Lapham_, undoubtedly his strongest work, are first of all
stories, and to the great majority of all who have ever read them they
have been _only_ stories. In other words, they have been read for what
the author had to tell, and not necessarily for what he has had to say.

He has been careful always that his tales end well, as careful indeed
as an E. P. Roe. The ending of _A Foregone Conclusion_ and of _The
Minister's Charge_ fly in the very face of realism. He is bold in his
theories, but in the application of these theories to his own work he
has an excess of timidity. Realism should flout the conventionalities;
it should have regard only for the facts in the case, affect the reader
as they may, but Howells had continually on his mind the readers of the
_Atlantic_ and the nerves of the "Brahmins." The end of _An Imperative
Duty_, for instance, could have come only as a concession to the
conventional reader. He allows the woman with the negro blood to marry
the man she loves, and then hastens to say that they lived the rest of
their lives in Italy, where such matches are not criticized and where
the woman passed everywhere as an Italian. It would have been stronger
art to have made her rise superior to her selfishness, the soul
triumphant over the flesh, and refuse to marry the man, and to do it
for the sole compelling reason that she loved him.

The much-discussed realism of the Howells of the eighties was simply a
demand for truth, an insistence that all characters and backgrounds be
drawn from nature, and that no sequence of events be given that might
not happen in the life of the average man. His stories therefore, like
James's, move slowly. There is much in them of what is technically
called "lumber"--material that is brought in for other reasons than
to advance the progress of the story. Every character is minutely
described; cravats and waistcoats, hats and watch-charms, dresses and
furbelows, are dwelt upon with thoroughness. The author stops the
story to describe a carpet, a wardrobe, a peculiarity of gesture. A
page is taken up with a description of the heroine's drawing-room,
another is given to the view from her window. As a result we get
from the reading of the book, in spite of our impatience at its slow
movement, a feeling of actuality. Bartley Hubbard and Marcia seem at
the end like people we have known; we are sure we should recognize
Squire Gaylord even if we met him on Tremont Street. Silas Lapham,
the typical self-made American of the era, and his wife and daughters,
are speaking likenesses, done with sympathy; for the early years of
Howells had enabled him, unlike James, to enter into bourgeois life
with comprehension. Everywhere portraits done with a thousand careful
touches--New England types largely drawn against a minute background of
manners.

It cannot fail that these novels, even like those of Jane Austen, will
be valued in years to come as historical documents. As a picture of
the externals of the era they portray there is nothing to compare with
them. The Boston of the seventies, gone now as completely as the Boston
of the Revolution, lives in these pages. Every phase of its external
life has been dwelt upon: its underworld and its lodging houses and
its transformed country boys in _The Minister's Charge_; the passing
of the old Boston of the India trade days and the helplessness of
the daughters of the patricians in _A Woman's Reason_; literary and
journalistic Boston in _A Modern Instance_; the high and low of Boston
society in _The Rise of Silas Lapham_; the entry of woman into the
learned professions in _Dr. Breen's Practice_, and so on and on--he has
covered the field with the faithfulness of a sociological historian. He
is a painter of manners, evermore manners.

As to whether or not he touched the soul of New England as did Rose
Terry Cooke, for instance, is another question. His knowledge of
the region was an acquirement, not a birthright. The surface of its
society, the peculiarities of its manners and its point of view, the
unusual traits of its natives, these he saw with the sharpened eyes
of an outsider, but he never became so much a part of what he wrote
that he could treat it, as Mrs. Wilkins-Freeman treated it, from the
heart outward. The thing perhaps that impressed him first and most
deeply as he came a stranger into the provincial little area was the
so-called New England conscience, "grim aftercrop of Puritanism, that
hypochondria of the soul into which the Puritanism of her father's
race had sickened in her, and which so often seems to satisfy its
crazy claim upon conscience by enforcing some aimless act of self
sacrifice."[103] All of his New England characters have this as
their humor, using the word in the Ben Jonsonian sense. Novels like
_A Woman's Reason_ and _The Minister's Charge_ turn upon it. With
Hawthorne the thing became a moving power, a tragic center of his art
that could move the soul to pity or to terror, but Howells treats it
never with the sympathy of comprehension. He never so treats it that we
feel it; he never shows us a character possessed by its power until it
is driven over the brink of tragedy. It is simply one of the details
that make up the portrait of a New Englander, as in _The Lady of the
Aroostook_, the maiden cries out at the happy moment when her lover
declares himself: "'Oh, I knew it, I knew it,' cried Lydia. And then,
as he caught her to him at last, 'Oh--Oh--are you _sure_ it's right?'"
It is an element of manners, a picturesque peculiarity, a "humor."


X

In his first period Howells was poetic and spontaneous, in his second
he was deliberate and artistic, in his third he was scientific and
ethical. The last period began in a general way at the opening of the
nineties with the publication, perhaps, of _A Hazard of New Fortunes_.
He had spent another year in Europe, and in 1886 had removed to New
York to do editorial work for the Harpers.

Now began what undoubtedly was the most voluminous literary career in
the history of American literature. He took charge of the "Easy Chair"
in _Harper's Monthly_, writing for it material equivalent to a volume a
year, and in addition he poured out novels, books of travel, sketches,
reviews, juveniles, autobiographies, comedies, farces, essays,
editings, biographies--a mass of material equaled in bulk only by the
writings of men like Southey or Dumas. He had learned his art with
completeness. The production of clear and precise and brilliant English
had become second nature, and he could pour it out steadily and with
speed.

His novels more and more now began to conform to his realistic
theories. The story sank gradually from prominence, and gradually
analysis and scientific purpose took its place. _Annie Kilburn_, 1888,
may be taken as the point of transition. The story could be told in a
single chapter. There is no love-making, no culminating marriage or
engagement, no passion, no crime, no violence greater than the flashing
of eyes, no mystery, no climax. It is the afternoon talk of the ladies
of a rural parish. For chapter after chapter they babble on, assisted
now and then by the doctor or the minister or the lawyer who drops in
for a cup of tea. As in the work of James, one may turn a dozen pages
and find the same group still refining upon the same theme over the
same tea-cups. The object of the author is not progress in events, but
progress in characterization and ethical analysis. Through the mouths
of these talkers he is discussing the problems of the rural church and
the rural community. He attempts to settle nothing finally, but he sets
the problem before the reader in all its phases, and the reader may
come to his own conclusion.

This novel is typical of all the fiction of the later Howells.
Everywhere now problems--moral, social, psychological--problems
discussed by means of endless dialogue. _A Hazard of New Fortunes_ is
almost as long as _Pamela_, and when it is ended there is no logical
reason for the ending save that the novelist has used the space
allotted to him. Another volume could easily have been added telling of
the experiences of the Dreyfooses in Europe. The novelist may stop at
any point, for he is not telling a story, he is painting character, and
manners and developing a thesis. In _Annie Kilburn_ the effect of the
sudden ending is disconcerting. It is like the cutting off of a yard of
cloth.

Howells had passed under the powerful influence of Tolstoy. "As much
as one merely human being can help another," he declares, "I believe
that he has helped me; he has not influenced me in esthetics only, but
in ethics, too, so that I can never again see life in the way I saw it
before I knew him." It is absurd, however, to think that any influence
could fundamentally have changed the art of a man like Howells in his
fiftieth year. What Tolstoy did for him was to confirm and deepen
tendencies in his work that already had become established and to turn
his mind from the contemplation exclusively of manners and men in their
actuality to problems ethical and social. He gave to him a message and
a wider view of art. "What I feel sure is that I can never look at life
in the mean and sordid way that I did before I read Tolstoy." "He has
been to me that final consciousness, which he speaks of so wisely in
his essay on 'Life.'"

As an example of this final Howells we may read _The Landlord of Lion's
Head_, or _The Traveler from Altruria_, or _The Quality of Mercy_,
which are not so much novels as minute studies of social or moral
phases of the times, illustrated by means of a particular case and
made clear by voluminous details. Minor characters serve as a chorus
as the case proceeds, and the final effect is sermonic rather than
novelistic. The poetic and the esthetic have yielded to the ethical and
socialistic. In America every art ends at last in a sermon.


XI

The realism of Howells is of the eighteenth-century type rather than
the nineteenth. It is classicism, as Henry James's is classicism. His
affinity is with Richardson rather than with Zola. He was timid and
conscious of his audience. He had approached Boston with too much of
reverence; the "tradition of the _Atlantic_" lay heavily upon him
during all of his earlier period; the shadow of Lowell was upon his
page and he wrote as in his presence; the suggestive words in a review
of one of his earlier books by the _North American Review_, final voice
of New England refinement, compelled him: "He has the incapacity to be
common." Thus his early writings had in them nothing of the Western
audacity and newness. A realistic reaction from the romantic school
of the early nineteenth century was everywhere--on the Continent, in
England, in America--changing literary standards; Howells felt it and
yielded to it, but he yielded only as Longfellow would have yielded
had he been of his generation, or Holmes, or Lowell. He yielded to a
modified realism, a timid and refined realism, a realism that would
not offend the sensibilities of Boston, the "Boston," to quote from _A
Chance Acquaintance_, "that would rather perish by fire and sword than
to be suspected of vulgarity; a critical, fastidious, reluctant Boston,
dissatisfied with the rest of the hemisphere." He records scarcely a
crime in all his volumes: he has not in his voluminous gallery a woman
who ever broke a law more serious than indiscretions at an afternoon
tea. As a result there is no remorse, no problems of life in the face
of broken law, no decisions that involve life and death and the agony
that is sharper than death. In his pages life is an endless comedy
where highly conventional and very refined people meet day after
day and talk, and dream of Europe, and make love in the leisurely,
old-fashioned way, and marry happily in the end the lover of their
choice.

He is as tedious as Richardson and at times nearly as voluminous.
He uses page after page of _The Lady of the Aroostook_ to tell what
might have been told in a single sentence. The grandfather and the
aunt set the general situation before the reader, then the aunt and
the clergymen, then the two passengers, then the passengers and
the captain, then the heroine and the cabin boy in six pages, and
finally at the very end of the book the heroine and the transplanted
New England woman in Venice. Art is "nothing too much." We feel
instinctively that the author is making a mountain out of a molehill
because he believes his readers will expect him to do it. To Bostonians
he believes it would be inexpressibly shocking for a girl to sail
for Europe the only woman on board the ship, though she be under the
express care of the fatherly old sea captain and though two of the
three other passengers are Boston gentlemen. The perturbation of
these two model young men, their heroic nerving of themselves to live
through the experience, their endless refinings and analyzings of the
situation, and all of their subsequent doings are simply Howells's
conception of "the quality of Boston."

It is Richardsonism; it is realism of the _Pamela_ order; it is a
return to the eighteenth century with its reverence for respectability
and the conventions, its dread of letting itself go and making scenes,
its avoidance of all that would shock the nerves of the refined circle
for which it wrote. The kinship of Howells with Richardson indeed is
closer even than that between Howells and James. They approach life
from the same angle. Both profess to deal with men and manners in
their actuality, both would avoid the moving accident and discard
from their fictions all that is fantastic or improbable; both would
keep closely within the circle of the highly respectable middle-class
society of which they were a part; both professed to work with no
other than a moral purpose; and both would reveal the inner life of
their characters only as the reader might infer it after having read
endless descriptions and interminable conversations; and both wrote, as
Tennyson termed _Pamela_ and _Clarissa_, "great still books" that flow
on and on with sluggish current to no particular destination.

Howells is less dramatic than Richardson, yet one may turn pages and
chapters of his novels into dramatic form by supplying to the dialogue
the names of the speakers. Howells, indeed, acquired a faculty in
the construction of sparkling dialogue so brilliant that he exercised
it in the production of a surprising number of so-called comedies:
_A Counterfeit Presentiment_, _The Mouse-Trap_, _The Elevator_, and
the like, dramatic in form but essentially novelistic in all things
else. His genius was not dramatic. He evolves his characters and
situations slowly. The swift rush and culminating plot of the drama
are beyond him. His comedies are chapters of dialogue from unwritten
novels--studies in character and manners by means of conversations.

Richardson's novels centered about women; they were written _for_
women; they were praised first of all for their minute knowledge of the
feminine heart. There was indeed in his own nature a feminine element
that made him the absolute opposite of a masculine type, for instance
like Fielding. Howells also centered his work about women. In one of
the earliest reviews of his work is the sentence "his knowledge of
women is simply marvelous." Like his earlier prototype, he has expended
upon them a world of analysis and dissection and description. With what
result? To one who has read all of his fictions straight through there
emerges at last from the helpless, fluttering, hesitating, rapturous
and dejected, paradoxical, April-hoping, charming throng of his
heroines--Mrs. March, Kitty Ellison, Lydia, Marcia, Mrs. Campbell, Mrs.
Roberts, Helen Harkness, Florida, Mrs. Lapham and her daughters, Dr.
Breen, Clara Kingsbury, Rhoda Aldgate, Annie Kilburn, Mrs. Dreyfoos and
the hundred others--there emerges a single woman, the Howells type, as
distinct a creature as the Richardson type, and as one compares the two
he is startled to find them almost identical. The Richardson feminine
is a trembling, innocent, helpless creature pursued by men; the Howells
type is the same woman transported into the nineteenth century,
inconsequent, temperamental, often bird-like and charming, electric
at repartee, pursued by men and fleeing flutteringly from them, yet
dependent upon them for her very existence. In all of these fictions
there is scarcely a feminine figure, at least in a leading rôle, of
whom her sex may be proud. His masculine characters are many of them
strong and admirable, even to the minor figures like Mr. Harkness
and Captain Butler and Squire Gaylord. He has, perhaps, created two
characters--Silas Lapham and Bartly Hubbard--to place beside Natty
Bumppo, and Uncle Remus, and Yuba Bill, Sam Lawson, Colonel Sellers,
and a few others, as permanent additions to the gallery of American
types. But with all his studies of women he has added nothing original,
no type that can be accepted as characteristic or admirable.


XII

The art of Howells is essentially of this present world. Of the soul of
man and the higher life of his dreams and aspirations he has nothing
to tell. He writes of Hawthorne: "In all his books there is the line
of thoughts that we think of only in the presence of the mysteries of
life and death. It is not his fault that this is not intelligence,
that it knots the brow in sore doubt rather than shapes the lips to
utterance of the things that can never be said." Howells would ignore
such themes. He is of the age of doubt, the classical age, rather than
of the age of faith that sees and creates. Lightly he skims over the
surface of material things, noting the set of a garment or the shade of
a cravat, recording rather than creating, interested in life only as
it is affected by manners, sketching with rapid pen characters evolved
by a provincial environment, tracing with leisurely thoroughness
the love story of a boy and girl, recording the April changes of a
maiden's heart, the gossip of an afternoon tea--a feminine task one
would suppose, work for a Fanny Burney, a Maria Edgeworth or a Mrs.
Gaskell, no work indeed for a great novelist at the dawn of a new
period in a new land. While the West, of which his earlier life was a
part, was crashing out a new civilization; while the air was electric
with the rush and stir of rising cities; while a new star of hope for
the nations was rising in the West; while a mighty war of freedom
was waging about him and the soul of man was being tried as by fire,
Howells, like Clarissa Harlowe, is interested "in her ruffles, in her
gloves, her samplers, her aunts and uncles."

And yet even as we class him as a painter of manners we remember that
America has no manners in the narrower sense of the term. New England
had the nearest approach to manners, yet New England, all must admit,
was wholly imitative; she was enamoured of Europe. Howells has another
side to his classicism, one utterly wanting in Richardson--he is a
satirist of manners, a critic and a reformer. Richardson took English
manners as he took the English Constitution and the English language
as a matter of course. He never dreamed of changing the order of
things; he would only portray it and teach individuals how best to
deport themselves under its laws. Howells, after his first awe of
New England had subsided, became critical. He would change manners;
he would portray them that men by seeing them would learn their
ridiculousness--in short, he became, what every classicist must sooner
or later become, a satirist--a chafer under the conventions that bind
him,--a critic.

Howells then is the rare figure of a lyric poet and a romanticist
who deliberately forced himself into classicism as a result
of his environment. His earlier works are the record of a
transition--enthusiasm, poetic glow, romance, tempered more and
more with scientific exactness and coldness and skill. Like James,
he learned his profession with infinite toil; like James, he formed
himself upon masters and then defended his final position with a
summary of the laws of his art. Like James, he schooled himself to
distrust the emotions and work wholly from the intellect. The result
in the case of both, in the case of all classicists in fact, has been
that the reader is touched only in the intellect. One smiles at the
flashes of wit; one seldom laughs. No one ever shed a tear over a
page either of Howells or James. One admires their skill; one takes
a certain pleasure in the lifelikeness of the characters--especially
those of Howells--but cold lifelikeness is not the supreme object of
art; manners and outward behavior are but a small part of life. Unless
the novelist can lay hold of his reader's heart and walk with him with
sympathy and conviction he must be content to be ranked at last as a
mere showman and not a voice, not a leader, not a prophet.


XIII

Howells, like James, was peculiarly a product of the later nineteenth
century and of the wave of democracy in literature that came both
to Europe and America as a reflex from the romanticism of Scott and
Coleridge and the German _Sturm und Drang_. Had he lived a generation
earlier he would have been a poet of the Dr. Holmes type, an Irving, or
a George William Curtis. The spirit of the times and a combination of
circumstances made of him the leader of the depicters of democracy in
America. From the vantage point of the three leading magazines of the
period he was enabled to command a wide audience and to exert enormous
influence. His beautiful style disarmed criticism and concealed the
leanness of his output. Had he been less timid, had he dared like Mark
Twain or Whitman to forget the fastidious circle within which he lived,
and write with truth and honesty and sincerity the great nation-wide
story with its passion, its tragedy, its comedy, its tremendous
significance in the history of humanity, he might have led American
fiction into fields far broader than those into which it finally
settled.

In the process of the new literary discovery of America Howells's part
was to discover the prosaic ordinary man of the middle class and to
make him tolerable in fiction. He was the leading force in the reaction
against the Sylvanus Cobb type of romance that was so powerful in
America in the early seventies. He made the new realism respectable.
All at once America found that she was full of material for fiction.
Hawthorne had taught that the new world was barren of material for
the novelist, Cooper had limited American fiction to the period of
the settlement and the Revolution; Longfellow and Taylor had turned
to romantic Europe. After Howells's minute studies of the New England
middle class, every provincial environment in America produced its
recorder, and the novel of locality for a time dominated American
literature.

In another and more decided way, perhaps, Howells was a potent leader
during the period. He has stood for finished art, for perfection
of style, for literary finish, for perfect English in an age of
slovenliness and slang. No writer of the period has excelled him in
accuracy of diction, in brilliancy of expression, in unfailing purity
of style. There is an eighteenth-century fastidiousness about every
page that he has written.

The tribute of Mark Twain is none too strong: "For forty years his
English has been to me a continual delight and astonishment. In
the sustained exhibition of certain great qualities--clearness,
compression, verbal exactness, and unforced and seemingly unconscious
felicity of phrasing--he is, in my belief, without peer in the
English-speaking world. _Sustained._ I entrench myself behind that
protecting word. There are others who exhibit those qualities as
greatly as does he, but only by intervaled distributions of rich
moonlight, with stretches of veiled and dimmer landscape between,
whereas Howells's moon sails cloudless skies all night and all the
nights."


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  HENRY JAMES. (1843-1916.) _Watch and Ward_ [in the _Atlantic_],
  1871; _A Passionate Pilgrim_, _Roderick Hudson_, _Transatlantic
  Sketches_, 1875; _The American_, 1877; _French Poets and
  Novelists_, _The Europeans_, _Daisy Miller_, 1878; _An
  International Episode_, _Life of Hawthorne_, _A Bundle of
  Letters_, _The Madonna of the Future_, _Confidence_, 1879; _Diary
  of a Man of Fifty_, _Washington Square_, 1880; _The Portrait of a
  Lady_, 1881; _The Siege of London_, 1883; _Portraits of Places_,
  _Tales of Three Cities_, _A Little Tour in France_, 1884;
  _The Author of Beltraffio_, 1885; _The Bostonians_, _Princess
  Casamassima_, 1886; _Partial Portraits_, _The Aspern Papers_,
  _The Reverberator_, 1888; _A London Life_, 1889; _The Tragic
  Muse_, 1890; _The Lesson of the Master_, 1892; _Terminations_,
  1896; _The Spoils of Poynton_, _What Maisie Knew_, 1897; _In
  the Cage_, 1898; _The Awkward Age_, 1899; _The Soft Side_, _The
  Sacred Font_, 1901; _The Wings of the Dove_, 1902; _The Better
  Sort_, _William Wetmore Story and His Friends_, 1903; _The
  Question of Our Speech_, _The Lesson of Balzac_ [Lectures], 1905;
  _The American Scene_, 1906; _Italian Hours_, _Julia Bride_,
  _Novels and Tales_, 24 volumes, 1909; _Finer Grain_, 1910; _The
  Outcry_, 1911; _A Small Boy and Others_, 1912; _Notes of a Son
  and Brother_, 1913; _Notes on Novelists, with Some Other Notes_,
  1914.

  WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS. (1837----.) _Poems of Two Friends_,
  1859; _Lives and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal
  Hamlin_ [Hamlin by J. L. Hayes], 1860; _Venetian Life_, 1866;
  _Italian Journeys_, 1867; _No Love Lost: a Romance of Travel_,
  1868; _Suburban Sketches_, 1871; _Their Wedding Journey_,
  1872; _A Chance Acquaintance_, _Poems_, 1873; _A Foregone
  Conclusion_, 1874; _Amateur Theatricals_ [in the _Atlantic_],
  1875; _The Parlor Car: Farce_, 1876; _Out of the Question: a
  Comedy_, _A Counterfeit Presentiment_, 1877; _The Lady of the
  Aroostook_, 1879; _The Undiscovered Country_, 1880; _A Fearful
  Responsibility, and Other Stories_, _Dr. Breen's Practice:
  a Novel_, 1881; _A Modern Instance: a Novel_, 1882; _The
  Sleeping-Car: a Farce_, _A Woman's Reason: a Novel_, 1883;
  _The Register: Farce_, _Three Villages_, 1884; _The Elevator:
  Farce_, _The Rise of Silas Lapham_, _Tuscan Cities_, 1885; _The
  Garroters: Farce_, _Indian Summer_, _The Minister's Charge_,
  1886; _Modern Italian Poets: Essays and Versions_, _April
  Hopes_, 1887; _A Sea-Change; or, Love's Stowaway: a Lyricated
  Farce_, _Annie Kilburn: a Novel_, 1888; _The Mouse-Trap, and
  Other Farces_, _A Hazard of New Fortunes: a Novel_, 1889; _The
  Shadow of a Dream: a Story_, _A Boy's Town_, 1890; _Criticism and
  Fiction_, _The Albany Depot_, _An Imperative Duty_, 1891; _The
  Quality of Mercy: a Novel_, _A Letter of Introduction: Farce_, _A
  Little Swiss Sojourn_, _Christmas Every Day, and Other Stories
  Told for Children_, 1892; _The World of Chance: a Novel_, _The
  Unexpected Guests: a Farce_, _My Year in a Log Cabin_, _Evening
  Dress: Farce_, _The Coast of Bohemia: a Novel_, 1893; _A Traveler
  from Altruria: Romance_, 1894; _My Literary Passions_, _Stops
  of Various Quills_, 1895; _The Day of Their Wedding: a Novel_,
  _A Parting and a Meeting_, _Impressions and Experiences_, 1896;
  _A Previous Engagement: Comedy_, _The Landlord at Lion's Head:
  a Novel_, _An Open-Eyed Conspiracy: an Idyl of Saratoga_, 1897;
  _The Story of a Play: a Novel_, 1898; _Ragged Lady: a Novel_,
  _Their Silver Wedding Journey_, 1899; _Room Forty-five: a
  Farce_, _The Smoking Car: a Farce_, _An Indian Giver: a Comedy_,
  _Literary Friends and Acquaintance: a Personal Retrospect of
  American Authorship_, 1900; _A Pair of Patient Lovers_, _Heroines
  of Fiction_, 1901; _The Kentons_, _The Flight of Pony Baker:
  a Boy's Town Story_, _Literature and Life: Studies_, 1902;
  _Questionable Shapes_, _Letters Home_, 1903; _The Son of Royal
  Langbrith: a Novel_, 1904; _Miss Bellard's Inspiration: a Novel_,
  _London Films_, 1905; _Certain Delightful English Towns_, 1906;
  _Through the Eye of a Needle: a Romance_, _Mulberries in Pay's
  Garden_, _Between the Dark and the Daylight_, 1907; _Fennel and
  Rue: a Novel_, _Roman Holidays, and Others_, 1908; _The Mother
  and the Father: Dramatic Passages_, _Seven English Cities_,
  1909; _My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms_, _Imaginary
  Interviews_, 1910; _Parting Friends: a Farce_, 1911; _Familiar
  Spanish Travels_, _New Leaf Mills_, 1913; _The Seen and Unseen at
  Stratford-on-Avon_, 1914.



CHAPTER XI

RECORDERS OF THE NEW ENGLAND DECLINE


The New England school, which had so dominated the mid-nineteenth
century, left, as we have seen, no heirs. As the great figures of the
"Brahmins" disappeared one by one, vigorous young leaders from without
the Boston circle came into their places, but the real succession--the
native New England literary generation after Emerson--was feminine.
During the decade from 1868 the following books, written by women born,
the most of them, in those thirties which had witnessed the beginnings
of the earlier group, came from the American press:

    1868. _Little Women_, Louisa M. Alcott (1832-1888).
    1868. _The Gates Ajar_, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911).
    1870. _Verses_, Helen Hunt Jackson (1831-1885).
    1872. _Poems_, Celia Thaxter (1836-1894).
    1873. _The Saxe Holm Stories_, "Saxe Holm."
    1875. _One Summer_, Blanche Willis Howard (1847-1898).
    1875. _After the Ball and Other Poems_, Nora Perry (1841-1896).
    1877. _Deephaven_, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909).
    1878. _The China Hunter's Club_, Annie Trumbull Slosson (1838----).

Of the same generation, but earlier or else later in the literary
field, were the poets Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832-1911), and Louise
Chandler Moulton (1835-1908); the essayist Mary Abigail Dodge, "Gail
Hamilton" (1838-1896); the novelists Rose Terry Cooke (1827-1892),
Jane G. Austin (1831-1894), and Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835----);
and, latest of all to be known, the intense lyrist Emily Dickinson
(1830-1886). In the eighties was to come the school of the younger
realists, a part of the classical reaction--Alice Brown (1857----),
Kate Douglas Wiggin (1859----) and Mary E. Wilkins (1862----), who were
to record the later phases of the New England decline.

Outside of the New England environment there was also a notable
outburst of feminine literature. In the thirteen years from 1875
appeared the following significant first volumes:

    1875. _Castle Nowhere_, Constance Fenimore Woolson (1848-1894).
    1875. _A Woman in Armor_, Mary Hartwell Catherwood (1847-1902).
    1877. _That Lass o' Lowrie's_, Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849----).
    1883. _The Led Horse Claim_, Mary Hallock Foote (1847----).
    1884. _In the Tennessee Mountains_, Mary Noailles Murfree (1850----).
    1884. _A New Year's Masque_, Edith M. Thomas (1854----).
    1886. _The Old Garden and Other Verses_, Margaretta Wade Deland
                (1857----).
    1886. _Monsieur Motte_, Grace King (1852----).
    1887. _Knitters in the Sun_, Alice French (1850----).

The wide recognition of the Victorian women, Charlotte Brontë, George
Eliot, and Mrs. Browning, and their American contemporaries, Margaret
Fuller and Mrs. Stowe, had given the impetus, and the enormous
popularity of prose fiction, a literary form peculiarly adapted to
feminine treatment, the opportunity. During all the period the work of
women dominated to a large degree the literary output.


I

The earliest group to appear was made up of daughters of the
Brahmins--Louisa M. Alcott, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Rose Hawthorne
Lathrop, Helen Hunt Jackson, and others--transition figures who clung
to the old New England tradition, yet were touched by the new forces.
The representative figure is Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Daughter and
granddaughter of theologians and divinity professors, reared in
the atmosphere of the Andover theological seminary of the earlier
period, she was a daughter of her generation, a perfect sample of
the culminating feminine product of two centuries of New England
Puritanism--sensitive to the brink of physical collapse, intellectual,
disquieted of soul, ridden of conscience, introspective. We know the
type perfectly. Miss Jewett, Mrs. Freeman, Miss Brown, have drawn us
scores of these women--the final legatees of Puritanism, daughters of
Transcendentalists and abolitionists and religious wranglers.

Literature to this group of women was not only a heritage from the
past, from great shadowy masters who were mere names and books, it was
a home product in actual process of manufacture about their cradles.
The mother of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps--Elizabeth Stuart--had published
in 1851 _Sunny-Side_, a simple story of life in a country parsonage,
that had sold one hundred thousand copies in one year. She had followed
it with _A Peep at Number Five_, a book that places her with Mrs.
Stowe as a pioneer depicter of New England life, and then, at the very
opening of her career, she had died in 1852. "It was impossible to be
her daughter and not to write. Rather, I should say, impossible to be
_their_ daughter and not to have something to say, and a pen to say
it."[104] The daughter was publishing at thirteen; at nineteen she was
the author of twelve Sunday-school books;[104] at twenty-four she had
issued _The Gates Ajar_, which was to go through twenty editions the
first year and to be translated into the principal European languages.

_Gates Ajar_ is a significant book, significant beyond its real
literary merit. It is a small book, an excited, over-intense book,
yet as a document in the history of a period and a confession laying
bare for an instant a woman's soul it commands attention. It is not a
novel; it is a _journal intime_, an impassioned theological argument, a
personal experience written with tears and read with tears by hundreds
of thousands. It was the writer herself who had received the telegram
telling that a loved one--not a brother as the book infers--had been
shot in battle; it was her own life that had almost flickered out as
the result of it; and it was she who had tried to square the teachings
ingrained into her Puritan intellect with the desolation of her woman's
heart.

It was peculiarly a New England book: only a New Englander of the old
tradition can understand the full meaning of it, and yet it came at
a moment when the whole nation was eager and ready for its message.
The war had brought to tens of thousands what it had brought to this
New England woman. In every house there was mourning, and the Puritan
vision of the after life, unreasonable and lifeless, was inadequate
for a nation that had been nourished upon sentimentalism. The heart
of the people demanded something warm and sensible and convincing in
place of the cold scriptural metaphors and abstractions. The new spirit
that had been awakened by the war called for reality and concrete
statement everywhere, and it found in the book, which made of heaven
another earth--a glorified New England perhaps--with occupation and
joys and friendships unchanged, a revelation with which it was in full
accord. It brought comfort, for in every line of it was the intensity
of conviction, of actual experience. It quivered with sympathy, it
breathed reality from every page, and it seemed to break down the
barriers until the two worlds were so near together that one might hold
his breath to listen. The book, while it undoubtedly helped to prolong
the sentimental era in America, nevertheless must be counted among the
forces that brought to the new national period its fuller measure of
toleration, its demand for reality, its wider sympathy.

All the author's later books bear the same marks of intensity, of
subjectivity, of purpose: all of them are outpourings of herself. She
is a special pleader shrilling against abuses, as in _Loveliness_,
which excoriates vivisection, arguing for causes as in _The Story of
Avis_ and _Doctor Zay_, which take high ground concerning women, or
preaching sermons as in _A Singular Life_, a vision of the ideal pastor
and his church. The accumulated Puritanism within her gave to all her
work dramatic tension. It is impossible to read her with calmness: one
is shocked and grieved and harrowed; one is urged on every page to
think, to feel, to rush forth and right some wrong, to condemn some
evil or champion some cause.

Her world was largely a subjective one; to write she must be touched
strongly on the side of her sympathy, she must have brought vividly
into her vision some concrete case. Before she could write "The
Tenth of January"--_Atlantic_, 1868--she must spend a month in the
atmosphere of the tragedy, not to collect realistic details, but
to feel for herself the horror that she would impart. Her aim was
sentimental: the whole story centers about the fact that while the
ruins of the fallen mill were burning there floated out of the flames
the voices of imprisoned girls singing "Shall We Gather at the
River?" In its fundamentals her work, all of it, is autobiographic.
Womanlike, she denied the fact--"If there be one thing among the
possibilities to which a truly civilized career is liable, more than
another objectionable to the writer of these words, the creation of
autobiography has long been that one,"[105] and yet her books, all of
them, have been chapters out of her own spiritual life. She has felt
rather than seen, she has pleaded rather than created. Rather than
present a rounded picture of the life objectively about her, she has
given analyses of her own New England soul.

She yielded, at last, in some degree, to the later tendencies of
American literature, and drew with realistic faithfulness characters
and characteristics in the little New England world that was hers--_A
Madonna of the Tubs_, _The Supply at St. Agatha's_, _Jack, the
Fisherman_, and a few others, yet even these are something more than
stories, something more than pictures and interpretations. In _Jack,
the Fisherman_, for instance, the temperance lesson stands out as
sharply as if she had taken a text. The artist within her was dominated
ever by the preacher; the novelist by the Puritan.


II

Another transition figure, typical of a group of writers and at the
same time illustrative of the change that came over the tone of
American literature after the war period, is Harriet Prescott Spofford.
A country girl, born in a Maine village, educated in the academy of
a country town in New Hampshire, compelled early to be the chief
support of an invalided father and mother, she turned from the usual
employments open to the women of her time--work in the cotton mills and
school teaching--to the precarious field of literature. That could mean
only story-writing for the family weeklies of the day, for a bourgeois
public that demanded sentimental love stories and romance. Success made
her ambitious. She applied herself to the study of fiction--American,
English, French. How wide was her reading one may learn from her
essays later published in the _Atlantic_, "The Author of 'Charles
Auchester'" and "Charles Reade." The new realism which was beginning
to be felt as a force in fiction, she flouted with indignation:--"he
never with Chinese accuracy, gives us gossiping drivel that reduces
life to the dregs of the commonplace." Rather would she emulate the
popular novelist Elizabeth Sheppard: "At his, Disraeli's, torch she lit
her fires, over his stories she dreamed, his 'Contarini Fleming' she
declared to be the touchstone of all romantic truth."[106] The essay
reveals the author like a flash-light. She too dreamed over Disraeli
and the early Bulwer-Lytton, over Charlotte Brontë and Poe, over George
Sand and French romance until at last when she submitted her first
story to the _Atlantic_, "In a Cellar," Lowell for a time feared that
it was a translation.

Other American women have had imaginations as lawless and as gorgeously
rich as Harriet Prescott Spofford's; Augusta J. Evans Wilson, for
instance, whose _St. Elmo_ (1866) sold enormously even to the end
of the new period, but no other American woman of the century was
able to combine with her imaginings and her riotous colorings a real
distinction of style. When in the fifth volume of the _Atlantic_
appeared "The Amber Gods," judicious readers everywhere cried out
in astonishment. Robert Browning and others in England praised it
extravagantly. A new star had arisen, a novelist with a style that was
French in its brilliancy and condensation, and oriental in its richness
and color.

_The Amber Gods_ fails of being a masterpiece by a margin so small
that it exasperates, and it fails at precisely the point where most
of the mid-century fiction failed. In atmosphere and style it is
brilliant, so brilliant indeed that it has been appraised more highly
than it deserves. Moreover, the _motif_, as one gathers it from the
earlier pages, is worthy of a Hawthorne. The amber beads have upon them
an ancestral curse, and the heroine with her supernatural beauty, a
satanic thing without a soul, is a part of the mystery and the curse.
Love seems at length to promise Undine-like a soul to this soulless
creature:

    He read it through--all that perfect, perfect scene. From the
    moment when he said,

                              "I overlean,
        This length of hair and lustrous front--they turn
        Like an entire flower upward"--

    his voice low, sustained, clear--till he reached the line,

        "Look at the woman here with the new soul"--

    till he turned the leaf and murmured,

        "Shall to produce form out of unshaped stuff
        Be art--and, further, to evoke a soul
        From form be nothing? This new soul is mine!"--

    till then he never glanced up.

But there is lack of constructive skill, lack of definiteness, lack
of reality. The story sprawls at the end where it should culminate
with compelling power. The last sentence is startling, but it is
not connected with the _motif_ and is a mere sensational addition.
Everywhere there is the unusual, the overwrought, incoherent vagueness.
It is not experience, it is a revel of color and of sensuousness; it
is a Keats-like banquet, sweets and spicery.

The parallelism with Keats may be pressed far. She was first of all
a poet, a lyrist, a dweller in Arcady rather than in a New England
village. She, like so many others of her generation, had fallen under
the spell of the young Tennyson, and her world is a world of cloying
sweetness, of oriental sensuousness, of merely physical beauty. Poems
like "Pomegranate-Flowers" and "In Titian's Garden" show her tropical
temperament:

        And some girl sea-bronzed and sparkling,
        On her cheek the stain ensanguined,
        Bears aloft the bossy salver:
        As the innocent Lavinia
        Brought them in old days of revel
        Fruits and flowers amesh with sunbeams--
        No red burnish of pomegranates,
        No cleft peach in velvet vermeil,
        No bright grapes their blue bloom bursting,
        Dews between the cool globes slipping,
        Dews like drops of clouded sapphire,
        But the brighter self and spirit,
        Glowed illusive in her beauty.

The same poetic glamour she threw over all the work that now poured
in swift profusion from her pen: _Sir Rohan's Ghost_, _Azarian_, and
a score of short stories in the _Atlantic_ and _Harper's_ and other
periodicals. It had been felt that the faults so manifest in "In a
Cellar" and "The Amber Gods" would disappear as the young author gained
in maturity and knowledge of her art, but they not only persisted, they
increased. Like Charlotte Brontë, whom in so many ways she resembled,
she knew life only as she dreamed of it in her country seclusion or
read of it in romance. At length toleration ceased. In 1865 _The
North American Review_ condemned _Azarian_ as "devoid of human nature
and false to actual society," and then added the significant words:
"We would earnestly exhort Miss Prescott to be _real_, to be true to
something." It marks not alone the end of the first period in Miss
Prescott's career; it marks the closing of an era in American fiction.

Wonder has often been expressed that one who could write "The Amber
Gods" and _Sir Rohan's Ghost_ should suddenly lapse into silence and
refuse to work the rich vein she had opened. The change, however, was
not with the author; it was with the times. Within a year Howells was
assistant editor of the _Atlantic_. The artificiality of style and the
high literary tone demanded in the earlier period disappeared with the
war, and in their place came simplicity and naturalness and reality.
The author of _Azarian_ continued to write her passionate and melodious
romance, but the columns of the _Atlantic_ and _Harper's_ at length
were closed to her tales. A volume of her work of this period still
awaits a publisher.

She now turned to poetry--there was no ban upon that; the old régime
died first in its prose--and poured out lyrics that are to be compared
even with those of Taylor and Aldrich, lyrics full of passion and color
and sensuous beauty. Among the female poets of America she must be
accorded a place near the highest. Only "H. H." could have poured out a
lyric like this:

        In the dew and the dark and the coolness
          I bend to the beaker and sip,
        For the earth is the Lord's, and its fullness
          Is held like the cup to my lip.

        For his are the vast opulences
          Of color, of line, and of flight,
        And his was the joy of the senses
          Before I was born to delight.

        Forever the loveliness lingers,
          Or in flesh, or in spirit, or dream,
        For it swept from the touch of his fingers
          While his garments trailed by in the gleam.

        When the dusk and the dawn in slow union
          Bring beauty to bead at the brim,
        I take, 't is the cup of communion,
          I drink, and I drink it with Him!

A chapter of analysis could not so completely reveal the soul of
Harriet Prescott Spofford.

For a time she busied herself making books on art decoration applied
to furniture, and then at last she yielded to the forces of the age
and wrote stories that again commanded the magazines. With work like
"A Rural Telephone," "An Old Fiddler," and "A Village Dressmaker,"
she entered with real distinction the field that had been preëmpted
by Miss Cooke and Miss Jewett, the depiction of New England life in
its actuality. Then at the close of her literary life she wrote deeper
tales, like "Ordronnaux," a story with the same underlying _motif_
as "The Amber Gods"--the creation of a soul in soulless beauty--but
worked out now with reality, and experience, and compelling power. But
it was too late. Could she have learned her lesson when Rose Terry
Cooke learned hers; could she, instead of wasting her powers upon the
gorgeous _Azarian_, have sent forth in 1863 her volume _Old Madame and
Other Tragedies_, she might have taken a leading place among American
novelists.


III

The school of fiction that during the later period stands for the
depicting of New England life and character in their actuality had as
its pioneers Mrs. Stowe and Rose Terry Cooke. Both did their earlier
work in the spirit and manner of the mid century; both were poets and
dreamers; both until late in their lives worked with feeling rather
than observation and gave to their fiction vagueness of outline and
romantic unreality. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ was written by one who had
never visited the South, who drew her materials largely from her
feelings and her imagination, and made instead of a transcript of
actual life, a book of religious emotion, a swift, unnatural succession
of picturesque scene and incident, an improvisation of lyrical
passion--a melodrama. It is the typical novel of the period before
1870, the period that bought enormous editions of _The Lamplighter_,
_The Wide, Wide World_, and _St. Elmo_. _The Minister's Wooing_,
1859, a historical romance written in the Andover that a little later
was to produce _Gates Ajar_, was also fundamentally religious and
controversial: it contained the keynote of what was afterwards known as
the Andover movement. It dealt with a people and an environment that
the author knew as she knew her own childhood, and it had therefore,
as _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ has not, sympathy of comprehension and truth
to local scene and character. And yet despite her knowledge and her
sympathy, the shadow of the mid century lies over it from end to end.
It lacked what _Elsie Venner_ lacked, what the great bulk of the
pre-Civil War literature lacked, organization, sharpness of line,
reality. Lowell, a generation ahead of his time, saw the weakness as
well as the strength of the book, and in pointing it out he criticized
not alone the author but her period as well. "My advice," he wrote
her with fine courage, "is to follow your own instincts--to stick to
nature, and avoid what people commonly call the 'Ideal'; for that, and
beauty, and pathos, and success, all lie in the simply natural....
There are ten thousand people who can write 'ideal' things for one who
can see, and feel, and reproduce nature and character."[107] Again the
voice of the new period in American literature. But Mrs. Stowe was not
one to heed literary advice; her work must come by inspiration, by
impulse connected with purpose, and it must work itself out without
thought of laws or models. _The Pearl of Orr's Island_ came by impulse,
as later, in 1869, came _Oldtown Folks_. "It was more to me than a
story," she wrote of it; "it is my résumé of the whole spirit and body
of New England, a country that is now exerting such an influence on
the civilized world that to know it truly becomes an object."[108]
That these books, and the _Oldtown Fireside Stories_ that followed, do
furnish such a résumé is by no means true, but that they are faithful
transcripts of New England life, and are pioneer books in a field that
later was to be intensively cultivated, cannot be doubted.

Mrs. Stowe's influence upon later writers was greater than is warranted
by her actual accomplishment. The fierce light that beat upon _Uncle
Tom's Cabin_ gave to all of her work extraordinary publicity and made
of her a model when otherwise she would have been unknown. The real
pioneer was Rose Terry Cooke, daughter of a humble family in a small
Connecticut village. Educated in a seminary near her home, at sixteen
she was teaching school and at eighteen she was writing for _Graham's
Magazine_ a novel called _The Mormon's Wife_. That she had never been
in Utah and had never even seen a Mormon, mattered not at all; the tale
to win its audience need be true only to its author's riotous fancy.
But the author had humor as well as fancy, and her sense of humor was
to save her. In her school work in rural districts she was in contact
constantly with the quaint and the ludicrous, with all those strongly
individualized characters that Puritanism and isolated country living
had rendered abundant. They were a part of her every-day life; they
appealed not only to her sense of humor, but to her sympathy. She
found herself thinking of them as she sought for subjects for her
fiction. Her passion and her ambition were centered upon poetry. The
idealism and the loftiness that Harriet Prescott Spofford threw into
her early romance, she threw into her lyrics. Fiction was a thing of
less seriousness; it could be trifled with; it could even record the
humor and the quaintness of the common folk amid whom she toiled. She
turned to it as to a diversion and she was surprised to find that
Lowell, the editor of the new and exclusive _Atlantic_, preferred it to
her poetry. For the first volume of the magazine he accepted no fewer
than five of her homely little sketches, and praised them for their
fidelity and truth.

That the author considered this prose work an innovation and something
below the high tone of real literature, cannot be doubted. In "Miss
Lucinda" (_Atlantic_, 1861), as perfect a story of its kind as was ever
written, she feels called upon to explain, and her explanation is a
declaration of independence:

    But if I apologize for a story that is nowise tragic, nor
    fitted to "the fashion of these times," possibly somebody will
    say at its end that I should also have apologized for its
    subject, since it is as easy for an author to treat his readers
    to high themes as vulgar ones, and velvet can be thrown into
    a portrait as cheaply as calico; but of this apology I wash
    my hands. I believe nothing in place or circumstance makes
    romance. I have the same quick sympathy for Biddy's sorrows
    with Patrick that I have for the Empress of France and her
    august, but rather grim, lord and master. I think words are
    often no harder to bear than "a blue batting," and I have a
    reverence for poor old maids as great as for the nine Muses.
    Commonplace people are only commonplace from character, and no
    position affects that. So forgive me once more, patient reader,
    if I offer you no tragedy in high life, no sentimental history
    of fashion and wealth, but only a little story about a woman
    who could not be a heroine.

This is the key to her later work. She wrote simple little stories of
commonplace people in a commonplace environment, and she treated them
with the sympathy of one who shares, rather than as one who looks down
upon a spectacle and takes sides. There is no bookish flavor about
the stories: they are as artless as the narrative told by a winter
hearth. In the great mass of fiction dealing with New England life and
character her work excels in humor--that subdued humor which permeates
every part like an atmosphere--in the picturing of the odd and the
whimsical, in tenderness and sympathy, and in the perfect artlessness
that is the last triumph of art. Hers is not a realism of the severe
and scientific type: it is a poetic realism like that of the earlier
and more delightful Howells, a realism that sees life through a window
with the afternoon light upon it. In the whole output of the school
there are few sketches more charming and more true than her "Miss
Lucinda," "Freedom Wheeler's Controversy with Providence," "Old Miss
Dodd," "The Deacon's Week," and "A Town and a Country Mouse." Others,
like Mrs. Slosson and Rowland E. Robinson, for instance, have caught
with exquisite skill the grotesque and the humorous side of New England
life, but none other has shown the whole of New England with the
sympathy and the comprehension and the delicacy of Rose Terry Cooke.


IV

Of the later group, the generation born in the fifties and the early
sixties, Sarah Orne Jewett is the earliest figure. With her there was
no preliminary dallying with mid-century sentiment and sensationalism;
she belongs to the era of _Oldtown Folks_ rather than of _Uncle Tom's
Cabin_. "It was happily in the writer's childhood," she records in
her later introduction to _Deephaven_, "that Mrs. Stowe had written
of those who dwelt along the wooded sea-coast and by the decaying,
shipless harbors of Maine. The first chapters of _The Pearl of Orr's
Island_ gave the young author of _Deephaven_ to see with new eyes and
to follow eagerly the old shore paths from one gray, weather-beaten
house to another, where Genius pointed her the way." And again in a
letter written in 1889: "I have been reading the beginning of _The
Pearl of Orr's Island_ and finding it just as clear and perfectly
original and strong as it seemed to me in my thirteenth or fourteenth
year, when I read it first. I shall never forget the exquisite flavor
and reality of delight it gave me. It is classical--historical."[109]

She herself had been born by one of those same "decaying, shipless
harbors of Maine," at South Berwick, a village not far from the native
Portsmouth of Thomas Bailey Aldrich. It was no ordinary town, this
deserted little port. "A stupid, common country town, some one dared
to call Deephaven in a letter once, and how bitterly we resented
it."[110] It had seen better days. There was an atmosphere about it
from a romantic past. In Miss Jewett's work it figures as Deephaven.
"The place prided itself most upon having been long ago the residence
of one Governor Chantrey, who was a rich ship-owner and East India
merchant, and whose fame and magnificence were almost fabulous....
There were formerly five families who kept their coaches in Deephaven;
there were balls at the Governor's and regal entertainments at other
of the grand mansions; there is not a really distinguished person in
the country who will not prove to have been directly or indirectly
connected with Deephaven." And again, "Deephaven seemed more like one
of the cozy little English seaside towns than any other. It was not in
the least American."

The social régime of this early Berwick had been cavalier rather than
Puritan. It had survived in a few old families like the Jewetts, a bit
of the eighteenth century come down into the late nineteenth. Miss
Jewett all her life seemed like her own Miss Chauncey, an exotic from
an earlier day, a survival--"thoroughly at her ease, she had the manner
of a lady of the olden time." Her father, a courtly man and cultivated,
a graduate of Bowdoin and for a time a lecturer there, gave ever the
impression that he could have filled with brilliancy a larger domain
than that he had deigned to occupy. He had settled down in Berwick as
physician for a wide area, much trusted and much revered, a physician
who ministered to far more than the physical needs of his people. His
daughter, with a daughter's loving hand, has depicted him in _A Country
Doctor_, perhaps the most tender and intimate of all her studies. She
owed much to him; from him had come, indeed, the greater part of all
that was vital in her education. Day after day she had ridden with him
along the country roads, and had called with him at the farmhouses and
cottages, and had talked with him of people and flowers and birds, of
olden times, of art and literature.

A story from her pen, "Mr. Bruce," signed "A. E. Eliot," had appeared
in the _Atlantic_ as early as 1869, but it was not until 1873 that "The
Shore House," changed later to "Kate Lancaster's Plan," the first of
the _Deephaven_ papers, appeared in the same magazine. She had begun
to write with a definite purpose. "When I was perhaps fifteen," she
records in an autobiographical fragment, "the first city boarders began
to make their appearance near Berwick, and the way they misconstrued
the country people and made game of their peculiarities fired me with
indignation. I determined to teach the world that country people were
not the awkward, ignorant set those people seemed to think. I wanted
the world to know their grand simple lives; and, so far as I had a
mission, when I first began to write, I think that was it."

Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Cooke were the depicters of the older New England,
the New England at flood tide; Miss Jewett was the first to paint the
ebb. With them New England was a social unit as stable as the England
of Jane Austen; with her it was a society in transition, the passing of
an old régime. The westward exodus had begun, with its new elements of
old people left behind by their migrating children, the deserted farm,
the decaying seaside town, the pathetic return of the native for a
brief day, as in "A Native of Winby," and, to crown it all, the summer
boarder who had come in numbers to laugh at the old and wonder at it.
She would preserve all that was finest in the New England that was
passing, and put it into clear light that all might see how glorious
the past had been, and how beautiful and true were the pathetic
fragments that still remained.

She approached her work with the serenity and the seriousness of one
who goes to devotions. She was never watchful for the eccentric and the
picturesque; there are no grotesque deacons and shrill old maids in
her stories. She would depict only the finer and gentler side of New
England life: men quiet and kindly; women sweet-tempered and serene.
We may smile over her pictures of ancient mariners "sunning themselves
like turtles on the wharves," her weather-beaten farmers gentle as
women, and her spinsters and matrons, like Miss Debby, belonging to "a
class of elderly New England women which is fast dying out," but we
leave them always with the feeling that they are noblemen and ladies in
disguise. Her little stretch of Maine coast with its pointed firs, its
bleak farms, and its little villages redolent of the sea she has made
peculiarly her own domain, just as Hardy has made Wessex his, and she
has made of her native Deephaven an American counterpart of Cranford.

Many times Miss Jewett has been compared with Hawthorne, and
undoubtedly there is basis for comparison. Her style, indeed, in its
simplicity and effortless strength may be likened to his, and her
pictures of decaying wharves and of quaint personages in an old town
by the sea have the same atmosphere and the same patrician air of
distinction, but further one may not go. Of his power to trace the
blighting and transforming effects of a sin and his wizard knowledge
of the human heart, she had nothing. She is a writer of little books
and short stories, the painter of a few subjects in a provincial little
area, but within her narrow province she has no rival nearer her own
times than Mrs. Gaskell.

Her kinship is with Howells rather than with Hawthorne, the Howells
of the earlier manner, with his pictures of the Boston of the East
India days, his half-poetic studies in background and character, his
portraits etched with exquisite art, his lambent humor that plays over
all like an evening glow. In her stories, too, the plot is slight,
and background and characterization and atmosphere dominate; and as
with him in the days before the poet had been put to death, realism
is touched everywhere with romance. She paints the present ever upon
the background of an old, forgotten, far-off past, with that dim light
upon it that now lies over the South of the old plantation days. Over
all of her work lies this gentle glamour, this softness of atmosphere,
this evanescent shade of regret for something vanished forever. Hers is
a transfigured New England, a New England with all its roughness and
coarseness and sordidness refined away, the New England undoubtedly
that her gentle eyes actually saw. Once, indeed, she wrote pure
romance. Her _The Tory Lover_ is her dream of New England's day of
chivalry, the high tide mark from which to measure the depth of its ebb.

Her power lies in her purity of style, her humorous little touches, and
her power of characterization. Work like her "A White Heron," "Miss
Tempy's Watchers," and "The Dulham Ladies," has a certain lightness of
touch, a pathos and a humor, a skill in delineation which wastes not a
word or an effect, that places it among the most delicate and finished
of American short stories. Yet brilliant as they are in technique, in
characterization and background and atmosphere, they lack nevertheless
the final touch of art. They are _too_ literary; they are too much
works of art, too much from the intellect and not enough from the
heart. They are Sir Roger de Coverley sketches, marvelously well done,
but always from the Sir Roger standpoint. There is a certain "quality"
in all that Miss Jewett wrote, a certain unconscious _noblesse oblige_
that kept her ever in the realm of the gentle, the genteel, the Berwick
old régime. One feels it in her avoidance of everything common and
squalid, in her freedom from passion and dramatic climax, in her
objective attitude toward her characters. She is always sympathetic,
she is moved at times to real pathos, but she stands apart from her
picture; she observes and describes; she never, like Rose Terry Cooke,
mingles and shares. She cannot. Hers is the pride that the lady of the
estate takes in her beloved peasantry; of the patrician who steps down
of an afternoon into the cottage and comes back to tell with amusement
and perhaps with tears of what she finds there.

All her life she lived apart from that which she described. Her
winters she spent in Boston, much of the time in the home of Mrs.
James T. Fields, surrounded by memorials of the great period of
American literature. Like Howells, she wrote ever in the presence of
the Brahmins--a task not difficult, for she herself was a Brahmin. It
was impossible for her to be common or to be narrowly realistic. She
wrote with deliberation and she revised and rerevised and finished her
work, conscious ever of her art--a classicist, sending forth nothing
that came as a cry from her heart, nothing that came winged with a
message, nothing that voiced a vision and a new seeing, nothing that
was not literary in the highest classical sense. In the history of the
new period she stands midway between Mrs. Spofford and Mrs. Freeman;
a new realist whose heart was with the old school; a romanticist, but
equipped with a camera and a fountain pen.


V

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman is the typical representative of the group
born a generation after the women of the thirties, the group that knew
nothing of the emotional fifties and sixties, and that began its work
when the new literature of actuality, the realism of Flaubert and
Hardy and Howells, was in full domination. Of hesitancy, of transition
from the old to the new, her fiction shows no trace. From her first
story she was a realist, as enamoured of actuality and as restrained
as Maupassant. She seems to have followed no one: realism was a thing
native to her, as indeed it is native to all women. "Women are delicate
and patient observers," Henry James has said in his essay on Trollope.
"They hold their noses close, as it were, to the texture of life. They
feel and perceive the real." But to her realism Miss Wilkins added a
power usually denied her sex, the power of detachment, the epic power
that excludes the subjective and hides the artist behind the picture.
In all the writings of the creator of _Gates Ajar_ we see but the
intense and emotional soul of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps; in that of the
writer of _A Humble Romance_ we see only the grim lineaments of New
England, a picture as remorseless and as startling as if a searchlight
had been turned into the dim and cobwebbed recesses of an ancient
vault. She stands not aloof like Miss Jewett; she is simply unseen. She
is working in the materials of her own heart and drawing the outlines
of her own home, yet she possesses the epic power to keep her creations
impersonal to the point of anonymousness.

For her work, everything in her life was a preparation. She was born
in Randolph not far from Boston, of an ancestry which extended back
into the darkest shadows of Puritanism, to old Salem and a judge in
the witchcraft trials. Her more immediate progenitors were of humble
station: her father was first a builder in her native Randolph, then
a store-keeper in Brattleboro, Vermont. Thus her formative years were
passed in the narrow environment of New England villages. The death of
her father and mother during her early girlhood must also be recorded,
as should the fact that her schooling was austere and limited.

When she approached literature, therefore, it was as a daughter of
the Puritans, as one who had been nurtured in repression. Love in its
tropical intensity, the fierce play of the passions, color, profusion,
outspoken toleration, freedom--romance in its broadest connotation--of
these she knew nothing. She had lived her whole life in the warping
atmosphere of inherited Puritanism, of a Puritanism that had lost
its earlier vitality and had become a convention and a superstition,
in a social group inbred for generations and narrowly restricted to
neighborhood limits. "They were all narrow-lived country people," she
writes. "Their customs had made deeper grooves in their roads; they
were more fastidious and jealous of their social rights than many in
higher positions."[111] "Everything out of the broad, common track was
a horror to these men, and to many of their village fellows. Strange
shadows that their eyes could not pierce, lay upon such, and they were
suspicious."[112] "She was a New England woman, and she discussed all
topics except purely material ones shamefacedly with her sister."[113]

In the mid eighties when she began her work the primitive Puritan
element had vanished from all but the more remote and sheltered nooks
of New England. The toll of the war, the Western rush, and the call
of the cities had left behind the old and the conservative and the
helpless, the last distorted relics of a distorting old régime. To
her these were the true New England: she would write the last act of
the grim drama that had begun at Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. She
recorded it very largely in her first four volumes: _A Humble Romance_,
twenty-four short stories as grim and austere as Puritanism itself; _A
New England Nun and Other Stories_; _Jane Field_, a prolonged short
story; and _Pembroke, a Novel_. This is the vital part of her work, the
part that is to bear up and preserve her name if it is to endure.

The key to this earlier work is the word _repression_. The very style
is puritanic; it is angular, unornamented, severe; it is rheumatic like
the greater part of the characters it deals with; it gasps in short
sentences and hobbles disconnectedly. It deals ever with repressed
lives: with dwarfed and anemic old maids who have been exhorted all
their lives to self-examination and to the repression of every emotion
and instinct; with women unbalanced and neurotic, who subside at last
into dumb endurance; with slaves of a parochial public opinion and of
conventions ridiculously narrow hardened into iron laws; with lives in
which the Puritan inflexibility and unquestioning obedience to duty has
been inherited as stubbornness and balky setness, as in Deborah and
Barnabas Thayer who in earlier ages would have figured as martyrs or
pilgrims.

Her unit of measure is short. It is not hers to trace the slow
development of a soul through a long period; it is hers to deal with
climactic episodes, with the one moment in a repressed life when the
repression gives way and the long pent-up forces sweep all before
them, as in "The Revolt of Mother," or "A Village Singer." Her
effects she accomplishes with the fewest strokes possible. Like the
true New Englander that she is, she will waste not a word. In her
story "Life-Everlasting," Luella--the author's miserliness with words
withholds her other name--has gone to carry a pillow to the farmhouse
of Oliver Weed. She wonders at the closed and deserted appearance of
the premises.

    Luella heard the cows low in the barn as she opened the kitchen
    door. "Where--did all that--blood come from?" said she.

    She began to breathe in quick gasps; she stood clutching her
    pillow, and looking. Then she called: "Mr. Weed! Mr. Weed!
    Where be you? Mis' Weed! Is anything the matter? Mis' Weed!"
    The silence seemed to beat against her ears. She went across
    the kitchen to the bedroom. Here and there she held back her
    dress. She reached the bedroom door, and looked in.

    Luella pressed back across the kitchen into the yard. She went
    out into the yard and turned towards the village. She still
    carried the life-everlasting pillow, but she carried it as if
    her arms and that were all stone. She met a woman whom she
    knew, and the woman spoke; but Luella did not notice her; she
    kept on. The woman stopped and looked after her.

    Luella went to the house where the sheriff lived, and knocked.
    The sheriff himself opened the door. He was a large, pleasant
    man. He began saying something facetious about her being out
    calling early, but Luella stopped him.

    "You'd--better go up to the--Weed house," said she, in a dry
    voice. "There's some--trouble."

That is all we are told as to what Luella saw, though it comes out
later that the man and his wife had been murdered by the hired man--how
we know not. There is a primitiveness about the style, its gasping
shortness of sentence, its repetitions like the story told by a child,
its freedom from all straining for effect, its bareness and grimness,
that stamps it as a genuine human document; not art but life itself.

For external nature she cares little. Her backgrounds are meager; the
human element alone interests her. There is no Mary E. Wilkins country
as there is a Sarah Orne Jewett country; there are only Mary E. Wilkins
people. A somber group they are--exceptions, perhaps, grim survivals,
distortions, yet absolutely true to one narrow phase of New England
life. Her realism as she depicts these people is as inexorable as
Balzac's. "A Village Lear" would have satisfied even Maupassant. Not
one jot is bated from the full horror of the picture; it is driven to
its pitiless end without a moment of softening. No detail is omitted.
It is _Père Goriot_ reduced to a chapter. A picture like this from
"Louisa" grips one by its very pitilessness:

    There was nothing for supper but some bread and butter and weak
    tea, though the old man had his dish of Indian-meal porridge.
    He could not eat much solid food. The porridge was covered with
    milk and molasses. He bent low over it, and ate large spoonfuls
    with loud noises. His daughter had tied a towel around his neck
    as she would have tied a pinafore on a child. She had also
    spread a towel over the tablecloth in front of him, and she
    watched him sharply lest he should spill his food.

    "I wish I could have somethin' to eat that I could relish the
    way he does that porridge and molasses," said she [the mother].
    She had scarcely tasted anything. She sipped her weak tea
    laboriously.

    Louisa looked across at her mother's meager little figure in
    its neat old dress, at her poor small head bending over the
    teacup, showing the wide parting in the thin hair.

    "Why don't you toast your bread, mother?" said she. "I'll toast
    it for you."

    "No, I don't want it. I'd jest as soon have it this way as any.
    I don't want no bread, nohow. I want somethin' to relish--a
    herrin', or a little mite of cold meat, or somethin'. I s'pose
    I could eat as well as anybody if I had as much as some folks
    have. Mis' Mitchell was sayin' the other day that she didn't
    believe but what they had butcher's meat up to Mis' Nye's every
    day in the week. She said Jonathan he went to Wolfsborough and
    brought home great pieces in a market-basket every week."

She is strong only in short efforts. She has small power of
construction: even _Pembroke_ may be resolved into a series of short
stories. The setness of Barnabas Thayer is prolonged until it ceases to
be convincing: we lose sympathy; he becomes a mere Ben Jonson "humor"
and not a human being. The story is strong only in its episodes--the
cherry party of the tight-fisted Silas Berry, the midnight coasting of
the boy Ephraim, the removal of Hannah to the poorhouse, the marriage
of Rebecca--but these touch the very heart of New England. Because of
their artlessness they are the perfection of art.

In her later period Miss Wilkins became sophisticated and
self-conscious. The acclaim of praise that greeted her short stories
tempted her to essay a larger canvas in wider fields of art. She
had awakened to a realization of the bareness of her style and she
sought to bring to her work ornament and the literary graces. She
experimented with verse and drama and juveniles, with long novels
and romances, and even with tales of New Jersey life. In vain. Her
decline began with _Madelon_, which is improbable and melodramatic,
and it continued through all her later work. She wrote problem novels
like _The Portion of Labor_, long and sprawling and ineffective, and
stories like _By the Light of the Soul_, as impossible and as untrue
to life as a young country girl's dream of city society. As a novelist
and as a depicter of life outside of her narrow domain, she has small
equipment. She stands for but one thing: short stories of the grim and
bare New England social system; sketches austere and artless which limn
the very soul of a passing old régime; photographs which are more than
photographs: which are threnodies.


VI

The last phase of the school may be studied in the work of Alice Brown,
representative of the influences at the end of the century. The late
recognition of her fiction--she was born in 1857--which placed her a
decade after Miss Wilkins who was born in 1862, compelled her to serve
an apprenticeship like that of Howells, and subjected her work to the
new shaping influences of the nineties. When she did gain recognition
in 1895, she brought a finished art. She had mastered the newly
worked-out science of the short story, she had studied the English
masters--chiefest of all Stevenson, whose influence so dominated the
closing century.

She was not a realist as Miss Wilkins was a realist. The New England
dialect stories of _Meadow Grass_ were not put forth to indicate the
final field that she had chosen for her art: they were experiments just
as all the others of her earlier efforts were experiments. Of her first
seven books, _Fools of Nature_, with its background of spiritualism,
was a serious attempt at serious fiction with a thesis worthy of
a George Eliot, _Mercy Warren_ and _Robert Louis Stevenson_ were
biographical and critical studies, _By Oak and Thorn_ was a collection
of travel essays, _The Road to Castelay_ was a collection of poems, and
_The Day of His Youth_ perhaps a romance.

That she won her recognition as a writer of dialect tales rather than
as a novelist, a poet, an essayist, a romancer, was due, first, to
the nature of the times, and, secondly, to the fact that the tales
were a section of her own life written with fullness of knowledge
and sympathy. She had been born and reared in a New Hampshire town,
educated in a country school and a rural "female seminary," and, like
Rose Terry Cooke, she had taught school. Later she had broken from
this early area of her life and had resided in Boston. The glamour of
childhood grew more and more golden over the life she had left behind
her; the memories of fragrant summer evenings in the green country and
of the old homes she had known with all their varied inmates grew ever
more tender on her pages as she wrote. It was impossible for her not
to be true to this area that she knew so completely. Characters like
Mrs. Blair and Miss Dyer in "Joint Owners in Spain," or Farmer Eli in
"Farmer Eli's Vacation" stood living before her imagination as she told
of them. She had known them in the flesh. If she were to paint the
picture at all she must paint it as it was in her heart. To add to it
or to subtract from it were to violate truth itself.

Her stories differ from Mrs. Cooke's and Miss Jewett's in a certain
quality of atmosphere--it is difficult to explain more accurately. They
have a quality of humor and of pathos, a sprightliness and freedom
about them that are all their own. They never fall into carelessness
like so much of the work of Mrs. Stowe and they are never poorly
constructed. They are photographically true to the life they represent,
and yet they possess, many of them, the beauties and the graces and
the feeling of romance. They add richness to realism. In style she is
the antithesis of Miss Wilkins. There is beauty in all of her prose, a
half-felt tripping of feet often, a lilting rhythm as unpremeditated
as a bird-song, swift turns of expression that are near to poetry. An
inscription in the Tiverton churchyard halts her, and as she muses upon
it she is wholly a poet:

    "The purple flower of a maid"! All the blossomy sweetness,
    the fragrant lament of Lycidas, lies in that one line. Alas,
    poor love-lies-bleeding! And yet not poor according to the
    barren pity we accord the dead, but dowered with another youth
    set like a crown upon the unstained front of this. Not going
    with sparse blossoms ripened or decayed, but heaped with buds
    and dripping over in perfume. She seems so sweet in her still
    loveliness, the empty province of her balmy spring, that, for
    a moment fain are you to snatch her back into the pageant of
    your day. Reading that phrase, you feel the earth is poorer
    for her loss. And yet, not so, since the world holds other
    greater worlds as well. Elsewhere she may have grown to age
    and stature, but here she lives yet in beauteous permanence--as
    true a part of youth and joy and rapture as the immortal
    figures on the Grecian urn. While she was but a flying phantom
    on the frieze of time, Death fixed her there forever--a
    haunting spirit in perennial bliss.

Whenever she touches nature she touches it as a poet. She was of the
mid nineties which saw the triumph of the nature school. Behind each of
her stories lies a rich background of mountain or woodland or meadow,
one that often, as in "A Sea Change," dominates in Thomas Hardy fashion
the whole picture.

Only a comparatively few of Miss Brown's volumes deal with the field
with which her name is chiefly associated. _Meadow Grass_, _Tiverton
Tales_, and _The Country Road_ contain the best of her dialect stories.
Her heart in later years has been altogether in other work. She has
written novels not provincial in their setting, and, unlike Miss
Wilkins, she has succeeded in doing really distinctive work. She has
the constructive power that is denied so many, especially women, who
have succeeded with the short story. She has done dramatic work which
has won high rewards and she has written poetry. Perhaps she is a poet
first of all.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  HARRIET BEECHER STOWE. _The Mayflower_, 1843; _Uncle Tom's
  Cabin_, 1852; _Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands_, 1854; _Dred_
  (_Nina Gordon_), 1856; _The Minister's Wooing_, 1859; _The Pearl
  of Orr's Island_, 1862; _Agnes of Sorrento_, 1862; _House and
  Home Papers_, 1864; _Little Foxes_, 1865; _Religious Poems_,
  1867; _Queer Little People_, 1867; _The Chimney Corner_, 1868;
  _Oldtown Folks_, 1869; _Pink and White Tyranny_, 1871; _Oldtown
  Fireside Stories_, 1871; _My Wife and I_, 1871; _We and Our
  Neighbors_, 1875; _Poganuc People_, 1878; _A Dog's Mission_,
  1881; _The Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe_, Charles Edward Stowe,
  1889.

  ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS WARD. _Tiny_, 1866; _The Gates Ajar_,
  1868; _Men, Women, and Ghosts_, 1869; _Hedged In_, 1870; _The
  Silent Partner_, 1870; _Poetic Studies_, 1875; _The Story of
  Avis_, 1877; _An Old Maid's Paradise_, 1879; _Doctor Zay_, 1882;
  _Beyond the Gates_, 1883; _Songs of the Silent World_, 1884; _The
  Madonna of the Tubs_, 1886; _The Gates Between_, 1887; _Jack the
  Fisherman_, 1887; _The Struggle for Immortality_, 1889; _The
  Master of the Magicians_ [with H. D. Ward], 1890; _Come Forth_
  [with H. D. Ward], 1890; _Fourteen to One_, 1891; _Donald Marcy_,
  1893; _A Singular Life_, 1894; _The Supply at St. Agatha's_,
  1896; _Chapters from a Life_, 1896; _The Story of Jesus Christ_,
  1897; _Within the Gates_, 1901; _Successors to Mary the First_,
  1901; _Avery_, 1902; _Trixy_, 1904; _The Man in the Case_, 1906;
  _Walled In_, 1907.

  HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOFFORD. _Sir Rohan's Ghost_, 1859; _The Amber
  Gods and Other Stories_, 1863; _Azarian_, 1864; _New England
  Legends_, 1871; _The Thief in the Night_, 1872; _Art Decoration
  Applied to Furniture_, 1881; _The Marquis of Carabas_, 1882;
  _Poems_, 1882; _Ballads About Authors_, 1888; _In Titian's Garden
  and Other Poems_, 1897; _The Children of the Valley_, 1901;
  _The Great Procession_, 1902; _Four Days of God_, 1905; _Old
  Washington_, 1906; _Old Madame and Other Tragedies_, 1910.

  ROSE TERRY COOKE. _Poems by Rose Terry_, 1860; _Happy Dodd_,
  1875; _Somebody's Neighbors_, 1881; _The Deacon's Week_, 1885;
  _Root-Bound and Other Sketches_, 1885; _No. A Story for Boys_,
  1886; _The Sphynx's Children and Other People's_, 1886; Poems by
  Rose Terry Cooke (complete), 1888; _Steadfast: a Novel_, 1889;
  _Huckleberries Gathered from New England Hills_, 1891.

  SARAH ORNE JEWETT. _Deephaven_, 1877; _Old Friends and New_,
  1879; _Country By-Ways_, 1881; _The Mate of the Daylight_, 1883;
  _A Country Doctor_, 1884; _A Marsh Island_, 1885; _A White
  Heron_, 1886; _The Story of the Normans_, 1887; _The King of
  Folly Island_, 1888; _Betty Leicester_, 1889; _Strangers and
  Wayfarers_, 1890; _A Native of Winby_, 1893; _Betty Leicester's
  Christmas_, 1894; _The Life of Nancy_, 1895; _The Country of the
  Pointed Firs_, 1896; _The Queen's Twin_, 1899; _The Tory Lover_,
  1901; _Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett_, Edited by Annie Fields.

  MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN. _A Humble Romance_, 1887; _A New England
  Nun_, 1891; _Young Lucretia_, 1892; _Jane Field_, 1892; _Giles
  Corey, Yeoman: a Play_, 1893; _Pembroke_, 1894; _Madelon_, 1896;
  _Jerome, a Poor Young Man_, 1897; _Silence_, 1898; _Evelina's
  Garden_, 1899; _The Love of Parson Lord_, 1900; _The Heart's
  Highway_, 1900; _The Portion of Labor_, 1901; _Understudies_,
  1901; _Six Trees_, 1903; _The Wind in the Rose Bush_, 1903; _The
  Givers_, 1904; _Doc Gordon_, 1906; _By the Light of the Soul_,
  1907; _Shoulders of Atlas_, 1908; _The Winning Lady_, 1909; _The
  Green Door_, 1910; _Butterfly House_, 1912; _Yates Pride_, 1912.

  ALICE BROWN. _Fools of Nature_, 1887; _Meadow Grass_, 1895;
  _Mercy Otis Warren_, 1896; _By Oak and Thorn_, 1896; _The Day
  of His Youth_, 1896; _The Road to Castaly_, 1896; _Robert Louis
  Stevenson--a Study_ (with Louise Imogen Guiney), 1897; _Tiverton
  Tales_, 1899; _King's End_, 1901; _Margaret Warrener_, 1901;
  _The Mannerings_, _High Noon_, _Paradise_, _The Country Road_,
  _The Court of Love_, 1906; _Rose MacLeod_, 1908; _The Story of
  Thyrza_, 1909; _County Neighbors_, _John Winterbourne's Family_,
  1910; _The One-Footed Fairy_, 1911; _The Secret of the Clan_,
  1912; _Vanishing Points_, _Robin Hood's Barn_, 1913; _Children of
  Earth_, [$10,000 prize drama], 1915.



CHAPTER XII

THE NEW ROMANCE


The novelists who began their work in the seventies found themselves
in a dilemma. On one side was the new school which was becoming more
and more insistent that literature in America must be a thing American,
colored by American soil, and vivid and vital with the new spirit
of Ibsen, Tolstoy, Hardy, Maupassant, Howells, that was thrilling
everywhere like the voice of a coming era. But on the other hand there
was the firmly set tradition that the new world was barren of literary
material, that it lay spick and span with no romantic backgrounds save
perhaps the Dutch Hudson and old Puritan Salem and colonial Boston.
As late as 1872 the _North American Review_ declared that the true
writer of fiction "must idealize. The idealizing novelists will be the
real novelists. All truth does not lie in facts."[114] And it further
declared that he must look away from his own land, where there is no
shadow and no antiquity, into the uncharted fields of the imagination.
"One would say that the natural tendency of the American novelist
would be toward romance; that the very uniformity of our social life
would offer nothing tempting to the writer, unless indeed to the
satirist."[114]

It was the voice of the school that had ruled the mid century, a
school that was still alive and was still a dominating force of which
young writers were tremendously conscious. The reading public was not
prepared for the new realism: it had been nurtured on _The Token_
and _The Talisman_. The new must come not as a revolution, swift
and sudden; but as an evolution, slow and imperceptible. During the
seventies even Howells and James were romancers; romancers, however, in
process of change.

For the seventies in the history of American fiction was a period of
compromise and transition. The new school would be romantic and yet
at the same time it would be realistic. The way opened unexpectedly.
The widening of the American horizon, the sudden vogue of the Pike
literature, the new exploiting of the continent in all its wild nooks
and isolated neighborhoods--strange areas as unknown to the East as
the California mines and the canebrakes of the great river--and above
all the emergence of the South, brought with it another discovery:
Hawthorne and the mid-century school had declared romance with American
background impossible simply because in their provincial narrowness
they had supposed that America was bounded on the south and west by the
Atlantic and the Hudson. America was discovered to be full of romantic
material. It had a past not connected at all with the Knickerbockers
or even the Pilgrims. Behind whole vast areas of it lay the shadow of
old forgotten régimes, "picturesque and gloomy wrongs," with ruins and
mystery and vague tradition.

One of the earliest results, then, of the new realism, strangely
enough, was a new romanticism, new American provinces added to the
bounds of Arcady. The first gold of it, appropriately enough, came
from California, where Harte and Mrs. Jackson caught glimpses of
an old Spanish civilization alive only in the picturesque ruins of
its Missions. Quickly it was found again, rich and abundant, in New
Orleans, where Spain and then France had held dominion in a vague past;
then in the plantations of the old South where Page and others caught
the last glories of that fading cavalier civilization which had been
prolonged through a century of twilight by the archaic institution of
slavery; and then even in the spick-and-span new central West with its
traditions of a chivalrous old French régime.

America, indeed, was full of romantic area, full of a truly romantic
atmosphere, for it had been for centuries the battle-field of
races, the North--England, New England, Anglo-Saxons--against the
South--Spain, France, the slave-holding Cavaliers. And romance in
all lands is the record of the old crushed out by the new, the dim
tradition of a struggle between North and South: the South with its
tropic imagination, its passion, its beauty, its imperious pride, its
barbaric background; the North with its logic, its discipline, its
perseverance, its passionless force. Romance has ever held as its theme
the passing of an old Southern régime before the barbarians of the
North. And romance in America has centered always in the South. Realism
might flourish in Boston and the colder classical atmospheres, but
not along the gulf and the tropic rivers. The reading public, however,
and the great publishing houses were in the North. The result was
compromise: the new romanticism, Southern in its atmosphere and spirit,
Northern in its truth to life and conditions.


I

Harte in _Gabriel Conroy_ glimpsed the new fields of romance; George
Washington Cable (1844----), the earliest of the new Southern school,
was the first fully to enter them. His gateway was old New Orleans,
most romantic of Southern cities, unknown to Northern readers until his
pen revealed it. It seemed hardly possible that the new world possessed
such a Bagdad of wonder: old Spanish aristocracy, French chivalry of
a forgotten _ancien régime_, creoles, Acadians from the Grand Pré
dispersion, adventurers from all the picturesque ports of the earth,
slavery with its barbaric atmosphere and its shuddery background of
dread, and behind it all and around it all like a mighty moat shutting
it close in upon itself and rendering all else in the world a mere
hearsay and dream, the swamps and lagoons of the great river.

Cable was a native of the old city. During a happy boyhood he played
and rambled over the whole of it and learned to know it as only a boy
can know the surroundings of his home. His boyhood ended when he was
fourteen with the death of his father and the responsibility that
devolved upon him to help support his mother and her little family left
with scanty means. There was to be no more schooling. He marked boxes
in the custom house until the war broke out, and then at seventeen he
enlisted in the Confederate army and served to the end. Returning to
New Orleans, he found employment in a newspaper office, where he proved
a failure; he studied surveying until he was forced by malarial fever
caught in the swamps to abandon it; then, after a slow recovery, he
entered the employ of a firm of cotton factors and for years served
them as an accountant. It was an unpromising beginning. At thirty-five
he was still recording transfers of cotton, and weights and prices and
commissions.

But his heart, like Charles Lamb's, was in volumes far different
from those upon his office desk. He had always been a studious youth.
He had read much: Dickens, Thackeray, Poe, Irving, Scott; and, like
a true native of the old city to whom French was a mother tongue,
Hugo, Mérimée, About. He loved also to pore over antiquarian records:
_Relations_ of the priest explorers, and old French documents and
writings. His first impulse to write came to him as he sat amid these
dusty records. "It would give me pleasure," he once wrote in a letter,
"to tell you how I came to drop into the writing of romances, but I
cannot; I just dropt. Money, fame, didactic or controversial impulse I
scarcely felt a throb of. I just wanted to do it because it seemed a
pity for the stuff to go so to waste."

Cable's first story, "'Sieur George," appeared in _Scribner's Monthly_
in October, 1873. Edward King, touring the Southern States in 1872 for
his series of papers entitled _The Great South_, had found the young
accountant pottering away at his local history and his studies of local
conditions and had secured some of his work for Dr. Holland. During the
next three years five other articles were published in the magazine and
one, "Posson Jone," in _Appleton's_, but they caused no sensation. It
was not until 1879, when the seven stories were issued in book form as
_Old Creole Days_, that recognition came. The long delay was good for
Cable: it compelled him, in Hawthorne fashion, to brood over his early
work in his rare intervals of leisure, to contemplate each piece a long
time, and to finish it and enrich it. He put forth no immaturities; he
began to publish at the point where his art was perfect.

The reception accorded to _Old Creole Days_ was like that accorded to
Harte's _Luck of Roaring Camp_. It took its place at once as a classic,
and the verdict has never been questioned. There is about the book,
and the two books which quickly followed it, an exotic quality, an
_aura_ of strangeness, that is like nothing else in our literature.
They seem not American at all; surely such a background and such an
atmosphere as that never could have existed "within the bounds of our
stalwart republic." They are romance, one feels; pure creations of
fancy, prolongations of the Longfellowism of the mid century--and yet,
as one reads on and on, the conviction grows that they are not romance;
they are really true. Surely "Posson Jone" and "Madame Delphine"
are not creations of fancy. The elided and softly lisping dialect,
broken-down French rather than debased English, is not an invention of
the author's: it carries conviction the more one studies it; it is not
brought in to show: it adds at every point to the reality of the work.
And the carefully worked-in backgrounds--let Lafcadio Hearn speak, who
settled in the city a few months after "Jean-ah Poquelin" came out in
_Scribner's Monthly_:

    The strict perfection of his Creole architecture is readily
    recognized by all who have resided in New Orleans. Each one
    of those charming pictures of places--veritable pastels--was
    painted after some carefully selected model of French or
    Franco-Spanish origin--typifying fashions of building which
    prevailed in the colonial days.... The author of _Madame
    Delphine_ must have made many a pilgrimage into the quaint
    district, to study the wrinkled faces of the houses, or perhaps
    to read the queer names upon the signs--as Balzac loved to do
    in old-fashioned Paris.[115]

It is realism, and yet how far removed from Zola and Flaubert--Flaubert
with his "sentiment is the devil"! It is realism tempered with romance;
it is the new romance of the transition. There is seemingly no art
about it, no striving for effect, and there is no exhibition of
quaint and unusual things just because they _are_ quaint and unusual.
Rather are we transported into a charmed atmosphere, "the tepid,
orange-scented air of the South," with the soft Creole _patois_ about
us and romance become real. The very style is Creole--Creole as Cable
knew the Creoles of the quadroon type. There is a childish simplicity
about it, and there is a lightness, an epigrammatic finesse, an elision
of all that can be suggested, that is Gallic and not Saxon at all.

One can feel this exotic quality most fully in the portraits of women:
'Tite Poulette, Madame Delphine, Aurora Nancanou, Clotilde, and the
others, portraits etched in with infinitesimal lightness of touch,
suggested rather than described, felt rather than seen. These are
not Northern women, these daintily feminine survivals of a decadent
nobility, these shrinking, coquettish, clinging, distant, tearful,
proud, explosive, half barbarous, altogether bewitching creatures. A
suggestion here, a glimpse there, an exclamation, a flash of the eyes,
and they are alive and real as few feminine creations in the fiction
of any period. One may forget the story, but one may not forget Madame
Delphine. If one would understand the secret of Cable's art, that
Gallic lightness of touch, that subtle elision, that perfect balance
between the suggested and the expressed, let him read the last chapter
of _The Grandissimes_. It is a Cable epitome.

"Posson Jone," "Jean-ah Poquelin," and _Madame Delphine_, which,
despite its length and its separate publication, is a short story
belonging to the _Old Creole Days_ group, are among the most perfect of
American short stories and mark the highest reach of Cable's art.

_The Grandissimes_, his first long romance, appeared in 1880. Never
was work of art painted on broader canvas or with elements more
varied and picturesque. Though centering in a little nook among the
bayous, it contains all Louisiana. Everywhere perspectives down a
long past: glimpses of the explorers, family histories, old forgotten
wrongs, vendettas, survivals from a feudal past, wild traditions,
superstitions. Grandissime and Fusilier, young men of the D'Iberville
exploring party, get lost in the swamps. "When they had lain down
to die and had only succeeded in falling to sleep, the Diana of the
Tchoupitoulas, ranging the magnolia groves with bow and quiver, came
upon them in all the poetry of their hope-forsaken strength and
beauty, and fell sick of love." The love of this Indian queen begins
the romance. Both eager to possess her, they can settle the matter
only with dice. Fusilier wins and becomes the founder of a proud
line, semibarbarous in its haughtiness and beauty, the Capulets to
De Grapion's Montagues. The culmination comes a century later when
the old feudal régime in Louisiana was closed by Napoleon and the
remnants of the warring families were united according to the approved
Montague-Capulet formula.

But the theme of the book is wider than this quarrel of families, wider
than the conflict of two irreconcilable civilizations and the passing
of the outworn. In a vague way it centers in the episode of Bras
Coupé, the African king who refused to be a slave and held firm until
his haughty soul was crushed out with inconceivable brutality. The
cumulative and soul-withering power of an ancient wrong, the curse of
a dying man which works its awful way until the pure love of innocent
lovers removes it--it is _The House of the Seven Gables_ transferred to
the barbarous swamps of the Atchafalaya.

The strangeness of the book grows upon one as one reads. It is a book
of lurid pictures--the torture and death of Bras Coupé, the murder of
the _négresse_ Clemence, which in sheer horror and brutal, unsparing
realism surpasses anything in _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, anything indeed
in the Russian realists. It is a book too with a monotone of fear:
the nameless dread that comes of holding down a race by force, or
as Joel C. Harris has phrased it, "that vague and mysterious danger
that seemed to be forever lurking on the outskirts of slavery, ready
to sound a shrill and ghostly signal in the impenetrable swamps
and steal forth under the midnight stars to murder and rapine and
pillage"; the superstitious thrill when at dead of night throbs up
from a neighboring slave yard "the monotonous chant and machine-like
time-beat of the African dance"; the horror of finding morning after
morning on one's pillow voodoo warnings and ghastly death charms placed
seemingly by supernatural hands. No one has ever surpassed Cable in
making felt this uncanny side of the negro. His characterization of
the voodoo quadroon woman Palmyre with her high Latin, Jaloff-African
ancestry, her "barbaric and magnetic beauty that startled the beholder
like the unexpected drawing out of a jeweled sword," her physical
perfection--lithe of body as a tigress and as cruel, witching and
alluring, yet a thing of horror, "a creature that one would want to
find chained"--it fingers at one's heart and makes one fear.

And with all this strangeness, this flash after flash of vivid
characterization, a style to match. "Victor Hugo," one exclaims often
as one reads. Let us quote, say from chapter five. The stars are
Cable's:

    There Georges De Grapion settled, with the laudable
    determination to make a fresh start against the mortifyingly
    numerous Grandissimes.

    "My father's policy was every way bad," he said to his spouse;
    "it is useless, and probably wrong, this trying to thin them
    out by duels; we will try another plan. Thank you," he added,
    as she handed his coat back to him, with the shoulder-straps
    cut off. In pursuance of the new plan, Madame De Grapion--the
    precious little heroine!--before the myrtles offered another
    crop of berries, bore him a boy not much smaller (saith
    tradition) than herself.

    Only one thing qualified the father's elation. On that very
    day Numa Grandissime (Brahmin-Mandarin de Grandissime), a mere
    child, received from Governor De Vaudreuil a cadetship.

    "Never mind, Messieurs Grandissime, go on with your tricks; we
    shall see! Ha! we shall see!"

    "We shall see what?" asked a remote relative of that family.
    "Will Monsieur be so good as to explain himself?"

       *       *       *       *       *

    Bang! Bang!

    Alas, Madame De Grapion!

    It may be recorded that no affair of honor in Louisiana ever
    left a braver little widow.

It is French, too, in its sudden turns, its fragmentary paragraphs, its
sly humor, its swift summings-up with an epigram:

    "Now, sir," thought he to himself, "we'll return to our senses."

    "Now I'll put on my feathers again," says the plucked bird.

But as one reads on one realizes more and more that this style comes
from no mere imitation of a master: it is Creole; it is the style that
is the counterpart of the Creole temperament. It is verisimilitude; it
is interpretation.

Thus far the strength of the book; there are weaknesses as great. Cable
failed, as Harte failed, as most of the masters of the short story have
failed, in constructive power. The magnificent thesis of the romance is
not worked out; it is barely suggested rather than made to dominate the
piece. Moreover, the interest does not accumulate and culminate at the
end. It is a rich mass of materials rather than a finished romance. The
emphasis is laid upon characters, episodes, conditions, atmosphere, to
the neglect of construction. From it Cable might have woven a series of
perfect short stories: some parts indeed, like the tale of Bras Coupé,
_are_ complete short stories as they stand. The book is a gallery
rather than a single work of art.

_Dr. Sevier_, 1885, marks the beginning of Cable's later style, the
beginning of the decline in his art. The year before he had taken
up his permanent residence in Massachusetts and now as a literary
celebrity, with Boston not far, he became self-conscious and timid. His
art had matured in isolation; there had been an elemental quality about
it that had come from his very narrowness and lack of formal education.
In the classic New England atmosphere the Gallic element, the naïve
simplicity, the elfin charm that had made his early writings like no
others, faded out of his art. It was as if Burns after the Kilmarnock
edition had studied poetry at Oxford and then had settled in literary
London. _Doctor Sevier_ is not a romance at all; it is a realistic
novel of the Howells type, a study of the Civil War period as it had
passed under Cable's own eyes, with no plot and no culminating love
interest. It is a running chronicle of ten years in the lives of John
and Mary Richling, tedious at times, impeded with problem discussion
and philosophizing. Its strength lies in its characterization: the
Italian Ristofalo and his Irish wife are set off to the life; but why
should the creator of Madame Delphine and Posson Jone and Palmyre
turn to Irish and Italian characterization? The story, too, has the
same defects as _The Grandissimes_: it lacks proportion and balance.
With a large canvas Cable becomes always awkward and ineffective.
With _Bonaventure_, graphic as parts of it unquestionably are, one
positively loses patience. Its plan is chaotic. At the end, where
should come the climax of the plot, are inserted three long chapters
telling with minute and terrifying realism the incidents of a flood in
the canebrakes. It is magnificent, yet it is "lumber." It is introduced
apparently to furnish background for the death of the "Cajun," but
the "Cajun" is only an incidental figure in the book. To deserve such
"limelight" he should have been the central character who had been
hunted with increasing interest up to the end and his crime and his
punishment should have been the central theme.

With _Madame Delphine_ (1881) had closed the first and the great
period in Cable's literary career. The second period was a period of
miscellany: journalized articles on the history and the characteristics
of the Creoles, on New Orleans and its life, on Louisiana, its history
and traditions, on phases of social reform. Necessary as this work may
have been, one feels inclined to deplore it. When one has discovered
new provinces in the realm of gold one does not well, it would seem, to
lay aside his magic flute and prepare guide books to the region.

The New England atmosphere brought to life a native area in Cable. His
mother had been of New England ancestry. Moral wrestlings, questions
of reform, problems of conscience, were a part of his birthright. One
feels it even in his earliest work: he had seen, we feel, the problem
of _The Grandissimes_ before he had found the story. After his removal
to Northampton, Massachusetts, it may be said that reform work became
his real profession. Not that we criticize his choice, for life ever
is greater than mere art; we record it simply because it explains. He
formed home culture clubs for the education and the esthetic culture
of wage-earners, and conducted a magazine in the interest of the work;
he interested himself actively in the cause of the negro; so actively,
indeed, that after his _Silent South_ and _The Negro Question_ and the
problem novel _John March, Southerner_, the South practically disowned
him.

His third period begins, perhaps, with his novel _Strong Hearts_
in 1899. The pen that so long had been dipped in controversy and
journalism and philanthropic propaganda again essayed fiction, but it
was too late. The old witchery was gone. His later novels, all his
fiction indeed after _Madame Delphine_, with the exception perhaps
of parts of _Bonaventure_, read as if written by a disciple of the
earlier Cable. The verve, the sly humor, the Gallic finesse, the Creole
strangeness and charm, have disappeared. There is a tightening in the
throat as one reads the last page of _Madame Delphine_, there is a
flutter of the heart as one reads the love story of Honoré and Aurora,
but nothing grips one as he reads _The Cavalier_. A pretty little
story, undoubtedly, but is it possible that the author of it once wrote
"Posson Jone" and "Jean-ah Poquelin"? And _Gideon's Band_, a romance
with an attempt to win back the old witchery of style--it was all in
vain. Why say more?

Cable as a short story writer, a maker of miniatures with marvelous
skill of touch, was most successful perhaps with dainty femininities
of the old régime. Once, twice, thrice the light of romance glowed
upon his page. Then he became a reformer, a journalist, a man with a
problem. But he who gave to American literature _Madame Delphine_ and
_Old Creole Days_ need not fear the verdict of coming days. Already
have these works become classics.


II

The old Spanish régime in America furnished the theme of Lewis
Wallace's (1827-1905) first romance, _The Fair God_, published the year
"'Sieur George" appeared in _Scribner's_. He had returned from the
Mexican War interested in Aztec antiquities. After the Civil War, in
which he took a prominent part, he began in the intervals of his law
practice to write a military romance centering about Cortez and the
conquest, and in 1873, through the efforts of Whitelaw Reid, succeeded
in having it published in Boston. It was not, however, until 1884,
after the enormous popularity of _Ben Hur_, that it was discovered by
the reading public. It is really better in workmanship and proportions
than its more highly colored and vastly more exploited companion; it
moves strongly, its battle scenes have a resonance and excitement about
them that make them comparable even with Scott's, but its tendency
is to sentiment and melodrama: it is a blending of Prescott and
Bulwer-Lytton.

A far more distinctive study of old Spanish days is to be found in
Helen Hunt Jackson's _Ramona_, undoubtedly the strongest romance of
the period. Mrs. Jackson was a daughter of Professor Nathan W. Fiske
of Amherst, Massachusetts, and until the last decade of her life was a
resident of her native New England. Not until she was thirty-five and
had been bereft of husband and children did she attempt literature.
Her first form of expression was poetry, the short, sharp cry of
desolation, narrowly personal and feminine. Then she wrote travel
sketches and juveniles and moral essays, and then an outpouring of
fiction intense and sentimental. During the seventies and the early
eighties her work was in all the magazines. So versatile and abundant
was she that at one time Dr. Holland seriously contemplated an issue of
_Scribner's_ made up wholly of her contributions.

To almost nothing of her work, save that at the very last, did she sign
her own name. She had an aversion to publicity that became really a
mannerism. Her early work she signed variously or not at all, then for
a time she settled upon the initials "H. H." It is no secret now that
she wrote the much-speculated-upon novels _Mercy Philbrick's Choice_
and _Hetty's Strange History_ in the No-Name Series, and that the _Saxe
Holm Stories_, which furnished the literary mystery of the seventies,
were from her pen. They are love stories of the _Lamplighter_ school
of fiction, sentimental, over-intense, moralizing. General and
colorless as most of them are, they here and there display a rare
power of characterization and a sharply drawn study of background and
conditions. Parts of "Farmer Bassett's Romance," with its analysis of
the "pagan element" in New England character, are worthy of Mary E.
Wilkins. The stories, however, belong with the old rather than the new,
and have been forgotten.

It is impossible to understand "H. H." without taking into account
her New Englandism. She was a daughter of the Brahmins, in many ways
a counterpart of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps--intensely conscientious,
emotional, eager in the reform of abuses, brilliant, impetuous. While
visiting California in the mid seventies she came in contact with the
Indian problem and with characteristic impulsiveness set out to arouse
the nation. After six months of intense work in the Lenox library of
New York she published her _Century of Dishonor_, a bitter arraignment
of the national Indian policy, and at her own expense sent a copy
to every member of Congress. As a result she was appointed one of
two commissioners to examine and report upon "the condition and need
of the Mission Indians of California." Her report was thorough and
businesslike, but it accomplished little.

Then she conceived the purpose of enlarging her area of appeal by the
publication of a story--on the title page it stands _Ramona. A Story_.
The problem preceded plot and materials and background. "You have never
fully realized," she wrote only a few weeks before her death, "how
for the last four years my whole heart has been full of the Indian
cause--how I have felt, as the Quakers say, 'a concern' to work for it.
_My Century of Dishonor_ and _Ramona_ are the only things I have done
of which I am glad now."[116] And earlier than that she had written: "I
have for three or four years longed to write a story that should 'tell'
on the Indian question. But I knew I could not do it; I knew I had no
background--no local color."[117]

_Ramona_ was conceived of, therefore, as a tract, as a piece of
propaganda, like Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's _Loveliness_. It was written
with passion, flaming hot from a woman's heart--not many have been the
romances written in heat. In this one respect it may be likened to Mrs.
Stowe's great work, but to call it, as so often it has been called,
"the _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ of the Indian," is to speak with inaptness.
The book is a romance, and only a romance; its whole appeal is the
appeal of romance. She had found at last her background, but it was a
background that dominated and destroyed her problem. Unconsciously she
surrendered herself to the charm of it until to-day the book is no
more a problem novel than is the _House of the Seven Gables_, which
also makes use of the excesses and crimes of a system.

No background could be more fitted for romance: southern California
with its "delicious, languid, semi-tropic summer"; the old Spanish
régime, "half barbaric, half elegant, wholly generous and free handed,"
"when the laws of the Indies were still the law of the land, and its
old name, 'New Spain,' was an ever-present link and stimulus";[118] and
over it all like a soft, old-world atmosphere the Romish church with
its mystery and its medieval splendor. "It was a picturesque life, with
more of sentiment and gaiety in it, more also that was truly dramatic,
more romance, than will ever be seen again on those sunny shores. The
aroma of it all lingers there still."[118]

It had been the plan of the author first to elicit strongly the
reader's sympathy for Ramona and the Indian Alessandro, then to harrow
him with the persecutions wreaked upon them because they were Indians.
But the purpose fails from the start. Ramona's Indian blood is not
convincing to the reader. Until the story is well under way no one
of the characters except the Señora and the priest, not even Ramona
herself, suspects that she is not a daughter of the old Spanish house
of Ortegna. There was small trace of the Indian about her: her beauty
was by no means Indian--steel blue eyes and "just enough olive tint
in her complexion to underlie and enrich her skin without making it
swarthy." She had been reared as a member of the patriarchal household
of the Morenos, and in education and habit of life was as much Spanish
as her foster brother Felipe. And Alessandro--even the author explains
that Ramona "looked at him with no thought of his being an Indian--a
thought there had surely been no need of her having, since his skin
was not a shade darker than Felipe's." He is an Indian, we must admit,
and yet an Indian who looks like a Spaniard, an Indian who has been
educated carefully in the Mission like a priest, an Indian who can sing
Latin hymns with marvelous sweetness and play the violin like a master,
an Indian with all the characteristics of a courtly señor, more nobly
Spanish in soul than even Felipe himself, the heir of the great Moreno
estate--the imagination refuses to accept either of the two characters
as Indians. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ was worked out with the blackest of
negroes; its central figure was a typical slave, who died at the end a
victim of the system, but as one reads _Ramona_ one thinks of Indians
only as incidental figures in the background.

It is a romance of the days of the passing of the haughty old Spanish
régime. A maiden of inferior birth, or, in terms of the ordinary
continental romance, a maiden whose mother was of the peasant class,
is brought up side by side and on a perfect equality with the heir
of the noble house. He falls in love with her, but he tells of his
love neither to her nor to his proud Castilian mother, who alone in
the family knows the secret of the girl's birth. Then the maiden
clandestinely marries, out of her caste as all but the Señora supposes,
a peasant, as her mother had been a peasant, and is driven out of the
home with harshness. A tenderly reared maiden, married to poverty,
forced to live for a period in squalor, bereaved at last of her
husband, rescued by her old lover when she is at the lowest point
of her misery, and taken back to the old home where the implacable
mother has died, and there wooed until she surrenders her new future
to the high-born foster brother, who, even though he has learned of
her peasant strain, has never ceased to love her--that is the romance.
The Indians, even Alessandro, are felt to be only incidental parts of
the story. The center of the romance is the slow, faithful, thwarted,
but finally triumphing, love of Felipe. The thing that really grips
is not the incidental wrongs and sufferings of the Indians, but the
relentlessly drawn picture of the old Señora and the last chapter where
the two lovers, united at last, have left behind them the old land, no
longer theirs--its deserted and melancholy Missions, its valleys and
long pastures which ring now with the shouts of a conquering race, and
turn their faces southward into a new world and a new and more joyous
life. Then it was that Ramona blossomed into her full beauty. "A loyal
and loving heart indeed it was--loyal, loving, serene. Few husbands
so blest as the Señor Felipe Moreno. Sons and daughters came to bear
his name. The daughters were all beautiful; but the most beautiful of
them all, and, it was said, the most beloved by both father and mother,
was the eldest one: the one who bore the mother's name, and was only
step-daughter to the Señor--Ramona, daughter of Alessandro the Indian."
And so the romance ends, as romance should end, with all trouble and
uncertainty a mere cloud in the far past.

_Ramona_ is a bombshell that all unknowingly to its creator turned
out to be not a bombshell at all, but an exquisite work of art. The
intensity and the passion, which came from the viewing of abuses and
the desire to work reform, wove themselves into the very substance of
it. It is a blending of realism and romanticism and ethic earnestness
into a rounded romance. More and more is it evident that aside from
this and perhaps two or three sonnets, nothing else that its author
wrote is of permanent value. _Ramona_, however, is alone enough to give
her a place in American literature, a place indeed with the two or
three best writers of American romance.


III

The French occupation of the northern area of the continent has also
proved a rich literary field. It seems, as Howells has observed, that
the French have touched America "with romance wherever they have
touched it at all as soldiers, priests, exiles, or mere adventurers."
The bare history of their adventures is, as Parkman has recorded it,
romance. Cooper caught a glimpse of the richness of the field, and a
grand-niece of his, Constance Fenimore Woolson, made a new discovery
of it during the "local color" period that followed the advent of Bret
Harte. Her collection of stories, _Castle Nowhere_, 1875, pictured with
graphic realism the life of the rude settlements along the upper lakes,
but once or twice she dipped her pen into pure romance and became a
pioneer. Her sketch, "The Old Agency," which deals with the ancient
building at Mackinac with its memories of the Jesuits, and her strong
story "St. Clair Flats" reveal what she might have done had she not
turned her attention to other regions.

The field that she abandoned was taken later by Mary Hartwell
Catherwood, a native of Ohio, the first woman novelist of the period
to be born west of the Alleghenies. She was, moreover, the first woman
of any prominence in American literary ranks to acquire a college
education, graduating not in the East, as one might suppose, but from
a new college in the new West. The fact is significant. After a brief
period of teaching in Illinois, she became a newspaper writer and a
general literary worker, and she published her first book, _A Woman in
Armor_, as early as 1875. Juveniles, marketable stories, sketches,
critiques, flowed from her pen for nearly twenty years, and yet in
1888 she had settled upon no fixed style or field of work and she was
completely unknown to the reading public. She seems to have been trying
the literary currents of the time. Her first experiment, not to mention
her juveniles, was her _Craque-O'-Doom_, 1881, an E. P. Roe-like novel
of the _He Fell in Love with His Wife_ type, but it made no impression.
"Don't you know," she makes one of her characters say in words that
are an explanation, "that the key of the times is not sentiment but
practical common sense? Just after the war when the country was
wrought to a high pitch of nerves, current literature overflowed with
self-sacrifice. According to that showing--and current literature ought
to be a good reflection of the times--everybody was running around
trying to outdo his neighbor in the broken heart and self-renunciation
business." Next she assayed to enter the "practical sense" school, and
her "Serena," _Atlantic_, 1882, with its unsparingly realistic picture
of a death and funeral in an Ohio farmhouse, shows that she might have
made herself the Miss Jewett or the Miss Wilkins of her native region.
But minute studies of contemporary life failed to satisfy the demands
within her. She awoke at last to her true vocation over a volume of
Parkman, let us suppose over the sixth and the sixteenth chapters of
_The Old Régime in Canada_. From the glowing pages of this master of
narrative she caught a full breath of romance and for the first time
she realized her powers.

_The Romance of Dollard_, which appeared in the _Century_ in 1888,
and the other romances that swiftly followed, are no more like the
earlier work of the author than if they had been written by another
hand. It was as if a new and brilliant writer had suddenly appeared.
The suddenness, however, was only a seeming suddenness: the romances
were in reality the culmination of a long and careful period of
apprenticeship. Her style, to be sure, had been influenced by Parkman:
one cannot read a page without feeling that. There is the same
incisive, nervous manner; the same impetuous rush and vigor as if the
wild Northern winds were filling the paragraphs; the same short and
breathless sentences in descriptions of action, packed with excitement
and dramatic force. Yet there is vastly more than Parkman in her work.
There is a wealth of poetry and spiritual force in it, a healthy
sentiment, a skilful selecting and blending of romantic elements, and
a Hardy-like power to catch the spirit of a locality so as to make it
almost a personality in the tragedy. This background of wilderness,
this monotone of the savage North, is never absent. At the beginning
of every story and every chapter is struck, as it were, the dominating
key. Here is the opening paragraph of "The Windigo":

    The cry of those rapids in Ste. Marie's River called the Sault
    could be heard at all hours through the settlement on the
    rising shore and into the forest beyond. Three quarters of a
    mile of frothing billows, like some colossal instrument, never
    ceased playing music down an inclined channel until the trance
    of winter locked it up. At August dusk, when all that shaggy
    world was sinking to darkness, the gushing monotone became very
    distinct.

These rapids with their mournful cry become a character in the story;
they dominate every page until at the end they rescue the hero, bearing
in his arms the frightful "windigo," in a page of action that stirs
the blood. The Canadian wilds of the _coureurs de bois_, the roar of
swollen rivers, the sudden storms that lash the forests, the terror and
the mystery of night in the savage woods, and evermore the river, the
black St. Lawrence--one feels them like a presence. Like Cable, too,
she can make her reader share the superstitious thrill of the region.
Her _windigos_ and _loup-garous_ lay hold on one like a hand out of the
dark.

Amid this wild landscape a wild social order--savage Indians,
explorers, _voyageurs_, flaming Jesuits, _habitants_, _grands
seigneurs_, soldiers of fortune--Frontenac, Tonty, Dollard, La Salle,
Bigot, Montcalm, and perhaps the lost dauphin, son of Louis XVI and
Marie Antoinette--and in the heart of it all and the moving force of it
all, beautiful women, exiles from France, exquisite maidens educated
in convents, charmingly innocent, lithe Indian girls, Indian queens,
robust daughters of _habitants_. Swords flash in duel and battle, love
rules utterly even such stormy souls as La Salle's, plots with roots
that extend even across the ocean into France are worked out in secret
fastness--with such material and such background romantic combinations
are endless.

The strength of Mrs. Catherwood's work lies in its tensity and
excitement, its vigor of narrative, its picturesque setting, its
power of characterization. From this very element of strength comes a
weakness. Romance must tread ever near the verge of the impossible,
and at times she pushes her situations too far and falls over into
the realm of melodrama. In _The White Islander_, for instance, the
Indians have the hero burning at the stake when suddenly Marie, the
French "white islander" who loves him, leaps into the circle of flames,
declaring that she will die with him. Then realizing there is no hope
of saving the two, the Jesuit father unites them in marriage, side by
side at the stake, while the flames are crackling, but the moment he
pronounces them man and wife the yells of the rescuing party resound
from the near forest and they are saved.

There is another weakness, one that lies far deeper, one indeed that
applies to the whole school of historical novelists that so flourished
in the nineties. The author had a passion for "documenting" her
romances. She studied her sources as carefully as if she were to write
a history; she used all the known facts that could be found; then she
supplemented these known facts copiously from her imagination. For
her _Romance of Dollard_ she got Parkman to write an introduction
commending its historical accuracy; she strewed the chapters with
corroborating footnotes; and she tried in all ways to give the
impression that it was a genuine piece of history. But there is no
evidence that Dollard ever married, and there is not a scrap even of
tradition that his bride died with him at the battle of the Long Saut.
To make an historical personage like Dollard or La Salle or Tonty the
leading, speaking character in a romance is to falsify the facts.
Historical romance is not history; it is pure fiction, true only to the
spirit of the age and the place represented and to the fundamentals of
human character and the ways of the human soul. It should be worked out
always with non-historical characters.

Of Mrs. Catherwood's romances the best is _The Lady of Fort St.
John_, made so perhaps on account of the unique character Rossignol.
Her strongest work, however, lies in her shorter stories. It was a
peculiarity of the whole period that nearly all of its writers of
fiction should have been restricted in their powers of creation to the
small effort rather than to the large. It was the age of cameos rather
than canvases. Her volume, _The Chase of St. Castin and Other Stories
of the French in the New World_, and her _Mackinac and Lake Stories_,
which deal with the mixed populations dwelling on the islands of the
Great Lakes, show her at her highest level. Her versatility, however,
was remarkable. Her _Spirit of an Illinois Town_, a realistic story
of a typical boom town, has in it the very soul of the new West, and
her _The Days of Jeanne d'Arc_, written after much observation of the
Vosges and Lorraine peasants in France and a year of work in the best
libraries, is as brilliant a piece of historical work as was produced
during the period.

Whatever her failings as a romancer she must be reckoned with always
as perhaps the earliest American pioneer of that later school of
historical fiction writers that so flourished in the nineties. After
her stirring tales had appeared, _Alice of Old Vincennes_, and
_Monsieur Beaucaire_, and _The Seats of the Mighty_, and all the
others, were foregone conclusions.


IV

The latest field in America for romance was that created by the Civil
War. The patriarchal life of the great Southern plantations had in
it a peculiar picturesqueness, especially when viewed through the
fading smoke of the conflict that destroyed it. An old aristocracy
had been overthrown by Northern invaders--field enough for romance.
It had been a peculiar aristocracy--a "democratic aristocracy," as
it was fond of explaining itself, "not of blood but of influence and
of influence exerted among equals,"[119] but none the less it was an
aristocracy in the heart of democratic America, Roman in its patrician
pride, its jealously guarded principle of caste, its lavish wealth,
and its slavery centered, social régime. Like all aristocracies it
was small in numbers. "Only about 10,781 families held as many as
fifty or more slaves in 1860, and these may, without great error, be
taken as representing the number of the larger productive estates of
the South."[120] But of these estates very many were only commercial
establishments with little social significance. The real aristocracy
was to be found in a few old families, notably in Virginia, in numbers
not exceeding the New England aristocracy of the Brahmins, which
had been set apart by a principle so radically different. Both were
narrowly provincial rather than national, both were centered within
themselves, both were intolerant and self-satisfied, and both alike
disappeared in the flames of the war to make way for the new national
spirit which was to rule the new age.

To feel the atmosphere of this Southern old régime, this exclusive
aristocracy, far older than the republic, one must read Thomas Nelson
Page's _The Old South_, or his earliest published sketch, "Old
Yorktown," _Scribner's Monthly_, 1881, a sketch that is in reality the
preface to his romances. It may be profitable, perhaps, to quote a few
paragraphs. After his description of the old custom house of York, the
first erected in America, he writes:

    There the young bucks in velvet and ruffles gathered to talk
    over the news or plan new plots of surprising a governor or
    a lady-love. It was there the haughty young aristocrats, as
    they took snuff or fondled their hounds, probably laughed over
    the story of how that young fellow, Washington, who, because
    he had acquired some little reputation fighting Indians, had
    thought himself good enough for anybody, had courted Mary Cary,
    and very properly had been asked out of the house of the old
    Colonel, on the ground that his daughter had been accustomed
    to ride in her own coach.... It would be difficult to find a
    fitter illustration of the old colonial Virginia life than
    that which this little town affords. It was a typical Old
    Dominion borough, and was one of the eight boroughs into which
    Virginia was originally divided. One or two families owned the
    place, ruling with a sway despotic in fact, though in the main
    temperate and just, for the lower orders were too dependent
    and inert to dream of thwarting the "gentlefolk," and the
    southerner uncrossed was ever the most amiable of men.

Among these ruling families were the Nelsons and the Pages:

    The founder of the Page family in Virginia was "Colonel John
    Page," who, thinking that a principality in Utopia might prove
    better than an acre in Middlesex, where he resided, came over
    in 1656. He had an eye for "bottom land," and left his son
    Matthew an immense landed estate, which he dutifully increased
    by marrying Mary Mann, the rich heiress of Timber Neck. Their
    son, Mann, was a lad thirteen years old when his father died.
    After being sent to Eton, he came back and took his place at
    the "Council Board," as his fathers did before him and as his
    descendants did after him.

It reminds one of Hawthorne's account of his own family in the
introduction to _The Scarlet Letter_.

Before the war the South had had its romancers. Kennedy and Simms and
others had tried early to do for it what Cooper had done for the more
northerly area. Then in the fifties John Esten Cooke (1830-1886), the
best novelist the South produced during the earlier period, put forth
a series of Virginia romances, the strongest of which undoubtedly was
_The Virginia Comedians_, 1854, republished in 1883. The strength of
the book, as indeed of all of Cooke's romances, lay in its vivacity,
its enthusiasm, its stirring pictures of the more picturesque elements
of the old Southern life: barbecues, horse races, contests between
fiddlers, the doings of negroes, and the like. Its weakness, in
addition to hasty workmanship and lack of cumulative power, was the
common weakness of all the mid-century fiction. It had a _St. Elmo_
atmosphere. Like all the rest of his fiction, it is tainted with
profuse sentimentality, with sensationalism, with a straining for
the unexpected and the picturesque. Panels in the wall slide apart
mysteriously, accidents happen in the nick of time, villains in the
form of French dancing masters are foiled at last by the hero. One is
in old Williamsburg, to be sure, "the Southern Boston" in its golden
prime, and is impressed with its courtly manners, its beautiful women,
its chivalrous heroes, its frequent duels; yet one is never quite
sure whether it is the real South or whether it is not after all the
story-world of an old-fashioned romancer who perhaps has never visited
the South at all save in imagination. It is romanticism overdone; it is
everything too much. Even its sprightliness and its occasional touches
of realism cannot rescue it from oblivion.

A dwelling upon the merely quaint and unusual in the local environment
to arouse laughter and interest was perhaps the leading source of
failure in Southern fiction even to the time of the later seventies.
From the days of Longstreet's _Georgia Scenes_, pictures there had been
of the "cracker," the mountaineer, the Pike, the conventional negro
of the Jim Crow and the Zip Coon or the Uncle Tom type, the colonel
of the fire-eating, whisky-drinking variety, but there had been no
painstaking picture of real Southern life drawn with loving hand, not
for mirth and wonder, not for the pointing of a moral, but for sympathy
and comprehension. Horace E. Scudder as late as 1880 noted that "the
South is still a foreign land to the North, and travelers are likely
to bring back from it only what does not grow in the North."[121] It
was true also of travelers in its books as well, for the most of its
books had been written for Northern publication. The first writer
really to picture the South from the heart outward, to show it not as
a picturesque spectacle but as a quivering section of human life, was
Thomas Nelson Page (1853----), whose first distinctive story, "Marse
Chan," appeared as late as 1884.

At the opening of the Civil War Page was eight years old. During the
years of conflict his home, one of the great plantations of Virginia,
was a center of Confederate activities, and time and again the region
about it was overrun by the invading armies. It was a marvelous
training for the future novelist. He had been born at precisely the
right moment. He had been a part of the old régime during the early
impressionable years that are golden in a life, the years that color
and direct the imagination in all its future workings, and he was young
enough when the era closed to adapt himself to the new order. At the
close of the war he studied the classics with his father, a scholar
of the old Southern type, took the course in the Virginia university
presided over by Robert E. Lee, studied law at the University of
Virginia, and then from 1875 to 1893 practised law in Richmond. These
are the essentials of his biography.

It was while he was establishing himself in his profession at the
old capital of the Confederacy that he did his first literary work.
_Scribner's Monthly_ had heard from the ruined South the first
murmurings of a new literature and was giving it every encouragement.
It had published King's series of articles on _The Great South_, it had
discovered Cable in 1873, it had encouraged Lanier, and in January,
1876, it had begun to issue a series of negro dialect poems by Irwin
Russell, a native of Port Gibson, Mississippi, poems that undoubtedly
had been suggested by the Pike balladry, and yet were so fresh and
original in material and manner that they in turn became a strong
influence on their times. That the poems launched Page in his literary
career he has freely admitted.

    Personally I owe much to him. It was the light of his genius
    shining through his dialect poems--first of dialect poems then
    and still first--that led my feet in the direction I have since
    tried to follow. Had he but lived, we should have had proof of
    what might be done with true negro dialect; the complement of
    "Uncle Remus."[122]

In April, 1877, came his first contribution to _Scribner's_, "Uncle
Gabe's White Folks," a dialect poem of the Russell order, yet one that
strikes the keynote of all its author's later work:

        Fine ole place? Yes, sah, 't is so;
          An' mighty fine people my white folks war--
        But you ought ter 'a' seen it years ago,
          When de Marster an' de Mistis lived up dyah;
        When de niggers 'd stan' all roun' de do',
        Like grains o' corn on de cornhouse flo'.

Together with Armistead C. Gordon of Staunton, Virginia, he wrote
other ballads and poetical studies which were issued as a joint
volume a decade later with the title _Befo' de War, Echoes in Negro
Dialect_. But in the meantime he had been experimenting with prose
dialect, and late in the seventies he submitted to the magazine a long
story told wholly in the negro vernacular. It was a bold venture:
even _Scribner's_ hesitated. They might print humorous dialect poems
and Macon's "Aphorisms from the Quarters" in their "Bric-à-Brac"
department, but a serious story all of it in a dialect that changed
many words almost beyond recognition--they held it for over four
years. When it did appear, however, as "Marse Chan" in 1884, it seemed
that their fears had been groundless. It was everywhere hailed as
a masterpiece. "Unc' Edinburg's Drowndin'," "Meh Lady," and others
quickly followed, and in 1887 the series was issued as a collection
with the title _In Ole Virginia_, a book that is to Page what _The Luck
of Roaring Camp_ is to Harte and _Old Creole Days_ is to Cable.

The method of Page in these early stories was original. The phrase
"befo' de war" explains it. He would reproduce the atmosphere of
the old South, or what is more nearly the truth, the atmosphere of
aristocratic old Virginia plantation life. "No doubt the phrase 'Before
the war' is at times somewhat abused. It is just possible that there is
a certain Caleb Balderstonism in the speech at times. But for those who
knew the old county as it was then, and contrast it with what it has
become since, no wonder it seems that even the moonlight was richer and
mellower 'before the war' than it is now. For one thing, the moonlight
as well as the sunlight shines brighter in our youth than in maturer
age."[123] But Page expressed the phrase in negro dialect--"befo'
de war." The story of the vanished era, the gallantry and spirit of
its men, the beauty of its women, the nameless glow that hovers over
remembered youthful days, he would show through the medium of the
negro. It is exquisite art done with seemingly impossible materials.
An old slave tells the story in his own picturesque way and wholly
from his own viewpoint, yet so simply, so inevitably, that one forgets
the art and surrenders oneself as one surrenders to actual life with
its humor and its pathos and its tragedy. It is romance--an idealized
world, and an idealized negro. Surely no freed slave ever told a
consecutive tale like that, perfect in its proportions and faultless in
its lights and shadows, yet such a criticism never for a moment occurs
to the reader. The illusion is complete. The old South lives again and
we are in it both in sympathy and comprehension.

In the decade that followed this first book Page gave himself to
the writing of short stories and studies of Southern life, but only
once or twice did he catch again the magic atmosphere of the earlier
tales. _Two Little Confederates_ is exquisite work, but _Elsket_,
which followed, was full of inferior elements. Its negro stories,
"George Washington's Last Duel" and "P'laski's Tunament," are only good
vaudeville--they show but the surface of negro life; "Run to Seed" is
pitched almost with shrillness, and "Elsket" and "A Soldier of the
Empire," the one dealing with the last of her race, the other with the
last of his order, are European sketches a trifle theatrical in spite
of their touches of pathos.

_Red Rock_ (1898) marks the beginning of Page's second period, the
period of long romances. Once before with _On Newfound River_ he had
tried the border canvas and he had failed save in certain of his
characterizations and detached episodes. Now with _Red Rock_ he set
out to write what should stand among his works as _The Grandissimes_
stands among Cable's. Its sub-title, _A Chronicle of Reconstruction_,
explains at once its strength and its weakness. Its author approached
it as Mrs. Jackson had approached _Ramona_, with a purpose, and, unlike
Mrs. Jackson, he accomplished his purpose. The wrongs of the South
during the period are made vivid, but at the expense of the novel.
The opening pages are perfect. Chapter two with its merry-making
at the great plantation, and all its glimpses of traits and scenes
peculiarly Southern, leads the reader to feel that he has in his hands
at last the great romance of Southern life. There is the background of
an ancient wrong. The red stain on the great rock is supposed to be
the blood of the first mistress of the plantation murdered there by
an Indian; and the haunting picture over the fireplace of the first
master who had killed the Indian with his bare hands, then had glared
from his portrait until he had become the dominating center of the
plantation, is felt to be the dominating center also of the romance
as the Bras Coupé episode is the motif of _The Grandissimes_. But one
is soon disappointed. The problem dominates the romance; the book is
primarily a treatise, a bit of special pleading. It is undoubtedly all
true, but one set out to read a romance of the old South. True as its
facts may be, from the art side it is full of weaknesses. Leech, the
carpet-bagger, and Still, the rascally overseer, are villains of the
melodramatic type; they are a dead black in character from first to
last. The turning points of the action are accidents, the atmosphere
is too often that of _St. Elmo_. When the master is killed in battle
the picture of the Indian killer falls to the hearth, and again when
Leech is beating to death the wounded heir to the estate it falls upon
the assassin as if in vengeance and nearly crushes him. The plot is
chaotic. We are led to believe that Blair Cary, the doctor's daughter,
who in the opening chapters is as charming as even Polly herself in
_In Ole Virginia_, is to be the central figure, but Blair is abandoned
for no real reason and Miss Welsh, a Northern girl, finishes the tale.
Jacquelin, too, who dominates the earlier pages, peters out, and it
is not clear why Middleton, the Northern soldier, is brought in near
the close of the book, perhaps to marry Blair, who by every right of
romance belongs to Jacquelin. It is enough to say that the story is
weak just as _Gabriel Conroy_ is weak, just as _The Grandissimes_ and
_Pembroke_ are weak. The materials are better than the construction.

The fame of Page then must stand or fall, as Harte's must, or Cable's
or Miss Wilkins's, on the strength of his first book. His essays on
the Old South and other volumes are charming and valuable studies, his
novels are documents in the history of a stirring era, but his _In
Ole Virginia_ is a work of art, one of the real classics of American
literature.

Several others have used Virginia as a background for romance, notably
Mary Virginia Terhune, (1831----), who wrote under the pseudonym
"Marion Harland" something like twenty novels, the most of them in
the manner in vogue before 1870, and F. Hopkinson Smith (1838-1915),
whose _Colonel Carter of Cartersville_ (1891) is one of the most
sympathetic studies of Southern life ever written. Its sly humor, its
negro dialect, its power of characterization, its tender sentiment, its
lovable, whimsical central figure, and its glimpses of an old South
that has forever disappeared, make it one of the few books of the
period concerning which one may even now prophesy with confidence.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  GEORGE W. CABLE. _Old Creole Days_, 1879; _The Grandissimes_,
  1880; _Madame Delphine_, 1881; _The Creoles of Louisiana_, 1884;
  _Dr. Sevier_, 1885; _The Silent South_, 1885; _Bonaventure_,
  1888; _Strange True Stories of Louisiana_, 1889; _The Negro
  Question_, 1890; _The Busy Man's Bible_, 1891; _John March,
  Southerner_, 1894; _Strong Hearts_, 1899; _The Cavalier_, 1901;
  _Byelow Hill_, 1902; _Kincaid's Battery_, 1908; _Gideon's Band_,
  1914; _The Amateur Garden_, 1914.

  HELEN HUNT JACKSON. _Verses_, 1870, 1874; _Bits of Travel_, 1872;
  _Saxe Holm Stories_, 1873; _Bits of Talk About Home Matters_,
  1873; _Bits of Talk for Young People_, 1876; _Mercy Philbrick's
  Choice_ (No Name Series), 1876; _Hetty's Strange History_ (No
  Name Series), 1877; _Bits of Travel at Home_, 1878; _Nelly's
  Silver Mine_, 1878; _Saxe Holm Stories_ (Second Series), 1878;
  _The Story of Boon_ (a Poem), 1879; _A Century of Dishonor_,
  1881; _Mammy Tittleback and Her Family_, 1881; _The Training of
  Children_, 1882; _The Hunter Cats of Connorloa_, 1884; _Ramona_
  [First Published in the _Christian Union_], 1884; _Zeph_, 1886;
  _Glimpses of Three Coasts_, 1886; _Sonnets and Lyrics_, 1886;
  _Between Whiles_, 1887.

  MARY HARTWELL CATHERWOOD. _A Woman in Armor_, 1875;
  _Craque-O'-Doom_, 1881; _Rocky Fork_, 1882; _Old Caravan Days_,
  1884; _The Secrets of Roseladies_, 1888; _The Romance of
  Dollard_, 1889; _The Story of Tonty_, 1890; _The Lady of Fort St.
  John_, 1891; _Old Kaskaskia_, _The White Islander_, 1893; _The
  Chase of St. Castin_, 1894; _The Spirit of an Illinois Town_,
  _Little Renault_, _The Days of Jeanne d'Arc_, 1897; _Heroes of
  the Middle West_, 1898; _Spanish Peggy_, 1899; _The Queen of the
  Swamp_, 1899; _Lazarre_, 1901.

  JOHN ESTEN COOKE. _Leather Stocking and Silk; or, Hunter John
  Myers and His Times_, 1854; _The Virginia Comedians; or Old Days
  in the Old Dominion_, 1854; _The Youth of Jefferson_, 1854;
  _Ellie; or, The Human Comedy_, 1855; _The Last of the Foresters_,
  1856; _Henry St. John, Gentleman: a Tale of 1874-75_, 1859;
  _A Life of Stonewall Jackson_, 1863; _Stonewall Jackson: a
  Military Biography_, 1866; _Surrey of Eagle's Nest_, 1866; _The
  Wearing of the Gray_, 1867; _Mohun; or the Last Days of Lee and
  His Paladins_, 1868; _Fairfax, the Maker of Greenway Court_,
  1868; _Hilt to Hilt_, 1869; _Out of the Foam_, 1869; _Hammer and
  Rapier_, 1870; _The Heir to Gaymount_, 1870; _A Life of General
  R. E. Lee_, 1871; _Dr. Vandyke_, 1872; _Her Majesty the Queen_,
  1873; _Pretty Mrs. Gaston, and Other Stories_, 1874; _Justin
  Hartley_, 1874; _Canolles: the Fortunes of a Partisan of '81_,
  1877; _Professor Presseusee, Materialist and Inventor_, 1878;
  _Mr. Grantley's Idea_, 1879; _Stories of the Old Dominion_, 1879;
  _The Virginia Bohemians_, 1880; _Virginia_, 1885; _The Maurice
  Mystery_, 1885; _My Lady Pokahontas_, 1885.

  THOMAS NELSON PAGE. _In Ole Virginia_, 1887; _Two Little
  Confederates_, _Befo' de War_, 1888; _Elsket and Other Stories_,
  _On Newfound River_, _The Old South_, _Among the Camps_, 1891;
  _Pastime Stories_, _The Burial of the Guns_, 1894; _Social Life
  in Old Virginia Before the War_, _The Old Gentleman of the Black
  Stock_, 1896; _Two Prisoners_, 1897; _Red Rock, a Chronicle
  of Reconstruction_, 1898; _Santa Claus's Partner_, 1899; _A
  Captured Santa Claus_, 1902; _Gordon Keith_, 1903; _The Negro:
  the Southerner's Problem_, 1904; _Bred in the Bone_, 1905; _The
  Coast of Bohemia_ [poems], 1906; _Novels, Stories, Sketches, and
  Poems_. Plantation Edition. 12 volumes, 1906; _Under the Crust_,
  1907; _The Old Dominion--Her Making and Her Manners_, _Robert E.
  Lee, the Southerner_, _Tommy Trot's Visit to Santa Claus_, 1908;
  _John Marvel, Assistant_, 1909; _Robert E. Lee, Man and Soldier_,
  1912; _The Land of the Spirit_, 1913.



CHAPTER XIII

LATER POETS OF THE SOUTH


The year 1866 saw the low-water mark, perhaps, not only of the American
novel, but of American literature generally. On May 12 of this year
_The Round Table_ of New York, in an editorial entitled "Plain Talk
with American Writers," declared that "The literary field was never so
barren, never so utterly without hope of life.... The era of genius
and vigor that seemed ready to burst on us only a few months ago has
not been fulfilled. There is a lack of boldness and power. Men do not
seem to strike out in new paths as bravely as of old." Then it issued a
challenge to the new generation of literary men: "We have very little
strong, original writing. Who will awaken us from this sleep? Who
will first show us the first signs of a genuine literary reviving?...
If ever there was a time when a magnificent field opened for young
aspirants for literary renown, that time is the present. Every door is
wide open."

We know now that the reviving was close at hand. Within five years the
flood-gates were opened, and Clemens, Harte, Hay, Burroughs, Howells,
Miller, and all the group were publishing their first work. Among
others a young Georgia school-teacher felt the thrill as he read the
_Round Table_ call, and he made haste to send to the paper a budget
of poems--"Barnacles," "Laughter in the Senate," and some others, to
be, if possible, the first fruits of this new period. A year later, in
1867, he went himself to New York to bring out a novel, _Tiger Lilies_,
a book sent forth with eagerness and infinite hope, for was not every
door wide open? It is a book to linger over: crude as it is, it was the
first real voice from the new South.


I

The little group of Southern poets that had gathered itself about Paul
Hamilton Hayne (1831-1886), the chief of whom were Margaret Junkin
Preston (1820-1897), Francis Orrery Ticknor (1822-1874), and Henry
Timrod (1829-1867)--poets who were contemporary with Bayard Taylor and
his group--belongs rather with the period before the war than with the
new national period that followed it. They were poets of beauty like
Stoddard, singing the music of Keats and Tennyson and the old Cavalier
poets--dreamers, makers of dainty conceits and pretty similes, full of
grace and often of real melody, but with little originality either of
manner or message. The war came into their lives sharply and suddenly,
a cataclysm that shook all their plans into ruins about them. It swept
away their property, their homes, their libraries, even their health.
For a time during the conflict they turned their poetry into martial
channels: invectives on the invading "Huns," rallying songs, battle
lyrics, patriotic calls. When the war was over they found themselves
powerless to adjust themselves. Hayne before the war was a graceful
sonneteer, a worshiper of classic beauty, a writer of odes, not to the
nightingale but to the mocking bird:

        A golden pallor of voluptuous light
        Filled the warm southern night:
        The moon, clear orbed, above the sylvan scene
        Moved like a stately queen,
        So rife with conscious beauty all the while,
        What could she do but smile
        At her own perfect loveliness below,
        Glassed in the tranquil flow
        Of crystal fountains and unruffled streams?

Even his war poems are gentle and softly poetic. After the war he
lapsed into lyrics of retrospect and contemplation with a minor note
always of gentle resignation. He lived to write elegies on Timrod and
Lanier and to make himself the threnodist of the old South:

        Forgotten! Tho' a thousand years should pass,
          Methinks our air will throb with memory's thrills,
        A common grief weigh down the faltering grass,
          A pathos shroud the hills;
        Waves roll lamenting; autumn sunsets yearn
        For the old time's return.

A more sensitively imaginative poet was Timrod, yet even he was not
strong enough to lead his time and become more than a minor singer. He
was of the old South and would have been wholly out of place in the new
even had he lived. More fire and Hebraic rage there were in him than in
Hayne, indeed than in any other American poet save Whittier. Once or
twice when his life was shaken to the center by the brutalities of war
he burst into cries that still quiver with passion:

        Oh! standing on this desecrated mold,
        Methinks that I behold,
        Lifting her bloody daisies up to God,
        Spring kneeling on the sod,
        And calling with the voice of all her rills,
        Upon the ancient hills
        To fall and crush the tyrants and the slaves
        That turn her meads to graves.

And again at the climax of "The Cotton Boll":

        Oh, help us, Lord! to roll the crimson flood
        Back on its course, and, while our banners wing
        Northward, strike with us! till the Goth shall cling
        To his own blasted altar-stones, and crave
        Mercy; and we shall grant it, and dictate
        The lenient future of his fate
        There, where some rotting ships and crumbling quays
        Shall one day mark the port which ruled the Western seas.

And what other poet save Whittier could after victory burst into
Hebraic ecstasy of joy like this?

        Our foes are fallen! Flash, ye wires!
          The mighty tidings far and nigh!
          Ye cities! write them on the sky
        In purple and in emerald fires!

        They came with many a haughty boast;
          Their threats were heard on every breeze;
          They darkened half the neighboring seas;
        And swooped like vultures on the coast.

        False recreants in all knightly strife,
          Their way was wet with woman's tears;
          Behind them flamed the toil of years,
        And bloodshed stained the sheaves of life.

        They fought as tyrants fight, or slaves;
          God gave the dastards to our hands;
          Their bones are bleaching on the sands,
        Or moldering slow in shallow graves.

But it was like pouring molten bullet lead from Satsuma vase. The
fragile, beautiful life that should have known nothing harsher than the
music of poets and the laughter of children and lovers, broke under the
strain of war and poverty and neglect, and his life went out miserably
at thirty-eight.


II

Sidney Lanier's life was as brief as Timrod's and as full of harshness
and poverty, but the end of the war found him young enough to have
resiliency and the ability to adapt himself to the new régime of which
willy-nilly he found himself a part. He was thirteen years younger
than Timrod and twelve years younger than Hayne. His temperament was
different: he was broader in his sympathies--no man ever threw himself
more completely into the cause of the Confederacy, yet a decade after
the war we find him with a nation-wide vision of the new era; he was
more democratic of soul than Hayne or Timrod--he could worship beauty
as passionately as they and he could also write ballads of the Pike
County order; he suffered just as acutely from the war as did Timrod,
yet one may search long through his poems or his letters for a single
despondent note. He was buoyant and impetuous: his winning of literary
recognition in the face of physical disabilities seemingly insuperable
places him beside Parkman.

In point of time Lanier was the first of what may be called the Georgia
school of writers. It is notable that the State most harshly dealt with
by the war was the first to arise from its ruins, the first to receive
the vision of a new South, and the first to catch the new national
spirit. Macon, Lanier's birthplace, had about it all the best elements
of the Old South. It was the seat of an influential college for women,
it possessed a cultured society, and it had an art atmosphere--music,
poetry, literary conversation--unusual in that period outside of New
England and some of the larger cities. Lanier's home was in every way
ideal: his father, a lawyer of the old Southern type, was "a man of
considerable literary acquirements and exquisite taste," and, moreover,
like most Southerners of his class, he had a library stocked with
the older classics, a treasure-house of which his son, bookish from
his earliest childhood, made the fullest use. "Sir Walter Scott, the
romances of Froissart, the adventures of Gil Bias," all the older
poets--he read them until he seemed to his boyish companions as one
who lived apart in a different world from theirs.

His formal schooling was meager, yet at fifteen he was able to enter
the sophomore class of Oglethorpe University, a small denominational
college at Midway, Georgia, and in 1860 he was ready for graduation
with the highest honors of his class. Compared with the larger Northern
institutions, the college was pitifully primitive; Lanier in later
years could even call it "farcical," nevertheless it is doubtful if
any university could have done more for the young poet. It brought him
in contact with a man, James Woodrow of the department of science, a
man who was to become later the president of the University of South
Carolina and the author of the famous book, _An Examination of Certain
Recent Assaults on Physical Science_ (1873).

    "Such a man," says his biographer, "coming into the life of
    Lanier at a formative period, influenced him profoundly. He set
    his mind going in the direction which he afterwards followed
    with great zest, the value of science in modern life and its
    relation to poetry and religion. He also revealed to him the
    meaning of genuine scholarship."[124]

This influence it may have been which made Lanier in later years so
tolerant and so broad of view. The attraction between pupil and teacher
seems to have been mutual. Through Woodrow it was that Lanier received
his appointment as tutor in the college, a position which he held
during the year that followed.

It was a year of close study and of wide reading. Throughout his
undergraduate period he had read enormously: often in unusual books:
Burton's _Anatomy of Melancholy_, Jeremy Taylor, Keats's _Endymion_,
Chatterton, Christopher North, Tennyson, whose _Maud_ he learned by
heart, Carlyle, and a long list of others. "Without a doubt it was
Carlyle who first enkindled in Lanier a love of German literature and a
desire to know more of that language." He studied with eagerness. His
dream now was to enter a German university and do scholarly work as
Basil Gildersleeve had just done, and Thomas R. Price, two other young
men of the new South, but suddenly as he dreamed all his life plans
fell in ruins about him. The crash of war resounded in his ears. All in
a moment he found himself in an atmosphere of fierce excitement. The
college became an armed camp; Macon became a military center. Before
he had fairly realized it the young tutor, just turned twenty, had
enlisted in the first company to leave the State, and was marching away
to the front.

His career as a soldier need not detain us. It was varied and it was
four years long and it ended dramatically on the stormy night of
November 2, 1864, when the Federal cruiser _Santiago-de-Cuba_ picked
up the blockade runner _Lucy_ off Wilmington, North Carolina, and sent
her crew, among them signal officer Lanier, to Point Lookout prison. A
fellow prisoner and a close friend during the hard days that followed
was another Southern poet, John Bannister Tabb (1845-1909), whose brief
lyrics as we know them to-day possess beauty and finish and often
distinction.

Lanier was released in March, 1865, and after incredible hardships
succeeded in reaching his home in Macon more dead than alive to find
his mother dying of consumption. The poet's tendency to the disease
was congenital; the prison hardships and exposure had broken down his
physical vigor; and two years later while teaching a small country
school in Prattville, Alabama, as he was forced to do by the poverty
of the South and his own lack of money or profession, hemorrhages from
the lungs began, and the rest of his life, like Stevenson's under the
same conditions, was a fight with tuberculosis, a perpetual changing
from place to place that he might find some climate that would afford
relief. With unparalleled heroism he fought off the disease for fifteen
years, and under physical weakness that would have sent the average
man to his bed and his grave he made himself recognized as the leading
poetic voice of the new South, and one of the few poetic voices of his
era.

His life divides itself into three periods: the first one his time of
dreaming, as he himself styled it--his boyhood, ending with the call to
arms in 1861; the second his period of storm and stress, his period of
struggle and uncertainty and final adjustment, ending in 1873 with his
determination to devote his life to music and poetry; and finally the
seven or eight years in which eagerly and unremittingly, with failing
health and long periods of total incapacity, he wrote all those books
and poems for which he is now known.


III

Lanier's work more than that of any other writer of his time
illustrates the difference between the mid-century literature and that
of the later national period. He is distinctively a transition figure:
he heard both voices and he obeyed both. Until after the war he was
what Hayne and Timrod had been, and Taylor and Stoddard--a disciple
of Keats, a poet of merely sensuous beauty. But for the war he would
have been a Longfellow bringing from Germany _Hyperions_ and _Voices
of the Night_. The four vital years in the camps, on the blockade
runner, in the military prison, with their close contact with life
in its elemental conditions, was a university course far different
from any that he had dreamed of in his college days. It was this that
differentiates him from Hayne and Timrod and that brings him into our
period.

_Tiger Lilies_, his first published book (1867), is a document not only
in the life of Lanier but also in the transition period of the sixties.
It is a crude first novel full of a strange mixture of weakness and
strength. It has been likened to Longfellow's _Hyperion_, but the
likeness extends no further than this: _Tiger Lilies_ is the novel
transitional to the seventies as _Hyperion_ was transitional to the
romantic thirties and forties. In parts it belongs completely to the
older period. It opens with this outburst, not by Paul Fleming, but by
Paul Rübetsahl:

    "Himmel! Cospetto! Cielo! May our nests be built on the
    strongest and leafiest bough of the great tree Ygdrasil! May
    they be lined with love, soft and warm, and may the storms be
    kind to them: Amen and Amen!" said Paul Rübetsahl.

The first part is florid in the extreme and artificial, full of
literary affectations and conceits:

    On the last day of September, 1860, huntsman Dawn leapt out of
    the East, quickly ran to earth that old fox, Night, and sat
    down on the top of Smoky Mountain to draw breath, etc.

Its discussions of poetry, of music, of the meaning of art and of life
generally are all in the dream-world of German romance, and its chaotic
plot and its impossible characters and happenings are in full keeping.
But with part two the book comes suddenly to life. The hero enters the
war and all at once there is realism, passages like this as graphic
even as Whitman:

    The wounded increase. Here is a musket in the road: there is
    the languid hand that dropped it, pressing its fingers over a
    blue edged wound in the breast. Weary pressure, and vain--the
    blood flows steadily.

    More muskets, cartridge-boxes, belts, greasy haversacks, strew
    the ground.

    Here come the stretcher-bearers. They leave a dripping line of
    blood. "Walk easy as you kin, boys," comes from the blanket
    which the men are carrying by the corners. Easy walking is
    desirable when each step of your four carriers spurts out the
    blood afresh or grates the rough edges of a shot bone in your
    leg.

    The sound of a thousand voices, eager, hoarse, fierce, all
    speaking together yet differently, comes through the leaves
    of the undergrowth. A strange multitudinous noise accompanies
    it--a noise like the tremendous sibilation of a mile-long wave
    just before it breaks. It is the shuffling of two thousand feet
    as they march over dead leaves.

The novel is laid in the Tennessee Mountains in the same region that
was to figure a decade later in the stories of Charles Egbert Craddock.
The Great Smoky Mountains and Chilhowee Mountain--familiar names
now--form the background, but the author puts no individuality into the
landscape. It might be Germany. His mountaineers, however, are alive
and they are sharply characterized. Gorm Smallin and his brother Cain
are among the earliest figures in that vast gallery of realistically
portrayed local types that soon was to figure so prominently in
American literature. The chapter that records the desertion of Gorm and
his arraignment by his brother Cain is worthy of standing with the best
work of Charles Egbert Craddock or Octave Thanet. The prison scenes,
drawn from the author's own first-hand experience, are documents in the
history of the war. On every line is the stamp of reality. Here is a
bivouac scene:

    Cain Smallin sat, stiff backed upon the ground, sternly
    regarding his packed circle of biscuits in the skillet.

    "How do they come on, Cain? Most done?"...

    "Bully! Brownin' a little some of 'em. 'Bout ten minutes yit."

At that moment a shell that has buried itself in the ground explodes
in the midst of the group, literally burying the party and scattering
havoc. Cain Smallin, unhurt, digs himself from the ruins and scrapes
the dirt from his face.

    "Boys," said he, in a broken voice of indignant but mournful
    inquiry, "have any of ye seed the skillet?"

In the words of its preface, the book was a cry, "a faint cry, sent
from a region where there are few artists, to happier lands who own
many; calling on these last for more sunshine and less night in their
art.... There are those even here in the South who still love beautiful
things with sincere passion."

But necessity was upon the young dreamer. He was without a profession,
and he had married a wife. There was no refuge but his father's
profession, which always had been the last as well as the first resort
of young Southerners. His father's law firm was glad to employ him,
though it could offer but meager compensation. No more novels, no more
dreams of the scholar's life, of Heidelberg, and poetry. Until 1873
he was busy, like Cable during the same period, with his conveyances
and his bills of sale. The ambitious plan of a long poem of medieval
France, "The Jacquerie," he kept in his desk, a beautiful dream that
often he returned to. He wrote exquisite little songs for it:

          May the maiden,
          Violet-laden
        Out of the violet sea,
          Comes and hovers
          Over lovers,
        Over thee, Marie, and me,
          Over me and thee.

His poetic experiments of this period one may find at the back of the
definitive edition of his work. With Timrod and Hayne he was still
dreamy and imaginative, more prone to look at the beautiful than at
the harsher realities of humanity, yet even as he was dreaming over
his "Jacquerie" he was not oblivious to the problems of his own time.
He wrote dialect poems: "Jones's Private Argument," "Thar's More in
the Man than Thar Is in the Land," "Nine from Eight," and the like,
and published them in Southern papers. They deal with the Georgia
"Crackers" and with the social and financial conditions of the times,
and they were written in 1868, two years before the Pike County
balladry. In 1875 with his brother Clifford he published in _Scribner's
Monthly_ "The Power of Prayer; or, the First Steamboat up the Alabama,"
a negro dialect poem adapted undoubtedly from a similar episode
recounted in Mark Twain's _The Gilded Age_, yet original in tone and
realistically true. Had it been unsigned we should attribute it without
hesitation to Irwin Russell, who by many is believed to have been the
first to discover the literary possibilities of the negro, at least in
the field of poetic balladry. How like Russell is a stanza like this:

        It 'pear to me dis mornin' I kin smell de fust o' June.
        I 'clar', I b'lieve dat mockin'-bird could play de fiddle soon!
        Dem yonder town-bells sounds like dey was ringin' in de moon.

But Russell's first poem, "Uncle Cap Interviewed," appeared in
_Scribner's_ almost a year later. The Lanier brothers contributed to
the magazine at least one more dialect poem, "Uncle Jim's Baptist
Revival Hymn," a product as realistically true to the negro as anything
written later by Harris or Page:

                Sin's rooster's crowed, Ole Mahster's riz,
                  De sleepin'-time is pas';
                Wake up dem lazy Baptissis,
     _Chorus._    _Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
                  Dey's mightily in de grass._

                De Meth'dis team's done hitched; O fool,
                  De day's a-breakin' fas';
                Gear up dat lean old Baptis' mule,
                  _Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
                  Dey's mightily in de grass._ Etc.

Lanier was a pioneer in a rich field.


IV

The turning point came in 1873. The poet's physical condition had
become so alarming that he had been sent to spend the winter at San
Antonio, Texas. He found what least he was looking for. The German
Maennerchor of the city, an unusual circle of musicians, discovered him
and asked him to play to them the flute, an instrument that had been
his companion since boyhood. "To my utter astonishment," he wrote his
wife, "I was master of the instrument. Is not this most strange? Thou
knowest I had never learned it; and thou rememberest what a poor muddle
I made at Marietta in playing difficult passages; and I certainly have
not practised; and yet there I commanded and the blessed notes obeyed
me, and when I had finished, amid a storm of applause, Herr Thielepape
arose and ran to me and grasped my hand, and declared that he hat never
heert de flude accompany itself pefore."[125]

Judging from contemporary testimony, we are compelled to rate Lanier
as a musical genius. Though he never had had formal training in the
art, from his childhood music had been with him a consuming passion.
He had taken his flute to the war, he had smuggled it into the prison,
and he had moved all his life amid a chorus of exclamations over the
magic beauty of his improvisations. The masters were praising him now:
he would be a master himself. He would toil no longer at the task he
despised; he would live now for art. In November, 1873, he wrote to his
father:

    How can I settle myself down to be a third-rate struggling
    lawyer for the balance of my little life, as long as there is
    a certainty almost absolute that I can do something so much
    better? Several persons, from whose judgment in such matters
    there can be no appeal, have told me, for instance, that I am
    the greatest flute-player in the world; and several others,
    of equally authoritative judgment, have given me an almost
    equal encouragement to work with my pen. My dear father, think
    how, for twenty years, through poverty, through pain, through
    weariness, through sickness, through the uncongenial atmosphere
    of a farcical college and of a bare army and then of an
    exacting business life, through all the discouragement of being
    wholly unacquainted with literary people and literary ways--I
    say, think how, in spite of all these depressing circumstances,
    and of a thousand more which I could enumerate, these two
    figures of music and poetry have steadily kept in my heart so
    that I could not banish them. Does it not seem to you as to
    me, that I begin to have the right to enroll myself among the
    devotees of these two sublime arts, after having followed them
    so long and so humbly, and through so much bitterness?[126]

He gave himself first to music. So perfect was his mastery of his
instrument that he secured without difficulty the position of first
flute in Hamerik's Peabody Orchestra of Baltimore, and he played at
times even with Thomas's Orchestra of New York. It was the opinion of
Hamerik, himself a rare artist, that Lanier was a musician of highest
distinction:

    His human nature was like an enchanted instrument, a magic
    flute, or the lyre of Apollo, needing but a breath or a touch
    to send its beauty out into the world.... In his hands the
    flute no longer remained a mere material instrument, but was
    transformed into a voice that set heavenly harmonies into
    vibration. Its tones developed colors, warmth, and a low
    sweetness of unspeakable poetry--His playing appealed alike
    to the musically learned and to the unlearned--for he would
    magnetize the listener; but the artist felt in his performance
    the superiority of the momentary inspiration to all the rules
    and shifts of mere technical scholarship. His art was not only
    the art of art, but an art above art. I will never forget the
    impression he made on me when he played the flute concerta of
    Emil Hartman at a Peabody symphony concert, in 1878--his tall,
    handsome, manly presence, his flute breathing noble sorrows,
    noble joys, the orchestra softly responding. The audience was
    spellbound. Such distinction, such refinement! He stood the
    master, the genius.[127]

His first recognition as a poet came in 1875 with the publication of
"Corn" in _Lippincott's Magazine_. The poem caught the attention of
Taylor and brought to the poet the commission to furnish the words
for the Cantata to be sung at the Centennial Exposition. After that
commission Lanier was a national figure.

During the scant six years that followed, the years of his literary
life in which he wrote all that is distinctive in his poetry, he lived
in a whirlwind of activity, of study in the large libraries to which
he now had access, of music, of literary hack-work, or he lay totally
incapacitated by sickness that threatened always the speedy termination
of all. Poetry he could write only in moments stolen from more
imperative things. He compiled a guide book to Florida, he prepared
courses of lectures on Shakespeare for clubs of women, he delivered
two scholarly courses of lectures at Johns Hopkins University, and he
published four juveniles that adapted for boys the old romances of
chivalry. He wrote lyrics and songs, but his future as a poet must rest
on five poems: "Corn," the first significant poem from the new South;
"The Symphony," a latter-day ode to St. Cecilia; "The Psalm of the
West," which he intended should do for the centennial year what Taylor
had failed so lamentably to do in his Fourth of July ode; "The Marshes
of Glynn," a symphony without musical score; and, finally on his death
bed, held in life only by his imperious will, "Sunrise," his most
joyous and most inspired improvisation of all.


V

For Lanier was essentially an improvisatore. He left behind him no
really finished work: he is a poet of magnificent fragments. He was
too excited, too impetuous, to finish anything. Poetry was a thing of
rhapsodic outbursts, of tiptoe glimpses: his eager jottings for poems
made on the backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, anything that was
at hand, fill a volume. He may be likened to a child in a meadow of
daisies: he filled his hands, his arms, full of the marvelous things,
then threw them aside to gather more and ever more. There was no
time to arrange them, no time even to look at them twice. Ideas came
in flocks; he lived in a tumult of emotion. His letters quiver with
excitement as do those of no other American poet. "All day my soul hath
been cutting swiftly into the great space of the subtle, unspeakable
deep, driven by wind after wind of heavenly melody." "I cannot tell you
with what eagerness I devoured _Felix Holt_." "My heart was all a-cry."
"The fury of creation is on me to-day." "Lying in the music-waters,
I floated and flowed, my soul utterly bent and prostrate." "The very
inner spirit and essence of all wind-songs, bird-songs, passion-songs,
folk-songs, country-songs, sex-songs, soul-songs, and body-songs hath
blown me in quick gusts like the breath of passion and sailed me into a
sea of vast dreams." One may quote interminably.

Hamerik's characterization of his flute-playing may be taken as the key
to all his work: "The artist felt in his performance the superiority
of the _momentary inspiration_ to all the rules and shifts of mere
technical scholarship." It explains the unevenness of his work and its
lack of finish. He had no patience to return to a poem and labor upon
it. Other and more rapturous melodies were calling to him. It explains
his lack of constructive power: inspiration is a thing of rapturous
glimpses, not of long, patient coördinating effort. His poems are
chaotic in structure even to the point often of obscurity. "Corn," for
example, was intended to be a poem with a message, and that message
doubtless the superiority of corn over cotton as a crop for the new
South. But half the poem has only the vaguest connection with the
subject. One-third of it outlines the duties and privileges of the poet
soul. The message is not brought home: one has to labor to find it.
There is a succession of beautiful images expressed often with rare
melody and distinction, but inconsecutive even to vagueness.

His prose has the same characteristics. The lectures on the English
novel seem like the first draft of work rather than like a finished
product. He changes his plan as he proceeds. It was to be a study of
the novel as a literary form, but as he progresses he changes it into
a study of the development of personality in literature, and finally
ends it by devoting half his total space to a rhapsody upon George
Eliot. _The Science of English Verse_ has the same faults. He rides a
pet theory through chapters and dismisses really basic principles with
a paragraph. It is a book of magnificent, even at times of inspired
sections, but as a complete treatise it has no great value. The same
may be said of all his prose work: he had flashes of inspiration but
no consecutive message. The cause for it was partly pathological,
partly temperamental. He was first of all a musician, a genius, an
improvisatore.

That his conception of the poet's office was a broader and saner and
more modern one than that of most of his contemporaries was undoubtedly
true. In "Corn" he addresses thus the stalk that stands high above its
fellows:

        Still shalt thou type the poet-soul sublime
        That leads the vanward of his timid time
        And sings up cowards with commanding rime--
        Soul calm, like thee, yet fain, like thee, to grow
        By double increment, above, below;
        Soul homely, as thou art, yet rich in grace like thee,
        Teaching the yeomen selfless chivalry.

The poet then is not to be a mere dreamer of beauty, a dweller in the
clouds apart from the men of his time. He is to stand squarely on the
earth:

        Thou lift'st more stature than a mortal man's,
        Yet ever piercest downward in the mold
          And keepest hold
        Upon the reverend and steadfast earth
          That gave thee birth.

But despite his conception of the poet's office, Lanier himself is not
often a leader and a prophet. He had ceased to be Georgia-minded and
he had felt the national thrill that was making a new America, but it
was not his to be the strong voice of the new era. "The Psalm of the
West," which casts into poetic form certain vital episodes of American
history, has no message. One searches it in vain for any interpretation
of the soul of the great republic, or any forecasting of the future
years, or any passages expressing what America is to stand for among
the nations. It is a fragment, the introduction to what should have
been the poem.

In "The Symphony" more than elsewhere, perhaps, he is the poet of his
period. The poem is a cry against the materialism that Lanier felt was
crushing the higher things out of American life:

        "O Trade! O, Trade! Would thou wert dead!
        The Time needs heart--'t is tired of head:
        We're all for love," the violins said.

Each instrument in the orchestra joins in the argument. "A velvet flute
note" followed the passion of the violins, the reeds whispered, "the
bold straightforward horn" spoke out,

        And then the hautboy played and smiled
        And sang like any large-eyed child.

The solution of the problem was the same that Shelley had brought. Love
alone could master the evils of the time:

        Life! Life! thou sea-fugue, writ from east to west,
                    Love, love alone can pore
                    On thy dissolving score
                    Of harsh half-phrasings,
                      Blotted ere writ,
                    And double erasings
                      Of chords most fit.

And love was to come through music:

        Music is love in search of a word.

The poem is indeed a symphony. One feels that the poet is composing
rather than writing, that he is thinking in terms of orchestration,
balancing parts and instruments, and working out tone values. The same
is true of "The Marshes of Glynn" and "Sunrise": they are symphonies.

One must appreciate fully this musical basis of Lanier's art if one is
to understand him. He thought in musical forms. The best illustration,
perhaps, may be found in his Centennial Cantata. To the average man
the poem meant little. One must read it and reread it and study it if
one is to get any consecutive thought from it. But read after Lanier's
explanation, it becomes not only clear but illuminating:

    The principal matter over which the United States can
    legitimately exult is _its present existence as a Republic_,
    in spite of so much opposition from Nature and from man. I
    therefore made the refrain of the song--about which all its
    train of thought moves--concern itself wholly with the _Fact of
    existence_: the waves cry "_It shall not be_"; the powers of
    nature cry "It shall not _be_"; the wars, etc., utter the same
    cry. This Refrain is the key to the whole poem.

    A knowledge of the inability of music to represent any shades
    of meaning save those which are very intense, and very
    highly and sharply contrasted, led me to divide the poem
    into the eight paragraphs or movements which it presents,
    and make these vividly opposed to each other in sentiment.
    Thus the first movement is reflection, measured and sober:
    this suddenly changes into the _agitato_ of the second: this
    agitato, culminating in the unison shout "_No! It shall not
    be_," yields in the third movement to the _pianissimo_ and
    meager effect of the skeleton voices from Jamestown, etc.: this
    _pianissimo_ in the fourth movement is turned into a climax of
    the wars of armies and of faiths, again ending in the shout,
    "No!" etc.: the fifth movement opposes this with a _whispered_
    chorus--Huguenots whispering _Yea_, etc.: the sixth opposes
    again with loud exultation, "Now praise," etc.: the seventh
    opposes this with the single voice singing the Angels' song;
    and the last concludes the series of contrasts with a broad
    full chorus of measured and firm sentiment.

    The metrical forms were selected purely with reference to their
    descriptive nature: the four trochaic feet of the opening
    strophe measure off reflection, the next (Mayflower) strophe
    swings and yaws like a ship, the next I made outre and bizarre
    and bony simply by the device of interposing the line of two
    and a half trochees amongst the four trochee lines: the swift
    action of the Huguenot strophe of course required dactyls: and
    having thus kept the first part of the poem (which describes
    the time _before_ we were a real nation) in meters which are
    as it were exotic to our tongue, I now fall into the iambic
    meter--which is the genius of English words--as soon as the
    Nation becomes secure and firm.

    My business as member of the orchestra for three years having
    caused me to sit immediately in front of the bassoons, I had
    often been struck with the possibility of producing the ghostly
    effects of that part of the bassoon register so well known to
    students of Berlioz and Meyerbeer--by the use of the syllable
    _ee_ sung by a chorus. With this view I filled the ghostly
    Jamestown stanza with _ee_'s and would have put in more if I
    could have found them appropriate to the sense.[128]

No one can read this without thinking of Poe's "Philosophy of
Composition." It explains much of Lanier's work.


VI

Had Lanier lived a decade longer, had he had time and strength to
devote himself completely to his poetry, had his impetuous soul
had time to gain patience and poise, and divest itself of florid
extravagance and vague dithyramb, he might have gained a much higher
place as a poet. He was gaining in power: his last poem is his
greatest. He was laying plans that would, we feel sure, have worked
themselves out to high poetic achievement. For at least four books
of poetry he had already selected titles: _Hymns of the Mountains_,
_Hymns of the Marshes_, _Songs of Aldheim_, and _Poems on Agriculture_.
What they were to be we can judge only from "The Marshes of Glynn" and
"Sunrise."

In these two poems we have work that is timeless and essentially
placeless. There is a breadth and sweep about it that one finds only in
the greater poets:

              And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting,
                Are beating
              The dark overhead as my heart beats--and steady and free
              Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea.

        Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea?
        Somehow my soul seems suddenly free
        From the weighing of fate and the sad discussions of sin,
        By the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of
              Glynn.

        As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
        Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
        I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
        In the freedom that fills all the space 'twixt the marsh and the
              skies:
        By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
        I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
        Oh, like the greatness of God is the greatness within
        The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.

The jottings that he made in his notebooks and the fragments of poems
that he noted down as the inspiration came to him remind us often of
Whitman. They have sweep and range:

    I fled in tears from the men's ungodly quarrel about God: I
    fled in tears to the woods, and laid me down on the earth; then
    somewhat like the beating of many hearts came up to me out of
    the ground, and I looked and my cheek lay close by a violet;
    then my heart took courage and I said:

        "I know that thou art the word of God, dear violet.
        And, oh, the ladder is not long that to my heaven leads!
        Measure the space a violet stands above the ground,
        'Tis no farther climbing that my soul and angels have to do than
              that!"

            I went to the church to find my Lord.
            They said He is here. He lives here.
            But I could not see him
            For the creed-tables and bonnet flowers.

Lanier is essentially a poet of unfulfilled promise. He seems always
about to do greater things than in reality he ever does. His lyrics
like "Evening Song," and "The Trees and the Master" and "The Song of
the Chattahoochee," have strains in them almost Shelley-like, but
there is always the fatal defect somewhere. Nothing is perfect. It
seems strange sometimes that one who could at moments go so far could
not go the whole way and remain long. He must hold his place among
the American poets by virtue of a few fragments. A few times was he
rapt into the pure ether of poetry, but he was allowed to catch only
fleeting glimpses.


VII

The period may be said to have produced in the South two inspired
poets, Lanier and Irwin Russell, and in many ways the two were alike.
Both were frail of body and sensitive of temperament, both were
passionately given to music and found their poetic field by means of
it, both were educated men, eager students of the older literatures,
both discovered the negro as poetic material, and both died when
their work was just beginning, Russell, like Keats, at the boyish
age of twenty-six. But Russell added what Lanier had no trace of, a
waywardness of character and a genius for goodfellowship that wrecked
him even earlier than it did Burns.

The life of Russell is associated with four cities: Port Gibson,
Mississippi, where he was born in 1853; St. Louis, where he spent the
earlier years of his life and where later he completed the course at
the Jesuit University; Port Gibson again, where he studied law and was
admitted to the bar; New York City, of which he was a resident from
January until July, 1879; and New Orleans, where he died in December
of the same year. His life was fitful and restless. He did little with
his profession, turning from it to learn the printer's trade, and then
after a few listless months, drifting into other things. He had dreams
of California and wandered on foot in its direction as far as Texas; he
attempted to run away to sea, and he spent much time on the river boats
making jovial friends of the captains and the pilots. His banjo assured
him of a welcome wherever he might go.

The writing of poetry was never to him a serious occupation. He
composed with abandon when the mood was on him, he seldom revised, and
he cared little for the finished product save as it might please his
friends. One finds many evidences in his work that he learned his art
from Burns, whom he considered the greatest poet the world had ever
produced. He had saturated himself too with the English balladists and
the genuine old poets of the early periods. The poetry of his own time
angered him. In "The Hysteriad" (_Scribner's_, 16:759) he satirizes
with bitterness the contemporary product. "A poem of the period," he
said, "or a periodical poem, is a thing that is altogether emotional,
and is not intended to convey any idea in particular." To him poetry
meant something not esoteric and idealized, but something that lay very
close to the life of every day, something redolent of humanity, like
Burns's songs. He maintained that his own inspiration had come not at
all from other poets, but from actual contact with the material that he
made use of. His own words concerning the composition of his first poem
have a peculiar value. They are a part of the history of the period:

    You know I am something of a banjoist. Well, one evening I was
    sitting in our back yard in old Mississippi "twanging" on the
    banjo, when I heard the missis--our colored domestic, an old
    darkey of the Aunt Dinah pattern--singing one of the outlandish
    camp-meeting hymns of which the race is so fond. She was an
    extremely "'ligious" character and, although seized with the
    impulse to do so, I hesitated to take up the tune and finish
    it. I did so, however, in the dialect I have adopted, and
    which I then thought and still think is in strict conformity
    to their use of it, I proceeded, as one inspired, to compose
    verse after verse of the most absurd, extravagant, and, to
    her, irreverent rime ever before invented, all the while
    accompanying it on the banjo and imitating the fashion of the
    plantation negro.... I was then about sixteen and as I had soon
    after a like inclination to versify, was myself pleased with
    the performance, and it was accepted by a publisher, I have
    continued to work the vein indefinitely.[129]

To what extent the poet was indebted to the Pike balladry that had
preceded his first work, at least so far as wide publication in
Northern magazines was concerned, is not easily determined. It seems
extremely probable that he had seen it. Lanier, as has been shown, had
published negro dialect poetry in _Scribner's_ nearly a year before
Russell, but whoever was pioneer, the author of "Christmas-night
in the Quarters" was the one who first caught the attention of the
reading public and exerted the greatest influence upon the period. He
undoubtedly was the leading pioneer. Page and Gordon dedicated their
_Befo' de War_ "To Irwin Russell, who awoke the first echo," and Joel
Chandler Harris, manifestly an authority, declared that "Irwin Russell
was among the first--if not the very first--of Southern writers to
appreciate the literary possibilities of the negro character, and of
the unique relations existing between the two races before the war, and
was among the first to develop them."[130]

In the last year of his life Russell, encouraged by the reception of
his magazine poems, went to New York to make literature his profession.
Bunner, the editor of _Puck_, and Gilder and Robert Underwood Johnson
of the _Century_ staff, and others, recognized his ability, and gave
him every encouragement possible. One of the most prominent of the
poets of the older school, it may be remarked, also became interested
in him and urged him to drop the ephemeral type of verse to which he
had addicted himself and devote his talents to really serious work.
For a brief period he obeyed, with what success one may judge from the
poems at the end of his volume.

Success came too late. His friends were powerless to control his
wayward genius. His frail constitution gave way. From a bed of fever he
arose still half delirious, staggered to the docks, engaged to work his
way on a New Orleans boat as a coal-heaver, and in New Orleans secured
a position on the _Times_. But the end was near. To a member of the
_Times_ staff he opened his heart in words that might have come from
Poe:

    It has been the romance of a weak young man threaded in with
    the pure love of a mother, a beautiful girl who hoped to be my
    wife, and friends who believed in my future. I have watched
    them lose heart, lose faith, and again and again I have been so
    stung and startled that I have resolved to save myself in spite
    of myself.... I never shall.[131]

He died a few weeks later.


VIII

The value of Russell's work depends not so much upon the poetic
quality of it as upon the faithfulness and the skill with which he has
portrayed the negro. Within this narrow field he has had no superior.
Harris has summed it up thus:

    The most wonderful thing about the dialect poetry of Irwin
    Russell is his accurate conception of the negro character.
    The dialect is not always the best--it is often carelessly
    written--but the negro is there, the old-fashioned,
    unadulterated negro, who is still dear to the Southern heart.
    There is no straining after effect--indeed the poems produce
    their result by indirection; but I do not know where could be
    found to-day a happier or a more perfect representation of
    negro character.[132]

Russell is less romantic in his picture of the negro than are Page and
Harris. Once in a while he throws the mellow light over the old days,
as in "Mahsr John," where he represents the freed slave dwelling in
imagination upon the glories that he has once known, but he holds the
strain not long:

        I only has to shet my eyes, an' den it seems to me
        I sees him right afore me now, jes' like he use' to be,
        A-settin' on de gal'ry, lookin' awful big an' wise,
        Wid little niggers fannin' him to keep away de flies.

        He alluz wore de berry bes' ob planters' linen suits,
        An' kep' a nigger busy jes' a-blackin' ob his boots;
        De buckles on his galluses wuz made of solid gol',
        An' diamon's!--dey wuz in his shut as thick as it would hol'.

Page would have stopped after the old negro had ended his glorification
of the old days, but Russell hastens to bring the picture to
present-day conditions:

        Well, times is changed. De war it come an' sot de niggers free,
        An' now ol' Mahsr John ain't hardly wuf as much as me;
        He had to pay his debts, an' so his lan' is mos'ly gone--
        An' I declar' I's sorry fur my pore ol' Mahsr John.

It was essentially the later negro, the negro of the poet's own day,
that is represented in the poems. He has become a farmer for himself
now and tries sly tricks when he takes his cotton to market. Detected,
he is voluble in his explanations:

        Rocks in dat ar cotton! How de debbil kin dat be?
        I packed dat bale mys'f--hol' on a minute, le'--me--see--
        My stars! I mus' be crazy! Mahsr Johnny, dis is fine!
        I's gone an' hauled my brudder's cotton in, stead ob mine!

He sends his boy to work as waiter on the river boats and as he is
departing overwhelms him with advice:

        Dem niggers what runs on de ribber is mos'ly a mighty sharp set;
        Dey'd fin' out some way fur to beat you, ef you bet 'em de water
              wuz wet;
        You's got to watch out for dem fellers; dey'd cheat off de horns
              ob a cow.
        I knows 'em; I follered de ribber 'fore ebber I follered a plow.

He is inordinately fond of preaching, as witness "Half-way Doin's" and
"A Sermon for the Sisters." He delights to interpret the Scriptures,
and his exegesis is often full of local color:

        "Dar's gwine to be a' oberflow," said Noah, lookin' solemn--
        Fur Noah tuk the _Herald_, an' he read de ribber column--
        An' so he sot his hands to wuk a-cl'arin' timber-patches,
        An' 'lowed he's gwine to build a boat to beat the steamah
              _Natchez_.

All the characteristics of the negro are touched upon with the
certainty of perfect knowledge: his superstitions, his ignorance of
the world, his awe of legal terms, his humor, his simple trust in his
religion, his childlike attitude toward nature, his habit of addressing
sententious language to his beasts of burden as if they understood all
he said, his conceit, and his firm belief in immortality.

Russell was one of the pioneers of the new era which had as its most
marked characteristic the use of American themes and backgrounds and
absolute truth to American life. No section of the social era was too
lowly or unknown for him to take as material for his art. He could even
plan to write a negro novel with all of its characters negroes and
write the first chapters. Little, however, that he planned ever came to
completion. The thin volume of poems published after his death was but
a fragment of what he might have written under happier conditions. As
it is, he must, like Lanier, be treated as one of those brief excited
lives that are found ever at the opening of new romantic eras--Novalis,
Chatterton, Burns, Keats--poets who left behind only fragments of what
might have been, but who influenced enormously the writers that were to
be.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE. (1830-1886.) _Poems_, Boston, 1855; _Sonnets
  and Other Poems_, 1857; _Avolio: A Legend of the Island of Cos_,
  1860; _Legends and Lyrics_, Philadelphia, 1872; _The Mountain
  of the Lovers, with Poems of Nature and Tradition_, 1875; _Life
  of Robert Young Hayne_, 1878; _Life of Hugh Swinton Legare_,
  1878; Complete edition of the Poems with a sketch by Margaret J.
  Preston, 1882.

  HENRY TIMROD. (1829-1867.) _Poems_, Boston, 1860; Complete
  edition of the Poems with biographical introduction of 60 pages
  by Paul Hamilton Hayne, 1872; Poems of Henry Timrod, 1901.

  SIDNEY LANIER. (1842-1881.) _Tiger Lilies: a Novel_, 1867;
  _Florida: Its Scenery, Climate, and History_, 1876; _Poems_,
  1877; _The Boy's Froissart. Being Sir John Froissart's Chronicles
  of Adventure, Battle, and Custom in England, France, Spain, etc.
  Edited for Boys_, 1878; _The Science of English Verse_, 1880;
  _The Boy's King Arthur. Being Sir Thomas Malory's History of King
  Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. Edited for Boys_,
  1880; _The Boy's Mabinogion. Being the Earliest Welsh Tales of
  King Arthur in the Famous Red Book of Hergest. Edited for Boys_,
  1881; _The Boy's Percy. Being Old Ballads of War, Adventure, and
  Love, from Bishop, Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English
  Poetry. Edited for Boys_, 1882; _The English Novel and the
  Principles of Its Development_, 1883; _Poems of Sidney Lanier,
  Edited by His Wife_, with a Memorial by William Hayes Ward, 1884;
  Select Poems of Sidney Lanier, edited with an Introduction,
  Notes, and Bibliography, by Morgan Callaway, 1895; _Music and
  Poetry: Essays_, 1898; _Retrospects and Prospects: Descriptive
  and Historical Essays_, 1899; _Letters of Sidney Lanier_.
  Selections from His Correspondence 1866-1881, 1899; _Shakespeare
  and His Forerunners_, 1902; _Sidney Lanier_, by Edwin Mims, 1905.
  _Some Reminiscences and Early Letters of Sidney Lanier_, G. H.
  Clarke, 1907; _Poem Outlines_, 1908; _Synthesis and Analysis of
  the Poetry of Sidney Lanier_, C. C. Carroll, 1910.

  IRWIN RUSSELL. _Poems by Irwin Russell._ With an introduction by
  Joel Chandler Harris. New York. 1888.



CHAPTER XIV

THE ERA OF SOUTHERN THEMES AND WRITERS


Just as the West of Mark Twain, Harte, Miller, Eggleston, and others
had been central in the literature, especially in the fiction, of
the seventies, so the South became central in the eighties. Southern
writers like Cable, Lanier, and Russell began their distinctive
work not long after the opening of the Bret Harte period, yet it
was not until after _Old Creole Days_, 1879, the death of Russell
in the same year and of Lanier in 1881, and the publication of Miss
Woolson's _Rodman the Keeper_ and the first Uncle Remus book in 1880,
Johnston's _Dukesborough Tales_, 1883, and Craddock's _In the Tennessee
Mountains_, 1884, that what we may call the era of Southern themes and
Southern writers may be said fully to have taken possession of American
literature. By 1888 Albion W. Tourgee could write in the _Forum_, "It
cannot be denied that American fiction of to-day, whatever may be
its origin, is predominatingly Southern in type and character.... A
foreigner studying our current literature, without knowledge of our
history, and judging our civilization by our fiction, would undoubtedly
conclude that the South was the seat of intellectual empire in America
and the African the chief romantic element of our population."

The real cause of this outburst has not often been touched upon. The
sudden vogue of Southern themes and Southern writers came not, as some
have explained, from the fact that a distinctive Southern literature
had arisen, or that a peculiar school had sprung up in one section of
the country, just as, for instance, we may speak of the New England
school earlier in the century. Nor is it explained by the theory
that the close of the war brought a new feeling of individuality
to the South, a consciousness of its own self which was to find
expression in a group of writers, as England after the wars with
Spain found expression in the Elizabethans. It was not a merely local
manifestation. The term "Southern Literature," as now found in the
titles of an increasing number of books and studies, is misleading. If
the South, or any other section, is to produce a distinct literature
of its own, that section must possess not alone themes and writers,
but publishers as well, and widely circulated magazines of the type
of the _Atlantic_ and the _Century_ and _Harper's_. It must have also
critics and adequate critical standards, and, most important of all, it
must have a clientele, readers enough to dispose of its own literary
product. The South has had practically none of these save the literary
themes and the writers. The turn of the tide from Western material and
Western workers to material and workers from the South was a national
phenomenon. It was in reality more a thing of the North than it was of
the South. Without Northern publishers and magazines and criticism and
readers there would have been no Southern literature.

To illustrate with a concrete example: Richard Malcolm Johnston
published at Augusta, Georgia, in 1864, _Georgia Sketches by an Old
Man_. In 1871 he added more tales to the collection, published them
in the _Southern Magazine_ of Baltimore, issued them in book form
in the same city, with the title _Dukesborough Tales_, and a little
later put forth a second and enlarged edition. Yet Edward Eggleston
could say when Johnston as late as 1879 published his first story in
a Northern magazine, "Mr. Neelus Peeler's Conditions," in _Scribner's
Monthly_, that the reading public everywhere hailed his advent as that
of a new and promising young man who had sent in his first story.
It was not until the Harpers in 1883 issued a Northern edition of
the much-published _Dukesborough Tales_ that Johnston ceased to be a
producer of merely Southern literature.

The cause of the Southern tone which American literature took on during
the eighties lies in the single fact that the South had the literary
material. The California gold, rich as it was when first discovered
by the East, was quickly exhausted. There were no deep mines; it was
surface gold, pockets and startling nuggets. Suddenly it was discovered
that the South was a field infinitely richer, and the tide turned.
Nowhere else were to be found such a variety of picturesque types
of humanity: negroes, crackers, creoles, mountaineers, moonshiners,
and all those incongruous elements that had resulted from the great
social upheaval of 1861-1865. Behind it in an increasingly romantic
perspective lay the old régime destroyed by the war; nearer was the
war itself, most heroic of struggles; and still nearer was the tragedy
of reconstruction with its carpet-bagger, its freed slaves, and its
Klu-Klux terror. Never before in America, even in California, had there
been such richness of literary material. That a group of Southern-born
writers should have arisen to deal with it was inevitable. Who else
_could_ have dealt with it, especially in the new era that demanded
reality and absolute genuineness? No Northerner could have revealed,
for instance, the heart of the old plantation negro. Miss Woolson's
stories of the South, brilliant as they are, are in a different world
from those of Joel Chandler Harris.

The writers themselves made no claim that they were producing a
Southern literature. They had, all of them, been touched by the new
after-the-war spirit, and their outlook was nation wide. Cable in
an address at Oxford, Mississippi, in June, 1882, pleaded for home
subjects as a basis for literature, but for home subjects treated in
a spirit of the broadest nationality: "Only let them be written," he
urged, "to and for the whole nation and you shall put your own State
not the less but the more in your debt."[133] He declared himself to
be not at all in favor of the popular new phrase "the new South"; he
would change it, he said, to "the _no_ South." Lanier, as we have seen,
was American in the broadest sense, and Joel Chandler Harris could say:
"What does it matter whether I am a Northerner or Southerner if I am
true to truth and true to that larger truth, my own true self? My idea
is that truth is more important than sectionalism and that literature
that can be labeled Northern, Southern, Western, Eastern, is not worth
labeling."[134]

It was the voice of the new spirit of the new age.


I

That the enormous vogue of the Bret Harte and the _Pike County Ballads_
literature of the early seventies could have passed unnoticed even in
the remotest sections of America seems improbable, but to attempt to
trace the influence it exerted on the group of Southern writers that
sprang up shortly after it had made its appearance is useless and
worse than useless. Not for a moment must it be forgotten that this
earlier Western outburst was not a local evolution that succeeded in
attracting the attention of the nation; it was rather the first result
of a condition which was general and nation wide. It was the new
after-the-war demand for life and reality and democracy, and it broke
out first in the West because the West at that moment had material
which was peculiarly fitted to make an appeal. Had the West at that
crisis had no writers ready to exploit this material, the outburst
undoubtedly would have come from the South. Cable and Lanier and
Johnston and Russell would have written very much as they did write had
Bret Harte and Mark Twain and Edward Eggleston never lived.

There were influences and conditions in the South that were peculiarly
favorable to the production of the type of literature demanded by
the time. Georgia in particular offered congenial soil. The middle
region of the State was the most democratic part of the South. It
had been settled by a sturdy race which separation from the more
aristocratic areas had rendered peculiarly individual. At one extreme
was the mountain cracker, a type which had been made peculiar only
by isolation, at the other were such remarkable men as Alexander H.
Stephens, Atticus G. Haygood, Benjamin H. Hill, John B. Gordon, and
Henry W. Grady. The social system was peculiar. Relations between
master and slave were far different from those found on the larger
plantations where overseers were employed. The negroes were known
personally; they were a part of the family. Relations like those
described so delightfully by Joel Chandler Harris were common. "There
was no selling," as Johnston expressed it; "black and white children
grew up together. Servants descended from father to son." The result
of this democracy was a natural tendency toward the new realistic type
of localized literature. While the rest of the South had been romantic
and little inclined to use its own backgrounds and its own local types
of character, Georgia had been producing since the mid years of the
century studies of its own peculiar types and institutions.

As early as 1835 had appeared _Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents,
etc., in the First Half Century of the Republic. By a Native Georgian_,
from the pen of Augustus B. Longstreet, graduate of Yale, lawyer,
preacher, college president. It was republished in New York in 1840
and from that day it has never been out of print. A realistic, brutal
series of sketches it is, full of ear-chewing fights, cruel gougings,
horse-racings, horse-swaps, coarse practical jokes, and all the
barbarous diversions of a primitive people in a primitive time. Its
author apologizes in his preface for the ephemeral character of the
book: the stories and sketches, he explains, are "nothing more than
fanciful combinations of real incidents and characters." Yet few books
of its decade have had more vitality. The author worked first hand
in the materials of the life that he himself had seen about him. It
is true at every point. Its author, a generation ahead of his times,
summed up in one phrase the new realism that was to come: "real people
and real incidents in fanciful combinations."

Associated with Longstreet in this earlier realistic period of Georgia
were Oliver Hillhouse Prince (1787-1837), who contributed to _Georgia
Scenes_ "The Militia Drill," a sketch read perhaps by Thomas Hardy
before he wrote his _Trumpet-Major_, and William Tappan Thompson
(1812-1882), whose _Major Jones's Chronicles_ appeared in book form in
Philadelphia in 1840.

There was another element in Georgia during the earlier period which
had strong influence upon the later group of writers, and allowed it to
produce not only Richard Malcolm Johnston and Joel Chandler Harris and
"Bill Arp," but poets like Ticknor and Lanier as well. In the cities
and larger towns of the State there was an atmosphere of culture unique
in the South. Harry Stillwell Edwards would account for it by calling
attention to an element usually overlooked:

    In the late thirties--1839 to be exact--Wesleyan Female College
    came into being at Macon--the first chartered college for
    women in the world, and soon began to turn out large classes
    of highly educated and accomplished graduates. The majority of
    these came from Georgia, but the whole South has always been
    represented in Wesleyan. Without going into this subject, I
    wish to state as my personal opinion that Georgia's literary
    development, which is undoubtedly more extensive than that of
    other Southern States, is due to the intellectual and spiritual
    soil or environment produced by this College in the fifty
    years of its existence previous to 1890. You will understand
    how this can be true though the mothers of the State's best
    known writers may not have been graduates. In my youth, every
    girl associate I had was of this college. Its atmosphere was
    everywhere apparent. To-day its graduates lead all over the
    State.[135]

One may trace these elements--the Longstreet realism at the one
extreme and the Macon College influence at the other--in all the
later Georgia writers. We have found how Lanier in his earlier work
alternated between broad cracker sketches and dialect ballads and the
more elegant forms of prose and poetry. Even a poem as rhapsodic as his
"Corn" contains within it a realistic picture of the thriftless Georgia
planter. It was from the blending of these two streams of influence
that there came some of the strongest literature of the new period.


II

The link between Longstreet and the younger Georgia writers is to be
found in Richard Malcolm Johnston. Chronologically--he was born in
1822--he belongs to the earlier group, the generation of Lowell and
Story, Boker and Read and Edward Everett Hale, and he seems to have
been touched not at all by the literary influences that had so strongly
exerted themselves upon the writers of the seventies. He was reared
on a central Georgia plantation with all the surroundings of the old
régime; he had been educated in the type of rural school so graphically
described in his earlier sketches and then later at Mercer College,
from which he was graduated in 1841; he gave the vigorous years of his
life to the law and then to teaching; and after he was sixty years of
age began seriously to devote himself to the profession of literature.

As early as 1857 he had begun writing sketches of provincial life
after the Longstreet pattern. His first piece, "The Goose Pond School"
was followed at long intervals by others in the same vein, written,
the greater part of them, after his removal to Baltimore partly to
assist his friend Turnbull, the editor of the _Southern Magazine_,
who had asked for his help, and partly "to subdue as far as possible
the feeling of homesickness for my native region. It never occurred
to me that they were of any sort of value. Yet when a collection of
them, nine in all, was printed by Mr. Turnbull, who about that time
ended publication of his magazine, and when a copy of this collection
fell into the hands of Henry M. Alden, of _Harper's Magazine_, whose
acquaintance I had lately made, he expressed much surprise that I had
not received any pecuniary compensation, and added that he would have
readily accepted them if they had been offered to him. Several things
he said about them that surprised and gratified me much. I then set
into the pursuit of that kind of work."[136]

Johnston owed his introduction to Northern readers almost wholly to
Lanier, who also was an exile in Baltimore. His influence it was that
induced Gilder to accept for _Scribner's Monthly_ the first of the
_Dukesborough Tales_ to be published in the North. He did far more
than this: he gave him constructive criticism; he pointed out to him
weaknesses which might be tolerated in a pioneer like Longstreet, but
not in the work of a later artist. Certain phases of his sketches he
found exceedingly strong: "The story strikes me as exquisitely funny,
and your reproduction of the modes of thought and of speech among
the rural Georgians is really wonderful."[137] There were, however,
frequent "verbal lapses" which were almost fatal, "the action of the
story does not move fast enough," and the catastrophe is clumsily
handled. "I will try to see you in a day or two and do this" [read the
manuscript aloud to him with running criticisms]. It was an opportunity
that few authors ever get; and Johnston was wise enough to make the
fullest use of it. Through Lanier it was that Alden became acquainted
with his work and that the enlarged _Dukesborough Tales_ was taken over
by the Harpers, and it was only after the Northern issue of this book
in 1883 that its author took a place among the writers of the period.
During the following fifteen years he wrote voluminously.

Lanier's criticism touches with skill the strength and the weakness of
Johnston as a writer of fiction. Like Longstreet, he was preëminently
a maker of sketches. In his novels like _Old Mark Langston_ and
_Widow Guthrie_ he failed dismally. Local color there is and humor
and characterization, but in all that pertains to plot management the
novels are feeble. The center and soul of his art was the Georgia
environment. "As long as the people in my stories have no fixed
surroundings, they are nowhere to me; I cannot get along with them at
all." There is little of story, little of action, little consideration
of the deeper passions and motives of life: there is rather an artless
presentation of the archaic provincial types and surroundings that he
had known in his boyhood. Even within this restricted area his range
was narrow. He seemed to be attracted, as was Longstreet, by the
eccentric and the exceptional. As he looked back into his earlier years
it was only the highly individualized characters and surroundings that
stood out in his memory, and he peopled his stories largely with these.
Like Lincoln he had traveled a primitive legal circuit in primitive
days and he had had unique experiences highly laughable. His range of
characters also is small. There is little of the negro in his work: he
deals almost wholly with the class of middle Georgia common people that
are but one step removed from the mountain cracker of Harris and Harbin.

Johnston was to the Southern movement what Eggleston was to the
Western. The two have many points of resemblance. Both were humorists,
both worked in the crude materials of early American life, and both
seem to have evolved their methods and their literary ideals very
largely from themselves. Neither was an artist. They will live largely
because of their fidelity to a vanished area of American life.


III

Joel Chandler Harris also continued the tradition of Longstreet and
worked in the materials of Georgia life with little suggestion from
without. There are few instances of a more spontaneous lapsing into
literary expression. He had been reared in an environment as unliterary
as Mark Twain's. Longstreet and Johnston, Russell and Lanier, were all
college men, but Harris's school education ended when he was twelve,
and the episode that ended it, a most unusual one, he has described
thus:

    One day while Joe Maxwell was sitting in the post-office
    looking over the Milledgeville papers, his eye fell on an
    advertisement that interested him greatly. It seemed to bring
    the whole world nearer to him. The advertisement set forth the
    fact that on next Tuesday the first number of the _Countryman_,
    a weekly paper, would be published. It would be modeled after
    Mr. Addison's little paper, the _Spectator_, Mr. Goldsmith's
    little paper, the _Bee_, and Mr. Johnson's little paper, the
    _Ram_-_bler_. It would be edited by J. A. Turner, and it would
    be issued on the plantation of the editor, nine miles from
    Hillsborough. Joe read this advertisement over a dozen times,
    and it was with a great deal of impatience that he waited for
    the next Tuesday to come.

    But the day did come, and with it came the first issue of the
    _Countryman_. Joe read it from beginning to end, advertisements
    and all, and he thought it the most entertaining little
    paper he had ever seen. Among the interesting things was an
    announcement by the editor that he wanted a boy to learn the
    printing business. Joe borrowed pen and ink and some paper from
    the friendly postmaster, and wrote a letter to the editor,
    saying that he would be glad to learn the printing business.
    The letter was no doubt an awkward one, but it served its
    purpose, for when the editor of the _Countryman_ came to
    Hillsborough he hunted Joe up, and told him to get ready to go
    to the plantation....

    [The office] was a very small affair; the type was old and
    worn, and the hand-press--a Washington No. 2--had seen
    considerable service.... He quickly mastered the boxes of the
    printer's case, and before many days was able to set type
    swiftly enough to be of considerable help to Mr. Snelson, who
    was foreman, compositor, and pressman. The one queer feature
    about the _Countryman_ was the fact that it was the only
    plantation newspaper that has ever been published, the nearest
    post-office being nine miles away. It might be supposed that
    such a newspaper would be a failure; but the _Countryman_
    was a success from the start, and at one time it reached a
    circulation of nearly two thousand copies. The editor was a
    very original writer.

_On the Plantation: a Story of a Georgia Boy's Adventures during the
War_ is the record, slightly disguised--Joe Maxwell is Joe Harris, and
Hillsborough is Eatonton--of the four years in the boy's life that made
of him the Joel Chandler Harris that we know to-day. It was his college
course, and it was a marvelously complete one. He became a part of the
great plantation; he shared its rude festivities; he came closely in
contact with the old-time type of plantation negro; and, more important
still, he discovered his employer's great library and was directed in
his reading by Mrs. Turner, who took pains with the diffident young
lad. In time he became himself a contributor to the paper, secretly
at first, then openly with the editor's approval. The end of the war
and with it the end of the old plantation régime, ended also the
_Countryman_ and sent Harris into wider fields.

For a time he worked at Macon, home of Lanier, then at New Orleans,
where Cable in the intervals of office work was dreaming over the
old French and Spanish records, then for a time he was editor of
the Forsyth, Georgia, _Advertiser_. The force and originality of
his editorials attracted at length the attention of W. T. Thompson,
author of the Georgia classic, _Major Jones's Courtship_, and in 1871
he secured him for his own paper, the _Savannah News_. Five years
later, Harris went over to the _Atlanta Constitution_ and during the
twenty-five years that followed his life was a vital part of that
journal's history.

One must approach the literary work of Harris always with full
realization that he was first of all a journalist. During the greater
part of his life he gave the best of every day unreservedly to the
making of his paper. Literary fame came to him almost by accident.
To fill the inexorable columns of his paper he threw in what came
easiest for him to write and he thought no more about it. Then one
day he looked up from his desk to find himself hailed as a rising
man of letters. It amazed him; he never half believed it; he never
got accustomed to it. Years later in the full noon of his success
he could say: "People insist on considering me a literary man when
I am a journalist and nothing else. I have no literary training
and know nothing at all of what is termed literary art. I have had
no opportunity to nourish any serious literary ambition, and the
probability is that if such an opportunity had presented itself I would
have refused to take advantage of it." Never once did he seek for
publication; never once did he send a manuscript to any publisher or
magazine that had not earnestly begged for it; never once did he write
a line with merely literary intent.

His first recognition by the literary world came through a bit of mere
journalism. The story is told best in the words of Harry Stillwell
Edwards:

    About 1880, Sam Small of Atlanta, Georgia, on the local staff
    of the _Constitution_, began writing negro sketches, using "Old
    Si" or "Uncle Si" as his vehicle, and soon made the character
    famous. Small, however, was very dissipated, and frequently
    the Sunday morning Old Si contribution failed to appear. Joel
    Chandler Harris, the paragrapher for the _Constitution_ as
    he had been for the _Savannah News_, was called on to supply
    something in place of the missing Si sketches and began with
    "Uncle Remus." His first contributions were not folk lore,
    but local. He soon drifted into the folk lore, however, and
    recognizing the beauty and perfection of his work, people
    generally who remembered the stories of their childhood,
    wrote out for him the main points and sent them. I, myself,
    contributed probably a dozen of the adventures of Brer Rabbit
    as I had heard them. This service he afterwards acknowledged
    in a graceful card of thanks. Uncle Remus became, soon, the
    mouthpiece of the generation, so far as animal legends are
    concerned.

The stories at once attracted attention in the North. The _New York
Evening Post_ and the _Springfield Republican_ in particular made much
of them. As a direct result, _Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings; The
Folk-lore of the old Plantation_, appeared in 1880 and its author
quickly found himself a national and indeed an international personage.

The really vital work of Harris lies in two fields: sketches of
the old-time negro and sketches of the mountain cracker of the
later period. It is upon the first that his permanence as a writer
must depend. He worked in negro folk lore, in that vast field of
animal stories which seems to be a part of the childhood of races,
but it is not his folk lore, valuable as it may be, that gives him
distinction. Ethnological and philological societies have done the
work more scientifically. Many of the animal legends in common use
among the slaves of the South were already in print before he began to
write.[138] What he did was to paint a picture, minutely accurate, of
the negro whom he had known intimately on the plantation of Mr. Turner
at the transition moment when the old was passing into the new. With
a thousand almost imperceptible touches he has made a picture that is
complete and that is alive. The childish ignorance of the race and yet
its subtle cunning, its quaint humor, its pathos, its philosophy, its
conceit, its mendacity and yet its depth of character, its quickness at
repartee--nothing has been omitted. The story teller is more valuable
than his story: he is recording unconsciously to himself his own soul
and the soul of his race. Brer Rabbit after all is but a negro in
thinnest disguise, one does not have to see Frost's marvelous drawings
to realize that. The rabbit's helplessness typifies the helplessness
of the negro, and yet Brer Rabbit always wins. Suavity and duplicity
and shifty tricks are the only defense the weak may have. His ruses are
the ruses of a childlike mind. Clumsy in the extreme and founded on
what seems like the absolute stupidity of Brer Fox and Brer Wolf and
the others who are beguiled, these ruses always succeed. The helpless
little creature is surrounded on all sides by brutality and superior
force; they seemingly overcome him, but in the end they are defeated
and always by force of superior cunning and skilful mendacity at the
supreme moment. It is the very essence of the child story--the giant
killed by Jack, the wolf powerless to overcome Little Red Riding Hood,
and all the others--for the negro himself was but a child.

Page uses the negro as an accessory. The pathos of the black race
adds pathos to the story of the destroyed white régime. Harris rose
superior to Page in that he made the negro not the background for a
white aristocracy, but a living creature valuable for himself alone;
and he rose superior to Russell inasmuch as he embodied the result of
his studies not in a type but in a single negro personality to which he
gave the breath of life. Harris's negro is the type plus the personal
equation of an individual--Uncle Remus, one of the few original
characters which America has added to the world's gallery.

It is worthy of note too that he interpreted with the same patience
and thoroughness the music and the poetry of the negro. Russell was
a lyrist with the gift of intuition and improvisation; Harris was a
deliberate recorder. The songs he wrote are not literary adaptations,
nor are they framed after the conventional minstrel pattern. They are
reproductions. In his first introduction to _Uncle Remus, His Songs and
His Sayings_ he wrote:

    As to the songs, the reader is warned that it will be found
    difficult to make them conform to the ordinary rules of
    versification, nor is it intended that they should so conform.
    They are written, and are intended to be read, solely in
    reference to the regular invariable recurrence of the cæsura,
    as, for instance, the first stanza of the Revival Hymn:

        Oh, whar | shill we go | w'en de great | day comes |
        Wid de blow | in' er de trumpits | en de bang | in' er de drums |
        Hoy man | y po' sin | ers 'll be kotch'd | out late |
        En fine | no latch | ter de gold | en gate |

    In other words, the songs depend for their melody and rhythm
    upon the musical quality of _time_, and not upon long or short,
    accented or unaccented, syllables. I am persuaded that this
    fact led Mr. Sidney Lanier, who is thoroughly familiar with
    the metrical peculiarities of negro songs, into the exhaustive
    investigation which has resulted in the publication of his
    scholarly treatise on The Science of English Verse.

Nowhere else does one come so completely into the feeling of negro
music as in Harris. In "The Night Before Christmas," in _Nights with
Uncle Remus_, a latter-day "Sir Roger de Coverley Paper," we feel the
tone of it:

    His voice was strong and powerful, and sweet, and its range
    was as astonishing as its volume. More than this, the melody
    to which he tuned it, and which was caught up by a hundred
    voices almost as sweet and as powerful as his own, was charged
    with a mysterious and pathetic tenderness. The fine company
    of men and women at the big house--men and women who had made
    the tour of all the capitals of Europe--listened with swelling
    hearts and with tears in their eyes as the song rose and fell
    upon the air--at one moment a tempest of melody, at another a
    heart-breaking strain breathed softly and sweetly to the gentle
    winds. The song that the little boy and the fine company heard
    was something like this--ridiculous enough when put in cold
    type, but powerful and thrilling when joined to the melody with
    which the negroes had invested it:

        De big Owl holler en cry fer his mate,
            My honey, my love!
        Oh, don't stay long! oh, don't stay late!
            My honey, my love!
        Hit ain't so mighty fur ter de good-by gate,
            My honey, my love!
        Whar we all got ter go w'en we sing out de night,
            My honey, my love!
        My honey, my love, my heart's delight--
            My honey, my love!


IV

With the success of the first Uncle Remus book there came the greatest
flood of dialect literature that America has ever known. The years
1883 and 1884 mark the high tide of this peculiar outbreak, and to
Georgia more than to any other locality may be traced the primal cause.
In 1883 came what may be called the resurgence of the cracker, that
Southeastern variety of the Pike which now came to the North as a new
discovery. The leading characteristics of the type were thus set forth
by Harris in his story of "Mingo":

    Slow in manner and speech, shiftless in appearance, hospitable
    but suspicious toward strangers, unprogressive, toughly
    enduring the poor, hard conditions of their lives, and
    oppressed with the melancholy silences of the vast, shaggy
    mountain solitudes among which they dwell. The women are lank,
    sallow, dirty. They rub snuff, smoke pipes--even the young
    girls--and are great at the frying pan; full of a complaining
    patience and a sullen fidelity.

Again America became excited over a new Pike County type. Johnston's
_Dukesborough Tales_ were issued for the first time in the North;
Harris's "At Teague Poteet's, a Sketch of the Hog Mountain Range,"
appeared in the June _Century_, and Charles Egbert Craddock's story
of the same mountains, "The Harnt that Walks Chilhowee," came out the
same month in the _Atlantic_. That was in 1883. The next year appeared
Harris's _Mingo_, and Craddock's _In the Tennessee Mountains_. Then the
flood gates of dialect were loosened. The _Century_ published Page's
story "Mars Chan," which it had been holding for four years, a story
told entirely in the negro dialect. The new and mysterious Craddock,
who was found now to be Miss Mary N. Murfree, created a widespread
sensation. In 1883 appeared James Whitcomb Riley's first book _The Old
Swimmin'-Hole and 'Leven More Poems_ and Mary Hallock Foote's _The
Led-Horse Claim_; in 1887 came Octave Thanet's _Knitters in the Sun_,
dialect tales of the Arkansas canebrakes, and shortly afterwards Hamlin
Garland's studies of farm life in the middle West. The eighties stand
for the complete triumph of dialect and of local color.

Henry James, viewing the phenomenon from his English standpoint,
offered an explanation that is worthy of note: "Nothing is more
striking," he wrote, "than the invasive part played by the element of
dialect in the subject-matter of the American fictions of the day.
Nothing like it, probably--nothing like any such predominance--exists
in English, in French, in German work of the same order. It is a part,
in its way, to all appearance, of the great general wave of curiosity
on the subject of the soul aboundingly _not_ civilized that has lately
begun to well over the Anglo-Saxon globe and that has borne Mr. Rudyard
Kipling, say, so supremely high on its crest."

Harris's work with the Georgia cracker, though small in quantity, is
of permanent value. Unlike Craddock, he was upon his native ground
and he worked with sympathy. He had not the artistic distinction and
the ideality of Page, but he was able to bring his reader nearer to
the material in which he worked. Page was romantic and his standpoint
was essentially aristocratic; Harris was realistic and democratic. He
worked close always to the fundamentals of human life and his creations
have always the seeming spontaneousness of nature itself.

As a writer Harris must be summed up as being essentially fragmentary.
His literary output was the work of a man who could write only in
the odd moments stolen from an exacting profession. It is work done
by snatches. He left no long masterpiece; his novels like _Gabriel
Tolliver_ and the rest are full of delightful fragments, but they
are rambling and incoherent. Of _Plantation Pageants_ its author
himself could say, "Glancing back over its pages, it seems to be but a
patchwork of memories and fancies, a confused dream of old times." With
his Brer Rabbit sketches, however, this criticism does not hold. By
their very nature they are fragmentary; there was no call for continued
effort or for constructive power; the only demand was for a consistent
personality that should emerge from the final collection and dominate
it, and this demand he met to the full.

No summary of Harris's work can be better than his own comment once
uttered upon _Huckleberry Finn_: "It is history, it is romance, it
is life. Here we behold a human character stripped of all tiresome
details; we see people growing and living; we laugh at their humor,
share their griefs, and, in the midst of it all, behold we are taught
the lesson of honesty, justice, and mercy." To no one could this
verdict apply more conspicuously than to the creator of Uncle Remus and
of Teague Poteet.


V

To the Georgia group belongs in reality Mary Noailles Murfree, better
known as Charles Egbert Craddock. Tennessee, her native State--she was
born at Murfreesboro in 1850--was of Georgia settlement. On one side
of the border as on the other one found a certain wild independence
and originality and crude democracy, the same that voiced itself in
Longstreet and Thompson, and later in Johnston and Harris. Moreover,
the mountains of the Craddock tales lie along the Georgia border and
their inhabitants are the same people who figured in Longstreet's
"Gander Pulling" and furnished Gorm Smallin and Teague Poteet for
Lanier and Harris.

During the seventeen years of her later childhood and youth, or from
1856 to 1873, Miss Murfree lived at Nashville, Tennessee, where her
father had an extensive legal practice, and then until 1882 she made
her home at St. Louis, Missouri. She was, therefore, unlike Johnston
and Harris, metropolitan in training and in point of view. Lameness
and a certain frailness of physique caused by a fever debarred her
from the activities of childhood and drove her in upon herself for
entertainment. She was precocious and she read enormously, pursuing her
studies even into the French and the Italian. Later she attended the
academy at Nashville and then a seminary at Philadelphia, and, on her
return home, even began the study of law in her father's library.

For such a woman, especially in the seventies, literature as a
profession was inevitable. She began to write early and some of her
apprentice papers, signed even then with the pen name Charles E.
Craddock, found publication, notably a few sketches and tales in the
weekly _Appleton's Journal_. It was conventional work and it promised
little. Between a sketch like "Taking the Blue Ribbon at the Fair"
and "The Dancin' Party at Harrison's Cove," which appeared in the May
issue of the _Atlantic_, 1878, there is a gulf that even yet has not
been fully explained. Undoubtedly the early models that influenced her
were George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Bret Harte, but she has preserved
little of her transition work. She came unheralded with her art fully
matured. Whoever may have been her early masters, she was from the
first autochthonic in style and material and in the atmosphere that
she threw over all that she wrote. There was a newness to her work, a
tang of the wild and elemental in the dialect, a convincing quality to
the backgrounds painted in sentences like "An early moon was riding,
clear and full, over this wild spur of the Alleghanies," that excited
wide comment. It was not until 1884, however, that the new author may
be said definitely to have arrived, for it was not until then that her
stories were given the dignity of book form.

With the publication of _In the Tennessee Mountains_ came one of the
most dramatic happenings that ever gave wings to a new book. Charles
Egbert Craddock visited the _Atlantic_ office and, to the amazement
of Aldrich and Howells and Dr. Holmes, he was a woman. The sensation,
coming as it did from the center of the old New England tradition, gave
the book at once an international fame and made Charles Egbert Craddock
a name as widely known as Dr. Holmes. She followed her early success
with a long series of Tennessee mountain novels. Six of them--_The
Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains_, _In the Clouds_, _The Despot
of Broomsedge Cove_, _His Vanished Star_, _The Mystery of Witchface
Mountain_, and _The Juggler_--first appeared serially in the Atlantic,
and, for a time at least, it seemed as if her work had taken its place
among the American classics.


VI

Criticism of the Craddock novels must begin always with the statement
that their author was not a native of the region with which she
dealt. She had been born into an old Southern family with wealth
and traditions, and she had been reared in a city amid culture and
a Southern social régime. The Tennessee mountains she knew only as
a summer visitor may know them. For fifteen summers she went to the
little mountain town of Beersheba, prototype undoubtedly of the "New
Helvetia Springs" of her novels, and from there made excursions into
the wilder regions. She saw the mountains with the eyes of the city
vacationist: she was impressed with their wildness, their summer moods
with light and shadow, their loneliness and their remote spurs and
coves and ragged gaps. She saw them with the picture sense of the
artist and she described them with a wealth of coloring that reminds
one of Ruskin. In every chapter, often many times repeated, gorgeous
paintings like these:

    A subtle amethystine mist had gradually overlaid the slopes
    of the T'other Mounting, mellowing the brilliant tints of the
    variegated foliage to a delicious hazy sheen of mosaics; but
    about the base the air seemed dun-colored, though transparent;
    seen through it, even the red of the crowded trees was but
    a somber sort of magnificence, and the great masses of gray
    rocks, jutting out among them here and there, wore a darkly
    frowning aspect. Along the summit there was a blaze of scarlet
    and gold in the full glory of the sunshine; the topmost cliffs
    caught its rays, and gave them back in unexpected gleams of
    green or grayish-yellow, as of mosses, or vines, or huckleberry
    bushes, nourished in the heart of the deep fissures.


    Mink, trotting along the red clay road, came suddenly upon the
    banks of the Scolacutta River, riotous with the late floods,
    fringed with the papaw and the ivy bush. Beyond its steely
    glint he could see the sun-flooded summit of Chilhowee, a
    bronze green, above the intermediate ranges: behind him was
    the Great Smoky, all unfamiliar viewed from an unaccustomed
    standpoint, massive, solemn, of dusky hue; white and amber
    clouds were slowly settling on the bald. There had been a
    shower among the mountains, and a great rainbow, showing now
    only green and rose and yellow, threw a splendid slant of
    translucent color on the purple slope. In such an environment
    the little rickety wooden mill--with its dilapidated leaking
    race, with its motionless wheel moss-grown, with its tottering
    supports throbbing in the rush of the water which rose around
    them, with a loitering dozen or more mountaineers about the
    door--might seem a feeble expression of humanity. To Mink the
    scene was the acme of excitement and interest.

A picture of summer it is for the most part painted lavishly with
adjectives, and presented with impressionistic rather than realistic
effect. Every detail is intensified. The mountains of eastern Tennessee
are only moderate ridges, yet in the Craddock tales they take on
the proportions of the Canadian Rockies or the Alps. The peak that
dominates _In the Clouds_ seems to soar like a Mont Blanc:

    In the semblance of the cumulus-cloud from which it takes
    its name, charged with the portent of the storm, the massive
    peak of Thunderhead towers preëminent among the summits of
    the Great Smoky Mountains, unique, impressive, most subtly
    significant. What strange attraction of the earth laid hold
    on this vagrant cloud-form? What unexplained permanence of
    destiny solidified it and fixed it forever in the foundations
    of the range? Kindred thunderheads of the air lift above the
    horizon, lure, loiter, lean on its shoulder with similitudes
    and contrasts. Then with all the buoyant liberties of cloudage
    they rise--rise!... Sometimes it was purple against the azure
    heavens; or gray and sharp of outline on faint green spaces of
    the sky; or misty, immaterial, beset with clouds, as if the
    clans had gathered to claim the changeling.

Always the scenery dominates the book. It is significant that all of
her early titles have in them the name of a locality,--the setting
is the chief thing: Lost Creek, Big Injun Mounting, Harrison's Cove,
Chilhowee, the Great Smoky Mountains, Broomsedge Cove, Keedon Bluffs.
In stories like _The Mystery of Witch-Face Mountain_ the background
becomes supreme: the human element seems to have been added afterwards
by a sort of necessity; the central character is the great witch-face
on the mountain.

It reminds one of Hardy, and then one remembers that when "The Dancin'
Party at Harrison's Cove" appeared in the _Atlantic_, _The Return of
the Native_ had for three months been running as a serial in _Harper's
Monthly_, and that, somewhat later, _In the "Stranger-People's"
Country_ and _Wessex Folk_ ran for months parallel in the same
magazine. It is impossible not to think of Hardy as one reads _Where
the Battle Was Fought_, 1884. The battle-field dominates the book as
completely as does Egdon Heath _The Return of the Native_, and it
dominates it in the same symbolic way:

    By wintry daylight the battle-field is still more ghastly. Gray
    with the pallid crab-grass which so eagerly usurps the place of
    the last summer's crops, it stretches out on every side to meet
    the bending sky. The armies that successively encamped upon it
    did not leave a tree for miles, but here and there thickets
    have sprung up since the war, and bare and black they intensify
    the gloom of the landscape. The turf in these segregated spots
    is never turned. Beneath the branches are rows of empty,
    yawning graves, where the bodies of soldiers were temporarily
    buried. Here, most often, their spirits walk, and no hire can
    induce the hardiest plowman to break the ground. Thus the owner
    of the land is fain to concede these acres to his ghostly
    tenants, who pay no rent. A great brick house, dismantled and
    desolate, rises starkly above the dismantled desolation of the
    plain.

The title of the book--_Where the Battle Was Fought_--makes the
battle-field central in the tragedy, and so it is with the short
stories "'Way Down in Lonesome Cove" and "Drifting Down Lost Creek."
Nature is always cognizant of the human tragedy enacted before it and
always makes itself felt. In _The Juggler_, Tubal Cain Sims believes
that murder has been done:

    "He sighed an' groaned like suthin' in agony. An' then he says,
    so painful, 'But the one who lives--oh, what can I do--the
    one who lives!'" He paused abruptly to mark the petrified
    astonishment on the group of faces growing white in the closing
    dusk.

    An owl began to hoot in the bosky recesses far up the slope.
    At the sound, carrying far in the twilight stillness, a hound
    bayed from the door of the little cabin in the Cove, by the
    river. A light, stellular in the gloom that hung about the
    lower levels, suddenly sprung up in the window. A tremulous
    elongated reflection shimmered in the shallows.

But such effects in her work are fitful: one feels them strongly at
times, then forgets them in the long stretches of dialect conversation
and description seemingly introduced for its own sake. Of the art that
could make of Egdon Heath a constantly felt, implacable, malignant
presence that harried and compelled its dwellers until the reader at
last must shake himself awake as from a nightmare, of this she knew
little. She worked by means of brilliant sketches; she relied upon
her picturing power to carry the story, and as a result the effect is
scattered.

In her characterization she had all the defects of Scott: she worked
largely with externals. She had an eye for groups posed artistically
against a picturesque background as in that marvelous opening picture
in "'Way Down on Lonesome Cove." She expended the greatest of care
on costume, features, habits of carriage and posture, tricks of
expression, individual oddities, but she seldom went deeper. We see
her characters distinctly; not often do we feel them. In her major
personages, like the Prophet, the Despot, the Juggler, we have little
sympathetic interest, and it is impossible to believe that they were
much more than picturesque specimens even to the author herself. To
get upon the heart of the reader a character must first have been upon
the heart of his creator. Here and there undoubtedly she did feel the
thrill of comprehension as she created, a few times so keenly indeed
that she could forget her art, her note book, and her audience. The one
thing that seems to have touched her heart as she journeyed through the
summer valleys and into the remote coves seems to have been the pitiful
loneliness and heart-hunger of the women. Could she have done for all
of her characters what she did for Celia Shaw and Madeline and Dorinda
and a few other feminine souls, the final verdict upon her work might
have been far different from what it must be now.

Her stories necessarily are woven from scanty materials. In the tale
of a scattered and primitive mountain community there can be little
complication of plot. The movement of the story must be slow, as slow
indeed as the round of life in the coves and the lonesome valleys.
But in her long-drawn narratives often there is no movement at all.
She elaborates details with tediousness and records interminable
conversations, and breaks the thread to insert whole chapters of
description, as in Chapter VI of _The Juggler_, which records the
doings at a mountain revival meeting seemingly for the mere sake of
the local color. Nearly all of her longer novels lack in constructive
power. Like Harte, whom in so many ways she resembled, she could deal
strongly with picturesque moments and people, but she lacked the
ability to trace the growth of character or the slow transforming power
of a passion or an ideal or a sin.

Her style was peculiarly her own; in this she was strong. It is worthy
of note that in an age rendered styleless by the newspaper and the
public school she was able to be individual to the extent that one may
identify any page of her writings by the style alone. It is not always
admirable: there is a Southern floridness about it, a fondness for
stately epithet that one does not find in Harris or in others of the
Georgia group. She can write that the search light made "a rayonnant
halo in the dim glooms of the riparian midnight," and she can follow
the jocose observation of a woman washing dishes with this tremendous
sentence: "'What fur?' demanded the lord of the house, whose sense of
humor was too blunted by his speculations, and a haunting anxiety,
and a troublous eagerness to discuss the question of his discovery,
to perceive aught of the ludicrous in the lightsome metaphor with
which his weighty spouse had characterized her dissatisfaction with
the ordering of events." It may be interesting to know that the
woman vouchsafed no reply. Rather, "she wheezed one more line of her
matutinal hymn in a dolorous cadence and with breathy interstices
between the spondees."

She is at her best when describing some lonely valley among the ridges,
or the moonlight as it plays fitfully over some scene of mountain
lawlessness, or some remote cabin "deep among the wooded spurs." In
such work she creates an atmosphere all her own. Few other writers have
so made landscape felt. One may choose illustrations almost at random:

    On a certain steep and savage slope of the Great Smoky
    Mountains, the primeval wilderness for many miles is unbroken
    save for one meager clearing.


    Deep among the wooded spurs Lonesome Cove nestles, sequestered
    from the world. Naught emigrates from thence except an
    importunate stream that forces its way through a rocky gap, and
    so to freedom beyond. No stranger intrudes; only the moon looks
    in once in a while. The roaring wind may explore its solitudes;
    and it is but the vertical sun that strikes to the heart of the
    little basin, because of the massive mountains that wall it
    round and serve to isolate it.


    The night wind rose. The stars all seemed to have burst from
    their moorings and were wildly adrift in the sky. There was a
    broken tumult of billowy clouds, and the moon tossed hopelessly
    among them, a lunar wreck, sometimes on her beam ends,
    sometimes half submerged, once more gallantly struggling to
    the surface, and again sunk. The bare boughs of the trees beat
    together in a dirgelike monotone.

Nowhere is she commonplace; nowhere does she come down from the
stately plane that she reaches always with her opening paragraph. Even
her dialect is individual. Doubtless other writers have handled the
mountain speech more correctly, doubtless there is as much of Charles
Egbert Craddock in the curious forms and perversions as there is of
the Tennessee mountaineers, yet no one has ever used dialect more
convincingly than she or more effectively. She has made it a part of
her style.

The story of Charles Egbert Craddock is a story of gradual decline. _In
the Tennessee Mountains_ was received with a universality of approval
comparable only with that accorded to _The Luck of Roaring Camp_.
In her second venture, _Where the Battle Was Fought_, she attempted
to break from the narrow limits of her first success and to write a
Hardy-like novel of the section of Southern life in which she herself
belonged, but it failed. From all sides came the demand that she return
again to her own peculiar domain. And she returned with _The Prophet of
the Great Smoky Mountains_. It was praised, but with the praise came
a note of dissatisfaction, a note that became more and more dominant
with every novel that followed. Her first short stories had appealed
because of their freshness and the strangeness of their setting.
Moreover, since they were the first work of a young writer they were a
promise of better things to come. But the promise was not fulfilled.
After _The Juggler_, her last attempt on a large scale to create a
great Tennessee-mountains novel, she took the advice of many of her
critics and left the narrow field that she had cultivated so carefully.
She wrote historical romances and novels of contemporary life, but the
freshness of her early work was gone. After 1897 she produced nothing
that had not been done better by other writers.

Her failure came not, as many have believed, from the poverty of her
materials and the narrowness of her field. Thomas Hardy deliberately
had chosen for his novels a region and a people just as primitive.
A great novel should concern itself with the common fundamentals of
humanity, and these fundamentals, he believed, may be studied with more
of accuracy in the isolated places where the conventions of polite
society have not prevented natural expression. Or, to quote Hardy's own
words:

    Social environment operates upon character in a way that is
    oftener than not prejudicial to vigorous portraiture by making
    the exteriors of men their screen rather than their index, as
    with untutored mankind. Contrasts are disguised by the crust of
    conventionality, picturesqueness obliterated, and a subjective
    system of description necessitated for the differentiation of
    character. In the one case the author's word has to be taken as
    to the nerves and muscles of his figures; in the other they can
    be seen as in an écorché.[139]

The failure of Charles Egbert Craddock came rather from her inability
to work with large masses of material and coördinate it and shape it
into a culminating force. She was picturesque rather than penetrating,
melodramatic rather than simple, a showman rather than a discerning
interpreter of the inner meanings of life. She could make vivid
sketches of a moment or of a group or a landscape, but she could not
build up touch by touch a consistent and compelling human character.
Her genius was fitted to express itself in the short story and the
sketch, and she devoted the golden years of her productive life to the
making of elaborate novels. A little story like "'Way Down on Lonesome
Cove" is worth the whole of the _The Juggler_ or _In the Clouds_. The
short stories with which she won her first fame must stand as her
highest achievement.


VII

Later members of the Georgia group, Sarah Barnwell Elliott, Harry
Stillwell Edwards, and William Nathaniel Harben, have continued the
tradition of Longstreet and have dealt more or less realistically with
the humbler life of their region. Miss Elliott with her _The Durket
Sperrit_ entered the domain of Charles Egbert Craddock and gave a
new version of the mountain dialect. A comparison of this novel with
_The Juggler_, which appeared the same year, is illuminating. The two
writers seem to be complements of each other, the one strong where the
other is weak. The story lacks the atmosphere, the poetic dignity,
the sense of mystery and of mountain majesty so notable in the elder
novelist, but it surpasses her in characterization and in sympathy.
The people are tremendously alive. The tyrannical old woman about
whom the tale centers, with her narrow ideals and her haughty "Durket
sperrit," dominates every page as Egdon Heath dominates _The Return
of the Native_. She is felt during every moment of the story and so is
the pathetic little mountain waif in the earlier chapters of _Jerry_.
Miss Elliott's distinctive work is limited to these two books. Had she
had the courage to work out with clearness the central tragedy of _The
Durket Sperrit_, the deliberate disgracing of Hannah by her discarded
lover, the book might take its place among the few great novels of the
period.

Edwards inclined more toward the old Georgia type of human-nature
sketch. His best work is to be found in his short studies in black
and white after the Johnston pattern. Indeed, his first story, "Elder
Brown's Backslide," _Harper's Monthly_, 1885, without his name would
have been regarded as a Dukesborough Tale. He has written two novels,
one of which, _Sons and Fathers_, was awarded the $10,000 prize offered
by the _Chicago Record_ for a mystery story, but he is not a novelist.
He is humorous and picturesque and often he is for a moment the master
of pathos, but he has added nothing new and nothing commandingly
distinctive.


VIII

Constance Fenimore Woolson's _Rodman the Keeper_, 1880, undoubtedly
was a strong force in the new Southern revival. During the eighties
Miss Woolson was regarded as the most promising of the younger writers.
She was a grand niece of Cooper, a fact made much of, and she had
written short stories of unusual brilliance, her collection, _Castle
Nowhere_, indeed, ranking as a pioneer book in a new field. Again was
she destined to be a pioneer. In 1873 the frail health of her mother
sent her into the South and for six years she made her home in Florida,
spending her summers in the mountains of North Carolina, Virginia,
South Carolina, and Georgia. During the rest of her life her stories
were studies of Southern life and Southern conditions. Only _Anne_ of
her novels and two late collections of Italian tales may be noted as
exceptions.

It was in _Rodman the Keeper_, a collection of her magazine stories of
the late seventies, that the North found its first adequate picture of
the territory over which had been fought the Civil War. The Tourgee
novels, which had created a real sensation, were political documents,
but here were studies carefully wrought by one who did not take sides.
It showed the desolation wrought by the armies during the four years,
the pathos of broken homes and ruined plantations, the rankling
bitterness, especially in the hearts of women, the helpless pride of
the survivors, and the curious differences between the Northern and
the Southern temperaments. It was careful work. Contemporary opinion
seemed to be voiced by the Boston _Literary World_: The stories "more
thoroughly represent the South than anything of the kind that has been
written since the war."

Necessarily the standpoint was that of an observer from without. There
was no dialect in the tales, there were no revealings of the heart of
Southern life as in Harris and Page and the others who had arisen from
the material they used, but there was beauty and pathos and a careful
realism that carried conviction. A sketch like "Felipe," for example,
is a prose idyl, "Up the Blue Ridge" is the Craddock region seen with
Northern eyes, and the story that gives the title to the book catches
the spirit of the defeated South as few writers not Southern born have
ever done.

For a time Miss Woolson held a commanding place among the novelists
of the period. After her untimely death in 1894 Stedman wrote that
she "was one of the leading women in the American literature of the
century," and again, "No woman of rarer personal qualities, or with
more decided gifts as a novelist, figured in her own generation of
American writers." But time has not sustained this contemporary
verdict. Her ambitious novel _Anne_, over which she toiled for three
years, brilliant as it may be in parts, has not held its place. And
her short stories, rare though they may have been in the day of their
newness, are not to be compared with the perfect art of such later
writers as Miss King and Mrs. Chopin. She must take her place as one
of the pioneers of the period who discovered a field and prepared an
audience for writers who were to follow.


IX

The appearance of Page's _In Ole Virginia_, 1887, marks the culmination
of the period of Southern themes. The sensation caused by _The Quick
or the Dead?_ by Amélie Rives (later Princess Troubetzkoy) in 1888
need only be referred to. It had little significance either local or
otherwise. The younger writers, born for the most part at a later date,
like John Fox, Jr., Mary Johnston, and Ellen Glasgow, belong to another
period.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  RICHARD MALCOLM JOHNSTON. (1822-1898.) _The English Classics_,
  1860; _Georgia Sketches, by an Old Man_, 1864; _Dukesborough
  Tales_, 1871, 1874, 1883, 1892; _English Literature_ (with
  William Hand Browne), 1872; _Life of Alexander H. Stephens_ (with
  William Hand Browne), 1878; _Old Mark Langston, a Tale of Duke's
  Creek_, 1883; _Mr. Absalom Billingslea and Other Georgia Folk_,
  1888; _Ogeechee Cross Firings_, 1889; _The Primes and Their
  Neighbors_, 1891; _Studies Literary and Scientific_, 1891; _Mr.
  Billy Downs and His Likes_, 1892; _Mr. Fortner's Marital Claims
  and Other Stories_, 1892; _Two Gray Tourists_, 1893; _Widow
  Guthrie_, 1893; _Little Ike Templin and Other Stories_, 1894;
  _Old Times in Middle Georgia_, 1897; _Pearce Amerson's Will_,
  1898.

  JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS. (1848-1908.) _Uncle Remus, His Songs and
  His Sayings_, 1880; _Nights with Uncle Remus, Myths and Legends
  of the Old Plantation_, 1883; _Mingo and Other Sketches in Black
  and White_, 1884; _Story of Aaron_, 1885; _Free Joe and Other
  Georgian Sketches_, 1887; _Daddy Jake the Runaway, and Short
  Stories Told After Dark_, 1889; _Balaam and His Master, and Other
  Sketches and Stories_, 1891; _On the Plantation, a Story of a
  Georgia Boy's Adventures During the War_, 1892; _Uncle Remus
  and His Friends_, 1892; _Little Mr. Thimblefinger and His Queer
  Country_, 1894; _Mr. Rabbit at Home_, 1895; _Sister Jane, Her
  Friends and Acquaintances_, 1896; _Georgia from the Invasion
  of De Soto to Recent Times_, 1896; _Stories of Georgia_, 1896;
  _Aaron in the Wildwoods_, 1897; _Tales of the Home Folks in
  Peace and War_, 1898; _Chronicles of Aunt Minerva Ann_, 1899;
  _Plantation Pageants_, 1899; _On the Wing of Occasions_, 1900;
  _Gabriel Tolliver, a Story of Reconstruction_, 1902; _Making
  of a Statesman, and Other Stories_, 1902; _Wally Wanderoon_,
  1903; _Little Union Scout_, 1904; _Tar Baby and Other Rimes of
  Uncle Remus_, 1904; _Told by Uncle Remus; New Stories of the Old
  Plantation_, 1905.

  CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON. (1840-1894.) _The Old Stone House_,
  1873; _Castle Nowhere_, 1875; _Lake-Country Sketches_, 1875;
  _Rodman the Keeper_, 1880; _Anne_, 1882; _East Angels_, 1886;
  _Jupiter Lights_, 1889; _Horace Chase, a Novel_, 1894; _The
  Front Yard and Other Italian Stories_, 1895; _Dorothy, and Other
  Italian Stories_, 1896; _Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu_, 1896.

  CHARLES EGBERT CRADDOCK. (1850-----.) _In the Tennessee
  Mountains_, 1884; _Where the Battle Was Fought_, 1885; _Down the
  Ravine_, 1885; _The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains_, 1885;
  _In the Clouds_, 1886; _The Story of Keedon Bluffs_, 1887; _The
  Despot of Broomsedge Cove_, 1888; _In the "Stranger People's"
  Country_, 1891; _His Vanished Star_, 1894; _The Phantoms of the
  Footbridge_, 1895; _The Mystery of Witchface Mountain_, 1895;
  _The Juggler_, 1897; _The Young Mountaineers_, 1897; _The Story
  of Old Fort Louden_, 1899; _The Bushwhackers and Other Stories_,
  1899; _The Champion_, 1902; _A Specter of Power_, 1903; _Storm
  Center_, 1905; _The Frontiersman_, 1905; _The Amulet_, 1906;
  _The Windfall_, 1907; _The Fair Mississippian_, 1908; _Ordeal--A
  Mountain Story of Tennessee_, 1912; _Raid of the Guerrilla_,
  1912; _The Story of Duciehurst_, 1914.

  SARAH BARNWELL ELLIOTT. _The Felmeres_, 1880; _A Simple Heart_,
  1886; _Jerry_, 1890; _John Paget_, 1893; _The Durket Sperret_,
  1897; _An Incident and Other Happenings_, 1899; _Sam Houston_,
  1900; _The Making of Jane_, 1901; _His Majesty's Service and
  Other Plays_.

  HARRY STILLWELL EDWARDS. (1855-----.) _Two Runaways and Other
  Stories_, 1889; _Sons and Fathers_, 1896; _The Marbeau Cousins_,
  1898; _His Defense, and Other Stories_, 1898.



CHAPTER XV

THE LATER POETS


Although prose forms, especially the novel and the short story,
dominated the period, yet the amount of poetry published from 1860 to
1899 surpasses, in mere bulk at least, all that had been produced in
America before that date. In quality also it is notable. Stedman's _An
American Anthology_ has 773 pages of selections, and of this space 462
pages, or almost two-thirds, are given to the poets who made their
first appearance during these forty years. Very many whom he mentions
were only incidentally poets. A surprising number of those who are
known to-day only as novelists or short story writers began their
career with a volume and in some cases with several volumes of verse.
Few indeed have been the writers who have not contributed poetical
material. Among the poets are to be numbered writers as inseparably
connected with prose as Thoreau, Burroughs, Howells, Mrs. Stuart
Phelps Ward, S. Weir Mitchell, Miss Woolson, Lew Wallace, Mrs. Wilkins
Freeman, Harris, Page, Mrs. Cooke, Ambrose Bierce, Alice Brown, Hamlin
Garland, and A. S. Hardy.

Those who may be counted as the distinctive poets of the era, the third
generation of poets in America, make not a long list if only those be
taken who have done new and distinctive work. Not many names need be
added to the following twenty-five whose first significant collections
were published during the twenty years following 1870:

    1870. Bret Harte. _Plain Language from Truthful James._
    1871. John Hay. _Pike County Ballads._
    1871. Joaquin Miller. _Songs of the Sierras._
    1871. Will Carleton. _Poems._
    1872. Celia Thaxter. _Poems._
    1873. John Boyle O'Reilly. _Songs of the Southern Seas._
    1875. Richard Watson Gilder. _The New Day._
    1877. Sidney Lanier. _Poems._
    1881. Ina Coolbrith. _A Perfect Day and Other Poems._
    1882. John Bannister Tabb. _Poems._
    1883. James Whitcomb Riley. _The Old Swimmin'-Hole._
    1883. George Edward Woodberry. _The North Shore Watch._
    1884. Edith M. Thomas. _A New Year's Masque._
    1884. Henry Cuyler Bunner. _Airs from Arcady._
    1884. Louise Imogen Guiney. _Songs at the Start._
    1886. Clinton Scollard. _With Reed and Lyre._
    1887. Eugene Field. _Culture's Garland._
    1887. Madison Cawein. _Blooms of the Berry._
    1887. Robert Burns Wilson. _Life and Love._
    1888. Irwin Russell. _Dialect Poems._
    1889. Richard Hovey. _The Laurel: an Ode._

John James Piatt, Emma Lazarus, Emily Dickinson, and E. R Sill, whose
first volumes fall outside of the twenty-years period, complete the
number.


I

For the greater part these later poets were children of the new era who
with Whitman voiced their own hearts and looked at the life close about
them with their own eyes. The more individual of them, the leading
innovators who most impressed themselves upon their times--Whitman,
Hay and Harte, Miller, Lanier and Russell--we have already considered.
They rose above conventions and rules and looked only at life; they
stood for the new Americanism of the period, and they had the courage
that dared in a critical and fastidious age to break away into what
seemed like crude and unpoetic regions. Not many of them could go to
the extremes of Whitman, or even of Harte and Hay. Some would voice the
new message of the times in the old key and the old forms; others would
adopt the new fashions but change not at all the old themes and the old
sentiments.

Of the latter class Will Carleton perhaps is the typical
representative. By birth and training he belonged to the Western group
of innovators represented by Mark Twain and Eggleston and Miller. He
had been born in a log cabin in Michigan and he had spent all of his
boyhood on a small, secluded farm. He had broken from his environment
at twenty, had gained a college degree, and following the lead of
his inclination had become a journalist, first in Detroit, then in
Chicago, Boston, and New York. From journalism, especially in the
seventies, it was but a step to literature. He would be a poet, and led
by the spirit of his period he turned for material to the homely life
of his boyhood. He would make no realistic picture--no man was ever
less fitted than he to reproduce the external features of a scene or a
region--he would touch the sentiments and the emotions. "Betsey and I
Are Out," published in the _Toledo Blade_ in 1871, was the beginning.
Then in 1873 came _Farm Ballads_, with such popular favorites as "Over
the Hills to the Poor-House" and "Gone with a Handsomer Man," a thin
book that sold forty thousand copies in eighteen months. No poet since
Longfellow had so appealed to the common people. At his death in 1912
there had been sold of his various collections more than six hundred
thousand copies.

His poetry as we read it to-day has in it little of distinction; it
is crude, for the most part, and conventional. It made its appeal
largely because of its kindly sympathy, its homeliness, and its lavish
sentiment. The poet played upon the chords of memory and home and
childhood, the message of the earlier Longfellow cast into a heavily
stressed and swinging melody that found a prepared audience. With E. P.
Roe, his counterpart in prose, Will Carleton is largely responsible for
prolonging the age of sentiment.

A singer of a different type was John James Piatt, born in Indiana in
1835 and joint author with W. D. Howells of _Poems of Two Friends_,
1859. He was a classicist who caught the new vision and sought to
compromise. Everywhere in his work a blending of the new and the old:
the Western spirit that would voice the new notes of the Wabash rather
than echo the old music of the Thames, that syren melody that had been
the undoing of Taylor and Stoddard. In an early review of Stedman,
Piatt had found, as he characteristically termed it, "a too frequent
betrayal of Tennyson's floating musk in his singing-garments," and
he had noted as his chief strength that "his representative subjects
are American."[140] In making the criticism he touched upon his own
weakness and his own strength. In all his volumes conventional work
like "Rose and Root," "The Sunshine of Shadows," and "The Unheard"
alternates with more original poems, native in theme and to a degree
native in spirit, like "The Mower in Ohio," "The Pioneer's Chimney,"
"Fires in Illinois," and "Riding to Vote." There is no dialect, no
straining for realistic effect, no sentimentality. In all that makes
for art the poems have little for criticism: they are classical and
finished and beautiful. But they lack life. There is nothing about them
that grips the reader's heart, nothing that fixes itself in the memory,
no single line that has distinction of phrase. Even in the Western
poems like "The Mower in Ohio" there is no sharpness, no atmosphere,
no feeling of reality. It is art rather than life; it is a conscious
effort to make a poem. The case is typical. With the criticism one may
sweep away once for all great areas of the poetry of the time.

Far stronger are the vigorous lyrics of Maurice Thompson, whose work is
to be found in so many literary fields of the period. His poetry, small
in quantity, has a spirit of its own that is distinctive. It is tonic
with the out-of-doors and it is masculine. One stanza from the poem "At
Lincoln's Grave," delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard in
1893, voices the new Western soul:

        His humor, born of virile opulence,
        Stung like a pungent sap or wild-fruit zest,
        And satisfied a universal sense
        Of manliness, the strongest and the best;
        A soft Kentucky strain was in his voice,
        And the Ohio's deeper boom was there,
        With some wild accents of old Wabash days,
            And winds of Illinois;
        And when he spoke he took us unaware,
        With his high courage and unselfish ways.


II

The successor of Carleton is James Whitcomb Riley of Indiana, the
leading producer during the later period of platform and newspaper
balladry. The early life of Riley was urban rather than rural. His
father was a lawyer at Greenfield, a typical Western county seat, and
after sending the boy to the village school he sought to turn him to
his own profession. But there was a stratum of the wayward and the
unconventional in Riley even from the first. The professions and the
ordinary occupations open to youth did not appeal to the imaginative
lad. He learned the trade of sign-painting and then for a year traveled
with a patent medicine "doctor" as advertising agent. Following
this picturesque experience came three or four years as a traveling
entertainer with a congenial troupe, then desultory newspaper work,
and finally, from 1877 to 1885, a steady position on the Indianapolis
_Journal_. His recognition as a poet came in the mid eighties, and
following it came a long period on the lecture circuit, reading his own
productions, at one time working in conjunction with Eugene Field and
Edgar W. Nye,--"Bill Nye."

His earliest work seems to have been declamatory and journalistic in
origin. "I was always trying to write of the kind of people I knew
and especially to write verse that I could read just as if it were
being spoken for the first time." And again, "I always took naturally
to anything theatrical."[141] For years the newspaper was his only
medium. He contributed to most of the Indiana journals with pseudonyms
ranging all the way from "Edyrn" to "Jay Whitt" and "Benjamin F.
Johnson of Boone," and it was while writing under the last of these
for the Indianapolis _Journal_ that he first became known beyond the
confines of Indiana. The device of printing poems that ostensibly were
contributed by a crude farmer from a back country was not particularly
original. Lowell had used it and Artemus Ward. Moreover, the fiction of
accompanying these poems with editorial comment and specimen letters
from the author was as old at least as _The Biglow Papers_, but there
was a Western, Pike County freshness about the Benjamin F. Johnson
material. The first poem in the series, for instance, was accompanied
by material like this:

    Mr. Johnson thoughtfully informs us that he is "no edjucated
    man," but that he has, "from childhood up tel old enugh to
    vote, allus wrote more or less poetry, as many of an albun in
    the neghborhood can testify." Again, he says that he writes
    "from the hart out"; and there is a touch of genuine pathos in
    the frank avowal, "Thare is times when I write the tears rolls
    down my cheeks."

The poems that followed,--"Thoughts fer the Discuraged Farmer," "When
the Frost is on the Punkin," "Wortermelon Time," and the others--were
written primarily as humorous exercises just as Browne had written
his first Artemus Ward contributions. There is a histrionic element
about them that must not be overlooked. The author is playing a part.
Riley, we know, had, at least in his youth, very little sympathy with
farm life and very little knowledge of it: he was simply impersonating
an ignorant old farmer. The dialect does not ring true. There never
has been a time, for instance, when "ministratin'" for ministering,
"familiously" for familiarly, "resignated" for resigned, and "when the
army broke out" for when the war broke out, have been used in Indiana
save by those with whom they are individual peculiarities. He is simply
reporting the ignorance of one old man in the Artemus Ward fashion.
Dialect with him is the record of a town man's mimicry of country
crudeness. It is conventional rather than realistic. It is a humorous
device like A. Ward's cacography. The first Johnson annotation will
illustrate:

    Benj. F. Johnson, of Boone County, who considers the _Journal_
    a "very valubul" newspaper, writes to inclose us an original
    poem, desiring that we kindly accept it for publication, as
    "many neghbors and friends is astin' him to have the same
    struck off."

He issued the series at his own expense in 1883 with the title _The
Old Swimmin'-Hole and 'Leven More Poems by Benj. F. Johnson, of
Boone_, and he continued the masquerade until after the publication
of _Afterwhiles_ in 1887. After the great vogue of this later volume
he began to publish voluminously until his final collected edition
numbered fourteen volumes.

Riley not only inherited Will Carleton's public entire, but he added
to it very considerably. He too dealt freely in sentiment and he too
wrote always with vocal interpretation in mind. Undoubtedly the wide
vogue of his poems has come largely from this element. People have
always enjoyed hearing the poems read with an appropriate acting out
of the part more than they have enjoyed reading them for themselves.
The poems, more over, appeared in what may be called the old homestead
period in America. Denman Thompson first brought out his _Joshua
Whitcomb_ in 1875 and his _The Old Homestead_ in 1886. Riley found a
public doubly prepared. He revived old memories--the word "old" is
almost a mannerism with him: "The Old Swimmin'-Hole," "Old Fashioned
Roses," "The Old Hay-Mow," "The Old Trundle Bed," "Out to Old Aunt
Mary's," "The Boys of the Old Glee Club," "An Old Sweetheart of Mine,"
etc. Especially did he appeal to those whose childhood had been spent
in the country.

Finally, he added to Carleton's devices a metrical facility and a
jigging melody that is perhaps his most original contribution to the
period. More than any one else Riley is responsible for the modern
newspaper type of ballad that is to poetry what ragtime is to music.
There is a fatal facility to such a melody as,

        Old wortermelon time is a-comin' round again,
          And there ain't no man a-livin' any tickleder'n me,
            Fer the way I hanker after wortermelons is a sin--
          Which is the why and wharefore, as you can plainly see.

Or this,

        I ain't, ner don't p'tend to be,
        Much posted on philosofy;
        But thare is times, when all alone,
        I work out idees of my own.
        And of these same thare is a few
        I'd like to jest refer to you--
        Pervidin' that you don't object
        To listen clos't and rickollect.

In his preference for native themes and homely, unliterary treatment of
seemingly unpoetic material he continued the work of the Pike County
balladists. As the _Nation_, reviewing his _Old Fashioned Roses_,
expressed it, he finds pleasure in "some of the coarser California
flavors." His own standards for poetry he has given clearly, and they
are in full accord with the spirit of the period:

        The poems here at home!--Who'll write 'em down,
        Jes' as they air--in Country and in Town?--
        Sowed thick as clods is 'crost the fields and lanes,
        Er these-'ere little hop-toads when it rains!--
        Who'll "voice" 'em? as I heerd a feller say
        'At speechified on Freedom, t'other day,
        And soared the Eagle tel' it 'peared to me,
        She wasn't bigger'n a bumblebee!

        What We want, as I sense it, in the line
        O' poetry is somepin' Yours and Mine--
        Somepin' with live-stock in it, and outdoors,
        And old crick-bottoms, snags, and sycamores:
        Putt weeds in--pizen-vines, and underbresh,
        As well as Johnny-jump-ups, all so fresh
        And sassy-like!--and groun'-squir'ls,--yes, and "We,"
        As sayin' is,--"We, Us and Company!"

But one cannot be sure of him. He is an entertainer, an actor, a
mimicker. Does his material really come "from the hart out" or is he
giving, what one always suspects, only excellent vaudeville? Even in
his most pathetic moments we catch for an instant, or we feel that we
do, a glimpse of the suave face of the platform entertainer.

Once in a while his childhood lyrics ring true. A little note of true
pathos like this from _Poems Here at Home_ is worth a library of _The
Flying Islands of the Night_ and of his other voluminous echoes of
_Alice in Wonderland_:

        Let me come in where you sit weeping,--aye,
        Let me, who have not any child to die,
        Weep with you for the little one whose love
            I have known nothing of.

        The little arms that slowly, slowly loosed
        Their pressure round your neck; the hands you used
        To kiss.--Such arms--such hands I never knew.
            May I not weep with you?

        Fain would I be of service--say some thing,
        Between the tears, that would be comforting,--
        But ah! so sadder than yourselves am I,
            Who have no child to die.

Despite his enormous vogue, Riley must be dismissed as artificial and,
on the whole, insincere. He seems always to be striving for effect--he
is an entertainer who knows his audience and who is never for a moment
dull. He has little of insight, little knowledge of the deeps of life
and the human soul, little of message, and he wrote enormously too
much. He must be rated finally as a comedian, a sentimentalist, an
entertainer.

His influence has been great. A whole school of imitators has sprung
up about him, the most of whom have perished with the papers to which
they have contributed. The strongest of them all undoubtedly was
Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) whose _Back Country Poems_ were genuine
and distinctive. Drummond's _Habitant_ ballads, which rank with the
strongest dialect poetry of the century, belong to Canadian rather
than American literature. Stedman's praise of them is none too high:
"Most of us are content if we sing an old thing in a new way, or a new
thing in an old way. Dr. Drummond has achieved the truest of lyrical
successes; that of singing new songs, and in a new way. His poems are
idyls as true as those of Theocritus or Burns or our own poet of _The
Biglow Papers_."[142]


III

Greatly different from Riley, yet greatly like him in many ways, was
Eugene Field, in whom the lawlessness of the West and the culture of
the East met in strange confusion. Though of Western origin--he was
born at St. Louis in 1850--he spent the formative years of his life
between six and nineteen with his father's relatives at Amherst,
Massachusetts. He completed a year at Williams College, then, called
West by the death of his father, whose law practice at St. Louis had
been distinctive, he was put by his guardian into Knox College. After
a year he was transferred to the University of Missouri, but coming
of age at the close of his junior year, and his share of his father's
estate becoming available, he decided in the spring of 1872 to leave
college and travel in Europe. Accordingly, to quote his own words, he
spent "six months and [his] patrimony in France, Italy, Ireland, and
England."

As a general rule one should quote the autobiographical statements of
Eugene Field with extreme caution, but one can trust this bit of his
"Auto-analysis":

    In May, 1873, I became a reporter on the St. Louis _Evening
    Journal_. In October of that year I married Miss Julia
    Sutherland Comstock of St. Joseph, Mo., at that time a girl of
    sixteen. We have had eight children--three daughters and five
    sons.

    My newspaper connections have been as follows: 1875-76,
    city editor of the St. Joseph (Mo.) _Gazette_; 1876-80,
    editorial writer on the St. Louis _Journal_ and St. Louis
    _Times-Journal_; 1880-81, managing editor of the Kansas City
    Times; 1881-83, managing editor of the Denver _Tribune_. Since
    1883 I have been a contributor to the Chicago Record (formerly
    _Morning News_).[143]

His success with the Denver _Tribune_, to which he contributed such
widely copied work as that published in his first thin volume, _The
Tribune Primer_ (1882), attracted attention. He began to receive offers
from Eastern papers, one at least from Dana, editor of the New York
_Sun_, but it was not until Melville E. Stone offered him the humorous
column of his paper, the Chicago _News_, that Field decided to turn
eastward. He had begun to dream of a literary career and this dream,
always a vague one, for he was chained by poverty to a tyrannical
profession, seemed more possible in a less tense atmosphere than that
of the Western mining center. Arriving at Chicago in 1883, he set out
to make his new column a thing with distinction. _Flats and Sharps_ was
the name he gave it, and into it he poured a mélange of all things:
poetry in every key, paragraphs on all subjects, parodies, hoaxes, mock
reviews, pseudo news, personals, jokes--everything. He threw himself
completely into the thing: it became his life work; "practically
everything he ever wrote appeared at one time or another in that
column."

But newspaper humor usually perishes with the flimsy leaves upon which
it is recorded. Not until Field had written "Little Boy Blue" in 1887
did he become at all known to the reading public. The publication
of the popular editions of _A Little Book of Profitable Tales_ and
_A Little Book of Western Verse_ in 1890, only five years before
his death, marks, perhaps, the time of his general acceptation as a
writer. Hardly had the public learned to know him before they were
called upon to mourn his early death. Indeed, the work by which he
is now best known was done almost all of it in the last six or seven
years of his life. It was only in this brief later period that he was
a "bibliomaniac" or a lover of Horace or a student of the old English
ballads.

One must classify Eugene Field first of all as a humorist, one of the
leading figures in that nondescript school of newspaper comedians that
has played such a part in the history of the period. To a personality
as high spirited and as whimsical as Artemus Ward's he added the
brilliancy of a Locker-Lampson and the improvidence of a Goldsmith as
well as the kindly heart. Seriousness seemed foreign to his nature:
his life was a perpetual series of hoaxes and practical jokes and
hilarious sallies. No one has surpassed him in the making of parodies,
of rollicking paraphrases and adaptations, in skilful blendings of
modern and antique, in clever minglings of seriousness and humor. He
was a maker of brilliant trifles and sparkling _non sequiturs_. His
irreverence is really startling at times. He can make the _Odes_
of Horace seem fit material for the funny column of a Chicago daily
newspaper:

        Boy, I detest the Persian pomp;
          I hate those linden-bark devices;
        And as for roses, holy Moses!
          They can't be got at living prices!
        Myrtle is good enough for us,--
          For _you_, as bearer of my flagon;
        For _me_, supine beneath this vine,
          Doing my best to get a jag on!

He is boon companion of the old Sabine poet. He slaps him on the back
and invites him to all kinds of costly revelry, assuring him that
Mæcenas will pay the freight. And Horace by no means takes offense. He
is a congenial soul.

            I might discourse
            Till I was hoarse
        Upon the cruelties of Venus;
            'T were waste of time
            As well as rime,
        For you've been there yourself, Mæcenas!

In the presence of such an incorrigible joker the reader feels always
that he must be on his guard. One is never safe. Leafing the pages of
the large collected edition of the poems, glancing over the Bret Harte
echoes like "Casey's Table D'Hôte," smiling at such outrageous nonsense
as "The Little Peach" and "The Onion Tart," one suddenly draws a sharp
breath. At last the heart of Eugene Field:

        Upon a mountain height, far from the sea,
            I found a shell,
        And to my listening ear the lonely thing
        Ever a song of ocean seemed to sing,
            Ever a tale of ocean seemed to tell.

               *       *       *       *       *

        Strange, was it not? Far from its native deep,
            One song it sang,--
        Sang of the awful mysteries of the tide,
        Sang of the misty sea, profound and wide,--
            Ever with echoes of the ocean rang.

        And as the shell upon the mountain height
            Sings of the sea,
        So do I ever, leagues and leagues away,--
        So do I ever, wandering where I may,--
            Sing, O my home! sing, O my home! of thee.

A lyric worthy of any anthology. Yet one quickly finds that it is not
Eugene Field at all. He wrote it deliberately as a hoax, a practical
joke on Modjeska, who all the rest of her life was obliged to deny
the authorship which Field had cunningly fastened upon her. The case
is typical. Like Riley, the man is making copy. He uses pathos and
sentiment and the most sacred things as literary capital. One wonders
where one can draw the line. Was he really sincere in his child lyrics
and his bibliomaniac writings or was he cleverly playing a part?

In criticizing Field one must remember the essential immaturity of the
man. His frequent artificiality and his lack of sincerity came from
his boyishness and his high spirits. He looked at life from the angle
of mischievous boyhood. Moreover, he wrote always at the high tension
of the newspaper office, for a thing that had no memory, a column that
had but one demand--_more_! It bred in him what may be denominated,
perhaps, the ephemeral habit. He was all his life a man preëminently
and predominatingly of the present moment, and thus he stands a type of
the literary creator that was to follow him.

For Field more than any other writer of the period illustrates the way
the old type of literary scholar was to be modified and changed by the
newspaper. Every scrap of Field's voluminous product was written for
immediate newspaper consumption. He patronized not at all the literary
magazines, he wrote his books not at all with book intent--he made them
up from newspaper fragments. He wrote always a timely thing to the
people, a thing growing out of the present moment for the people to
read, making palatable for them even Horace and the severer classics.
He was thus one of the leading forces in what may be called that
democratizing of literature for which the period so largely stands.

He has been given a place far beyond his real deserts. The sentiment
of "Little Boy Blue" and the other child lyrics, the whimsical fun
and high spirits of his comic verse, endeared him to the public that
enjoyed Riley. Then his whimsical, Goldsmith-like personality helped
his fame, as did also his death, since it followed so quickly his late
discovery by the reading public that it gave the impression he had
been removed like Keats at the very opening of his career. He must be
rated, however, not for what he wrote, though a few pieces, like his
child lyrics and his bibliomaniac ballads, will continue long in the
anthologies, but for the influence he exerted. He was a pioneer in a
peculiar province: he stands for the journalization of literature, a
process that, if carried to its logical extreme, will make of the man
of letters a mere newspaper reporter.


IV

In his own estimation Field was distinctively a Western poet; he gave
to his poetry the name "Western verse"; and he refused the offers of
Dana and others because he was not at all in sympathy with the Eastern
ideals. To quote his biographer, he felt that Chicago "was as far East
as he could make his home without coming within the influence of those
social and literary conventions that have squeezed so much of genuine
literary flavor out of our literature."[144]

What New York might have made of Field we may learn, perhaps, from
the career of Henry Cuyler Bunner, for nearly twenty years the most
brilliant poetic wit in the East. He, too, had approached literature
from the journalistic entrance. At eighteen he had left school to begin
an apprenticeship on the brilliant but short-lived _Arcadian_, and at
twenty-two he was editor of the newly established _Puck_, a position
that he held until his death at forty-one.

No man ever turned off verse and prose with more facility or in greater
quantity. "The staff of the paper was very small, and little money
could be spent for outside contributions; and there were many weeks
when nearly half the whole number was written by Bunner."[145] Like
Field, he could write a poem while the office boy, who had brought
the order, stood waiting for the copy to carry back with him. For
more than ten years he furnished nearly all the humorous verse for
the periodical, besides numberless paragraphs, short stories, and
editorials. But he was more fastidious than Field, inasmuch as he kept
this journalistic material strictly unconnected with his name. It was
a thing alone of the editorial office, no more to be mingled with his
more literary product than Charles Lamb's India office books were to be
brought into his _Elia_ essays. The greater number of those who laughed
over the verses of the whimsical "V. Hugo Dusenberry, professional
poet," never once dreamed that he was H. C. Bunner, author of the
exquisite lyrics in _Airs from Arcady_ and _Rowen_, and the carefully
wrought stories--French in their atmosphere and their artistic
finish--_Short Sixes_ and _Love in Old Cloathes_. The skilful parodies
and timely renderings, the quips and puns--all the voluminous mélange,
indeed, of the poetic Yorick--lie buried now in the files of _Puck_.
Their creator refused to republish them, and we to-day can but yield
to his wish and judge him only by that which he himself selected for
permanence.

Judged by this, Bunner undoubtedly is our chief writer of _vers de
société_, our laureate of the trivial. He is restrained, refined,
faultless. He is of the artificial world, where fans flutter and
dancers glide and youth is perennial. Triolets penciled in the program
while the orchestra breathed its melody, epigrams over the tea-cups,
conceits for a fan, _amours de voyage_, lines written on the menu,
_amoretti_, valentines--these are his work, and no one has done them
more daintily or with more skill of touch. Trifles they are, to be
sure, yet Bunner, like every master of the form, makes of them more
than trifles. A hint of tears there may be, the faintest breath of
irony, the suspicion, vague as an intuition, of satire or facetiousness
or philosophy, the high spirits and the carelessness of youth, yet
a flash here and there into the deeps of life as, for instance, in
"Betrothed" and "A Poem in the Programme," and "She was a Beauty in the
Days when Madison was President."

The French forms, imported echoes of Dobson and Lang and
Gosse--ballades, rondels, rondeaux, and the like, that so bewitched the
younger poets of the mid-eighties--found in Bunner perhaps their most
skilful American devotee. Perhaps no one but he has ever succeeded in
English with the chant royal, or has found it possible to throw into
that most trivial of all verse forms, triolets, a throb of life, as in
"A Pitcher of Mignonette":

        A pitcher of mignonette
          In a tenement's highest casement:
        Queer sort of flower-pot--yet
        That pitcher of mignonette
        Is a garden in heaven set,
          To the little sick child in the basement--
        The pitcher of mignonette,
          In the tenement's highest casement.

The period, especially in its later years, has run abundantly to these
trivial, though difficult, forms of verse. As poetry ceased more and
more to be a thing of vision and compelling power, it became more
and more a thing of daintiness and brilliancy. The American _Lyra
Elegantiarum_ for the period has been more sparkling and abundant than
the English, more even than the French. John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)
belongs almost wholly to the days of Holmes and Lowell, but the greater
number of our trivial makers fall into the group that was active during
the closing quarter of the century. To mention all of them would be
to call the roll of the younger American poets. Perhaps the most
noteworthy, however, are Mary Mapes Dodge (1838-1905), whose dainty and
tender "The Minuet" gives her a place in the choir; James Jeffrey Roche
(1847-1908); Walter Learned (1847----); Richard Kendall Munkittrick
(1853-1911); Samuel Minturn Peck (1854----), in many respects the most
delightful of the group; Clinton Scollard (1860----); John Kendrick
Bangs (1862----), and such modern instances as Oliver Herford, Gelett
Burgess, and Carolyn Wells. One might, indeed, collect a notable
anthology of _vers de société_ from the files of _Life_ alone.


V

A large amount of the poetry of the era has been written by women.
After the war their thin volumes, bound in creamy vellum and daintily
tinted cloth, began more and more to fill the book tables, until
reviewers no longer could give separate notice to them, but must
consider the poets of a month in groups of ten or twelve. The quality
of the feminine product was high enough to find place in the most
exclusive monthlies, and the quantity published was surprising. The
_Atlantic Monthly_, for instance, during the decade from 1870 published
108 poems by Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, Lowell, and Aldrich, and
450 other poems, and of the latter 201 were by women. The feminine
novelists and short story writers, so conspicuous during all the
period, were, indeed, almost all poets, some of them voluminous. One
may note the names not only of the older group--Mrs. Stuart Phelps
Ward, Mrs. Cooke, Mrs. Spofford, Miss Woolson--but of such later
writers as Mrs. Freeman, Alice Brown, Mrs. Deland, and Mrs. Riggs.

Very little of this mass of poetry has been strong enough to demand
republication from the dainty volumes in which it first appeared. It
has been smooth and often melodious, but for the most part it has been
conventional. Prevailingly it has been short lyric song in minor key,
gentle and sentimental--graceful exercises in verse rather than voices
from a soul stirred to utterance and caring not. In a sonneteering age
this feminine contingent has swelled enormously the volume of sonnets.
Helen Hunt Jackson's thin volume contains one hundred, Louise Chandler
Moulton's one hundred and thirty-one, yet in both collections occurs no
sonnet one would dream of adding to the select few that undoubtedly are
worth while. Here and there in Mrs. Jackson a bit of work like "Poppies
on the Wheat," "Glimpses," "Vashti," that rises, perhaps, a little
above the level monotony of the times, but in the vital seventies in
America why should one have published sonnets? Even as she was shaping
them, Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was demanding in major key,

          How long, and yet how long,
        Our leaders will we hail from over seas,
        Masters and kings from feudal monarchies,
          And mock their ancient song
        With echoes weak of foreign melodies?

               *       *       *       *       *

          This fresh young world I see,
        With heroes, cities, legends of her own;
        With a new race of men, and overblown
          By winds from sea to sea,
        Decked with the majesty of every zone.

               *       *       *       *       *

          The distant siren-song
        Of the green island in the eastern sea,
        Is not the lay for this new chivalry.
          It is not free and strong
        To chant on prairies 'neath this brilliant sky.

          The echo faints and fails;
        It suiteth not, upon this western plain,
        Our voice or spirit; we should stir again
          The wilderness, and make the vales
        Resound unto a yet unheard-of strain.

The life of Emma Lazarus was brief and externally eventless. Born
in New York City in a home of refinement and wealth, as a child
precocious, inclined to seriousness, intense, she passed her early life
among books rather than among companions. At seventeen she had issued a
collection of verses, melancholy even above the usual poetry of women,
valueless utterly; then at twenty-one she had published again, now a
long poem, Greek in its chaste beauty, _Admetus_, inscribed "To My
Friend Ralph Waldo Emerson." Two forces were contending, even as they
had contended in Heine. In Paris in later years before the Venus of the
Louvre she wrote a sonnet, and, miracle among modern sonnets, it is
impassioned, unfettered, alive--a woman's soul:

        ... I saw not her alone,
        Serenely poised on her world-worshiped throne,
        As when she guided once her dove-drawn car,--
        But at her feet a pale, death-stricken Jew,
        Her life adorer, sobbed farewell to love.
        Here _Heine_ wept! Here still he weeps anew,
        Nor ever shall his shadow lift or move,
        While mourns one ardent heart, one poet-brain,
        For vanished Hellas and Hebraic pain.

Until 1876 quiet emotion, Hellenic beauty, romance without passion.
"Tannhäuser" suggests William Morris and _The Earthly Paradise_. Then
came _The Spagnioletto_, a tense drama, which showed for the first time
the latent embers in her Hebraic soul. It needed but a breath to kindle
them and that breath came with reports of the Jewish massacres of 1879.
No more of Hellenism. With Liebhaid in _The Dance of Death_, that most
tense drama in American literature, she could cry out:

                    No more of that.
        I am all Israel's now--till this cloud pass,
        I have no thought, no passion, no desire,
        Save for my people.

Henceforth fiery lyrics of denunciation, rallying cries, translations
of Hebrew prophets, songs of encouragement and cheer, as "The Crowing
of the Red Cock," "In Exile," "The New Ezekiel," "The Valley of Baca,"
and, most Hebraic of all, "The Banner of the Jew," with its ringing
lines:

        Oh, for Jerusalem's trumpet now,
          To blow a blast of shattering power,
        To wake the sleepers high and low,
          And rouse them to the urgent hour!
        No hand for vengeance--but to save,
        A million naked swords should wave.

The fire was too intense for the frail, sensitive body. Suddenly, like
Heine, she was on a "mattress grave," powerless, though never so eager,
never so quivering with burning message. She died at thirty-eight.

No more impetuous and Hebraic lines in the literature of the period
than hers. Often she achieved a distinction of phrase and an
inevitableness of word and of rhythm denied to all but the truest
of poets. No other American woman has surpassed her in passion, in
genuineness of emotion, in pure lyric effect.

Other impassioned singers there have been. Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(1855----) wrote of love with lyric abandon, but she mingled too much
of sentimentality and all too much of posing and of tawdriness. Anne
Reeve Aldrich (1866-1892) in _Songs About Life, Love, and Death_ struck
deeper notes, and Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832-1911), though she wrote
exceedingly much in the key of the conventional mid-century sadness and
longing, yet now and then sent forth lyrics that laid bare her woman's
soul.

One may not dismiss so confidently Celia Thaxter, the poet of the
_Isles of Shoals_. She was, to be sure, no dominating voice in the
period, no poet with whom distinction of phrase and poetic melody
were native and spontaneous. Rather was she of the Jean Ingelow type,
feminine, domestic, tremulous with sentiment. In one area, however,
she commanded: her poetry of the sea was autochthonic, and it sprang
not from books, but from her life. Her childhood she had passed in
the seclusion of the lighthouse keeper's home on White Island, a
storm-beaten rock off the New Hampshire coast. For months at a time
no visitors came save the sea gulls and the migrating birds. Her
companion through all her young girlhood was the ocean. She grew to
know intimately all its thousand moods, the sea gardens along the rocks
at low tide, the ships that hovered like clouds on the horizon, the
flowers in the rock crannies, the sandpipers that flitted before her on
the beach. The birds that flew against the lantern of the lighthouse on
migrating nights furnished the first tragedy of her life:

    Many a May morning have I wandered about the rock at the
    foot of the tower, mourning over a little apron brimful of
    sparrows, swallows, thrushes, robins, fire-winged blackbirds,
    many-colored warblers and fly-catchers, beautifully clothed
    yellow-birds, nuthatches, catbirds, even the purple finch
    and scarlet tanager and golden oreole, and many more
    besides--enough to break the heart of a small child to think
    of![146]

No ordinary child, this lonely little islander. The lure of the sea
possessed her, the terror of its storms, the beauty of its summer
moods, the multitudinous variety of its voice. "Many a summer morning
have I crept out of the still house before any one was awake, and,
wrapping myself closely from the chill wind of dawn, climbed to the top
of the high cliff called the Head to watch the sunrise." It was this
communion with the sea that awoke the poet soul within her:

    Ever I longed to _speak_ these things that made life so sweet,
    to speak the wind, the cloud, the bird's flight, the sea's
    murmur. A vain longing! I might as well have sighed for the
    mighty pencil of Michel Angelo to wield in my impotent child's
    hand. Better to "hush and bless one's self with silence"; but
    ever the wish grew. Facing the July sunsets, deep red and
    golden through and through, or watching the summer northern
    lights--battalions of brilliant streamers, advancing and
    retreating, shooting upward to the zenith, and glowing like
    fiery veils before the stars; or when the fog bow spanned the
    silver mist of morning, or the earth and sea lay shimmering in
    a golden haze of noon; in storm or calm, by day or night, the
    manifold aspects of Nature held me and swayed all my thoughts
    until it was impossible to be silent any longer, and I was fain
    to mingle my voice with her myriad voices, only aspiring to be
    in accord with the Infinite harmony, however feeble and broken
    the notes might be.[147]

The first poem of hers to gain the ear of the public was "Land-Locked,"
accepted by Lowell and published in the _Atlantic_, March, 1861. Its
closing stanzas ring with sincerity. It is the voice of every inland
dweller whose youth has been spent by the sea:

        Neither am I ungrateful; but I dream
          Deliciously how twilight falls to-night
          Over the glimmering water, how the light
        Dies blissfully away, until I seem

        To feel the wind, sea-scented, on my cheek,
          To catch the sound of dusky flapping sail
          And dip of oars, and voices on the gale
        Afar off, calling low--my name they speak!

        O Earth! thy summer song of joy may soar
          Ringing to heaven in triumph. I but crave
          The sad, caressing murmur of the wave
        That breaks in tender music on the shore.

About all her poetry of the sea there are genuineness and truth to
experience. All of them are fragments of autobiography: "Off Shore,"
"The Wreck of the Pocahontas," "The Sandpiper," "Watching," "At the
Breakers' Edge," "The Watch of Boon Island," "Leviathan"--all of them
have in them the heart of the northern Atlantic. They are not deep like
Whitman's mighty voicings, but they are the cry of one who knew and
loved the sea better than any other American who has ever written about
it.

Her prose study _Among the Isles of Shoals_, overflorid though it may
be in places, is nevertheless one of the notable books of the period.
Nowhere may one find so complete a picture of the northern ocean in all
its moods and aspects. Its pictures of storm and wreck, its glimpses of
the tense and hazardous life of dwellers by the ocean, its disclosings
of the mystery and the subtle lure of the sea, stir one at times like
the deeper notes of poetry.

One of the most perplexing of later poetic problems came in 1890 with
the publication by Thomas Wentworth Higginson of the posthumous poetry
of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). The explanation by Higginson that the
poet was a daughter of the treasurer of Amherst College, that she was
a recluse "literally spending years without setting her foot beyond
the doorstep and many more years during which her walks were strictly
limited to her father's grounds," and that she had written "verses in
great abundance," refusing, however, save in three or four instances,
to allow any of them to be published, that she wrote "absolutely
without thought of publication, and solely by way of expression of the
writer's own mind,"--all this aroused curiosity. At last one might see,
perchance, a woman's soul.

The poems are disappointing. Critics have echoed Higginson, until Emily
Dickinson has figured, often at length, in all the later histories
and anthologies, but it is becoming clear that she was overrated.
To compare her eccentric fragments with Blake's elfin wildness is
ridiculous. They are mere conceits, vague jottings of a brooding mind;
they are crudely wrought, and, like their author's letters, which were
given to the public later, they are colorless and for the most part
lifeless. They reveal little either of Emily Dickinson or of human life
generally. They should have been allowed to perish as their author
intended.

Most of the feminine poets of the later generation have been
over-literary. There is grace and finish in the work of Louise Imogen
Guiney (1861----), but nowhere in all her carefully selected final
volume, _Happy Ending_, are there lines that suddenly send the pulses
into quicker beat and haunt the memory. It is beautiful, but it is of
a piece with ten thousand other beautiful pieces; there is nothing
to compel the reader, nothing to lead him into fresh fields. Of all
too many of the later feminine poets may we say this: of Ina Donna
Coolbrith, for instance, and Helen Gray Cone (1859----), Dora Read
Goodale (1866----), Katharine Lee Bates (1859----).

Only one other feminine singer has done work that compels attention,
Edith Matilda Thomas (1854----). Only by birth and rearing was she
of Ohio. To read her poems is to be transported into that no-man's
land which so many poets have called Arcady. She is more Greek than
American. She has reacted little upon her time, and she might be
dismissed with mere mention were there not in many of her poems a lyric
distinction that has been rare in American poetry. A fragment from her
work will make this clearer than exposition. Here, for instance, are
the opening stanzas of "Syrinx":

        Come forth, too timid spirit of the reed!
          Leave thy plashed coverts and elusions shy,
        And find delight at large in grove and mead.
          No ambushed harm, no wanton's peering eye,
        The shepherd's uncouth god thou needst not fear--
        Pan has not passed this way for many a year.

        'Tis but the vagrant wind that makes thee start,
          The pleasure-loving south, the freshening west;
        The willow's woven veil they softly part,
          To fan the lily on the stream's warm breast:
        No ruder stir, no footstep pressing near--
        Pan has not passed this way for many a year.

Unlooked-for music indeed from the banks of the Ohio. Her muse was
remote, unimpassioned, classical, yet no lyrist of the period has had
more of the divine poetic gift of expression. She seems curiously out
of place in the headlong West in those stormy closing years of the
nineteenth century.


V

Belated singers of the mid-century music were Richard Watson Gilder
(1844-1909), Edward Roland Sill (1841-1887), George E. Woodberry
(1855----), and Henry Van Dyke (1852----), all of them poets like Miss
Thomas, who were remote from their era, workers in art and beauty
rather than voices and leaders.

One may pause long with Gilder. No other man of his generation did so
much to turn the direction of the period and to determine its nature.
As managing editor of _Scribner's Monthly_ from the first number to
the last, and then after the death of Holland, editor of the _Century
Magazine_, he exerted for twenty-eight years an influence upon American
letters that cannot be overestimated. In a way he is the central
literary figure of the period, even more so than Dr. Holland. More
than any one else he was responsible for the revolution in magazine
management for which the period stands, and more than any one else he
helped to gather the new school of novelists and short story writers
and poets that made the era distinctive. He was the James T. Fields of
the national period.

He was first of all an editor, then he was a humanitarian, active
in all movements for city betterment, then he was a poet. Beginning
with _The New Day_ in 1875, he issued many small volumes of delicate
verse, mystical often in tone, always serious, always artistic. That he
knew the divine commission of the poet he revealed in his volume _The
Celestial Passion_, 1878:

        Dost thou not know this is the poet's lot:
        Mid sounds of war--in halcyon times of peace--
        To strike the ringing lyre and not to cease;
        In hours of general happiness to swell
        The common joy; and when the people cry
        With piteous voice loud to the pitiless sky,
        'Tis his to frame the universal prayer
        And breathe the balm of song upon the accursed air?

But he himself seemed not bound by this ideal of the poet. His
carefully wrought verses add little that is new, and little that
may be understood by those for whom a poet should sing. They lack
substance, the _Zeitgeist_, masculinity. Stedman could say that they
are "marked by the mystical beauty, intense emotion, and psychological
emotion of the elect _illuminati_," but the criticism, even were it
true, was condemnatory. Gilder's definition did not mention the "elect
_illuminati_."

It is depressing to think that this most virile of men, who was the
tireless leader of his generation in so many beneficent fields of
activity, must be judged in the coming periods solely by this volume of
poems. For classic poetry was not his life-work, not his enthusiasm,
not himself--it was a rarely furnished room in the heart of his home,
rather, where at times he might retire from the tumult and enjoy the
beauty he had gathered in the realms of gold. He was not a poet,
singing inevitable lines, spontaneous and inspired. His poems lacked
lyric distinction, that compelling quality that sinks a poem into the
reader's soul, and, lacking it, they have little hope for permanence.
They are finished always and coldly beautiful, but finish and beauty
are not enough. So it is with George E. Woodberry's polished work, and
Father Tabb's. It is not vital with the life of an epoch, it is not the
voice of a soul deeply stirred with a new and compelling message. All
too often it has come from deliberate effort; it is a mere performance.

With the work of Edward Rowland Sill one must be less positive. Here
we find conflict, reaction, spontaneous expression. He was by no means
a voice of his era, a robust shouter like Whitman and Miller: he was
a gentle, retiring soul who felt out of place in his generation.
Seriousness had come to him as a birthright. Behind him were long lines
of Connecticut Puritans. He was frail, moreover, of physique, with a
shrinking that was almost feminine from all that was discordant and
assertive. After his graduation at Yale, the poet of his class, in
1861, he was unable to settle upon a profession. He attempted theology,
and then, disillusioned, for bare support he drifted into teaching.
Year after year passed with the problem unsettled, until he awoke to
find that teaching was to be his life-work. He had hidden among the
children in the schoolroom, and the things he had dreamed over had
passed him by. His external biography is largely a list of schools and
positions. At forty-six he died.

Poetry to Sill was a peculiarly personal thing, almost as much so as it
was to Emily Dickinson. He was not eager to publish, and much that he
did send to the magazines bore other names than his own. He wrote, as
Thoreau wrote his journal, with simple directness for himself and the
gods, and as a result we have in his work the inner history of a human
soul. There is no artificiality, no sentimental vaporings, no posing
for effect. It is not art; it is life.

Here is poetry of struggle, poetry not of the spirit of an epoch but
of the life of an individual at odds with the epoch, introspective,
personal. One thinks of Clough, who also was a teacher, a gentle soul
oppressed with doubts and fears, a struggler in the darkness of the
late nineteenth century. But Sill was less masculine than Clough. His
doubtings are gentle and half apologetic. Never is he bitter or excited
or impetuous. To such robust climaxes as "Say not the Struggle Naught
Availeth" he is incapable of rising: he broods, but he is resigned. He
exhorts himself deliberately to cheerfulness and faith and to heights
of manhood where all that is low may fall away. Erotic passion has no
part in his work. He has deliberately conquered it:

          Is my life but Marguerite's ox-eyed flower,
        That I should stand and pluck and fling away,
        One after one, the petal of each hour,
        Like a love-dreamy girl, and only say,
        "Loves me," and "loves me not," and "loves me"? Nay!
        Let the man's mind awake to manhood's power.

No poet has shrunk more sensitively from the realistic, material age
of which he was a part than Sill. His poems deal with the realm of
the spirit rather than with the tangible. They are without time and
place and material basis. One may illustrate with the poems he wrote
for Yale gatherings. They are colorless: change but the name and they
would apply as well to Harvard or Princeton. Read in connection with
Hovey's dramatic, intensely individual Dartmouth poems and they seem
like beautiful clouds. They are serious, often over-serious, they have
no trace of humor, they deal with the soul life of one upon whom the
darkness threatens constantly to fall.

His claim to remembrance comes not from lyrical inspiration, for he
was not lyrically gifted. He lacked what Gilder and Woodberry lacked.
Once in a while he made a stanza that approaches lyric distinction, as,
perhaps, in this final one of "A Foolish Wish":

        'Tis a child's longing, on the beach at play:
                          "Before I go,"
        He begs the beckoning mother, "Let me stay
                          One shell to throw!"
        'Tis coming night; the great sea climbs the shore--
        Ah, let me toss one little pebble more,
                          Before I go!

But not often lines so inevitable. His power came largely from the
beauty and purity of his own personality. His own conception of a poem
was, that "coming from a pure and rich nature, it shall leave us purer
and richer than it found us." Judged by such a standard, Sill holds a
high place among the poets. Nothing that he has written but leaves us
purer and richer of soul and more serious before the problems of life.
Eight or ten of his lyrics for a long time undoubtedly will hold their
place among the very highest pieces of American reflective poetry.

It was the opinion of Edmund Gosse that the period was notably
deficient in serious verse.[148] No statement could be more wide of
the mark; the period has abounded in serious poetry and its quality
has been high. To consider in detail this mass of poetry, however,
were to exceed our limits. We can only single out one here and there a
little more notable than the others--John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890),
for instance, with his Celtic fancy and his graphic power to depict
life in the Southern Seas; Maurice Francis Egan (1852----) and Lloyd
Mifflin (1846----), makers of beautiful and thoughtful sonnets; S.
Weir Mitchell (1829-1914), a poet of rare distinction as well as a
novelist; Frank Dempster Sherman (1860-1916), maker of madrigals and
joyous lyrics; Charles Warren Stoddard (1825-1903), whose songs have a
lyric quality that is distinctive, and Abram Joseph Ryan (1839-1886), a
beautiful and heroic soul, who had he written but a single lyric would
occupy a high place among American poets. His "The Conquered Banner"
was the voice of a people:

        Furl that Banner, softly, slowly!
        Treat it gently--it is holy--
          For it droops above the dead.
        Touch it not--unfold it never--
        Let it droop there, furled forever,
          For its people's hopes are fled.


VI

The two most prominent younger poets of the South were Robert Burns
Wilson (1850-1916) and Madison Cawein (1865-1914), both residents
of Kentucky, one at Frankfort, the other at Louisville, and both
contemplative Nature poets who voiced but little the spirit of their
period. Of the two, Wilson undoubtedly was the most inspired singer, as
Cawein was the most careful observer of Nature.

Of Wilson we may say that he was a later Thomas Buchanan Read, a
devotee of art, a painter of landscapes and portraits, whose work
was seen in many distinctive galleries, and in addition to this a
poet--most pictorial of poets, whose stanzas seem like inscriptions for
his paintings. When the lyrics "When Evening Cometh On" and "June Days"
appeared in _Harper's_ in 1885, it was felt that a new singer had come.
There was distinction in the lines, there was restraint, there was more
than promise, there was already fulfilment. One feels a quality in a
stanza like this that he may not explain:

        Though all the birds be silent--though
          The fettered stream's soft voice be still,
        And on the leafless bough the snow
          Be rested, marble-like and chill--
        Yet will the fancy build from these
          The transient but well-pleasing dream
        Of leaf and bloom among the trees,
          And sunlight glancing on the stream.

It has somehow the singing quality that may not be learned, that may
not be taught. Finer still when there is joined with it graphic power
that arrests and pleases the eye, and pathos that grips hard the heart,
as in a lyric like this:

          Such is the death the soldier dies:
        He falls--the column speeds away;
          Upon the dabbled grass he lies,
        His brave heart following, still, the fray.

          The smoke-wraiths drift among the trees,
        The battle storms along the hill;
          The glint of distant arms he sees;
        He hears his comrades shouting still.

          A glimpse of far-borne flags, that fade
        And vanish in the rolling din:
          He knows the sweeping charge is made,
        The cheering lines are closing in.

          Unmindful of his mortal wound,
        He faintly calls and seeks to rise;
          But weakness drags him to the ground--
        Such is the death the soldier dies.

Wilson's poetic product was small, but it stands distinctive.

The work of Cawein has been far more widely trumpeted. He had the good
fortune to attract the attention of Howells with his first book and to
be commended by him persistently and with no uncertain voice. "There
is much that is expressive of the new land," Howells wrote in "The
Editor's Study," "as well as of the young life in its richly sensuous,
boldly achieved pieces of color. In him one is sensible (or seems so)
of something different from the beautiful as literary New England
or literary New York conceived it. He is a fresh strain."[149] He
deplored the gorgeous excesses of the poems and the touches for merely
decorative effect, but he defended them as the natural exuberance of
extreme youth. With time they would disappear: undoubtedly a great poet
had arisen. Thus encouraged, Cawein began upon a poetic career that
in single-hearted devotion to the lyric muse has been equaled only
by Clinton Scollard. Before his death he had issued more than twenty
volumes of lyrics and his collected work had been published in five
thick volumes.

The final estimate of the poet cannot yet be written. It is too
soon, but even now one may venture certain predictions. Cawein wrote
enormously too much, and he wrote all too often with merely literary
intent. He was not a lyrist born: he had little ear for music, and he
blended meters and made rimes seemingly with the eye alone. One can not
feel that a passage like this, for instance, sang itself spontaneously:

                                     Seemed that she
        Led me along a flower-showered lea
        Trammeled with puckered pansy and the pea;
        Where poppies spread great blood-red stain on stain,
        So gorged with sunlight and the honied rain
        Their hearts are weary; roses lavished beams
        Roses, wherein were huddled little dreams
        That laughed coy, sidewise merriment, like dew
        Or from fair fingers fragrant kisses blew.

There is a straining constantly for the unusual in epithet, a seeking
for a picturing adjective that shall give verisimilitude in an utterly
new way. "The songs have all been sung," he would seem to argue, "but
the picturing adjectives have not all been used and the striking
conceits." One might open at random for an illustration:

        Athwart a sky of brass long welts of gold;
          A bullion bulk the wide Ohio lies.

        Up from the glimmering east the full moon swung,
        A golden bubble buoyed zenithward.

        Between the pansy fire of the west,
        And poppy mist of moonrise in the east,
          This heartache will have ceased.

"It is as if we had another Keats," says Howells, and in saying it he
touches the fatal weakness of the poet. There is lack of virility in
great parts of his work, there is lack of definiteness and of vigor.
He tells nothing new and he adds nothing to the old by his telling.
Even Baskerville can say, "There is little or no Southern, not to say
Kentucky, atmosphere in Mr. Cawein's poetry. His flowers and birds
and rocks and trees do not appear to us as objects of the rich, warm
Southern nature. He frequently mentions the whole register of flowers
and birds in his poetry--almost, we might say, drags them into his
descriptions by force--but he has not created a warm, genial, Southern
poetic atmosphere in which they may thrive."[150]

Nevertheless, it is only in his Nature poetry that he is at all
convincing. He can paint a summer noon, or a summer shower, and he can
detail minutely the flowers and the mosses and the birds in an old
fence corner or an old garden. Pictures like this have, undoubtedly, a
certain kind of value:

        Bubble-like the hollyhocks
          Budded, burst, and flaunted wide
        Gipsy beauty from their stocks;
          Morning-glories, bubble-dyed,
        Swung in honey-hearted flocks.

        Tawny tiger-lilies flung
          Doublets slashed with crimson on;
        Graceful girl slaves, fair and young,
          Like Circassians, in the sun
        Alabaster lilies swung.

        Ah, the droning of the bee
          In his dusty pantaloons,
        Tumbling in the fleurs-de-lis;
          In the drowsy afternoons
        Dreaming in the pink sweet-pea.

Always is he heavy with adjectives, profuse, gorgeous; always is he
dreamy and remote. One turns page after page of the thick volumes of
the collected lyrics to find some simple human bit that came hot from
the heart of a poet, some stanza that compels quotation, but one gets
lost at length in the maze of sweetness. If any of his poems are to
outlast their generation it will be some of the Nature pieces, but
landscape studies, flower songs, and pretty conceits about bees and
birds are thin material of which to make enduring poetry.


VII

With Richard Hovey (1864-1900), representative of the poets of the
second generation of the National period, our survey closes. Hovey was
a later Lanier, excited, impetuous, possessed by poetry until it ruled
all his thinking. Like Lanier, he was Gallic of temperament rather than
Teutonic. He read enormously--the Elizabethans, Tennyson, Whitman, the
pre-Raphaelites, Dobson, Kipling, and later, in France, Paul Verlaine,
Maeterlinck, Stéphane Mallarmé, and all the later symbolists. After his
college course at Dartmouth he was, at brief intervals, theological
student, newspaper reporter, actor, lecturer in Alcott's Concord
school of philosophy, and in his last year, like Lanier, professor of
literature in one of the larger universities--Barnard College, New
York--yet his one profession all his life long was poetry. His facility
was marvelous. He wrote an elegy of purest Greek type and he added a
canto to _Don Juan_; he wrote Arthurian masques and dramas and then
rollicking Bohemian songs and _vers de société_.

His facility was his weakness. Like Lanier he was too excited, too
given to improvisation and the blending of meters. His dramatic
interludes like _The Quest of Merlin_ and _Taliesin_ are marvelous in
their workmanship, their mastery of all the intricacies of prosody,
but they come near to being void of human interest. Lanier dominated
his first poem _The Laurel_ and there are echoes of Whitman and others
in his later work. He matured slowly. At his death he had arrived at a
point where there was promise of creative work of highest distinction.
He was breaking from his Bohemianism and his excited Swinburnian music
and was touching his time. His definition of poetry makes his early
death seem like a tragedy. Of the poet he wrote, "It is not his mission
to write elegant canzonettas for the delectation of the Sybaritic
dilettanti, but to comfort the sorrowful and hearten the despairing, to
champion the oppressed and declare to humanity its inalienable rights,
to lay open to the world the heart of man, all its heights and depths,
all its glooms and glories, to reveal the beauty in things and breathe
into his fellows a love of it and so a love of Him whose manifestation
it is.... In the appointed work of every people, the poets have been
the leaders and pioneers."[151]

His most finished work is his elegy on the death of Thomas William
Parsons, _Seaward_, which at times has a lyric quality that brings it
into the company even of _Adonais_ and _Thyrsis_. One is tempted to
quote more than a single stanza:

        Far, far, so far, the crying of the surf!
          Still, still, so still, the water in the grass!
        Here on the knoll the crickets in the turf
          And one bold squirrel barking, seek, alas!
        To bring the swarming summer back to me.
          In vain; my heart is on the salt morass
        Below, that stretches to the sunlit sea.

His most spontaneous and original outbursts are doubtless his Dartmouth
lyrics--a series distinctive among college poetry, worthy of a place
beside Dr. Holmes's Harvard lyrics--and his rollicking convivial songs
that have in them the very soul of good fellowship. There is in all he
wrote a Whitman-like masculinity. He could make even so conventional a
thing as a sonnet a thing to stir the blood with:

        When I am standing on a mountain crest,
          Or hold the tiller in the dashing spray,
        My love of you leaps foaming in my breast,
          Shouts with the winds and sweeps to their foray;
        My heart bounds with the horses of the sea,
          And plunges in the wild ride of the night,
        Flaunts in the teeth of tempest the large glee
          That rides out Fate and welcomes gods to flight.
        Ho, love! I laugh aloud for love of you,
          Glad that our love is fellow to rough weather;
        No fretful orchid hot-housed from the dew,
          But hale and hearty as the highland heather,
            Rejoicing in the wind that stings and thrills,
            Comrade of ocean, playmate of the hills.

He is the singer of men--of Western men, red-blooded and free--the very
opposite of Cawein. He wrote songs to be sung in barrack rooms and at
college reunions--songs of comradeship and masculine joy:

        Give a rouse, then, in the Maytime
          For a life that knows no fear!
        Turn night-time into daytime
          With the sunlight of good cheer!
           For it's always fair weather
           When good fellows get together
        With a stein on the table and a good song ringing clear.

And again this

        Comrades, give a cheer to-night,
          For the dying is with dawn!
        Oh, to meet the stars together,
          With the silence coming on!
              Greet the end
              As a friend a friend
        When strong men die together.

His Launcelot and Guenevere cycle, which was to be complete in nine
dramas, only four of which he lived to finish, though undoubtedly
the best was yet to come, has in it enough of strength to make for
itself, fragment as it is, a high place in our literature. The dramas
are in different key from Tennyson's. In the _Idyls of the King_ the
old legend is domesticated and the table round is turned into a tea
table. Hovey in his _Marriage of Guenevere_ and _The Birth of Galahad_
puts virile power into his knights, makes of Launcelot the hero of the
cycle, and gives to Guenevere a reality that is Shakespearian. Few
indeed have been the poets of the younger school who have dared to plan
on so grand a scale or to venture to offer something new in a field
that has been so thoroughly exploited.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  WILL CARLETON. (1845-1912.) _Poems_, 1871; _Farm Ballads_, 1873;
  _Farm Legends_, 1875; _Young Folks' Centennial Rhymes_, 1876;
  _Farm Festivals_, 1881; _City Ballads_, 1885; _City Legends_,
  1889; _City Festivals_, 1892; _Rhymes of Our Planet_, 1895; _The
  Old Infant, and Similar Stories_, 1896; _Songs of Two Centuries_,
  1902; _Poems for Young Americans_, 1906; _In Old School Days_,
  1907; _Drifted In_, 1907.

  JOHN JAMES PIATT. (1835-1917.) _Poems of Two Friends_ [with
  Howells], 1859; _The Nests at Washington_ [with Sarah Morgan
  Piatt], 1864; _Poems in Sunshine and Firelight_, 1866; _Western
  Windows and Other Poems_, 1869; _Landmarks and Other Poems_,
  1871; _Poems of House and Home_, 1879; _Penciled Fly-Leaves_
  [prose], 1880; _Idyls and Lyrics of the Ohio Valley_, 1884; _The
  Children Out of Doors_ [with Mrs. Piatt], 1885; _At the Holy
  Well_, 1887; _A Book of Gold_, 1889; _Little New-World Idyls_,
  1893; _The Ghost's Entry and Other Poems_, 1895.

  JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY. (1849-1916.) _The Old Swimmin'-Hole_, 1883;
  _The Boss Girl and Other Sketches_, 1886; _Afterwhiles_, 1887;
  _Pipes o' Pan at Zekesbury_, 1889; _Rhymes of Childhood Days_,
  1890; _An Old Sweetheart of Mine_, 1891; _Old Fashioned Roses_,
  1891; _Neighborly Poems on Friendship, Grief, and Farm Life_,
  1891; _Flying Islands of the Night_, 1892; _Poems Here at Home_,
  1893; _Poems and Yarns_ [with Edgar Wilson Nye], 1893; _Green
  Fields and Running Brooks_, 1893; _Armazindy_, 1894; _The Child
  World_, 1896; _Rubaiyat of Doc Sifers_, 1897; _Poems and Prose
  Sketches_, Homestead Edition, 10 vols., 1897; _Child Rhymes_,
  1898; _Love-Lyrics_, 1899; _Farm Rhymes_, 1901; _Book of Joyous
  Children_, 1902; _A Defective Santa Claus_, 1904; _His Pa's
  Romance_, 1904; _Out to Old Aunt Mary's_, 1904; _Songs o' Cheer_,
  1905; _While the Heart Beats Young_, 1906; _Morning_, 1907; _The
  Raggedy Man_, 1907; _The Little Orphant Annie Book_, 1908; _The
  Boys of the Old Glee Club_, 1908; _Songs of Summer_, 1908; _Old
  Schoolday Romances_, 1909; _The Girl I Loved_, 1910; _Sequire
  Hawkins's Story_, 1910; _When She Was About Sixteen_, 1911; _The
  Lockerbie Book_, 1911; _Down Round the River and Other Poems_,
  1911; _A Summer's Day and Other Poems_, 1911; _When the Frost
  Is on the Punkin and Other Poems_, 1911; _All the Year Round_,
  1912; _Knee Deep in June and Other Poems_, 1912; _The Prayer
  Perfect and Other Poems_, 1912; _Good-bye, Jim_, 1913; _A Song of
  Long Ago_, 1913; _He and I_, 1913; _When My Dreams Come True_,
  1913; _The Rose_, 1913; _Her Beautiful Eyes_, 1913; _Away_,
  1913; _Do They Miss Me_? 1913; _The Riley Baby Book_, 1913;
  _Biographical Edition of the Works of James Whitcomb Riley_.
  Complete Works. 1913.

  EUGENE FIELD. (1850-1896.) _Tribune Primer_, 1882; _Culture's
  Garland, Being Memoranda of the Gradual Rise of Literature, Art,
  Music, and Society in Chicago and Other Western Ganglia_, 1887;
  _A Little Book of Western Verse_, 1889, 1890; _A Little Book of
  Profitable Tales_, 1889, 1890; _With Trumpet and Drum_, 1892;
  _Second Book of Verse_, 1893; _Echoes from the Sabine Farm_
  [with Roswell M. Field], 1893; _The Holy Cross and Other Tales_,
  1893; _Love Songs of Childhood_, 1894; _The Love Affairs of a
  Bibliomaniac, The House, Songs and Other Verse, Second Book of
  Tales_, published posthumously in the Sabine edition; _The Works
  of Eugene Field_. Sabine Edition. Ten vols. 1896. The Poems of
  Eugene Field, Complete Editions. One volume. 1910. _Eugene Field,
  A Study in Heredity and Contradictions_. Slason Thompson. Two
  volumes. 1901.

  HENRY CUYLER BUNNER. (1855-1896.) _A Woman of Honor_, 1883; _Airs
  from Arcady, and Elsewhere_, 1884; _In Partnership: Studies in
  Story-telling_ [with James Brander Matthews], 1884; _Midge_,
  1886; _Story of a New York House_, 1887; _Short Sixes: Stories
  to Be Read While the Candle Burns_, 1890; _Zadoc Pine, and Other
  Stories_, 1891; _Rowen: Second-Crop Songs_, 1892; _Made in
  France: French Tales Told with a U. S. Twist_, 1893; _More Short
  Sixes_, 1895; _Love in Old Cloathes, and Other Stories_, 1896.

  EMMA LAZARUS. (1849-1887.) _Poems and Translations_, 1866;
  _Admetus_, 1871; _Alide: a Romance_, 1874; _The Spagnoletto: a
  Play_, 1876; _Heine's Poems and Ballads_ [a translation], 1881;
  _Songs of a Semite_, 1882; _Poems of Emma Lazarus_, 1888.

  CELIA THAXTER. (1836-1894.) _Poems_, 1872; _Among the Isles of
  Shoals_, 1873; _Drift-weed: Poems_, 1878; _Poems for Children_,
  1883; _The Cruise of the Mystery, and Other Poems_, 1886; _An
  Island Garden_, 1894; _Poems_, Appledore Edition. Edited by Sarah
  Orne Jewett, 1896; _Letters of Celia Thaxter_, 1895.

  EDITH M. THOMAS. (1854----.) _A New Year's Masque_, 1884; _The
  Round Year_, 1886; _Lyrics and Sonnets_, 1887; _The Inverted
  Torch_, 1890; _Fair Shadow Land_, 1893; _In Sunshine Land_, 1894;
  _In the Young World_, 1895; _Winter Swallow; with Other Verse_,
  1896; _Dancers and Other Legends and Lyrics_, 1903; _Cassia, and
  Other Verse_, 1905; _Children of Christmas, and Others_, 1907;
  _Guest at the Gate_, 1909.

  RICHARD WATSON GILDER. (1844-1909.) _The New Day_, 1875; _The
  Celestial Passion_, 1878; _Lyrics_, 1878; _The Poet and His
  Master, and Other Poems_, 1878; _Lyrics and Other Poems_, 1885;
  _Poems_, 1887; _Two Worlds, and Other Poems_, 1891; _Great
  Remembrance, and Other Poems_, 1893; _Five Books of Song_, 1894;
  _For the Country_, 1897; _In Palestine and Other Poems_, 1898;
  _Poems and Inscriptions_, 1901; _A Christmas Wreath_, 1903; _In
  the Heights_, 1905; _Book of Music_, 1906; _Fire Divine_, 1907;
  _Poems_, Household Edition, 1908; _Lincoln the Leader_, 1909;
  _Grover Cleveland_, 1910.

  EDWARD ROLAND SILL. (1841-1887.) _The Hermitage and Other Poems_,
  1867; _Venus of Milo, and Other Poems_, 1883; _Poems_, 1887; _The
  Hermitage, and Later Poems_, 1889; _Christmas in California: a
  Poem_, 1898; _Hermione, and Other Poems_, 1899; _Prose_, 1900;
  _Poems_, special edition, 1902; _Poems, Household Edition_, 1906;
  _The Life of Edward Rowland Sill_, by W. B. Parker, 1915.

  ROBERT BURNS WILSON. (1850-1916.) _Life and Love_, 1887; _Chant
  of a Woodland Spirit_, 1894; _The Shadows of the Trees_, 1898;
  _Until the Day Break_ [a novel], 1900.

  MADISON JULIUS CAWEIN. (1865-1914.) _Blooms of the Berry_, 1887;
  _The Triumph of Music and Other Lyrics_, 1888; _Accolon of Gaul
  and Other Poems_, 1889; _Lyrics and Idyls_, 1890; _Days and
  Dreams_, 1891; _Poems of Nature and Love_, 1893; _Intuitions
  of the Beautiful_, 1895; _White Snake and Other Poems_, from
  the German, 1895; _Garden of Dreams_, 1896; _Undertones_, 1896;
  _Shapes and Shadows_, 1898; _Myth and Romance, a Book of Verses_,
  1899; _One Day and Another_, 1901; _Weeds by the Wall_, 1901; _A
  Voice on the Wind and Other Poems_, 1902; _Vale of Tempe; Poems_,
  1905; _In Prose and Verse_, 1906; _Poems_, 5 volumes, 1908;
  _Shadow Garden_ [_a Phantasy_] _and Other Plays_, 1910; _So Many
  Ways_, 1911.

  RICHARD HOVEY. (1864-1900.) _The Laurel: an Ode_, 1889;
  _Launcelot and Guenevere: a Poem in Dramas_, 1891; _Seaward:
  an Elegy on the Death of Thomas William Parsons_, 1893; _Songs
  from Vagabondia_ [with Bliss Carman], 1894; _More Songs from
  Vagabondia_ [with Bliss Carman], 1896; _The Quest of Merlin_,
  1898; _The Marriage of Guenevere_, 1898; _The Birth of Galahad_,
  1898; _Along the Trail: Book of Lyrics_, 1898; _Last Songs from
  Vagabondia_ [with Bliss Carman], 1900; _Taliesin_, 1900; _Along
  the Trail_, 1907; _Launcelot and Guenevere: a Poem in Dramas_, 5
  vols., 1907; _To the End of the Trail_, 1908.



CHAPTER XVI

THE TRIUMPH OF THE SHORT STORY


Voluminous as may seem the poetry of the period when viewed by itself,
it sinks into insignificance when viewed against the mass of prose that
was contemporaneous with it. Overwhelmingly was it an age of prose
fiction. He who explores it emerges with the impression that he has
been threading a jungle chaotic and interminable. To chart it, to find
law and tendency in it, seems at first impossible. For a generation
or more every writer seems to have had laid upon him a necessity for
narration. Never before such widespread eagerness to din tales into the
ears of a world.

It was an age of brief fiction--this fact impresses one first of all.
The jungle growth was short. Not half a dozen writers in the whole
enormous group confined themselves to novels of length; the most
distinctive fictional volumes of the period: _The Luck of Roaring
Camp_, _Old Creole Days_, _In the Tennessee Mountains_, _Nights with
Uncle Remus_, _In Ole Virginia_, _A New England Nun_, _Deephaven_,
_Main-Traveled Roads_, _Flute and Violin_, and the like, were
collections of tales. One may venture to call the period the age of the
short story, or more accurately, perhaps, the age of short-breathed
work. Everywhere literature in small parcels. In January, 1872, the
_North American Review_, guardian of the old traditions, thought the
conditions serious enough to call for earnest protest:

    A new danger has recently shown itself.... The great demand
    on all sides is for _short_ books, _short_ articles, _short_
    sketches; no elaborate essays, no complete monographs, are
    wanted ... condensed thought, brief expression, the laconian
    method everywhere.... The volume sinks into an article, the
    article dwindles to an item to conciliate the demands of the
    public.

That this shortness of unit was a sign of weakness, we to-day by no
means concede. It was rather a sign of originality, the symptom of a
growing disregard for British methods and British opinion. The English
genius always has been inclined to ponderousness--to great, slow-moving
novels, to elaborate essays that get leisurely under way, to romances
that in parts are treatises and in parts are histories, everywhere
to solidity and deliberateness of gait. The _North American Review_
protest was a British protest; it was the protest of conservatism
against what to-day we can see was the new spirit of America. The
American people from the first had been less phlegmatic, less
conservative, than the English. There were climatic influences, it may
be; there was surely a spirit of intensity everywhere that made for
short efforts. The task of subduing in a single century a raw continent
produced a people intolerant of the leisurely and the long drawn out.
Poe perceived the tendency early. In a letter to Professor Charles
Anthon he wrote:

    Before quitting the _Messenger_ I saw, or fancied I saw,
    through a long and dim vista the brilliant field for ambition
    which a magazine of bold and noble aims presented to him who
    should successfully establish it in America. I perceived
    that the country, from its very constitution, could not fail
    of affording in a few years a larger proportionate amount
    of readers than any upon earth. I perceived that the whole
    energetic, busy spirit of the age tended wholly to magazine
    literature--to the curt, the terse, the well timed and the
    readily diffused, in preference to the old forms of verbose and
    ponderous and inaccessible.

This far-sightedness made of Poe the father of the American type of
short story. Irving undoubtedly had sown the earliest seeds, but
Irving was an essayist and a sketch-writer rather than a maker of
short stories in the modern sense. It was Poe's work to add art to
the sketch--plot structure, unity of impression, verisimilitude of
details, matter-of-factness, _finesse_--and, like Hawthorne, to throw
over it the atmosphere of his own peculiar personality. That he evolved
the form deliberately can not be doubted. In his oft-quoted review of
Hawthorne's tales he laid down what may be considered as the first
rules for short story writing ever formulated. His theories that all
art is short-breathed, that a long poem is a _tour de force_ against
nature, and that the unit of measure in fiction is the amount that may
be read with undiminished pleasure at a single sitting, are too well
known to dwell upon.

But the short story of the mid-century, even in its best specimens, was
an imperfect thing. In Hawthorne's tales the quality of the sketch or
the essay is always discernible. All of Poe's tales, and Hawthorne's as
well, lack vigor of characterization, sharpness of outline, swiftness
of movement. "The Gold Bug," for instance, has its climax in the
middle, is faulty in dialect, is utterly deficient in local color, and
is worked out with characters as lifeless as mere symbols.

The vogue of the form was increased enormously by the annuals which
figured so largely in the literary history of the mid-century, by the
increasing numbers of literary pages in weekly newspapers, and by the
growing influence of the magazines. The first volume of the _Atlantic
Monthly_ (1857) had an average of three stories in each number. But
increase in quantity increased but little the quality. The short story
of the annual was, for the most part, sentimental and over-romantic.
Even the best work of the magazines is colorless and ineffective when
judged by modern standards. Undoubtedly the best stories after Poe and
Hawthorne and before Harte are Fitz-James O'Brien's "Diamond Lens,"
1858, and "What Was It?" 1859, Edward Everett Hale's "The Man Without
a Country," 1863, and "The Brick Moon," 1869, and Thomas Wentworth
Higginson's "The Haunted Window," 1867. Well wrought they are for the
most part, unusual in theme, and telling in effect, yet are they open
nevertheless to the same criticisms which we have passed upon Poe.

The short story in its later form dates from Harte's "The Luck of
Roaring Camp." Harte added reality, sharpness of outline, vividness of
setting, vigor of characterization. The new period demanded actuality.
The writer must speak with authority; he must have been a part of what
he describes; he must have seen with his own eyes and he must reproduce
with a verisimilitude that grips the reader and hastens him on as if he
himself were a participant in the action. There must be at every point
sense of actuality, and, moreover, strangeness--new and unheard-of
types of humanity, uncouth dialects, peculiar environments. It was
far more concentrated than the mid-century work, but it was much more
given to general description and background effects and impressionistic
characterization.

In the mid-eighties came the perfecting of the form, the
molding of the short story into a finished work of art. Now was
demanded compression, nervous rapidity of movement, sharpness of
characterization, singleness of impression, culmination, _finesse_--a
studied artistry that may be compared with even the best work of the
French school of the same period. Stories like those of Aldrich,
Stockton, Bunner, Garland, Allen, Bierce, Grace King, Mrs. Chopin,
Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris, from the standpoint of mere art at
least, come near to perfection.

The decline of the short story, its degeneration into a journalistic
form, the substitution all too often of smartness, paradox, sensation,
for truth--all this is a modern instance outside the limits prescribed
for our study.


I

After Harte and the early local-colorists the next to develop the short
story was Frank R. Stockton. No writer of the period has been more
variously estimated and labeled. By some critics he has been rated as a
mere humorist, by others as a novelist, by still others as a writer of
whimsicalities in a class by himself.

It is undoubtedly true that his personality was so interfused with his
writings that the generation who knew and loved him were too kind in
their judgments. Behind his every story they saw the genial, whimsical
creator and they laughed even before they began to read. But a new
generation has arrived to whom Stockton is but a name and a set of
books, and it is becoming more and more evident now that very much that
he wrote was ephemeral. To this generation he is known as the author of
a single short story, or perhaps three or four short stories, of a type
that has its own peculiar flavor.

Stockton was born in Philadelphia in 1834, was educated in the high
school there, and then, at the request of his father, learned the trade
of wood engraving. But his inclinations were literary, and he was soon
an editorial worker on his brother's newspaper. Later he joined the
staff of _Hearth and Home_ in New York, then became connected with the
new _Scribner's Monthly_, and finally became assistant editor of _St.
Nicholas_.

The wide popularity of his stories induced him at length to withdraw
from editorial work to devote his whole time to his writings. He
became exceedingly productive: after his fiftieth year he published no
fewer than thirty volumes.

To understand Stockton's contribution to the period one must bear
in mind that he adopted early the juvenile story as his form of
expression, and that his first book, _Ting-a-ling Stories_, appeared
four years after _Alice in Wonderland_. When, at the age of forty-eight
he gained general recognition with his _The Lady, or the Tiger?_ he had
published nine books, eight of them juveniles. The fact is important.
He approached literature by the Wonderland gate and he never wandered
far from that magic entrance. After his short stories had made him
famous he continued to write juveniles, adapting them, however, to
his new audience of adult readers. He may be summed up as a maker of
grown-up juveniles, a teller, as it were, of the adventures of an adult
Alice in Wonderland.

All of his distinctive work was short. _Rudder Grange_, which first
made him at all known, was a series of sketches, the humorous
adventures of a newly married couple, the humor consisting largely of
incongruous situations. Even his so-called novels, like _The Casting
Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine_ and its sequel _The Dusantes_,
are but a series of episodes joined together as loosely as Alice's
well-known adventures. Plot there is really none. Characterization,
however, there is to a degree: the two women do carry their provincial
Yankee personalities and the atmosphere of their little home village
into whatever amazing environment they may find themselves, but one can
not say more.

There seems on the author's part a constant endeavor in all of his work
to invent incongruous situation and preposterous suggestion, and a
determination to present this topsy-turvy world gravely and seriously
as if it were the most commonplace thing in the world. He makes it
plausible by the Defoe method of multiplying minor details and little
realistic touches until the reader is thrown completely off his guard.
For instance, in the novel _The Dusantes_ the coach in which the party
is traveling is overtaken by night in the high mountains and before
morning is completely buried by a great snow storm. The following day,
after they had hollowed out a room for themselves in the snow, this
adventure befalls them:

    I heard a low crunching sound on one side of me, and, turning
    my head, I saw in the wall of my excavation opposite to the
    stage coach and at a distance of four or five feet from the
    ground an irregular hole in the snow, about a foot in diameter,
    from which protruded the head of a man. This head was wrapped,
    with the exception of the face, in a brown woolen comforter.
    The features were those of a man of about fifty, a little
    sallow and thin, without beard, whiskers, or mustache, although
    the cheeks and chin were darkened with a recent growth.

    The astounding apparition of this head projecting itself from
    the snow wall of my cabin utterly paralyzed me, so that I
    neither moved nor spoke, but remained crouching by the fire, my
    eyes fixed upon the head. It smiled a little, and then spoke.

    "Could you lend me a small iron pot?" it said.

Another coach, it seems, had likewise been snowed under, and the chief
occupant had tried to tunnel his way out for help, with the result
as recorded. The passage is typical. It illustrates a mannerism that
mars all his work. He is not telling a culminating story: he is adding
incongruity to incongruity for merely humorous effect, and after a time
the reader tires. It seems at length as if he were straining at every
point to bring in something totally unexpected and preposterous. In
short compass the device succeeded, but incongruity may not rule longer
than the moment.

It is to Stockton's short stories, then, that we are to look for his
distinctive work. Of one story we need say little. The sensation it
made has few parallels in the history of the period and the influence
it excited was undoubtedly great. Aldrich several years earlier had
told a story which depended for its effect upon a startling closing
sentence, but _Marjorie Daw_ attracted little attention as compared
with the tremendous vogue of _The Lady, or the Tiger?_ It was a step in
the direction of more elaborate art. It began to be realized that the
short story writer had the reader at his mercy. It was recognized that
it was a part of his art to startle, to perplex, to tantalize, to lead
into hidden pitfalls, yet always in a way to please and to stimulate.
From _Marjorie Daw_ and _The Lady, or the Tiger?_ it was but a step to
the jugglery of O. Henry.

None of Stockton's other short stories ever reached the vogue of this
lucky hit, but many of them surpass it in all the requisites of art.
"Negative Gravity," "The Transferred Ghost," "The Remarkable Wreck of
the Thomas Hyke," and "The Late Mrs. Null" may be cited as examples.
In all of them the art consists in perfect naturalness, in an exquisite
simplicity of style, and in topsy-turvyness made within short compass
completely plausible. We are led into a world of negative gravity where
everything goes completely by opposites. In "The Transferred Ghost" we
are gravely assured that Mr. Hinckman, at the point of death, has a
ghost appointed to haunt his late residence. He does not die, however,
and as a result the poor ghost is haunted by the living Mr. Hinckman
until it is nearly frightened out of its existence. And so skilful is
the author that the story becomes convincing.

Very much of the success of the work depends upon the element that we
call style. Stockton indeed is one of the half dozen prose writers of
the period to whom may be applied the now old-fashioned term stylist.
There is grace and character in his every sentence, a dignity despite
the whimsical content that never descends to vulgarity or to what
James has termed "newspaperese." Always is he clear, always is he
simple--his early experience with juveniles taught him that--and always
is he perfectly natural. Moreover, to all this he adds a delightfully
colloquial attitude toward his reader--a familiar personal tone at
times that is like nothing so much as Charles Lamb.

He was an anomaly in the period. In an age of localized fiction he
produced work as unlocalized as is Carroll's _Through the Looking
Glass_; instead of using dialect and curious provincial types, he dealt
always with refined gentle folk amid surroundings that seem to have
little to do with the actual solid earth; in a period that demanded
reality and fullness of life he wrote little that touches any of the
real problems of his time or that has in it anything to grip or even
to move the reader: even his murders are gentle affairs. There are
no moments of real emotion: all is _opéra bouffe_; all is cheery and
whimsically conceived.

That there was knowledge of the human heart behind his quaint creations
undoubtedly is true. _The Lady, or the Tiger?_ is founded on a subtle
study of humanity, yet even as one says it he is forced to admit that
it added little to the real substance of the period. He was content to
be a mere entertainer, aware undoubtedly that the entertainment that
delights one generation all too often is obsolete in the next.


II

The appearance of "Monsieur Motte" in the _New Princeton Review_ of
January, 1886, marks another step in the development of the short
story. It was as distinctively French in its atmosphere and its art as
if it had been a translation from Maupassant, yet it was as originally
and peculiarly American as even _Madame Delphine_, which in so many
ways it resembles. Its English, which is Gallic in idiom and in
incisive brevity; its atmosphere quivering with passion; its characters
whimsical, impulsive, exquisite of manners; its dainty suggestions of
femininity, as in the case of the little Creole maiden Marie Modeste
or the stately Madame Lareveillère; its hints of a rich and tragic
background, and its startling "Marjorie Daw" culmination--there is
no Monsieur Motte; Monsieur Motte is only the pathetic _négresse_
Marcélite--all this was French, but the background was old Creole
New Orleans, and it was drawn by one who professed herself a severe
realist, or, to quote her own words, "I am not a romanticist, I am a
realist _à la mode de la Nouvelle-Orleans_. I have never written a line
that was not realistic, but our life, our circumstances, the heroism
of the men and women that surrounded my early horizon--all that was
romantic. I had a mind very sensitive to romantic impressions, but
critical as to their expression."

The writer was Grace Elizabeth King, daughter of a prominent barrister
of New Orleans, herself with a strain of Creole blood, educated at
the fashionable Creole _pension_ of the Mesdames Cenas--the Institute
St. Denis of "Monsieur Motte" and "Pupasse"--bilingual like all the
circle in which she moved, and later a resident for some two years in
France--no wonder that from her stories breathes a Gallic atmosphere
such as we find in no other work of the period. Three more episodes,
each a complete short story--"On the Plantation," "The Drama of an
Evening," and "The Marriage of Marie Modeste"--she added to her first
story, bits of art that Flaubert would have delighted in, and issued
them in 1888 under the title _Monsieur Motte_. She followed it with
_Earthlings_, which she has never republished, from _Lippincott's
Magazine_, and with other stories and sketches contributed to
_Harper's_ and the _Century_ that later appeared as _Tales of a Time
and Place_ and _Balcony Stories_.

The impulse to write fiction came to Miss King from a conviction
that Cable had done scant justice to the real Creoles of Louisiana.
She would depict those exclusive circles of old Creole life that she
herself had known in her early childhood, circles almost exclusively
French with just a touch, perhaps, of Spanish. She would differ from
Cable as Sarah Orne Jewett differs from Mary E. Wilkins Freeman in
her pictures of New England life. Her sketches, therefore, are more
minutely drawn, more gentle, more suggestive of the richness and beauty
of a vanished age that was Parisian and Bourbon in its brilliancy. She
excels in her pictures of old Mesdames, relics of the old régime, drawn
by the lightest of touches and suggestions until they are intensely
alive, like Bon Maman or like Madame Josephine in "A Delicate Affair."
A hint or a suggestion is made to do the work of a page of analysis.
Note a passage like this:

    She played her game of solitaire rapidly, impatiently, and
    always won; for she never hesitated to cheat and get out of
    a tight place, or into a favorable one, cheating with the
    quickness of a flash, and forgetting it the moment afterward.

    Mr. Horace was as old as she, but he looked much younger,
    although his dress and appearance betrayed no evidence of an
    effort in that direction. Whenever his friend cheated, he would
    invariably call her attention to it; and as usual she would
    shrug her shoulders and say, "Bah! Lose a game for a card!" and
    pursue the conversation.

All her feminine creations are Gallic, like Marie Modeste, or,
better still, the vividly drawn Misette in _Earthlings_, volatile,
lovable--impossible. She is always at her best while depicting these
whimsical, impracticable, tropic femininites; she makes them not
so bewitching as does Cable, but she makes them more real and more
intensely alive.

Her earlier stories are the best, judged merely as short stories.
As she continued her work she discovered more and more the wealth
of romantic material in the annals of the old city, especially in
the studies of Charles Gayarré (1805-1895), greatest of Southern
historians. The influence of his work upon her becomes increasingly
evident. Her stories grew into sketches. _Balcony Stories_ are not so
much stories as they are realistic sketches of social conditions in New
Orleans after the Reconstruction. More and more she wrote studies in
Creole atmospheres, impressions of picturesque places and persons after
the manner of Hearn, until at length she abandoned fiction altogether
to devote herself to history. In the period when historical fiction
for a time ruled everything, she wrote history itself in a manner that
was as graphic and as picturesque as fiction. Perhaps nothing that she
has written has in it more of vitality than her history of New Orleans
and its people. It is possible that her final place is to be with the
historians rather than with the makers of fiction.

In the technique of the short story she was surpassed by a later worker
in Louisiana materials, Kate Chopin (1851-1904), some of whose work is
equal to the best that has been produced in France or even in America.
She wrote but little, two volumes of stories, notably _Bayou Folks_,
containing all that is now accessible of her shorter work. Many of her
sketches and stories have never been republished from the magazines.

The strength of Mrs. Chopin's work came partly from the strangeness of
her material--she told of the Grand Pré Acadians in the canebrakes of
central Louisiana--and from her intimate knowledge of her field, but it
came more from what may be described as a native aptitude for narration
amounting almost to genius. She was of Celtic temperament--her father
was a Galway County Irishman and her mother was of mingled French and
old Virginian stock. Educated in the Convent of the Sacred Heart at St.
Louis, married at nineteen to a New Orleans cotton factor, spending
fourteen years in Louisiana, the last four of them in the remote hamlet
of Cloutiersville in Natchitoches Parish, "a rambling little French
village of one street, with the Catholic church at one end, and our
plantation at the other, and the Red River flowing through everybody's
backyard," left a widow at thirty-five with six children--all this had
little to do with the making of literature. Indeed, until her return
to St. Louis a year after her bereavement, she had never even thought
of writing. She began almost by chance, and, succeeding from the
first, she wrote story after story almost without effort and wholly
without study of narrative art. For a decade her work was in all of the
Northern magazines, then five years before her death, discouraged by
the reception of her novel _The Awakening_, she became silent.

No writer of the period was more spontaneously and inevitably a story
teller. There is an ease and a naturalness about her work that comes
from more than mere art. She seldom gave to a story more than a single
sitting, and she rarely revised her work, yet in compression of style,
in forbearance, in the massing of materials, and in artistry she
ranks with even the masters of the period. A story like "Desireé's
Baby," with its inevitableness and its culminating sentence that stops
for an instant the reader's heart, is well-nigh perfect. She was
emotional, she was minutely realistic, and, unlike Grace King, used
dialect sometimes in profusion; she was dramatic and even at times
melodramatic, yet never was she commonplace or ineffective. She had
command at times of a pervasive humor and a pathos that gripped the
reader before he was aware, for behind all was the woman herself. She
wrote as Dickens wrote, with abandonment, with her whole self. There
is art in her work, but there is more than art. One may read again and
again such bits of human life as "Madame Celestin's Divorce": it is
the art that is independent of time and place, the art indeed that is
universal.


III

Of a type the direct opposite was James Lane Allen, who was not
inspired and who was not an improvisatore. To Allen fiction was an
art learned with infinite patience. He was years in the mastering of
it, years in which he studied literature with the abandonment of a
Maupassant. He approached it deliberately; he made himself the most
scholarly of the novelists of the period--graduate and graduate student
of Transylvania University, first applicant for the degree of doctor
of philosophy at Johns Hopkins, though he never found opportunity for
residence, teacher for years of languages, and then professor of Latin
and higher English at Bethany College, West Virginia.

The circumstances of his early life made a literary career difficult.
He had been born on a small Kentucky plantation a few miles out of
Lexington, miles that he walked daily while gaining his education. A
college course for him meant toil and sacrifice. The war had brought
poverty, and the death of the father imposed new burdens. Like
Lanier, he was forced to teach schools when he would have studied at
German universities, but, like Lanier, he somehow had caught a vision
of literature that dominated him even through decades of seeming
hopelessness. Few have had to fight longer for recognition and few
have ever worked harder to master the art with which they were to make
their appeal. Like Howells, he studied masters and read interminably,
pursuing his work into the German and the French, writing constantly
and rewriting and destroying. And the result, as with Howells, was no
immaturities. His first book, _Flute and Violin_, published when he
was forty-two, is by many regarded as his best work. To his earliest
readers it seemed as if a new young writer had arrived to whom art was
a spontaneous thing mastered without effort.

A study of the available fragments of Allen's work written earlier than
the stories in this first volume reveals much. He began as a critic.
In Northern journals after 1883 one may find many articles signed with
his name: sharp criticisms of Henry James, appreciations of Heine and
Keats, studies of the art of Balzac and his circle, letters on timely
subjects which show the wideness of his reading and the gradual shaping
of his art. He evolved his method deliberately after consideration of
all that had been done in England and America and France. By no other
writer of the period was the short story worked out with more care or
with more knowledge of requirements.

Especially significant is an article entitled "Local Color" in the
_Critic_ of 1886. The time has come, he contended, when the writer
of fiction must broaden the old conceptions of art. Now the novelist
must be "in some measure a scientist; he must comprehend the natural
pictorial environment of humanity in its manifold effects upon
humanity, and he must make this knowledge available for literary
presentation." Other requirements had become imperative:

    From an artistic point of view, the aim of local color should
    be to make the picture of human life natural and beautiful, or
    dreary, or somber, or terrific, as the special character of
    the theme may demand; from a scientific point of view, the aim
    of local color is to make the picture of human life natural
    and--intelligible, by portraying those picturable potencies in
    nature that made it what it was and must go along with it to
    explain what it is. The novelist must encompass both aims.

He must also be a stylist. "The happiest use of local color," he
declares, "will test to the uttermost one's taste and attainments as a
language colorist." And again, "The utmost in the use of local color
should result, when the writer chooses the most suitable of all colors
that are characteristic; when he makes these available in the highest
degree for artistic presentation; and when he attains and uses the
perfection of coloring in style."

One makes another discovery as one works among these earlier fragments:
Allen, like Howells, was a poet. His first contributions to the larger
magazines--_Harper's_ and the _Atlantic_--were poems, beautiful,
serious, colorful.

After these preliminaries one is prepared to find work done with excess
of care, with precision and balance, and, moreover, to find color in
its literal sense, poetic atmosphere and poetic phrasing, scientific
truth too, nature studied as Thoreau studied it, and Burroughs. The
six stories in _Flute and Violin_ stand by themselves in American
literature. They are not perfect examples of the short story judged by
the latest canons. They make often too much of the natural background,
they lack in swiftness, and they do not culminate with dramatic force.
They are poetic, at times almost lyrical. Open, for instance, _A
Kentucky Cardinal_:

    March has gone like its winds. The other night as I lay awake
    with that yearning which often beats within, there fell from
    the upper air the notes of the wild gander as he wedged his
    way onward by faith, not by sight, towards his distant bourn.
    I rose and, throwing open the shutters, strained eyes toward
    the unseen and unseeing explorer, startled, as a half-asleep
    soldier might be startled by the faint bugle-call of his
    commander, blown to him from the clouds. What far-off lands,
    streaked with mortal dawn, does he believe in? In what soft
    sylvan waters will he bury his tired breast? Always when I
    hear his voice, often when not, I too desire to be up and gone
    out of these earthly marshes where hunts the dark Fowler--gone
    to some vast, pure, open sea, where, one by one, my scattered
    kind, those whom I love and those who love me, will arrive in
    safety, there to be together.

One thinks of Thoreau--one thinks of him often as one reads Allen.
Everywhere Nature, and Nature with the metaphysical light upon it.
And connected with Nature always the tragedy of human life--beauty of
landscape expressed in perfect beauty of language, but under it and
behind it struggle and passion and pain. Nowhere else in the period
such distinction of expression, such charm of literary atmosphere,
combined with such deep soundings into the heart of human life. "The
White Cowl" which appeared in the _Century_ of 1888 and later "Sister
Dolorosa" may be compared with no other American work later than "Ethan
Brand."

In his first period Allen was distinctively a writer of short stories
and sketches. His canvas was small, his plots single and uncomplicated,
his backgrounds over-elaborate, impeding the movement of the plot and
overshadowing the characters. His art began with landscape--his second
book, much of the matter of which was written before the contents of
the first, was wholly landscape, landscape idealized and made lyric.
Then came _John Gray_, a preliminary sketch, and _A Kentucky Cardinal_
and its sequel _Aftermath_, long and short stories, parables, humanity
beginning to emerge from the vast cosmic nature spectacle and to
dominate. Over everything beauty, yet through it all a strain of
sadness, the sadness of youth repressed, of tragedy too soon.

The second period began in 1896 with the publication of _Summer in
Arcady_. The novelist had moved permanently to New York City. He had
gained a broader outlook; he had felt the new forces that were moving
Thomas Hardy and the French novelists. His early work seemed to him
now narrow and weak, mere exercises of a prentice hand. He would work
with the novel now rather than with the short story; he would deal
with broad canvas, with the great fundamental problems that complicate
human life. His essay in the _Atlantic_ of October, 1897, explains the
new period in his work. Literature even into the mid-nineties had been
feminine rather than masculine, he averred. The American novelists had
aimed too much at refinement.

    They sought the coverts where some of the more delicate
    elements of our national life escaped the lidless eye of
    publicity, and paid their delicate tributes to these; on the
    clumsy canvases of our tumultuous democracy they watched to
    see where some solitary being or group of beings described
    lines of living grace, and with grace they detached these
    and transferred them to the enduring canvases of letters;
    they found themselves impelled to look for the minute things
    of our humanity, and having gathered these, to polish them,
    carve them, compose them into minute structures with minutest
    elaboration ... polishing and adornment of the little things
    of life--little ideas, little emotions, little states of
    mind and shades of feeling, climaxes and dénouements, little
    comedies and tragedies played quite through or not quite played
    through by little men and women on the little stage of little
    playhouses.

So much for the past, for the feminine age to which his own earlier
work had belonged. A new age had arisen; a masculine age, less
delicate, less refined, less heedful of little things, a strenuous age,
more passionate and virile, less shrinking and squeamish.

    It is striking out boldly for larger things--larger areas of
    adventure, larger spaces of history, with freer movements
    through both: it would have the wings of a bird in the air,
    and not the wings of a bird on a woman's hat. It reveals a
    disposition to place its scenery, its companies of players,
    and the logic of its dramas, not in rare, pale, half-lighted,
    dimly beheld backgrounds, but nearer to the footlights of the
    obvious. And if, finally, it has any one characteristic more
    discernible than another, it is the movement away from the
    summits of life downward towards the bases of life; from the
    heights of civilization to the primitive springs of action;
    from the thin-aired regions of consciousness which are ruled
    over by Tact to the underworld of consciousness where are
    situated the mighty workshops, and where toils on forever the
    cyclopean youth, Instinct.

It was more than the analysis of a far-seeing critic: it was the call
of a novelist to himself to abandon the small ideals and narrow field
of his early art, and strike out into the main currents of the age.

    Let us try for a while the literary virtues and the
    literary materials of less self-consciousness, of larger
    self-abandonment, and thus impart to our fiction the free, the
    uncaring, the tremendous fling and swing that are the very
    genius of our time and spirit.

Following this declaration came the three major novels, _The Choir
Invisible_, which was his old short story _John Gray_ enlarged and
given "fling and swing," _The Reign of Law_, and _The Mettle of the
Pasture_, novels of the type which he had denominated masculine,
American, yet to be grouped with nothing else in American literature,
their only analogues being found in England or France.

In all his work he had been, as he had promised in his essay on "Local
Color," essentially scientific in spirit, but now he became direct,
fearless, fundamental. Nature he made central now. The older art
had made of it a background, a thing apart from humanity, sometimes
sympathetic, sometimes indifferent, but Allen, like Hardy and his
school, made of it now a ruling force, a dominating personality in the
tragedy. The first title of _Summer in Arcady_ as it ran serially
in the _Cosmopolitan_ was _Butterflies: a Tale of Nature_. Its theme
was the compelling laws within human life: instincts, inheritances,
physical forces that bind beyond power to escape. Man is not to be
treated as apart from Nature but as inseparably a part of Nature,
hurled on by forces that he does not understand, ruled all unknowingly
by heredity, fighting senseless battles that, could he but know all,
would reduce life to a succession of ironies: "If Daphne had but known,
hidden away on one of those yellow sheets [on which her own runaway
marriage had just been recorded, the last of a long series of such
marriages] were the names of her own father and mother."

In these later novels one finds now fully developed an element that
had been latent in all of his early work--a mystic symbolism that in
many ways is peculiar to Allen. _Summer in Arcady_ is built up around a
parallelism that extends into every part of the story:

    Can you consider a field of butterflies and not think of the
    blindly wandering, blindly loving, quickly passing human race?
    Can you observe two young people at play on the meadows of Life
    and Love without seeing in them a pair of these brief moths of
    the sun?

And _The Reign of Law_ is a parable from beginning to end, a linking
of man to Nature, a parallelism between human life and the life of the
hemp of the Kentucky fields:

    Ah! type, too, of our life, which also is earth-sown,
    earth-rooted; which must struggle upward, be cut down, rooted
    and broken, ere the separation take place between our dross and
    our worth--poor perishable shard and immortal fiber. Oh, the
    mystery, the mystery of that growth from the casting of the
    soul as a seed into the dark earth, until the time when, led
    through all natural changes and cleansed of weakness, it is
    borne from the field of its nativity for the long service.

All of his work is essentially timeless and placeless. He had had
from the first little in common with the other short story writers
of locality. Of dialect he has almost none; of the negro who so
dominates Southern literature he shows only a glimpse in one or two of
his earlier sketches. His background, to be sure, is always Kentucky
and this background he describes with minuteness, but there is no
attempt to portray personalities or types peculiar to the State. He is
working rather in the realm of human life. Always is he tremendously
serious. A lambent humor may play here and there over the tales, but
everywhere is there the feeling of coming tragedy. Too much concerned
he is, perhaps, with the conception of sex as the central problem of
life--_Summer in Arcady_ and _The Mettle of the Pasture_ were greeted
with storms of disapproval--but one feels that he is sincere, that he
stands always on scientific grounds, and that he is telling what he
conceives to be the undiminished truth about modern life.

And his solution, so far as he offers a solution, is free from
bitterness or pessimism. He is superior to Hardy inasmuch as he
is able to rise above the pagan standpoint and see the end of the
suffering and the irony crowned with ultimate good. John Gray in _The
Choir Invisible_ summed up the philosophy of the author in sentences
like these: "To lose faith in men, not in humanity; to see justice
go down and not to believe in the triumph of injustice; for every
wrong that you weakly deal another or another deals you to love more
and more the fairness and beauty of what is right, and so to turn
the ever-increasing love from the imperfection that is in us all to
the Perfection that is above us all--the perfection that is God:
this is one of the ideals of actual duty that you once said were to
be as candles in my hand. Many a time this candle has gone out; but
as quickly as I could snatch any torch--with your sacred name on my
lips--it has been relighted."

The volume of his writings is small. He has worked always slowly,
revising, rewriting, never satisfied. His earlier short stories are
perhaps his most perfect work; his longer short stories, like _A
Kentucky Cardinal_, his most charming; and his later novels like _The
Mettle of the Pasture_, his most enduring, inasmuch as they contain the
chief substance of what he had to say to his generation. His weakness
has been a fondness for elaboration: in _The Reign of Law_ a chapter
is given to the life history of the hemp plant and to a parallelism
between it and human life. The movement of his stories is constantly
impeded by what is really extraneous material, endless descriptions of
landscape, beautiful in itself but needless, and unnecessary episodes:
a cougar "gaunt with famine and come for its kill" is creeping up
to John Gray, who is weaponless, but before the final spring four
pages about the habits of the animal--a chapter altogether for the
adventure, and after it is all told it is "lumber" so far as the needs
of the novel are concerned.

But there is a more fundamental weakness: his work on the whole is
the product of a follower rather than a leader. He learned his art
deliberately impelled not by a voice within which demanded expression
but by a love for beautiful things and a dogged determination to win in
the field that he had chosen for his life work. By interminable toil
and patience, and by alertness to seize upon every new development
in his art, he made himself at last a craftsman of marvelous skill,
even of brilliancy. He was not a voice in the period; rather was he an
artisan with a sure hand, a craftsman with exquisite skill.


IV

The triumph of the short story came in the early nineties. In the
September, 1891, issue of _Harper's Monthly_ Mr. Howells, reviewing
Garland's _Main-Traveled Roads_, commented on the fact that collections
of stories from the magazines were competing on even terms with the
novels:

    We do not know how it has happened; we should not at all
    undertake to say; but it is probably attributable to a number
    of causes. It may be the prodigious popularity of Mr. Kipling
    which has broken down all prejudices against the form of his
    success. The vogue that Maupassant's tales in the original or
    in versions have enjoyed may have had something to do with it.
    Possibly the critical recognition of the American supremacy
    in this sort has helped. But however it has come about, it
    is certain that the result has come, and the publishers are
    fearlessly venturing volumes of short stories on every hand;
    and not only short stories by authors of established repute,
    but by new writers who would certainly not have found this way
    to the public some time ago.

During this decade the short story reached its highest level. In
February, 1892, the _Atlantic Monthly_ in a review of current
collections of short stories by Thomas Nelson Page, Joel Chandler
Harris, James Lane Allen, Octave Thanet, Hamlin Garland, Richard
Harding Davis, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Rose Terry Cooke, George A.
Hibbard, William Douglas O'Connor, Clinton Ross, Thomas A. Janvier,
H. C. Bunner, Brander Matthews, and Frank R. Stockton, remarked of
the form that "in America it is the most vital as well as the most
distinctive part of literature. In fact, it flourishes so amply that
this very prosperity nullifies most of the apologies for the American
novel." But even within the limits of the decade of its fullest
success came the decline. The enormous vogue of the form resulted in
the journalization of it. O. Henry with his methods helped greatly to
devitalize and cheapen it. With him the short story became fictional
vaudeville. Everywhere a straining for effect, a search for the piquant
and the startling. He is theatric, stagy, smart, ultra modern. Instead
of attempts at truth a succession of smart hits: "The wind out of the
mountains was singing like a jew's-harp in a pile of old tomato-cans by
the railroad track"; "A bullet-headed man Smith was, with an oblique,
dead eye and the mustache of a cocktail mixer," etc. He is flippant,
insincere, with an eye to the last sentence which must startle the
reader until he gasps. After O. Henry the swift decline of the short
story, the inclusion of it in correspondence courses, and the reign of
machine-made art.


V

But during the decade of the high tide came some of the strongest work
in American literature. It was the period of the earlier and better
work of Hamlin Garland and Alice French, of Richard Harding Davis and
Ambrose Bierce, of Mrs. Deland and F. H. Smith, with Garland, perhaps,
the most distinctive worker. Garland began as an iconoclast, a leader
of the later phase of realism--depressed realism after the Russian and
the French types. His little book of essays, _Crumbling Idols_, breezy
and irreverent, with its cry for a new Americanism in our literature,
new truth, new realism, was the voice of the new generation after Harte
and Howells, the school inspired by Ibsen, Hardy, Tolstoy, Maupassant.
The Middle West was his background and he knew it with completeness.
He had been born in a Wisconsin "coulé" on a ragged, half-broken farm,
and before he was eleven he had migrated with his parents westward,
three different times. His boyhood had followed the middle western
border. The father was of Maine Yankee stock, full of the restlessness
and eagerness of his generation. In his son's record he stands out in
almost epic proportions.

    Hour after hour we pushed westward, the heads of our tired
    horses hanging ever lower, and on my mother's face the shadow
    deepened, but my father's voice calling to his team lost
    nothing of its edge. He was in his element. He loved this
    shelterless sweep of sod. This westward march delighted him. I
    think he would have gladly kept on until he reached the Rocky
    Mountains.[152]

He had stopped this time in Iowa and had begun once again the
tremendous task of making a farm out of the virgin prairie. The boy
took his full share of work. Speaking of himself in the third person,
he says: "In the autumn that followed his eleventh birthday he plowed
for seventy days, overturning nearly one hundred and fifty acres of
stubble." At fifteen he was head farmer and took a man's place on
the reaper, at the threshing, and in all of the farm work. Education
came to him as he could get it. He attended the winter sessions of
the district school and he read all the books that the neighborhood
afforded. By rarest good fortune his father subscribed for the new
_Hearth and Home_ in which the serial _The Hoosier Schoolmaster_ was
running, and in the boy's own words in later years the story was a
"milestone in his literary progress as it was in the development of
distinctive Western fiction."

His later struggles toward culture, his graduation in 1881 from Cedar
Valley Seminary, Osage, Iowa, his school teaching in Illinois and
Dakota, his experience as a settler during the Dakota land "boom" of
1883, his Howells-like journey to Boston the following year, and his
years of life there as teacher and eager student, must be passed over
swiftly. He haunted the Boston public library and read enormously,
he became impressed with the theories of the new French school of
"Veritists," and he soon began to write, first photographic sketches
of Middle-Western life--corn and wheat raising, rural customs, and the
like--then after a long period he returned West for his first vacation.
At Chicago he visited Joseph Kirkland (1830-1894), author of _Zury:
the Meanest Man in Spring County_ (1887), a book of crude yet strong
pictures of Western life, and the call was another milestone in his
literary life.

The result of that vacation was three books of short stories, their
author's most distinctive work, _Main-Traveled Roads_, _Prairie Folks_,
and _Other Main-Traveled Roads_. His own account of the matter is
worthy of quotation:

    The entire series was the result of a summer-vacation visit
    to my old home in Iowa, to my father's farm in Dakota, and,
    last of all, to my birthplace in Wisconsin. This happened in
    1887. I was living at the time in Boston, and had not seen
    the West for several years, and my return to the scenes of my
    boyhood started me upon a series of stories delineative of
    farm and village life as I knew it and had lived it. I wrote
    busily during the two years that followed, and in this revised
    definitive edition of _Main-Traveled Roads_ and its companion
    volume, _Other Main-Traveled Roads_ (compiled from other
    volumes which now go out of print), the reader will find all of
    the short stories which came from my pen between 1887 and 1889.

    It remains to say that, though conditions have changed somewhat
    since that time, yet for the hired man and the renter farm
    life in the West is still a stern round of drudgery. My pages
    present it--not as the summer boarder or the young lady
    novelist sees it--but as the working farmer endures it.

After the years at Boston the life of his native region had taken on
for him a totally new aspect. He saw it now as Howard saw it in "Up
the Coulé," the grinding toil of it, the brutality and hopelessness
and horror of it, and it filled him with fierce anger. He wrote with
full heart and with an earnestness that was terrible, and he had the
courage of his convictions. Will Hannan takes Agnes from the hell into
which she has married and bears her into his own new home of love and
helpfulness and there is no apology, and again the same theme in later
tales. There is the grimness and harshness and unsparing fidelity to
fact, however unpleasant, that one finds in the Russian realists,
but there is another element added to it: the fervor and faith of
the reformer. Such a story as "Under the Lion's Paw," for instance,
does not leave one, like Ibsen and Hardy, in despair and darkness;
it arouses rather to anger and the desire to take action harsh and
immediate. There is no dodging of facts. All the dirt and coarseness of
farm life come into the picture and often dominate it. The author is
not writing poetry; despite his _Prairie Songs_ he is no poet. Howard
is visiting home after a long absence:

    It was humble enough--a small white story-and-a-half structure,
    with a wing set in the midst of a few locust trees; a small
    drab-colored barn with a sagging ridge-pole; a barnyard full
    of mud, in which a few cows were standing, fighting the flies
    and waiting to be milked. An old man was pumping water at the
    well; the pigs were squealing from a pen near by; a child was
    crying....

    As he waited, he could hear a woman's fretful voice, and
    the impatient jerk and jar of kitchen things, indicative
    of ill-temper or worry. The longer he stood absorbing this
    farm-scene, with all its sordidness, dullness, triviality, and
    its endless drudgeries, the lower his heart sank. All the joy
    of the home-coming was gone, when the figure arose from the cow
    and approached the gate, and put the pail of milk down on the
    platform by the pump.

    "Good-evening," said Howard, out of the dusk.

    Grant stared a moment. "Good-evening."

    Howard knew the voice, though it was older and deeper and more
    sullen. "Don't you know me, Grant? I am Howard."

    The man approached him, gazing intently at his face. "You are?"
    after a pause. "Well, I'm glad to see you, but I can't shake
    hands. That damned cow has laid down in the mud."

But the most pitiful pictures are those of the women. Lucretia Burns is
a type:

    She had no shawl or hat and no shoes, for it was still muddy
    in the little yard, where the cattle stood patiently fighting
    the flies and mosquitoes swarming into their skins, already
    wet with blood. The evening was oppressive with its heat, and
    a ring of just-seen thunder-heads gave premonitions of an
    approaching storm.

    She arose from the cow's side at last, and, taking her pails
    of foaming milk, staggered toward the gate. The two pails hung
    from her lean arms, her bare feet slipped on the filthy ground,
    her greasy and faded calico dress showed her tired and swollen
    ankles, and the mosquitoes swarmed mercilessly on her neck and
    bedded themselves in her colorless hair.

    The children were quarreling at the well, and the sound of
    blows could be heard. Calves were querulously calling for their
    milk, and little turkeys, lost in a tangle of grass, were
    piping plaintively.

    It was a pitifully worn, almost tragic face--long, thin,
    sallow, hollow-eyed. The mouth had long since lost the power
    to shape itself into a kiss, and had a droop at the corners
    which seemed to announce a breaking-down at any moment into a
    despairing wail. The collarless neck and sharp shoulders showed
    painfully.

It is the tragic world of Mary E. Wilkins--her obstinate, elemental,
undemonstrative rustics moved into a new setting. As in her work,
simplicity, crude force, the power of one who for a moment has
forgotten art and gives the feeling of actual life, verisimilitude that
convinces and compels. The little group of stories is work sent hot
from a man's heart, and they are alive as are few other stories of the
period, and they will live. They are part of the deeper history of a
section and an era.

This element of purpose is found in all of Garland's work. Nowhere
is he a mere teller of tales. The Scotch and Yankee elements within
him made of him a preacher, a man with a message. The narrow field
of his first success could not long be worked, and, like the true
son of a pioneer, he began to follow his old neighbors in their
further migrations westward. His later work took the form of novels,
many of them dealing with the extreme West and all of them saturated
with purpose. His _Captain of the Gray Horse Troop_, for instance,
attempted for the Indian what _Ramona_ tried to do. It is a powerful
study of the wrongs done a race, and, moreover, it is a novel. Still
later the native mysticism of his race showed itself in such novels
as _The Tyranny of the Dark_, _The Shadow World_, _Victor Ollnee's
Discipline_--spiritualistic propaganda.

With the novel he has not fully succeeded. He lacks power of
construction and ability for extended effort. The short story "A
Branch Road" in _Main-Traveled Roads_ has a gripping power, but the
same theme treated at novel length in _Moccasin Ranch_ becomes too
much an exploiting of background. There is a sense of dilution, a loss
of effect. The author's first fine edge of anger, of conviction, of
complete possession by his material, is gone, and we have the feeling
that he has become a professional man of letters, an exploiter of what
he considers to be salable material. His best long novel is _Rose
of Dutcher's Coolly_. _Money Magic_ has a certain sense of power
connected with it, but it lacks the final touch of actual life. Unlike
_The Rise of Silas Lapham_, with which it may be compared, it leaves
us unsatisfied. The quivering sense of reality that one finds in
_Main-Traveled Roads_ is not there. It is a performance, a brilliant
picture made deliberately and coldly by a man in his study, whereas a
story like "Among the Corn Rows" reads as if it had taken possession of
its author, and had been written with a burst of creative enthusiasm.
One late fragment of Garland's must not be overlooked, his _A Son of
the Middle Border_, a part of which has appeared in serial form. It is
an autobiography, and it is more: it is a document in the history of
the Middle West. It has a value above all his novels, above all else
that he has written, saving always those tense short stories of his
first inspiration.


VI

The Western stories of Alice French antedated by several years
Garland's first work and perhaps had an influence upon it. Her strong
story "The Bishop's Vagabond" appeared in the _Atlantic_ as early as
1884 and her collection _Knitters in the Sun_ by Octave Thanet came out
in 1887. Her work, however, has not the originality and the sharpness
of outline of Garland's and it has failed to hold the high place that
was at first assigned to it. She is to be classed with Miss Woolson
rather than with Mrs. Wilkins Freeman, with Miss Murfree rather than
with Harris. She was not a native of the regions she chose as her
literary field, but she entered them with curiosity and studied their
peculiarities carefully with open note-book for Northern readers.

Her father and her brothers were extensive manufacturers, and contact
with their work gave her a knowledge of labor conditions and of
economic problems that enabled her in the early eighties to contribute
to the _Atlantic_ and other magazines able papers, such as "The Indoor
Pauper" and "Contented Masses," papers widely commented upon for
their brilliancy and breadth of view. But the success won everywhere
by the feminine short story writers tempted her from these economic
studies, and for a time she wrote local color tales with variety of
background--Canada, Florida, Iowa. Then, with ample means at her
disposal, she built at Clover Bend, Arkansas, a summer home on the
banks of the Black River, and, like Miss Murfree, became interested
in the crude social conditions about her, so different from those of
her native New England or her adopted Iowa city of Davenport. Stories
like "Whitsun Harp, Regulator" and "Ma' Bowlin'" followed, then the
fine studies entitled "Plantation Life in Arkansas" and "Town Life in
Arkansas."

These earlier stories are often dramatic, even melodramatic, and they
abound in sentiment. Sometimes a character stands out with sharpness,
but more often the tale impresses one as a performance rather than a
bit of actual life. The intense feeling that Garland, who wrote as
if his material came from out his own bitter heart, throws into his
stories she does not have. She stands as an outsider and looks on
with interest and takes notes, often graphic notes, then displays her
material as an exhibitor sets forth his curious collection.

More and more the sociological specialist and the reformer took
control of her pen. Even her short stories are not free from special
pleading: "Convict Number 49," for instance, is not so much a story
as a tract for the times. In her novels the problem dominates. _The
Man of the Hour_ and _The Lion's Share_ treat phases of the labor
problem, and _By Inheritance_ is a study of the negro question with an
attempted solution. The story, despite dramatic intensity at times and
lavish sentiment, fails often to interest the reader unless he be a
sociologist or a reformer. Already she holds her place by reason of a
few of her earlier short stories, and it would seem that even these are
now losing the place that once undoubtedly was theirs.

More convincing, though perhaps they have had smaller influence upon
their time, have been the Vermont stories of Rowland E. Robinson, which
are genuine at every point and full of subtle humor, and the Adirondack
stories of Philander Deming, which began to appear in the _Atlantic_
in the mid-seventies. Both men have written out of their own lives
with full hearts, and both have added to their material a touch of
originality that has made it distinctive.


VII

In tracing the development of the short story to the end of the century
one must pause at the exquisite work of H. C. Bunner, who undoubtedly
did much toward bringing the form to mechanical perfection. His volume
entitled _Made in France: French Tales with a U. S. Twist_, suggests
one secret of his art. He had a conciseness, a brilliancy of effect,
an epigrammatic touch, that suggest the best qualities of French
style. In his volumes _Short Sixes_ and _More Short Sixes_ he is at
his best--humorous, artistic, effective, and in addition he touches at
times the deeper strata of human life and becomes an interpreter and a
leader.

French in effect also is Ambrose Bierce, who in his earlier work
displayed a power to move his readers that is little found outside
of Poe. Reserve he has, a directness that at times is disconcerting,
originality of a peculiar type, and a command of many of the subtlest
elements of the story-telling art, but lacking sincerity, he fails
of permanent appeal. He writes for effect, for startling climax, for
an insidious attack upon his reader's nerves, and often, as in his
collection entitled _In the Midst of Life_, he works his will. But he
is not true, he works not in human life as it is actually lived, but in
a Poe-like life that exists only in his own imaginings. In his later
years journalism took the fine edge from his art and adverse criticism
of his work turned him into something like a literary anarchist who
criticized with bitterness all things established. A few of his
novels may be studied with profit as models of their kind, but the
greater part of his writings despite their brilliancy can not hope for
permanence.

One may close the survey with Richard Harding Davis, who may be taken
as the typical figure of the last years of the century. Davis was a
journalist, peculiarly and essentially a journalist. He began his
career in a newspaper office and all that he did was colored by the
newspaper atmosphere. Literature to him was a thing to be dashed off
with facility, to be read with excitement, and to be thrown aside. The
art of making it he learned as one learns any other profession, by
careful study and painstaking thoroughness, and having mastered it he
became a literary practitioner, expert in all branches.

"Gallagher" was his first story, and it was a brilliant production,
undoubtedly his best. Then followed the Van Bibber stories, facile
studies of the idle rich area of New York life of which the author was
a mere spectator, remarkable only for the influence they exerted on
younger writers. Of the rest of his voluminous output little need be
said. It is ephemeral, it was made to supply the demand of the time for
amusement. With O. Henry, Edward W. Townsend of the "Chimmie Fadden"
stories, and others, its author debauched the short story and made it
the mere thing of a day, a bit of journalism to be thrown aside with
the paper that contained it. On the mechanical side one may find but
little fault. As a performance it is often brilliant, full of dash and
spirit and excessive modernness, but it lacks all the elements that
make for permanence--beauty of style, distinction of phrase, and, most
of all, fidelity to the deeper truths of life. It imparts to its reader
little save a momentary titillation and the demand for more. It deals
only with the superficial and the coarsely attractive, and we feel it
is so because of its author's limitations, because he knows little of
the deeps of character, of sacrifice, of love in the genuine sense, of
the fundamental stuff of which all great literature has been woven.
He is the maker of extravaganzas, of Zenda romances, of preposterous
combinations like _A Soldier of Fortune_, which is true neither to
human nature nor to any possibility of terrestrial geography; he is a
special correspondent with facile pen who tells nothing new and nothing
authoritative--a man of the mere to-day, and with the mere to-day he
will be forgotten. Were he but an isolated case such criticism were
unnecessary; he might be omitted from our study; but he is the type
of a whole school, a school indeed that bids fair to exert enormous
influence upon the literature, especially upon the fiction, of the
period that is to come.


VIII

Thus the fiction of the period has expressed itself prevailingly in
short-breathed work. Compared with the fiction of France or England
or Russia, with the major work of Balzac or Thackeray or Tolstoy, it
has been a thing of seeming fragments. Instead of writing "the great
American novel," which was so eagerly looked for during all the period,
its novelists have preferred to cultivate small social areas and to
treat even these by means of brief sketches.

The reasons are obvious. American life during the period was so
heterogeneous, so scattered, that it has been impossible to comprehend
any large part of it in a single study. The novelist who would express
himself prevailingly in the larger units of fiction, like Henry James,
for instance, or F. Marion Crawford, has been forced to take his topics
from European life. The result has been narrowness, cameos instead
of canvases, short stories rather than novels. In a period that over
enormous areas was transforming thousands of discordant elements into
what was ultimately to be a unity, nothing else was possible. Short
stories were almost imperative. He who would deal with crude characters
in a bare environment can not prolong his story without danger of
attenuation. The failure of Miss Murfree, and indeed of nearly all of
the short story writers when they attempted to expand their compressed
and carefully wrought tales into novels, has already been dwelt upon.

But shortness of unit is not a fault. The brevity of the form,
revealing as it does with painful conspicuousness all inferior
elements, has resulted in an excellence of workmanship that has made
the American short story the best art form of its kind to be found in
any literature. The richness of the materials used has also raised
the quality of the output. The picturesqueness of American life
during the period has made possible themes of absorbing interest and
unusual vividness of picturing, and the elemental men and passions
found in new and isolated areas have furnished abundance of material
for characterization. Until the vast field of American life becomes
more unified and American society becomes less a matter of provincial
varieties, the short story will continue to be the unit of American
fiction.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  FRANK RICHARD STOCKTON. (1834-1902.) _Ting-a-ling Stories_,
  1869; _Roundabout Papers_, 1872; _The Home_, 1872; _What Might
  Have Been Expected_, 1874; _Tales Out of School_, 1875; _Rudder
  Grange_, 1879; _A Jolly Fellowship_, 1880; _The Floating Prince_,
  1881; _The Story of Viteau_, 1884; _The Lady, or the Tiger? and
  Other Stories_, 1884; _The Casting Away of Mrs. Lecks and Mrs.
  Aleshine_, 1886; _A Christmas Wreck and Other Stories_, 1886;
  _The Late Mrs. Null_, 1886; _The Hundredth Man_, 1887; _The Bee
  Man of Orne_, 1887; _The Dusantes_, 1888; _Amos Kilbright_,
  1888; _Personally Conducted_, 1889; _The Great War Syndicate_,
  1889; _Ardis Claverden_, 1890; _Stories of Three Burglars_,
  1890; _The Merry Chanter_, 1890; _The Squirrel Inn_, 1891; _The
  House of Martha_, 1891; _Rudder Grangers Abroad_, 1891; _The
  Clocks of Rondaine_, 1892; _The Watch-Maker's Wife_, 1893;
  _Pomona's Travels_, 1894; _The Adventures of Captain Horn_, 1895;
  _Mrs. Cliff's Yacht_, 1896; _Stories of New Jersey_, 1896; _A
  Story-Teller's Pack_, 1897; _The Great Stone of Sardis_, 1898;
  _The Girl at Cobhurst_, 1898; _Buccaneers and Pirates of Our
  Coast_, 1898; _The Vizier of the Two-Horned Alexander_, 1899;
  _The Associate Hermits_, 1899; _A Bicycle of Cathay_, 1900;
  _Afield and Afloat_, 1900; _The Novels and Stories of Frank R.
  Stockton_, Shenandoah Edition, 18 vols., 1900; _Kate Bonnet_,
  1902.

  GRACE KING. (1852----.) _Monsieur Motte_, 1888; _Earthlings_ [in
  _Lippincott's Magazine_]; _Tales of a Time and Place_, 1892;
  _Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, 'Sieur de Bienville_ [Makers of American
  Series], 1892; _Balcony Stories_, 1893; _History of Louisiana_
  [with J. R. Ficklen], 1894; _New Orleans, the Place and the
  People_, 1895; _De Soto and His Men in the Land of Florida_,
  1898; _Stories from Louisiana History_ [with J. R. Ficklen], 1905.

  KATE CHOPIN. (1801-1904.) _At Fault, a Novel_, 1890; _Bayou
  Folk_, 1894; _A Night in Acadie and Other Stories_, 1897; _The
  Awakening, a Novel_, 1899.

  JAMES LANE ALLEN. (1849----.) _Flute and Violin, and Other
  Kentucky Tales and Romances_, 1891; _The Blue-Grass Region of
  Kentucky_, 1892; _John Gray: a Kentucky Tale of the Olden Time_,
  1893; _A Kentucky Cardinal: a Story_, 1894; _Aftermath: Part
  Two of a Kentucky Cardinal_, 1895; _Summer in Arcady: a Tale of
  Nature_, 1896; _The Choir Invisible_, 1897; _The Reign of Law:
  a Tale of the Kentucky Hemp Fields_, 1900; _The Mettle of the
  Pasture_, 1903; _The Bride of the Mistletoe_, 1909; _The Doctor's
  Christmas Eve_, 1910; _A Heroine in Bronze_, 1912.

  HAMLIN GARLAND. (1860----.) _Main-Traveled Roads: Six Mississippi
  Valley Stories_, 1891; _Jason Edwards: an Average Man_, 1892;
  _Little Norsk; or, Ol' Pap's Flaxen_, 1892; _Member of the Third
  House: a Dramatic Story_, 1892; _A Spoil of Office: a Story of
  the Modern West_, 1892; _Prairie Folks: or, Pioneer Life on the
  Western Prairies, in Nine Stories_, 1893; _Prairie Songs_, 1893;
  _Crumbling Idols: Essays on Art, Dealing Chiefly with Literature,
  Painting, and the Drama_, 1894; _Rose of Dutcher's Coolly_, 1895;
  _Wayside Courtships_, 1897; _Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and
  Character_, 1898; _The Spirit of Sweetwater_, 1898; _Boy Life
  on the Prairie_, 1899; _The Trail of the Gold-Seekers: Record
  of Travel in Prose and Verse_, 1899; _The Eagle's Heart_, 1900;
  _Her Mountain Lover_, 1901; _The Captain of the Grayhorse Troop_,
  1902; _Hesper_, 1903; _The Light of the Star_, 1904; _The Tyranny
  of the Dark_, 1905; _Witch's Gold: New Version of the Spirit
  of Stillwater_, 1906; _Money Magic_, 1907; _The Long Trail_,
  1907; _The Shadow World_, 1908; _Moccasin Ranch, a Story of
  Dakota_, 1909; collected edition, ten volumes, 1909; _Cavanagh,
  Forest Ranger_, 1910; _Other Main-Traveled Roads_, 1910; _Victor
  Ollnee's Discipline_, 1911.

  ALICE FRENCH, "OCTAVE THANET." (1850----.) _Knitters in the Sun_,
  1887; _Expiation_, 1890; _We All_, 1891; _Otto the Knight and
  Other Trans-Mississippi Stories_, 1891; _Stories of a Western
  Town_, 1892; _Adventures in Photography_, 1893; _The Missionary
  Sheriff: Incidents in the Life of a Plain Man Who Tried to Do
  His Duty_, 1897; _The Book of True Lovers_, 1897; _The Heart of
  Toil_, 1898; _A Slave to Duty and Other Women_, 1898; _A Captured
  Dream and Other Stories_, 1899; _The Man of the Hour_, 1905; _The
  Lion's Share_, 1907; _By Inheritance_, 1910; _Stories That End
  Well_, 1911; _A Step on the Stair_, 1913.

  ROWLAND EVANS ROBINSON. (1833-1900.) _Uncle Lisha's Shop: Life
  in a Corner of Yankeeland_, 1887; _Sam Lovel's Camp: Uncle
  Lisha's Friends Under Bark and Canvas_, 1889; _Vermont: a Study
  in Independence_, 1892; _Danvis Folks_, 1894; _In New England
  Woods and Fields_, 1896; _Uncle Lisha's Outing_, 1897; _Hero of
  Ticonderoga_, 1898; _A Danvis Pioneer_, 1900; _Sam Lovel's Boy_,
  1901; _In the Greenwood_, 1904; _Hunting Without a Gun and Other
  Papers_, 1905; _Out of Bondage and Other Stories_, 1905.

  PHILANDER DEMING. (1829----.) _Adirondack Stories_, 1880,
  1886; _Tompkins and Other Folks: Stories of the Hudson and the
  Adirondacks_, 1885.

  AMBROSE BIERCE. (1842-1914.) _Cobwebs from an Empty Skull_,
  1874; _The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter_ [with Gustav Adolph
  Danzinger], 1892; _Tales of Soldiers and Civilians_ [later
  changed to _In the Midst of Life_], 1892; _Black Beetles in
  Amber_, 1895; _Can Such Things Be?_ 1894; _Fantastic Fables_,
  1899; _Shapes of Clay_, 1903; _The Cynic's Word Book_, 1906; _Son
  of the Gods and a Horseman in the Sky_, 1907; _The Shadow on the
  Dial and Other Essays_, 1909; _Write It Right: Little Blacklist
  of Literary Faults_, 1909; Collected Works. Twelve Volumes.
  1909-12.

  RICHARD HARDING DAVIS. (1864-1916.) _Gallagher and Other
  Stories_, 1891; _Stories for Boys_, 1891; _Van Bibber and
  Others_, 1892; _The West from a Car Window_, 1892; _Rulers of
  the Mediterranean_, 1894; _Exiles and Other Stories_, 1894; _Our
  English Cousins_, 1894; _Princess Aline_, 1895; _About Paris_,
  1895; _Cinderella and Other Stories_, 1896; _Three Gringos in
  Venezuela and Central America_, 1896; _Cuba in War Time_, 1897;
  _Soldiers of Fortune_, 1897; _A Year from a Reporter's Notebook_,
  1898; _The King's Jackal_, 1898; _The Lion and the Unicorn_,
  1899; _Novels and Stories_, six volumes, 1899; _With Both Armies
  in South Africa_, 1900; _In the Fog_, 1901; _Captain Macklin_,
  1902; _Ranson's Folly_, 1902; _The Bar Sinister_, 1904; _Miss
  Civilization: a Comedy_, 1905; _Real Soldiers of Fortune_,
  1906; _Farces_, 1906; _The Scarlet Car_, 1907; _The Congo and
  Coasts of Africa_, 1907; _Vera, the Medium_, 1908; _White Mice_,
  1909; _Once upon a Time_, 1910; _The Dictator, a Farce_, 1910;
  _Galloper, a Comedy_, 1910; _The Consul_, 1911; _The Man Who
  Could not Lose_, 1911; _The Red Cross Girl_, 1912; _The Lost
  Road_, 1913; _With the Allies_, 1914.



CHAPTER XVII

SHIFTING CURRENTS OF FICTION


I

In 1870 American fiction ran in two currents: fiction of the _Atlantic_
type, read by the cultivated few, and fiction of Bonner's _New York
Ledger_ type, read openly by the literate masses and surreptitiously
by many others. There was also a very large class of readers that read
no novels at all. Puritanism had frowned upon fiction, the church
generally discountenanced it, and in many places prejudice ran deep.
George Cary Eggleston in the biography of his brother has recorded his
own experience:

    It will scarcely be believed by many in the early years of the
    twentieth century, that as late as the end of the third quarter
    of the nineteenth, there still survived a bitter prejudice
    against novels as demoralizing literature, and that even short
    stories were looked upon with doubt and suspicion.... When
    _The Hoosier Schoolmaster_ began to appear, a member of the
    publishing house was sorely troubled. He had been a bitter and
    vehement opponent of novels and novel reading. He had published
    articles of his own in denunciation of fiction and in rebuke
    of his friends in a great publishing house for putting forth
    literature of that character. He now began to suspect that _The
    Hoosier Schoolmaster_ was in fact a novel, and he was shocked
    at the thought that it was appearing in a periodical published
    by himself.... When the story was about to appear in book
    form Edward wrote "A Novel" as a sub-title, and the publisher
    referred to was again in a state of nervous agitation. He
    could in no wise consent to proclaim himself as a publisher of
    novels. In view of the large advance orders for the book he was
    eager to publish the novel, but he could not reconcile himself
    to the open admission that it was a novel.[153]

While _The Bread-Winners_ was running its anonymous course in the
_Century_ in 1884, its author, now known to have been John Hay, felt
called upon to issue an explanatory note:

    I am engaged in business in which my standing would be
    seriously compromised if it were known I had written a novel.
    I am sure that my practical efficiency is not lessened by this
    act, but I am equally sure that I could never recover from the
    injury it would occasion me if known among my own colleagues.
    For that positive reason, and for the negative one that I do
    not care for publicity, I resolved to keep the knowledge of my
    little venture in authorship restricted to as small a circle as
    possible. Only two persons besides myself know who wrote _The
    Bread-Winners_.

The final breaking down of this prejudice and the building up of the
new clientele of readers that at length gave prose fiction its later
enormous vogue is one of the most interesting phenomena of the period.
The novel gained its present respectability as a literary form by what
may be called an artifice. It came in disguised as moral instruction,
as character-building studies of life, as historical narrative,
as reform propaganda. _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, which had been read by
thousands who had never opened a novel before, had begun the work. _The
Hoosier Schoolmaster_ was allowed to appear in the columns of _Hearth
and Home_ because it was a moral tale for children and because it was
written by a minister whose motives no one could question. So with the
works of the Rev. E. P. Roe, and the stories of Dr. J. G. Holland,
who had gained an enormous following with his series of lay sermons
published under the name of Timothy Titcomb.

Perhaps Dr. Holland, more than any other writer of the time, is
responsible for this rehabilitation of the novel. He understood the
common people. His own origin had been humble--the son of a mechanic
of western Massachusetts, blessed with poverty, educated through
his own efforts, enabled after a long struggle to take a medical
diploma--educator, school teacher, superintendent of schools in
Vicksburg, Mississippi, and finally, under Samuel Bowles, assistant
editor of the Springfield, Massachusetts, _Republican_, which, largely
through his efforts, arose to national importance. He was forty when
the Timothy Titcomb letters entered upon their enormous popularity--it
is estimated that nearly half a million copies of the series were sold
first and last; he was fifty when he established _Scribner's Monthly_
and assumed its editorship.

_Scribner's_ under his direction became for the new period what the
_Atlantic Monthly_ had been for the period before. He was a moralist,
a plain man of the people, and he knew his clientele; he knew the
average American reader that makes up the great democratic mass, the
reader who had bought _The Wide, Wide World_, and _Uncle Tom's Cabin_,
and the _Titcomb Letters_. He gave them first of all a serial novel by
the Rev. George MacDonald, and he printed at the close of the first
volume of the _Monthly_ a letter from a reader, sample of thousands
which had filled his mail. Here is an extract:

    I know of no writings better calculated than his [MacDonald's]
    to draw out what is noble and true in the reader, or call forth
    fine feelings and high resolves. They give impulse to life. We
    come away from reading one of his books stronger and better
    prepared for our life-work. Is not this the surest test of
    excellence in a book?

It was this purpose that inspired his own fiction, _Arthur
Bonnicastle_, _Nicholas Minturn_, and the others, earnest, moral
tales sprinkled freely with sentiment, wholesome, but not high in
literary merit. No other man did so much to direct the period into the
well-known channels which it took. His whole influence was democratic.
He would publish literature for the people, and to him literature was
a serious thing, the voice of life. The group of new authors which
he gathered about him is comparable only with the group that James
T. Fields gathered about himself in the earlier golden days of the
_Atlantic_.


II

The period of moralizing fiction culminated with the work of the
Rev. Edward Payson Roe, whose first novel, _Barriers Burned Away_
(1872), with its background of the great Chicago fire, and its tense
moral atmosphere which skilfully concealed its sensationalism and its
plentiful sentiment, became enormously popular. When its author died in
1888 his publishers estimated that 1,400,000 copies of all his novels
had been sold, not counting pirated editions in many foreign languages,
and the sale of the books has been steady up to the present time.

Roe, like Holland, had sprung from the common people and had been
largely self-educated. For a time he had attended Williams College,
Massachusetts, he had enlisted for the war as the chaplain of a
regiment, and after the war had settled down as pastor of the First
Church at Highland Falls, New York. After nine years his health failed
him and he betook himself to an out-of-doors life, fruit raising at
Cornwall-on-Hudson, and his experience he embodied in several practical
handbooks like _Success with Small Fruits_, first published serially in
_Scribner's_. The last years of his life he gave to fiction, turning
it out with facility and in quantity and always with the theory that
he was thereby continuing his work as a pastor. "My books," he wrote,
"are read by thousands; my voice reached at most but a few hundred. My
object in writing, as in preaching, is to do good; and the question is,
Which can I do best? I think with the pen, and I shall go on writing no
matter what the critics say."[154]

That his novels are lacking in the higher elements of literary art, in
structure and style and creative imagination, is apparent even to the
uncritical, but that they are lacking in truth to life and power to
move the reader no one can declare. At every point they are wholesome
and manly. Roe's assertion that he worked with reverence in the
fundamental stuff of life one must admit or else deny his contention
that, "The chief evidence of life in a novel is the fact that it
lives."[155] Surely it must be admitted that few novels of the period
have shown more vitality.

His influence has been considerable. With Holland and his school he
helped greatly in the building up of that mass of novel readers, mostly
women it must be said, which by the middle of the eighties had reached
such enormous proportions. He led readers on to Lew Wallace's _The
Fair God_ and _Ben Hur_, and to the novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett,
who added to the conventional devices of Holland and Roe--sentiment,
sensation, love-centered interest culminating inevitably in marriage at
the close of the story--literary art and a certain dramatic power. She
was realistic in method,--her _That Lass o' Lowrie's_ (1877) reproduced
the Lancashire dialect in all its uncouthness--but the atmosphere
of her work was romantic. Her _Little Lord Fauntleroy_ (1886),
unquestionably the most successful juvenile of the period, has been
described as "a fairy tale of real life." All of her books, indeed,
have this fairy tale basis. She has been exceedingly popular, but she
cannot be counted among the original forces of the period. From her the
current of popularity flowed on to F. Marion Crawford's cosmopolitan
work, to Margaret Deland's strong problem novel _John Ward, Preacher_;
then it swelled into a flood with _David Harum_ and the historical
novels that made notable the nineties. At the close of the century
fiction was read by all and in quantities that seem incredible.


III

In a chapter which traces the growth of the novel, in distinction from
the growth of the sketch or the short story, F. Marion Crawford must
be given a leading place. Of all American writers he devoted himself
most fully to the major form of fiction. He wrote forty-five novels,
and few sketches and short stories: he was a novelist and only a
novelist. He appeared at the one moment when the type of fiction which
he represented was most certain of wide recognition. His earliest book,
_Mr. Isaacs_ (1882), dealt with a new, strange environment--India,
five years before Kipling made it his background; it had a religious
atmosphere--the mystic beliefs of the Orient; and it told a story with
sentiment and with dramatic movement. _Zoroaster_, with its opening
sentence, "The hall of the banquets was made ready for the feast in the
palace of Babylon," appealed to an audience that had rated _Ben Hur_
among the greatest of novels.

But the earliest books of Crawford showed little of the main current of
his work. No two novelists could differ more radically than he and Roe.
To him the purpose-novel was a bastard thing unworthy the powers of a
true artist.

    Lessons, lectures, discussions, sermons, and didactics
    generally belong to institutions set apart for especial
    purposes and carefully avoided, after a certain age, by the
    majority of those who wish to be amused. The purpose-novel
    is an odious attempt to lecture people who hate lectures, to
    preach to people who prefer their own church, and to teach
    people who think they know enough already. It is an ambush, a
    lying-in-wait for the unsuspecting public, a violation of the
    social contract--and as such it ought to be either mercilessly
    crushed or forced by law to bind itself in black and label
    itself "Purpose" in very big letters.[156]

The office of the novel was, therefore, entertainment and only
entertainment. He has been the chief exponent in America of art for
art's sake. A novel, he maintained, is a little "pocket-stage" whose
only office is to please.

The life and the training of Crawford gave him a viewpoint which was
singularly different from that held by the short story writers who were
so busily exploiting provincial little neighborhoods in all the remote
nooks and corners of the land. His training had given him an outlook
more cosmopolitan than even that of Henry James. He had been born at
Bagni-di-Lucca, in Tuscany, son of Thomas Crawford the sculptor, and
he had spent the first eleven years of his life in Rome. Later he had
studied at Concord, New Hampshire; at Trinity College, Cambridge; at
Karlsruhe, at Heidelberg; and finally at Rome, where he had specialized
in the classics. In 1873 he was at Allahabad, India, connected with the
_Indian Herald_, and later on, his health failing, he visited his uncle
in New York, Samuel Ward, brother of Julia Ward Howe, and at his advice
threw some of his Indian experiences into the form of fiction. The
instant success of _Mr. Isaacs_ determined his career. After extensive
travels in Turkey and elsewhere, he settled down in Italy in a
picturesque villa overlooking the Bay of Naples, and there he spent the
remaining years of his life, years of enormous literary productivity,
and of growing popularity with readers both in America and in Europe.

No other American novelist has ever covered so much of territory.
He wrote with first-hand knowledge of life in America, in England,
in Germany, in Italy, in Constantinople, and India, and he wrote
with scholarly accuracy historical novels dealing with times and
places as diverse as Persia in the times of Zoroaster; as the
second crusade--_Via Crucis_; as the era of Philip II in Spain--_In
the Palace of the King_; as Venice in the Middle Ages--_Marietta,
a Maid of Venice_; as early Arabia--_Kahled_; and as early
Constantinople--_Arethusa_.

The heart of his work undoubtedly is made up of the fifteen novels that
deal with life in Rome and its environs: _Saracinesca_, _Sant' Ilario_,
_Don Orsino_, _Taquisara_, _Corleone_, _Casa Braccio_, _A Roman
Singer_, _Marzio's Crucifix_, _Heart of Rome_, _Cecilia_, _Whosoever
Shall Offend_, _Pietro Ghisleri_, _To Leeward_, _A Lady of Rome_, and
_The White Sister_. The novels deal almost exclusively with the middle
and higher classes of Rome, classes of which most Americans know
nothing at all, for, to quote from the opening chapter of _To Leeward_:

    There are two Romes. There is the Rome of the intelligent
    foreigner, consisting of excavations, monuments, tramways,
    hotels, typhoid fever, incense, and wax candles; and there
    is the Rome within, a city of antique customs, good and bad,
    a town full of aristocratic prejudices, of intrigues, of
    religion, of old-fashioned honor and new-fashioned scandal, of
    happiness and unhappiness, of just people and unjust.

It is this other half Rome, unknown to the casual tourist, unknown to
any not native born and Romanist in faith, that he has shown us, as
Howells attempted to show the social life of Boston and New England,
and as Cable sought to enter the heart of Creole New Orleans. With what
success? Those who know most of Roman life have spoken with praise.
He has given to his aristocracy perhaps too much of charm, they say;
too much of inflexible will, it may be; too much of fire and fury; yet
on the whole he has been true to the complex life he has sought to
reproduce, truer, perhaps, than Howells has been to Boston or Cable to
New Orleans, for he has worked from the inside as one native born, as
one reared in the society he describes, even to the detail of accepting
its religious belief. One may well believe it, for everywhere in the
novels is the perfection of naturalness, the atmosphere of reality.

With his seven stories of American life, _An American Politician_
and the others, he is less convincing. He wrote as a foreigner, as
an observer of the outward with no fullness of sympathy, no depth of
knowledge. He was European in viewpoint and in experience, and he knew
better the European background--Germany as in _Greifenstein_ and _The
Cigarette-Maker's Romance_, or England as in _The Tale of a Lonely
Parish_, or even Constantinople as in _Paul Patoff_.

He wins us first with his worldliness, his vast knowledge of the
surfaces of life in all lands. He is full of cosmopolitan comparisons,
wisdom from everywhere, modern instances from Stamboul and Allahabad
and Rome. To read him is like walking through foreign scenes with
a fully informed guide, a marvelous guide, indeed, a patrician, a
polished man of the world. Everywhere in his work an atmosphere
of good breeding--charming people of culture and wideness of
experience: diplomats, artists, statesmen, noblemen, gentlemen of
the world and ladies indeed. There is no coarseness, no dialect, no
uncouth characters. We are in the world of wealth, of old-established
institutions, of traditions and social laws that are inflexible. In the
telling of the tale he has but a single purpose:

    We are not poets, because we can not be. We are not genuine
    playwriters for many reasons; chiefly, perhaps, because we are
    not clever enough, since a successful play is incomparably
    more lucrative than a successful novel. We are not preachers,
    and few of us would be admitted to the pulpit. We are not,
    as a class, teachers or professors, nor lawyers, nor men of
    business. We are nothing more than public amusers. Unless we
    choose we need not be anything less. Let us, then, accept our
    position cheerfully, and do the best we can to fulfil our
    mission, without attempting to dignify it with titles too
    imposing for it to bear, and without degrading it by bringing
    its productions down even a little way, from the lowest level
    of high comedy to the highest level of buffoonery.[157]

From this standpoint he has succeeded to the full. He has told his
stories well; he holds his reader's interest to the end. Slight though
his stories may often be in development, they are ingenious always in
construction and they are cumulative in interest. He has undoubted
dramatic power, sparkling dialogue, thrust and parry, whole novels like
_Saracinesca_, for instance, that might be transferred to the stage
with scarcely an alteration. His characters and episodes appeal to him
always from the dramatic side. The novel, indeed, as he defines it is a
species of drama:

    It may fairly be claimed that humanity has, within the past
    hundred years, found the way of carrying a theater in its
    pocket; and so long as humanity remains what it is, it will
    delight in taking out its pocket-stage and watching the antics
    of the actors, who are so like itself and yet so much more
    interesting. Perhaps that is, after all, the best answer to
    the question, "What is a novel?" It is, or ought to be, a
    pocket-stage. Scenery, light, shade, the actors themselves, are
    made of words, and nothing but words, more or less cleverly
    put together. A play is good in proportion as it represents
    the more dramatic, passionate, romantic, or humorous sides of
    real life. A novel is excellent according to the degree in
    which it produces the illusions of a good play--but it must not
    be forgotten that the play is the thing, and that illusion is
    eminently necessary to success.[157]

Often he overdoes this dramatic element and becomes melodramatic; we
lose the impression of real life and feel an atmosphere of staginess,
that exaggeration of effect which thrills for a moment and then
disgusts.

And right here comes the chief indictment against him: he works without
deep emotion, without tenderness, without altruism, without the higher
reaches of imagination. He has no social or moral purpose, as Howells
had. He sees the body but not the soul, society rather than life in its
deeper currents, a society marvelously complex in its requirements and
its accouterments, its conventions and traditions, but he looks little
below the superficial, the temporal, the merely worldly. He is inferior
to Howells inasmuch as he lacks poetry, he lacks humor, he lacks heart.
He is inferior to James and George Meredith inasmuch as he had no power
of introspection and no distinctive style. He had no passion--he never
becomes enthusiastic even about his native Italy; he had little love
for nature--the city engrosses him, not trees and mountains and lakes.
He writes of the human spectacle and is content if he bring amusement
for the present moment.

He was, therefore, one more influence in the journalization of the
novel. He wrote rapidly and easily, and his style is clear and natural,
but it is also without distinction. His pictures are vividly drawn
and his stories are exceedingly readable--journalistic excellences,
but there is nothing of inspiration about them, no breath of genius,
no touch of literature in the stricter sense of that word. Like every
skilful journalistic writer, he has the power to visualize his scene,
to paint characters with vividness, and to make essentials stand out.
Notably was this true of his historical fiction. Characters like Philip
II. and Eleanor, Queen of France, he can make real men and women that
move and convince. He has created a marvelous gallery of characters,
taking his forty-five novels together, complex and varied beyond that
produced by any other American novelist, and there are surprisingly
few repetitions. He stands undoubtedly as the most brilliant of
the American writers of fiction, the most cosmopolitan, the most
entertaining. His galaxy of Roman novels, especially the _Saracinesca_
group, bids fair to outlive many novels that contain deeper studies of
human life and that are more inspired products of literary art.


IV

The direct opposite of F. Marion Crawford, in literary belief, as
in background and object, was Margaretta Wade Deland, who came into
literary prominence at the close of the eighties. Unlike Crawford, she
was a poet, a realist, a depicter of life within a narrow provincial
area, and, moreover, a worker in the finer materials of life, the
problems of the soul.

The essentials of her biography are few. She was born and reared
at Manchester, a little Pennsylvania village, now swallowed up by
the great manufacturing city of Allegheny; she went at sixteen to
New York to study drawing and design at Cooper Institute; and after
her graduation she became instructor in design at the Girls' Normal
College, New York City. In 1880 she was married to Lorin F. Deland and
removed to Boston, where she has since resided. In 1886 she issued
her first book--a collection of poems entitled _An Old Garden_, and
two years later _John Ward, Preacher_, a novel that attracted instant
and widespread attention because of its likeness in theme to _Robert
Elsmere_, then at the height of its enormous vogue. Since that time she
has published four other major novels: _Sidney_, _Philip and His Wife_,
_The Awakening of Helena Richie_, and _The Iron Woman_, and many short
stories, notably the collections entitled _The Wisdom of Fools_, _Old
Chester Tales_, and _Dr. Lavendar's People_.

By nature and early environment Mrs. Deland was serious and
contemplative. The little Pennsylvania town, later to be immortalized
as Old Chester, during her childhood was a place of traditions, a
bit of antiquity amid the newness about it, of well-bred old English
and Scotch and Irish families with deep religious prejudices and
with narrow yet wholesome and kindly ideals. She was reared in a
religious atmosphere--her father was a Presbyterian and her mother an
Episcopalian, the combination so disastrous in _John Ward, Preacher_.
She lived amid books, all of which she might read save only the
novels, a prohibition that proved to be a good one, for when at last
she was led to write fiction of her own, she went about it with no
conventional preconceptions. It made for freshness, for originality, of
concentration upon life rather than upon form and the tradition of the
elders. It was an environment that cultivated the poet as well as the
Puritan within her, the sensitiveness for Nature, the deeps of love
and life that were to find expression in a note like this, recorded in
her first volume:

        O distant Christ, the crowded, darkening years
          Drift slow between thy gracious face and me:
          My hungry heart leans back to look for thee,
        But finds the way set thick with doubts and fears.

        My groping hands would touch thy garment's hem,
          Would find some token thou art walking near;
          Instead, they clasp but empty darkness drear,
        And no diviner hands reach out to them.

        My straining eyes, O Christ, but long to mark
          A shadow of thy presence, dim and sweet,
          Or far-off light to guide my wandering feet,
        Or hope for hands prayer-beating 'gainst the dark.

It was, therefore, but natural that her work should be both serious
and ethical and that it should be touched with beauty. In _John
Ward, Preacher_, she took as her theme the revolt of a soul against
the infallibilities of a system of belief. It is not necessarily a
religious novel or yet a purpose novel. The primary _motif_ of _Robert
Elsmere_ is theological and doctrinal discussion. It is religious
polemic made attractive by being cast into story form and as such it
deserves the anathema of Crawford, but in Mrs. Deland's novel the human
interest is paramount. Religion is the force that acts upon two lives,
just as jealousy might have been taken or misdirected love or any other
human dynamic, and the novel is the record of the reactions under the
stress.

So with all her novels. The theme is the destruction or the redemption
of a soul, the abasement or the rehabilitation of a character through
some immaterial force applied from within. She deals with great ethical
and sociological forces: heredity, as in her novelette _The Hands of
Esau_; divorce, as in _The Iron Woman_; the compelling power of love,
as in _Sidney_. Her primary aim is not, as with Crawford and Harte,
simply to entertain; it is rather to expose the human soul to its own
view, to show it its limitations and its dangers, that the soul may be
purged through fear of what may be--the aim indeed of the Greek drama.
Her equipment for the work was complete. To feminine tenderness and
insight she added a depth of view and an analysis that is masculine.
She was a poet too, but a poet with the severity of form and the moving
realism of the short story writer. Two of her novels, _The Awakening
of Helena Richie_ and _The Iron Woman_, have not been surpassed in
construction and in moving power by any other writer of the period.

Her _Old Chester Tales_ also, with their central figure Dr. Lavendar,
have the elements that make for permanence. They are really without
time or place. Old Chester undoubtedly is in western Pennsylvania, the
author's native town, but it might be New England as well. The tales
deal with universal types and with universal _motifs_ with a broadness
and a sympathy and a literary art that raises them into the realm of
the rarer classics. From them emerges the figure of Dr. Lavendar to
place beside even Adams and Primrose. Place is not dwelt upon; humanity
is all. They are not so much stories as fragments of actual life
touched with the magic of poetry and of ethic vision. From that worldly
social area of life presented to us by such latter-day novelists as
Crawford and Edith Wharton and Robert Chambers they are as far removed
as is a fashionable Newport yacht, with its club-centered men and
cigarette-smoking women, from the simple little hamlet among the hills.


V

During the closing years of the century there came into American
literature, suddenly and unheralded, a group of young men, journalists
for the most part, who for a time seemed to promise revolution. They
brought in with a rush enthusiasm, vigor, vitality; they had no
reverence for old forms or old ideals; they wrote with fierceness
and cocksureness books like Garland's _Crumbling Idols_ and Norris's
_The Responsibilities of the Novelist_, which called shrilly for
Truth, TRUTH: "Is it not, in Heaven's name, essential that the people
hear not a lie, but the Truth? If the novel were not one of the most
important factors of life; if it were not the completest expression
of our civilization; if its influence were not greater than all the
pulpits, than all the newspapers between the oceans, it would not be so
important that its message should be true." They would produce a new
American literature, one stripped of prudishness and convention; they
would go down among the People and tell them the plain God's Truth as
Zola defined Truth, for the People were hungry for it. "In the larger
view, in the last analysis, the People pronounce the final judgment.
The People, despised of the artist, hooted, caricatured, and vilified,
are, after all, and in the main, the real seekers after Truth." The
group was a passing phenomenon. Many of its members were dead before
they had done more than outline their work: Wolcott Balestier and
Stephen Crane at thirty, Frank Norris at thirty-two, Henry Harland
and Harold Frederic in the early forties, and the others, like R. H.
Davis, for instance, turned at length to historical romance and other
conventional fields.

The impetus undoubtedly came from the enormous and sudden vogue
of Kipling. Balestier was his brother-in-law and had collaborated
with him in writing _The Naulahka_. Then he had written the novel
_Benefits Forgot_, a work of remarkable promise, but remarkable only
for its promise. The vigor and directness and picturing power of the
young Kipling were qualities that appealed strongly to young men of
journalistic training. Like him, they were cosmopolitans and had
seen unusual areas of life. Crane had represented his paper in the
Greco-Turkish War and in the Cuban campaign, Norris had been in the
South African War, Richard Harding Davis had been at all the storm
centers of his time, Frederic was the European correspondent of the New
York _Times_, and Harland became at length editor of the London _Yellow
Book_.

The genius of the group undoubtedly was Stephen Crane (1871-1900). He
was frail of physique, neurotic, intense, full of a vibrant energy
that drove him too fiercely. He was naturally lyrical, romantic,
impulsively creative, but his training made him, as it made most of
the group, a realist--a depressed realist after Zola. His earliest
work was his best, _Maggie, a Girl of the Streets_, a grim and brutal
picture of the darker strata of New York City--his most distinctive
creation. But he had no patience, no time, for collecting material. He
was too eager, too much under the dominance of moods, to investigate,
and his later novel, _The Red Badge of Courage_, which purports to be
a realistic story of army life in the Civil War, is based upon a kind
of manufactured realism that is the product not of observation or of
gathered data, but of an excessively active imagination. When he died,
though he was but thirty, he had done his work. Despite his lyrical
power and his undoubted imagination, his place is not large.

For Frank Norris (1870-1902) more may be said, though undoubtedly
he has been judged by his contemporaries more by what he dreamed of
doing and what, perhaps, he might have done had he lived than by his
actual accomplishment. He had had unusual training for the epic task
he set himself. He had been born in Chicago and had spent there the
first fifteen years of his life, he had been educated in the San
Francisco high school, at the University of California, and at Harvard,
then for a year or two he had studied art in Paris. Later he was war
correspondent of the San Francisco _Chronicle_, then editor of the
San Francisco _Wave_, then special war correspondent for _McClure's
Magazine_ during the Spanish War.

When he began to write fiction, and he began early, he was an ardent
disciple of Zola, a realist of the latter-day type, a teller of
the Truth as Zola conceived of the Truth. "Mere literature" was a
thing outworn, graces of style and gentleness of theme belonged to
the effeminate past. A masculine age had come to which nothing was
common or unclean provided it were but the Truth. Like Crane, he was
eager, excited, dominated by his theme until it became his whole
life. He could work only in major key, in _fortissimo_, with themes
continent-wide presented with the Kipling vigor and swing.

In his earlier work, _Vandover and the Brute_, _McTeague_, and the
like, he swung to the extreme of his theory. To tell the truth was
to tell with microscopic detail the repulsive things of physical
life. There are stories of his that reek with foul odors and jangle
repulsively upon the eye and the ear. The short fiction "A Man's Woman"
is an advance even upon Zola. It is Truth, but it is the truth about
the processes of the sewer and the physiological facts about starvation:

    The tent was full of foul smells: the smell of drugs and of
    moldy gunpowder, the smell of dirty rags, of unwashed bodies,
    the smell of stale smoke, of scorching sealskin, of soaked and
    rotting canvas that exhaled from the tent cover--every smell
    but that of food.

_McTeague_ is a brutal book: it gets hold of one's imagination and
haunts it like an odor from a morgue. So with certain scenes from
_Vandover and the Brute_. One sees for weeks the ghastly face of that
drowning Jew who, after the wreck of the steamer, was beaten off again
and again until his mashed fingers could no longer gain a hold. True to
life it undoubtedly is, but to what end?

Norris's master work was to be his trilogy, the epic of the wheat, the
allegory of financial and industrial America. He explained his purpose
in the preface to _The Pit_:

    These novels, while forming a series, will be in no way
    connected with each other save by their relation to (1) the
    production, (2) the distribution, (3) the consumption of
    American wheat. When complete they will form the story of a
    crop of wheat from the time of its sowing as seed in California
    to the time of its consumption as bread in a village of Western
    Europe.

    The first novel, _The Octopus_, deals with the war between the
    wheat grower and the Railroad Trust; the second, _The Pit_, is
    the fictitious narrative of a "deal" in the Chicago wheat pit;
    while the third, _The Wolf_, will probably have for its pivotal
    episode the relieving of a famine in an old world community.

He lived to complete only the first two, and it is upon these two that
his place as a novelist must depend. They represent his maturer work,
his final manner, and they undoubtedly show what would have been his
product had he been spared to complete his work.

The two books impress one first with their vastness of theme. The whole
continent seems to be in them. They have an untamed power, an elemental
quality, an unconfined sweep that is Russian in its quality. They are
epics, epics of a new continent with its untold richness in corn and
wheat, its enmeshing railroads, its teeming cities of the plain, its
restless human types--new birth of our new soil. The excitement and the
enthusiasm of the novelist flow from every page. To read long is to be
filled with the trembling eagerness of the wheat pit and the railroad
yard. The style is headlong, excited, illuminated hotly with Hugo-like
adjectives. Through it all runs a symbolism that at times takes full
control. The railroad dominates _The Octopus_, the wheat _The Pit_
as fully as the hemp dominates Allen's _Reign of Law_. The books are
allegories. The Western farmer is in the grip of an octopus-like
monster, the railroad, that is strangling him. The ghastly horror of
the locomotive that plows at full speed through a flock of sheep is
symbolic of his helplessness.

    To the right and left, all the width of the right of way,
    the little bodies had been flung; backs were snapped against
    the fence-posts; brains knocked out. Caught in the barbs of
    the wire, wedged in, the bodies hung suspended. Under foot
    it was terrible; the black blood, winking in the starlight,
    seeped down into the clay between the ties with a long sucking
    murmur.... Abruptly, Presley saw again in his imagination the
    galloping monster, the terror of steel and steam, with its
    single eye, cyclopean, red, shooting from horizon to horizon;
    but saw it now as the symbol of a vast power, huge, terrible,
    flinging the echo of its thunder over all the reaches of
    the valley, leaving blood and destruction in its path; the
    leviathan, with tentacles of steel clutching into the soil,
    the soulless Force, the iron-hearted Power, the Monster, the
    Colossus, the Octopus.

Garland in such pictures as "Under the Lion's Paw" tends to arouse his
reader to mutiny, to the cry "This thing must stop!" Norris fills him
with shuddering horror and leaves him unnerved.

Tremendous energy the novels undoubtedly have and truth too, so far as
it goes. They have imaginative power of no inferior type and an ardor
that is contagious. It was worth while to have written them: they
picture for all time a unique phase of American life, but it is no
great loss to our literature that the two were not expanded into a long
series. In the higher sense of the word they are not literature; they
are remarkably well done newspaper "stories." Like most of the work of
his group of writers, they are journalistic in pitch and in intent:
stirring narratives, picturesque presentings of unusual material,
timely studies in dynamic style. But literary art is founded upon
restraint, reserve, poise. These stories lack finish, concentration,
and even, at times, good taste. Everywhere full organ, everywhere
tenseness, everywhere excitement. A terrible directness there is, but
it tends no whither and it comes to no terminus of conclusion.

Norris unquestionably lacked knowledge of many of the most fundamental
areas of human life. He was too insistently modern. Like the mere
journalist, he was obsessed with but a single thought: the value of the
present moment. He lacked a sense of the past, personal background,
inner life, power to weigh and balance and compare, and, lacking these,
he lacked the elements that make for the literature of permanence.

Henry Harland's (1861-1905) earliest work, _As It Was Written_ (1885),
_Mrs. Peixada_, and _The Yoke of the Thora_ (1887), written under the
pen name "Sidney Luska," presented certain phases of Jewish life and
character in New York with a grim power that seemed promising, but his
later work was decadent. Harold Frederic was a more substantial figure.
A typical American, self-made and self-educated, climbing by rapid
stages from the positions of farm hand, photographer, and proof-reader
to the editorship of influential papers like the Albany _Journal_, at
twenty-eight he was the European representative of the New York _Times_
and an international correspondent of rare power. Novel-writing he took
up as a recreation. His earliest work, which appeared in _Scribner's
Magazine_, _Seth's Brother's Wife_ (1887), was a novel of New York
farm life, Garland-like in its depressing realism. Later stories like
_In the Valley_ and _The Copperhead_ dealt with a background of the
Civil War. His greatest success came with _The Damnation of Theron
Ware_, published in England with the title _Illumination_, a remarkable
book especially in its earlier chapters, full of vigor and truth.
Undoubtedly he possessed the rare gift of story-telling, and had he,
like Crawford, devoted himself wholly to the art, he might have done
work to compare with any other written during the period. But he was
a journalist with newspaper standards, he worked in haste, he lacked
repose and the sense of values, and as a result a republication of
his novels has not been called for. He is to be ranked with Crane and
Norris as a meteor of brilliance rather than a fixed light.


VI

The new realism was short lived. Even while its propaganda like
_Crumbling Idols_ and _The Responsibilities of the Novelist_ were
spreading the news that Walter Scott was dead and that the god of
things as they are had come in his power, a new romantic period already
had begun. Maurice Thompson, one of the most clear-eyed critics of the
period, wrote in May, 1900:

    Just how deep and powerful the present distinct movement toward
    a romantic revival may be no one can tell. Many facts, however,
    point to a veering of popular interest from the fiction of
    character analysis and social problems to the historical novel
    and the romance of heroic adventure. We have had a period of
    intense, not to say morbid, introversion directed mainly upon
    diseases of the social, domestic, political, and religious
    life of the world. It may be that, like all other currents
    of interest when turned upon insoluble problems, this rush
    of inquiry, this strain of exploitation, has about run its
    course.... Great commercial interest seems to be turned or
    turning from the world of commonplace life and the story of
    the analysis of crime and filth to the historical romance, the
    story of heroism, and the tale of adventure. People seem to be
    interested as never before in the interpretation of history.
    It may be that signs in the air of great world changes have
    set all minds more or less to feeling out for precedents and
    examples by which to measure the future's probabilities.[158]

The causes of this later wave of romanticism, a wave that was wider
than America, have been variously estimated. Harold Frederic suggested
Blackmore as the possible fountain head. "Was it _Lorna Doone_, I
wonder, that changed the drift in historical fiction? The book, after
it was once introduced to public attention by that comic accident which
no one can blame Mr. Blackmore for grinding his teeth over, achieved,
as it deserved, one of the great successes of our time--and great
successes set men thinking."[159] Paul Leicester Ford, himself an
historian and a notable producer of historical romance, was inclined
to another explanation: "At the present moment [1897] there seems a
revival of interest in American history, and the novelist has been
quickly responsive to it."[160] The English critic E. A. Bennett
offered still another solution: "America is a land of crazes. In
other words, it is simple: no derision is implied.... And America is
also a land of sentimentalism. It is this deep-seated quality which,
perhaps, accounts for the vogue of history in American fiction. The
themes of the historical novel are so remote, ideas about them exist
so nebulously in the mind, that a writer may safely use the most
bare-faced distortions to pamper the fancy without offending that
natural and racial shrewdness which would bestir itself if a means of
verification were at hand. The extraordinary notion still obtains that
human nature was different 'in those days'; that the good old times
were, somehow, 'pretty,' and governed by fates poetically just."[161]

Ford undoubtedly was right in assigning the immediate outburst at the
close of the century to a new interest in American history. The war
with Spain brought about a burst of patriotism and of martial feeling
that made the swashbuckling romance and the episode from the American
Revolution seem peculiarly appropriate. But the war was by no means the
only cause. The reaction had come earlier, a reaction from the excess
of reality that had come with the eighties. The influence of Stevenson
must not be overlooked, Stevenson who, type of his age, had sickened
early of the realistic, the analytic, the problematic.

    "I do desire a book of adventure," Stevenson had written to
    Henley as early as 1884, "a romance--and no man will get or
    write me one. Dumas I have read and re-read too often; Scott,
    too, and I am short. I want to hear swords clash. I want a
    book to begin in a good way; a book, I guess, like _Treasure
    Island_.... Oh, my sighings after romance, or even Skeltery,
    and O! the weary age which will produce me neither!

    "'CHAPTER I

    "'The night was damp and cloudy, the ways foul. The single
    horseman, cloaked and booted, who pursued his way across
    Willesden Common, had not met a traveler, when the sound of
    wheels....'

    "'CHAPTER II

    "'"Yes, sir," said the old pilot, "she must have dropped into
    the bay a little afore dawn. A queer craft she looks."

    "'"She shows no colors," returned the young gentleman, musingly.

    "'"They're a-lowering of a quarter-boat, Mr. Mark," resumed the
    old salt. "We shall soon know more of her."

    "'"Aye," replied the young gentleman called Mark, "and here,
    Mr. Seadrift, comes your sweet daughter Nancy tripping down the
    cliff."

    "'"God bless her kind heart, sir," ejaculated old Seadrift.'"

Be the cause what it may, for a time historical romance was the
dominant literary form in America. In 1902, Bliss Perry, editor of the
_Atlantic_, could write of "the present passion for historical novels."
To what extent they were a passion may be learned from the records
of publishers. By the summer of 1901, Ford's _Janice Meredith_ had
sold 275,000 copies, Mary Johnston's _To Have and to Hold_, 285,000,
and Churchill's _The Crisis_, 320,000, and his _Richard Carvel_,
420,000.[162] One might give equally large figures for such favorites
as Charles Major's _When Knighthood Was in Flower_, Tarkington's
_Monsieur Beaucaire_, Mitchell's _Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker_, Thompson's
_Alice of Old Vincennes_, and very many others, foreign as well as
American.

The novels fall into two classes: those in which the historical
element is made emphatic and those which are pure romances. Of the
former class Paul Leicester Ford's _Janice Meredith_ is, perhaps, the
best type; of the latter, Mitchell's _Hugh Wynne_. Ford was first of
all a historian, a bibliographer, a tireless delver among historical
sources. He had been educated in his father's library, which contained
the finest collection of Americana in the world, and at twelve we find
him publishing on his own press a genealogy of Webster of his own
compilation. His later bibliographical and historical work centered
about the American Revolution. When he turned to fiction it was as a
historian, a specialist who would exploit real historical characters
and real areas of American life. _The Honorable Peter Stirling_ was a
study of ward politics with the young Grover Cleveland as the central
figure. It was an accurate picture, vigorous and truthful, and even
though a fiction it is a valuable historical document. So it was with
_Janice Meredith_, a historian's day-dream over his Americana. It
presents an accurate picture of the social conditions of its time. Many
of its characters are revolutionary leaders: Washington is a central
figure--"The true George Washington," presented with all his failings
as well as with all his excellences.

It was natural that Ford should make much of the material that he knew
so thoroughly: he brought it in sometimes for its own sake rather
than for the sake of the story. Undoubtedly he falsified history by
making his real personages, like Washington and Franklin, take part
in conversations that never occurred and do things that strictly
never were done, but it is equally true that he has given us the best
conception that is now possible of how it must have felt to live in
the days of the Revolution. His chief excellences were his vigor and
vivacity, and his Norris-like mastery of details. He was a realist
enamoured of truth who extended his realism into the domain of romance.
His faults all centered about his undoubted deficiency in literary art:
he lacked constructive power and distinction of style. His stories
are the diversions of a professional historian, brilliant but without
promise of permanence.

Typical of the second variety of historical romance is the work
of Silas Weir Mitchell, poet, romancer, artist, and historian. Dr.
Mitchell was of Philadelphia as Dr. Holmes was of Boston, and like Dr.
Holmes he gave his most vigorous years completely to his profession.
He was fifty-three and one of the leading world specialists on nervous
diseases when he wrote his first full novel, _In War Time_. His own
explanation, given in later years to a gathering of University of
Pennsylvania men, has often been quoted:

    When success in my profession gave me the freedom of long
    summer holidays, the despotism of my habits of work would
    have made entire idleness mere _ennui_. I turned to what,
    except for stern need, would have been my lifelong work from
    youth--literature--bored by idleness, wrote my first novel.

The confession in the latter sentence is significant. Poetry all his
life was to him an exalted thing, as it was, indeed, to Stoddard and
the other poets of beauty. In later years he published many volumes
of it and contributed it to the magazines, but never for money. It
explains much in his work. No other novelist of the period has so
filled his fiction with quoted lyrics and with lyrical prose. It is
here that he differs from writers like Ford and Norris: he would
produce literature.

His list of work is a varied one. His first long novel and also his
last dealt with the Civil War, in which he had served three years as a
surgeon. Then, like Dr. Holmes, he wrote pathological studies on which
he brought to bear his vast medical knowledge, novels like _Dr. North
and His Friends_ and _Constance Trescott_; he wrote brilliant tales of
French life, like _The Adventures of François_, Dr. Mitchell's favorite
among his novels, and _A Diplomatic Adventure_; he wrote idyllic
studies of Nature like _When All the Woods Are Green_, and _Far in the
Forest_, and, best of all, the historical romances _Hugh Wynne, Free
Quaker_, and _The Red City_.

These novels more than any others written during the period are
products of an exact and extensive knowledge of the materials of which
they are woven. We feel at every point that we are in the hands of
an expert, the ablest neurologist of his generation, who has seen
intimately vast areas of life of which the average reader knows
nothing. His analysis of a character has the exactness of a clinic and
he adds to it, moreover, an imaginative power that makes us see as
well as know and feel. He is skilful in characterization. "Character,"
he once wrote, "is best delineated by occasional broad touches, without
much explanatory comment, without excess of minute description. If I
fail to characterize, I fail in novel writing." He has not failed.
Octavia Blake in the novel _Roland Blake_ is drawn with peculiar skill;
so is Lucretia Hunter in _Circumstance_, so is Constance Trescott, that
study of over-devotion. Always is he best in his studies of femininity,
doubtless because women had played so large a part in his medical
practice.

With few exceptions his characters are from the higher classes,
"gentlefolk," he has called them in his novel _Dr. North_, and he has
made them alive, as Howells was unable to do, and even James. He has
discussed the point himself: "Nor can I tell why some men can not
create gentlefolk. It is not knowledge, nor is it the being in or of
their world that gives this power. Thackeray had it; so had Trollope;
Dickens never; nor, in my mind, was George Eliot always happy in this
respect; and of the living I shall say nothing."[163] We feel this
quality most strongly in his historical novels. He knew intimately
his background, Old Philadelphia with its exclusive aristocracy, and
he has been able to transport his reader into the very atmosphere of
old Second Street, in the days when it contained the most distinctive
social set in America. He was a part of it; he wrote as if he were
writing his own family history, lovingly, reverently. He was writing
romance, but he was writing it as one who is on sacred historical
ground where error of fact or of inference is unpardonable. He has
himself outlined the work of the historical romancer:

    Suppose I have a story to tell and wish to evolve character
    amid the scenery and events of an historical episode. Suppose,
    for instance, the story to lie largely in a great city. For
    years I must study the topography, dress, manners, and family
    histories; must be able in mind to visit this or that house;
    know where to call, whom I shall see, the hours of meals, the
    diet, games, etc. I must know what people say on meeting and
    parting. Then I must read letters, diaries, and so on, to get
    the speech forms and to enable me, if it be autobiography,
    to command the written style of the day. Most men who write
    thus of another time try to give the effect of actuality by
    an excessive use of archaic forms. Only enough should be used
    to keep from time to time some touch of this past, and not so
    much as to distract incessantly by needless reminders. It is
    an art, and, like all good art effects, it escapes complete
    analysis.

    Then as to the use of historical characters. These must
    naturally influence the fate of your puppets; they must never
    be themselves the most prominent personages of your story.[163]

He presents his material with skill: he is a story-teller; his plots
move strongly and always by means not of explanations but of the
self-development of his characters. Even his most minor figures form a
distinct part of the movement. His style has more of distinction than
has any other of the later romancers. He brought to his work the older
ideals of literary form and expression, and he wrought not with the
haste of the journalist and special correspondent, but with the leisure
of the deliberate man of letters. Without question he is as large a
figure in his period as Dr. Holmes was in his, and there are those who
would rank him as the greater of the two. That he has not been given a
more commanding place is due undoubtedly to his great fame as a medical
expert. The physician has overshadowed the author.


VII

The enormous quantity and richness of the fiction of the period make
impossible extended criticism of any save those who were leaders or
innovators. Many did most excellent work, work indeed in some cases
that seems to point to permanence, yet since they brought nothing new
either in material or in method we need not dwell long upon them.

No type of fiction, for instance, was more abundant all through
the period than that which we have called the E. P. Roe type, and
the most voluminous producer of it undoubtedly was Captain, later
General, Charles King, who created no fewer than fifty-five novels of
the half-sensational, half-sentimental type which we associate with
the name of Roe. With his wide knowledge of army life, especially as
lived in the frontier camps of the West after the Civil War, he was
able to give his work a verisimilitude that added greatly to their
popularity. The love story was skilfully blended with what seemed to
be real history. The frontier stories of Mary Hallock Foote, wife
of a civil engineer whose work called him into the mining camps of
Colorado and Idaho, have the same characteristics. Their author, a
clever illustrator, was able to extend her art to her descriptions of
the primitive regions and savage humanity of the frontier, and for
a time she was compared even with Bret Harte. But not for long. Her
books, save for their novelty of setting, have no characteristics that
are not conventional. Better is the work of Clara Louise Burnham.
There is in her fiction more of imaginative power and more command of
the subtleties of style, but even her best efforts fall far short of
distinction.

Of the romancers of the period the leader for a time unquestionably was
Julian Hawthorne, only son of the greatest of American romancers. In
his earlier days he devoted himself to themes worthy of the Hawthorne
name and treated them in what fairly may be called the Hawthorne
manner. His novels, like _Bressant_ and _Archibald Malmaison_, were
hailed everywhere as remarkably promising work and there were many
who predicted for him a place second only to his father's. But the
man lacked seriousness, conscience, depth of life, knowledge of the
human heart. After a short period of worthy endeavor he turned to
the sensational and the trivial, and became a yellow journalist. No
literary career seemingly so promising has ever failed more dismally.

Stronger romancers by far have been Blanche Willis Howard, Frederick
J. Stimson, and Arthur Sherburne Hardy. Few American women have been
more brilliant than Miss Howard. Her _One Summer_ has a sprightliness
and a humor about it that are perennial, and her Breton romance _Guenn_
is among the greatest romances of the period in either England or
America. The spirit of true romance breathes from it; and it came
alive from its creator's heart and life. So far does it surpass all
her other work that she is rated more and more now as a single-work
artist. She passed her last years away from America in Stuttgart, where
her husband, Herr von Teuffel, was acting as court physician to the
king of Würtemberg. Hardy also was a romancer, a stylist of the French
type, brilliant, finished. Few have ever brought to fiction a mind
more keenly alert and more analytical. He was a mathematician of note,
a writer of treatises on least squares and quarternions. But he was a
poet as well and a romancer. His _But yet a Woman_ has an atmosphere
about it that is rarely found in literature in English. His _Passe
Rose_ is the most idealistic of all the historical romances: it moves
like a prose poem. Stimson too had artistic imagination, grace of style
of the old type joined to the freshness and vigor of the new period.
It is to be regretted that he chose to devote himself to the law and
write legal treatises that are everywhere recognized as authoritative
rather than to do highly distinctive work in the more creative field of
prose romance. None of these writers may be said to have added anything
really new to the province in which they worked and so may be dismissed
with a brief comment. They worked in old material with old methods and
largely with old ideals, and though they worked often with surpassing
skill, they were followers rather than leaders.

Several novels made much stir in the day of their first appearance,
Bellamy's _Looking Backward_, for instance, John Hay's _The
Bread-Winners_ (1884), and Fuller's _The Cliff Dwellers_, that picture
of Chicago life that for a time was thought to be as promising as Frank
Norris's realistic work. Robert Grant's humorous and sprightly studies
of society and life were also at various times much discussed, but all
of them are seen now to have been written for their own generation
alone. With every decade almost there comes a newness that for a time
is supposed to put into eclipse even the fixed stars. A quarter of a
century, however, tells the story. The Norwegian scholar and poet and
novelist Boyesen, who did what Howells really did not do, take Tolstoy
as his master, was thought for two decades to be of highest rank, but
to-day his work, save for certain sections of his critical studies, is
no longer read.

Even F. Hopkinson Smith is too near just at present for us to prophesy
with confidence, yet it is hard to believe that his Colonel Carter
is to be forgotten, and there are other parts of his work, like _Tom
Grogan_ and _Caleb West_, books that centered about his profession
of lighthouse architect, that seem now like permanent additions
to American fiction. There was a breeziness about his style, a
cosmopolitanism, a sense of knowledge and authority that is most
convincing. Some of his short stories, like those for instance in
_At Close Range_--"A Night Out," to be still more specific--have a
picturing power, a perfect naturalness, an accuracy of diction, that
mark them as triumphs of realism in its best sense. Like Dr. Mitchell,
he came late to literature, but when he did come he came strongly,
laden with a wealth of materials, and he has left behind him a handful
at least of novels and studies that bid fair to endure long.


VIII

Of the younger group of novelists, those writers born in the sixties
and early seventies and publishing their first novels during the first
decade of the new century, we shall say little. The new spirit of
nationality that came in the seventies did not furnish the impulse
that produced the work of this second generation of the period. It is
a school of novelists distinct and by itself. We may only call the
roll of its leaders, arranging it, perhaps, in the order of seniority:
Gertrude Franklin Atherton (1859----), Bliss Perry (1860----), Owen
Wister (1860----), John Fox, Jr. (1863----), Holman F. Day (1865----),
Robert W. Chambers (1865----), Meredith Nicholson (1866----), David
Graham Philips (1867-1911), Robert Herrick (1868----), Newton Booth
Tarkington (1869----), Mary Johnston (1870----), Edith Wharton (----),
Alice Hegan Rice (1870----), Winston Churchill (1871----), Stewart
Edward White (1873----), Ellen Anderson Glasgow (1874----), Jack
London (1876-1916). The earlier work of some of these writers falls
under classifications which we have already discussed, as for instance
Churchill's _Richard Carvel_, Mary Johnston's _Prisoners of Hope_,
Chambers's _Cardigan_, and Wister's _The Virginian_. Of the great mass
of the fiction of the group, however, and of a still younger group
we shall say nothing. It was not inspired by the impulse that in the
sixties and the seventies produced the National Period.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  JOSIAH GILBERT HOLLAND. (1819-1881.) _History of Western
  Massachusetts_, 1855; _The Bay Path_, 1857; _Bitter-Sweet_ [a
  poem], 1858; _Letters to Young People_, 1858; _Gold Foil_, 1859;
  _Miss Gilbert's Career_, 1860; _Lessons in Life_, 1861; _Letter
  to the Joneses_, 1863; _Plain Talks on Familiar Subjects_, 1865;
  _Life of Lincoln_, 1865; _Kathrina_ [a poem], 1867; _The Marble
  Prophecy_, 1872; _Arthur Bonnicastle_, 1873; _Garnered Sheaves_,
  1873; _Mistress of the Manse_, 1874; _Seven Oaks_, 1875;
  _Nicholas Minturn_, 1877; _Every-Day Topics_ (two series), 1870,
  1882.

  EDWARD PAYSON ROE. (1838-1888.) _Barriers Burned Away_, 1872;
  _What Can She Do?_ 1873; _The Opening of a Chestnut Burr_, 1874;
  _From Jest to Earnest_, 1875; _Near to Nature's Heart_, 1876;
  _A Knight of the Nineteenth Century_, 1877; _A Face Illumined_,
  1878; _A Day of Fate_, 1880; _Without a Home_, 1881; _His Somber
  Rivals_, 1883; _An Unexpected Result_, 1883; _Nature's Serial
  Story_, 1884; _A Young Girl's Wooing_, 1884; _Driven Back to
  Eden_, 1885; _An Original Belle_, 1885; _He Fell in Love with His
  Wife_, 1886; _The Earth Trembled_, 1887; _Found, yet Lost_, 1888;
  _Miss Lou_, 1888; _E. P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life._ By his
  sister, Mary A. Roe, 1899.

  FRANCES ELIZA HODGSON BURNETT. (1849----.) _That Lass o'
  Lowrie's_, 1877; _Surly Tim_, 1877; _Haworth's_, 1879;
  _Louisiana_, 1880; _A Fair Barbarian_, 1881; _Through One
  Administration_, 1883; _Little Lord Fauntleroy_, 1886; _Editha's
  Burglar_, 1888; _Sara Crewe_, 1888; _The Pretty Sister of José_,
  1889; _Little Saint Elizabeth_, 1890; _Giovanni and the Other_,
  1892; _The One I Knew Best of All_ [autobiography], 1893; _Two
  Little Pilgrims' Progress_, 1895; _A Lady of Quality_, 1896; _His
  Grace of Osmonde_, 1897; _In Connection with the De-Willoughby
  Claim_, 1899; _The Making of a Marchioness_, 1901; _The Methods
  of Lady Walderhurst_, 1902; _In the Closed Room_, 1904; _A Little
  Princess: Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe_, 1905; _Dawn of
  a To-morrow_, 1906; _Earlier Stories_, first and second series,
  1906; _Queen Silver-Bell_, 1906; _Racketty-Packetty House_,
  1906; _The Shuttle_, 1907; _Cozy Lion_, 1907; _Good Wolf_, 1908;
  _Spring Cleaning; as Told by Queen Crosspatch_, 1908; _Land of
  the Blue Flower_, 1909; _Baby Crusoe and His Man Saturday_, 1909;
  _Secret Garden_, 1911; _My Robin_, 1912; _T. Tembaron_, 1913.

  FRANCIS MARION CRAWFORD. (1854-1909.) _Mr. Isaacs_, 1882;
  _Doctor Claudius_, 1883; _A Roman Singer_, _To Leeward_, and
  _An American Politician_, 1884; _Zoroaster_, 1885; _A Tale of a
  Lonely Parish_, 1886; _Marzio's Crucifix_, _Paul Patoff_, and
  _Saracinesca_, 1887; _With the Immortals_, 1888; _Greifenstein_
  and _Sant' Ilario_, 1889; _The Cigarette-maker's Romance_, 1890;
  _Kahled_ and _The Witch of Prague_, 1891; _The Three Fates_, _The
  Children of the King_, and _Don Orsino_, 1892; _Marion Darche_,
  _Pietro Ghisleri_, and _The Novel: What It Is_, 1893; _Katherine
  Lauderdale_, _Love in Idleness_, _The Ralstons_, _Casa Braccio_,
  and _Adam Johnstone's Son_, 1894; _Taquisara_, and _Corleone_,
  1896; _Ave Roma Immortalis_, 1898; _Via Crucis_, 1899; _In the
  Palace of the King_, _Southern Italy and Sicily_, and _The
  Rulers of the South_, 1900; _Marietta, a Maid of Venice_, 1901;
  _Cecilia, A Story of Modern Rome_, 1902; _The Heart of Rome_,
  and _Man Overboard_, 1903; _Whosoever Shall Offend_, 1904; _Fair
  Margaret and Salve Venetia_, 1905; _A Lady of Rome_, 1906;
  _Arethusa and The Little City of Hope_, 1907; _The Primadonna_
  and _The Diva's Ruby_, 1908; _The White Sister_, 1909.

  MARGARETTA WADE DELAND. (1857----.) _The Old Garden and Other
  Verses_, 1886; _John Ward, Preacher_, 1888; _Florida Days_, 1889;
  _Sidney_, 1890; _Story of a Child_, 1892; _Mr. Tommy Dove, and
  Other Stories_, 1893; _Philip and His Wife_, 1894; _The Wisdom of
  Fools_, 1897; _Old Chester Tales_, 1898; _Dr. Lavendar's People_,
  1903; _The Common Way_, 1904; _The Awakening of Helena Ritchie_,
  1906; _An Encore_, 1907; _R. J. Mother and Some Other People_,
  1908; _Where the Laborers Are Few_, 1909; _The Way of Peace_,
  1910; _The Iron Woman_, 1911; _The Voice_, 1912; _Partners_,
  1913; _The Hands of Esau_, 1914.

  STEPHEN CRANE. (1871-1900.) _The Black Riders and Other Lines_,
  1895; _The Red Badge of Courage: Episode of the American Civil
  War_, 1895; _Maggie: a Girl of the Streets_, 1896; _George's
  Mother_, 1896; _The Little Regiment, and Other Episodes of the
  American Civil War_, 1896; _The Third Violet_, 1897; _The Open
  Boat, and Other Tales of Adventure_, 1898; _The Monster and Other
  Stories_, 1899; _Active Service: a Novel_, 1899; _War Is Kind_,
  1899; _Whilomville Stories_, 1900; _Great Battles of the World_,
  1900; _Wounds in the Rain: War Stories_, 1900.

  FRANK NORRIS. (1870-1902.) _Moran of "The Lady Letty,"_ 1898;
  _Blix_, 1899; _McTeague: a Story of San Francisco_, 1899; _A
  Man's Woman_, 1900; _The Octopus: a Story of California_, 1901;
  _The Pit: a Story of Chicago_, 1902; _A Deal in Wheat, and Other
  Stories_, 1903; _Complete Works. Golden Gate Edition. Seven
  Volumes_, 1903; _Responsibilities of the Novelist and Other
  Literary Essays_, 1903; _Vandover and the Brute_.

  HAROLD FREDERIC. (1856-1898.) _Seth's Brother's Wife: a Study of
  Life in the Greater New York_, 1887; _The Lawton Girl_, 1890; _In
  the Valley_, 1891; _Young Emperor William II. of Germany_, 1891;
  _The New Exodus: a Study of Israel in Russia_, 1892; _The Return
  of O'Mahony_, 1892; _The Copperhead_, 1893; _Marsena, and Other
  Stories of the War Time_, 1894; _Mrs. Albert Grundy: Observations
  in Philistia_, 1896; _The Damnation of Theron Ware_, 1896; _March
  Hares_, 1896; _The Deserter and Other Stories: a Book of Two
  Wars_, 1898; _Gloria Mundi_, 1899; _The Market-Place_, 1899.

  PAUL LEICESTER FORD. (1865-1902.) _Who Was the Mother of
  Franklin's Son?_ 1889; _The Honorable Peter Stirling and What
  People Thought of Him_, 1894; _The True George Washington_, 1896;
  _The Great K. and A. Robbery_, 1897; _The Story of an Untold
  Love_, 1897; _Tattle Tales of Cupid_, 1898; _Janice Meredith:
  a Story of the American Revolution_, 1899; _The Many-sided
  Franklin_, 1899; _Wanted: a Match-maker_, 1900; _A House Party_,
  1901; _Wanted: a Chaperon_, 1902; _A Checked Love Affair; and
  the Cortelyou Feud_, 1903; _Love Finds a Way_, 1904; _Thomas
  Jefferson_, 1904. His bibliographies and edited work not listed.

  SILAS WEIR MITCHELL. (1829-1914.) _Hephzibah Guiness_, 1880;
  _Thee and You_, 1880; _A Draft on the Bank of Spain_, 1880; _In
  War Time_, 1882; _The Hill of Stones and Other Poems_, 1883;
  _Roland Blake_, 1886; _Far in the Forest_, 1889; _The Cup of
  Youth and Other Poems_, 1889; _The Psalm of Death and Other
  Poems_, 1890; _Characteristics_, 1892; _Francis Blake: a Tragedy
  of the Sea_, 1892; _The Mother and Other Poems_, 1892; _Mr. Kris
  Kringle: a Christmas Tale_, 1893; _Philip Vernon: a Tale in
  Prose and Verse_, 1895; _When All the Woods Are Green: a Novel_,
  1894; _Madeira's Party_, 1895; _Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker_, 1897;
  _Adventures of Francois, Foundling, Thief, Juggler, and Fencing
  Master, During the French Revolution_, 1898; _Autobiography of
  a Quack_, 1900; _Dr. North and His Friends_, 1900; _The Wager
  and Other Poems_, 1900; _Circumstance_, 1901; _A Comedy of
  Conscience_, 1903; _Little Stories_, 1903; _New Samaria and The
  Summer of St. Martin_, 1904; _The Youth of Washington_, 1904;
  _Constance Trescott_, 1905; _A Diplomatic Adventure_, 1905; _The
  Red City: a Novel of the Second Administration of President
  Washington_, 1907; _John Sherwood, Ironmaster_, 1910; _The
  Guillotine Club and Other Stories_, 1910; _Westways_, 1913. His
  many medical works not listed.

  CHARLES KING. (1844----.) _The Colonel's Daughter; or, Winning
  His Spurs_, 1883; _Marion's Faith_, 1886; _The Deserter_, 1887;
  _From the Ranks_, 1887; _A War-Time Wooing_, 1888; _Between
  the Lines_, 1889; _Sunset Pass_, 1889; _Laramie; or, the Queen
  of Bedlam: a Story of the Sioux War of 1876_, 1889; _Starlight
  Ranch, and Other Stories of Army Life on the Frontier_, 1890;
  _The Colonel's Christmas Dinner_, 1890; _Campaigning with Crook
  and Stories of Army Life_, 1890; _Trials of a Staff Officer_,
  1891; _Two Soldiers_, 1891; _Dunraven Ranch_, 1891; _Captain
  Blake_, 1891; _Foes in Ambush_, 1893; _A Soldier's Secret: a
  Story of the Sioux War of 1890_, 1893; _Waring's Peril_, 1894;
  _Initial Experience and Other Stories_, 1894; _Cadet Days: a
  Story of West Point_, 1894; _Under Fire_, 1895; _Story of Fort
  Frayne_, 1895; _Rancho del Muerlo_, 1895; _Captain Close_, 1895;
  _Sergeant Croesus_, 1895; _An Army Wife_, 1896; _A Garrison
  Tangle_, 1896; _A Tame Surrender: a Story of the Chicago Strike_,
  1896; _Trooper Ross_, 1896; _Trumpeter Fred: a Story of the
  Plains_, 1896; _Warrior Gap: a Story of the Sioux Outbreak of
  1868_, 1897; _Ray's Recruit_, 1898; _The General's Double: a
  Story of the Army of the Potomac_, 1898; _A Wounded Name_, 1898;
  _Trooper Galahad_, 1899; _From School to Battlefield_, 1899; _In
  Spite of Foes_, 1901; _From the Ranks_, 1901; _Norman Holt: a
  Story of the Army of the Cumberland_, 1901; _Ray's Daughter: a
  Story of Manila_, 1901; _Conquering Corps Badge and Other Stories
  of the Philippines_, 1902; _The Iron Brigade_, 1902; _Way Out
  West_, 1902; _An Apache Princess_, 1903; _A Daughter of the
  Sioux_, 1903; _Comrades in Arms_, 1904; _A Knight of Columbia_,
  1904; _A Medal of Honor_, 1905; _Famous and Decisive Battles of
  the World_, 1905; _A Soldier's Trial: an Episode of the Canteen
  Crusade_, 1905; _Farther Story of Lieutenant Sandy Ray_, 1906;
  _Tonio, Son of the Sierras_, 1906; _Captured: a Story of Sandy
  Bay_, 1907; _The Rock of Chicamauga_, 1907; _To the Front_, 1908;
  _Lanier of the Cavalry_, 1909; _The True Ulysses S. Grant_, 1914.

  MARY HALLOCK FOOTE. (1847----.) _The Led-Horse Claim: Romance of
  a Mining Camp_, 1883; _John Bodewin's Testimony_, 1885; _The Last
  Assembly Ball_, 1886; _The Chosen Valley_, 1892; _Coeur d'Alene_,
  1894; _In Exile and Other Stories_, 1894; _The Cup of Trembling
  and Other Stories_, 1895; _Little Fig-tree Stories_, 1899; _The
  Prodigal_, 1900; _The Desert and The Sown_, 1902; _A Touch of
  Sin and Other Stories_, 1903; _Royal Americans_, 1910; _Picked
  Company: a Novel_, 1912.

  CLARA LOUISE BURNHAM. (1854----.) _No Gentleman_, 1881; _A Sane
  Lunatic_, 1882; _Dearly Bought_, 1884; _Next Door_, 1886; _Young
  Maids and Old_, 1888; _The Mistress of Beech Knoll_, 1890; _Miss
  Bragg's Secretary_, 1892; _Dr. Latimer_, 1893; _Sweet Clover_,
  1894; _The Wise Woman_, 1895; _Miss Archer Archer_, 1897; _A
  Great Love_, 1898; _A West Point Wooing_, 1899; _Miss Prichard's
  Wedding Trip_, 1901; _The Right Princess_, 1902; _Jewel_, 1903;
  _Jewel's Story Book_, 1904; _The Opened Shutters_, 1906; _The
  Leaven of Love_, 1908; _Clever Betsey_, 1910; _The Inner Flame_,
  1912.

  JULIAN HAWTHORNE. (1846----.) _Bressant_, 1873; _Idolatry_,
  1874; _Saxon Studies_, 1875; _Garth_, 1877; _Mrs. Gainsborough's
  Diamonds_, 1878; _Archibald Malmaison_, 1879; _Sebastian
  Strome_, 1880; _Fortune's Fool_, 1883; _Dust: a Novel_, 1883;
  _Beatrix Randolph_, 1883; _Prince Saroni's Wife_, 1884; _Noble
  Blood_, 1884; _Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife: a Biography_,
  1885; _Love--or a Name_, 1885; _Sinfire_, 1886; _The Trial of
  Gideon_, 1886; _John Parmelee's Curse_, 1886; _Confessions and
  Criticisms_, 1887; five novels from the Diary of Inspector
  Byrnes: _The Tragic Mystery_, _The Great Bank Robbery_, _An
  American Penman_, _Section 558_, 1887, and _Another's Crime_,
  1888; _The Professor's Sister: a Romance_; _A Miser of Second
  Avenue_, 1888; _A Dream and a Forgetting_, 1888; _David
  Poindexter's Disappearance_, 1888; _Kildhurin's Oak_, 1889;
  _Constance_, 1889; _Pauline_, 1890; _A Stage Friend_, 1890;
  _American Literature: an Elementary Textbook_ [with Leonard
  Lemmon], 1891; _Humors of the Fair_, 1893; _Six Cent Sam's_,
  1893; _The Golden Fleece: a Romance_, 1896; _A Fool of Nature_,
  1896; _Love Is a Spirit_, 1896; _A History of the United States_,
  1898; _Hawthorne and His Circle_, 1903; _The Secret of Solomon_,
  1909; _Lovers in Heaven_, 1910; _The Subterranean Brotherhood_,
  1914.

  BLANCHE WILLIS HOWARD, Mrs. von Teuffel. (1847-1898.) _One
  Summer_, 1877; _One Year Abroad_, 1877; _Aunt Serena_, 1881;
  _Guenn: a Wave of the Breton Coast_, 1884; _The Open Door_, 1891;
  _A Fellowe and His Wife_ [with W. Sharp], 1892; _A Battle and a
  Boy_, 1892; _No Heroes_, 1893; _Seven on the Highways_, 1897;
  _Dionysius, the Weaver's Heart's Dearest_, 1899; _The Garden of
  Eden_, 1900.

  EDWARD BELLAMY. (1850-1898.) _Six to One: a Nantucket Idyl_,
  1878; _Dr. Heidenhoff's Process_, 1880; _Miss Luddington's
  Sister: a Romance of Immortality_, 1884; _Looking Backward,
  2000-1881_, 1888; _Equality_, 1897; _A Blindman's World, and
  Other Stories_, 1898; _The Duke of Stockbridge: a Romance of
  Shay's Rebellion_, 1900.

  HJALMAR HJORTH BOYESEN. (1848-1895.) _Gunnar_, 1874; _A
  Norseman's Pilgrimage_, 1875; _Tales from Two Hemispheres_,
  1876; _Falconberg_, 1879; _Goethe and Schiller: Their Lives and
  Works_, 1879; _Queen Titania_, 1881; _Ilka on the Hill-Top_,
  1881; _Idyls of Norway and Other Poems_, 1882; _A Daughter
  of the Philistines_, 1883; _The Story of Norway_, 1886; _The
  Modern Vikings_, 1887; _Vagabond Tales_, 1889; _The Light of
  Her Countenance_, 1889; _The Mammon of Unrighteousness_, 1891;
  _Essays on German Literature_, 1892; _Boyhood in Norway_, 1892;
  _The Golden Calf: a Novel_, 1892; _Social Strugglers_, 1893;
  _Commentary on the Writings of Henrik Ibsen_, 1894; _Literary and
  Social Silhouettes_, 1894; _Essays on Scandinavian Literature_,
  1895.

  ARTHUR SHERBURNE HARDY. (1847----.) _Francesca of Rimini: a
  Poem_, 1878; _But Yet a Woman_, 1883; _The Wind of Destiny_,
  1886; _Passe Rose_, 1889; _Life and Letters of Joseph Hardy
  Neesima_, 1891; _Songs of Two_, 1900; _His Daughter First_, 1903;
  _Aurélie_, 1912; _Diane and Her Friends_, 1914. His mathematical
  works not listed.

  ROBERT GRANT. (1852----.) _The Little Tin Gods-on-Wheels; or,
  Society in Our Modern Athens_, 1879; _The Confessions of a
  Frivolous Girl_, 1880; _The Lambs: a Tragedy_, 1882; _An Average
  Man_, 1884; _Face to Face_, 1886; _The Knave of Hearts: a Fairy
  Story_, 1886; _A Romantic Young Lady_, 1886; _Jack Hall_, 1887;
  _Jack in the Bush; or, a Summer on a Salmon River_, 1888; _The
  Carletons_, 1891; _Mrs. Harold Stagg_, 1891; _The Reflections of
  a Married Man_, 1892; _The Opinions of a Philosopher_, 1893; _The
  Art of Living_, 1895; _A Bachelor's Christmas_, 1895; _The North
  Shore of Massachusetts_, 1896; _Search-Light Letters_, 1899;
  _Unleavened Bread_, 1900; _The Undercurrent_, 1904; _The Orchid_,
  1905; _Law-breakers and Other Stories_, 1906; _The Chippendales_,
  1909; _Confessions of a Grandfather_, 1912.

  FREDERICK JESUP STIMSON, "J. S. of Dale." (1855----.) _Rollo's
  Journey to Cambridge_, 1879; _Guerndale, an Old Story_, 1882;
  _The Crime of Henry Vane_, 1884; _The Sentimental Calendar_,
  1886; _First Harvests_, 1888; _Mrs. Knollys and Other Stories_,
  1894; _Pirate Gold_, 1896; _King Noanett: a Story of Old Virginia
  and Massachusetts Bay_, 1896; _Jethro Bacon of Sandwich_, 1902;
  _In Cure of Her Soul_, 1906. His law publications not listed.

  HENRY BLAKE FULLER. (1857----.) _The Chevalier of Pensieri-Vani_,
  1891; _The Chatelaine of La Trinité_, 1892; _The Cliff-Dwellers_,
  1893; _With the Procession_, 1895; _The Puppet-Booth: Twelve
  Plays_, 1896; _From the Other Side: Stories of Transatlantic
  Travel_, 1898; _The Last Refuge: a Sicilian Romance_, 1900;
  _Under the Skylights_, 1901; _Waldo Trench and Others: Stories of
  Americans in Italy_, 1908.

  FRANCIS HOPKINSON SMITH. (1838-1915.) _Old Lines in New Black
  and White_, 1885; _Well-Worn Roads_, 1886; _A White Umbrella in
  Mexico_, 1889; _A Book of the Tile Club_, 1890; _Col. Carter
  of Cartersville_, 1891; _A Day at Laguerre's_, 1892; _American
  Illustrators_, 1892; _A Gentleman Vagabond and Some Others_,
  1895; _Tom Grogan_, 1896; _Gondola Days_, 1897; _Venice of
  To-day_, 1897; _Caleb West_, 1898; _The Other Fellow_, 1899; _The
  Fortunes of Oliver Horn_, 1902; _The Under Dog_, 1903; _Col.
  Carter's Christmas_, 1904; _At Close Range_, 1905; _The Wood Fire
  in Number 3_, 1905; _The Tides of Barnegat_, 1906; _The Veiled
  Lady_, 1907; _The Romance of an Old-Fashioned Gentleman_, 1907;
  _Peter_, 1908; _Forty Minutes Late_, 1909; _Kennedy Square_,
  1911; _The Arm-Chair at the Inn_, 1912; _In Thackeray's London_,
  1913; _In Dickens's London_, 1914.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE ESSAYISTS


In forms other than fiction and poetry the period was also voluminous.
The greater part of our historical writings has been produced since
1870 and the same is true of our biography. Literary quality, however,
has suffered. Emphasis has been placed upon material rather than upon
graces of style; upon matter, but little upon manner. Never before have
historian and biographer been so tireless in their search for sources:
the _Battles and Leaders of the Civil War_ is a veritable library of
materials; the Life of Lincoln by Nicolay and Hay contains one million
five hundred thousand words. It is as long as Bancroft's whole history
of the United States, it is twice as long as Green's _History of the
English People_, and it contains three hundred thousand words more
than Gibbon's _Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_. It has been a
development from the spirit of the era: the demand for actuality. Never
before such eagerness to uncover new facts, to present documents, to be
realistically true, but it has been at the expense of literary style.
A few books, like General Grant's _Memoirs_ and Captain Mahan's _The
Influence of Sea Power upon History_, have had the power of simplicity,
the impelling force that comes from consciousness only of the message
to be delivered. But all too often the material has been presented in
a colorless, journalistic form that bars it forever from consideration
as literature in the higher sense of that term. The most of it, even
the life of Lincoln, is to be placed in the same category as scientific
writings and all those other prose forms that are concerned only with
the presenting of positive knowledge. Parkman seems to have been the
last historian who was able to present his material with literary
distinction.

The essay has been voluminous all through the period, but it too has
changed its tone. More than any other literary form it has been the
medium through which we may trace the transition from the old period
to the new. American literature had begun with the essay, and we have
seen how the form, designated by the name of sketch, grew in the
hands of Irving and Hawthorne and Poe into what in the period of the
seventies became recognized as a distinct literary form with the name
of short story.

The literary essay is a classical form: to flourish, it needs the
atmosphere of old culture and established social traditions; it must
work in the materials of classic literature; it is leisurely in method,
discursive, gently sentimental. It was the dominating form, it will be
remembered, in the classical age of Addison, the age of manners and
mind. It was peculiarly fitted, too, to be the literary vehicle of the
later classical age in America, the Europe-centered period of Irving
and Emerson and Willis and Holmes. The early pilgrims to the holy land
of the Old World sent back their impressions and dreamings in the
form of essays: Longfellow's _Outre-Mer_, for example, and Willis's
_Pencillings by the Way_. On the same shelf with _The Sketch Book_
belong Willis's _Letters from Under a Bridge_, Dana's _The Idle Man_,
Donald G. Mitchell's _Reveries of a Bachelor_, Curtis's _Prue and I_,
and a great mass of similar work, enough indeed to give color and even
name to its period. This shelf more than any other marks the extent
of England's dominion over the literature of the first three quarters
of the nineteenth century: it was the most distinctive product of our
classical age. Until America has a rich background of her own with old
culture and traditions, with venerable native classics from which to
quote, and a long vista of romantic history down which to look, her
contemplative and strictly literary essays must necessarily be redolent
of the atmosphere of other lands.


I

The National Period, with its new breath of all-Americanism, its new
romantic spirit, its youthful exuberance, and its self-realization,
has been, therefore, not a period in which the essay of the old type
could find congenial soil. Instead of the Irving sketch there has been
the vivid, sharply cut short story; instead of the contemplative,
dreamy study of personalities and institutions--Irving's "The Broken
Heart," Longfellow's "Père la Chaise"--there have been incisive,
analytical, clearly cut special studies, like Woodrow Wilson's _Mere
Literature and Other Essays_; instead of the delightful, discursive
personal tattle of a Charles Lamb and a Dr. Holmes there has been the
colorless editorial essay, all force and facts, or the undistinctive,
business-like special article, prosiest of all prose.

The transition figure in the history of the American essay was Charles
Dudley Warner, the last of the contemplative _Sketch Book_ essayists,
and, with Higginson, Burroughs, Maurice Thompson, and others, a leading
influence in the bringing in of the new freshness and naturalness and
journalistic abandon that gave character to the prose of the later
period. He was a New Englander, one of that small belated group born
in the twenties--Mitchell, Hale, Higginson, Norton, for example--that
found itself in a Janus-like position between the old school of Emerson
and Longfellow and the new school of non-New Englanders--Harte, Hay,
Howells, Mark Twain. Warner was peculiarly a transition figure. He
could collaborate with Mark Twain on that most distinctively latter-day
novel _The Gilded Age_, and be classed by his generation with the
humorists of the Burdette, Josh Billings group, yet at the death of
George William Curtis he could be chosen as without question the
only logical heir to the Editor's Easy Chair department of _Harper's
Magazine_.

Warner was born in 1829, the birth year of Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, and
his birthplace was a farm in western Massachusetts, where his ancestors
for generations had been sturdy Puritan yeomen. The atmosphere of this
home and the round of its life he has described with autobiographic
pen in _Being a Boy_, the most valuable of all his studies. Concerning
the rest of his life one needs only to record that he was graduated
from Hamilton College in 1851 and from the law department of the
University of Pennsylvania in 1857, and that after four years of legal
practice in Chicago he was invited by his classmate, Senator J. R.
Hawley, to remove to Hartford, Connecticut, to become associate editor
of the paper that was soon merged with the Hartford _Courant_. To
this paper either as its editor or as a contributor he gave the best
years of his life. He used his vacations for foreign travel, at one
time spending a year and a half abroad, and in his later years he saw
much of his own land, but always he traveled pen in hand, ready to
embody every observation and sentiment in a letter for the readers
at home. Travel letters of the older type they were, such as Taylor
wrote home from Germany and Curtis sent from the Nile and the Levant,
gently sentimental, humorous in a pervasive way, perfectly natural,
unconscious of style.

Warner was forty and a confirmed journalist before he published
anything in book form, and even this first volume was not written with
book intent. He had contributed a rambling series of papers to the
_Courant_, a sort of humorous echo of Greeley's _What I Know about
Farming_, careless, newspapery, funny in a chuckling sort of way,
and perfectly unconventional and free from effort. Naturalness was
its main charm. The period was ready for out-of-doors themes simply
presented, and it found an enthusiastic circle of readers who demanded
its publication in book form. Henry Ward Beecher was among them and
as an inducement he promised an introductory letter. The result was
_My Summer in a Garden_, 1870, a book that sprang into wide popularity
and that undoubtedly was one of the formative influences of the new
period. He followed it with _Backlog Studies_, a series of sketches of
the Donald G. Mitchell variety, and then with various travel books like
_Saunterings_ and _My Winter on the Nile_. Late in life he published
novels, _A Little Journey in the World_, _The Golden House_, and others
dealing with phases of life in New York City, and he served as editor
of several important series of books, notably The American Men of
Letters Series of biographies, to which he himself contributed the life
of Irving.

Time enough has elapsed to enable us to consider the work of Warner
apart from the charm of his personal presence, and it is seen now that
his generation overestimated his work. He was in no sense an inspired
soul; he had little to offer that was really new. He wrote like the
practical editor of a daily paper, fluently, copiously, unhesitatingly.
The style is that of the practised worker who dictates to his
stenographer. There is lack of incisiveness, sharpness of outline,
cohesion of thought. He lacks revision, flashes of insight, creative
moments when the pen is forgotten. He wrote on many topics, but there
are no passages that one is compelled to quote. He was a classicist who
wrote with perfect coolness, just as others had written before him. His
gentle spirit, his sentiment, his Puritan conscience, and a certain
serenity of view that whispered of high character and perfect breeding,
endeared him to his first readers. But his style of humor belonged
only to his own generation--it was not embodied at all in a humorous
character; and his ethical teachings seem trite now and conventional.
His influence at a critical period of American literature entitles him
to serious consideration, but he won for himself no permanent place. He
will live longest, perhaps, in a few of his shorter pieces: _Being a
Boy_, "How Spring Came in New England," "A-Hunting the Deer," and "Old
Mountain Phelps."

There are those who would rate his novels above his essays, those
indeed who would rate them even with the work of Howells. Not many,
however. That his fiction has about it a certain power can not
be denied. Its author had the journalistic sense of the value of
contemporary events, as well as the journalistic faculty for gathering
interesting facts. He had, too, what so many novelists lack, the power
to trace by almost imperceptible processes the gradual growth of a
character. _A Little Journey in the World_, for instance, is a study
of degeneration, skilfully done. A woman who has been reared among
humble yet ennobling surroundings removes to New York and marries a
very rich man and we are shown how little by little all that is really
fine at the heart of her life is eaten away though the surface remains
as beautiful as ever. There is a naturalness about it that is charming,
and there is evident everywhere an honesty of purpose and a depth of
experience that are unusual, but one may not say more. The novels came
from the critical impulse rather than from the creative. They are
humanitarian documents rather than creations breathing the breath of
life. They do not move us. To realize where they fail one has but to
compare his chapters in _The Gilded Age_ with Mark Twain's. It is like
looking from a still-life picture on a parlor wall out upon an actual
steamboat pulling showily up to a Mississippi wharf.


II

The opposite of Warner in every respect was Lafcadio Hearn, a
figure more picturesque even than Joaquin Miller and more puzzling
than Whitman. Instead of serene classicism, genius; instead of
Puritan inflexibility and reverence for the respectable, tumultuous
wanderings--a man without a country, without a religion, without
anything fixed save a restless love of the beautiful--emotional, a
bundle of nerves, moody, sudden, the gorgeous Gallic at eternal odds
with the florid, beauty-loving Hellenic; a man forever homeless, yet
forever pathetic with a nostalgia that finally broke his heart. His
personality was a strangely elusive one, and his biography, especially
in its earlier years, is as full of romantic conjecture as De Quincey's
early life or Byron's. His very name was romantic. His father,
member of an ancient Irish family, had accompanied his regiment as
surgeon-major into the East, and while stationed at Corfu had become
infatuated with a beautiful Grecian girl, Rosa Cerigote, and had
married her. Lafcadio they named their son from the island where he
was born, his mother's home, Leucadia, in modern Greek Lefcadia, the
Ionian island of Sappho. Here he spent his babyhood, how much of it we
do not know. Of his father, he has said nothing, and of his mother,
only this hint in a later bit of impressionism--elusive, suggestive,
characteristic:

    I have memory of a place and a magical time, in which the
    sun and the moon were larger and brighter than now. Whether
    it was of this life or of some life before, I can not tell,
    but I know the sky was very much more blue, and nearer to
    the world--almost as it seems to become above the masts of a
    steamer steaming into the equatorial summer.... Each day there
    were new wonders and new pleasures for me, and all that country
    and time were softly ruled by one who thought only of ways to
    make me happy.... When day was done and there fell the great
    hush of the light before moonrise, she would tell me stories
    that made me tingle from head to foot with pleasure. I have
    never heard any other stories half so beautiful. And when
    the pleasure became too great, she would sing a weird little
    song which always brought sleep. At last there came a parting
    day; and she wept and told me of a charm she had given that I
    must never, never lose, because it would keep me young, and
    give me power to return. But I never returned. And the years
    went; and one day I knew I had lost the charm, and had become
    ridiculously old.

Was it the Ægean island of his birth or was it the West Indian island
to which his father later was ordered with his regiment? We do not
know. We know, however, that the mother lived for a time in Ireland,
that another son was born, and then when the elder boy was seven she
went away to Smyrna never to return. The rest is conjecture, save for
the significant fact that both parents soon afterward married again.

The boy, unwelcome, forlorn, out of sympathy with his surroundings, was
sent to live with his aunt in Ireland, then later was put to school
in France in preparation for the priesthood. Two years in France,
formative years in which he learned among a myriad of other things the
fluent use of French, then in 1865 we find him in the Roman Catholic
college at Durham, England, where came to him the first great tragedy
of his life: an accident at play that left him blinded in one eye and
partly blinded in the other. Soon afterwards came the break with his
aunt--father and mother had passed out of his life--he refused to
become a priest, refused to live longer in any paths save his own, and
for the rest of his life he was a wanderer.

There is much in his life and temperament to suggest De Quincey. Hearn,
too, for a vague period--two or three years it may have been--wandered
in the lower strata of London, half dead with hunger and sickness,
aflame with imagination, restless, ambitious. At nineteen we find him
in New York, reading in the public library, eagerly, omnivorously,
despite his feeble vision, then suddenly, how we do not know, he is in
Cincinnati, Ohio, where he makes the whole city gasp with horror at
the story he writes of a murder in one of their narrow streets, and
secures a position on the _Enquirer_. In 1877 he has wandered as far
south as New Orleans, where for the first time in his life he finds
congenial atmosphere and where he supports himself by reporting for the
_Times-Democrat_.

Now it was that his French schooling had its effect. The Creole
_patois_ delighted him; he compiled a book of Creole proverbs, _Gombo
Zhêbes_ he fantastically called it; and he fed his imagination with
the old French past of the city, wandering as Cable had done among its
ancient buildings, and, like Cable again, devouring its romantic old
chronicles. French novels he read interminably, eagerly, especially the
romantics--Hugo, Gautier, Baudelaire. How richly he read them we learn
from his letters, most of all from those written in his later life to
Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain and preserved in Elizabeth Bisland's
third volume. Few have read more discerningly or have voiced their
findings more brilliantly. This of Loti:

    There is not much heart in Loti, but there is a fine brain.--To
    me Loti seems for a space to have looked into Nature's whole
    splendid burning fulgurant soul, and to have written under her
    very deepest and strongest inspiration. He was young. Then the
    color and the light faded, and only the worn-out blasé nerves
    remained; and the poet became--a little morbid modern affected
    Frenchman.

Strange self-revealment. It was of himself he was speaking, had he but
realized it. He too began with power under the deepest and strongest
inspiration; he too had caught a vision, splendid, burning, fulgurant.
If there was an undoubted genius in our national period it was Hearn.
He poured his eager dreamings at first into the New Orleans papers:
"Fantastics," they have been called, by the editor who of late has
hunted them from their forgotten columns. Then came _Chita_, written
after a visit to Grande Isle in the Gulf of Mexico and published first
in the _Times-Democrat_ with the title _Torn Letters_, and then in
_Harper's Magazine_, April, 1888.

Here for the first time we get the measure of the man, his Celtic
imagination, fervor and intensity, his Greek passion for beauty. It
is not English at all: it is the dream of a Celtic Greek, who has
saturated himself with the French romantics and the color and the
profusion of the tropic gulf lands. It is not, as the magazine termed
it, a novelette; it is a loosely gathered bundle of fictional sketches,
lurid patches, "torn letters," indeed, written with torrential power
and blazing with color. Everywhere landscapes intense, drawn with
fewest strokes, impressions, suggestions. He would make you feel the
desolate shore on the gulf side of the island, but he selects only a
single detail:

    The trees--where there are any trees--all bend away from
    the sea; and even of bright hot days when the wind sleeps,
    there is something grotesquely pathetic in their look of
    agonized terror. A group of oaks at Grande Isle I remember
    as especially suggestive: five stooping silhouettes in line
    against the horizon, like fleeing women with streaming garments
    and wind-blown hair--bowing grievously and thrusting out arms
    desperately northward as to save themselves from falling.
    And they are being pursued indeed--for the sea is devouring
    the land. Many and many a mile of ground has yielded to the
    tireless charging of Ocean's cavalry.

Always is he a colorist, and always does he use his colors daintily,
effectively, distinctively--one feels rather than sees:

    The charm of a single summer day on these island shores is
    something impossible to express, never to be forgotten. Rarely,
    in the paler zones, do earth and heaven take such luminosity:
    those will best understand me who have seen the splendor of
    a West Indian sky. And yet there is a tenderness of tint,
    a caress of color in these Gulf-days which is not of the
    Antilles--a spirituality, as of eternal tropical spring.

It describes his own style; one need say no more.

When he would describe action there is in him a Byronic power that lays
hold on one and chokes and stifles. Who outside of _Don Juan_ has made
us feel so fearfully a tropic hurricane?

    Then arose a frightful cry--the hoarse, hideous, indescribable
    cry of hopeless fear--the despairing animal-cry man utters
    when suddenly brought face to face with Nothingness, without
    preparation, without consolation, without possibility of
    respite. _Sauve qui peut!_ Some wrenched down the doors;
    some clung to the heavy banquet tables, to the sofas, to the
    billiard tables--during one terrible instant--against fruitless
    heroisms, against futile generosities--raged all the frenzy
    of selfishness, all the brutalities of panic. And then--then
    came, thundering through the blackness, the giant swells, boom
    on boom!--One crash!--the huge frame building rocks like a
    cradle, seesaws, crackles. What are human shrieks now?--the
    tornado is shrieking! Another!--chandeliers splinter; lights
    are dashed out; a sweeping cataract hurls in: the immense hall
    rises--oscillates--twirls as upon a pivot--crepitates--crumbles
    into ruin. Crash again!--the swirling wreck dissolves into the
    wallowing of another monster billow; and a hundred cottages
    overturn, spin on sudden eddies, quiver, disjoint, and melt
    into the seething.

    So the Hurricane passed.

_Chita_, like all the rest of Hearn's work, is a thing of fragments.
It leaps and bounds, it chokes with tropic heat, it blazes with the
sunsets of the Mexican gulf, it stagnates with torrid siestas, it is
raucous with the voices of tropic insects and birds. It is incoherent,
rhapsodic, half picture, half suggestion--materials rather than final
structure. The style is wholly Gallic, like Cable's early style--sudden
breaks--dashes--sentences stripped to the bare nouns and adjectives,
swift shiftings of scenes, interjected exclamations, prayers:

    Thou primordial Sea, the awfulness of whose antiquity hath
    stricken all mythology dumb--thou most wrinkled living Sea, etc.

Then swiftly following:

    Eighteen hundred and sixty-seven;--midsummer in the
    pest-smitten city of New Orleans.

    Heat motionless and ponderous. The steel-blue of the sky
    bleached from the furnace-circle of the horizon;--the lukewarm
    river yellow and noiseless as a torrent of fluid wax. The
    nights began with a black heat;--there were hours when the
    acrid air seemed to ferment for stagnation, and to burn the
    bronchial tubing;--then, toward morning it would grow chill
    with venomous vapors, with morbific dews--till the sun came
    up to lift the torpid moisture, and to fill the buildings
    with oven-heat. And the interminable procession of mourners
    and hearses and carriages again began to circulate between
    the centers of life and death;--and long trains of steamships
    rushed from the port with heavy burden of fugitives.

    Then terror that lays cold hands on the heart: Julian dying of
    fever.

From New Orleans he went in 1887 to the Windward Islands for new
sensation, new color, new barbaric areas of human life. _Two Years
in the French West Indies_ is the literary result of it, a chaotic
book, flashlights, impressions, but no single completed impression, no
totality, but the soul of the West Indies none the less, revealed with
a rare, queer art that was individual. But no place, not even those
Circe islands which he paints as the dream and the ultimate of human
desire, could detain him long. Fickleness was in his blood, wandering
was his birthright. Again he is in New York, and then with a commission
from the Harpers he sails to Japan, where, in the rush and tumult of
new sensation, he forgets his commission and loses himself completely
in the new delicious world of impression.

For Hearn was as unpractical as Shelley and he was without Shelley's
ideals and altruistic dreams. He lived in a vague world of vision, of
sensation, of intangible beauty. He could say of himself:

    Always having lived in hopes and imaginations, the smallest
    practical matters that everybody should know, I don't know
    anything about. Nothing, for example, about a boat, a horse, a
    farm, an orchard, a watch, a garden. Nothing about what a man
    ought to do under any possible circumstances. I know nothing
    but sensation and books.

Though he was now forty, he entered this new world as one new born into
it. He adopted its costume, he slept with his head on a wooden pillow,
he acquired citizenship, he married a Japanese wife and established
a Japanese home, and he even went over completely to the Buddhist
religion.

The book _Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan_, 1894, marks the beginning
of his second literary period. Henceforth his writings center about
Japan. He wrote no treatise, no serious study of actual conditions;
he wrote impressions, fragmentary suggestions of the Japan that was
passing away, the romantic Japan of the ideal old régime, survivals
of which he found everywhere. Japanese art and Japanese romance found
in him a curious affinity. They mellowed and soothed the tumultuous
spirit of his first art period. His impressionism became more subtly
suggestive, more magically vague, more daintily colored. There had
always been within him a strong element of mysticism, legacy of his
Irish ancestry, and the subtly mystical side of Buddhism appealed to
it strongly. He was able to interpret it for occidental comprehension,
and he was able to make more comprehensible the subtle connotation of
Japanese art, and to catch the subtler inner consciousness of Japan
as no other of the Western world has ever caught it. In his first
enthusiasm he wrote:

    This is a land where one can really enjoy the Inner Life. Every
    one has an inner life of his own--which no other life can see,
    and the great secrets of which are never revealed, though
    occasionally when we create something beautiful we betray a
    faint glimpse of it.

But the newness of this new world he had entered wore away at length.
He was a creature of enthusiastic moments and he needed swift changes
of sensation. He had reveled in the old, ideal Japan, but he found
himself unable to live in it. A new régime had begun. He was filled
with contempt at what he called "the frank selfishness, the apathetic
vanity, the shallow, vulgar skepticism of the new Japan that prates
its contempt about Tempo times, and ridicules the dear old men of the
premeiji era." His last years were bitter with financial embarrassment,
and full of feverish literary creation for the sake of his growing
family. The glow and fervor and genius of his first period faded more
and more from his work;--he himself faded out. He felt the gulf that
he had erected between himself and his race. To his sister he wrote:
"I feel myself in exile; and your letters and photographs only make me
homesick for English life." He died of his own vehemence, worn out by
oversensation, unnerved by restlessness and nostalgia and longing for
he knew not what.

The likeness of Hearn to De Quincey is almost complete. He had De
Quincey's irresoluteness, his jangling nerves, his dominating fancy,
his discursiveness, his gorgeous imagination, his oriental soul
hampered with the fetters of occidental science. He too was essentially
fragmentary in his literary output, a man of intense moods intensely
painted, a man of books but of no single, unified, compelling book. One
may not read essays like "Gothic Horror" or "The Nightmare Touch," or
a passage like this from "Vespertina Cognitio," and not think of the
great English opium-eater:

    It must have been well after midnight when I felt the first
    vague uneasiness--_the suspicion_--that precedes a nightmare.
    I was half-conscious, dream-conscious of the actual--knew
    myself in that very room--wanted to get up. Immediately the
    uneasiness grew into terror, because I found that I could not
    move. Something unutterable in the air was mastering will.
    I tried to cry out, and my utmost effort resulted only in a
    whisper too low for any one to hear. Simultaneously I became
    aware of a Step ascending the stair--a muffled heaviness; and
    the real nightmare began--the horror of the ghastly magnetism
    that held voice and limb--the hopeless will-struggle against
    dumbness and impotence. The stealthy Step approached--but with
    lentor malevolently measured--slowly, slowly, as if the stairs
    were miles deep. It gained the threshold--waited. Gradually
    then, and without sound, the locked door opened; and the Thing
    entered, bending as it came--a thing robed--feminine--reaching
    to the roof, not to be looked at! A floor-plank creaked as
    It neared the bed;--and then--with a frantic effort--I woke,
    bathed in sweat; my heart beating as if it were going to
    burst. The shrine-light had died: in the blackness I could
    see nothing; but I thought I heard that Step retreating.
    I certainly heard the plank creak again. With the panic
    still upon me, I was actually unable to stir. The wisdom of
    striking a match occurred to me, but I dared not yet rise.
    Presently, as I held my breath to listen, a new wave of black
    fear passed through me; for I heard moanings--long nightmare
    moanings--moanings that seemed to be answering each other from
    two different rooms below. And then close to me my guide began
    to moan--hoarsely, hideously. I cried to him:--

    "Louis!--Louis!"

    We both sat up at once.

Like De Quincey, he lingers over the flavor of words, gathering them
everywhere he may and gloating over them, tasting them with half-closed
eyes like an epicure, and using them ever delicately, suggestively,
inevitably.

    For me words have color, form, character: they have faces,
    ports, manners, gesticulations; they have moods, humors,
    eccentricities;--they have tints, tones, personalities....
    Surely I have never yet made, and never expect to make any
    money. Neither do I expect to write ever for the multitude. I
    write for beloved friends who can see color in words, can smell
    the perfume of syllables in blossom, can be shocked with the
    fine elfish electricity of words. And in the eternal order of
    things, words will eventually have their rights recognized by
    the people.

His essays, therefore, even as he has intimated, are for the few who
are attuned to them, who have sense for delicate suggestion, for "the
phosphorescing of words, the fragrance of words, the noisomeness
of words, the tenderness, the hardness, the dryness or juiciness
of words." Aside from his vision of beauty, his intensity, his
suggestiveness of style, he has brought not much. The romancers of
the period, a few of them, like Grace King, for example, have felt
his influence, but it has not been a large one. He stands almost an
isolated figure in his period, an intensely individual soul, a solitary
genius like Poe. His place is a secure one. His circle of readers will
never be large, but it will always be constant.


III

Another phase of French influence one finds in the work of Agnes
Repplier, perhaps the leading writer of "the light essay"--the term is
her own--in the later years of the period. Born of French parentage in
Philadelphia, educated at a convent where prevailed French language
and ideals, she was Gallic both by temperament and training. She was
not influenced as Cable undoubtedly was influenced and Hearn: there
is small trace in her essays of French style echoed consciously or
unconsciously. The influence was deeper, it was temperamental and
racial, manifesting itself spontaneously in the display of those
literary qualities that we associate with the word "French." Her
favorite reading was largely in the English. She read enormously
and she read note-book in hand. She added, moreover, culture and
impressions by much residence abroad, and when she began to write it
was with rich store of material. She began deliberately and she worked
like a true classicist, leisurely, with no genius, and no message to
urge her on. Her delight it was to talk about her reading, to add
entertaining episodes, to embroider with witty observation and pithy
quotation or epigram. Save for the autobiographical study "In Our
Convent Days," her writings mostly deal with the world of books.

Miss Repplier first came into notice in 1886 when one of her essays
came to Aldrich, who was delighted with it and who made haste to
introduce her to the _Atlantic_ circle. Two years later came her first
book, _Books and Men_, and since that time her essays, goodly in number
and scattered through many magazines, have become a well-known feature
of the times. Themes she takes to suit her fancy, apparently at random,
though more often phases of her beloved "happy half century": "A Short
Defense of Villains," "Benefits of Superstition," "The Deathless
Diary," "The Accursed Annual," "Marriage in Fiction," and all other
topics pertinent to Dr. Johnson's little world. She adds not much to
our knowledge, and she comes not often to any new conclusions, but she
is so companionable, so sparkling and witty, that we can but read on
with delight to the end. We are in an atmosphere somehow of old culture
and patrician grace, of courtliness and charm:

        Thou mindest me of gentle folks--
          Old gentlefolks are they--
        Thou sayst an undisputed thing
          In such a solemn way.

A little of feminine contrariness there may be, perhaps, at times. A
thing has been generally disparaged: she will defend it. Richardson's
Sir Charles Grandison may be mentioned: "I think, myself, that poor Sir
Charles has been unfairly handled," she will retort. "He is not half
such a prig as Daniel Deronda; but he develops his priggishness with
such ample detail through so many leisurely volumes." And her protest
becomes almost acrimonious if anything of the new be flippantly boasted
of as superior to the old:

    "We have long ago ceased to be either surprised, grieved,
    or indignant at anything the English say of us," writes Mr.
    Charles Dudley Warner. "We have recovered our balance. We know
    that since _Gulliver_ there has been no piece of original humor
    produced in England equal to Knickerbocker's _New York_; that
    not in this century has any English writer equaled the wit and
    satire of the _Biglow Papers_."

    Does this mean that Mr. Warner considers Washington Irving
    to be the equal of Jonathan Swift; that he places the gentle
    satire of the American alongside of those trenchant and
    masterly pages which constitute the landmarks of literature?
    "Swift," says Dr. Johnson, with reluctant truthfulness, "must
    be allowed for a time to have dictated the political opinions
    of the English nation." He is a writer whom we may be permitted
    to detest, but not to undervalue. His star, red as Mars, still
    flames fiercely in the horizon, while the genial luster of
    Washington Irving grows dimmer year by year. We can never hope
    to "recover our balance" by confounding values, a process of
    self-deception which misleads no one but ourselves.

Realism, the new smartness of Western veritism, the cry that romance is
dead, and that Walter Scott is outworn, found in her no sympathy. Her
heart was in the eighteenth century rather than in what she has called
"this overestimated century of progress." And so thoroughly convinced
is she, it is impossible not to agree with her:

    Lord Holland, when asked by Murray for his opinion of _Old
    Mortality_, answered indignantly: "Opinion? We did not one
    of us go to bed last night! Nothing slept but my gout." Yet
    _Rokeby_ and _Childe Harold_ are both in sad disgrace with
    modern critics and _Old Mortality_ stands gathering dust on
    our book-shelves.... We read _The Bostonians_ and _The Rise
    of Silas Lapham_ with a due appreciation of their minute
    perfections; but we go to bed quite cheerfully at our usual
    hour, and are content to wait an interval of leisure to resume
    them. Could _Daisy Miller_ charm a gouty leg, or _Lemuel
    Barker_ keep us awake till morning?

A paragraph like this may be said to contain all the various elements
of her style:

    There are few things more wearisome in a fairly fatiguing
    life than the monotonous repetition of a phrase which
    catches and holds the public fancy by virtue of its total
    lack of significance. Such a phrase--employed with tireless
    irrelevance in journalism, and creeping into the pages of
    what is, by courtesy, called literature--is the "new woman."
    It has furnished inexhaustible jests to _Life_ and _Punch_,
    and it has been received with all seriousness by those who
    read the present with no light from the past, and so fail to
    perceive that all femininity is as old as Lilith, and that the
    variations of the type began when Eve arrived in the Garden
    of Paradise to dispute the claims of her predecessor. "If the
    fifteenth century discovered America," says a vehement advocate
    of female progress, "it was reserved for the nineteenth century
    to discover woman"; and this remarkable statement has been
    gratefully applauded by people who have apparently forgotten
    all about Judith and Zenobia, Cleopatra and Catherine de
    Medici, Saint Theresa and Jeanne d'Arc, Catherine of Russia and
    Elizabeth of England, who played parts of some importance, for
    good and ill, in the fortunes of the world.

Here is the note of dissent from the widely accepted; the appeal to
antiquity; the pithy quotation; the allusion that takes for granted
a cultivated reader; the sprightly tripping of sentences; the witty
turn; and the atmosphere of feminine vivacity and brilliance. Apt
quotations sparkle from every paragraph. Often she opens breezily with
a quotation; she illustrates at every point with epigrams and witty
sayings from all known and unknown sources; and she ends smartly by
snapping the whip of a quotation in the final sentence or paragraph.

The bent of her work, taking it all in all, is critical, and often in
her criticism, especially her criticism of literature, she rises to the
point of distinction. One may quote paragraphs here and there that are
as illuminating as anything in American criticism. She is quick to see
fallacies and to press an absurd deduction to its ridiculous end. She
illumines a whole subject with a paragraph. This for example on Hamlin
Garland:

    Mr. Hamlin Garland, whose leaden-hued sketches called--I think
    unfairly--_Main-Traveled Roads_ have deprived most of us of
    some cheerful hours, paints with an unfaltering hand a life
    in which ennui sits enthroned. It is not the poverty of his
    Western farmers that oppresses us. Real biting poverty, which
    withers lesser evils with its deadly breath, is not known to
    these people at all. They have roofs, fire, food, and clothing.
    It is not the ceaseless labor, the rough fare, the gray skies,
    the muddy barn-yards, which stand for the trouble in their
    lives. It is the dreadful weariness of living. It is the burden
    of a dull existence, clogged at every pore, and the hopeless
    melancholy of which they have sufficient intelligence to
    understand. Theirs is the ennui of emptiness, and the implied
    reproach on every page is that a portion, and only a portion,
    of mankind is doomed to walk along these shaded paths; while
    happier mortals who abide in New York, or perhaps in Paris,
    spend their days in a pleasant tumult of intellectual and
    artistic excitation.

And few have put their criticism into more attractive form. It is
penetrating and true and in addition it has a sparkle and wit about
it that makes it anything but dry reading. Who has written more
sympathetically, more understandingly, more delightfully about Charles
Lamb than she if one takes her work all together. Here is a glimpse,
yet how illuminating:

    Truest of all, is Charles Lamb who, more than any other
    humorist, more than any other man of letters, belongs
    exclusively to his own land, and is without trace or echo of
    foreign influence. France was to Lamb, not a place where the
    finest prose is written, but a place where he ate frogs--"the
    nicest little delicate things--rabbity-flavored. Imagine a
    Lilliputian rabbit." Germany was little or nothing, and America
    was less. The child of London streets,

        "Mother of mightier, nurse of none more dear,"

    rich in the splendid literature of England, and faithful lover
    both of the teeming city and the ripe old books, Lamb speaks to
    English hearts in a language they can understand. And we, his
    neighbors, whom he recked not of, hold him just as dear; for
    his spleenless humor is an inheritance of our mother tongue,
    one of the munificent gifts which England shares with us, and
    for which no payment is possible save the frank and generous
    recognition of a pleasure that is without a peer.

But critic in the sense that Paul Elmer More is a critic, she certainly
is not. She is temperamental rather than scientific. She makes
brilliant observations, but she has no system, no patient analytical
processes. She is, like Henry James, a critic by flashes, but those
flashes often illuminate the whole landscape.

She is a suggestive writer, a writer who makes her reader think, who
restores him as the dynamo restores the battery. Her world is a small
one and it is not necessarily American, but it is intensely alive. In
her own "happy half century," quoting Dr. Johnson, discoursing of Fanny
Burney or Hannah More, or when telling of her cat or of the mystic lore
of cats quoting Montaigne and Loti, or of those still more feminine
topics: mirrors, spinsters, letters, the eternal feminine, she induces
"electrical tingles of hit after hit." Her work must be classed with
that of Lamb, of Loti, of Hearn, as work peculiarly personal, work that
makes its appeal largely on account of the surcharged individuality
behind it.

With Miss Repplier's essays may be classed those of Samuel McChord
Crothers (1857----), Edward S. Martin (1856----) and Louise Imogen
Guiney, who wrote for cultured people on topics for the most part
drawn from the world of books. The work of Dr. Crothers is the most
distinctive of the three. His wisdom, his delicate humor, his unfailing
sense of values have made his papers, the most of them published in
the _Atlantic_, a source of real delight and profit to an increasing
circle. His books, like those of Miss Repplier, may be safely placed
in the trunk when one starts on his summer's vacation and can take but
few. They are wise, still books that one may live with.


IV

The period has abounded in critics from the first. The best of Lowell's
prose came in the years following the war, and all of Stedman's was
written after 1870. The great multiplication of newspapers and the
increasing number of magazines led more and more to the production
of book reviews. The _North American Review_ no longer said the last
word about a book or an author. In 1865 Edwin L. Godkin (1831-1902)
founded the New York _Nation_ and contributed to it some of the most
fearless and discriminating work of the period; in 1880 Francis F.
Browne (1843-1913) founded