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Reuben Post Halleck

The wide use of the author's History of English Literature, the favor with which it has been received in all parts of the United States, and the number of earnest requests for a History of American Literature on the same plan, have led to the writing of this book.

RELATION TO ENGLISH LITERATURE.—The literature produced in that part of America known as the United States did not begin as an independent literature. The early colonists were Englishmen who brought with them their own language, books, and modes of thought. England had a world-famous literature before her sons established a permanent settlement across the Atlantic. Shakespeare had died four years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. When an American goes to Paris he can neither read the books, nor converse with the citizens, if he knows no language but his own.

PROGRESS TOWARD NATIONALITY.—The French and Indian War, which began in 1754, served its purpose in making the colonists feel that they were one people. At this time most of them were living on the seacoast from Georgia to Maine, and had not yet even crossed the great Appalachian range of mountains. The chief men of one colony knew little of the leaders in the other colonies. This war made George Washington known outside of Virginia. There was not much interchange of literature between the two leading colonies, Virginia and Massachusetts.

A NEW LITERARY CENTER.—We have seen that Massachusetts supplied the majority of the colonial writers before the French and Indian War. During the next period, Philadelphia came to the front with Benjamin Franklin and Charles Brockden Brown. In this third period, New York forged ahead, both in population and in the number of her literary men. Although in 1810 she was smaller than Philadelphia, by 1820 she had a population of 123,706, which was 15,590 more than Philadelphia, and 80,408 more than Boston.

CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS THOUGHT.—Since the death of Jonathan Edwards in the middle of the seventeenth century, New England had done little to sustain her former literary reputation. As the middle of the nineteenth century approaches, however, we shall find a remarkable group of writers in Boston and its vicinity. The causes of this wonderful literary awakening are in some respects similar to those which produced the Elizabethan age. In the sixteenth century the Reformation and the Revival of Learning exerted their joint force on England.

PLANTATION LIFE AND ITS EFFECT UPON LITERATURE.—Before the war the South was agricultural. The wealth was in the hands of scattered plantation owners, and less centered in cities than at the North. The result was a rural aristocracy of rich planters, many of them of the highest breeding and culture. A retinue of slaves attended to their work and relieved them from all manual labor. The masters took an active part in public life, traveled and entertained on a lavish scale. Their guests were usually wealthy men of the same rank, who had similar ideals and ambitions.

THE NEWNESS OF THE WEST.-It is difficult for the young of to-day to realize that Wisconsin and Iowa were not states when Hawthorne published his Twice Told Tales (1837), that Lowell's The Vision of Sir Launfal (1848) was finished ten years before Minnesota became a state, that Longfellow's Hiawatha (1855) appeared six years before the admission of Kansas, and Holmes's

FROM ROMANTICISM TOWARD REALISM.—The enormous circulation of magazines in the United States has furnished a wide market for the writers of fiction. Magazines have especially stimulated the production of short stories, which show how much technique their authors have learned from Poe. The increased attention paid to fiction has led to a careful study of its guiding principles and to the formation of new rules for the practice of the art.

[Footnote: For a complete record of the work of contemporary authors, consult Who's Who in America.]


ABBOTT, JACOB (1803-1879), b. Hallowell, Maine. One of America's most voluminous writers on all classes of popular subjects. He wrote one hundred and eighty volumes and aided in the preparation of thirty-one more. Illustrated Histories, The Rollo Books.

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