American Poetry in the Eighteen Nineties: A Study of American Verse, 1890-1899, Based upon the Volumes from That Period Contained in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays in the Brown University Library

By Carlin T. Kindilien | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE CONTINUING TRADITION

1. GENTEELISM

THOSE interpreters of the American mind who have imagined an enfeebled genteel tradition at the end of the nineteenth century have only to glance back of the average poet and his volume of romantic and sentimental verses in order to see that the tradition was far from exhausted. The much analyzed and assessed genteel literary tradition with its credo inherited from the British romantics and the New England Victorians satisfied a large segment of the American mind during the latter half of the century by uniting the myth of idealist and the practical man. Genteelism was still a force to be dealt with by the young poet of the Nineties. During the post Civil War years, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Edmund Clarence Stedman, Bayard Taylor, and Richard Stoddard had joined together in a fellowship which optimistically sought to correlate the old ways and the new in a poetry that blended idealism and propaganda via a sentimental idiom. From Philadelphia to Boston, from San Francisco to Chicago, poets and literary critics lauded the old forms, the old themes, and the old ideals, insisting that poetry had no concern with the immediate realities of contemporary life. The belief that literature must be kept grand and pure led the poets of the Nineties to a reaffirmation of the ideals of earlier genteel poets: the primacy of the beautiful, a refined culture based on breeding and good manners, a cautious scholarship, and a gentle didacticism. The poetry of this group of genteel writers, who believed that manners alone would curb the natural man, was almost without exception an unoriginal and impersonal expression of men who thought of poetry as a medium entirely divorced from their own lives. This is the poetry-- conservative and cosmopolitan--which literary historians have emphasized in their descriptions of the "twilight period." And this is

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American Poetry in the Eighteen Nineties: A Study of American Verse, 1890-1899, Based upon the Volumes from That Period Contained in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays in the Brown University Library
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xvii
  • Chapter I - The Literary Scene 1
  • Chapter II - The Continuing Tradition 23
  • Chapter III - The New Traditionalism 73
  • Chapter IV - The Poet-Critics of Society and Religion 123
  • Chapter V - Whitman and the Vagabondians 169
  • Chapter VI - Poetic Form in the Nineties 191
  • Index 215
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