My American Dreams
Glasgow, Eric, Contemporary Review
I grew up, as a Cambridge undergraduate, under the wartime influences of the Anglo-American alliance. Previously, in my schooldays in Lancashire, I had had very few contacts with either American culture or American literature. I can remember my early reading of the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, especially his The Last of the Mohicans, and I did like the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, especially his |Wreck of the Hesperus' and |Song of Hiawatha'. But I left school, in 1942, fairly ignorant of the riches of the American literature, as likewise of the nature and the relevance of the American history, especially in its post-Colonial varieties. It took the exigencies, and the expectations, of my Cambridge years (1942-45) to acquaint me, in any depth, with either history or literature, as far as the USA was concerned. Wartime Cambridge was severely attenuated by shortages of senior staff and research facilities. All new appointments to College Fellowships were suspended |for the duration' (in order not to prejudice in that crucial respect able men who were doing their bit for the country, often in remote or perilous locations). But that did mean, for the few who could continue |in residence', that the incentive for the highest academic distinctions was temporarily swept aside, and for the most part, we went on our legitimate ways, in libraries and lecture halls, thinking far more of the past than of the future, which seemed then mostly to be vague and indefinitive.
At any rate, while I was at Cambridge, I experienced the tail-end of an era of somewhat exclusive privilege, before the deluge of hard-working competition, that came after the war had ended in 1945. Cambridge, in my youth, was encompassed by many American airfields, from which nightly we could hear the planes leaving to bomb Germany, across the level tracts of East Anglia. I have now to confess that as a student I did not bother much about such errands of death and destruction. I was too intent upon my bookish studies, and I was too immature to understand fully what it all meant in human or even international terms. But, even as then -- sanguine and hopeful -- I trod those impressionable Cambridge streets, I could not fail to notice the American sightseers, marvelling at the beauty of the Colleges, and often contrasting their cloisters with the singularity, back home, of such American …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: My American Dreams. Contributors: Glasgow, Eric - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 260. Issue: 1517 Publication date: June 1992. Page number: 315+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1992 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.