It is the hope of the authors of this volume that it will be found by the mature student and by the general public an authentic and readable discussion of our literature. It avoids the difficulties encountered by a single writer who endeavors to cover alone that complex and crowded field. It also secures a more unified critical point of view than a compilation by a large number of contributors. The calibre of my collaborators makes it perhaps unnecessary for me to state that while I have read and commented upon their contributions as the book progressed, the final text represents their independent judgments.
If this policy has led in a few cases to apparent contradictions, the authority of the history as a whole must rest upon the critical judgments of the writers of the sections for which they agreed to be responsible. Duplication of references in the different sections of the Chapter Bibliographies has been preferred to constant cross references. The Editors feel that information of this nature should be made instantly available at the time and place it is needed.
The rapid growth of the departments of American Civilization in our colleges and universities is an indication of the need for a history of American Literature which reflects the opinions and desires of the people who have read and inspired it as well as those who have created it. For the first time in such a history, the relations of literature to the allied arts of painting, sculpture and architecture, and to politics and social movements, have been emphasized. The growth of magazines and their effect for good or ill upon literature and the rivalry of their forms of expression have been noted.
Also for the first time, American Drama has been given its proper place in a history of literature. Not only have the dramatic achievements of modern playwrights been adequately treated, but also the romantic and poetic plays and the prose histories and comedies which filled the theaters in the nineteenth century have been fitted into their proper place in the struggle for liberality and democracy. New movements in literature have been appraised from the point of view of their permanence or their passing. The influence of science and of education have not been overlooked or the debt we owe to other literatures, but a fresh stress has been laid upon the inspiration which our writers have had upon foreign literary developments.
Throughout the book, the importance of the American point of view . . .