Studies in Literary Types in Seventeenth Century America (1607-1710)

Studies in Literary Types in Seventeenth Century America (1607-1710)

Studies in Literary Types in Seventeenth Century America (1607-1710)

Studies in Literary Types in Seventeenth Century America (1607-1710)

Excerpt

"Among the many customs of the world, which it is become almost necessary to comply withal, it seems this is one, that a book must not appear without a Preface. And this little book willingly submits unto the customary ceremony." Thus did Cotton Mather, in 1710, introduce his Essays to Do Good. In 1939, his humble admirer, the author of this piece, willingly submits to the same ceremony.

Studies in Literary Types in Seventeenth Century America is derived from a dissertation originally submitted in 1937 for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It proposes to be a critical analysis of prose writings to determine what forms of literature were established in America before 1710. And, since American literature of this period must necessarily find its origins in established models, it proposes, also, to trace the background and influences upon these types of our earliest literature.

There is a wealth of material in the beginnings of our literature from the time that Captain John Smith landed upon the shores of America in 1607 until Cotton Mather published his little volume Essays to Do Good in 1710. The appearance of this book is a kind of milestone that ends the first period of our literature and looks toward another. Until then most of our literature, in spite of creative and individual touches, had been occasional. Essays to Do Good is a collection of short prose pieces of a wholly creative nature. Although it is written for instruction, its lessons are hardly more obtrusive than those in the essays of Addison and Steele and Dr. Johnson or in the Do Good Papers of Dr. Franklin whom it inspired. It closes our youngest period of literature and prepares the way for our eighteenth century.

There have always been two attitudes toward our Colonial literature: the inquisitive one of the historian who looks to it for valuable source material, and the defensive one of the critic toward those who suggest curtly that there was then no American literature. This paper does not examine this . . .

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