The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers

The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers

The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers

The Complex Fate: Hawthorne, Henry James and Some Other American Writers

Excerpt

I am present in this book (having been honoured by the invitation to be so) as disagreeing with Mr. Bewleyover some particular judgments. But my disagreements are minor indeed compared with the major concurrence that makes me welcome his book with a wholly sincere warmth and with great relief. Here is an American critic saying, with the authority of what is unmistakably criticism of a rare intelligence and force, what has long needed saying -- or so I have thought. And I am hardly the only English observer who has contemplated with distress and apprehension the lines on which, in America in our time, the conviction that America has, or ought to have, a great literature has developed.

For an Englishman to feel and to express such a concern is no impertinence. What happens to American civilization has clearly the greatest importance for Europe. But, as it is the virtue of Mr. Bewley's book to make so plain, an Englishman has special reasons for taking a poignant interest in the prevailing American ideas about the present and future of American literature. In any case it is wholly proper that he should bear his testimony when a great creative achievement -- and this one, belonging to the common language, may be fitly appraised by an Englishman -- is slighted.

Mr. Bewley, then, seems to me to be unquestionably right a line of novelists' -- he names Cooper, Hawthorne Melville and James -- 'who represent her greatest achievement in awhen he says that in the nineteenth century America 'produced rt'. It is a very impressive achievement, and an Engish critic cannot claim that it has had in this country the attention it deserves. More seriously, it is far from enjoying in America, as Mr. Bewley points out, the honour and the influence that are its due -- more seriously, because of the significance of such a default for the prospects of American literature. Of the writers whom he names as . . .

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