Thomas Sergeant Perry: a Biography and Letters to Perry from William, Henry and Garth Wilkinson James

Thomas Sergeant Perry: a Biography and Letters to Perry from William, Henry and Garth Wilkinson James

Thomas Sergeant Perry: a Biography and Letters to Perry from William, Henry and Garth Wilkinson James

Thomas Sergeant Perry: a Biography and Letters to Perry from William, Henry and Garth Wilkinson James

Excerpt

The study of the life of Thomas Sergeant Perry (1845-1928) invites an inquiry into how far he was a representative of his age and his region. His distinguished ancestry, his wide reading in the classical literatures, his travels in Europe and studies in modern foreign literatures, his friendships with men of intelligence in Boston and Harvard, and his early writing for the Atlantic, the Nation, and the North American Review in their palmy days--all fit him into the pattern of New England's late flowering and early Indian summer. One might also say--with a measure of truth--that the succession of disappointments which began to fall upon him in the early seventies and fell with continued severity in the eighties mirrors the decline of the spirit of New England. Between the ages of forty- two and sixty-four he spent nearly half his time outside of the country, mostly in France, where he found a stimulating intellectual atmosphere. After each of his foreign residences he returned with reluctance to the emptiness of Boston. When he did finally settle down in this country, it was to spend only the winters in Boston, for he purchased a farm in New Hampshire for a summer residence. Thus in a sense the decline of his literary activity closely parallels the eclipse of Boston as a literary center.

In a positive way, moreover, his many critical articles written during the seventies and his books written in the eighties show that he made a significant contribution to American literary criticism. He was a pioneer in the appreciation of Turgenev and the Russian and French novelists; with Howells and James he staunchly upheld the cause of realism in fiction against the romanticism of popular novelists and against the coming naturalism of Zola. He was second only to Charles Eliot Norton in America in recognizing the merits . . .

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