The Gentleman in America: A Literary Study in American Culture

The Gentleman in America: A Literary Study in American Culture

The Gentleman in America: A Literary Study in American Culture

The Gentleman in America: A Literary Study in American Culture

Excerpt

As a study of the gentleman in America, this is an attempt to survey a portion of American culture which seems never to have been directly investigated before. In so doing, it impinges upon but does not attempt to duplicate the work done in a number of valuable books. It is not a repetition of Dixon Wecter's fascinating and ironic Saga of American Society. Nor does it attempt to extend the cultural history of American patricianism laid out inMerle Curti Growth of American Thought. Its purpose is distinct from that of Arthur M. Schle- singer's clever survey of American books of etiquette.

What is attempted here is a study of the fate in America of the cluster of concepts, values, attitudes, and cultural forms implied by the word "gentleman" as it is reflected in American literature. With that goes the effort to show how accurate criticism of certain interesting American authors depends upon a full reading of books which cannot be understood without a clear grasp of the gentlemanly configuration. Finally, it is hoped that something is here contributed toward a better understanding of the working relations among ideas, culture, and literature in America. To any student of American literature it will be obvious that many more authors and books could be brought into the discussion than are present. When the essential points had been made -- the nature and importance of the gentlemanly configuration established; the value of its use as a critical tool illustrated -- it seemed superfluous to multiply instances. Perhaps other and better critics may find it useful to refine the tool and apply it to other materials. The writer must, of course, hazard the contention that no broadly significant variations from the patterns laid down here will be found among men or groups not covered.

The list of all those who helped, wittingly or not, in the production of this book would be too long to print. But my . . .

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