Return to the Fountains: Some Classical Sources of American Criticism

Return to the Fountains: Some Classical Sources of American Criticism

Return to the Fountains: Some Classical Sources of American Criticism

Return to the Fountains: Some Classical Sources of American Criticism

Excerpt

This study of the influence upon American literary thinking of Aristotle and Horace has been a gradual development. It had its origin in casual reading of Lowell's literary essays, a dozen years ago. As I read, the number of references to Horace and obviously Horatian echoes in Lowell could not fail to make its impression. Such a study, when one has entered upon it, leads inevitably to Aristotle Poetics, that other principal source of literary criticism. The reading of Lowell, on the other hand, led to Longfellow and Holmes, and thence to Concord; from there it was a short step to include outstanding American literary men from Bryant's time to the immediate past. No living authors have been included. The men selected for study have been chosen not so much for critical ability alone as for reputation, either in their own day or in the judgment of posterity. Some who produced little or no criticism have been included because their writings had probably greater effect upon American letters than any criticism; their theories and practice of composition constitute in this way valuable criticism. For comparison of the sources with the American expression of their principles, the Loeb Edition of Horace has been quoted; in that series, which prints the original Latin or Greek opposite the translation, the Odes and Epodes were translated by Charles Edwin Bennett, the Satires, Epistles, and Ars Poetica by Henry Rushton Fairclough. Although this series contains a translation of the Poetics by W. Hamilton Fyfe , the translation quoted in this study is the excellent version by Ingram Bywater. The translation by S. H. Butcher of the Poetics, and the amplified version by Professor Lane Cooper, must also be freely used by the student of the Poetics.

It would be absurd to suppose that every passage in the American or classical authors which has the sound of Aristotle or Horace was written by its author with the classical source clearly in mind. These classical critics have entered so deeply . . .

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