American Literature in Nineteenth-Century England

American Literature in Nineteenth-Century England

American Literature in Nineteenth-Century England

American Literature in Nineteenth-Century England

Excerpt

"Cultured persons complain that the society there is vulgar, less agreeable to the delicate tastes of delicately trained minds. But it is infinitely preferable to the ordinary worker"--JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN.

THE ATTITUDE of one nation toward another represents a congeries of contradictions based largely on ignorance and prejudice, with a constant succession of storm centers of high emotional intensity provoked by political events. As a result, one who wishes to map the course of international feeling must speak as Sir Oracle--and pray that no dogs bark.

There was much in the nineteenth century to draw the United States and its mother country together. Despite the confusion of races seething in our melting pot the English element was at all times dominant. As late as 1920, even after the tremendous influx of the "new" immigration, it was decided that 51 percent of the population of our country was of Colonial extraction. As important as the quantitative dominance of British blood was the cultural dominance of British literature, law, and speech, the community of language being the most significant of all. Then, too, there was trade, next to language the most universal solvent, as well as creator, of international ill feeling. Countless millions of English pounds sought, and found, an increase in the Magna Graecia of the West. Even Carlyle, who objected to democracy on the ground that it gave Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot the same vote, had investments in America, which, unlike those of Sydney Smith, were profitable to a high degree. All through the century Englishmen with money to sow reaped a harvest in the nation acting its epic of finance in the rounding out of a continent. At the opposite end of the economic scale were the hosts of the poor whose relatives and friends had followed the course of empire in such amazing numbers--three millions of them before Victoria had ruled for thirty years. Such people must have provided the largest mass of British friends of America.

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