Anglo-American Literary Relations

By George Stuart Gordon | Go to book overview

II
THE RISE OF AMERICAN LITERATURE

WHEN Rip Van Winkle woke up from his long sleep about the year 1800 he saw (perhaps you remember) not much that was new to him except the head of President Washington hanging where King George's head had once hung, and strange faces, of course, instead of familiar ones. Washington Irving would seem to have been in the right about this. Though events had occurred, in those twenty or thirty years, of infinite portent and significance for the future of America, the outward aspect and material conditions of things had changed little. The United States, however 'free and enlightened', and by common American consent 'the wonder and envy of the world', were still in 1800, as we see them from this distance, a parcel of small half-organized communities clinging on the edge of a very large continent: four and a half millions of free white persons (the British Isles had fifteen), four of which millions were loosely settled in the old thirteen states and the more restless remaining fraction thrusting out across the Alleghenies into the debatable lands of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. There was no town, as yet, of 100,000 inhabitants. Boston had 25,000; New York 60,000; Philadelphia, still the literary and intellectual capital of the United States, for the last ten years the seat of Government also, had 70,000, and was at this time, by all accounts, the pleasantest town of the three.

I thought it proper to give these figures, and to give them now, because they throw into relief the initial magnitude of the American task, and the vaulting optimism of American ambition. Being now their own masters, they proposed to themselves, characteristically

-31-

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Anglo-American Literary Relations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Prefatory Note 5
  • Contents 8
  • I - Early American LIterature 11
  • II - The Rise of American LIterature 31
  • III - Friendship in Letters 44
  • IV - British Authors in America 62
  • V - British Authors' Copyright 82
  • VI - The LIterary Hopes of America 99
  • Index of Persons 117
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