BROOKS'S AGE OF IRVING
THE NEW VOLUME of Van Wyck Brooks's literary history of the United States, The World of Washington Irving, though the third in order of publication, is the first in chronological order. It covers the ground from 1800 to the early years of the forties, and treats at length Jefferson, Audubon, Cooper, Irving, Simms, Poe, Bryant and Willis. It treats also dozens of minor figures and deals not only with literature proper but with political oratory, the reports of explorers and naturalists, the folklore of Davy Crockett and Mike Fink, and ethnological and archeological study; and it contains so much information about painting, music, landscape-gardening, architecture, mechanical invention and social manners that it might almost be more appropriately described as a history of American culture.
These decades were enormously lively: the country was still uncommercialized; the Americans were still exhilarated by the success of the Revolution and the adventure of the new country; the great intellectual figures were many-sided in their interests and talents, and men of the great worlds of society, geography and nature. There was a splendor of the Renaissance about figures like Jefferson and Audubon; Joel Barlow, diplomat, promoter and poet; Samuel F. B. Morse, who was a painter as well