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prosperity — and the wide hush of peaceful eras
And the Author must “act.” Yes! but chiefly, not “subordinately.” He must throw himself heartily into the moving army of the time, and serve an unnoticed private or a followed leader, as his strength may be — willing to be trampled down, so the powers of good triumph. And he must go out into life too, not to build up himself and complete his being only ; not to gain wisdom, to gather raw material only — not to stock a vocabulary, not to recreate only — but from a deep insight into the sublimity of daily, hourly, common life, from awe of the force of Providence stirring in the deep springs of the present generation. Not as a scholar, not with a view to literary labor, not as an artist, must he go out among men but as a brother man, all unconscious that he has uttered any thing, all purposeless of future utterance till it is given. We rejoiced with sympathetic joy when we read that sentence in this address, “ I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic, what is doing in Italy or Arabia ; what is Greek Art or Provençal Minstrelsy ; I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low."
A distinguished sculptor was asked, “ where when the gods had returned to Olympus, and the iconoclastic spirit of the time had overturned the Madonnas and the martyrs, he would look for subjects for his chisel ?” “ To the grace and poetry of the simple acts of life,' was his answer. The greatest painter of the age has breathed his purest ideal beauty through the unpicturesque attire, the easy attitude, the homely plainness, of peasant girlhood. And perfectly true is it, as our orator says, that this idea has inspired the genius of the finest authors of our day. A man must live the life of Jesus, according to his power, would he be a truly American author; yes ! he must live a self-forgetting minister to men, in the
charities of home and acquaintance — in thankless and unnoticed sympathy, - in painful toil amid great enterprises,- among interests of the day — sacrificing notoriety, relinquishing unfavorite tastes, penetrated through his habitual thoughts with the prayer, that the kingdom of God may come — the kingdom of truth, love, beauty, and happiness — of fresh minds and warm hearts and clear consciences, the kingdom of brother souls in their Father's mansion. And he must do this because he feels the worth of man as man because he sees the infinite in the finite — the spiritual in the material — the eternal in the present — the divine in man. When his heart is tuned to unison with every chord that vibrates through the moral universe, and responds to the music of love through his whole being, let him pour out the joy of a spirit communing with the All Holy, of an Immortal stepping onward hand in hand with growing spirits on a brightening pathway to heaven.
All this may seem extravagant and enthusiastic. We say it with the calmest conviction. We look for a high-toned literature in this Christian, free land, where the vine of truth is not overgrown with the weeds of past civilization. We fully expect to see American authors. And yet more, we feel sure they will form a most numerous class, or rather be so numerous as not to form a class. The benefits of the existence of a literary caste have been vaunted. We have no faith in them. The change which has for years been going on, by which more and more minds have been incited to produce their store for the public good — in reviews, miscellanies, essays, fictions, lectures, is we believe auspicious. Literature has become less monkish, more manly. The days of astrology and alchemy in the world of books is over; and those of its astronomy and chemistry have come; and our bark of life will ride the safer, and our comforts be multiplied by the change. Literature should be the reflection of an age upon itself, the self-converse of the race, and the more expressions of its conscious
ness, the better; or again literature should be the challenge and answer of “all 's well," as each generation takes its stand in time. The more minds that light up their tapers, the better. All men have genius, if they will be true to the inward voice. Let them serve God and not men, and bear what testimony they
We cannot spare them. Literature will thus assume a more conversational, a heartier tone; and no man will be ashamed, afraid, or vain, or proud, to be an author. The age is superficial, it is said the attention is dissipated by variety — there is a slipshod style in vogue
thinkers are rare. We doubt much the justice of all this. The energy of the time, perhaps the genius of the time, is chiefly turned to the business of life. But never, we believe, was there a period of healthier intellectual action. The people
– the public, crave thought. They passionately follow a strong man who utters his deepest self healthily, naturally; the higher, the purer his message, the better prized by them. And compare the thoughts and style of expression too of our reviews, yes even of light novels, and of newspaper pieces, dashed off as they are by ordinary minds, with what was written by the select few of earlier time, and do they not prove really a wonderful development of the thinking faculties? All writers are to some degree thinkers, if not thinking men. For their own sakes, composition is salutary ; it reveals to themselves what force they have in them. The next stage will be the casting off of authority; yes, even that of public opinion which now enslaves, and the rising up of an immense class of independent thinkers, to declare what they too have seen of heavenly light through the telescopes in high observatories, or with the naked eye on the bare hills. We sometimes think that the profusion, with which the knowledge of the most interesting facts, laws, and phenomena of nature, of the great miracles of art and invention, of the mighty events of history, of the original characters who have made history, that the profusion, we say with which a knowledge of these
has been diffused to readers and hearers — though done merely to amuse, will produce a fine result. Men seek novelties, something to animate and awake; where will they find them, if not in the infinity of their own spiritual natures and experiences,- in the marvels and wonders of the quite familiar and common? The crowd of authors even now has broken down the aristocracy of literature. Men are no longer notorious for being writers. Poor vanity no longer, or in a less degree, impels fools to ape sages. But yet the instinct of utterance remains. And we need not fear, that minds, which through the deep caverns of their own spirit have passed to Elysian fields, will be hindered from declaring their bright visions, because the air is full of the murmur of voices. Literature must become what it ought to be, the best thoughts of all, given out in the grand school room, debating hall, and conversazione of the world, rather let us say the grand family group of God's children. Inspired prophets and apostles of truth will easily be recognised, - and listened to all the more eagerly by those, to whom all past utterances are familiar, and who seek something new. No Paul will be neglected at Athens. And the temptation lessens every day for a man to desert the field which heaven appointed him to till, by running into the mart to speculate in buying up popular applause. The public are tired of parrots. They want men. We feel convinced that our best minds and all minds, instead of being frittered away and dissipated by chasing the butterflies, and hunting the bright shells, and gathering the choice flowers of thoughts, to amuse or be amused with, will confine themselves more and more to laborious working in their own peculiar mines; that our public lectures will lose their desultory and take a systematic character; that private teachers will appear of higher and higher branches of knowledge. And this will prepare the way for independent, thorough, original action of the American mind. And long to see what will be produced in that democratic age of literature, where no clan of Authors are tolerated longer as the dictators of fashion and the judges of caste in the world of books, but where appeal is only to the spirit of truth; where the court garment is always sincerity's work-day dress.
But we must bring these remarks to a close. We look, we say, for an American literature. We feel as if the old strata of thought, in the old world, had been broken up, with the old manners which clothed them and grew out from them; and as if the fused and melted mass had settled here to form a new world of higher beauty. And the rock basis of a new era will be a philosophy, which recognises the divinity of reason in every soul; which sees the identity of reason and faith, and honors common sense as the voice of truth; which feels the mystery of moral freedom in every man of that perfect liberty of the entire obedience to right, and which bows with awe before the conviction that God is in each human soul, that never is the individual so entirely himself as when at one with the indwelling Spirit. And the life, which will pervade this new world of thought, will be a poetry of love and sympathy for the commonest familiar feeling, as well as the higher and holier, and for every human tie and relation. Science is always liberal, for nature is no respecter of persons or of forms. She will speak to the humblest or highest of her children through the light which covers the heavens, with a canopy for angels, through the swift flashes which rend the mountain, or the unseen influence which follows down the string of the paper kite. And shall not it be, is the world never to see a system of social manners too, growing out from this Christian idea of brotherhood, which shall embody the principles of this philosophy — the spirit of this poetry? Our manners will ever be the leaves to clothe with beauty the trunk and branches of our faith ; but through them it must imbibe from the sun of God's love, and the atmosphere of human kindness, a purifying, a vital influence. We shall never have a healthy American Literature, unless we have an American Spirit, an American Manner of Life.