by Van Wyck Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 31, 1947
In time this follows The Flowering of New England; in mood and manner, it is closer to The World of Washington Irving. The pace and scope of American literature was so much greater that, inevitably, one closes the book with a sense that Mr. Brooks has attempted too much, has spun his substance thin, giving us --from the critical and philosophical standpoint- a relatively superficial overall of a period in which many men wrote in many veins, but comparatively few out very deep. There is less of the intimacy of knowledge of men and period that made The Flowering of New England an unforgettable experience. But there is an enrichment of understanding of new trends, new influences, new figures coming above the horizon of letters- and names, many of them familiar enough to make one realize that ""the times of Melville and Whitman"" approach our own generation. The scene shifts -- the focus veers from New England to a New York as the literary market place, to the South, before, as well as after the Civil War, the section west of the Appalachians, the Far West. Now Melville-now Whitman, provides an accent, an emphasis, with something of biographical value, but more of significance in the literary scene, growing out of their respective backgrounds,- Melville, the world traveller, writing his early travel-adventure material; then falling into oblivion for some seventeen years, and emerging, with potentialities scarcely recognized in his lifetime; Whitman, journalist, humanitarian, learning to know the people of the land, writing his Leaves of Grass- wing fame, and notoriety as well, embittered by disfavor, retiring to a world ingrown in C And, throughout, lesser figures:- William Curtis, Greeley, Henry Ward Beecher- greater in their impact than in their production; Bayard Taylor, many-faceted but a passing vogue; Mark Twain, in his beginnings, influenced by the humorists, Artemis Ward and Josh Billing by the story-teller, Bret Harte; Eggleston, with his homespun tales, Joaquin Miller, who was to win greater acclaim abroad than at home; Sydney Lanier, Joel Chandler Harris, to keep the old South alive; Muir and Burroughs to raise nature writing to its senith. poet Civil War period offered barren literary fare, but launched new trends, periodical and so on -- which were to bear fruit later. A valuable guidebook to literary roadways and bypaths, written with the easy charm which makes Brooks' books saleable.
Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1947
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1947
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