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COTTON MATHER
SAMUEL SEWALL
TITLE-PAGE OF ROGER WILLIAMS'S “KEY"
JOHN ELIOT
WESTOVER, THE BYRD MANSION
FACSIMILE OF BOSTON NEWS-LETTER
OTIS, JEFFERSON, AND PAINE .
SQUIRE M'FINGAL IN Town MEETING
JOEL BARLOW
PHILIP FRENEAU
CHARLES BROCKDEN BROWN

160 164 174 176 181 188 203 226 230 233 237

SIGNIFICANT DATES IN AMERICAN

LITERATURE

1640. The Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in America. 1678. Anne Bradstreet's poems, the best American verse of the

seventeenth century. 1704. The Boston News-Letter, the first American newspaper. 1754. Edwards's Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, the first

great American metaphysical book. 1786. Freneau's poems, the best American poetry of the eighteenth

century. 1788–89. The Federalist, the strongest literary influence in favor

of adopting the Constitution. 1798. Brown's Wieland, the first American romance. 1817. Bryant's Thanatopsis, the first great American poem. 1819. Irving's Sketch Book, the first American book to win Euro

pean fame.

1821. Cooper's Spy, the first important American novel. 1827. The Youth's Companion founded, the pioneer paper for

young people. 1834-38. Sparks's Life and Writings of George Washington, the

first of the American school of history. 1837. Emerson's American Scholar, our intellectual Declaration

of Independence.” 1840. The Dial, the organ of transcendentalism. 1848. The Biglow Papers, the first literary use of dialect in

American literature. 1849. Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature, a strong influence

toward the study of European literature. 1849. Thoreau's Week, the first American book of “nature liter

ature.” 1850. Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, the greatest American novel. 1852. Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, the first American novel

of purpose.

A SHORT HISTORY OF AMERICA'S LITERATURE

CHAPTER I

THE COLONIAL PERIOD

1607-1765 1. Literary work in England. In the early part of the seventeenth century England was all aglow with literary inspiration. Shakespeare was writing his noblest tragedies. Ben Jonson was writing plays, adoring his friend Shakespeare, and growling at him because he would not observe the rules of the classical drama. Francis Bacon was rising swiftly to the height of his glory as Chancellor of England and incidentally composing essays so keen and strong and brilliant that he seems to have said the last word on whatever subject he touches. There were many lesser lights, several of whom would have been counted great in any other age.

2. Early American histories. In all the blaze of this literary glory colonists began to sail away from the shores of England for the New World. They had to meet famine, cold, pestilence, hard work, and danger from the Indians. Nevertheless, our old friend, John Smith, wrote a book on Virginia, and George Sandys completed on Virginian soil his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. These men, however, were only visitors to America; and, important as their writings may be historically or poetically, they have small connection with American literature. It was on the rockbound coast of

William

Massachusetts that our literature made its real beginning. The earnest, serious Pilgrims and Puritans disapproved of the plays and masques that were flourishing in England; pastoral verse was to them a silly affectation; the delicate accuracy of the sonnet showed a sinful waste of time and thought. They were striving to make an abode for righteousness, and whatever did not manifestly conduce to that single aim, they counted as of evil. Writing their own history, however, was reckoned a most godly work. “We are the Lord's chosen people,” they said to themselves with humble pride. “His hand is ever guiding us. Whatever happens to us then must be of importance, and for the glory of God it should be recorded.” With this thought in mind, Governor

William Bradford of Plymouth, the “Father of Bradford, American History," wrote his History of Plym

outh Plantation, “in a plaine stile,” as he says, and “with singuler regard unto ye simple trueth in all things." He tells about the struggles and sufferings of his people in the Old World, about that famous scene in Holland when “their Revēļ pastor falling downe on his knees, (and they all with him,) with watri cheeks comended them with most fervent praiers to the Lord and his blessing. And then with mutuall imbrases and many tears, they tooke their l'eaves one of an other; which proved to be ye last leave to many of them.” Governor Bradford could picture well such a scene as this, and he could also write spicily of the lordly saltmaker who came among them. “He could not doe anything but boil salt in pans,” says the Governor, “and yet would make them yt were joynd with him beleeve there was so great misterie in it as was not easie to be attained, and made them doe many unnecessary things to blind their eys, till they discerned his sutltie.”

1590-1657.

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