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gained the famous Boylston prize, offered annually by Harvard College for the best dissertations on questions in medical science.

In 1857, the publishers, Phillips, Sampson and Co. decided to establish a new magazine. “Will you be its editor ?" they asked Lowell; and he finally replied.



I only wish a hut of stone

(A very plain brown stone will do)."

Yes, if Dr. Holmes can be the first contributor to be The Atlan- engaged.” Dr. Holmes became not only the tic, 1857.

first contributor, but he named the magazine The Atlantic. Some twenty-five years earlier he had

The Auto


written two papers called The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. He now continued them, beginning, "I was just going to say when I was interrupted.” crat of the The scene is laid at the table of a boarding- Table, house. The Autocrat carries on a brilliant 1867. monologue, broken from time to time by a word from the lady who asks for original poetry for her album, from the theological student, the old gentleman, or the young man John; or by an anxious look on the face of the landlady, to whom some paradoxical speech of the Autocrat's suggests insanity and the loss of a boarder. Howells calls The Autocrat a “dramatized essay;” but, whatever it is called, it will bear many readings and seem brighter and fresher at each one. Among the paragraphs of The Autocrat and The Professor, which followed, a number of poems are interspersed. Three of them are The One-Hoss Shay, with its irrefutable logic; Contentment, with its modest

I only wish a hut of stone

(A very plain brown stone will do), – and the exquisite lines of The Chambered Nautilus, with its superb appeal,

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul ! Holmes was also a novelist; for he produced Elsie Venner and two other works of fiction, all showing power of characterization, and all finding their chief interest in some study of the mysterious con- Venner, nection between mind and body. “Medicated novels,” a friend mischievously called them, somewhat to the wrath of their author.

Nearly half of Holmes's poems were written for some special occasion, — some anniversary, or class Occasional reunion, or reception of a famous guest. At verse.



Holmes's charm.

such times he was at his best ; for the demand for occasional verse, which freezes most wielders of the pen, was to him a breath of inspiration.

Holmes's wit is ever fascinating, his pathos is ever sincere; but the charm that will perhaps be even more

powerful to hold his readers is his delightful

personality, which is revealed in every sentence. A book of his never stands alone, for the beloved Autocrat is ever peeping through it. His tender heart first feels the pathos that he reveals to us; his kindly spirit is behind every flash of wit, every swordthrust of satire.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
James Russell Lowell
Oliver Wendell Holmes

SUMMARY The Cambridge Poets were all descendants of cultivated New England families and grew up among intellectual surroundings. All held professorships at Harvard.

Longfellow graduated at Bowdoin, and became professor of modern languages, first at Bowdoin and then at Harvard. Until 1839, when he published Voices of the Night, he wrote chiefly prose.

The Skeleton in Armor established his reputation as a poet. His longest narrative poems are Evangeline, The Courtship of Miles Standish, and The Song of Hiawatha. His translations are both literal and poetic, and were of great value to the young American literature. He can beautify his work with figures, or he can make a poem with the simplest materials. His sympathy was the keynote of much of his lyric verse. He introduced a Finnish metre, and was the first to succeed in English hexameter.

Lowell's serious work began in 1848, when he brought out The Vision of Sir Launfal, A Fable for Critics, and The Biglow Papers. He succeeded Longfellow at Harvard, edited The Atlantic, wrote many magazine articles and addresses, was foreign minister to Spain and England. His writings show broad scholarship, love of nature, and much humor. He was scholar, wit, critic, reformer, and poet.

Holmes's Old Ironsides was his first prominent poem. He studied medicine, became professor of anatomy, first at Dartmouth, then at Harvard. In 1857 he named The Atlantic, and wrote The Autocrat for it. He wrote three novels, and was especially successful as an occasional poet.




I. EARLIER YEARS, 1815-1865


35. Historical writing. In the midst of this composition of poetry and novels and philosophy, the early New England tendency toward the historical had by no means disappeared. Here, two opposing influences were at work. On the one hand, the Spanish studies of Irving, the History of Spanish Literature of Ticknor, and the translations of Longfellow, had turned men's minds toward European countries. On the other hand, the War of 1812 and the rapid development of the United States had stimulated patriotism. Moreover, with the passing of the heroes of the Revolution, Americans began to realize that the childhood of the United States had vanished, that the youthful country had already a history to be recorded. The proper method of historical composition was pointed out to his country. men by Jared Sparks, first a professor and then president of Harvard College.

Before the days of Sparks, few writers had felt the responsibility of historical writing. It was enough if a

history was made interesting and romantic; Sparks, there was little attempt to make it accurate. 1789-1866.

Even if original sources were at hand and the author took pains to examine them, he paid little attention to any study of causes or results, he made


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