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13 January, 2012
Outlines of English and American Literature|
New England and the West
by Long, William J.
|In New England was still another group, who fortunately avoided the name of
any school. Sparks, Prescott, Ticknor, Story, Dana,--the very names
indicate how true was Boston to her old scholarly traditions. Meanwhile
Connecticut had its popular poet in James Gates Percival; Maine had its
versatile John Neal; and all the northern states were reading the "goody
goody" books of Peter Parley (Samuel Goodrich), the somewhat Byronic
Zophiel and other emotional poems of Maria Gowen Brooks (whom
Southey called "Maria del Occidente"), and the historical romances of
Catherine Sedgwick and Sarah Morton.
The West also (everything beyond the Alleghenies was then the West) made
its voice heard in the new literature. Timothy Flint wrote a very
interesting Journal from his missionary experiences, and a highly
colored romance from his expansive imagination; and James Hall drew some
vigorous and sympathetic pictures of frontier life in Letters from the
West, Tales of the Border and Wilderness and Warpath.
There are many other writers who won recognition before 1840, but those we
have named are more than enough; for each name is an invitation, and
invitations when numerous are simply bothersome. For example, the name of
Catherine Sedgwick invites us to read Hope Leslie and The
Linwoods, both excellent in their day, and still interesting as
examples of the novels that won fame less than a century ago; or the name
of Kennedy leads us to Swallow Barn (alluring title!) with its
bright pictures of Virginia life, and to Horseshoe Robinson, a crude
but stirring tale of Revolutionary heroism. The point in naming these minor
writers, once as popular as any present-day favorite, is simply this: that
the major authors, whom we ordinarily study as typical of the age, were not
isolated figures but part of a great romantic movement in literature; that
they were influenced on the one hand by European letters, and on the other
by a host of native writers who were all intent on reflecting the expanding
life of America in the early part of the nineteenth century.