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EDITED BY Carl Van Doren, John Erskine,
Stuart P. Sherman, William PeterfieJd Trent


The Cambridge History

American Literature

Edited by



Three centuries of America's life
and culture are reflected in this
splendid survey of her literature.
Hailed upon its original publication
as the most comprehensive record of
our national literature, this work
stands as the preeminent source of
authoritative information on Ameri-
can writers, renowned and obscure,
from the Colonial period to the
twentieth century. Here are fasci-
nating introductions to the writings
of travellers, explorers, and histori-
ans of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries ; to the Puritan Divines and
the philosophers; to the Colonial
newspapers and magazines; to the
poets, essayists, dramatists, novelists;
to political writers, economists, hu-
morists, religious writers, and so on,
in each period of our national de-
velopment down to our own day.

Sixty-four eminent American schol-
ars have contributed to this great
work. Their notable appraisals of
American writers in every field prove

(Continued on back flap)


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Cambridge History of

American Literature

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Volume I

Colonial and Revolutionary Literature
Early National Literature: Part I

The Cambridge History


American Literature

Edited by
William Peterfield Trent

John Erskine

Stuart P. Sherman

Carl Van Doren

In Three Volumes

Colonial and Revolutionary Literature
Early National Literature: Part I

New York


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photo-
copying, recording or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission in writing
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IT was a hard saying of a Spanish aphorist of the seventeenth
century that "to equal a predecessor one must have twice
his worth." We should deprecate the application of that
standard to The Cambridge History of American Literature,
yet we are not without hope that the work, of which we here
present the first volume, will be found to mark some progress
in the right direction. We would call attention to the following
as perhaps its chief distinctive features : (i) It is on a larger
scale than any of its predecessors which have carried the story
from colonial times to the present generation; (2) It is the
first history of American literature composed with the col-
laboration of a numerous body of scholars from every section
of the United States and from Canada; (3) It will provide
for the first time an extensive bibliography for all periods and
subjects treated; (4) It will be a survey of the life of the
American people as expressed in their writings rather than a
history of belles-lettres alone. The significance of these features
may be emphasized by some reference to the characteristic
merits and defects of previous works in this field, to which we
are under obligations too extensive for detailed mention.

The earliest and the latest historians of a literature have
great advantages: the earliest, that he has no predecessors;
the latest, that he has many. It is a pleasure to remember
Samuel L. Knapp, who in the preface to his Lectures on American
Literature, published in 1829, easily justified the publication
of that interesting and patriotic overture: "We have very
good histories narrative, political, military, and constitutional ;
but I know none, as yet, that can be called literary meaning
by the term, a history of our literature, and of our literary
men." 'You are aware, " he continues, "that it has been said
by foreigners, and often repeated, that there was no such
thing as American literature ; that it would be vain for anyone


Iv Preface

to seek for proofs of taste, mind, or information, worth
possessing, in our early records ; and some of our citizens, who
have never examined these matters, have rested so quietly
after these declarations, or so fondly denied them, that the
bold asserters of these libels have gained confidence in taunt-
ingly repeating them. The great epoch in our history the
revolution of 1775 seemed sufficient, alone, to many of the
present generation, to give us, as a people, all the celebrity and
rank, among the nations of the earth, we ought to aspire to,
without taking the trouble to go back to the previous ages of
heroick virtue and gigantick labours. Many of the present
generation are willing to think that our ancestors were a
pious and persevering race of men, who really did possess
some strength of character, but, without further reflection,
they are ready to allow that a few pages are ' ample room and
Verge enough' to trace their character and their history together :
I have ventured to think differently"; and the editors of the
present work are at this point in accord with Knapp.

Knapp, however, illustrates a temptation which has beset
investigators of American literature from his day to ours,
namely, the temptation to relinquish the unremunerative
project of adequate scholarly publication and to compensate
oneself by producing a text-book adapted to the means and the
minds of school-boys. "My plan, " he says, in a passage which
throws an illuminating beam down the whole pathway of
American literary scholarship "My plan when I commenced
my researches was an extensive one, and I gathered copious
materials to carry it into effect. For several years past I have
had access to libraries rich in American literature; but when I
sat down to work up the mass I had collected, the thought
suggested itself to my mind, that no adequate compensation
could ever be reasonably expected for my pains. . . . Still I
could not be persuaded to relinquish altogether my design,
and I therefore set about abridging my outlines, dispensing
with many of my remarks, and giving up many elaborate
finishings I had promised myself to make in the course of my
work. And another thought struck me most forcibly, that a
heavy publication would not be readily within the reach of all
classes of youth in our country, but that a single volume of
common size, in a cheap edition, might find its vay into some of

Preface v

our schools, and be of service in giving our children a wish to
pursue the subject of our literary history as they advanced in
years and knowledge." The philosophic observer may here
remark that our historian, like his innumerable successors,
follows the way of all flesh in that when he has abandoned his
ideal immediately there bolts into his mind an excellent reason
for abandoning it.

A second temptation of the American historian, which
appeared long before Knapp and persisted long after
him, is to magnify the achievements of one's own parish
at the expense of the rest of the country. In Governor
Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation there is hardly a
trace of inflation; throughout that grave and noble narrative
the Governor cleaves to his purpose to write "in a plain style,
with singular regard unto the simple truth in all things."
But in Cotton Mather one finds already a local pride that looks
disdainfully upon the neighbour colonies and deigns only to
compare the New England worthies with the prophets and
apostles of Palestine. In the more temperate passages of the
Magnolia Chris ti Americana he cultivates the just self-esteem
of his section with considerations like these : "I will make no
odious comparisons between Harvard College and other
universities for the proportion of worthy men therein educated;
but New England, compared with other parts of America,
may certainly boast of having brought forth very many emi-
nent men, in proportion more than any of them; and of
Harvard College (herein truly a Sion College) it may be said,
this and that man were bred there; of whom not the least was
Mr. Thomas Shepard." The local pride, more or less justifi-
able, which renders tumid the periods of this energetic old
Puritan, was a useful passion at a time when literature was
obliged to develop independently in widely separated colonies.
It is a useful passion still in a country of a hundred million
inhabitants separated by such spatial and spiritual intervals
as lie between Boston, New York, Richmond, Chicago, New
Orleans, and San Francisco. It has stimulated the production
of our innumerable ' ' local-colorists " in poetry and prose fiction.
It underlies many entertaining books and articles on the New
England School, the Knickerbocker School, the Southern
School, the Hoosier School, and the rest; but it is not conducive

vi Preface

to the production of a quite unbiassed history of American

Many of our historians who escaped from the colonial or
provincial illusion succumbed, especially in the period before
the Civil War, to the temptation of national pride. There
was much provocation and incitement both at home and
abroad. Transatlantic critics enquired tauntingly, " Who
reads an American book?" and challenged the American
authors to show reasons why sentence of death should not be
pronounced against them. It no longer sufficed to say with the
colonial divines of New England: We have created in the
wilderness of the western world a commonwealth for Christ,
a spiritual New Jerusalem. It no longer served to declare
with the Revolutionary Fathers: We have established the
political Promised Land, and have set up the lamp of Liberty
for a beacon light to all nations. What was demanded early in
the nineteenth century of the adolescent nation was an indige-
nous independent national literature. The wrong answer to
this demand was given by the enthusiastic patriots who,
after the Revolution, advocated the abrogation of English in
"these States" and the invention and adoption of a new
language; or compiled, to silence their skeptical English cou-
sins, pretentious anthologies of all our village elegists ; or offered
Dwight's Conquest of Canaan as an equivalent to Milton's
Paradise Lost, Barlow's Columbiad as an imposing national
epic, Lathrop's poem on the sachem of the Narragansett Indians,
The Speech of Caunonicus, as heralding the dawn of a genuinely
native school of poetry. Our pioneer historian Knapp dis-
creetly hesitates to say "whether she of 'the banks of the
Connecticut' [Mrs. Sigourney], whose strains of poetic thought
are as pure and lovely as the adjacent wave touched by the
sanctity of a Sabbath's morn, be equal to her tuneful sisters,
Hemans and Landon, on the other side of the water." But
Knapp, who is a forward-looking man, anticipates the spirit
of most of our ante-bellum critics and historians by doing what
in him lies to give to his fellow countrymen a profound bias in
favor of the autochthonous. "What are the Tibers and
Scamanders, " he cries, "measured by the Missouri and the
Amazon? Or what the loveliness of Illysus or Avon by the
Connecticut or the Potomack? Whenever a nation wills it,

Preface vii

prodigies are born. Admiration and patronage create myriads
who struggle for the mastery, and for the olympick crown.
Encourage the game and the victors will come." In some
measure, no doubt, Rip Van Winkle, the Indian romances of
Cooper, the philosophy of Emerson and Thoreau, the novels
of Hawthorne, Longfellow's Evangeline, Miles Standish, and
Hiawatha were responses to this encouragement of the game
to the nation's willing an expression of its new American

Against the full rigour of the demand for an independent
national literature there was, by the middle of the last century, a
wholesome reaction represented in Rufus Wilmot Griswold's
introduction to his Prose Writers of America (1847). Since
this old demand is still reasserted from year to year, it may not
be amiss to reprint here Griswold's admirable reply to it.
"Some critics in England, " he says, "expect us who write the
same language, profess the same religion, and have in our
intellectual firmament the same Bacon, Sidney, and Locke,
the same Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton, to differ more
from themselves than they differ from the Greeks and Romans,
or from any of the moderns. This would be harmless, but
that many persons in this country, whose thinking is done
abroad, are constantly echoing it, and wasting their little pro-
ductive energy in efforts to comply with the demand. But
there never was and never can be an exclusively national
literature. All nations are indebted to each other and to
preceding ages for the means of advancement; and our own,
which from our various origin may be said to be at the conflu-
ence of the rivers of time which have swept through every
country, can with less justice than any other be looked to for
mere novelties in art and fancy. The question between us
and other nations is not who shall most completely discard
the Past, but who shall make best use of it. It cannot be
studied too deeply, for unless men know what has been ac-
complished, they will exhaust themselves in unfolding enigmas
that have been solved, or in pursuing ignes fatui that have
already disappointed a thousand expectations." With more
intelligent conceptions than many of his predecessors possessed
of what constitutes a national literature, Griswold was still
a proud nationalist. His valuable collections of American

viii Preface

prose and poetry are mainly illustrative of writers who flourished
in the first half of the nineteenth century. Of the work of
that period he forms in general estimates tempered by his
confidence that something better is yet to come.

In 1855 something better came in the shape of the two large
volumes of the Cyclopadia of American Literature by Evert A.
and George L. Duyckinck, a work of extensive research, de-
signed, in the words of the authors, "to bring together as far
as possible in one book convenient for perusal and reference,
memorials and records of the writers of the country and their
works, from the earliest period to the present day." Here
for the first time were presented, in something like adequate
measure and proportion, materials for the study of our litera-
ture in what the compilers recognized as three great periods:
"the Colonial Era," "the Revolutionary Period," and "the
Present Century." Disclaiming any severe critical preten-
tions, they exhibited the breadth of their historical interests
in the declaration that "it is important to know what books
have been produced, and by whom; whatever the books may
have been or whoever the men." A similar breadth of his-
torical interest animated Moses Coit Tyler in the production
of his notable and still unsurpassed history of American
literature from 1607 to 1783. Free from the embarrassment
of the early historians who had advanced to their task with a
somewhat inflamed consciousness that they were defending the
Stars and Stripes, Tyler had still a clear sense that he was
engaged upon a great and rewarding enterprise. In his open-
ing sentence he strikes the note which every historian of a
national literature should have in his ear: "There is but one
thing more interesting than the intellectual history of a man,
and that is the intellectual history of a nation." If Tyler
had been able to carry his narrative down to the present day
in the spirit and manner of the portion of his work which he
brought to completion, the need for our present undertaking
would have been less obvious.

Unhappily the next noteworthy historian, Charles F. Rich-
ardson, whose American Literature 1607-1885 was published
in 1 886-8, is rather a protest against the work of Tyler than a
supplement to it. His leading purpose is not historical enquiry
and elucidation but aesthetic judgment. "We have had

Preface ix

enough description," he declares; ' we want analysis." He
opens his account with a definition of literature well framed to
exclude from his consideration most of the important writing
in America before the nineteenth century: "Literature is the
written record of valuable thought, having other than merely
practical purpose." Under this definition he is justified in
asserting that "if a certain space be devoted to the colonial
literature of America, then, on the same perspective ten times
as much is needed to bring the record down to our day. . . .
I believe that the time has come for the student to consider
American literature as calmly as he would consider the litera-
ture of another country." Under this calm consideration the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries dwindle into a sombre
little vestibule before the wide edifice which contains the
writers who flourished through the middle years of the nine-
teenth century Hawthorne is the latest novelist who receives
extended notice. Richardson was not immune from the
influence of the Zeitgeist of the eighties. What he does is,
in short, to create the idea of what we may call the American
Victorian Age, before and after which there is little that merits
the attention of the dispassionate critic.

Professor Barrett Wendell in his interesting Literary History
of America, published in 1900, presents with even sharper
emphasis than Professor Richardson his similar conception of a
closed "classical" period existing through the middle years of
the last century. As we view the Americans from the begin-
ning of their history, "we can instantly perceive, " he declares,
"that only the last, the Americans of the nineteenth century,
have produced literature of any importance. The novelists
and the historians, the essayists and the poets, whose names
come to mind when American literature is mentioned, have all
flourished since 1800." This is the somewhat restricted point
of view established in the Introduction. In the composition
of the history, the survey of the field, one suspects, was still
further restricted by the descent upon Professor Wendell of the
spirit of Cotton Mather; for the total effect of the narrative
is an impression that the literary history of America is essenti-
ally a history of the birth, the renaissance, and the decline of
New England.

The Cambridge History marks a partial reversion to the

x Preface

position of the earlier historians who looked into the past
with interest and into the present and future not without hope.
Following in general the plan of The Cambridge History of
English Literature and of our encyclopaedic Duyckinck, we
have made it our primary purpose to represent as adequately
as space allowed all the periods of our national past, and to
restore the memory of writers who are neglected because they
are forgotten and because they are no longer sympathetically
understood. To write the intellectual history of America
from the modern aesthetic standpoint is to miss precisely what
makes it significant among modern literatures, namely, that
for two centuries the main energy of Americans went into
exploration, settlement, labour for subsistence, religion, and
statecraft. For nearly two hundred years a people with the
same traditions and with the same intellectual capacities as
their contemporaries across the sea found themselves obliged
to dispense for the most part with art for art. But the long
inhibition and belated expansion of their purely aesthetic
impulses, unfavourable as it was to the development of poetry
and fiction, was no serious handicap to the production of a
prose competently recording their practical activities and ex-
pressing their moral, religious, and political ideas. Acquaint-
ance with the written record of these two centuries should
enlarge the spirit of American literary criticism and render it
more energetic and masculine. To a taste and judgment
unperverted by the current finical and transitory definitions
of literature, there is something absurd in a critical sifting
process which preserves a Restoration comedy and rejects
Bradford's History of Plymouth; which prizes a didactic poem
in the heroic couplets and despises the work of Jonathan Ed-
wards; which relishes the letters of some third rate English
poet, but finds no gusto in the correspondence of Benjamin
Franklin; which sends a student to the novels of William
Godwin, but never thinks of directing him to The Federalist.
When our American criticism treats its facile novelists and
poetasters as they deserve, and heartily recognizes and values
the works in which the maturest and wisest Americans have
expressed themselves, its references to the period prior to
1800 will be less apologetic.

For the nineteenth century, too, without neglecting the

Preface xi

writers of imaginative literature who have been most empha-
sized by our literary historians, we have attempted to do
a new service by giving a place in our record to departments of
literature, such as travels, oratory, memoirs, which have lain
somewhat out of the main tradition of literary history but
which may be, as they are in the "United States, highly signifi-
cant of the national temper. In this task we have been much
aided by the increasing number of monographs produced
within the past quarter of a century upon aspects of American
literary history. Such collections as A Library oj American
Literature, edited by Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen
M. Hutchinson in 1889-90, and the Library of Southern Litera-
ture (1908-13), compiled by various Southern men of letters,
have been indispensable.

In the actual preparation of the work we have been
indebted for many details to the unsparing assistance of
Mrs Carl Van Doren, who has also compiled the index.

i June, 1917- W. P. T.

J. E.
S. P. S.
C. V. D,

The bibliography mentioned in the above preface is not
included in this edition.





By GEORGE PARKER WINSHIP, A.M., Librarian of the
Harry Elkins Widener Collection, Harvard University.


The Earliest Adventurers. Captain John Smith. Newfoundland. Will-
iam Vaughn. Robert Hayman. Robert Sedgwick. Pamphlets of
the Land Companies. Narratives of Indian Captivities. Airs. Row-
landson. John Gyles. Jonathan Dickinson. The Quakers. Alice
Curwen. George Keith. Sarah Knight. William Byrd. Dr.
Alexander Hamilton. ......... I


By JOHN SPENCER BASSETT, Ph.D., Professor of American
History in Smith College.

Captain John Smith. His Veracity. Early New England Historians.
"Mourt's" Relation. Edward Winslow. William Bradford. John
Winthrop. Edward Johnson. Nathaniel Morton. Later New Eng-
land Historians. Narratives of the Indian Wars. Captain John
Mason. Rev. William Hubbard. Benjamin Church. Samuel Pen-
hallow. Daniel Gookin. Cadwallader Golden. John Lawson.
Political Histories. Robert Beverley. Rev. William Stith. Will-
iam Smith. Samuel Smith. Rev. Thomas Prince. Thomas Hutch-
inson ............14



By VERNON Louis PARRINGTON, A.M., Professor of
English in the University of Washington.

Puritans and Politics. Puritanism as Jacobean Radicalism. Types of
Church Polity Corresponding to Types of State Polity Monarchical,
Aristocratic, Democratic. Early New England Congregationalism
a Compromise between Aristocracy and Democracy. The Emigrants:
the Theocratic Group John Cotton, Nathaniel Ward, John Eliot; the
Democratic Group Roger Williams, Thomas Hooker. The Second

Online LibraryWilliam Peterfield TrentThe Cambridge history of American literature → online text (page 1 of 144)