Glance At Colonial And Revolutionary Literature
Literature At The Dawn Of The Century
Charles Brockden Brown
Washington Irving And The Knickerbocker Group
William C. Bryant
James Fenimore Cooper
The Early Literary Magazines
New England Literature
Read More Articles About: American Literature
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Distinctive American literature has been said to have been born in "the era of good feeling" which characterized the peaceful administration of President Monroe (1817-1825) when, after the War of 1812, the fierce animosities of Federalists and Democrats had subsided. It owed much to the "beneficial influence of such a creator, critic and stimulating power as Channing." William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) was born at Newport, Rhode Island, graduated from Harvard, and was for a time a tutor in Richmond, Virginia. Chosen pastor of the Federal Street Church, Boston, in 1803, he held this position for the rest of his life. Though he never accepted the name Unitarian for himself, he really gave to the body so called the consciousness of its position. This was especially the result of his sermon preached at Baltimore in May, 1819, at the ordination of Jared Sparks, afterward noted for his American biographies. The controversy which ensued agitated all the churches of New England and gave impulse to later movements affecting literature and politics. Channing proclaimed the essential dignity of human nature, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men. He was a man of intense spirituality, and purity of life, yet resolute in following what he believed to be truth. He became an authority on political and literary as well as religious questions. His essay on "The Character of Napoleon Bonaparte" attracted attention abroad, and one on "Milton" added to his reputation. His literary work was confined to sermons, addresses and essays, all carefully prepared, and beautiful with moral enthusiasm.
The literary organ of the new movement was the "North American Review," a quarterly established in May, 1815. It grew out of a scheme for a bimonthly magazine by the Anthology Club, an association of young men of Boston and Cambridge, including George Ticknor, Edward Tyrrel Channing, John Quincy Adams, and Richard Henry Dana (1787-1879). Its first editor was William Tudor, and in its general scope it was modeled on the "Quarterly Review," of London. In its first number Dana criticized Hazlitt, and dared to praise Words-worth. Dana was a melodious and graceful poet, but wrote comparatively little. Between 1815 and 183o the "North American Review" was edited successively by Willard Phelps, Edward Everett and Jared Sparks. In 1817 it accepted and published the most famous poem—"Thanatopsis"—of William Cullen Bryant, then but a youth. In 183o Alexander H. Everett became editor, and for the six years that he was in charge Longfellow, Prescott, Ban-croft and other distinguished writers were among the contributors. Dr. John G. Palfrey was the next editor, and during his incumbency Ralph Waldo Emerson was a frequent contributor. James Russell Lowell and Charles Eliot Norton assumed control in 1864, and at that time its writers were the most eminent literary men in the country.