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American Literature:
 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

 Poe

 New England Literature

 Channing

 Read More Articles About: American Literature

New England Literature

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

In the early part of the Nineteenth Century there was in New England a mingled religious and philosophical ferment. There had been some reaction against the rigid Calvinism of the Putitans even before the Revolution, but it was not until Channing arose that Unitarianism took definite shape, and gave rise to a prolonged controversy. It was assisted by influences, direct and indirect, from Germany and France. From these in turn came the New England Transcendentalism, the experiment of the Brook Farm community, the Concord school of philosophy, the Cambridge group of scholars, wits, poets, and romancers, that brilliant era which justified Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes in declaring Boston "the hub of the universe." It should not be a matter of surprise that New England's literary awakening was due to religious philosophy, for that was precisely the case with the German revival of the latter part of the Eighteenth Century, to which this American revival was much indebted. The philosophy of Kant, Fichte and Schelling found its way to New England as well as Old England and France, and in each country underwent modifications corresponding to its previous intellectual condition. But furthermore the thinkers and writers of Boston and Cambridge had a unique ancestry of ministers and scholars. As Emerson has phrased it, "Man is a quotation of all his ancestors." Emerson's own lineage is a striking illustration in point. Most of his male ancestors in direct line had been Congregational ministers in Eastern Massachusetts, and a maternal ancestor, Rev. Peter Bulkley, had been the first pastor of Concord. Nearly 50 per cent of Harvard's alumni became ministers and cultivated style in their discourses. Even the poets and prose-writers who succeeded this prophetic generation of pulpit orators, though they did not enter the same career, did turn to its kindred institution, the school or college. Amos Bronson Alcott, the patriarch of Concord philosophers, was a schoolmaster of the tribe satirized by Irving in Ichabod Crane. Margaret Fuller, who became Marchioness D'Ossoli, Lydia Maria Child, Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney, and many more, were teachers.

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