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American Literature

Brownson’s Quarterly Review, July, 1847

ART. V. — The Literary World. A Gazette for Authors, Readers, and Publishers. CHARLES F. HOFFMAN, Editor. New York:   Osgood & Co.   1847.   Weekly.   Nos. 1-15.

THIS is the title of a literary journal and advertiser recently commenced under the auspices of two or three very respectable publishing houses in New York, and which has thus far been conducted with a spirit, talent, and good-sense worthy of very general commendation. We do not always accept its literary or other doctrines, but we have found in it a much higher order of criticism, more just literary appreciation, and more freedom and independence in the expression of its judgments, than we have been accustomed to look for in journals of its class. There may possibly be some danger of its yielding loo much to the tastes or interests of the houses which established it; but if it preserve the independence with regard to their publications which it has thus far shown in its reviews of those of other establishments, and if sustained in doing so, it will go far towards supplying a want many have felt, and prove itself not unserviceable to the cause of American letters.

We perceive, by the announcement in the fifteenth number, that the journal has passed into the hands of a new editor, Mr. Charles F. Hoffman, of New York. We know little ourselves of Mr. Hoffman, having never to our knowledge read any of his writings, his works not coming particularly within our department; but he holds a very respectable rank among our popular authors, and we hear him spoken of as a man of ability, learning, and fine literary taste. We have no reason to suppose the journal will not gain rather than lose in spirit, interest, and usefulness by its change of editors, although Mr. Hoffman's predecessor was an editor whose place is not easily made good.

The distinctive character of the Literary World is real or affected Americanism. It devotes its chief attention to American literature, and its aim seems to be to induce the public to give a decided preference to American authors, and to encourage especially the production and growth of a sound and healthy American literature. It therefore naturally suggests for our consideration the somewhat hackneyed subject of American literature, — a subject on which our readers must permit us to offer a few comments of our own.

Much is said and written about American literature. Some make extravagant boasts of the excellence to which it has already attained ; others make loud and long laments that it does not as yet even exist; others again are busy in devising ways and means of creating it, forcing its growth, or bringing it to maturity ; and a very voluminous, if not a very respectable, national literature is growing up among us, about the literature we are assumed to have or not to have, and the means of obtaining or perfecting national literature. All this is very well ; the American people are a very enlightened people, and their authors far in advance of those of any other nation, as it is patriotic to believe ; but it seems to us, that on this subject of national literature, as on literature in general, there is much loose thinking, if thinking it can be called, and no little want of clear and well-defined views. It is hard to say what is the precise meaning our countrymen attach to the word literature, in what they suppose its desirableness to consist, what ends it serves or ought to serve, or wherein it contributes to the glory of nations or of the race. These are important points, and on these, we are sorry to say, our authors leave us in the dark. We have consulted the best literary authorities of the country, but no light dawns to relieve our darkness, no clear, distinct, definite answers are obtained. This is bad, and makes us suspect that with us very few who talk of literature have any real meaning. It is easy to indulge in vague and general declamation ; it is easy to seize upon a few loose and indefinite terms, and to have the appearance of talking largely, eloquently, wisely, profoundly, when in fact we are saying nothing at all. Before any thing more is said, it would be a real service to many persons, and to ourselves in particular, if our authors would define their terms, tell us precisely what they understand by literature, and for what it is necessary, useful, or desirable.

For ourselves, there are a few things we understand. We understand that human existence has a purpose, a high and solemn purpose ; that man is placed here by his Maker to gain an end, and is morally bound to seek that end at every moment, in all things, and in every act of his life, however great, however little. We understand, also, that it is necessary that we know this end, that we be placed on our guard against every thing- that would divert us from it, and exhorted, stimulated, aided to gain it; and, furthermore, that whatever serves this purpose, whether oral teachings and admonitions, or books, essays, scientific treatises, poetic chants, scenic representations, music, architecture, pictures, statues, are for that reason valuable, desirable. But beyond this we see nothing useful, nothing not undesirable, vain, or hurtful, the offspring of the world, the flesh, or the devil.

Now, we apprehend that letters, only in so far as they serve, and for the simple reason that they serve, this purpose, are not what our people generally mean, or fancy they mean, by literature. Letters in this sense are moral, religious, social, political, refer to man's duties in some one or all of the relations in which he is placed by his Maker, and tend by all their influence to render all particular duties subordinate, and their discharge subservient to the one great and all-absorbing duty of loving God above all things, with the whole heart and soul, and our neighbours as ourselves, in him and for him.    But, if we are not much mistaken, what the world means, or fancies  it means, by literature is something which is independent of all moral, religious, or social doctrines, and may  be read with equal pleasure and profit by all men, whatever their religion, their ethical code, or their political system.    It is something which inculcates no doctrine, instructs man in no particular truth, and urges to the performance of no particular duty.    Back and independent of all  that relates to man's belief and duties as a moral, religious, and social being, it is assumed (hat there is a broad and rich field for the man of letters, and the culture of that broad and rich field yields literature proper.    But our difficulty in understanding what is meant by this arises from the   fact   that   this   supposed   field   is   purely   imaginary,   an " airy nothing," to which even the poet, with u his eye in a fine  frenzy  rolling,"   cannot give   " a  local  habitation and  a name."    A general literature, which teaches nothing special, is as unreal as man without men, the race without individuals. The genus, for us human beings at least, is real only in the species; what has no specific meaning has for us no meaning at all, and is as if it were not.

Books which mean nothing are nothing, and are to be treated as nothing. But books which do mean something necessarily mean something specifically related to man as a moral, religious, or social being ; and to mean any thing valuable, their meaning must either throw some light on man's duties under some one or all of these relations, or exhort, stimulate, or aid him to perform them. Turn the matter over, disguise it, as you will, use all the big words in the language, be as profound, as eloquent, as poetical as you can, and this is the simple, sober truth. Man is a being whose existence has a purpose, whose life has duties, and his whole business is to learn the former and fulfil the latter. He has no time, no strength, no right to consult any thing else, and whatever is not related to the one or the other has and can have no significance for him.
Grant this, — and we envy no man who will deny it, — and literature can be looked upon only as a subordinate affair. It is not a question of primary importance, and there may be circumstances in which it is of no importance at all. In itself considered, literature is not necessarily a good or an evil ; but is the one or the other only according to its quality, and the purpose it is made to serve. For its own sake, it is no more commendable or desirable than any other worldly possession. The common notions on this head, which revived with the Revival of Letters, as it is called, in the fifteenth century, are pure heathenism ; and these notions, we are sorry to say, are not confined to the Protestant world, which may claim them by right of inheritance. Even some Catholics, without reflection, give in to them, and we have been not a little scandalized by M. Audin's History of Luther > and especially by some extracts we have seen from his Life of Leo the Tenth. No Protestant could surpass him in his depreciation of the Middle Ages, or in his ecstasies over the Renaissance. We doubt not the purity of his motives, or the sincerity of his zeal; but to undertake to gain a momentary triumph to Catholicity by a principle of defence which was disapproved yesterday, and must be abandoned to-morrow, is as unwise as it is sad. The Church speaks through all ages in the same severe and inflexible language, and never turns aside from her direct course, either at the opposition of enemies or the solicitations of friends. The u classical" infatuation of even Churchmen in the fifteenth century, and the first half of the sixteenth, is excusable, for they had in spite of it splendid attainments, noble qualities, and solid virtues ; but to make that infatuation itself a virtue, and to set it forth as one of the glories of the Church as the Spouse of God and Mother of the faithful, is to sufFer one's self to be overpowered by the spirit of our times, and to forget for a moment that faith and piety are not to be measured by their relation to literature and art.
To the old heathen philosophers, — men who had cast oft" their national superstitions, but who had only a feeble belief even in the existence of God, and no abiding hope of an hereafter, weary of the world, disgusted with its vanities, and too wise to be seduced by its honors and distinctions, — literature, what they termed philosophy, was, no doubt, useful as a relief from the burdens of existence, as a retreat and a solace. One easily feels, while reading, Cicero's eloquent discoursing in praise of philosophy. The great object with these old philosophers, whatever the school to which they belonged, was to devise the means of making life as tolerable as it could be. Life was empty. It came, no one could say whence or wherefore, and its issue was into night and eternal silence. It was the part of wisdom to seize the present moment, and to make the most of it. Of all the sources of consolation open to them, especially in old age, the most respectable and efficacious was the tranquil pursuit of letters. This removed them from the cares and vexations of the world, the turmoils of the camp, and the intrigues and rivalries of the court, soothed their passions, protected them from perturbation, and secured them a measure of repose, of serenity, and peace. To men in our day whose want of faith and hope is the same as theirs, letters are, no doubt, the readiest and safest resort. We can easily understand that men who have no faith in God as the author of grace, who have lost all hope of a future life, in the Christian sense, who have come to regard heaven and hell as mere fables which served to amuse the infancy of the race, and to whom life appears once more what it did to the old pagan philosopher, should feel existence a burden, and the need of something to fill up the vacancy in their hearts, to absorb the activity of their minds, to tranquillize their passions, and relieve, in some degree, the gloom which to them necessarily settles over man and the universe. To them, as to the saint, though for a different reason, the world with all its interests is vanity, yea, less than vanity and nothing. Darkness is behind them ; darkness is before them. There is nothing to live for. Existence has no end or aim, and, if relief is not obtained from some source, it becomes too literally intolerable, and men with their own hands, to a fearful extent, cut its thread. Some plunge into the dissipation of the senses ; others into that of the sentiments, and annoy us with their Utopian dreams of moral or social meliorations ; and others, perhaps the least foolish, betake themselves to the quiet and tranquillizing pursuits of literature.

It is as a relief, as a solace, that literature is mainly recommended by the moderns, as well as the ancients, and it is to wants like these we have indicated that what is reckoned as literature, from the pagan classics down to the last new novel, addresses itself. It takes and studies to adapt itself to the old heathen view of life. This undeniable fact is not unworthy of being meditated, and if meditated might help us to form a tolerably correct estimate of what the world calls literature, and of the importance of devoting ourselves to its cultivation. Are we required to reproduce heathenism, and to provide for the old pagan views of life, the old pagan state and temper of individuals and society ? Are we, like the old pagan philosopher, to think only of a solace  for the cares and burdens of existence, and to confine ourselves to those resources only which were open to him ? Has not the Gospel brought life and immortality to light, thrown a new coloring over all things, dissipated the darkness behind us and the darkness before us, and opened to us resources from the burdens of existence, the vanities of the world, the vacancy of thought, the listlessness of effort, the perturbations of the passions, and the solicitations of the senses, of which he knew nothing, and which for his blindness, unbelief, and despair had no existence ?

We live under the Gospel, and we insist upon our right to try all things by the Christian standard. Under the Gospel, no man has the need or the right to resort even to letters as a relief from the burdens of existence, a solace for the troubles and afflictions of life, or as a means of personal enjoyment. The pleasures of intellect, of taste, and imagination may be less hurtful than those of the senses, but there is no more virtue in seeking the one than there is in seeking the other ; and though he who seeks the one may make a better calculation than he who devotes himself to the other, neither can claim to have risen to the lowest degree of Christian morality. Hence, literature, either in author or reader, can never be sought by a Christian for its own sake, nor for the sake of the pleasures of wit, taste, and imagination it may bring. No Christian man can esteem it or cultivate it for the old heathenish reasons still too often urged, and a literature for those reasons, and adapted to meet them, he not only does not desire, but looks upon as a positive evil. Such literature, and he includes within it the most admired productions of ancient and modern genius, however highly he may appreciate them under the relation of form, he believes to be incapable of contributing any thing good, in the Christian sense, either to individuals or to the world at large ; he even believes it likely to do great harm, for it takes a false view of life, and in all cases springs from man's forgetfulness of his real relations to his Maker, of the real purpose of his being, or from a revolt against the law imposed on him by his Sovereign for his governance, and the desire to find a resource independent of that appointed, in his infinite wisdom, by our good Father, and which it is against our true interest we should find or resort to.
Nevertheless, though in the popular sense, if sense it be, we have and can have no respect for mere literature, there is a sense — a sense we began by hinting — in which we prize letters,   and   can   go  as   far  as   any  of our   countrymen   in praising or cultivating them.    We are by no means among those who hold that a man, unable to read, is necessarily deprived of all good ; nor are we in the habit of estimating the intelligence  and virtue of a community by the number of its members who have or who have not mastered the spelling-book.    There are blockheads who can read, write, and even cipher ; and of the amount of intelligence actually possessed by the great majority of those who have graduated  at our common schools, we should perhaps be  surprised, were we to inquire, to find how little has been acquired by their own reading.    The proportion of those having a good common education, who are able to read with profit a serious book on any important subject, is much smaller than is commonly imagined. There is, unhappily, amongst us no little senseless cant on the subject of education, which we owe in no small degree to certain English, Scotch, and French unbelievers, who were kind enough some years since to visit us for the benevolent purpose of enlightening the natives, or, as  George Combe, Esq., of Edinburgh, expressed it, in his opening lecture in this city on his favorite humbug, Phrenology, to "sow" among us " the seeds of civilization."    The principal of these were Frances Wright, Owen, father and son, R. L. Jennings, and William Phiquepal.   These felt sure, that, if they could once get a system of universal education established throughout the country, which should pass over religion in silence, and teach knowledge, they would soon be able to convert all our churches and meeting-houses into Halls of Science, and our people generally into Free Inquirers.    In furtherance of their plan, they organized among us a secret association, very much on the plan of the Carbonari in Europe.    How far the organization extended, and whether it yet subsists or not, we are unable to say, for our personal connection with it was short, and has long since ceased altogether ; but it might be not uninteresting to inquire how much of the cant about education and the irreligious direction education has received of late, and which so scandalizes the  Christian, are due  to its  influence.     However this may be, and however little we are disposed to give in to the nonsense which is constantly babbled about education, we still prize education, rightly understood, as highly as do any of our countrymen.    The question with us is of the quality before the quantity.    A bad education is worse than none, as error is always worse than simple ignorance.    But let the education be of the right sort, be that which instructs, prepares, and strengthens the pupil for the prompt and faithful discharge of all the duties which pertain to his state in life, and the more we have of it the better.
So of literature. Literature, in our sense of the term, is composed of works which instruct us in that which it is necessary for us to know in order to discharge, or the better to discharge, our duties as moral, religious, and social beings. Works which tend to divert us from these, which weaken the sense of their obligation, or give us false views of them, or false reasons for performing them, are bad, worse than none, though written with the genius of Byron, Moore, Goethe, Milton, Dante, or Shakspeare. Genius is respectable only when she plumes her wing at the cross, and her light dazzles to blind or to bewilder when not borrowed from the Source of light itself. No man, whose soul is not filled, whose whole being is not permeated, with the spirit of the Christian religion, can write even a spelling-book fit or safe to be used by a Christian people. But works written in exposition of the Christian fa ill), or of some one or all of our duties in any or all of our relations in life, and breathing the true Christian spirit; or works which tend to enlist our sensibilities, taste, imagination, and affections in the cause of truth and duty, though not in all cases, under all circumstances absolutely indispensable, are yet desirable, useful, and compose a literature honorable to the individuals or the nation creating, cultivating, or appreciating it.

Such a literature is, unquestionably, religious in its spirit, in its principles and tendencies ; but this is its recommendation ; for religion is not only the primary interest of mankind, but the sole interest, and includes in itself all subordinate interests, and what it does not include and identify with itself is no interest at all. Who says religion says every thing not sin or vanity. Yet this need frighten no one. A religious literature is no doubt grave and solemn, working the deep mines of thought, or plodding through piles of erudition ; but it is also light and cheerful, tender and joyous, giving full play to wit and fancy, taste and imagination, feeling and affection. It ranges through heaven and earth, and gathers from every region flowers to adorn its song or gladden its music. It demands,' indeed, the solemn purpose, the pure intention, the manly thought, and strong sense ; but it delights in smiles, eschews the dark and gloomy, the sour and morose, and decks even the tomb with garlands of fresh-blown roses.
But such a literature is not produced  with " malice prepense." ft is never produced when it is sought as the end, and we never show our wisdom in saying,— Go to, now, let us create a literature. On this point we must be permitted to quote a passage from an article on American Literature, which we wrote in 1838, as more likely to weigh with our countrymen generally than any thing we could write now.

" Moreover, we doubt whether we show our wisdom in making direct and conscious efforts to create an American literature. Literature cannot come before its time. We cannot obtain the oracle before the Pythoness feels the god. Men must see and feel the truth before they can utter it. There must be a necessity upon them before they will speak or write, at least before they will speak or write any thing worth remembering. Literature is never to be sought as an end. We cannot conceive any thing more ridiculous, than for the leading minds of a nation to set out consciously, gravely, deliberately, to produce a national literature. A real national literature is always the spontaneous expression of the national life. As is the nation, so will be its literature. Men, indeed, create it; not as an end, but as a means. It is never the direct object of their exertions, but a mere incident. Before they create it, they must feel a craving to do something to the accomplishment of which speaking and writing, poetry and eloquence, logic and philosophy, are necessary as means. Their souls must be swelling with great thoughts struggling for utterance, — haunted by visions of beauty they are burning to realize ; their hearts must be wedded to a great and noble cause they are ambitious to make prevail, a far-reaching truth they would set forth, a new moral, religious, or social principle they would bring out and make the basis of actual life, and to the success of which speech, the essay, the treatise, the song, are indispensably necessary, before they can create a national literature.
" We feel a deep and absorbing interest in this matter of American literature ; we would see American scholars in the highest and best sense of the term ; and we shall see them, for it is in the destiny of this country to produce them ; but they will come not because we seek them, and they will be produced not in consequence of any specific discipline we may prescribe. They will come when there is a work for them to do, and in consequence of the fact that the people are everywhere struggling to perform that work. How eloquently that man speaks! His words are fitly chosen ; his periods are well balanced; his metaphors are appropriate and striking; his tones are sweet and kindling ; for he is speaking on a subject in which his soul is absorbed ; he has a cause he pleads, an idea he would communicate, a truth he would make men feel, an end he would carry.    He is speaking out for truth, for justice, for liberty, for country, for God, for eternity ; and Humanity opens wide her ears, and her mighty heart listens. So must it be with all men who aspire to contribute to a national literature.

" The scholar must have an end, to which his scholarship serves as a means. Mr. Emerson and his friends seem to us to forget this. Forgetful ness of this is the reigning vice of Goethe and Carlyle. They bid the scholar make all things subsidiary to himself. He must be an artist, his sole end is to produce a work of art. He must scorn to create for a purpose, to compel his genius to serve, to work for an end beyond the work itself. All this which is designed to dignify art is false, and tends to render art impossible. Did Phidias create but for the purpose of creating a statue ? Was he not haunted by a vision of beauty which his soul burned to realize ? Had the old Italian masters no end apart from and above that of making pictures ? Did Homer sing merely that he might hear the sound of his own voice ? Did Herodotus and Thucydi-des write but for the sake of writing, and Demosthenes and Cicero speak but for the purpose of producing inimitable .specimens of art ? Never yet has there appeared a noble work of art which came not from the artist's attempt to gain an end separate from that of producing a work of art. Always does the artist seek to affect the minds or the hearts of his like, to move, persuade, convince, please, instruct, or ennoble. To this end he chants a poem, composes a melody, laughs in a comedy, weeps in a tragedy, gives us an oration, a treatise, a picture, a statue, a temple. In all the masterpieces of ancient and modern literature, we see the artist has been in earnest, a real man, filled with an idea, wedded to some great cause, ambitious to gain some end. Always has he found his inspiration in his cause, and his success may always be measured by the magnitude of that cause, and the ardor of his attachment to it." — Boston Quarterly Review, Vol. n. pp. 22 - 25.

There are a few turns of expression in this which we should now avoid, but the principle is sound, and applicable not merely to American literature, but to literature in general, if either is to have any significance. In writing, whatever the work, the end for which we write must always be above and beyond that of making a book, or a contribution to the literature of the nation or the world. The book, treatise, dissertation, essay, address, poem, must always be held as a means to an end, and be adopted because, time, place, and persons considered, it is the only, or at least the fittest, means of gaining it. The author must will the means only in willing the end ; and it must be the end, not the means, that moves him, fills his soul, captivates his heart, unlocks his thoughts, and compels him to write or sing. As men become filled with the strong desire of realizing ends to which literature directly or indirectly contributes, they will resort to it ; and as they become filled with a sense of their obligation to seek the true end, or to fulfil the real purpose, of life, they will, in proportion as there is occasion, produce, with more or less success, the kind of literature which is desirable, and the only kind which it is not better to be without.

The end to  be  sought in  literary effort is determined by God himself, and we have no option about it, except to consult it under that particular aspect which is most consonant to our special vocation, individual talent, genius, and taste.    But in seeking the end Almighty God  appoints, under one or another aspect, we are at liberty, nay, are bound, to use all diligence to adapt our means to it, to make them as effectual as possible in gaining it.    Under this point of view the question of form becomes important, and is never to be neglected.    All our faculties, even our sensibilities, taste, fancy, imagination, wit, and humor, were given us for a purpose, and are proper to be exercised, used,—only not to be exercised and used for their  own  sake, for low, worthless,   or  sinful  ends,   but for God, for the great and solemn purpose of life itself.    Christianity commands total self-denial; but the self-denial it commands is moral, not physical, — the moral annihilation, not the physical annihilation, of ourselves.    We retain as  Christians all our faculties, essential qualities,   and  properties  as men, none of which are bad in themselves, — for nothing bad ever came from the hand of the Creator ;   but we retain and exercise them no longer for their own sakes, or for the sake of ourselves, or the pleasure which results  from their exercise. We retain and exercise them only for God.     We live, but we live not for ourselves.    The self-denial is the denial of self as an end, and the substitution, as the end of existence, as the end  of all exertion, of God  in the place of self.    It is, indeed, something more than the mere subordination of self to God, worldly motives to religious motives ; for we are to love God not only supremely, above all things, but exclusively, and therefore are to love ourselves and our neighbours only in him and  for  him.     Nevertheless, denying or  annihilating self as the end or motive, and referring all to God, our nature remains physically in all its strength, and all our faculties are good, and to be exercised in their appropriate sphere and degree ; and, in point of fact, they are never so active, so powerful, so efficient, as when diverted from all selfish ends, elevated by grace to divine ends, and exercised for God and for God alone. True religion strengthens the intellect as well as the will, and purifies the taste in purifying the heart. The power which men of the world seem to find in those who forget God, and think and speak only of what is human, is, in fact, only weakness. It is the fool who says in his heart, —" God is not "; and all our faculties run to waste and become unproductive in proportion as we remove from God, in whom we live, move, and are. In seeking to subject literature to the empire of religion, we are far from seeking to deprive it of any of its power, its variety, extent, delicacy, or grace. We are seeking to provide for these in a higher degree, to give to literature itself a higher order of excellence. Form may still be studied, and must be ; and the more truly beautiful and appropriate, it is rendered, all the better. Religion looks with no favor on the literary sloven. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well, and no man has the right to send out a literary production, great or small, without having made it as perfect in its kind as possible in his circumstances, and with the other duties of his vocation. Crude and hasty productions, on which the author bestows no thought, and which he makes no effort to mature and perfect, are reprehensible under a moral as well as under a literary point of view. Accomplished scholarship, wide and varied erudition, science in its deepest principles and minutest details, are never to be depreciated, but sought, though not for their own sake. The past may be explored, the present surveyed, all nature, moral, intellectual, social, physical, investigated, experimented, and its facts collected and classified, the boundless regions of fancy and imagination may be traversed and laid under contribution, and should be, so far as requisite or useful to the improvement or perfection of the work on which we are engaged. No time, no labor, no patience, no research, is to be spared, when requisite to the accomplishment, or better accomplishment, of the ends we have in view, and which religion imposes or sanctions. Even the old classics, so far as they can aid in the improvement or perfection of the literary form, where the improvement and perfection of the form is sought only for the purpose of subserving the cause of truth or virtue, by rendering our works better adapted to the ends for which they ar.p designed, may be studied, and, no doubt, with profit; for under the relation of form they are unsurpassed, and not to be surpassed.    To the pure all things are pure.

The only restriction laid on the scholar or the author is a restriction on his motives, that whatever he does he do it from religious motives, for the sake of subserving the great and solemn purpose of existence. Religion, therefore, while it restricts the will, the intention, the motive, by the law of God, leaves as wide a margin for the display of the powers and capacities of the human mind, and for the production of a free, pure, rich, graceful, pleasing, influential, and soul-stirring literature, as the maddest of the modern worshippers of humanity can possibly wish.

Now it is clear to all who are not stark blind, that before a literature like the one we commend can be created or flourish, or even be esteemed, men must be Christians ; and therefore that the effort should never be directly for the literature, but to make men Christians. It is only a Christian literature that is desirable or allowable. The dominion of the world belongs to Christ, to whom belong all things. All things are his by virtue of his own proper divinity, his consiibstantiality vvilh the Father ; all are his by inheritance, for as the Only Begotten Son of the Father he is heir of all things ; all are his by the gift of the Father ; and all are his by his own conquest, effected by his voluntarily consenting to become man, his voluntary sufferings and death, by which he overcame death and hell, and rose again and led captivity itself captive. We have, therefore, no complaisance to show to unbelievers or their literature. They and their literature are out of the normal order, and have no right to the least favor or indulgence. They have no rights in modern society. Modern society is bound by the law of God to be Christian, and the only appropriate literature of a Christian society is a Christian literature. Christian literature is, then, the only literature which has any right to be, and therefore the only literature for which provision can rightfully be made. But a Christian literature obviously can be produced only by Christians. Men do not gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles. The great question even as to literature, then, as well as to religion, is that of making men Christians. Literature may be safely left to itself. It must be produced by Christians ; and in proportion as men turn their attention to Christianity, become filled with its spirit, and find literature necessary or useful to its purposes, they will produce it, and only in that proportion.

The special  question of American literature cannot   now detain us long.    The ends for which literature is needed, the
principles on which it must rest, and the spirit which must inform it, are and can be peculiar to no nation, but, like all true religion and morality, nay, like all genuine science and art, are catholic ; national life will and cannot but affect the form and coloring, but the more free the literature is from all national or individual idiosyncrasies, the more perfect it is. Whatever is narrow, contracted, sectarian, is, however we may tolerate it, defective, never to be sought or approved. No doubt, each nation has its peculiar wants, and its peculiar modes or habits of thought and feeling, which to some extent are to be consulted and addressed ; but that which is addressed to them should be peculiar to no particular time or place, but universally true and applicable in its principle. It is not necessary or proper to say the same things and use the same arguments to all sorts of persons. Where the social order is unsound, oppression reigns, and man is deprived of his rights and means of well-being, it may be necessary on the one hand to preach submission, resignation, and on the other to demand judicious and salutary reforms ; where liberty is denied, where the laws have no dominion, and the people are subjected to mere will and arbitrariness, it may be necessary and proper to call for freedom, for the concession and guaranty of rights ; but where, on the other hand, liberty is already excessive, where legal order hardly exists, where we hear constantly of the rights, seldom or never of the duties, of man, and where the tendency is to political and social dissolution, it is necessary to call out for legal order and to insist on authority, subordination, submission, loyalty. So, again, where unbelief, heresy, and schism are rife, and men contend that they are not to be held accountable to the law of God for their thoughts and words, if in fact for their deeds, it becomes necessary to show the vanity, the nothingness, the sinfulness of all that sets itself up against God, or that refuses to submit in thought, word, and deed to his law, and to bring out in bold relief the grounds of religious faith, and to exhibit and defend in clear, earnest, and unflinching tones the truth, beauty, excellence, and authority of the Church of God ; but where all nominally assent to the truth, profess the true religion, acknowledge, in words, their obligation to obey it, we need only to labor to make men practise their religion, and adorn it by well-ordered lives and godly conversation. The same principle must govern us in relation to all other questions. In meeting the peculiar wants of our age or country, we must adapt our means to the end, use such forms of address, adopt
such modes of expression, and such peculiar arguments and illustrations, as will render us most easily understood and most persuasive ; and this will unquestionably give a local coloring to our literary productions, and determine their age and country. But even in doing this, nothing in itself local or temporary is ever to be urged. Whether we preach submission or reform, demand order or liberty, defend religion against the unbelieving or the tepid, the heretical or the scandalous, the principles we adopt, the doctrines we set forth, the ends we insist upon, must be of all times and places, peculiar to no age, country, or individual. So far as adapting our literature to our peculiar needs as a nation is producing a national literature, a national literature is necessary and proper, but no farther ; for if the literature be so adapted, it makes no manner of difference whether it be a home production or a foreign importation. American literature, as such, then, can demand no special attention.

We cannot give in to the cant so common about American authors, and the propriety and necessity of giving them a special preference and encouragement. We have no respect for mere professional authors, whether American or not. An author class, whose vocation is simple authorship, has no normal functions, in either the religious or the social hierarchy. Our Lord, in organizing bis Church, made no provision for professional authors, and in the original constitution of society they have no place assigned them. They have and can have no normal existence, for the simple reason that literature is never an end, and can never be rightfully pursued save as a means. Authors we respect, when they are authors only for the sake of discharging or better discharging duties which devolve on them in some other capacity. Authors whose profession is authorship are the lineal descendants of the old Sophists, and are not a whit more respectable than their pagan ancestors. We can respect Cicero, Caesar, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, because authorship was not their profession, and was resorted to only as incidental to the main business of their lives ; we can and do reverence the Fathers of the Church, for they wrote their immortal works not for the sake of writing them, but as subsidiary to the discharge of the solemn duties of their ministry ; we also honor Calhoun or Webster when either publishes a speech, because it is intended to subserve the purposes of their vocation, and that vocation is not authorship. We call no man a professional author, though nearly his whole life be devoted to authorship, who merely uses authorship as a means of effecting the ends of a legitimate vocation ; and in speaking against authorship, it is only against it as it is itself adopted as a vocation or a profession.

We say, very frankly, that we regard an author class, or a class of professional authors, whose vocation is simply authorship, not only as not desirable, but as a positive nuisance. They constitute one of the greatest pests of modern society. Nothing can be conceived more ruinous to the state, more destructive of faith and manners, of all that constitutes the worth or glory of society or individuals, than a class of men of which your Bulwers, Byrons, Shelleys, Dickenses, Victor Hugos, Balzacs, Eugene Sues, Paul de Rocks, and, pardoning the bull, George Sands, not to mention a whole host of Germans and some Americans, are distinguished specimens. Such a class is a moral excrescence on the body of society, and it would be well if some Christian Socrates would arise to treat its members as the pagan Socrates did the Sophists of old. It is not for the interest of our country, nor of any country, whether we speak of moral and social or of religious interest, to support or encourage such a class ; and they who complain of the want of encouragement extended to professional authors hardly know what they do. Too much encouragement is already extended to them, as the multitude of our petty novels, Knickerbockers, Graham's Magazines, Lady Books, Saturday Couriers, and Olive Branches can abundantly testify. Every dapper little fellow, every sentimental young lady, or not young, married unhappily, or despairing of getting married, who can scribble a few lines each beginning with a capital letter, or dash off a murderous tale about love, or an amorous tale about murder, is encouraged to turn author by profession, and finds no lack of opportunity to aid in deluging the land with nonsense, cant, sentimentality, sensuality, obscenity, and blasphemy. For decency's sake let us hear no more of professional authors, of the liberal provision which should be made for them, the indifference of the public, the timidity or penu-riousness of booksellers.
The Literary World takes a different view of authors from this, and, wishing to encourage American literature and American authors, in common with many respectable individuals, contends for an international copyright law. The actual effect of such a law, if established, we cannot pretend to indicate, for it is a subject we have not investigated.    Mr. Charles Dickens, lugging it in so impertinently and in such bad taste in all his replies to the civilities our citizens good-naturedly extended to him, when he visited us a few years ago, so disgusted us, that we have never been able to hear of an international copyright since, without a certain nausea at the stomach ; and we make no doubt, that if Mr. Dickens had staid at home, and British authors had remained silent, such a law would before now have been enacted by Congress. We, as a people, though singularly free from national prejudices, are very reluctant to legislate at the call or the dictation of foreigners. But be all this as it may, we have no disposition to support an international copyright law for the sake of encouraging our authors ; yet if such a law, by raising the price of books, would exert some influence in diminishing the quantity of the wretched and demoralizing literature now poured in upon us from the English press, we should regard its passage as a national blessing. We detest cheap literature, for such literature is necessarily prepared for and addressed to the tastes of the mob ; and, though a good republican and attached as strongly as any man to the institutions of our country, we have a sovereign detestation of the rule of the mob, in politics, morals, religion, or literature. Any means, not unlawful in themselves, which could be adopted to diminish the mass of cheap literature, and to check its production by diminishing the demand for it or the ability to obtain it, would receive the countenance of every man who understands and loves the true interests of his country. Whether an international copyright law would have any effect this way, we are unable to say ; but we fear it would not have much.

In conclusion, we confess that we see little that can be done in a direct way in relation to literature, either in checking the growth of a corrupt and licentious literature, or in the production of a pure and wholesome literature. Mere professional authors may and should be left to take care of themselves, and there need be no tears shed over their fate, save for individual sufferings ; others must be left to choose their own lime and place to speak, and they may safely trust to their position, or their cause, to sustain them. As literature in general, and American literature in particular, is no primary want of individuals or of society, we may leave it to take care of itself, and trouble ourselves no further about it than to guard, as far as possible, against its corruptions.

Scholars, educated men, in the fullest and highest sense of the word, are always a want, a necessity, and in no country
more than in our own ; for in no country have the mass of the people so direct a voice in public affairs. It is all-important that there should be with us a large and highly educated class, far better educated than, under any possible circumstances, the bulk of the people can be, from which may be selected persons qualified to fill places of trust and influence. Too much attention cannot be paid to our higher schools and colleges. The best, in fact the only real, encouragement we can extend to American literature is to elevate the character of our colleges and universities, to place instruction on a more solid basis, and to make the course of studies more complete and more thorough. More time should be spent in the collegiate course, and young men should not be permitted to go forth as having finished their studies, when they are only able to commence them with credit. Let an effort be made to send out from our colleges and universities riper and more thoroughly disciplined scholars. Let the people learn, if they can learn any thing, that a man is not fitted for high public trusts in the church, the state, or the army, in proportion to his want of education ; and let the senseless babble, of which we hear so much, about self-education and self-educated men, cease, and American literature will soon be placed on a solid and respectable footing.
It is well, no doubt, to look after the education of the people, and to introduce and sustain as perfect a system of common schools as can be devised ; but there is no greater folly than that of relying solely or chiefly on common school education. Do your best, with all your provisions and appliances, you cannot make the bulk of the people even tolerable scholars. The welfare of the many is unquestionably to be sought; but it must needs be sought by the few, and the chief concern of a nation seeking the welfare of the many is therefore the education of the few. For these the highest standard of scholarship is necessary, and the most liberal provisions should be made. It would be well, if we had somewhere in the country a university proper, a university worthy of the name, to which the brightest and most promising of our youths, after graduating at our colleges, might be sent, and where they might reside some six or seven years and continue their studies. Such a university would soon raise the standard of scholarship, and in time we should have, in every department of literary, scientific, and public life, scholars worthy of the name, — masters, not mere pupils, who would be a credit to their age and country, and
from whom would descend a most salutary influence upon the people below them.

But this, it is objected, is anti-democratic, and you are false to your country in proposing it. And is every thing necessary and good, wise and prudent, to be forborne lest we appear to be anti-democratic ? We have studied religion and history and philosophy to little purpose, if all good influences do not come from above, instead of below. The modern dreams of equality may appear delightful to generous youth and inexperience, but there is truth as well as point in the remark of old Chief Justice Parsons, " The young man who is not a democrat is a knave ; the old man that is, is a fool." Establish and preserve equality of suffrage and eligibility, establish and maintain equality before the laws, —all the equality known to our institutions,— but there stop. That is all the equality desirable or attainable ; and the sooner we all become convinced of that, the wiser shall we be, and the better will it be for our country. Society must subsist; it must provide for its own being, and, as Cromwell would say, even for its own " well-being " ; and if it does, some are and must be greater than the rest ; but not therefore necessarily better, happier, or more favored than the rest. The modern doctrine of equality is based on pride, and proceeds, not from a contempt of rank and distinction, but from an undue love of them. We see that in the nature of things all cannot share them, as all the crew cannot be captains, and so we resolve that there shall be no diversity of ranks or of positions. We look upon the distinguished few as specially favored, and hence our antipathy to every measure which seeks to benefit the many through the medium of the few. All this is very silly. The distinctions of this world are not worth counting, and we show our folly as much in seeking to destroy them as in seeking to obtain them. There are and must be diversities of rank and condition, and it is for the interest of each and of all that there should be ; but it does not follow that it is more desirable to be in one than in another : —

" Act well your part; there all the honor lies."