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By the same Author.
HANNIBAL: An Historical Drama.
Glasgow: Maclehose, 1873.
THEMISTOCLES AND OTHER POEMS. Glasgow: Maclehose, 1881. Fcap.
8vo. 6s. 6d.
TABLES OF EUROPEAN LITERATURE AND HISTORY, A.D. 200-1876. Glasgow: Maclehose.
4to. 6s. 6d.
TABLES OF ANCIENT LITERATURE AND HISTORY. Glasgow: Macle.
hose. 4to. 45. 6d.
ENGLISH COMPOSITION PRIMER. London: Macmillan. 18mo.
AN HISTORICAL SKETCH
JOHN NICHOL, LL.D.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
All rights reserved.
“Much ill-natured criticism has been directed on American manners.
I do not think it is to be resented. Rather, if we are wise, we should listen and mend. Our critics will then be our best friends, though they did not mean it."-EMERSON.
The preparation of this volume has extended over a number of years, beginning with the spring of 1861, when the subject of American Poetry formed the last of a course of lectures delivered to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution; its design dates from a visit paid to the States, then in the first flush of their reunion, in the autumn of 1865. Shortly after my return, I contributed to the “North British Review” two articles, the substance of the chapters on Lowell and Emerson, with the aim of continuing the series: but while I was engaged on a paper on Hawthorne, circumstances led to a postponement of the project. I was encouraged to resume it by the reception of the outline of “ American Literature” in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1875), which forms the basis of this book. In 1879 I gave a course of six lectures on the subject at Cheltenham; and, last year, in Edinburgh, other two on the Novelists. It was my intention to have published these lectures much as they were delivered : but, on examination, so many additions—relating to the earlier periods on the one hand, to recent poets and novelists on the other—seemed requisite that, with the exception of three chapters, I have recast the
whole book. It now claims to convey a fair general impression-derived from all sources within the author's reach-of Literature in the United States, from the establishment of the first English settlements on the North American Continent till near the present time. The, still, limited compass of the work prevents its making any pretence to completeness : it disclaims assuming to be a catalogue even of all the writers who, in their own country, have, on various grounds, attained importance. It has been my wish rather to discuss, in some detail, the authors who most conspicuously represent the main periods or departments of their nation's artistic activity;' to illustrate their position, by reference to the history and politics of the time ; and to give my views, founded in those cases on direct personal study, of their position and influence. It will perhaps be conceded that if a distant critic suffers by greater risks of omission or error, there is some compensating advantage in his being removed from the suspicion of the partialities of friendship, or their reverse. Minor authors, whose aggregate works it would be the task and waste of a life to attempt to master, I have been content to judge by extracts, and the collation of the verdicts of independent reviewers who have devoted to one or more of these a special attention. By notes and references, I have been careful to avow my principal obligations in this direction; but I must add a further acknowledgment of my debts to Mr. Griswold and Mr. Curtis, to Duyckinck's Cyclopædia; above all to the two recent volumes by Professor Coit Tyler of Michigan, without the free use of which the chapter on the Colonial Period could not have been written. I must also refer to the assistance which,
1 The reader is warned not to look for even a general estimate of the numerous scientific and scholastic works of this and the previous century.