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PERIOD OF THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY,
The time of experiment is over. The nation is made.
The Constitution has been adopted. The place of the United States among the other nations of the world has been made good. Years of peace and comparative commercial prosperity make possible the devotion of lives to literary work. The interminable theological disquisitions of the colonial period are not repeated now; but vigorous theological discussion and strong practical religious thinking find expression in Literature of a high type. The political thought of the time is directed to questions of practical government. The national mind is gaining repose and dignity. There is a consciousness of growing strength, combined with the uneasiness due to the newness of our national existence. The bird of freedom sometimes soared very high and the rooster of Democracy sometimes crowed very loudly. The faults so severely satirized by Dickens in the “ American Notes” and in “Martin Chuzzlewit " were unquestionably conspicuous in the life of the time; and we find them noted and rebuked by some of our own writers. But, on the other hand, the national virtues of enterprise, energy, and generosity are equally evident. The great question of slavery already troubled the minds of public men; but the effort on all hands was to keep it out of national politics. The discussions as to compromise measures on this topic, and as to the relation of the state governments to the national government, and the closely connected questions of tariff, currency, and internal improvements, developed a group of political orators of unparalleled brilliancy. There is a dawning interest in scientific study; and the observations of scientific workers are recorded during the period, in two instances, by writers of genius. Our notable line of historians has its beginning in this period. Also we have a group of real novelists; writers whose books are of interest for their own sakes. We find now a considerable class of men devoting their whole time to literary pursuits; and therefore we can say that there are now Ameri
can men of letters. Poets, in considerable numbers, Epic Verse. write with real music and with true imagination; and
in two instances touch a very high note in the poetic scale.
Of the poets of this period the first name that
we consider is that of Richard Henry Dana. He Henry Dana, 1787–1879.
was one of a notable family, four generations of which gained distinction in American public life. Like most of the writers of the previous period, Dana was first a man of affairs — a distinguished lawyer — and secondarily a literary man.