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It is my purpose to write the history of American literature from the earliest English settlements in this country, down to the present time. I hope to accomplish the work within the space of three or four volumes. Each of these volumes will cover a distinct period in the intellectual life of the American people; and while between the several volumes there will exist the tie of mutual interpretation and of historical consecutiveness, it is intended that each shall be, with reference to the epoch which it portrays, a complete and independent work.
Such unity and completeness have been aimed at in the present volumes, which, together, may be described as a history of the rise of American literature at the several isolated colonial centres, where at first each had its peculiar literary accent; of the growth of this sporadic colonial literature in copiousness, range, flexibility, in elegance and force, and especially in tendency toward a common national accent; until, finally, in 1765, after all the years of our minority and of our filial obedience had been lived, the scattered voices of the thirteen colonies were for the first time brought together and blended in one great and resolute utterance:-an utterance expressive of criticism upon the parental control wielded over us by England, of dissent from that control, and at last of resistance to it;