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FOR THE ANALECTIC MAGAZINE.
AMERICAN SCIENCE AND LITERATURE.
I have often been astonished at the reproaches of European critics for our barrenness on these heads, and no less so at the denials of the charge by our own countrymen. “ You are sadly off both for the substance and the refinement of science, as well as of literature," say these critics, and the statement (so near the truth) of this very natural fact, is met on the part of American writers with ample contradiction, and a full measure of praise of American genius. Now all this is written or uttered in such a thorough ignorance or misconception of causes, that I marvel much at the fact not being before detected. « The circumstance is, in a considerable degree, as you have stated,” ought to have been the reply of our writers, " and the reproach rests with you, that after all your consummate sagacity, you have never yet penetrated the surface of the fact, or connected the effect with its causes.”
It seems to me, that a nation, placed in the circumstances of this republic, has yet to run the career of philosophy and the arts. Her course, in the nature of things, must be one first of simple utility, and mere convenience and comfort, before it can become one of great luxury, and splendour, and renown. She must first level her forests, and clear away all the incumbrances of her soil, before she can be admitted to a participation of those refined enjoyments that spring out of laborious and excessive cultivation. The soil must undergo the usual working and processes of art, before it can be made to yield its most delicate and valuable produce. The articles of her literary manufacture may be indeed all of them of a sufficiently firm and solid texture, there may be enough of stuff and substance in the material,—but a larger expenditure of capital, and a greater division of labour, are required to produce those finer and more highly finished fabrics, that form the beauty and the riches of art. If ever, in short, the purer visions of poetry, and the more refined abstractions of philosophy, are to descend on the land to enlighten and to adorn it, it must be after a period of comparative sterility, and in the company of those arts that minister to every species of refined enjoyment. The truth of the matter then is, that this republic has to fight her way to distinction of this, as well as of every other kind, through the natural and necessary obstacles of the course. It may be fairly put down, that she cannot ultimately miss the grandeur and elevation of her destiny, whether in arts or in arms,-nor indeed in any of the walks of renown-but time and circumstances must pipen her for those great achievements which will most effectually kindle and diffuse her lasting glory, and cover her land all over with the monuments and the trophies of her success.
The theory of all this is, to my mind, equally simple and satisfactory. The primary or eventual causes, to which modern
nations are indebted for their permanent glory in literature and the arts, are the great opulence and consequent leisure of some of their classes, who are the patrons of all the objects any way connected with luxury and enjoyment; and the dependence for patronage on these, and in a less degree, the love of renown of some of their other classes, who pursue the liberal arts and professions; which very naturally beget a rivalry and competition in the latter, for the profits and the honours attached to these vocations. This emulation, and this struggle for superiority, lead necessarily to excellence, and to distinction of various kinds. Literary and scientific labour, and labour, it may be added, of every description, undergues great division and subdivision, by all this progressive improvement of its productive powers; and genius expands and ripens under all those hard contentions and discipline, to which it is necessarily subjected in its accompanying though toilsome career. For it must be recollected, that genius is nothing after all, in many of its departments, but the intellectual power or skill that is got by the concentration of the mind to a single pursuit, and some of its most useful and interesting developments are never made before there is a thorough separation of the different professions in which it delights to unfold its energies, and build up its durable glories.
Now, the great accumulation of riches that takes place in a commercial era, is invariably followed by a progressive demand for all those higher gratifications consequent on the cultivation of intellect, as well as for all those sensual ones likewise, which precede as well as accompany them. The effects of such a demand for the ordinary products of human industry, we are aware to be those of quickly exciting the particular species of ingenuity or of skill demanded, and of increasing the number or redoubling the activity of the existing labourers. But the rarer and more exquisite productions of human ingenuity,--the articles of nicer skill and more refined workmanship,--the labours of the statuary, and the painter, and the poet, and the philosopher, are mainly all of them, in our times, purchased labours; for which, if there arises no regular demand in the market, nearly absolute sterility must ensue; and it may be added, that in proportion to the extent of the demand will be the number of the artists engaged in these different occupations, and consequently, the degree of their excellence in them.
There is this marked distinction, however, between the ancient and the modern patronizers of literature and the arts, and between the former and the present candidates for renown, in these departments:—the ancient promoters and patrons of these things, were the people; whilst such of the moderns as find themselves in a condition to administer patronage to the liberal arts and professions, and of those who can pursue these roads to distinction, are more circumscribed in number. This difference results from the different structure of ancient and modern society, and the opposite habits which have been thence engendered. The abundant leisure of the people of those ancient repubiics, wherein literature and the arts flourished in any thing like great vigour or elegance, made them in the necessary course of things the arbiters of every kind of glory;—the persons, in fact, to whom the artists and poets of those days were to look up for their substantial rewards. This made all their poetry popular, and their painting and their sculpture too. It will be remembered, that Herodotus recited his history to all Greece assembled, and received the crown of glory from the hands of the people:-- that Pindar rehearsed his odes in the public assemblies:-that Pericles embellished Athens by the genius of Phidias and other artists, in compliance with the popular taste. This circumstance made the stimulus of glory bear down that of profit, out of all proportion. Where the audiences were so greatly enlarged, and every species of honour and renown were to come from the people, the competitors for the different prizes would be very numerous, and their genius be tasked to the severest efforts.
But commrrce, by laying open the different parts of the world to a mutual intercourse, effected a great revolution in all this. Men would still contend in these paths out of the pure love of glory, but the numbers that can afford to do this, are necessarily lessened, because their audiences are reduced in size, and because pecuniary dependence, and a state of labour, have taken place of the ease, and leisure, and independence of a former period. The creations of genius must now be paid for, or they are not produced to any considerable extent;-- or they perish before matured, in the destructive blight of poverty. Great numbers of men of genius cannot now have the ample leisure and encouragement as former'ly, to brood over the fine visions of their imaginations, until they are nourished into complete life and maturity; nor have their minds opportunity to kindle and flame out (under such irresistible stimulants and invaluable training, as were presented by the public spectacles of ancient times) into those lasting splendours which have left no inconsiderable portion of their light and heat in the long track of time. How far this loss has been made up to us by the possession of more substantial benefits, it would not perhaps be difficult to decide. The arts of imagination must have suffered by the change, but the sciences of reasoning and calculation can establish their proudest triumphs in an age only like our own. The effect, therefore, of this reduction in the number of the competitors for these kinds of glory, is, the confinement of their genius and labours to particular departments;-that thorough separation, in short, of all the mechanical and liberal professions incident to a commercial and refined age. The light that has fallen upon science of every sort, is the obvious result of this concentrated vigour of application, and has kept equal pace with that demand for its practical discoveries, that first gave it birth in our times, and continues to nourish it by the substantial aliments of praise and profit. Now it is quite certain, that such a state of things can never arise in a particular country, until there is a considerable concentration in it of wealth and numbers; and it is equally clear, that this double concentration is inevitably retarded in a state that has an unlimited and convenient outlet for its population, and the nature of whose government gives rooin, besides, for the fullest expansion of all the capacities of its citizens. The Italian states grew gradually up to great opulence and commercial splendour, before the soil of Italy was enriched with the memorials and master-pieces of human genius. The revival of letters, itself, which was an effect of this increasing wealth, and a symptom of great mental improvement, did not take place until the fifteenth century:—and when at last the princes of Florence and Tuscany, profusely poured out their wealth to promote literary plans, and erect noble monuments of the arts, at once indicative of their taste and their liberality, they were enabled to do so only after industrious generations had passed away, and commerce had accumulated in their hands ample fortunes. In the same manner, in the space from the age of Louis the fourteenth downwards, are comprised nearly all the illustrious lights that adorn the literary and scientific annals of France; and, in England, it was not until the reign of queen Anne (the Augustan age there also) that British literature earned its proudest distinctions, and produced those great names that stand prominently out to the notice of the world. When this period arrives, therefore, no country will be without its distinguished poets and painters, or destitute of its academies of arts, or splendid collections, or of its philosophical institutions, and every attempt to establish these objects before their natural epoch, must end in mere impotence and disappointment.
The natural conclusion, therefore, of all this, is, that our youthful though vigorous republic (vigorous in the energy and enterprise of her citizens) will have to pass through the ordinary career of nations, in her progress to literary and scientific glory, as well as to glory in the arts. And, it may be also fairly inferred, that the period of her ascension to this great height of success cannot be definitely fixed, as long as her forests remain uncleared, and the enterprise of her citizens—having the amplest room to display itself from the almost unparalleled freedom of her government-takes so strong a direction in the channel of its favourite wish-the acquisition of property. The era of excessive wealth, of necessity and dependence, of a complete division of labour and separation of professions, must therefore be procrastinated by this condition of things; and, until all this falls in with the luxury and refinement, the polish of manners and of taste, in what are called the upper ranks of society, we must rest satisfied with that great compensation for the splendid fruits of a highly cultivated period, that arises out of a more equal distribution of property, namely, the comfort of all classes. VOL. VII.
But the question concerning American genius, is one altogether different in its merits--one that rests upon entirely distinct grounds. It is quite preposterous to say of any set of people, that they are wanting in genius, whilst they live under political insti. tutions of a free and generous scope. Whence are derived the rare and exalted traits of the human charact r? Whence moral energy, and political greatness, and manliness of purpose? From what but the capacity of man dılating to the important occasions of whatever kind that present themseives, and his ambition set into a flame by the rich and animating prospect which liberal institutions spread before him. The enterprise of free citizens has penetrated the polar ices and the interminable wilderness where civilized foot had never before trod; and, in its domestic sphere, their genius has displayed (in the direction we may conclude of their great engrossing desire the acquisition of wealth)--new and useful mechanical results. Therefore it is, that genius circumscribes its path to the only sphere that is appointed for it by peculiar circumstances; and we may safely infer, that the inventive powers, whatever bent may be impressed on them, can never perish or become stagnant for the want of exercise, under the effectual stimulants of freedom of thought and action.
Veritas. Charleston, December 29, 1815.
FOREIGN LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
From lute British publications. MR. DYER, the author of the History of the University and Colleges of Cama bridge, has in the press a collection of authentic papers relating to the Uni. versity, to be entitled, “The Privileges of the University of Cambridge." It is a chronological table of all its charters, with their titles, from the earliest to more modern times, arranged in chronological order, according to the Chris. tian era and the kings of England, together with the principal charters themselves, and various other authentic documents. Some part will be in Latin, some in English: to the Latin part will be prefixed a Lati: Dissertation, to the English, one in E glish by the editor. Subjoined will be copious addi. tions and emendations to Mr. Dyer's own bistory. The work will not be published till the winter.
M. de Chateauneuf, whose History of Buonaparte is noticed in another part of our present number, has announced his intention of publishing in French a periodical work, prmied in London, under the title of Chronique de Paris, ou Memoires restes secrets jusqu'à ce Jour. It will appear in num. bers at the raie of iwo per month: abound in anecdotes, and exhibit portraits of the principal persons who have figured during the revolution, at the French court, and in other courts.
M de Chateauneuf is also preparing for press a new edition, being the seventli, of his Histoire des Generaux les plus celebres de la Revolution, Français, Angluis, Autrichiens, Prussiens, Russes, Espagnols, &c. i his work was prohibited by Buonaparte in 1811, and the numerous passages, which did been previously suppressed by the censorship, will be restored in this new edition. It will form two 8vo. volumes.