The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
gateway to the literary public; the sweep of the editorial net has been so wide that it has gathered in nearly all the best literary work of the past few decades, at any rate in the department of belles lettres.  It is not easy to name many important works of pure literature, as distinct from the scientific, the philosophical, and the instructive, that have not made their bow to the public through the pages of the Century, the Atlantic Monthly, or some one or other of their leading competitors.  And probably the proportion of works by new authors that have appeared in the same way is still greater.  There are, possibly, two sides as to the value of this supremacy of the magazine, though to most observers the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages.  Among the former may be reckoned the general encouragement of reading, the opportunities afforded to young writers, the raising of the rate of authors’ pay, the dissemination of a vast quantity of useful and salutary information in a popular form.  Perhaps of more importance than any of these has been the maintenance of that purity of moral tone in which modern American literature is superior to all its contemporaries.  Malcontents may rail at “grandmotherly legislation in letters,” at the undue deference paid to the maiden’s blush, at the encouragement of the mealy-mouthed and hypocritical; but it is a ground of very solid satisfaction, be the cause what it may, that recent American literature has been so free from the emasculate fin-de-siecle-ism, the nauseating pseudo-realism, the epigrammatic hysteria, that has of late been so rife in certain British circles.  Moreover, it is impossible to believe that any really strong talent could have been stifled by the frown of the magazine editor.  Walt Whitman made his mark without that potentate’s assistance; and if America had produced a Zola, he would certainly have come to the front, even if his genius had been hampered with a burden of more than Zolaesque filth.

It is undoubtedly to the predominance of the magazine, among other causes, that are due the prevalence and perfection of the American short story.  It has often been remarked that French literature alone is superior in this genre; and many of the best American productions of the kind can scarcely be called second even to the French in daintiness of phrase, sureness of touch, sense of proportion, and skilful condensation of interest.  Excellent examples of the short story have been common in American literature from the times of Hawthorne, Irving, and Poe down to the present day.  Mr. Henry James, perhaps, stands at the head of living writers in this branch.  Miss Mary E. Wilkins is inimitable in her sketches of New England, the pathos, as well as the humour of which she touches with a master hand.  It is interesting to note that, foreign as her subject would seem to be to the French taste, her literary skill has been duly recognised by the Revue des Deux

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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