Science

One who surveys, without prejudice, the academic life of the country in
reference to scientific work will receive a deep impression of the
energy and carefulness with which this enormous national machinery of
education furthers the higher intellectual life. And the continuous
gradation of institutions by which the higher academy is able to adapt
itself to every local need, so that no least remnant of free initiative
can be lost and unlimited development is made possible at every point,
must be recognized by every one as the best conceivable system for the
country.

It is not to be denied that it brings with it certain difficulties and
disadvantages. The administrative difficulties which proceed from the
apparent incomparability of the institutions are really not serious,
although the foreigner who is accustomed to uniformity in his
universities, Gymnasia, certificates and doctorial diplomas, is inclined
to overemphasize these difficulties in America. The real disadvantages
of the system of continuous gradations is found, not in the outer
administration, but in its inner methods. The German undergraduate takes
the attitude of one who learns; his teacher must be thoroughly well
informed, but no one expects a school-teacher himself to advance
science. The graduate student, on the other hand, is supposed to take a
critical attitude, and therefore his teacher has to be a teacher of
methods—that is, he must be a productive investigator. Wherever, as in
Germany, there lies a sharp distinction between these two provinces, it
is easy to keep the spirit of investigation pure; but where, as in
America, one merges into the other, the principles at stake are far too
likely to be confused. Men who fundamentally are nothing but able
school-teachers are then able to work up and stand beside the best
investigators in the university faculties, because the principle of
promotion on the ground of scientific production solely cannot be so
clearly separated from the methods of selection which are adapted to the
lower grades of instruction. To be sure, this has its advantages in
other directions; because, in so far as there is no sharp demarcation,
the spirit of investigation can also grow from above down, and therefore
in many a smaller college there will be more productive scientists
teaching than would be found, perhaps, in a German school; but yet the
influences of the lower on the higher departments of instruction are the
predominant ones. Investigation thrives best when the young scholar
knows that his advancement depends ultimately on strictly scientific
achievements, and not on work of a popular sort, nor on success in the
teaching of second-hand knowledge. This fact has often been brought home
to the public mind in recent years, and the leading universities have
already more and more recognized the principle of considering scientific
achievements to be the main ground for preferment.

But productive scholarship is interfered with in still other ways.
Professors are often too much busied with administrative concerns; and
although this sort of administrative influence may be attractive for
many professors, its exercise requires much sacrifice of time. More
particularly, the professors of most institutions, although there are
many exceptions among the leading universities, are overloaded with
lectures, and herein the graded transition from low to high works
unfavourably. Especially in Western institutions, the administrative
bodies do not see why the university professor should not lecture as
many hours in the week as a school teacher; and most dangerous of all,
as we have already mentioned in speaking of popular education, is the
fact that the scholar is tempted, by high social and financial rewards,
to give scientifically unproductive popular lectures and to write
popular essays.

And the list of factors which have worked against scientific
productiveness can be still further increased. To be sure, it would be
false here to repeat the old tale that the American professor is
threatened in his freedom by the whimsical demands of rich patrons, who
have founded or handsomely endowed many of the universities. That is
merely newspaper gossip; and the three or four cases which have busied
public opinion in the last ten years and have been ridiculously
overestimated, are found, on closer inspection, to have been cases which
could have come up as well in any non-partisan institution in the world.
There may have been mistakes on both sides; perhaps the university
councils have acted with unnecessary rigour or lack of tact, but it has
yet to be proved that there has been actual injustice anywhere. Even in
small colleges purely scientific activity never interferes with the
welfare of a professor. A blatant disrespect for religion would hurt his
further prospects there, to be sure, just as in the Western state
institutions the committees appointed by the legislature would dislike a
hostile political attitude. Yet not even in the smallest college has any
professor ever suffered the least prejudice by reason of his scientific
labours. Science in America is not hampered by any lack of academic
freedom.

On the other hand, the American university lacks one of the most
important forces of German universities—the Privatdocent, who lives only
for science, and without compensation places his teaching abilities in
the service of his own scientific development. The young American
scholar is welcome only where a paid position is vacant; but if he finds
no empty instructorship in a large university, he is obliged to be
content with a position in a small college, where the entire
intellectual atmosphere, as regards the studies, apparatus, and amount
of work exacted, all work against his desire to be scientifically
productive, and finally perhaps kill it entirely. The large universities
are just beginning to institute the system of voluntary docents—which,
to be sure, encounters administrative difficulties. There is also a
dangerous tendency toward academic in-breeding. The former students of
an institution are always noticeably preferred for any vacant position,
and the claims of capable scholars are often disregarded for the sake of
quite insignificant men. Scientific productiveness meets further with
the material obstacle of the high cost of printing in America, which
makes it often more difficult for the young student here than in Germany
to find a publisher for his works.

Against all this there are some external advantages: first, the
lavishness of the accessories of investigation. The equipment of
laboratories, libraries, museums, observatories, special institutes, and
the fitting out of expeditions yield their due benefits. Then there are
various sorts of free assistance—fellowships, travelling scholarships,
and other foundations—which make every year many young scholars free for
scientific work. There is also the admirable “sabbatical year.” The
large universities give every professor leave of absence every seventh
year, with the express purpose of allowing him time for his own
scholarly labours. Another favourable circumstance is the excellent
habit of work which every American acquires during his student years;
and here it is not to be doubted that the American is on the average,
and in consequence of his system has to be, more industrious than the
German average student. From the beginning of his course, he is credited
with only such lecture courses as he has passed examinations on, and
these are so arranged as to necessitate not only presence at the
lectures, but also the study of prescribed treatises; the student is
obliged to apply himself with considerable diligence. A student who
should give himself entirely to idling, as may happen in Germany, would
not finish his first college year. If the local foot-ball gossip is no
more sensible than the talk at duelling clubs, at least the practice of
drinking beer in the morning and playing skat have no evil counterpart
of comparable importance in America. The American student recreates
himself on the athletic field rather than in the ale-house. Germany is
exceedingly sparing of time and strength during school years, but lets
both be wasted in the universities to the great advantage of a strong
personality here and there, but to the injury of the average man.
America wastes a good deal of time during school years, but is more
sparing during the college and university courses, and there accustoms
each student to good, hard work.

And most of all, the intellectual make-up of the American is especially
adapted to scientific achievements. This temperament, owing to the
historical development of the nation, has so far addressed itself to
political, industrial, and judicial problems, but a return to
theoretical science has set in; and there, most of all, the happy
combination of inventiveness, enthusiasm, and persistence in pursuit of
a goal, of intellectual freedom and elasticity, of feeling for form and
of idealistic instinct for self-perfection will yield, perhaps soon,
remarkable triumphs.

We have hitherto spoken only of the furtherance of science by the higher
institutions of learning, but we must look at least hastily on what is
being done outside of academic circles. We see, then, first of all, the
magnificent government institutions at Washington which, without doing
any teaching, are in the sole service of science. The cultivation of the
sciences by twenty-eight special institutions and an army of 6,000
persons, conducted at an annual expense of more than $8,000,000, is
certainly a unique feature of American government. There is no other
government in the world which is organized for such a many-sided
scientific work; and nevertheless, everything which is done there is
closely related to the true interests of government—that is, not to the
interests of the dominant political party, but to those of the great
self-governing nation. All the institutes, as different as they are in
their special work, have this in common—that they work on problems which
relate to the country, population, products, and the general conditions
of America, so that they meet first of all the national needs of an
economical, social, intellectual, political, and hygienic sort, and only
in a secondary way contribute to abstract science.

The work of these government institutes is peculiar, moreover, in that
the results are published in many handsomely gotten-up volumes, and sent
free of cost to hundreds of thousands of applicants. The institutions
are devoted partly to science and partly to political economy. Among the
scientific institutes are the admirable Bureau of Geological Survey,
which has six hundred officials, and undertakes not only geological but
also palæontological and hydrographic investigations, and carries on
mineralogical and lithological laboratories; then the Geodetic Survey,
which studies the coasts, rivers, lakes, and mountains of the country;
the Marine Observatory, for taking astronomical observations; the
Weather Bureau, which conducts more than one hundred and fifty
meteorological stations; the Bureau of Biology, which makes a special
study of the geographical distribution of plants and animals; the Bureau
of Botany, which studies especially all problems connected with seeds;
the Bureau of Forestry, which scientifically works on questions of the
national timber supply; the important Bureau of Entomology, which has
studied with great success the relations of insects to agriculture; the
Bureau of Agriculture, which statistically works out experiments on
planting, and which directs government experiment stations situated
throughout the country; the Department of Fisheries, which conducts
stations for marine biology; and many others. Among the political
economic institutes in the broad sense of the word are the Bureau of
Labour, which undertakes purely sociological investigations into labour
conditions; the Corporation Bureau, which studies the conditions of
organized business; the Bureau of General Statistics; the Census Bureau,
which every ten years takes a census more complete than that of any
other country. The Census of 1890 consisted of 39 large folio volumes,
and the collecting of information alone cost $10,000,000. The Census of
1900 is still in course of publication. The Bureau of Education also
belongs here, which studies purely theoretically the statistics of
education. Then there are the Bureau of Immigration and several others.
All these bureaus are really designed to impart instruction and advice;
they have no authority to enforce any measures. But the extraordinary
publicity which is given to their printed reports gives them a very
considerable influence; and the thoroughness with which the
investigations are carried on, thanks to the liberal appropriations of
Congress, makes of these bureaus scientific and economic institutions of
the highest order.

We have still to speak of the most famous of the government bureaus, the
Smithsonian Institution. In 1836 the government came into the
possession, by bequest, of the whole property of the Englishman
Smithson, as a principal with which an institution should be founded
bearing his name, and serving the advance and dissemination of science.
It was never known just why this Oxonian and mineralogist left his large
property to the city of Washington, which then numbered only 5,000
inhabitants. Although he had never visited America, he wrote to a
friend: “The best blood of England flows in my veins; my father’s family
is from Northumberland, my mother’s is related to kings. But I desire to
have my name remembered when the titles of the Northumberlands and the
Percys shall have been forgotten.” His instinct guided him aright, and
the Smithsonian Institution is to-day an intellectual centre in
Washington—that city which is the political centre of the New World. It
should be mentioned, in passing, that Congress accepted the bequest only
after lively opposition; it was objected that to receive the gift of a
foreigner was beneath the dignity of the government. As a fact, however,
the success of the institution is not due so much to this foreign
endowment as to the able labours of its three presidents: the physicist
Henry, who served from 1846 to 1878, the zoölogist Baird from 1878 to
1887, and the physicist Langley, who has been at the head since 1887.
All three have been successful in finding ways by which the institute
could serve the growth and dissemination of science.

It was agreed from the outset not to found a university which would
compete with others already existing, but an institute to complement all
existing institutions, and to be a sort of centre among them. The great
institution was divided into the following divisions: first, the
National Museum, in which the visible results of all the national
expeditions and excavations are gathered and arranged. The American idea
is that a scientific museum should not be a series of articles with
their labels, but rather a series of instructive labels, illustrated by
typical specimens. Only in this way, it is thought, does a museum really
help to educate the masses. The collection, which is visited every year
by more than 300,000 persons, includes 750,000 ethnological and
anthropological objects; almost 2,000,000 zoölogical, 400,000 botanical,
and almost 300,000 palæontological specimens. Then there is the National
Zoölogical Park, which contains animal species that are dying out; the
Astrophysical Observatory, in which Langley carries on his famous
experiments on the invisible portion of the solar spectrum; the
Ethnological Bureau, which specially studies the Indian; and much else.
The department of exchanges of this institute is a unique affair; it
negotiates exchanges between scientists, libraries, and other American
institutions, and also between these and European institutions. As
external as this service may seem, it has become indispensable to the
work of American science. Moreover, the library of the institution is
among the most important in the country; and its zoölogical,
ethnological, physical, and geological publications, which are
distributed free to 4,000 libraries, already fill hundreds of volumes.

Any one examining the many-sided and happily circumstanced scientific
work of these twenty-eight institutes at Washington will come to feel
that the equipment could be used to better advantage if actual teaching
were to be undertaken, and that the organization of the institutes into
a national university attracting students from all parts of the country
would tend to stimulate their achievements. In fact, the thought of a
national university as the crowning point of the educational system of
the country has always been entertained in Washington; and those who
favour this idea are able to point to George Washington as the one who
first conceived such a plan. In spite of vigorous agitation, this plan
is still not realized, chiefly because the traditions of the country
make education the concern of the separate states, and reserve it for
such institutions as are independent of politics.

It is a different question, whether the time will not come when the
nation will desire an institution of a higher sort—one which will not
rival the other large universities of the country, but will stand above
them all and assume new duties. A purely scientific institution might
exist, admitting students only after they have passed their doctorial
examination, and of which the professors should be elected by the vote
of their colleagues through the country. There is much need of such a
university; but the time may not be ripe for it now, and it may be a
matter of the far future. And yet at the present rate at which science
is developing in the country, the far future means only ten or fifteen
years hence. When the time is ripe, the needed hundreds of millions of
dollars will be forthcoming.

For the present, a sort of half-way station to a national university at
Washington has been reached. This is the Carnegie Institute, whose
efficiency can so far not be wholly estimated. With a provisional
capital of $10,000,000 given by Andrew Carnegie, it is proposed to aid
scientific investigations throughout the country, and on the
recommendation of competent men to advance to young scientists the
necessary means for productive investigations. There is, unfortunately,
a danger here that in this way the other universities and foundations of
the country may feel relieved of their responsibility, and so relax
their efforts. It may be that people will look to the centre for that
which formerly came from the periphery, and that in this way the general
industry will become less intense. Most of all, the Carnegie Institute
has, up to this point, lacked broad fruitful ideas and a real programme
of what it proposes to do. If the institute cannot do better than it has
so far done, it is to be feared that its arbitrary and unsystematic aid
will do, in the long run, more harm than good to the scientific life of
the country.

The same general conditions, on a smaller scale and with many
variations, are found outside of Washington in a hundred different
scientific museums and collections—biological, hygienic, medical,
historical, economic, and experimental institutions; zoölogical and
botanical gardens; astronomical observatories; biological stations,
which are found sometimes under state or city administration, sometimes
under private or corporate management. Thus the Marine Laboratory at
Woods Hole is a meeting-place every summer for the best biologists.
Sometimes important collections can be found in the most unlikely
places—as, for instance, in the historic museum of the city of Salem,
which, although it has gone to sleep to-day, is still proud of its
history. The large cities, however, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston,
Chicago, and Baltimore, have established admirable institutions, on
which scientific work everywhere depends. Then there are the political
capitals, such as Albany, with their institutions. That German who is
most thoroughly acquainted with conditions of scientific collections,
Professor Meyer, the director of the scientific museums at Dresden, has
given his opinion in his admirable work on the museums of the Eastern
United States as follows: “I have received a profound impression of
American capabilities in this direction, and can even say that the
museums of natural history of that country are generally on a higher
plane than those of Europe. We have, so far as buildings and
administrative machinery go, very few good and many moderate or
downright poor museums, while the Americans have many more good and many
fewer bad ones; and those which are poor are improving at the rapid
American pace, while with us improvement is hopelessly slow.”

There is still another important factor in the scientific societies,
whose membership, to be sure, is chiefly composed of the personnel of
the higher educational institutions, but which nevertheless exert an
independent influence on scientific life. The National Academy of
Science is officially at the head. It was founded in 1863, having a
hundred members and electing five new members each year. While its
annual meetings in Washington observe only the ordinary scientific
programme, the society has as a special function the advising of
Congress and the government on scientific matters. Thus, this academy
drew up the plans for organizing the Geological Survey and for
replanting the national forests. The political atmosphere of Washington,
however, has not been too favourable to the success of the Academy, and
it has never attained the national significance of the Paris and London
academies.

The American Historical Association has a similar character; and its
transactions are published at the expense of the government. The popular
associations, of course, reach much larger circles; thus, for instance,
the American Society for the Advancement of Science, which has existed
for fifty years, has about the same functions as the German
Naturforscherversammlung. It brings together at its annual meetings,
which are always held in different places, a thousand or so scientists,
and holds in different sections a great many lectures. Still more
popular are the meetings of the similarly organized National Educational
Association, which brings together more than ten thousand members at its
summer meetings, which are often held in pleasant and retired spots. In
these and similar sessions, scientific work is popularized, while in the
specialized societies it is stimulated toward greater profundity. In
fact, there is no medical, natural-historical, legal, theological,
historical, economic, philological, or philosophical specialty which has
not its special national societies with annual congresses. It is
increasingly the custom to hold these popular sessions during the summer
holidays, but the strictly scientific congresses during the first week
in January. The physicians, by exception, meet at Easter. In order that
the business-like separation of subjects may not exclude a certain
contact of scientific neighbours, it is increasingly the plan to
organize groups of congresses; thus, the seven societies of anatomy,
physiology, morphology, plant physiology, psychology, anthropology, and
folk-lore always meet at the same time in the same city.

Besides these wandering meetings, finally, there are the local
societies. Of these, the veteran is the Academy in Philadelphia. It was
founded by Franklin in 1743, and so far as its membership goes, may
claim to have a national character. In a similar way the American
Academy, founded in 1780, has its home in Boston. Then there are the New
York Academy, the Washington Academy, which has recently enlarged so as
to include members from the whole country, and which ultimately will
probably merge into the National Academy; the academies of Baltimore,
Chicago, New Haven, and a hundred smaller associations, which for the
most part are not merely interested in spreading scientific information,
but in helping on the results of science.

We cannot hope to call the complete roll here of scientific production.
Our purpose was merely to relate some of the favourable and unfavourable
influences under which the American has to make his contribution to the
science of the day. Merely for a first orientation, we may give some
more detailed accounts in a few departments. At first sight, one might
be tempted to give a sketch of present-day production by directly
depicting the production with reference to the special higher
institutions. Much more than in Germany, the results of scientific
research are brought before the public eye with the official seal of
some university. Every large educational institution publishes its own
contributions to many different sciences; thus, the University of
Chicago, which perhaps goes furthest in this respect, publishes journals
of sociology, pedagogy, biblical studies, geology, astronomy, botany,
etc.; and, besides these, regular series of studies in science,
government, classical philology, Germanic and Romance languages, English
philology, anthropology, and physiology. Johns Hopkins University
publishes mathematical, chemical, and biological magazines; a journal
for experimental medicine, one for psychiatry, for modern philology, for
history, and Assyriology. Among the periodical publications of Harvard
University, the astronomical, zoölogical, cryptogamic, ethnological,
Oriental, classical philological, modern philological, historical, and
economic journals are the best known. Columbia, Pennsylvania, and
several other universities publish equally many journals. There are also
a great many books published under the auspices of institutions of
learning, which relate to expeditions or other special matters. Thus,
for instance, Yale University, on the occasion of its two-hundredth
anniversary in 1901, published commemorative scientific papers by its
professors in twenty-five large volumes; the papers themselves ranging
from such subjects as the Hindu epic and Greek metre to thermo-dynamics
and physiological chemistry.

The various universities have always been known to have their scientific
specialties. That of Johns Hopkins is natural science; of Columbia, the
science of government; of Harvard, literature and philosophy. But the
universities are, of course, not confined to their specialties; for
instance, Johns Hopkins has done very much in philology, Columbia in
biology, and while Harvard has been famous for its literary men, like
Longfellow, Holmes, Norton and Child, it has also had such distinguished
men on its faculty as the zoölogist Agassiz, the botanist Gray, and the
astronomer Pickering.

It may be more natural to classify scientific production according to
the separate sciences. The list is too long to be given entire. The
venerable subject of philosophy is generally placed first in the
university catalogues of lectures. This subject shows at once how much
and how little is being done. A German, to be sure, is apt to have false
standards in this matter; for if he thinks of German philosophy, he
recalls the names of Kant, Schopenhauer, Fichte, and Hegel; and he asks
what America has produced to compare with these. But we have seen that
the work of productive science was commenced in the New World only a few
decades ago, and for this reason we must compare the present day in
America with the present day in Germany; and to be just, we should
compare the American scholar only with the younger and middle-aged
Germans who have developed under the scientific conditions of the last
thirty years—that is, with men not over sixty years old. Young geniuses
are not plentiful, even in Germany to-day; and not only are men like
Kant and Hegel lacking in philosophy, but also in other departments of
science; men like Ranke and Helmholtz seem not to belong to our day of
specialization. A new wave of idealistic and broadly generalizing
thought is advancing. The time of great thinkers will come again; but a
young country is not to be blamed for the spirit of the times, nor ought
its present accomplishment to be measured after the standards of happier
days. If we make a perfectly fair comparison, we shall find that
American philosophy is at present up to that of any other country.



Externally, in the first place, America makes a massive showing, even if
we leave out of account philosophical literature of the more popular
sort. While, for example, England has only two really important
philosophical magazines, America has at least five which are as good as
the English; and if philosophy is taken in the customary wider sense,
sociological and pedagogical journals must be included, which are
nowhere surpassed. The emphasis is laid differently in America and
Germany; and this difference, which may be seen in almost all sciences,
generally, though not always, has deeper grounds than merely personal
ones, and is in every case apt to distort the judgment of a foreigner.
America, for instance, is astonishingly unproductive in the history of
philosophy. Every need seems to be satisfied by translations from the
German or by very perfunctory text-book compilations. On the other hand,
the theory of knowledge, ethics, and above all psychology, are very
prosperous. Disputes in epistemology have always been carried on in
America, and the Calvinistic theology, more especially, arrived at
important conclusions. At the beginning of the eighteenth century lived
Jonathan Edwards, who was perhaps the greatest metaphysical mind in the
history of America. The transcendental way of thought, which is
profoundly planted in the American soul, was nurtured by German
idealism, and found expression through the genius of Emerson. Then, in
more systematic and academic ways, there have been philosophers like
Porter and McCosh, who stood under Scotch influence and fought against
positivism; others, like Harris and Everett, who have represented German
tendencies; while Draper, Fiske, Cope, Leconte, and others have preached
the philosophy of science. In the front ranks to-day of philosophers are
Ladd, Dewey, Fullerton, Bowne, Ormond, Howison, Santayana, Palmer,
Strong, Hibben, Creighton, Lloyd, and most influential of all, Royce,
whose latest work, “The World and the Individual,” is perhaps the most
significant epistemological system of our day.

Psychology is the most favoured of all the philosophical disciplines in
America at the present time. This is shown outwardly in the growth of
laboratories for experimental psychology, which in size and equipment
far exceed those of Europe. America has more than forty laboratories.
Foremost in this psychological movement is William James, who is, next
to Wundt, the most distinguished psychologist living, and whose
remarkable analysis of conscious phenomena has been set down with a
freshness and liveliness, an energy and discrimination, which are highly
characteristic of American intellect. Then there are other well-known
investigators like Stanley Hall, Cattell, Baldwin, Ladd, Sanford,
Titchener, Angell, Miss Calkins, Scripture, and many others. In
pedagogy, which is now disporting itself in a great display of paper and
ink, the names of Harris, Eliot, Butler, Hall, Da Garmo, and Hanus are
the most respected.

Just as theological and metaphysical speculations, ever since the early
Colonial days, have preceded present-day scientific philosophy, so in
the science of history systematic investigators were preceded in early
days by the Colonial historians, beginning with Bradford and Winthrop. A
people which are so restless to make history, so proud of their doings,
so grateful to their heroes, and which more than any other people base
their law and public policy avowedly on precedent, will necessarily have
enjoyed the recounting of their own past. America has had a systematic
history, however, only since the thirties, and two periods of work are
generally distinguished; an earlier one, in which historians undertook
to cover the whole subject of American history, or at least very large
portions of it, and a later period embracing the last decade, in which
historical interest has been devoted to minuter studies. Bancroft and
Parkman stand for the first movement. George Bancroft began to write his
history in 1830, and worked patiently thereon for half a century. By
1883 the development of the country, from its discovery up to the
adoption of the American Constitution, had been completed in a
thorough-going fashion. Parkman was the greater genius, and one who
opened an entirely new perspective in American history by his
investigations and fascinating descriptions of the wars between the
English and the French colonists. The great works of Hildreth and Tucker
should also be mentioned here.

The period of specialized work, of course, covers less ground. The large
monographs of Henry Adams, John Fiske, Rhodes, Schouler, McMaster,
Eggleston, Roosevelt, and of Von Holst, if an adoptive son of America
may be included, are accounted the best pieces of work. They have
described American history partly by geographical regions and partly by
periods; and they show great diversity of style, as may be seen by
comparing the martial tone of Holst and the majestic calmness of Rhodes.
To these must be added the biographies, of which the best known form the
series of “American Statesmen.” Americans are particularly fond of
studying a portion of national history from the life of some especially
active personality. Then too, for twenty years, there has been a
considerable and indispensable fabrication of historical research. Large
general works and reference books, like those of Winsor, Hart, and
others; the biographies, archive studies, correspondences, local
histories, often published by learned societies; series of monographs,
journals, the chief of which is the _American Historical Review_—in
short, everything necessary to the modern cultivation of historical
science are to be found abundantly. The Revolution, the beginnings of
the Federation, the Civil War, and Congress are specially favoured
topics. It is almost a matter of course that the independent
investigation into European history is very little attempted; although
very good things have been done, such as Prescott’s work on Spanish
history, Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic; and in recent times, for
instance, Taylor has made important studies in English history, Perkins
in French, Henderson in German, Thayer in Italian, Lea and Emerton in
ecclesiastical history, Mahan in the history of naval warfare, and
similarly others.

This lively interest in philosophy and history is itself enough to
disprove the old fable that American science is directed only toward
material ends. Perhaps, to be sure, some one might say that philosophy
is practiced to better mankind and history to teach politicians some
practical lessons, while both statements are in point of fact false. No
such charge, however, can be made against classical philology; and yet
no one can read the transactions, which constitute many volumes, of the
five hundred members of the Philological Association, or read the
numbers of the _American journal of Philology_, or the classical studies
published by Harvard, Cornell, and Chicago, without feeling distinctly
that here is scientific work of the strictest sort, and that the methods
of investigations are steadily improving. The movement is younger in
this department than in the others. To be sure, the classical authors
have been well known in America for two centuries; but in no province
has the dilettanteism of the English gentleman so thoroughly prevailed.
It was not until the young philologians commenced to visit German
universities, and especially Göttingen, that a thorough-going philology
was introduced. And such a work as the forty-four students of the great
classicist, Gildersleeve, published on the occasion of his seventieth
birthday, would have been impossible twenty years ago. The greatest
interest is devoted to syntactical investigation, in which the
best-known works are those of Goodwin, Gildersleeve, and Hale; while
there are some works on lexicography and comparative languages, and
fewer still on textual criticism. Every classical philologian knows the
names of Hadley, Beck, Allen, Lane, Warren, Smyth, White, Wheeler,
Shorey, Dressier, and many others.

There is an unusual interest in Oriental philology, which is slightly
influenced indeed by practical motives. For instance, the great
religious interest taken in the Bible—not by scientists, but by the
general public—has sent out special expeditions and done much to advance
the study of cuneiform inscriptions. The Assyrian collections of the
University of Pennsylvania are accounted, in many respects, the most
complete in existence. Its curator, Hilprecht, is well known, and Lyon,
Haupt, and others almost as well. Whitney, of Yale, was undoubtedly the
leader in Sanskrit. Lanman, of Harvard, is his most famous successor,
and besides him are Jackson, Buck, Bloomfield, and others. Toy is the
great authority on Semitic languages.

It would lead us too far away if we were to follow philological science
into modern languages. As a matter of course, the English language and
literature are the most studied; in fact, English philology has had its
real home in the New World since the days of Child. Francis James Child,
one of the most winning personalities in the history of American
scholarship, has contributed much on Chaucer and ancient English dramas;
and as his great work, has gathered together English and Scottish
ballads into a collection of ten volumes. This work has often been
esteemed as America’s greatest contribution to philology. Kittredge, who
has succeeded Child at Harvard, works on much the same lines. Lounsbury
is known especially for his brilliant works on Chaucer; Manley has also
studied Chaucer and the pre-Shakesperian drama; Gummere the early
ballads, while Wendell and Furness are the great Shakesperian scholars.
The Arthurian legends have been especially studied by Schofield, Mead,
Bruce, and others; the Anglo-Saxon language by Bright, Cook, Brown, and
Callaway. Lowell was the first great critic of literature, and he has
been followed by Gates and many others. The belles-lettres themselves
have given rise to a large historical and critical literature, such as
the admirable general works of Steadman, Richardson, and Tyler, and the
monographs by Woodberry, Cabot, Norton, Warner, and Higginson. The very
best work, however, on American literature, in spite of all aspersions
cast on the extreme aristocrat, is Barrett Wendell’s “Literary History
of America.” We might mention a long list of works on Romance and
Germanic languages and literature. At least emphasis must be laid on
one, Kuno Francke’s extraordinary book on “Social Influences in German
Literature,” the work of the most gifted herald of German culture in
America. We may also mention the works of Thomas and Hempl in Germanic,
and Todd, Elliot, and Cohn in romance languages.

Political economy is the favourite study of the American, since the
history of this country has been determined by economic factors more
directly than that of any other nation, and since all the different
economic periods have been lived through in the still surveyable past.
In a sense, the country looks like a tremendous experimental laboratory
of political economy. The country is so unevenly developed that the most
diverse economic stages are to be found in regions which are
geographically near each other, and everything goes on, as it were,
under the scientific magnifying glass of the statistical student.
Remarkably enough, the actual history of economics has been rather
neglected in American studies, in spite of many beginnings made in
Germany on the history of American economics. The chief attention of the
nation has been given rather to the systematic analysis and deductive
investigation of special conditions. In political economy there are, of
course, first the well-known agitators like Henry Carey, the great
protectionist of the first half of the century; Henry George, the
single-tax theorist, whose book, “Progress and Poverty,” found in 1879
extraordinary circulation; and Bellamy, whose “Utopia” was in much the
same style: and the political tracts on economic subjects are far too
numerous to think of mentioning. The really scientific works form
another group. At first we find the pioneer efforts of the seventies and
eighties—Wells’s work on tariff and commerce, Charles Francis Adams’s
work on railways, Sumner’s on the history of American finance,
Atkinson’s on production and distribution, Wright’s on wages, Knox’s on
banking, and the general treatises of Walker, who conducted the censuses
of 1870 and 1880. In recent times the chief works are those of Hadley on
railroads, of Clark on capital, of James on political finance and
municipal administration, of Ely on taxation, of Taussig on tariff,
silver and wages, of Jenks on trusts, of Brooks on labour movements, of
Seligman on the politics of taxation, of H. C. Adams on scientific
finance, of Gross on the history of English economics, of Patten on
economic theory, and of Lowell on the science of government. Moreover,
the political economists and students of government have an unusually
large number of journals at their disposal. In sociology there are
Giddings, Small, and Ward, known everywhere, and after them Willcox,
Ripley, and others.

We have spent too much time over the historical disciplines. Let us look
at the opposite pole of the scientific globe from the mental sciences to
the natural sciences, and at first to mathematics. Mathematicians were
especially late in waking up to really scientific achievements; and this
was scarcely ten years ago, so that all the productive mathematicians
are the younger professors. Of the older period, there are but three
mathematicians of great importance—Benjamin Peirce, perhaps the most
brilliant of American mathematicians, and his pupils, Hill and Newcomb.
Their chief interest has been mathematical astronomy. Of their
generation are also Willard Gibbs in mathematical physics, McClintock in
algebra, and Charles Peirce in mathematical logic. In the last ten
years, it is no longer a question of a few great names. The younger
generation has taken its inspiration from Germany and France, and is
busily at work in pure mathematics; there are Moore and Dixon, of
Chicago; Storey and Taber, of Clark; Böcher and Osgood, of Harvard;
White at Evanston; Van Vleck at Wesleyan, and many others.

We find again, in the natural sciences, that the American by no means
favours only practical studies. There is no less practical a science
than astronomy, and yet we find a series of great successes. This is
externally noticeable in a general interest in astronomy; no other
country in the world has so many well-equipped observatories as the
United States, and no other country manufactures such perfect
astronomical lenses. America has perfected the technique of astronomy.
Roland, for instance, has improved the astronomical spectroscope, and
Pickering has made brilliant contributions to photometry. The catalogue
of stars by Gould and Langley is an indispensable work, and America has
contributed its full share to the observation of asteroids and comets.
Newcomb, however, who is the leader since forty years, has done the most
brilliant work, in his thorough computations of stellar paths and
masses. We should also not forget Chandler’s determination of
magnitudes, Young’s work on the sun, Newton’s on meteorites, and
Barnard’s on comets.

Surprisingly enough, the development of scientific physics has been less
brilliant so far. Only in optics has really anything of high importance
been done; but in this field there have been such accomplishments as
Michelson’s measurements of lightwaves, Rowland’s studies of concave
gratings, Newcomb’s measurements on the speed of light, and Langley’s
studies of the ultra-red rays. In all other fields the work is somewhat
disconnected; although, to be sure, in the branches of electricity,
acoustics, and heat, important discoveries have been made by Trowbridge,
Woodward, Barus, Wood, Cross, Nichols, Hall, B. O. Pierce, Sabine, and
many others. In purely technical subjects, especially those related to
electricity, much has been done of serious scientific importance; and
these triumphs in technical branches are, of course, famous throughout
the world. From the hand tool of the workman to locomotives and bridges,
American mechanics have been victorious. Applied physics has yielded the
modern bicycle, the sewing-machine, the printing-press, tool-making
machinery, and a thousand other substitutes for muscular labour; has
also perfected the telegraph, the incandescent lamp, the telephone and
the phonograph, and every day brings some new laurel to the American
inventor. But it is not to be supposed that Edison, Tesla, and Bell are
the sole representatives of American physics. Quiet scientific work of
the highest order is carried on in a dozen laboratories. Meteorology
ought to be mentioned as a branch of physics; it has been favoured by
the large field of observation which America offers and has developed
brilliantly under Ferrel, Hazen, Greely, Harrington, Mendenhall, Rotch,
and others.

It is still more true of chemistry than of physics that advance has been
independent of the industrial application of science. The leading
chemists have all worked in the interests of pure science; and this work
started at the beginning of the last century, when Benjamin Silliman, of
Yale, the editor of the first magazine for natural science, laid the
foundations for his scientific school. He was followed in succeeding
generations by Hare, Smith, Hunt, and most notably Cooke, whose studies
on the periodic law and the atomic weight of oxygen are specially
valuable. Of later men there are Willard Gibbs, the Nestor of chemical
thermo-dynamics, who became famous by his theory of the phase rule, and
Wolcott Gibbs through his studies on complex acids. Crafts is known for
his researches into organic compounds, and Mallet by classical
investigations into the atomic weight of aluminum. Other valuable
contributions have been Hillebrand’s analysis of minerals, Stieglitz’s
organic syntheses, Noyes’s studies on ions, the work of Clark and
Richards on atomic weights, Gooch’s technical discoveries, Hill’s
synthetic production of benzol compounds, Warren’s work with mineral
oils, Baskerville’s study of thorium, not to mention the highly prized
text-books of Ira Remsen, the discoverer of saccharin. Among the
physiological and agricultural chemists, the best known are Chittenden,
Pfaff, Atwater, and Hilgard. The pioneer of physical chemistry is
Richards, of Harvard, probably the only American professor so far who
has been called to the position of a full professor at a German
university. He remained in America, although invited to Göttingen.
Bancroft and Noyes are at work on the same branch of chemistry.

The work in chemistry is allied in many ways to mineralogy, petrography,
and geology. Oddly enough, mineralogy has centred distinctly at one
place—Yale University. The elder Dana used to work there, whose “System
of Mineralogy” first appeared in 1837, and while frequently revised has
remained for half a century the standard book in any language; Dana’s
chemical classification of minerals has also found general acceptance.
His son, the crystallographer, worked here, as also Brush and Penfield,
who has investigated more kinds of stone than any other living man.
Beside these well-known leaders, there are such men as Lawrence Smith,
Cooke, Gerth, Shepard, and Wolff. The advances in geology have been
still more brilliant, since nature made America an incomparable field of
study. Hall had already made an early beginning here, and Dana and
Whitney, Hayden and King, Powell and Gilbert, Davis, Shaler, and Branner
have continued the work. Remains of the Glacial Epoch and mountain
formation have been the favourite topics. And the investigation which
has frequently been connected with practical mining interests is among
the most important, and in Europe the most highly regarded of American
scientific achievements.

Closely related to the geological are the geographical studies. The
Government Bureau of Survey figures prominently here, by reason of its
magnificent equipment. Most famous are the coast surveys of Pache and
Mendenhall, and the land surveys of Rogers, Whitney, and Gannet. The
hydrographic investigations of Maury have perhaps had more influence on
geography, and his physical geography of the ocean has opened up new
lines of inquiry; Guyot has done most to spread the interests of
geography. Americans have always been greatly interested in expeditions
to dangerous lands, wherefore many Americans have been pioneers,
missionaries, and scientific travellers. In this spirit Lewis and Clark
explored the Northwest, Wilkes crossed the Pacific Ocean, Perry went to
Japan, and Stanley to Africa; others have travelled to South America,
and many expeditions have been started for the North Pole since the
first expedition of Kane in 1853. Palæontology has been well represented
in America, and has contributed a good deal to the advance in geology.
Hall commenced the work with studies on invertebrate fossils; then came
Hyatt, who studied fossil cephalopods, Scudder fossil insects, Beecher
brachiopods; and then Leidy, Cope, Osborne, and above all, the great
scientist, Marsh—all of whom have studied fossil vertebrates.

Almost every one of these men was at the same time a systematic
zoölogist. Especially in former days, many young men devoted themselves
to systematic zoölogy under the leadership of Audubon, whose pioneer
work on “The Birds of America” appeared in 1827; then later of Say, the
first investigator of butterflies and mussels; and still later of Louis
Agassiz, the great student of jelly-fish, hydroids and polyps, whose
son, Alexander Agassiz, has carried on the famous studies of coral
islands. Besides these men have laboured LeConte, Gill, Packard, and
Verrill in the province of invertebrates; Baird, Ridgeway, Huntington,
Allen, Meriam, and Jordan in the field of vertebrates. At the present
time interest in America as well as in Europe is turning toward
histology and embryology. Here, too, the two Agassizes have taken the
lead, the senior Agassiz with his studies on turtles, the younger
Agassiz in studies on starfishes. Next to theirs come the admirable
works of Wyman, Whitman, Brooks, Minot, Mark, and Wilson, and the
investigations of Davenport on the subject of variation. The phenomenon
of life has been studied now by zoölogists and again by biologists and
physiologists. Here belong the researches into the conscious life of
lower animals carried on by Lee and Parker, and the excellent
investigations of the German-American Jacques Loeb, of California, who
has placed the tropisms of animals and the processes of fertilization in
a wholly new light. Of his colleagues in physiology, the best known are
Bowditch, Howell, Porter, and Meltzer.

The highest organism which the natural scientist can study is man, taken
not historically, but anthropologically. The American has been forced to
turn to anthropology and to ethnology, since circumstances have put at
his hand some hundred types of Indians, with the most diverse languages
and customs, and since, moreover, peoples have streamed from every part
of the world to this country; millions of African negroes are here, the
ground is covered with the remains of former Indian life, and the
strange civilizations of Central America have left their remains near
by. The Ethnological Bureau at Washington and the Peabody Museum at
Harvard have instituted many expeditions and investigations. In recent
times the works of Morgan, Hale, Brinton, Powell, Dall, Putnam, McGee,
and Boas have opened new perspectives, especially on the subject of the
American Indian.

The American flora has contributed no less new material to science than
the American fauna. European botanists had commenced the work with tours
of observation, when in the middle of the last century Asa Gray began
his admirable life-work. He was in the closest sympathy with European
botanists, and published in all more than four hundred papers on the
classification and systematic study of the profuse material. Gray died
in 1888, undoubtedly the greatest botanist that America has produced.
His labours have been supplemented by his teacher, Torrey; by Chapman,
who worked up the southeastern part of the country; by scientific
travellers, such as Wright and Watson; by Engelmann, who studied cacti;
Bebb, who studied the fields; by Coulter, the expert on the plants of
the Rocky Mountains; by Bailey and many others. This great work is more
or less pervaded by the ideas of Gray; but in the last twenty years it
has branched off in several directions under a number of leaders. Farlow
has reached out into cryptogamic botany, Goodale into plant physiology,
and Sargent into dendrology. There has been, moreover, considerable
specialization and subdivision of labour in the botanical gardens of New
York, Boston, and St. Louis, and the herbaria and botanical institutes
of various universities and of the agricultural experiment stations.
These institutions put forth publications under the editorship of such
able botanists as Robinson, Trelease, Fernald, Smith, and True; and
these works are not excelled by those of any other country.

We have had, perhaps, too much of mere names; and yet these have been
only examples, calculated to show the strength and the weakness of the
scientific development of America. We have sought specially to keep
within the limits of the “philosophical faculties.” It would be
interesting to go into the subjects of theology, law and medicine, and
of technology in a similar way; but it would lead too far. Yet whether
the unprejudiced observer considers such disciplines as we have
described, or whether he looks out into neighbouring academic fields, he
will find the same flourishing condition of things—a bold, healthy, and
intelligent progress, with a complete understanding of the true aim of
science, with tireless industry, able organization, and optimistic
energy.

Of course, the actual achievements are very uneven; they are, in some
directions, superior to those of England and France—in a few directions
even to those of Germany, but in others far inferior to German
attainments. We have seen that the conditions a short time ago were
unfortunate for science, and that only recently have they given way to
more favourable factors. Most people see such favourable factors first
of all in the financial support offered to the investigator; but the
chief aid for such work does not lie in the providing of appliances.
Endowments can do no more than supply books, apparatus, laboratories,
and collections for those who wish to study, but all that never makes a
great scientist; the average level of study may be improved by material
support, but it will never be brought above a certain level of
mediocrity. For, after all, science depends chiefly on the personal
factor; and good men can do everything, even on narrow means.

The more important factor in the opulence which science now enjoys is an
indirect one; it improves the social status of scientific workers, so
that better human material is now attracted to the scientific career. As
long as scientific life meant poverty and dependence, the only people
attracted to it were men of the schoolteaching stamp; the better men
have craved something fuller and greater, and have wished to expend
their strength in the more thoroughly living province of industrial and
commercial life, where alone the great social premiums were to be found.
But now the case is different. Science has been recognized by the
nation; scientific and university life has become rich in significance,
the professor is no longer a school-teacher, and the right kind of young
scholar is stepping into the arena. Another factor is working in the
same direction. Substantial families are coming to the third generation,
when they go over from trade to art and science. The sons of the best
people with great vitality and great personality prefer now to work in
the laboratory rather than in the bank. Each one brings Yankee
intelligence and Yankee energy with him. This social reappraisement of
science, and its effect on the quality of men who become productive
scholars, are the best indication of the coming greatness of American
science.

What does the American read? In “Jörn Uhl,” the apprentice in the
Hamburg bookshop says to his friend: “If I am to tell you how to be wise
and cunning, then go where there are no books. Do you know, if I had not
had my father, I should have gone to America—for a fact! And it would
have gone hard with anybody who poked a book at me.” In that way many a
man in Europe, who is long past his apprenticeship, still pictures to
himself America: Over in America nobody bothers about books. And he
would not credit the statement that nowhere else are so many books read
as in America. The American’s fondness for reading finds clearest
expression in the growth of libraries, and in few matters of
civilization is America so well fitted to teach the Old World a lesson.
Europe has many large and ancient collections of books, and Germany more
than all the rest; but they serve only one single purpose—that of
scientific investigation; they are the laboratories of research. They
are chiefly lodged with the great universities, and even the large
municipal libraries are mostly used by those who need material for
productive labours, or wish to become conversant with special topics.

Exactly the same type of large library has grown up in America; and
here, too, it is chiefly the universities whose stock of books is at the
service of the scientific world. Besides these, there are special
libraries belonging to learned societies, state law libraries, special
libraries of government bureaus and of museums, and largest of all the
Library of Congress. The collection of such scientific books began at
the earliest colonial period, and at first under theological auspices.
The Calvinist Church, more than any other, inclined to the study of
books. As early as 1790 the catalogue of Harvard College contained 350
pages, of which 150 were taken up by theological works. Harvard has
to-day almost a million books, mostly in the department of literature,
philology, history, philosophy, and jurisprudence. There are, moreover,
in Boston the state library of law, with over a hundred thousand
volumes; the Athenæum, with more than two hundred thousand books; the
large scientific library of the Institute of Technology, and many
others. Similarly, in other large cities, the university libraries are
the nucleus for scientific labours, and are surrounded by admirable
special libraries, particularly in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Then, too, the small academic towns, like Princeton, Ithaca, New Haven,
and others, have valuable collections of books, which in special
subjects are often unique. For many years the American university
libraries have been the chief purchasers of the special collections left
by deceased European professors. And it often happens, especially
through the gift of grateful alumni, that collections of the greatest
scientific value, which could not be duplicated, come into the
possession even of lesser institutions.

In many departments of investigation, Washington takes the lead with the
large collection of the various scientific, economic, and technical
bureaus of the government. The best known of these is the unique medical
library of the War Department. Then there is the Library of Congress,
with many more than a million volumes, which to-day has an official
right to one copy of every book published in the United States, and so
may claim to be a national library. It is still not comparable to the
many-sided and complete collection of the British Museum; the national
library is one-sided, or at least shows striking gaps. Having started as
the Library of Congress, it has, aside from its one copy of every
American book and the books on natural science belonging to the
Smithsonian Institution, few books except those on politics, history,
political economy, and law. The lack of space for books, which existed
until a few years ago, made it seem inexpedient to spend money for
purposes other than the convenience of Congressmen. But the American
people, in its love for books, has now erected such a building as the
world had never before seen devoted to the storing of books. The new
Congressional Library was opened in 1897, and since the stacks have
still room for several million volumes, the library will soon grow to an
all-round completeness like that at London. This library has a specially
valuable collection of manuscripts and correspondences.

All the collections of books which we have so far mentioned are
virtually like those of Germany. But since they mostly date from the
nineteenth century, the American libraries are more modern, and contain
less dead weight in the way of unused folios. Much more important is
their greatly superior accessibility. Their reading-rooms are more
comfortable and better lighted, their catalogues more convenient,
library hours longer, and, above all, books are much more easily and
quickly delivered. Brooks Adams said recently, about the library at
Washington as a place for work, that this building is well-nigh perfect;
it is large, light, convenient, and well provided with attendants. In
Paris and London, one works in dusty, forbidding, and overcrowded rooms,
while here the reading-rooms are numerous, attractive, and comfortable.
In the National Library at Paris, one has to wait an hour for a book; in
the British Museum, half an hour; and in Washington, five minutes. This
rapid service, which makes such a great difference to the student, is
found everywhere in America; and everywhere the books are housed in
buildings which are palatial, although perhaps not so beautiful as the
Washington Library.

Still, all these differences are unessential; in principle the academic
libraries are alike in the New and Old Worlds. The great difference
between Europe and America begins with the libraries which are not
learned, but which are designed to serve popular education. The American
public library which is not for science, but for education, is to the
European counterpart as the Pullman express train to the village
post-chaise.

The scientific libraries of Boston, including that of Harvard
University, contain nearly two million printed works; but the largest
library of all is distinct from these. It is housed on Copley Square, in
a renaissance palace by the side of the Art Museum, and opposite the
most beautiful church in America. The staircase of yellow marble, the
wonderful wall-paintings, the fascinating arcade on the inner court, and
the sunlit halls are indeed beautiful. And in and out, from early
morning till late evening, weekday and Sunday, move the people of
Boston. The stream of men divides in the lower vestibule. Some go to the
newspaper room, where several hundred daily newspapers, a dozen of them
German, hang on racks. Others wander to the magazine rooms, where the
weekly and monthly papers of the world are waiting to be read. Others
ascend to the upper stories, where Sargent’s famous pictures of the
Prophets allure the lover of art, in order to look over more valuable
special editions and the art magazines, geographical charts, and musical
works. The largest stream of all goes to the second floor, partly into
the huge quiet reading-room, partly into the rotunda, which contains the
catalogue, partly into the hall containing the famous frescoes of the
Holy Grail, where the books are given out. Here a million and a half
books are delivered every year to be taken home and read. And no one has
to wait; an apparatus carries the applicant’s card with wonderful speed
to the stacks, and the desired book is sent back in automatic cars.
Little children meanwhile wander into the juvenile room, where they find
the best books for children. And everything invites even the least
patient reader to sit down quietly with some sort of a volume—everything
is so tempting, so convenient and comfortable, and so surpassingly
beautiful. And all this is free to the humblest working-man.

And still, if the citizen of Massachusetts were to be asked of what
feature of the public libraries he is most proud, he would probably not
mention this magnificent palace in Boston, the capital of the state, but
rather the 350 free public libraries scattered through the smaller
cities and towns of this state, which is after all only one-third as
large as Bavaria. It is these many libraries which do the broadest work
for the people. Each little collection, wherever it is, is the centre of
intellectual and moral enlightenment, and plants and nourishes the
desire for self-perfection. Of course, Massachusetts has done more in
this respect than any other part of the country—especially more than the
South, which is backward in this respect. But there is no longer any
city of moderate size which has not a large public library, and there is
no state which does not encourage in every possible way the
establishment of public libraries in every small community, giving
financial aid if it is necessary.

Public libraries have become the favourite Christmas present of
philanthropists, and while the hospitals, universities, and museums have
still no reason for complaint, the churches now find that superfluous
millions are less apt to go to gay church windows than to well-chosen
book collections. In the year 1900 there existed more than 5,383 public
libraries having over a thousand volumes; of these 144 had more than
fifty thousand, and 54 had more than a hundred thousand volumes. All
together contained, according to the statistics of 1900, more than
forty-four million volumes and more than seven million pamphlets; and
the average growth was over 8 per cent. There are probably to-day,
therefore, fifteen million volumes more on the shelves. The many
thousand libraries which have fewer than 999 books are over and above
all this.

The make-up of such public libraries may be seen from the sample
catalogue gotten out by the Library Association a few years since, as a
typical collection of five thousand books. This catalogue which, with
the exception of the most important foreign classics, contains only
books in English, including, however, many translations, contains 227
general reference books, 756 books on history, 635 on biography, 413 on
travel, 355 on natural science, 694 in belles-lettres, 809 novels, 225
on art, 220 on religion, 424 on social science, 268 on technical
subjects, etc. The cost of this sample collection is $12,000. The
proportions between the several divisions are about the same in larger
collections. In smaller collections, belles-lettres have a somewhat
greater share. The general interest taken by the nation in this matter
is shown by the fact that the first edition of twenty thousand copies of
this sample catalogue, of six hundred pages, was soon exhausted.

The many-sidedness of this catalogue points also to the manifold
functions of the public library. It is meant to raise the educational
level of the people, and this can be done in three ways: first, interest
may be stimulated along new lines; second, those who wish to perfect
themselves in their own subjects or in whatsoever special topics, may be
provided with technical literature; and third, the general desire for
literary entertainment may be satisfied by books of the best or at least
not of the worst sort. The directors of libraries see their duties to
lie in all three directions. The libraries guide the tastes and
interests of the general public, and try to replace the ordinary
servant-girl’s novel with the best romances of the day and shallow
literature with works which are truly instructive. And no community is
quite content until its public library has become a sort of general
meeting-place and substitute for the saloon and the club. America is the
working-man’s paradise, and attractive enough to the rich man; but the
ordinary man of the middle classes, who in Germany finds his chief
comfort in the Bierhalle, would find little comfort in America if it
were not for the public library, which offers him a home. Thus the
public library has come to be a recognized instrument of culture along
with the public school; and in all American outposts the school teacher
and librarian are among the pioneers.

The learned library cannot do this. To be sure, the university library
can help to spread information, and conversely the public library makes
room for thousands of volumes on all sorts of scientific topics. But the
emphasis is laid very differently in the two cases, and if it were not
so neither library would best fulfil its purpose. The extreme quiet of
the reference library and the bustle and stir of the public library do
not go together. In the one direction America has followed the dignified
traditions of Europe; in the other, it has opened new paths and
travelled on at a rapid pace. Every year discovers new ideas and plans,
new schemes for equipment and the selection of books, for cataloguing,
and for otherwise gaining in utility. When, for instance, the library in
Providence commenced to post a complete list of books and writings
pertaining to the subject of every lecture which was given in the city,
it was the initiation of a great movement. The juvenile departments are
the product of recent years, and are constantly increasing in
popularity. There are even, in some cases, departments for blind
readers. The state commissions are new, and so also the travelling
libraries, which are carried from one village to another.

The great schools for librarians are also new. The German librarian is
mostly a scholar; but the American believes that he has improved on the
European library systems, not so much by his ample financial resources
as by having broken with the academic custom, and having secured
librarians with a special library training. And since there are such
officials in many thousand libraries, and the great institutions create
a constant demand for such persons, the library schools, which offer
generally a three years’ course, have been found very successful.

Admittedly, all this technical apparatus is expensive; the Boston
library expends every year a quarter of a million dollars for
administrative expenses. But the American taxpayer supports this more
gladly than any other burden, knowing that the public library is the
best weapon against alcoholism and crime, against corruption and
discontent, and that the democratic country can flourish only when the
instinct of self-perfection as it exists in every American is thoroughly
satisfied.

The reading of the American nation is not to be estimated wholly by the
books in public libraries, since it also includes a tremendous quantity
of printed material that goes to the home of every citizen. Three
hundred and forty American publishers place their wares every year on
the market, and the part bought by the public libraries is a very small
proportion. A successful novel generally reaches its third hundred
thousand; of course, such gigantic editions are limited to novels and
school-books. The number of annual book publications is much smaller
than in Germany; but it must be considered that, first, the American
electrotype process does not lend itself to new and revised editions;
and that small brochures are replaced in America by the magazine
articles. On the other hand, the number of copies published is perhaps
larger than in Germany. And then, too, among the upper classes, a great
many German, French, and Italian books are purchased from Europe.

The great feature for all classes of the population is the tremendous
production of periodical literature. Statistics show that in the United
States in the year 1903, there were published 2,300 daily papers, more
than 15,000 weeklies, 2,800 monthlies, and 200 quarterlies—in all,
21,000 periodicals. These are more periodicals than are published in all
Europe; in Germany alone there are 7,500. The tremendous significance of
these figures, particularly as compared with the European, becomes clear
only when one considers the number of copies which these periodicals
circulate. Not merely the newspapers of the three cities having over a
million inhabitants, but also those of the larger provincial towns,
reach a circulation of hundreds of thousands; and more surprising still
is the unparalleled circulation of the weekly and monthly papers. Huge
piles of magazines, containing the most serious sort of essays, are sold
from every news-stand in a few hours. And anybody who knows New England
is not surprised at the statement which T. W. Higginson makes in his
recollections, that he came once to a small Massachusetts village of
only twenty-four homes, nineteen of which subscribed to the _Atlantic
Monthly_, a publication which is most nearly comparable to the _Deutsche
Rundschau_.

The surprisingly large sales of expensive books among rich families is
quite as gratifying as the huge consumption of magazines among the
middle classes. Editions de luxe are often sold entire at fabulous
prices before the edition is out, and illustrated scientific works
costing hundreds of dollars always find a ready sale. These are merely
the symptoms of the fact that every American home has its bookcases
proportionate to its resources, and large private libraries are found
not merely in the homes of scholars and specialists. In the palaces of
merchant princes, the library is often the handsomest room, although it
is sometimes so papered with books that it looks as if the architect had
supplied them along with the rugs and chandeliers. One more commonly
finds that the library is the real living-room of the house. If one
looks about in such treasure apartments, one soon loses the sense of
wonder completely; rare editions and valuable curiosities are there
brought together with the greatest care and intelligence into an
appropriate home. There are probably very few German private houses with
collections of books and paintings comparable, for instance, to that of
J. Montgomery Sears in Boston. The whole interior is so wonderfully
harmonious that even the autograph poems and letters of Goethe and
Schiller seem a matter of course. But from the book-shelves of the
millionaire to the carefully selected little shelf of the poor
school-ma’am, from the monumental home of the national library to the
modest little library building of every small village, from the nervous
and rapid perusal of the scholar to the slow making-out of the
working-man who pores over his newspaper on the street corner, or of the
shop-girl with the latest novel in the elevated train, there is
everywhere life and activity centring around the world of print, and
this popularity of books is growing day by day.

By far the most of what the American reads is written by Americans. This
does not mean that any important book which appears in other parts of
the world escapes him; on the contrary just as the American everywhere
wants only the best, uses the latest machines and listens to the most
famous musicians, so in the matter of literature he is observant of
every new tendency in poetry, whether from Norway or Italy, and the
great works of the world’s literature have their thoughtful readers.
There are probably more persons who read Dante in Boston than in Berlin.
Of German intellectual productions, the scientific books are most read,
and if strictly scientific they are read in the original by the best
educated Americans; the popular books are mostly read in translation. Of
the belles-lettres, Schiller and Lessing are generally put aside with
the school-books, while Goethe and Heine remain welcome; and beside them
are translations of modern story-writers from Freytag and Spielhagen
down to Sudermann. French literature is more apt to be read in the
original than German, but with increasing distaste. The moral feeling of
the American is separated by such a chasm from the atmosphere of the
Parisian romance that modern French literature has never become so
popular in America as it has in Germany.

As a matter of course, English literature of every sort has by far the
greatest influence; English magazines are little read or appreciated,
while English poetry, novels, dramas, and works of general interest are
as much read in America as in England. Books so unlike as the novels of
Mrs. Ward, of Du Maurier, and of Kipling have about the same very large
circulation; and all the standard literature of England, from Chaucer to
Browning, forms the educational background of every American, especially
of every American woman. In spite of all this, it remains true that the
most of that which is read in the United States is written by Americans.

How and what does the American write?

Europe has a ready answer, and pieces together a mental picture of “echt
amerikanische” literature out of its unfriendly prejudices, mostly
reminiscent of Buffalo Bill and Barnum’s circus. It is still not
forgotten how England suddenly celebrated Joaquin Miller’s freakish and
inartistic poems of the Western prairie as the great American
achievement, and called this tasteless versifier, who was wholly
unrecognized in his own country, the American Byron. He was not only
unimportant, but he was not typically American. And of American humour
the European observer has about as just an opinion. Nothing but
ridiculous caricatures are considered. Mark Twain’s first writings,
whose sole secret was their wild exaggeration, were more popular in
Germany than in America; while the truly American humour of Lowell or
Holmes has lain unnoticed. The American is supposed to be quite
destitute of any sense for form or measure, and to be in every way
inartistic; and if any true poet were to be granted to the New World, he
would be expected to be noisy like Niagara. In this sense the real
literature of America has hitherto remained un-American, perhaps too
un-American. For the main thing which it has lacked has been force.
There have been men like Uhland, Geibel, and Heyse, but there has so far
been no one like Hebbel.

There is no absolutely new note in American literature, and especially
no one trait which is common to all American writings and which is not
found in any European. If there is anything unique in American
literature, it is perhaps the peculiar combination of elements long
familiar. An enthusiastic American has said that to be American means to
be both fresh and mature, and this is in fact a combination which is
new, and which well characterizes the literary temperament of the
country. To be fresh and young generally means to be immature, and to be
mature and seasoned means to have lost the enthusiasm and freshness of
youth. Of course, this is not a contradiction realized. It would be
impossible, for instance, to be both naïve and mature; but the American
is not and never has been naïve. Just as this nation has never had a
childhood, has never originated ballads, epics, and popular songs, like
other peoples during their naïve beginnings, because this nation brought
with it from Europe a finished culture; so the vigorous youthfulness in
the national literary temperament has in it nothing of naïve simplicity.
It is the enthusiasm of youth, but not the innocence of boyhood. It
would also be impossible to be both fresh and decadent; the American is
mature but not over-ripe, not weakened by the sceptical ennui of
senility.

To be fresh means to be confident, optimistic and eager, lively,
unspoiled, and courageous; it means to strive toward one’s best ideals
with the ardour of youth; while to be mature means to understand things
in their historic connection, in their true proportions, and with a due
feeling for form; to be mature means to be simple, and reposeful, and
not breathlessly anxious over the outcome of things. To be sure, this
optimistic feeling of strength, this enthusiastic self-confidence, is
hardly able to seize the things which are finest and most subtle. It
looks only into the full sunlight, never into the shadows with their
less obvious beauties. There are no half-tones, no sentimental and
uncertain moods; wonder and meditation come into the soul only with
pessimism. And most of all, the enthusiasm of youth not only looks on
but wants to work, to change and to make over; and so the American is
less an artist than an insistent herald. Behind the observer stands
always the reformer, enthusiastic to improve the world. On the other
hand, the disillusionment of maturity should have cooled the passions,
soothed hot inspiration, and put the breathless tragic muse to sleep. It
avoids dramatic excitement, holds aloof, and looks on with quiet
friendliness and sober understanding of mankind. So it happens that
finished art is incompatible with such an enthusiastic eagerness to
press onward, and sensuous emotion is incompatible with such an
idealism. And so we find in the American temperament a finished feeling
for form, but a more ethical than artistic content, and we find humour
without its favourite attendant of sentiment. Of course, the exceptions
crowd quickly to mind to contradict the formula: had not Poe the
demoniac inspiration; was not Hawthorne a thorough artist; did not
Whitman violate all rules of form; and does not Henry James see the
half-tones? And still such variations from the usual are due to
exceptional circumstances, and every formula can apply only in a general
way.

Still, in these general traits, one can see the workings of great
forces. This enthusiastic self-confidence and youthful optimism in
literature are only another expression of American initiative, which has
developed so powerfully in the fight with nature during the colonial and
pioneer days, and which has made the industrial power of America. And,
as Barrett Wendell has shown, not a little of this enthusiastic and
spontaneous character is inherited from the old English stock of three
hundred years ago. In England itself, the industrial development changed
the people; the subjects of Queen Victoria were very little like those
of Queen Elizabeth; the spontaneity of Shakespeare’s time no longer
suits the smug and insular John Bull. But that same English stock found
in America conditions that were well calculated to arouse its
spontaneity and enthusiasm.

Then, on the other hand, the clear, composed, and formal maturity which
distinguish the literary work of the new nation is traceable principally
to the excellent influence of English literature. The ancient culture of
England spared this nation a period of immaturity. Then, too, there has
been the intellectual domination of the New England States, whose
Puritan spirit has given to literature its ethical quality, and at the
same time contributed a certain quiet superiority to the common turmoil.
Throughout the century, and even to-day, almost all of the best
literature originates with those who are consciously reacting against
the vulgar taste. Just because the number of sellers and readers of
books is so much greater than in Europe, the unliterary circles of
readers who, as everywhere, enjoy the broadly vulgar, must by their
numbers excite the disgust of the real friend of literature; and this
conscious duty of opposition, which becomes a sort of mission, sharpens
the artistic consciousness, fortifies the feeling of form, and struggles
against all that is immature.

Undoubtedly these external conditions are as responsible for many of the
failings of American literature as for its excellences; most of all for
the lack of shading and twilight tones, of all that is dreamy,
pessimistic, sentimental, and “decadent.” This is a lack in the American
life which in other important connections is doubtless a great
advantage. There are no old castles, no crumbling ruins, no picturesque
customs, no church mysticism, nor wonderful symbols; there are no
striking contrasts between social groups, no romantic vagabondage, and
none of the fascinating pomp of monarchy. Everywhere is solid and
healthy contentment, thrifty and well clothed, on broad streets, and
under a bright sun. It is no accident that true poets have not described
their own surroundings, but have taken their material so far as it has
been American, as did Hawthorne, from the colonial times which were
already a part of the romantic past, or out of the Indian legends, or
later from the remote adventurous life of the West, or from the negro
life in far Southern plantations; the daily life surrounding the poet
was not yet suitable for poetry. And by being so cruelly clear and
without atmosphere as not to invite poetic treatment, it has left the
whole literature somewhat glaringly sharp, sane, and homely.

Fiction stands in the centre of the characteristic literary productions;
but also literature in the broader sense, including everything which
interprets human destinies, as history and philosophy, or even more
broadly including all the written products of the nation, everything
reflects the essential traits of the literary temperament. In fact, the
practical literature, especially the newspaper, reveals the American
physiognomy most clearly. In better circles in America, it is proper to
deplore the newspaper as a literary product, and to look on it as a
necessary evil; and doubtless most newspapers serve up a great deal that
is trivial and vulgar, and treat it in a trivial and vulgar way. But no
one is forced, except by his own love for the sensational, to choose his
daily reading out of this majority. Everybody knows that there is a
minority of earnest and admirable papers at his disposal. Apart from
newspaper politics and apart from the admirable industrial organization
of the newspaper—both of which we have previously spoken of—the
newspapers of the country are a literary product whose high merit is too
often underestimated. The American newspapers, and of these not merely
the largest, are an intellectual product of well-maintained uniformity
of standard.

To be sure, the style is often light, the logic unsound, the information
superficial; but, taken as a whole, the newspaper has unity and
character. Thousands of loose-jointed intellects crowd into journalism
every year—more than in any other country; but American journalism, like
the nation as a whole, has an amazing power of assimilation. Just as
thousands of Russians and Italians land every year in the rags of their
wretchedness, and in a few years become earnest American citizens, so
many land on the shores of American journalism who were not intended to
be the teachers or entertainers of humanity, and who nevertheless in a
few years are quite assimilated. The American newspapers, from Boston to
San Francisco, are alike in style and thought; and it must be said, in
spite of all prejudices, that the American newspaper is certainly
literature. The American knows no difference between unpolitical chatter
written with a literary ambition and unliterary comment written with a
political ambition. In one sense the whole newspaper is political, while
at the same time it is nothing but feuilleton, from the editorials, of
which every large newspaper has three or four each day, to the small
paragraphs, notes, and announcements with which the editorial page
generally closes. From the Washington letter to the sporting gossip,
everything tries in a way to have artistic merit, and everything bears
the stamp of American literature. Nothing is pedantic. There is often a
great lack of information and of perspective—perhaps, even, of
conscientiousness in the examination of complaints—but everything is
fresh, optimistic, clear and forcible, and always humorous between the
lines.

In the weekly papers, America achieves still more. The light, fresh, and
direct American style there finds its most congenial field. The same is
true of the monthly papers in a somewhat more ambitious and permanent
way. The leading social and political monthlies, like the venerable
_North American Review_, which errs merely in laying too much emphasis
on the names of its well-known contributors, and others are quite up to
the best English reviews. The more purely literary _Atlantic Monthly_,
which was founded in 1857 by a small circle of Boston friends, Lowell,
Longfellow, Emerson, Holmes, Whittier, and Motley, and which has always
attracted the best talent of the country, is most nearly comparable to
the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. Every monthly paper specially cultivates
that literary form for which America has shown the most pronounced
talent—the essay. The magazine essay entirely takes the place of the
German brochure, a form which is almost unknown in America. The
brochure, depending as it does wholly on its own merits to attract the
attention of the public, must be in some way sensational to make up for
its diminutive size; while an essay which is brought before the reader
on the responsibility of a magazine needs no such motive power. It is
one among many, and takes its due place, being only one of the items of
interest that make up the magazine.

While in German literary circles the problems of the day are mostly
argued in brochures, and the essay is a miniature book really written
for the easy instruction of a public which would not read long books,
the American essay is half-way between. It is living and satirical like
the German brochure, but conservative and instructive like the German
“Abhandlung.” Only when a number of essays on related topics come from
the same pen are they put together and published as a separate book. We
have already mentioned that America is oversupplied with such volumes of
essays, which have almost all the same history—they were first lectures,
then magazine articles, and now they are revised and published in book
form. Their value is, of course, very diverse; but in general, they are
interesting and important, often epoch-making, and the form is
admirable. A distinguished treatment, pointed humour, a rich and clear
diction, uncommonly happy metaphors, and a careful polish are united so
as to make one forget the undeniable haste with which the material is
gathered and the superficiality of the conclusions arrived at. So it
happens that the essayists who appear in book form are much more
appreciated by the reading public than their German colleagues, and that
every year sees several hundred such volumes put on the market. The
motto, “fresh and mature,” is nowhere more appropriate.

But the American remains an American, even in the apparently
international realm of science. It is a matter of course for an
historian to write in the personal style. Parkman, Motley, Prescott, and
Fiske are very different types of historians; and nevertheless, they
have in common the same way of approaching the subject and of giving to
it form and life. But even in so purely a scientific work as William
James’s two-volume “Principles of Psychology,” one finds such forcible
and convincing turns of thought, so personal a form given to abstract
facts, and such freshness together with such ripe mastery, as could come
only from an American.

Oratory may be accounted an off-shoot of actual literature. A nation of
politicians must reserve an honourable place for the orator, and for
many years thousands of factors in public life have contributed to
develop oratory, to encourage the slightest talent for speaking, and to
reward able speakers well. Every great movement in American history has
been initiated by eloquent speakers. Before the Revolution, Adams and
Otis, Quincy and Henry, precipitated the Revolution by their burning
words. And no one can discuss the great movement leading up to the Civil
War without considering the oratory of Choate, Clay, Calhoun, Hayne,
Garrison, and Sumner; of Wendell Phillips, the great popular leader, and
Edward Everett, the great academician, and of Daniel Webster, the
greatest statesman of them all.

In the present times of peace, the orator is less important than the
essayist, and most of the party speeches to-day have not even a modest
place in literature. But if one follows a Presidential campaign, listens
to the leading lawyers of the courts, or follows the parliamentary
debates of university students, one knows that the rhetorical talent of
the American has not died since those days of quickening, and would
spring up again strong and vigorous if any great subject, greater than
were silver coinage or the Philippine policy, should excite again the
nation. Keenness of understanding, admirable sense of form in the single
sentence as in the structure of the whole, startling comparisons,
telling ridicule, careful management of the climax, and the tone of
conviction seem to be everybody’s gift. Here and there the phrase is
hollow and thought is sacrificed to sound, but the general tendency goes
toward brevity and simplicity. A most delightful variation of oratory is
found in table eloquence; the true American after-dinner speech is a
finished work of art. Often, of course, there are ordinary speeches
which simply go from one story to another, quite content merely to
relate them well. In the best speeches the pointed anecdote is not
lacking either, but it merely decorates the introduction; the speaker
then approaches his real subject half playfully and half in earnest,
very sympathetically, and seeming always to let his thoughts choose
words for themselves. The speeches at the Capitol are sometimes better
than those in the Reichstag; but those at American banquets are not only
better than the speeches at Festessen and Kommersen, but they are also
qualitatively different—true literary works of art, for which the
American is especially fitted by the freshness, humour, enthusiasm, and
sense of symmetry which are naturally his.

Whoever looks about among journalists, essayists, historians, and
orators will return more than once to the subject of belles-lettres; and
this is truer in America than elsewhere. As we have already seen, pure
literature is strongly biased toward the practical; it is glad to serve
great ideas, whether moral or social. Poetry itself is sometimes an
essay or sermon. We need not think here of romances which merely
sermonize, and are therefore artistically second-rate, such as “Uncle
Tom’s Cabin,” or of such literary rubbish as Bellamy’s “Utopia”; even
true poets like Whittier must, in the history of emancipation, be
classed with the political writers. And although the problem novel in
the three-volume English form is not favoured in America because of its
poor literary form, the short satirical and clean-cut society novel,
which may break away at any moment into the essay or journalistic
manner, has become all the more popular. Further, this being the time of
America’s industrial struggle, society has not become so intellectually
aristocratic that being a poet is a life profession. The leading
novelists have had to be active in almost all fields of literature; they
have frequently begun as journalists, and have generally been essayists,
editors, or professors at the same time.

The eighteenth century was unfruitful for the New World, in lyric as in
epic literature. The literary history discovers many names, but they are
of men who created nothing original, and who cannot be compared with the
great English geniuses. America was internally as well as externally
dependent on England; and if one compares the utter intellectual
unfruitfulness of Canada to-day with the feverish activity of her
southern neighbour, one will inevitably ask whether political colonies
can ever create literature. When freedom was first obtained by the
colonies, a condition of new equilibrium was reached after a couple of
decades of uncertainty and unrest, and then American literature woke up.
Even then it was not free, and did not care to be free, from English
precedents; and yet there were original personalities which came to the
front. Washington Irving was, as Thackeray said, the first ambassador
which the New World of literature sent to the Old. English influences
are unmistakable in the tales of Irving, although he was a strong and
original writer. His “Sketch-Book,” published in 1819, has remained the
most popular of his books, and the poetic muse has never been hunted
away from the shores of the Hudson where Rip Van Winkle passed his long
slumbers.

The American novel had still not appeared. The romances of Brown, laid
in Pennsylvania, were highly inartistic in spite of their forcible
presentation. Then James Fenimore Cooper discovered the untouched
treasures of the infinite wilderness. His “Spy” appeared in 1821, and he
was at once hailed as the American Scott. In the next year appeared “The
Pioneers,” the first of his Leather-stocking Tales of wild Indian life.
And after Cooper’s thirty-two romances there followed many tales by
lesser writers. Miss Sedgwick was the first woman to attain literary
popularity, and her romances were the first which depicted the life of
New England. At the same time a New England youth began to write verses
which, by their serene beauty, were incomparably above all earlier lyric
attempts of his native land. Bryant’s first volume of poems appeared in
1821, and therewith America had a literature, and England’s sarcastic
question, “Who ever reads an American book?” was not asked again.

The movement quickly grew to its first culmination. A brilliant period
commenced in the thirties, when Hawthorne, Holmes, Emerson, Longfellow,
Thoreau, Curtis, and Margaret Fuller, all of New England, became the
luminaries of the literary New World. And like the prelude to a great
epoch rings the song of the one incomparable Edgar Allan Poe, who did
not fight for ideas like a moral New Englander, but sang simply in the
love of song. Poe’s melancholy, demoniacal, and melodious poetry was a
marvellous fountain in the country of hard and sober work. And Poe was
the first whose fantasy transformed the short story into a thing of the
highest poetical form. In New England no one was so profoundly a poet as
Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of “The Scarlet Letter.” His “Marble
Faun,” of which the scene is laid in Italy, may show him in his fullest
maturity, but his greatest strength lay in the romances of
Massachusetts, which in their emotional impressiveness and artistic
finish are as beautiful as an autumn day in New England. Ralph Waldo
Emerson, the rhapsodical philosopher, wrote poems teeming over with
thought, and yet true poems, while Whittier was the inspired bard of
freedom; and besides these there was the trio of friends, Longfellow,
Lowell, and Holmes. Harvard professors they were, and men of
distinguished ability, whose literary culture made them the proper
educators of the nation. Thomas Wentworth Higginson is the only one of
this circle now living, remaining over, as it were, from that golden
age. He fought at first to free the slaves, and then he became the stout
defender of the emancipation of women, and is to-day, as then, the
master of the reflective essay. His life is full of “cheerful
yesterdays”; his fame is sure of “confident tomorrows.”

Longfellow is, to the German, mainly the sensitive transposer of German
poetry; his sketch-book, “Hyperion,” opened up the German world of myth,
and brought the German romance across the ocean. His ballads and his
delightful idyll of “Evangeline” clothed New England life, as it were,
in German sentiment; and even his Indian edda, “Hiawatha,” sounds as if
from a German troubadour wandering through the Indian country.
Longfellow became the favourite poet of the American home, and American
youth still makes its pilgrimage to the house in Cambridge where he once
lived. Lowell was perhaps more gifted than Longfellow, and certainly he
was the more many-sided. His art ranged from the profoundest pathos by
which American patriotism was aroused in those days of danger, to the
broadest and most whimsical humour freely expressed in dialect verses;
and he also wrote the most finished idyllic poetry and keenly satirical
and critical essays. It is common to exalt his humorous verses, “The
Biglow Papers,” to the highest place of typical literary productions of
America; nevertheless, his essential quality was fine and academic. Real
American humour undoubtedly finds its truer expression in Holmes. Holmes
was also a lyric poet, but his greatest work was the set of books by the
“Autocrat.” His “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” has that serious smile
which makes world literature. It was the first of a long series, and at
the writing he was a professor of anatomy, sixty-four years old.

Then there were many lesser lights around these great ones. At the
middle of the century Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her “Uncle Tom’s
Cabin,” of which ten thousand copies were sold every day for many
months. And romance literature in general began to increase. At the same
time appeared the beautiful songs of Bayard Taylor, whose later
translation of Faust has never been surpassed, and the scarcely less
admirable lyrics of Stedman and Stoddard. So it happened that at the
time when the Civil War broke out, America, although deficient in every
sort of productive science except history, had a brilliant literature.
Science needed, first of all, solid academic institutions, which could
only be built patiently, stone on stone—a work which has been witnessed
by the last three decades of the century. Poetry, however, needed only
the inner voice which speaks to the susceptible heart, and the
encouragement of the people. For science there has been a steady, quiet
growth, parallel with the growth of the institutions; for letters there
have been changing fortunes, times of prosperity and times of
stagnation. When the powder and smoke of the Civil War had blown away
the happy days of literature were over; it began to languish, and only
at the present day is it commencing to thrive once more.

This does not mean that there has been no talent for three decades, or
that the general interest in literature has flagged. Ambitious writers
of romance like Howells, James, Crawford, and Cable; novelists like
Aldrich, Bret Harte, and Hale, Mary Wilkins, and Sarah Orne Jewett;
poets like Lanier and Whitman, and humourists like Stockton and Mark
Twain, have done much excellent work, and work that is partly great, and
have shown the way to large provinces of literary endeavour.
Nevertheless, compared with the great achievements which had gone
before, theirs is rather a time of intermission. And yet many persons
are quite prepared to say that Howells is the greatest of all American
authors, and his realistic analyses among the very best modern romances.
And Howells himself pays the same tribute to Mark Twain’s later and
maturer writings.

But there is one poet about whom only the future can really decide; this
is Walt Whitman. His “Leaves of Grass,” with their apparently formless
verse, were greatly praised by some; by others felt to be barbarous and
tasteless. There has been a dispute similar to that over Zarathustra of
Nietzsche. And even as regards content, Whitman may be compared with
Nietzsche, the radical democrat with the extreme aristocrat, for the
exaggerated democratic exaltation of the ego leads finally to a point in
which every single man is an absolute dictator in his own world, and
therefore comes to feel himself unique, and proudly demands the right of
the Uebermensch. “When they fight, I keep silent, go bathing, or sit
marvelling at myself,” says this prophet of democracy. “In order to
learn, I sat at the feet of great masters. Oh, that these great masters
might return once more to learn of me.” The similarity between American
and German intellects could readily be traced further, and was, perhaps,
not wholly unfitted to reveal a certain broad literary perspective. As
we have compared Whitman and Nietzsche, so we might compare Bryant with
Platen, Poe with Heine, Hawthorne with Freytag, Lowell with Uhland,
Whittier with Rückert, Holmes with Keller, Howells with Fontane,
Crawford with Heyse, and so on, and we should compare thus
contemporaries of rather equal rank. But such a parallelism, of course,
could not be drawn too far, since it would be easy to show in any such
pair important traits to belie the comparison.

In the positively bewildering literature of to-day, the novel and the
short story strongly predominate. The Americans have always shown a
special aptitude and fondness for the short story. Poe was the true
master of that form, and the grace with which Aldrich has told the story
of Marjorie Daw, and Davis of Van Bibber, the energy with which Hale has
cogently depicted the Man Without a Country, or Bret Harte the American
pioneer, and the intimacy with which Miss Wilkins and Miss Jewett have
perpetuated the quieter aspects of human existence, show a true instinct
for art. A profound appreciation, fresh vigour, and fine feeling for
form, graceful humour and all the good qualities of American literature,
combine to make the short story a perfect thing. It is not the German
_Novelle_, but is, rather, comparable to the French _conte_. The short
stories are not all of the single type; some are masculine and others
feminine in manner. The finely cut story, which is short because the
charm of the incidents would vanish if narrated in greater detail, is of
the feminine type. And, of the masculine, is the story told in cold,
sharp relief, which is short because it is energetic and impatient of
any protracted waits. In both cases, everything unessential is left out.
Perhaps the American is nowhere more himself than here; and short
stories are produced in great numbers and are specially fostered by the
monthly magazines.

Of humourists there are fewer to-day than formerly. Neither the refined
humour of Irving, Lowell, and Holmes, nor the broader humour of Bret
Harte and Mark Twain, finds many representatives of real literary
importance. There are several, it is true, who are delighted with
Dooley’s contemporary comment in the Irish dialect, but there is a much
truer wit in the delicately satirical society novels of Henry James, and
to a less degree in those of Grant, Herrick, Bates, and a hundred
others, or in the romances of common life, such as Westcott’s “David
Harum.”

The historical romance has flourished greatly. At first the fantasy went
to far regions, and the traditional old figures of romance were tricked
out in the gayest foreign costumes. The most popular of all has been
Wallace’s “Ben Hur.” The Americans have long since followed the road
which German writers have taken from Ebers to Dahn and Wildenbruch, and
have revived their own national past. To be sure, the tremendous
editions of these books are due rather to the desire for information
than the love of poetry. The public likes to learn its national history
while being entertained, since the national consciousness has developed
so noticeably in the last decade and the social life of America in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has doubtless become thus living
and real for millions of Americans. Æsthetic motives predominate,
nevertheless, and although books like Churchill’s “The Crisis,”
Bacheller’s “D’ri and I,” Miss Johnston’s “Audrey,” Ford’s “Janice
Meredith,” and others similar are merely books of the day, and will be
replaced by others on the next Christmas-trees, nevertheless they are
works of considerable artistic merit. They are forcibly constructed,
dramatic, full of invention and delightful diction. It is undeniable
that the general level of the American romance is to-day not inferior to
that of Germany.

Historical romance aims, first of all, to awaken the national
consciousness. So, for instance, the romances of the versatile
physician, Weir Mitchell, are first of all histories of the
Revolutionary period of the whole nation, and, secondarily, histories of
early Pennsylvania. But the story which depends on local colour
flourishes too. Here shows itself strongly that trait which is
distinguishable in American writing through the whole century, from
Irving, Cooper, and Bryant to the present day—the love of nature. Almost
every part of the country has found some writer to celebrate its
landscape and customs, not merely the curious inhabitants of the prairie
and gold-fields, but the outwardly unromantic characters of the New
England village and the Tennessee mountains, of the Southern plantations
and the Western States. And new stories of this sort appear every day.
Especially the new West figures prominently in literature; and the
tireless ambition on which the city of Chicago is founded is often
depicted with much talent. The novels of Fuller, Norris, and others are
all extraordinarily forceful descriptions of Western life and
civilization. The South of to-day, which shows symptoms of awaking to
new life, is described more from the Northern than from the Southern
point of view. It is surprising that the mental life of the American
negro has attracted so little attention, since the short stories of
Chestnut point to unexplored treasures.

The longer efforts are always in prose, and since the time of Evangeline
epic verse has found almost no representative. Verse is almost wholly
lyrical. The history of American lyric is contained in the large and
admirable collections of Stedman, Onderdonk, and others; and it is the
history of, perhaps, the most complete achievement of American
literature. One who knows the American only in the usual caricature, and
does not know what an idealist the Yankee is, would be surprised to
learn that the lyric poem has become his favourite field. The romantic
novel, which appeals to the masses, may have, perhaps, a commercial
motive, while the book of verse is an entirely disinterested production.
The lyric, in its fresh, intense, and finished way, reveals the inner
being of American literature, and surprisingly much lyric verse is being
written to-day. Even political newspapers, like the _Boston Transcript_,
publish every day some lyric poem; and although here as everywhere many
volumes of indifferent verse see the light of day, still the feeling for
form is so general that one finds very seldom anything wholly bad and
very often bits of deep significance and beauty. Here, too, the
best-known things are not the most admirable. We hear too much of
Markham’s “The Man With the Hoe,” and too little of Santayana’s sonnets
or of Josephine Preston Peabody. Here, too, local colour is happily in
evidence—as, for instance, in the well-known verses of Riley. The
Western poet goes a different road from the Eastern. The South has never
again sent a messenger so full of melodies as Sidney Lanier.

There is a strong lyric tendency also in the dramatic compositions of
the day. The true drama has always been more neglected than any other
branch of art, and if it is true that the Americans have preserved the
temperament and point of view of Elizabethan England, it is high time
for some American Shakespeare to step forth. Until now, extremely few
plays of real literary worth have been written between the Atlantic and
the Pacific Oceans. Dramatists there have been always, and the stage is
now more than ever supplied by native talent; but literature is too
little considered here. The rural dramas having the local colour of
Virginia and New England are generally better than the society pieces:
and the very popular dramatizations of novels are stirring, but utterly
cheap. On the other hand, the American has often applied the lyric gift
in dramatic verse, and in dramas of philosophic significance such as
Santayana’s admirable “Lucifer” or Moody’s “Masque of Judgment.” The
stunted growth of American dramatic writing is closely connected with
the history of the American stage, a subject which may lead us from
literature to the sister arts.