December 31, 2011
SUGGESTED READINGS IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURE
John James Audubon, Writings and Drawings, edited by Christopher Irmscher (New York: Library of America, 1999).
Stephen Crane, Prose and Poetry: Maggie: A Girl of the Streets; The Red Badge of Courage; Stories, Sketches, and Journalism; Poetry, edited by J. C. Levenson (New York: Library of America, 1984) (From "The Black Riders and Other Lines": "A learned man came to me once./ He said, 'I know the way, --come.'/ And I was overjoyed at this./ Together we hastened./ Soon, too soon, were we/ Where my eyes were useless,/ And I knew not the ways of my feet./ I clung to the hand of my friend; /But at last he cried, 'I am lost'. " Id. at 1299, 1305.).
Frederick Douglass, Autobiographies: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; My Bondage and My Freedom; Life and Time, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York: Library of America, 1994).
Washington Irving, History, Tales and Sketches: Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent.; Salmagundi or, The Whim-Wham and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. & Others; A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty; The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., edited by James W. Tuttleton (New York: Library of America, 1983) (From A History of New York: " 'Strike while the Iron is hot,' was a favourite saying of Peter the Great, while an apprentice in a blacksmith's shop, at Amsterdam. It is one of those proverbial sayings, which speak a word to the ear, but a volume to the understanding--and contain a world of wisdom, condensed within a narrow compass---Thus every art and profession has thrown a gem of the kind, into the public stock, enriching society by some sage maxim and pithy apothegm drawn from its own experience; in which is conveyed, not only the arcana of that individual art or profession, but also the important secret of a prosperous and happy life. 'Cut your coat according to your cloth,; says the taylor--'Stick to your last,' cries the cobler--Make hay while the sun shines,' says the farmer--'Prevention is better than cure,' hints the physician--Surely a man has but to travel through the world, with open ears, and by the time he is grey, he will have all the wisdom of Solomon--and then he has nothing to do but to grow young again, and turn it ti best advantage." Id. at 363, 642.).
Washington Irving, Three Western Narratives: A Tour of the Prairies; Astoria; The Adventures of Captain Bonneville, edited by James P. Ronda (New York: Library of America, 2004).
Herman Melville, Pierre or, The Ambiguities; Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile; The Piazza Tales; The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade; Uncollected Prose; Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative), edited by Harrison Hayford (New York: Library of America, 1984) (From Pierre: "The venerable merchants and accountants held a meeting, at which it was finally decided, that, hard and unwelcome as the necessity might be, yet it was now no use to disguise the fact, that the building could no longer be efficiently devoted to its primitive purpose. It must be divided into stores; cut into offices; and given for a roost to the gregarious lawyers. This intention was executed, even to the making offices high up in the tower; and so well did the thing succeed, that ultimately the church-yard was invaded for a supplemental edifice, likewise to be promiscuously rented to the legal crowd. But this new building very much exceeded the body of the church height. It was some seven stories; a fearful pile of Titanic bricks, lifting its tile roof almost to a level with the top of the sacred tower." "In this ambitious erection the proprietors went a few steps, or rather a few stories, too far. For as people would seldom willingly fall into legal altercations unless the lawyers were always handy to help them; so it is ever an object with lawyers to have their offices as convenient as feasible to the street; on the ground-floor, if possible, without a single acclivity of a step; but at any rate not in the seventh story of any house, where their clients might be deterred from employing them at all, if they were compelled to mount seven long flights of stairs, one over the other, with very brief landings, in order even to pay their preliminary retaining fees. So, from some time after its throwing open, the upper stories of the less ancient attached edifice remained almost wholly without occupants; and by the forlorn echoes of their vacuities, right over the head of the business-thriving legal gentlemen below, must--to some few of them at least--have suggested unwelcome similitudes, having reference to the crowded state of their basement-pockets, as compared with the melancholy condition of their attics; --alas! full purses and empty heads! . . ." Id. at 1, 310-311. From Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative): "Marvel not that having been made acquainted with the young sailor's essential innocence the worthy man lifted not a finger to avert the doom of such a martyr to martial discipline. So to do would not only have been as idle as invoking the desert, but would also have been an audacious transgression of the bounds of his function one as exactly prescribed to him by military law as that of the boatswain or an other naval officer. Bluntly put, a chaplain is the minister of the Prince of Peace serving in the host of the God of War--Mars. As such, he is an incongruous as a musket would be on the alter at Christmas. Why, then, is he there? Because he indirectly subserves the purpose attrsted by the cannon; because too he lends the sanction of the religion of the meek to that which practically is the abrogation of everything by brute Force." Id. at 1351, 1425.).
William James, Writings 1878-1899: Psychology: The Briefer Course; The Will to Believe and Other Essay in Popular Philosophy; Talks to Teachers of Psychology and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals; Selected Essays, edited by Gerald E. Myers (New York: Library of America, 1992) (From Psychology: The Briefer Course: "The reason why cramming is such a bad mode of study is now made clear. I mean by cramming that way of preparing for examinations by committing 'points' to memory during a few hours or days of intense application immediately preceding the final ordeal, little or no work having been performed during the previous course of the term. Things learned thus in a few hours, on one occasion, for one purpose, cannot possibly have formed many association with other things in the mind. Their brain-processes are led into by few paths, and are relatively little liable to be awaken again. Speedy oblivion is the almost inevitable fate of all that is committed to memory in this simple way. Whereas, on the contrary, the same materials taken in gradually, day after day, recurring in different contexts, considered in various relations, associated with other external incidents, and repeatedly reflected on, grow into such a system, form such connections with the rest of the mind's fabric, lie open to so many paths of approach, that they remain permanent possessions. This is the intellectual reason why habits of continuous application should be enforced in educational establishments. Of course there is no moral turpitude in cramming. Did it lead to the desired end of secure learning, it were infinitely the best method of study. But it does not; and students themselves should understand the reason why." Id. at 1, 279-280. From "Remarks on Spencer's Definition of Mind as Correspondence": "The truth appears to be that every individual man may, if it please him, set up his private categorical imperative of what rightness or excellence in though shall consist in, and these different ideals, instead of entering upon the scene armed with a warrant . . . appear only as so many brute affirmation left to fight it out upon the chess-board among themselves. They are, at best, postulates, each of which must depend on the general consensus of experience as a whole to bear out its validity. The formula which proves to have the most massive destiny will be the true one. But this is a point which can only be solved ambulando, and not by any a priori definition. The attempt to forestall the decision is free to all to make, but all make it at their risk. Our respective hypotheses and postulates help to shape the course of thought, but the only thing which we all agree in assuming is, that thought will be coerced away from them if they are wrong. If Spenser to-day says, 'Bow to the actual,' whilst Swinburne spurns 'compromise with the nature of things,' I exclaim, 'Fiat justitia, pereat mundus,' and Mill says, 'To hell I go, rather than "adjust" myself to an evil God,' what umpire can there be between us but the future? The idealists and the empiricists confront each other like Guelphs and Ghibellines, but each alike waits for adoption, as it were, by the course of events." "In other words, we are all fated to be, a priori, teleologists whether we will or no. Interests which we bring with us, and simply posit or take our stand upon, are the very flour out of which our mental dough is kneaded. The organism of thought, from the vague dawn of discomfort or ease in the polyp of the intellectual joy of Laplace among his formulas, is teleological through and through, Not a cognition occurs but feeling is there to comment on it, to stamp it as of greater or less worth. . . . To attempt to hoodwink teleology out of sight by saying nothing about it, is the vainest of procedures. . . . " Id. at 893, 904-905.).
Edgar Allan Poe, Essays and Reviews: Theory of Poetry; Reviews of British and Continental Authors; Reviews of American Authors and American Literature; Magazines and Criticism; The Literary and Social Scene; Articles and Marginalia, edited by G. R. Thompson (New York: Library of America, 1984).
Edgar Allan Poe, Poetry and Tales, edited by Patrick F. Quinn (New York: Library of America, 1984) (From "Instinct vs Reason--A Black Cat": "The line which demarcates the instinct of the brute creation from the boasted reason of man, is, beyond doubt, of the most shadowy and unsatisfactory character--a boundary line far more difficult to settle than even the North-Eastern or the Oregon. The question whether the lower animals do or do not reason will possibly never be decided--certainly never in our present condition of knowledge. While the self-love and arrogance of man will persist in denying the reflective power to beasts, because the granting it seems to derogate from his own vaunted supremacy, he yet perpetually finds himself involved in the paradox of decrying instinct as an inferior faculty, while he is forced to admit its infinite superiority, in a thousand cases, over the very reason which he claims exclusively as his own. Instinct, so far from being an inferior reason, is perhaps the most exacted intellect of all. It will appear to the true philosopher as the divine mind itself acting immediately upon it creatures." Id. at 370, 370.).
Walt Whitman, Complete Poetry and Collected Prose: Leaves of Grass (1855); Leaves of Grass (1891-92); Complete Prose Work (1892); Supplementary Prose, edited by Justin Kaplan (New York: Library of America, 1982) (From Leaves of Grass (1855): "Great is Justice;/Justice is not settled by legislators and laws . . . . it is in the soul,/It cannot be varied by statutes any more than love or pride or the attraction of gravity can,/It is immutable . . it does not depend on majorities . . . . majorities or what not come at last before the same passionless and exact tribunal.//For justice are the grand natural lawyers and perfect judges . . . . it is in their souls,/It is well assorted . . . . they have not studied for nothing . . . . the great include the less,/They rule on the highest grounds . . . . they oversee all eras and states and administrations.//The perfect judge fears nothing . . . . he could go front to front with God,/Before the perfect judge all shall stand back . . . . life and death shall stand back . . . heaven and hell shall stand back." Id at 145.).