Literature in New England




The English and Literature Department

______________’s qualification work on speciality 5220100 English philology on the theme:

“Literature in New England”

Supervisor: ___________

Gulistan 2008


I. Introduction

1.1. The English in Virginia

II. Main part

2.1. Pilgrims and puritans in new England: historical and descriptive writers

2.1.1. The Pilgrims

2.1.2. The plymouth colony

2.1.3. Puritan Colonies in New England

2.3. The new England clergy: Theology in New England

2.2.1. The Clergy

2.3. Puritan poetry in new England

2.3.1. Early Puritan Poetry

2.3.2. The Bay Psalm Book

2.4. The first half of the century the personal touch

2.5. The revolutionary period

2.6. Poetry of the revolution

2.6.1. The close of eighteen century. Transition

2.6.2. The new literature

2.7. Writers of new York and Pennsylvania

2.7.1. Novelists and humorists

2.7.2. Poetry South and North

2.7.3. Scholars and essayists

III. Conclusion

IV. Bibliography

I. Introduction

During its early history America was a series of British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States. Therefore its literary tradition begins as linked to the broader tradition of English literature. The problem is that unique American characteristics and the breadth of its production usually now cause it to be considered a separate path and tradition.And the aim of the work is to search deeply each step of these periods.

1.1 The English in Virginia: Captain John Smith William Strachey George Sandy

The story of a nation's literature ordinarily has its beginning far back in the remoter history of that nation obscured by the uncertainties of an age of which no trustworthy records have been preserved. The earliest writings of a people are usually the first efforts at literary production of a race in its childhood; and as these compositions develop they record the intellectual and artistic growth of the race. The conditions which attended the development of literature in America therefore are peculiar. At the very time when Sir Walter Raleigh -- a type of the great and splendid men of action who made such glorious history for England in the days of Elizabeth -- was organizing the first futile efforts to colonize the new world English Literature which is the joint possession of the whole English-speaking race was rapidly developing. Sir Philip Sidney had written his Arcadia first of the great prose romances and enriched English poetry with his sonnets; Edmund Spenser had composed The Shepherd's Calendar; Christopher Marlowe had established the drama upon heroic lines; and Shakespeare had just entered on the first flights of his fancy. When in 1606 King James granted to a company of London merchants the first charter of Virginia Sidney and Spenser and Marlowe were dead Shakespeare had produced some of his greatest plays the name of Ben Jonson along with other notable names had been added to the list of our great dramatists and the philosopher Francis Bacon had published the first of his essays. These are the familiar names which represent the climax of literary achievement in the Elizabethan age; and this brilliant epoch had reached its full height when the first permanent English settlement in America was made at Jamestown in 1607. On New Year's day the little fleet commanded by Captain Newport sailed forth on its venturesome and romantic enterprise the significance of which was not altogether unsuspected by those who saw it depart. Michael Drayton one of the most popular poets of his day later poet laureate of the kingdom sang in quaint prophetic verses a cheery farewell: --

"You brave heroic minds

Worthy your country's name

That honor still pursue

Go and subdue

Whilst loitering hinds

Lurk here at home with shame.

"And in regions farre

Such heroes bring ye forth

As those from whom we came;

And plant our name

Under that star

Not known unto our north.

"And as there plenty grows

Of laurel everywhere

Apollo's sacred tree

You it may see A poet's brows

To crown that may sing there."[1]

The Virginia Colony.

This little band of adventurers "in regions farre" disembarked from the ships Discovery Good Speed and Susan Constant upon the site of a town yet to be built fifty miles inland on the shore of a stream as yet unexplored in the heart of a vast green wilderness the home of savage tribes who were none too friendly. It was hardly to be expected that the ripe seeds of literary culture should be found in such a company or should germinate under such conditions in any notable luxuriance. The surprising fact however is that in this group of gentlemen adventurers there was one man of some literary craft who while leading the most strenuous life of all efficiently protecting and heartening his less courageous comrades in all manner of perilous experiences compiled and wrote with much literary skill the picturesque chronicles of the settlement.

John Smith 1580-1631.

Captain John Smith the mainstay of the Jamestown colony in the critical period of its early existence was a true soldier of fortune venturesome resolute self-reliant resourceful; withal a man of great good sense and with the grasp on circumstances which belongs to the man of power. His life since leaving his home on a Lincolnshire farm at sixteen years of age had been replete with romantic adventure. He had been a soldier in the French army and had served in that of Holland. He had wandered through Italy and Greece into the countries of eastern Europe and had lived for a year in Turkey and Tartary.

II. Main part

2.1 Pilgrims and puritans in new England: historical and descriptive writers

In the northern settlements conditions socially and intellectually were very different from those existing in the South. The men who colonized New England represented a unique type; their ideals their purpose were essentially other than those which inspired the settlers at Jamestown and the later colonizers of Virginia. The band of Pilgrims who landed from the Mayflower at Plymouth in December 1620 were not bent on mere commercial adventure lured to the shores of the New World by tales of its fabulous wealth. They were not in search of gold; they were looking for a permanent home and had brought their wives and children with them. Their ideals were of the most serious sort; their deep religious feeling colored all their plans and habits of life.

2.1.1 The Pilgrims

The Pilgrims were a congregation of l"Separatists" or non-conformists who had already endured hardness for conscience' sake before they had ever left the old home. Under the leadership of the Rev. John Robinson and Elder William Brewster they had fled to Holland in 1608. For ten years this community of Englishmen had lived peacefully in the Dutch city of Leyden earning their own living and enjoying the religious liberty they craved; but they felt themselves aliens in a foreign land and saw that their children were destined to lose their English birthright. After long deliberation they determined "as pilgrims" to seek in the new continent a home where they might still possess their cherished freedom of worship while living under English laws and following the customs and traditions of their mother-land.

2.1.2 The plymouth colony

This company of men obtained a grant from the London Company under the sane charter as that which had been given to the Virginia Colony. They finally set sail from Plymouth in England September 16 1620. It was in the early winter when the Mayflower sighted the shores of Cape Cod. The story of "New England's trails " first told in the narrative of Captain John Smith [2] is as romantic as that of the Jamestown Colony and even more impressive.

Of the forty-one adult males who signed the famous compact on board the Mayflower only twelve bore the title of "Gentlemen." They were a sober-minded sturdy band of true colonizers familiar with labor and inspired with the conviction that God was leading them in their difficult way. Although half the colony perished in the rigor of that first winter for which they had been wholly unprepared the spirit of the Pilgrims spoke in the remarkable words of their leader Brewster: --

"It is not with us as with men whom small things can discourage or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again." 2


2.1.3 Puritan Colonies in New England

The companies of settlers who followed the Pilgrims within the next few years were composed of the same sturdy independent class of thoughtful high-minded men. They were Puritans -- for the most part well-to-do prosperous people; many of them had been educated in the universities and brought the reverence for education with them. "If God make thee a good Christian and a good scholar thou hast all that thy mother ever asked for thee " said a Puritan matron to her son. The colonists who within the next fifty years dotted the New England coast-line with their thrifty settlements were idealists. As Professor Tyler puts it they established "not an agricultural community nor a manufacturing community nor a trading community; it was a thinking community." Moral earnestness characterized every action. In 1636 the General Court of Massachusetts voted to establish a college at Newtown; John Harvard dying two years later bequeathed his library and half his estate to the school which was then named

2.2 The new England clergy: Theology in New England

Among a people constituted in temper like the Puritans a people with whom religion was life and whose life even on its temporal side was closely identified with religion it was natural that religious ideas should find constant expression in literature. This we have seen to be true in the historical narratives of Bradford and Winthrop. The Puritan writers are always impressed with the spiritual significance of their conquest in this new Canaan. Even the most casual accidents of pioneer experience are interpreted as filled with divine purpose. John Winthrop soberly records the fact that in his son's library of a thousand volumes one which contained the Greek Testament the Psalms and the Book of Common Prayer bound up together was found injured by mice. Every leaf of the Common Prayer was eaten through; not a leaf of the other portions was touched nor one of the other volumes injured. A marvelous providence this clear enough in its indications. So Edward Johnson not an educated man but a farmer and a ship carpenter who had been active in the founding of Woburn in 1640 wrote his Wonder-Working Providence of Zion's Saviour in New England (1654). "For the Lord Christ intends to achieve greater matters by this little handful than the world is aware of."

The colonists are soldiers under the divine leader; they must not tolerate the existence among them of a single disbeliever; they must take up their arms and march manfully on till all opposers of Christ's kingly power be abolished. Thus spake Puritanism on the side of its austerity and fanaticism.

2.2.1 The Clergy

There was in New England one class of men who by natural aptitude and by training were well fitted to be heard from on religious topics. These were the ministers. As the village church or meeting-house was the centre geographically morally and socially of every New England community so the minister was usually the dominating force among his townspeople maintaining the high dignity of the sacred calling with a manner which commanded a deference amounting to awe. Not only was his authority recognized on the purely religious questions of daily life not only was his voice reverently heard as he preached for hours from the high pulpit on Sunday but the New England minister was the natural leader of his flock in every field. He gave counsel in town affairs he directed the political policy of his people. In cases of disagreement the minister was usually the mediator and the final court of appeal. The greater part of the New England ministry were educated men of noteworthy gifts. The majority were graduates of the English universities; many of them had been distinguished for their eloquence and piety before the religious persecution of Charles and his ministers had driven them forth to find religious liberty elsewhere.[3]

Three strong thinkers and eloquent preachers are usually mentioned as conspicuous among these early colonial ministers: Thomas Hooker Thomas Shepard and John Cotton. All three were graduates of the same college at Cambridge; all were Puritan preachers in England until compelled to flee for their lives because of the hostility of Bishop Laud.

Thomas Hooker 1586-1647.

Hooker had escaped into Holland and in 1633 followed in the track of those who had crossed the ocean before him. He became the minister at Cambridge. Three years later he led a colony of one hundred families through the wilderness into the beautiful Connecticut valley and founded the town of Hartford (1636). Here until his death in 1647 Hooker wrote and preached and moulded the life of his parish. His power in the pulpit is said to have been wonderful. Many of his sermons were published; he wrote numerous treatises on theological and spiritual themes. It is significant of the impression left by Hooker on his contemporaries that an English clergyman affirmed that "to praise the writings of Hooker would be to lay paint upon burnished marble or add light unto the sun."

2.3 Puritan poetry in new England

2.3.1 Early Puritan Poetry.9

The Puritans were not susceptible to the charms of poetry. The strenuous life of the pioneer left little time for cultivating any of the arts and the spirit of New England was too serious and too stern to permit indulgence in what was merely pleasant or beautiful. Even after the first critical years of danger and struggle were past the intellectual life of the people was bounded by the narrow limits of religious discussion and theological debate. That the Puritan was not without imagination however is abundantly proved by the forceful figures and impassioned rhetoric of the prose writers whom we have been considering. Moreover some of these same men did occasionally slip into rhyme. William Wood has been quoted. 1 Even John Cotton was the author of verses halting and rough-hewn and full of the queer conceits which were common at the time. It is significant that this pious man wrote much of his verse in the pages of the household almanac where it remained hidden from the public eye; and sometimes he disguised its metrical character by inscribing it in Greek.

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