Thursday, August 14, 2008

World of Washington Irving (2)

Van Wyck Brooks
E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc.

Ideas and Quotes for Discussion
"...Crockett won his election to telling a few good stories, after letting the other candidates wear out the crowd with oratory."

"As late as 1815, the President's wife was called 'her majesty.' "

"The Federalists perpetuated European forms; the Republicans devised and developed forms that sprang from the habits and history of the American people. They represented new men in a new world."

"Jefferson's new republic was a secession from the time-worn categories, kings, nobles, priests, burghers, artisans and peasants; and it place life on a new basis by affirming that 'a man's a man' and that the pursuit of happiness was every man's right. Now, much of this was old in theory, but what government had ever tried to carry it out in practice?"

"Meanwhile, the Hudson River Valley and all the country about New York teemed with the legends of the Dutch.... All these legends had been long current when Washington Irving, in 1800, made his first voyage up the Hudson...."

"For this was an age of letter-writing, preeminently so, and the sexes were equally accomplished in the epistolary art. Many novels were written in the form of letters....The highest of female accomplishments was to write a fine letter.... Aaron Burr excelled in the letters he wrote to his daughter, largely to instruct her in letter-writing."

"There was no one like Mike Fink for dodging snags, bark, islands of driftwood or for mastering the wild cross-currents of the Mississippi. He was the forerunner of the race of river pilots whom Mark Twain was to celebrate in after days" [in Life on the Mississippi].

"Thomas Paine in Common Sense proclaimed that the cause of America was the cause of mankind."

"Paine, in The Rights of Man, attacked the assumptions of hereditary government."

Joel Barlow had prophesied, "...the Americans would have forgotten how much they owed to Paine and would take him for an atheist and a drunkard. Indeed, he was taken for little or nothing else. In these fifteen years the mind of the country had changed in many ways, and he [Paine] might have been another Rip Van Winkle."

"Thus, unhonored, lived the man of whom Benjamin Franklin had said that, while others could rule and many could fight, 'only Paine could write for us.' "

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