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OF AMERICA

A CLASS-BOOK ON AMERICAN

LITERATURE

BY

RICHARD BURTON, PH.D.
TORMERLY PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

NEW YORK

CHICAGO

BOSTON

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INTRODUCTION

AMERICAN LITERATURE

The literature of a country is made up of the writings of those who have had the gift and skill to express themselves in such a way as to move and charm their readers. To be literature, in the best sense, a piece of writing, whether prose or verse, must have beauty of expression and inherent worthiness of thought. While we cannot deny the name “literature" to some writing which has attraction of form, without importance of thought and ennobling emotions, we can affirm that the truly great literature, that which is likely to have permanence, will show artistic quality along with intellectual and moral significance.

Moreover, the literature of a country, to be really representative, must reflect the life of the people, external and internal; it must stand for its political, social, and ethical ideals. It must, in a word, be the natural outcome of its national life. American literature, therefore, embraces all the writings which, on the one hand, are possessed of beauty of form and value as thought, and also reflect with some measure of truth the national existence. Our Ameri. can literature is valuable to the young student and future citizen of the Republic just in proportion as it seems to mirror our American ideals and as it shall have a tendency to build up the reader into a worthy citizenship.

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