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INTRODUCTORY ESSAY,.

BY HENRY T. TUCKERMAN.

It is sometimes both pleasing and profitable to recur to those characters in literary history who are emphatically favorites, and to glance at the causes of their popularity. Such speculations frequently afford more important results than the mere gratification of curiosity. They often lead to a clearer perception of the true tests of genius, and indicate the principle and methods by which the common mind may be most successfully addressed. The advantage of such retrospective inquiries is still greater at a period like the present, when there is such an obvious tendency to innovate upon some of the best established theories of taste; when the passion for novelty seeks for such unlicensed indulgence, and invention seems to exhaust itself rather-upon forms than ideas. In literature, especially, we appear to be daily losing one of the most valuable elements — simplicity. The prevalent taste is no longer gratified with the natural. There is a growing appetite for what is startling and peculiar, seldom accompanied by any discriminating demand for the true and original; and yet, experience has fully proved that these last are the only permanent elements of literature; and no healthy mind, cognizant of its own history, is unaware that the only intellectual aliment which never palls upon the taste, is that which is least indebted to extraneous accompaniments for its relish.

* From “ Thoughts on the Poets," by H. T. T.

It is ever refreshing to revert to first principles. The study of the old maste 3 may sometimes make the modern artist despair of his own efforts ; but if he have the genius to discover, and follow out the great principle upon which they wrought, he will not have contemplated their works in vain. He will have learned that devotion to Nature is the grand secret of progress in Art, and that the success of her votaries depends upon the singleness, constancy, and intelligence of their worship. If there is not enthusiasm enough to kindle this flame in its purity, nor energy sufficient to fulfil the sacrifice required at that high altar, let not the young aspirant enter the priesthood of art. When the immortal painter of the Transfiguration was asked to embody his ideal of perfect female loveliness, he replied — there would still be an infinite distance between his work and the existent original. In this profound and vivid perception of the beautiful in nature, we perceive the origin of those lovely creations, which, for inore than three hundred years, have delighted mankind. And it is equally true of the pen as the pencil, that what is drawn from life and the heart, alone bears the impress of immortality. Yet the practical faith of our day is diametrically opposed to this truth. The writers of our times are constantly making use of artificial enginery. They have, for the most part, abandoned the integrity of purpose and earnest directness of earlier epochs. There is less faith, as we before said, in the natural; and when we turn from the midst of the forced and hot-bed products of the modern school, and ramble in the garden of old English literature, a cool and calm refreshment invigorates the spirit, like the first breath of mountain air to the weary wayfarer.

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