Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/87

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69
Domestic-Sentimental Romances

Cooke, and Winthrop, was domestic sentimentalism, which for a time attained a hearing rare in literary history, and produced one novel of enormous influence and reputation. In that decade flowered Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, Mary Jane Holmes, and Augusta Jane Evans (Wilson), all more or less in the Charlotte Temple tradition; Anne and Susan Warner[1] and Maria S. Cummins, pious historians of precocious young girls; and—not so far above them—the almost equally tender and tearful Donald Grant Mitchell (“Ik Marvel”)[2] and George William Curtis,[3] young men who, however, afterwards took themselves to sterner tasks. Professor Ingraham gave up his blood-and-thunder, became a clergyman, and wrote the long-popular biblical romance The Prince of the House of David (1855). Indeed, the decade was eminently clerical, and though Mitchell and Curtis might recall Irving and Thackeray respectively, they were less representative than the most effective writer of the whole movement, who was daughter, sister, wife, and mother of clergymen.

Harriet Beecher, born in Litchfield, Connecticut, 14 June, 1811, passed her childhood and girlhood, indeed practically her entire life, in an atmosphere of piety which, much as she eventually lost of its original Calvinistic rigour, not only indoctrinated her with orthodox opinions but furnished her with an intensely evangelical point of view and a sort of Scriptural eloquence. Her youth was spent in a more diversified world than might be thought: from her mother’s people, who were emphatically High Church and, in spite of the Revolution, some of them still Tory at heart, she learned a faith and ritual less austere than that of her father, Lyman Beecher[4]; she had good teaching at the Litchfield Academy, especially in composition; like all her family, she was highly susceptible to external nature and passionately acquainted with the lovely Litchfield hills; she read very widely, and not only theology, of which she read too much for her happiness, but the accepted secular authors of the eighteenth century, as well as Burns and Byron and Scott. At the same time, she justified her Beecher lineage by her ready adaptation to the actual conditions under which she lived during Lyman Beecher’s pastorates

  1. See Book III, Chap. VII
  2. See Book III, Chap. XIII
  3. Ibid.
  4. See Book II, Chap. XXII