Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/396

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pure and applied art, like the distinction between pure and applied mathematics, is never to be forgotten. Applied art, the art that must be kept in hand, steadily incidental to an ulterior purpose, affords, in a way, the sharpest test of artisticality. Many a mere writer who might infuse himself into an imaginative fantasy would fail miserably to infuse himself into a statement of fact. To attend strictly to business, and yet to be entirely individual—this is a thrilling triumph of intellectual assimilation. This is what Lincoln in these years of his second period acquired the power to do. When he emerges at its close in the speeches against Douglas, at last he has his second manner, a manner quite his own. It is not his final manner, the one that was to give him his assured place in literature. However, in a wonderful blend of simplicity, directness, candour, joined with a clearness beyond praise, and a delightful cadence, it has outstripped every other politician of the hour. And back of its words, subtly affecting its phrases, echoing with the dreaminess of a distant sound through all its cadences, is that brooding sadness which was to be with him to the end.

Another period in Lincoln s literary life extends from his return to politics to the First Inaugural. Of all parts of his personal experience it is the most problematic. At its opening there rises the question why he returned to politics. Was there a crisis of some sort about 1855 as, surely, there was about 1849? His official biographers are unsatisfying. Their Lincoln is exasperatingly conventional—always the saint and the hero, as saint-heroes were conceived by the average American in the days when it was a supreme virtue to be "self-made." That there was some sort of failure of courage in the Lincoln who gave up politics in 1849 is of course too much for official biography to be expected to consider. But it might perceive some thing besides pure devotion to the public weal in Lincoln's return. That this successful provincial lawyer who had made a name for conscientiousness should be deeply stirred when politics took a turn that seemed to him wicked, was of course quite what one would expect. And yet, was the Lincoln who returned to the political arena the same who had withdrawn from it? Was there not power in him in 1855 that was not in him in 1849? May it not be that he had fled from his ambition in an excess of self-distrust, just as in his love affair doubt of