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Essays of American Essayists

Excerpt from Essays of American Essayists: Including Biographical and Critical Sketches The earliest American essayists were the clergymen. Those first days of the great republic were religious days. And although the pulpit was eminently spiritual, and fervid, and the devil was duly excoriated, and lessons of faith and humility were inculcated, yet those hour-long homilies were not all theology. Ethics, and manners, and social and national progress were discussed in sermons, which were in reality well-rounded essays. So that the influence of the pulpit became not only moral, but intellectual and even literary, as well. And the lecturers who came later, what was their mission but to spread the influence of the essay? Apart from polemics and in addition to politics and partisanship, they presented to well-filled halls throughout the country essays, essays, nothing but essays. And now the magazines, which visit every fireside, continue the cult and keep it well apace with poetry and fiction, far surpassing the former indeed in worth and quality. The essay then has ever been near to the American heart, has ever basked in public favor. And from the contingencies of our early days it could start full-panoplied and well-equipped. It had the culture of France and England as a fulcrum, and proceeded by main force to lift the taste of our early citizens from the merely utilitarian and the grubbing commonplace to a conception of the graceful and the beautiful. It was necessarily formative and educational. Its task was premeasured, foreordered. Those among the first essayists who were not in the pulpit might well have been, for they were ethical guides and pathfinders. And the statesmen and historians and poets who came to swell the list; they all wore the robe of the prophet and the teacher, even when dallying with lighter themes. It is well for our literature that the essayists have spoken. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at This book is a reproduction of an important historical work. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy. In rare cases, an imperfection in the original, such as a blemish or missing page, may be replicated in our edition. We do, however, repair the vast majority of imperfections successfully; any imperfections that remain are intentionally left to preserve the state of such historical works.
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