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The New England Renaissance

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The New England Renaissance

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  • September 2005
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The New England Renaissance
(1800 - 1860)
American literature, in its most basic structure, has it roots in British literature. The earlier writers knew Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Dryden, Spenser, Donne, and Bacon. Most families had copies of the Authorized Version of the Bible of 1611, commonly known as the King James Version. As time went on, American writers continued to be influenced by Dickens, the Bronte sisters , Austen and Shelley. The separation of British and American literature began from the first step onto what is now American soil, but rejoins more so in this present era, as the ability to communicate and purchase books internationally increases. The American literary scene today was built on many years of metamorphosis, as much of a melting pot as the rest of American culture. The literary achievements of the Knickerbocker group of writers were practically accomplished by 1850. During the larger part of that first half century, there had been no question of the literary predominance of New York; New England had played, comparatively, an inconspicuous part in the field of national literature. A few of Longfellow's earliest poems were published previous to 1830, and some of Whittier's also; but it was really nearer 1840 than 1830 that either obtained general recognition as a poet. Emerson's first series of Essays was published in 1841, and Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse in 1846. The Scarlet Letter did not appear until 1850. It was, nevertheless, a period of intellectual activity. In Boston and Cambridge, new ideas were stirring the minds of the thinkers, and throughout the New England States, which were advancing rapidly in material prosperity by the establishment of manufacturing interests and the building up of a rich trade with the East Indies, the intellectual life of the people was feeling the stimulus of its own energy in rather remarkable degree. The first phase of this new...