The Aspect Of Literature And Science In The United States, As Compared With Europe -- By: Edward Robinson
Bsac 1:1 (Feb 1844) p. 1
The Aspect Of Literature And Science In The United States, As Compared With Europe
Prof, of Bib. Lit. in the Union Theol. Sem., New York.
It is a trite remark, that the most successful and distinguished men, are often self-made men. Without ancestry, without friends, without external means, alone and apparently helpless in the world, they are nevertheless often able, through the force of innate energy and a spirit of indomitable perseverance, to triumph over all obstacles; to open for themselves a way to influence and fame; and to enstamp in living characters upon their age the impress of their names and power. While others in their career have had only to follow beaten paths, winding through flowery meads and verdant lawns and venerable groves, they have been compelled to take a shorter course, to climb Alps and stem torrents, in order to arrive at the same goal; and the spirit of energy and enterprise, which has hurried them on and vanquished all difficulties in the outset, is still to them the earnest of future and higher success. In this spirit,—in the deep workings of an irrepressible, innate power,—lies the secret of the whole matter. Such men are successful and become distinguished, not because they are self-made, but in spite of the privations and hindrances, which they have had the energy to overcome.
It does not however follow, that men attain to eminence and fame solely or chiefly by having to struggle against adverse cir-
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cumstances. The same energy and perseverance which they have expended in order to vanquish obstacles, whether in public life, or in the calmer retreats of literature and science,—to how much higher and more perfect results might these qualities have led them, had they been surrounded not by obstacles, but by facilities and encouragements? If Shakespeare stands forth preeminent as the child of nature in his own “wood-notes wild,” how greatly nevertheless might he not have improved the mass of his writings, had he enjoyed the influences and the training which aided to form Milton and Goethe? If our own Franklin obtained distinction in the walks of science, still, how much more might he not probably have accomplished, had he possessed that early discipline and those advantages, which were the lot of Newton and Laplace?
As with individuals, so with nations. A youthful people, with vast resources and gigantic enterprise, may rush at once upon the arena of the world, and stand forth in the full possession of all the elements of physical and moral power. And yet the very conditions and circumstances of its existence and growth may be such, that these elements have not been and cannot be as yet wrought into that harmony ...
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