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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 19

world of mankind and all coming generations, without any exception whatever; for the proposition which admits of exceptions can never be self-evident. As it was put forth in the name of the ascendent people of that time, it was sure to make the circuit of the world, passing everywhere through the despotic countries of Europe; and the astonished nations as they read that all men are created equal, started out of their lethargy, like those who have been exiles from childhood, when they suddenly hear the dimly remembered accents of their mother tongue.” This, the most patriotic American must now admit, is the language of romance.
  The deeds and personages of the Revolution, steadily growing in the popular imagination under the stimulus of an exultant and hopeful independence, were naturally first expressed and most highly regarded of the new national themes. But side by side with them, in part aroused and drawn along by the Revolution, went the matter of the Settlement, consisting of the tales told in every state about its colonial days. Here again Parson Weems took a hand and wrote folk-books about William Penn and Benjamin Franklin. Weems, himself a Virginian, in his choice of these Pennsylvania worthies as subjects for his art illustrates the national feeling which gradually superseded the old colonial memories and prejudices. The new states no sooner pooled their national resources than they began unconsciously to pool their resources of tradition, of legend, of local poetry. Their wealth was as unequal in this respect as in any other, and widely different in quality. Certain themes from the first assumed a prominence that attracted to them the national imagination as it



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