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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Moses Coit Tyler (1835–1900)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
THE LITERARY historian who performs for his country a double service to criticism and literature deserves its gratitude. Admirable criticism often lacks the literary touch and tone,—yet these are especially welcome in the critic of literature. Professor Moses Coit Tyler, in the thorough-going and attractive studies he was years in making of the American literary past, stood alone in the dignified endeavor to cover the whole field with scholarly care, and by the methods of broad comprehensive criticism. His task was left incomplete; but he had published exhaustive and stimulating volumes upon the literature of the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, of such a quality as to declare him master of the field. His treatment of material that in some hands would inevitably prove dull in the handling, has made the tentative literary struggles and efforts warm and full of illumination.  1
  To this attractiveness may be added the solider characteristics which go to make up the critic truly called to his vocation: judgment, the sense of proportion, an appreciation of what are the underlying principles in the development of American life and letters, and a sound moral insight. Professor Tyler was by birth and training the right sort of man to give a critical survey of the earlier American literature, which is in intent and result so predominantly earnest and ethical.  2
  Moses Coit Tyler was a New-Englander; born in Griswold, Connecticut, on August 2d, 1835. He was graduated from Yale in 1857, and studied theology there and afterwards at Andover Theological Seminary, Andover, Massachusetts. From 1860 to 1862 he was pastor of the First Congregational Church of Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1863 he went to England, and resided there four years. On his return he was appointed to the English chair of the University of Michigan. In 1881 he became Professor of History at Cornell, which position he retained until his death. He was made a priest of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1883.  3
  Professor Tyler’s literary activity began with the publication of the ‘Brawnville Papers’ in 1869,—a series of essays on physical culture. The initial part of his chief life work was put forth in 1878: ‘A History of American Literature During the Colonial Time,’ in two volumes. The preface announced the author’s intention of making successive studies, covering the growth of American letters up to the present time. In 1897 ‘A Literary History of the American Revolution’ appeared in pursuance of this scheme. Professor Tyler also published in 1879, in conjunction with Professor Henry Morley, a ‘Manual of English Literature.’ He contributed to the ‘American Statesmen’ Series the monograph on Patrick Henry (1887); and in 1894 appeared ‘Three Men of Letters,’—appreciations of Bishop Berkeley, President Dwight, and Joel Barlow. A volume entitled ‘Essays from the Nation’ is made up of contributions to that journal while the writer was in England.  4
  Professor Tyler’s criticism of the American literary production is based upon a recognition of its vital relation to history, to politics, and society. He apprehends that the “penmen” have exerted an influence upon the course of American affairs not second to the statesmen and generals. This sense of the significant bearing of the native literature upon native life gives his study a fresh, interesting point of view. Hence it is a contribution to American history. Professor Tyler’s style is very enjoyable for liveliness, color, and euphony. His writing has, distinctly, the artistic touch, and it is never dry, formal, or conventional either in manner or thought. The selections appended sufficiently illustrate this trait. Professor Tyler’s death occurred at Ithaca, New York, December 28th, 1900. He did not live to complete the great task he had set for himself, having published only four volumes of his Literary History of America.  5
 
 
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