In writing this work I have aimed to present the subject in a sort of continuous essay rather than in the form of a “primer” or elementary manual. I have not undertaken to describe, or even to mention, every American author or book of importance, but only those which seemed to me of most significance. Nevertheless I believe that the sketch contains enough detail to make it of some use as a guide-book to our literature. Though meant to be mainly a history of American belles-lettres, it makes some mention of historical and political writings, but hardly any of philosophical, scientific, and technical works.A chronological rather than a topical order has been followed. In the reading courses appended to the different chapters I have named a few of the most important authorities in American literary history, such as Duyckinck, Tyler, Stedman, and Richardson.
CHAPTER I. THE COLONIAL PERIOD, 1607-1765
CHAPTER II. THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD, 1765-1815
CHAPTER III. THE ERA OF NATIONAL EXPANSION, 1815-1837
CHAPTER IV. THE CONCORD WRITERS, 1837-1861
CHAPTER V. THE CAMBRIDGE SCHOLARS, 1837-1861
CHAPTER VI. LITERATURE IN THE CITIES, 1837-1861
CHAPTER VII. LITERATURE SINCE 1861
Note: Residing, as I now do, in a portion of the
southwestern United States that was once a part of New Spain, I feel
compelled to point out that this excellent work might more correctly be
called Initial Studies in American Letters in English. This
is not an attempt at political correctness, but simply a recognition
that the Colonial Period referred to by Beers is really only the English
Colonial period; to give just one example of other colonial activities
that took place in what is now the United States of America, The
"Kingdom of New Mexico" was first claimed for the Spanish Crown in 1540.
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