Thursday, September 10, 2009

1855: Hiawatha to Little Dorrit

Chronology of World, British and American Literature

Henry W. Longfellow. American. 1855. Narrative Poetry. Hiawatha. Ojibway Indian reared by grandmother. Deeds in revenging mother against father, West Wind. Parodied mercilessly.

Robert Browning. British. 1855. Poetry. “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” Poem on old age. One of the most distinguished Jewish literati in the Middle Ages.

Herman Melville. American. 1855. Satiric Novel. Israel Potter or, Fifty Years of Exile. Time of the Revolutionary War. Meets Ben Franklin, John Paul Jones and Ethan Allen. His personality is a mixture of the faults and virtues of the three heroes. Archetypal American, taken prisoner by the British and exiled for 50 years. Returns home to die. Melville suggests that the only hope for America lies in the pioneering West.

Thackeray. British. 1855. Novel. The Newcomes. Three generations. Love triangle finally resolved happily.

Charles Dickens. British. 1855/57. Novel. Little Dorrit. Father, daughters spend lives in prison for debt. Father becomes wealthy, as insufferable in wealth as he was obsequious in debt. Amy, Little Dorrit, remains unchanged by changes in circumstances. Circumlocution Office. Dickens attacks bureaucratic inefficiency and the practice of imprisonment for debt.

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