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.
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