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The Oxford Book of American Essays

Book Overview: 

Collection of 32 essays by American authors ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Emerson to Whitman to Henry James to Theodore Roosevelt. On subjects from the gout to insects with a 24 hour life span to old bachelors to leaves of grass to the odes of Horace. It seems to be an attempt to show off the Americans as writers.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I have observed there are persons who, in their character and actions, answer questions which I have not skill to put. One man answers some questions which none of his contemporaries put, and is isolated. The past and passing religions and philosophies answer some other question. Certain men affect us as rich possibilities, but helpless to themselves and to their times,—the sport perhaps, of some instinct that rules in the air,—they do not speak to our want. But the great are near; we know them at sight. They satisfy expectation, and fall into place. What is good is effective, generative; makes for itself room, food, and allies. A sound apple produces seed—a hybrid does not. Is a man in his place, he is constructive, fertile, magnetic, inundating armies with his purpose, which is thus executed. The river makes its own shores, and each legitimate idea makes its own channels and welcome—harvests for food, institutions for expression, weapons to fight wit. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Early American essays on areas of specialized interests, written in that arch style of the time. The one by Edgar Allan Poe on how he constructed "The Raven" is worth the price of admission.

Just an OK collection. Everything is pre-WWI. By far the best An. Dean Howells on dreams.