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Page 310

CHAPTER XIV
AMERICAN LITERATURE

Whitman believed that a poet might write on all subjects, and that poetic form and rhythm should be avoided. Unfortunately for his theories, when he has most of real poetic passion he is most inclined to use poetic rhythm.
The Kniekerboeker School. When the nineteenth century began, a boy of seventeen was just leaving school whose talents were to do much to make New York, his birthplace and home, a literary centre. Moreover, the name of one of his characters, Diedricll Knickerbocker, has become a literary term ; for just as three English authors have been classed together as the Lake Poets, because they chanced to live in the Lake Country, so the term Knickerbocker School has been applied to Irving, Cooper, the poet Bryant, and the lesser writers who were at that time more or less connected with New York.
Washington Irving, 1783-1859. This boy of seventeen was Washington Irving. After leaving school he studied law ; but in 1804 he was sent to Europe for his health, far more of a journey then than a trip round the world nowadays. He wandered through France, Italy, and England, and enjoyed himself everywhere. When he returned to New York, nearly two years later, he was admitted to the bar ; but he spent all his leisure hours on literature. Addison's Spectator had a great attraction for him ; and he now set to work with his brother William and a friend to publish a Spectator of their own. They named it Salmagundi, and in the first number they calmly announced :
Our purpose is simply to instruct the young, reform the old, correct the town, and castigate the age ; this is an arduous task, and therefore we undertake it with confidence.

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