[One critic] proclaims in large letters that I am an American. It is a true honour to be claimed when one might so easily be disowned . . . .
The limitations of my Americanism are easily told. . . .
Yet as this book shows, my intellectual relations and labours still unite me closely to America; and it is as an American writer that I must be counted, if I am counted at all.
My complaint about the change in Brownell's paper was that readers would wonder why I said that he proclaimed in large capitals that I was an American, when he says now modestly that he thinks me American; and of course I am American in several important aspects.
I am flattered at being counted as an American writer, although I am not an American citizen . . . .
About my considering myself an American, there is some ambiguity. I am not legally an American citizen and travel with a Spanish passport: also pay the U.S. 30% of my income as taxes proper to a non-resident foreigner. But socially and as a writer, I am an American in practice, and almost all my friends have been Americans. Many of my books, however, were first published in England . . . .
There is a curious cruelty mixed sometimes with American shrewdness and humour. The sharp mind finds things queer, crooked, perverse; it puns about them; and it doesn’t see why they shouldn’t be expected and commanded to be quite other than they are; but all this without much hope of mending them, and a sardonic grin.
I also knew Lowell, in his last phase; I once shook hands with Longfellow at a garden party in 1881; and I often saw Dr. Holmes, who was our neighbour in Beacon Street: but Emerson I never saw. . . .
I am a little surprised that you should have chosen Franklin rather than (say) Emerson to illustrate the survival of puritan moralsthe morals of meansafter the theology had fallen away. . . . Nevertheless, Emerson is much nearer to Oliver than Franklin: and I am a bit troubled that perhaps he (Oliver) was the last transcendentalist rather than the last puritan.
You may say that for the teachers [at the Latin School] at least, in that age of individual initiative and open careers, a thousand alternatives were, or had been, possible; and you may say that they could not have been altogether insensible of their high vocation and the high vocation of their country, to create gradually and securely a better world, a world free from superstition, from needless hatreds, from unjust inequalities, and from devastating misery. Yes: but all that was negative; it consisted of things to be got rid of and avoided, and in America the more obvious of them had actually been escaped. Officially, especially now that slavery had been abolished, everything was all right. Everybody was free. Everybody was at work. Almost everybody could be well educated. Almost everybody was married. Therefore almost everybody was, or ought to be, perfectly happy. But were the teachers at the Latin School, perhaps the best of American schools, happy? Or were the boys? Ah, perhaps we should not ask whether they were happy, for they were not rich, but whether they were enthusiastically conscious of a great work, and endless glorious struggle and perpetual victory, set before them in the world. I reply, not for myself, since I don’t count, being an alien, but in their name, that they decidedly were conscious of no such thing. They had heard of it; but in their daily lives they were conscious only of hard facts, meagreness, routine, petty commitments, and ideals too distant and vague to be worth mentioning.
That you are to be an engineer has its good side, because that is a living profession[:] I don't mean merely that you may make a living by it, but that it is in moral and practical sympathy with the age, and with American life. This is very important for happiness . . . . I don't mean to suggest that if you are an engineer that you must be a brute, although that is what we thought in the 1890's; but only that in this life, as in war, one's sensitiveness and insight are most fruitful when turned to understanding and oiling a machine that is necessarily brutal, and turning it to the best uses.
Number of quotations (including supressed): 9