From 1760 to 1826 two civilised men lived and to a considerable extent reigned in America. They did not feel themselves isolated phenomena. They were not by any means shrunk into a clique or dependent on mutual admiration, or on clique estimation. They both wrote an excellent prose which has not, so far as I know, been surpassed in our fatherland, though Henry James had a style of his own (narrative) which was fit for a different purpose. [...]
I am not offering proof, because full proof will not go onto ten pages. I am offering indications, which the reader can follow for himself, but which will I think lead to perception:
That Adams and Jefferson exist in a full world. They are NOT a province of England. The letters abound in consciousness of Europe, that is of France, Holland, Spain, Russia, Italy. The truly appalling suburbanism that set in after the civil war, partly from our exhaustion, partly from the oedematous bulging of the British Empire, our relapse into cerebral tutelage, our suburbanism did not afflict Adams and Jefferson. Not only were they level and (with emphasis) CONTEMPORARY with the best minds of Europe but they entered into the making of that mind. Chateaubriand did not come to Philadelphia to lecture, he came to learn.
Ezra Pound. “The Jefferson-Adams Letters as a Shrine and a Monument.” SP 147-8, 156.
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