The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (190721).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
II. The Historians, 16071783.
§ 3. Early New England Historians.
|Turning from Virginia 2 we shall not find any considerable early historian in another colony outside of New England. So far as the region south of the Hudson is concerned idealism in regard to planting colonies exhausted itself with the splendid dreams of Raleigh, Hakluyt, and Edward Sandys. Lord Baltimore and Penn, it is true, attempted to revive it in Maryland and Pennsylvania, but their colonists did not respond to their efforts. These colonies were settled by as practical a class of farmers and traders as those who brought the river bottoms of Virginia under the sway of King Tobacco. Throughout this region literature had to wait on material prosperity before it could find a home.
| The New Englanders, however, were idealists from the beginning. This, of course, means that their ministers and leading men were idealists. The majority of the inhabitants were as matter of fact as the majority in any other colony. But the ruling class were committed to the defence of an idealistic theory, and they naturally wished its history preserved. Out of this impulse came several historical works which we could ill afford to lose. All things considered, the Puritans made better historians than the Virginians. It is true their writings abound in superstition, but the superstitions were honestly set down as they were honestly held by the people of the age. They are, therefore, a necessary part of the history of the times. Moreover, the Puritans, ministers and godly laymen alike, wrote a solid and connected kind of history, and they wrote enough of it to furnish a good picture of the times.