Van Wyck Brooks (February 16, 1886 - May 02, 1963)
Born: 16th February, 1886
Died: 2nd May, 1963
Nationality: American
Profession/Occupation: Critic
Region: Plainfield, New Jersey, Connecticut
Notable works: American literature

Van Wyck Brooks Facts


Van Wyck Brooks, (born Feb. 16, 1886, Plainfield, N.J., U.S.--died May 2, 1963, Bridgewater, Conn.), American critic, biographer, and literary historian, whose "Finders and Makers" series traces American literary history in rich biographical detail from 1800 to 1915.

Brooks grew up in the wealthy suburb of Plainfield. Graduating from Harvard in 1907, Brooks went to England, where, while working as a journalist, he published his first book, The Wine of the Puritans (1908), in which he blamed the Puritan heritage for America's cultural shortcomings. He explored this theme more thoroughly in his first major work, America's Coming-of-Age (1915), which made a strong impact with its thesis that the Puritan duality that separated spiritual and money matters had resulted in a corresponding split in contemporary American culture between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" publics, neither of which was helpful to the writer.

Brooks's book The Ordeal of Mark Twain (1920; rev. ed., 1933) was a psychological study attempting to show that Twain had crippled himself emotionally and curtailed his genius by repressing his natural artistic bent for the sake of his Calvinist upbringing. In The Pilgrimage of Henry James (1925), Brooks took a stand against expatriation, arguing that James's later writing was convoluted and inferior because of his too-long separation from his native land. Brooks suffered a mental breakdown from 1927 to 1931. The Life of Emerson (1932), largely written before his collapse, was edited by his friend Lewis Mumford. In Emerson, Brooks found an American writer who had successfully bridged the gap between art and life.

The "Finders and Makers" series began with The Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 (1936), followed by New England: Indian Summer, 1865-1915 (1940), The World of Washington Irving (1944), The Times of Melville and Whitman (1947), and The Confident Years: 1885-1915 (1952). Criticized by some for seeking in this series a mainstream, essentially middlebrow, cultural tradition free from contradictions and conflicts, Brooks wrote The Writer in America (1953) to justify his position.

Top 11 Van Wyck Brooks quotes

No one is fit to judge a book until he has rounded Cape Horn in a sailing vessel, until he has bumped into two or three icebergs, until he has been lost in the sands of the desert, until he has spent a few years in the House of the Dead.
It is not that the French are not profound, but they all express themselves so well that we are led to take their geese for swans.
Genius and virtue are to be more often found clothed in gray than in peacock bright.
If men were basically evil, who would bother to improve the world instead of giving it up as a bad job at the outset?
The man who has the courage of his platitudes is always a successful man.
Successful man
Nothing is sadder than having worldly standards without worldly means.
The creative impulses of man are always at war with the possessive impulses.
People of small caliber are always carping. They are bent on showing their own superiority, their knowledge or prowess or good breeding.
Good breeding
The American mind, unlike the English, is not formed by books, but, as Carl Sandburg once said to me... by newspapers and the Bible.
There is no stopping the world's tendency to throw off imposed restraints, the religious authority that is based on the ignorance of the many, the political authority that is based on the knowledge of the few.
Magnanimous people have no vanity, they have no jealousy, and they feed on the true and the solid wherever they find it. And, what is more, they find it everywhere.

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