The Hidden and the Manifest:
Essays in Theology and Metaphysics
The Dream-Child’s Progress And Other Essays
Essay by Martyn Wendell Jones
*** This essay first appeared in our Fall 2017 magazine issue.
SUBSCRIBE NOW and be sure to receive our next issue.
There are few things as pleasing to me as the great garrulous tradition in American literature. Our country’s abundance of grandly verbose storytellers represents the best of our cultural inheritance. Think of Melville, the wild and abyssal “thought-diver,” author of one of the world’s greatest stories of maritime and metaphysical adventure; think too of Whitman, irrepressible and expansive and democratic, who shed tears at the death of Lincoln—“O Captain!”; then there is Twain, whose creation Huckleberry sees his raft go “all to smash and scatteration,” which the critic Michael Schmidt identifies as evidence of a thrill for great speech.
Since our nation’s founding, we have been a polemical people; Gilbert Seldes’s The Stammering Century, American to its core, is a record of people of the 19th century, some of real eminence, giving themselves over to various utopianisms and cultic enthusiasms—the snake oil pitches and True Enlightenment hustles mixing with earnest seeking after the God-of-backwoods-revival. Our nation’s complete spiritual history and profile would show us to be strivers after the ineffable by way of quite a lot of declaiming.
Numbered among our country’s current generation of great talkers would certainly be the Eastern Orthodox philosopher-theologian David Bentley Hart, whose two recent essay collections attest to his capacity for a great speechifying all his own.