I agree to some extent with my imaginary English reader. American literary historians are perhaps prone to view their own national scene too narrowly, mistaking prominence for uniqueness. They do over-phrase their own literature, or certainly its minor figures. And Americans do swing from aggressive overphrase of their literature to an equally unfortunate, imitative deference. But then, the English themselves are somewhat insular in their literary appraisals. Moreover, in fields where they are not pre-eminent - e. g. in painting and music -they too alternate between boasting of native products and copying those of the Continent. How many English paintings try to look as though they were done in Paris; how many times have we read in articles that they really represent an "English tradition" after all.
To speak of American literature, then, is not to assert that it is completely unlike that of Europe. Broadly speaking, America and Europe have kept step. At any given moment the traveler could find examples in both of the same architecture, the same styles in dress, the same books on the shelves. Ideas have crossed the Atlantic as freely as men and merchandise, though sometimes more slowly. When I refer to American habit, thoughts, etc., I intend some sort of qualification to precede the word, for frequently the difference between America and Europe (especially England) will be one of degree, sometimes only of a small degree. The amount of divergence is a subtle affair, liable to perplex the Englishman when he looks at America. He is looking at a country which in important senses grew out of his own, which in several ways still resembles his own - and which is yet a foreign country. There are odd overlappings and abrupt unfamiliarities; kinship yields to a sudden alienation, as when we hail a person across the street, only to discover from his blank response that we have mistaken a stranger for a friend.