This book is kind of goofy. There’s some funny flexing and cockiness that you might expect from DH Lawrence, and there’s a careful and interesting analysis of American literature. He takes a very cross section and survey perspective on things here: spending time with Benjamin Franklin, Puritan literature, James Fenimore Cooper, Hawthorne etc). It’s not all that different from books by Edmund Wilson later on.
What really strikes me as interesting here is the ways in which American literature is framed in terms of being literature at all. In 1923 when this was published, there wasn’t really much of a field of American literature. There were passing interests and things like that, but the field itself was fledgling. We’re a year or so away from Vernon Parrington’s huge two volume survey, but if you’ve read that (first: why?) it’s a survey at best, that is much biography as analysis. We’re also close to getting things like the Vanderbilt scholars and the like, but as far as comprehensive analysis of American literature. Not much. So as much a historical text as anything else. But it’s also a little bit wild in funny ways too.