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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 144

impalpable, enriching haze borrowed apparently from the season. In this autumnal atmosphere the energy of youth in the spring of its love looks awkward; the winter of wisdom is as near as the summer of desire. Only a sage could have carried the story through without falling now and then into the temptation of being too impassioned; only a poet could have done it without now and then becoming cynical and sounding elderly.
  In 1882 Howells had gone to England for a visit during which he brought out a series of his works there and with them and himself charmed literary London. He seriously questioned whether he should not settle in Italy for the remainder of his life, but his passion for America proved too strong, and he came back, first to Boston, to a position of almost unparalleled influence in American letters. In his earliest Atlantic days he had given Henry James needed encouragement at the outset of the younger man’s great career. Then and since Howells had been for Mark Twain the important critical element drawing that tumultuous humorist from burlesque and uproar to the finer art of fiction. By the middle eighties all Boston that read at all was fighting for or against Howells’s principles. Promising writers, such as Hamlin Garland and Brand Whitlock, made discipular pilgrimages to him. The decade discovered a vitality and displayed a craftsmanship in novels and tales which the United States had never seen before. Of all this Howells was equally exemplar and critic. If his novels filled the air, so did his doctrines. The monthly articles which he wrote for “The Editor’s Study” in Harper’s Magazine between 1886 and 1891, though many of them were too timely to have survived,



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