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


Page 111

put on the stage by the intrepid Ned Buntline and later capitalized his own personality and reputation in the circus which exhibited its microcosm of the Wild West round the world. The dime novels which suggested such an enterprise, and in turn were furthered by it, were cheap, conventional, hasty—Albert W. Aiken long averaged one a week, and Prentiss Ingraham produced in all over six hundred—but they were exciting, full of incident and innocence, and scrupulously devoted to the popular doctrines of poetic justice. What they lacked was all distinction except that of a rough abundance of invention, and Frank Norris could justly grieve that the epic days of Western settlement found only such tawdry Homers. A Scott or a Cooper for those days is yet to come. In the fourth decade of the century the detective story rivaled the frontier tale, for the West was filling up and the juvenile imagination, to which the older tales had been addressed, was now turning to the towns. After 1900, both kinds, though reduced to the price of five cents a copy, gave way before the still more exciting and more easily comprehended moving picture.
  It is true that one successor of Cooper upheld for a time the dignity of the old-fashioned romance. John Esten Cooke (1830–86), born in the Shenandoah Valley and brought up in Richmond, cherished a passion as intense as Simms’s for his native state and deliberately set out to celebrate its past and its beauty. Leather Stocking and Silk (1854) and The Last of the Foresters (1856), both narratives of life in the Valley, recall Cooper by more than their titles; but in The Youth of Jefferson (1854) and its sequel, Henry St. John, Gentleman (1859),



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