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


Page 115

which swarmed over the literary scene, coloring the world with pink and white, scenting it with the dry perfume of pressed flowers, quieting it to whispers and gentle sobs, neglecting all the bitter and pungent tastes of life, softening every asperity, hiding every thorn and thought.
  Perhaps the best commentary upon this order of literature is to point out that whereas the dime novels were consumed by boys, and meant for them, sentimental romances fell increasingly into the hands of girls—especially of girls as molded and approved by American Victorianism. And yet it would be idle to declare that none of such books rises above the confectionery level. For a world that accepted the Victorian maiden as an ideal, The Wide Wide World, to take a typical instance, was a satisfying account of how she might be shaped out of the plastic material which she was supposed to be at birth. The heroine reads no novels, but she knows Weems’s Washington and Hail Columbia for the sake of her patriotism and tons of hymns and Biblical texts for her piety. The Christian virtues which were supposed to be best for maidens she has steadily dinned into her: resignation, long-suffering, loving kindness, all-embracing faith and charity. She goes through the most pathetic domestic experiences, tempered by all the fires of affliction she is old enough to be scorched by. Perhaps such narratives are little nearer to reality as regards the moods and conduct of the young girls of the time than are the dime novels as regards the actual adventures of their brothers, but they must have voiced contemporary aspirations and must have shown in action what was desired by the majority of parents and by many girls themselves.



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