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


Page 117

and fragrance and its steadily-fading colors. Prue and I has a larger claim. Not only does it have still less than the Bachelor’s evangelical orthodoxy but it has a fuller, firmer, more masculine style, with certain grave tones lately contributed to the traditionary manner of Irving; and it has rather more body. The “I” of the story is substantially married to an amiable Prue who mends his trousers and understands his vagaries, which are to indulge as a spectator in the luxuries of the world he cannot afford in any other way. Castles in Spain, he argues, are never costly or impossible, for he himself has dozens. Thus did Curtis, who had already satirized the flamboyant wealth of New York in Potiphar Papers (1853), express the disposition of those New Yorkers who were not wealthy or fashionable to take refuge in an interior life as a protection against the increasing plutocracy of the city. That disposition is universal, and Prue and I, still far from forgotten, fails of being a genuine classic only by reason of the oversoftness and oversweetness which characterized the decade from which it sprang as the decade’s finest purely sentimental masterpiece.
  The most effective of all these sentimentalists, a writer whom, indeed, a profound passion once or twice lifted above sentimentalism though its flavor still clung to her, remarkably represents the clerical aspects of the decade, for she was daughter, sister, wife, and mother of clergymen. Harriet Beecher (1811–96), born in Connecticut, was a most thorough child of New England when she went, in 1832, to live in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from slave soil. Her earliest sketches and tales, collected in a volume called The Mayflower in 1843, deal largely



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