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


Page 13

much the same passions and sympathies as had been addressed by the older Gothic romances. His wild regions and his wild adventures are all seen through an intensely romantic temperament with only occasional intervals for realism. As in his handling of the yellow fever, Brown shows power to set forth grisly details of blood and suffering, and he treats his Indians without the glamor with which they were already invested by certain sentimentalists. But so far as reality of impression is concerned, the visible Indians are none of them so memorable as the old woman called Queen Mab, who never appears in person and who exists chiefly as a symbol of a race vanquished and yet still clinging to its old domains with a tenacity that is poetic. Vivid, too, is the impression of the feverish, nocturnal wanderings, without much aim or sequence, to which Huntly devotes his time. Here again Brown’s shambling narrative methods dull the edge of his story: like most of the romancers of his age, he moved forward through a cloud.
  As a rationalist he tried to solve the mystery of the cloud about Edgar Huntly by explaining that both Clithero, the suspected villain who is really innocent, and Huntly are addicted to sleep-walking, a subject which was just then, as contemporary journals show, under discussion and much debated. Also illustrative of Brown’s attempt to fuse mystery with science, and in itself more effective than this sleep-walking, is the ventriloquism which plays a prominent part in his best—that is, his most compact, most psychological, and most powerful—novel, Wieland (1798). Its plot was primarily founded upon the deed of an actual religious fanatic of Tomhannock, New



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