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


Page 132

in characterization, concise and lucid in language, unwaveringly accurate in their setting, manners, and language, are indispensable documents, even finished chapters, for his unfinished masterpiece. What has given the School-Master its primacy in reputation is probably nothing but its having been first in the field, though something may also be allowed for its compactness and freshness of substance; Roxy is more interesting, and The Circuit Rider quite as informing. The Graysons deserves credit for the reserve with which it admits the youthful Lincoln into its narrative, uses him at a crucial moment, and then lets him withdraw without a hint of his future greatness. The morals of Eggleston’s tales, it is true, are over-obvious, though they are not strained or hectic. Without any rush of narrative, neither has he verbosity or inflation of style. Even where, in his fidelity to violent frontier habits, his incidents appear melodramatic, the handling is sure and direct, for the reason, as he says of The Circuit Rider, that whatever is incredible in the story is true. No novelist, within the range of topics Eggleston touched, is more candid, few more believable. With greater range and fire he might have been a national figure as well as the earliest American realist to leave behind him a settled classic, a true folk-book of its neighborhood.

2. William Dean Howells

  FROM the Middle West came the principal exponent of native realism, as an author so prolific during the sixty years between his earliest book and his latest that he amounts almost to a library in himself, as editor and critic



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