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


Page 135

more than an artistic matter alone, included his entire philosophy. From his childhood he had been intensely humane—sensitive and charitable. This humaneness now revealed itself as a passionate love for the simple truth of human life, and a suspicion, a quiet scorn for those romantic dreams and exaggerations by which less contented lovers of life try to escape it. “Ah! poor Real Life, which I love,” he wrote in his first novel, “can I make others share the delight I find in thy foolish and insipid face?” Perhaps Their Wedding Journey (1871) ought hardly to be called a novel, but it is a valuable Howells document in the method, so nearly that of his travel books, by which he takes a bridal couple on their honeymoon over much the same route, in a reverse order, that he had traveled between Ohio and Boston in 1860, and also in the zeal for actuality which makes him exalt the truth, however tedious, over any unreality however agreeable. “As in literature the true artist will shun the use even of real events if they are of an improbable character, so the sincere observer of man will not desire to look upon his heroic or occasional phases, but will seek him in his habitual moods of vacancy and tiresomeness.” Less of such argument, though no less of implicit zeal for veracity, appears in A Chance Acquaintance (1873), more strictly a novel, in which Howells showed that he could not only report customs and sketch characters felicitously but also organize a plot with felicitous skill. A young Bostonian, passionately in love with an intelligent but untraveled inland girl, who returns his love, is so little able to overcome his ingrained provincial snobbishness that he steadily condescends to her until in the end he suddenly sees, as



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