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


Page 140

he achieved something more faithful and vivid than anything yet achieved in that direction. Although done with an eye intensely on the fact, these scenes have still the larger bearings of a criticism of American village life in general. The subsequent adventures of the Hubbards in Boston, acutely local in setting and incident, are still as universal in application as any ever laid in that metropolis. Squire Gaylord’s arraignment of his son-in-law in an Indiana court room vibrates with a dramatic passion seldom met with in Howells, a passion made the more emphatic by the sickening descent from a tragic occasion which follows immediately afterward in Bartley’s virtual offer of his former wife to his former friend. Following such episodes it is, however, difficult to forgive Howells his apparent sympathy with Halleck in the discovery that a New England conscience will now forever hold him from Marcia because he had loved her before she was free. The attentive imagination simply refuses to be convinced; or else it finds itself disgusted at an ending no better than sentimental to a narrative heretofore full of wisdom maturely wielding the most admirable and enlightening details.
  The theme of Silas Lapham is one very dear in a republic, that of the rising fortunes of a man who has no aid but virtue and capacity. Lapham, a country-bred, self-made Vermonter, appears when he has already achieved wealth and finds himself being drawn, involuntarily enough, into the more difficult task of adjusting himself and his family to the manners of fastidious Boston. A writer primarily satirical might have been contented to make game of the situation. Howells, keenly as he sets forth



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