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


Page 15

“soaring passions and intellectual energy,” as Brown had, the absorbing thing was the clash of mighty forces, the din of good and evil, which resound through the story, and which in spite of awkward narrative, strained probabilities, and a premature solution, lift it above the ephemeral—the earliest American romance of distinction.

2. The Three Matters of American Romance

  EXCEPT for the work of Irving, who deliberately chose short stories to avoid any rivalry with Scott, the first twenty years of the nineteenth century produced no memorable fiction whatever in the United States. Even the example of Scott, who was immensely popular, at first failed to arouse imitators. Indeed, the brilliance of his achievement served to discourage his warmest admirers. Such learning, such experience, such humor, such abundance as the “Author of Waverley” displayed—who dared match his powers against them? Moreover, the elements which gave Scott his vogue, and which for a time seemed the essential elements of fiction, were not easily transportable to another soil. The attitude of Americans in the matter was well set forth by John Bristed in his book on The Resources of the United States in 1818: “Of native novels we have no great stock, and none good; our democratic institutions placing all the people on a dead level of political equality; and the pretty equal diffusion of property throughout the country affords but little room for varieties, and contrasts of character; nor is there much scope for fiction, as the country is quite new, and all that has happened from the first settlement to the



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