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


Page 152

relation between the real world which he had so long explored and those vast spaces which appear to be beyond it for the futile tempting of religionists and romanticists. The maturest Howells, like the Mark Twain whose Mysterious Stranger appeared in the same year as The Leatherwood God, speculated much upon such matters, but without losing himself in them. In The Kentons Howells most perfectly exemplifies his later reading of the actual world. “You have done nothing more true and complete,” wrote Henry James about the book, “more thoroughly homogeneous and hanging-together, without the faintest ghost of a false note or a weak touch.” Returning to the Middle West of his youth Howells took a family thence to New York and then to Holland, with all the freshness and point of his first period exposing the contrasts between their Ohio manners and those of the other regions which they visit. More than ever he is sage first then satirist: “remember,” says Judge Kenton in a speech which sounds none the less like him for being so much like Howells, “that wherever life is simplest and purest and kindest, that is the highest civilization.” Without contending on behalf either of his Ohioans, with their little angularities and large virtues, or of his experienced worldlings, with no angularities at all and their virtues more considerably mixed with manners, Howells interprets both with the lucid intelligence of an angel smiling at a beloved community of men. He sets forth an acute conflict of emotions with regard to Ellen Kenton and her love affairs but never once raises his voice above the natural human dialect; he flawlessly hits off that absurd adolescent, Boyne Kenton, who has read too many international romances,



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