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


Page 154

to discipline than to variety or vividness, rather to decorum than to candor, rather to learning than to experience, rather to charm than to passion. Howells, indeed, instead of resting on the palms and laurels he already had, rose to meet the new world, contending as well as he could in his natural silver tone with the alternating tones of gold and iron which have lately dimmed the voice of Boston. But that in his creed and his temperament which had made him amenable to Boston lay deeper than its influences. On every ground he preferred to walk close to the commonplace, believing that the true bulk of life is always to be found there. “It will not do,” he wrote, speaking in Their Silver Wedding Journey of the ducal palace at Weimar, “to lift either houses or men far out of the average; they become spectacles, ceremonies; they cease to have charm, to have character, which belong to the levels of life, where alone there are ease and comfort, and human nature may be itself, with all the little delightful differences [which are] repressed in those who represent and typify.” Does not Howells here reveal himself as the most democratic of novelists? Fenimore Cooper and Hawthorne, both democrats, could still never leave off complaining that democracy lacks the elements of saliency and color upon which they thought the prosperity of the novelist depends. What his predecessors shrank from, Howells ardently embraced, thoroughly satisfied to portray the plain universe which lay before him, in a style which, as he said of that of Jane Austen, whom he preferred to all the novelists in English, is “the elect speech of life expressing itself without pretending to



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