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


Page 183

might actually have winced at light references to jasper walls and pearly gates.
  For intellectual energy Stormfield cannot be mentioned in the same breath with The Mysterious Stranger, written during the dark night of Mark Twain’s spirit in 1898 and issued posthumously (1916). The scene lies ostensibly in sixteenth-century Austria but actually, to all intents, in the Hannibal of Tom and Huck. Boys like these make up the central group; the narrator, Theodor Fischer, is as much Mark Twain as Tom Sawyer ever was. To them comes at times a supernatural playmate calling himself Philip Traum but rightly Satan, nephew of the mightier potentate of that name. Though he plays terrible pranks upon the villagers, he seems beneficence itself as compared to them, with their superstition and cowardice and cruelty. And all the time he acts, for the three boys, as commentator upon the despicable human race, “a museum of diseases, a home of impurities,” which “begins as dirt and departs as stench”; which uses its boasted moral sense to know good from evil and then to follow evil. The sole redeeming fact in human life, Philip assures Theodor in the end, is that “Life itself is only a vision, a dream.… Nothing exists save empty space—and you.… Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fictions. Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane—like all dreams,… the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks—in a word,… they are a dream, and you the maker of it.” “I myself,” says Philip, like Prospero breaking his wand, “have no existence; I am



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