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


Page 188

VIII.   Henry James

  AMERICAN patriotism, little less since the Civil War than before, has steadily contended that America does as well as Europe as a background for fiction, pointing to the epic dimensions and the epic hopes of existence on this continent. Less expansive critical dispositions have continued to feel that the human past of the country has not been large enough to match the landscape; that the present at any given moment has lacked the stability, the solidarity, which alone might afford the novelist a firm texture of reality in his representations; that the simplicity of American manners, being merely provincial rather than fittingly republican, renders impossible the subtleties and nuances of European fiction. Of the principal later novelists Howells held, on the whole, the broadest views. He built, with some limitations, on what he saw before him, not unconscious of Europe but aware that the way to a body of American fiction was action as well as argument and that in the production of a national literature imagination begets imagination. Mark Twain, without much reflection but with powerful instincts in the matter, wrought in the fashion of all great autochthons—as if his native land were the center of the world. Henry James, at the other extreme, never ceased to regard America as essentially an outlying region of



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