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


Page 192

the more than a score of short stories he published before his homesick hegira, he later cared to preserve but three. The discarded trifles betray a strong influence of Hawthorne, particularly The Romance of Certain Old Clothes, with its dusky scene laid in eighteenth-century America and its ghostly, inconclusive conclusion; De Grey: a Romance, the study of an ancestral curse dubiously inherited by a New York family from its European forebears; and The Last of the Valerii, wherein a young Roman nobleman digs up a statue of Venus from his garden and fatally reverts to the worship of her pagan loveliness. No such dominant magic as Hawthorne’s, however, quite invests these tales; Henry James belonged to a different universe, with a different heaven and hell. Nor could be even as well as the Hawthorne of The Seven Vagabonds, for instance, succeed with little adventures into the picaresque like Professor Fargo, with its tawdry traveling showmen. James came nearer to achieving the considered sobriety of George Eliot, whom he admired; and he tucked himself as far as he could under the edge of the mantle of Balzac. In Travelling Companions is foreshadowed James’s later skill in the description of ancient landscape and architecture; in At Isella, his habit of rounding out a story from the most flying hint; and in The Sweetheart of Mr. Briseux, at least in patches, his smoothly ironical, dexterously enwinding style. The stiffness and scrawniness of youth appears more obviously in his purely American stories than in those narrated against a European background, as were all the three he salvaged from these days of experiment—A Passionate Pilgrim (1871), The Madonna of the Future (1873),



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