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


Page 193

Madame de Mauves (1874). Madame de Mauves is a sort of American Una among European lions, the snowy wife of a sinful Frenchman who first hates her because she will neither “submit basely nor rebel crookedly” and then melodramatically blows his brains out because, when he has fallen in love with her, she cannot forgive him. Theobald, in the affecting Madonna of the Future, has for twenty years nursed in Florence the vision of a flawless Madonna which he means to paint, only to find out at last that he has dawdled away his powers and chances: his adored model has grown coarse, his hand cannot execute his beautiful plan. A Passionate Pilgrim carries an overwrought American to England to claim a fortune, as Hawthorne’s Ancestral Footstep had done. The plot is nearly as romantic as Hawthorne would have made it; the chief concern is the sensations of the ardent traveler in the presence of that charm which maddens, in Henry James, the “famished race.” This concern, too, makes up a large bulk of Roderick Hudson, the account of a young sculptor who, thanks to a friendly patron, is suddenly lifted from the naked, rectangular society of Northampton, Massachusetts, and set down in Rome in the hope that something great will come of his genius under circumstances luxuriantly propitious. His vein proves thin and he goes, with unconvincing promptitude, to pieces, and then on to fall to death over a Swiss precipice. James subsequently admitted that the element of time in this novel should have been better handled; that he had borrowed more from the intensity of the dramatist than, as novelist, he could offer security for. But he still felt willing to acknowledge as his own the skill with which he



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