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


Page 198

the lady from him, and drives her into a convent. Then, though Newman has found out that her mother and brother murdered her father, the American, making his large gesture, refuses to let the ax descend. Claire de Cintré, lovely as she is made out, belongs with the heroines who are too limp for life though not for romantic tragedy; the mother and brother, James himself admitted, in real life would have been remarkably careful to get hold of Newman’s money—through marrying Mme. de Cintré to him if need be—before showing him too much scorn. Nor is Newman excessively convincing; “before the American business-man, as I have been prompt to declare, I was absolutely and irredeemably helpless, with no fibre of my intelligence responding to his mystery.” Yet these imperfect elements are tangled in a fine net of charm. Though the style is sparer, sharper than James’s style was to become, its texture is here firm with adroit allusions and observant wit, while the background of Paris abundantly though unobtrusively fills the picture. Vain as it must be to strive for all the perfections of Balzac, Flaubert, George Sand, and Turgenev at once, here still was something that looked toward a synthesis of their excellences—with a singular alloy from the older type of American romance which rejoiced to set the American hero patriotically up above the European crowd.
  As if to redress the balance or to atone for this patriotic zeal, The Europeans (1878) subjects two charming persons from Europe, though with some of America in their blood, to the deadly seriousness which Henry James remembered as prevailing in the suburbs of Boston. There is caricature in his Wentworths, with their



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