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


Page 199

large square house and large square consciences; there is perhaps less of it in the European cousins who find here so little use for the virtues of joy or flexibility; but the conflict of manners is nevertheless presented with nearly as much detachment as brilliance. Following it came two shorter novels—nouvelles—also equipoised between the hemispheres. An International Episode (1879), which shows an American girl insulted by an English duchess and her daughter and then taking such revenge as she can by refusing to marry the duchess’s son, vexed the British, who in such matters were accustomed to look for satire entirely on their own side. Daisy Miller (1879) enraged the United States, where it was thought an aspersion upon American girlhood to represent an entirely virtuous but innocently daring young woman from Schenectady as conducting herself in Switzerland and Italy in a manner which confuses, and worse than confuses, a half-Europeanized young American who loves her. Fault was naturally found with Winterbourne, the man in the case, who as an American might have been expected to understand Daisy’s behavior as any average American would. But of course to have found fault reveals the naïve temper of criticism in the late seventies. Henry James had done nothing more reprehensible than to make international comedy out of the situation chosen by Milton for his Comus. Daisy wears her rustic innocence to the revels, and, though traduced, would have emerged safely had Winterbourne been true to the simple faith of his nation. Washington Square (1881) James called “a tale purely American, the writing of which made me feel acutely the want of the ‘paraphernalia’”



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