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


Page 203

history. James regards them only too obviously from without, choosing as the consciousness through which they are to be represented an engaging young reactionary from Mississippi, Basil Ransom, who invades this fussy henyard and carries away its prized heroine, Verena Tarrant, on the very eve of her great popular success as a lecturer in behalf of her oppressed but rising sex. By such a scheme James was naturally committed to making his elder feminists all out as unpleasant persons, preying on Verena’s youth and charm and enthusiasm, and bound to keep her for their campaign no matter what that it might cost her in the way of love and marriage. But more than James’s own prejudices and his technical device contributes to a certain insufficiency in The Bostonians. It is too largely skeleton, without the blood which might have come from heartier sympathies, without the flesh with which James might have been able to round out a “purely American” tale had he not forgotten so much about American life. He had forgotten, or at least ceased to care greatly about it. Two visits to his native country during 1881–1883 had left him still hungry for Europe, from which after 1883 he was not to return for over twenty years.
  The Princess Casamassima is wholly European as to setting and characters. In it the bewildering Christina Light of Roderick Hudson, now a discontented princess dabbling in revolution, appears again with a maturer mystery of temperament and an achieved diversity of whim. The romantic strain which James had lately been repressing here rose unashamed to the surface and invented a cock-and-bull yarn about a vast, malignant, ramifying



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