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


Page 207

concluding early in 1895 that “you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.” The same period, and partly the same motive, turned him from full-length novels. “I want,” he had written to Stevenson in 1888, “to leave a multitude of pictures of my time, projecting my small circular frame upon as many different spots as possible,… so that the number may constitute a total having a certain value as observation and testimony.” Of these briefer stories a notably large number deal with problems of the artistic life in its clashes with “the world.” The Author of Beltraffio (1885) had exhibited the wife of that pagan-spirited author as so afraid of her husband’s influence upon their son that she actually—if not quite deliberately—lets the boy die to save him from the fearful contamination. The Aspern Papers (1888) recounts the strife between the former mistress of the famous Jeffrey Aspern and the critic who wants to publish the poet’s letters. In The Lesson of the Master (1892) Henry St. George’s lesson to his disciple is that perfection in art may not normally be hoped for by a man whose powers are drawn away by wife and children. To The Yellow Book James contributed three studies richly suited to the purposes of a periodical aiming to erect a temple of art in the midst of British Philistia: The Death of the Lion (1894), in which the genius Neil Paraday dies neglected in a country house while his hostess gets credit for being his patron; The Coxon Fund (1894), laughably modernizing Coleridge into the parasite Frank Saltram who sponges on the rich and devoted and foolish; The Next Time (1895), about poor Ralph Limbert who fails in his struggles to boil the pot because he is incapable of anything



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