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


Page 214

The Golden Bowl excellently illustrates this. Maggie Verver, an American girl, marries an Italian prince living in London, and her widowed father marries her friend Charlotte Stant. But there had been between Charlotte and the Prince before their marriages a secret intimacy which afterwards is resumed. With the fictive paraphernalia customary to such cases—jealousy, peeping, revelations, revenges—James of course has nothing to do. He would no more have brought the matter into the courts than would Maggie Verver and her quiet father. For James, as for Maggie, the evil of the situation consisted less in the sin of adultery than in the ugliness of stealth and deceit. The problem is to bring the hidden offense into light, and the plot is merely the process by which the various characters, one after another, first only gradually, accidentally, then with suspicions hurrying dreadfully into convictions, discover and are discovered. When the truth has come up into the light, the story ends, with Verver and his wife departing for America. Tenuous as the substance may seem to any first glance, The Golden Bowl is still solidly constructed beneath its sumptuous garment of phrases and clauses; careless of moral considerations as it may seem to any moralistic eye, it still glows with condemnation of the ugly and the sordid facts which here disrupt a charming microcosm. The story suggests the coming of a great summer sun after a midnight of slinking ghosts.
  In The Wings of the Dove the beauty and power of truth and goodness receive a tribute which has rarely been paid them in sophisticated novels. As Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady has risen magnificently to meet life,



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