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


Page 22

lie entirely inland. The sea also was a frontier. From every port of the New England coast, and to a less degree from the Atlantic coast generally, ships went out to every corner of the world, particularly to the mysterious Pacific, with its strange calms and rich pastures for fishermen, and to the exotic countries beyond, but also to the crowded Mediterranean, the banks of Newfoundland, the neighborly West Indies. The new nation was setting out in every direction to become acquainted with its own immense domain and to establish communications between it and all the rest of the world, real or imaginative.
   Such potentialities, of course, still ran a long way before the facts at the time Bristed made his unhopeful prophecy. What he said of existing American fiction suited its recent examples accurately enough. John Davis, a visiting Englishman, had taken a fancy to the Pocahontas legend and had dealt with it in three versions in his Travels (1803), Captain Smith and Princess Pocahontas (1805), and The First Settlers of Virginia (1806). Preposterous as they all are, they are interesting as the first treatment of one of the most persistent of American legends. A rollicking anti-romance, Female Quixotism (1808?) by Tabitha Tenney, which made very good fun of the novels of the day by showing into how many follies its heroine could blunder by taking the manners of such novels for her guide, was far less popular than the absurdly sentimental performance, probably by Isaac Mitchell, The Asylum (1811), which achieved at least a score of editions and exhibits the worst qualities of Mrs. Radcliffe to an extent which now makes it incredibly amusing. The nadir of the old-fashioned, sensational, sentimental



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