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


Page 226

the romance of adventure Anna Katharine Green Rohlfs made something of a new departure with her very successful detective stories, and Captain (later General) Charles King became the first novelist of the American army, with his brisk stories of field and camp and military post. The historical novel, for which Howells and James cared so little, suffered some neglect, though Ben-Hur belonged to that form and A Connecticut Yankee burlesqued it; John Esten Cooke worked in it till his death in 1886; Marion Crawford handled past and present with almost equal ease; and at the end of the decade several writers began to point forward to the historical-romantic “best sellers” which crowded the nineties. The older fashion of sea tales and foreign adventure, now fallen into abeyance, had been succeeded by the milder comedy of international manners, as handled by Howells and James. Mark Twain, of course, handled it humorously, and Crawford, when he liked, with vigorous knowledge. A tragic note infrequent in these international comedies was struck by Blanche Willis Howard’s Guenn (1884), the story of an American painter in a Breton village and the hopeless, fatal love which he awakens in a young girl there. Most such novels represented their Americans as a little bewildered by the superior complexity of European manners; to Guenn, wild and simple, Hamor seems rich and strange and great. The story, founded, it is said, on the actual experience of a painter who is still living, charmingly preserves the spirit of a day when American artists were mad with the love of France and swarmed over it in pursuit of the beauty and quaintness which at the moment seemed to reside there as nowhere else.



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