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


Page 236

His delight in circumstantial mendacity was so unfailing that he often spun his matter out too thin, and he never concerned himself with the problem of structure beyond what he needed to give point to an episode. His variety came largely from within. At the same time, he was observant of costume and dialect. He amused himself particularly with the negroes and certain odd whites whom he encountered in the South (Virginia was latterly his home) and who make The Late Mrs. Null (1886) a continual delight. In New Jersey, where he spent much of his life within surburban distance of New York, he constantly studied the village types, and above all the sailors along the coast, whose habits with regard to the sober truth fell in admirably with his own. Stockton’s mariners are among his happiest devices. They furnish a natural excuse for fibbing, and they themselves, rakish and tarry, give comic opera touches which nothing else in Stockton quite equals. The three seamen who in The Dusantes tattoo the barn and set out onions according to nautical designs may be said to head the humorous crew, but they have many rivals for preëminence. Stockton’s invention rarely flagged. The Adventures of Captain Horn (1895) plays with the search for hidden treasure in South America: its sequel, Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht (1896), goes larking among pirates, who interested Stockton in other books as well. He cheerfully perlustrated the strangest climes and ages, with a blithe inconsequence heaping all his visions together, as if he were some jovial Spenser taking a vacation in Fairyland. He delighted, too, in imaginary science, like that which in The Great Stone of Sardis (1898) proves that the center of the earth is one immense



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