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


Page 245

most attractive conditions, in a society which still retained many of its feudal elements until after the taking of Rome in 1870. Although the career of Giovanni in 1865–1867 offers many contrasts to that of Orsino in 1887, the family character remains much the same—the same simple integrity which has no baser element than pride. While there have naturally been controversies as to Crawford’s accuracy of representation, the most serious charge against him is a partiality for the old order. Among Anglo-Saxon novelists, however, he is incomparable as an historian of Italy. And even where the charges against him hold, he still deserves the credit of adding a remarkable province to the world of the Anglo-Saxon imagination. Among American novelists he takes his rank as the most cosmopolitan of them all and as on the whole the best story-teller. That he occupies, however, as compared with the greatest novelists, distinctly a lower rank, is a natural consequence of his method. No man can range so widely and still go deep. Crawford’s success with the Roman novels only confirms this dogma. Although he always called himself an American, he knew Rome better than any other quarter of the globe; and where his knowledge was greatest he went deepest. In such a tour de force as Khaled or in such a romantic melodrama as The Cigarette-Maker’s Romance he went far on the wings of an excited imagination, but not as far as profounder observations took him in Pietro Ghisleri or Saracinesca. Realism, like charity, must begin somewhere near home.



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