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


Page 252

To Have and to Hold is more ornate in style, Monsieur Beaucaire more graceful and piquant, The Crossing more grandiose in its sweep, than the ordinary run. Janice Meredith is based upon remarkable erudition and Hugh Wynne remarkably sums up the traditions of Philadelphia as remembered by the descendants of her Augustan age. In spite of these distinctions, however, the general corpus of such romances forms a singularly unified mass. Certain themes like the importation of wives to Virginia, the fate of gentlemen who desperately came over as indentured servants (“convicts”), the exploits of John Paul Jones, are repeated again that a hero or a heroine can hardly step out upon the street or go to dinner without encountering some eminent man—particularly Franklin or Washington, or some one of the colonial governors of Virginia. While intensely American in reporting the conflicts with English rule, the stories almost always sympathize with the colonial and Revolutionary gentry as against the humbler orders, with Washington as against Jefferson, with the aristocratic emigrés from France as against the revolutionists. Details of costume load the narrative far more than descriptions of landscape. Fine gentlemen, called “Cavaliers” till the word becomes a byword, flutter and ruffle across the stage, with splendid gestures and delicate points of honor, sudden in quarrel, quick with quaint oaths, incomparable at the small sword or the minuet, poetic and patriotic and heroic. With them in all their lighter moments are exquisite ladies, generally very young but with some dowagers among them, who live in spacious, cool houses, in a world of mahogany



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