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


Page 255

not without charm and not without a considerable romantic energy.
  Of the novels Hugh Wynne perhaps came closest to permanence, and S. Weir Mitchell (1829–1913) of the writers who are no longer living most deserves special mention. A Philadelphian, he set aside his youthful literary ambitions on the advice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, made himself a distinguished medical specialist, particularly in nervous diseases, and only after fifty gave much time to the verse and fiction which he wrote henceforth until his death. His professional knowledge enabled him to write authoritatively of difficult and wayward states of body and mind: as in The Case of George Dedlow (1880), so circumstantial in its improbabilities, Roland Blake (1886), which George Meredith admired, The Autobiography of a Quack (1900), concerning the dishonorable purlieus of the medical profession, and Constance Trescott (1905), considered by Mitchell his best constructed novel and certainly his most thorough-going study of a pathological mood. His psychological stories, however, had neither quite the appeal nor quite the merit of his historical romances, which began with Hephzibah Guinness (1880) and extended to Westways (1913). Westways is a chronicle of the effects of the Civil War in Pennsylvania, but Mitchell’s best work belongs to the Revolutionary cycle: Hugh Wynne, the career of a Free Quaker on Washington’s staff, The Red City, a picture of Washington’s second administration, and The Adventures of François, which stands as close to the American stories as did the revolutionary Paris to the city of Franklin. Philadelphia, so often the center of action, appears under



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