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


Page 257

illicit phases of American society. The earliest manifestations of this discontent, not always conscious, came from men and women who had studied farming conditions and, like E. W. Howe in Kansas and Joseph Kirkland in Illinois, had found in them little that justified the smooth idyls of certain of the local color writers. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman in her short stories of New England, A Humble Romance and Other Stories (1887) and A New England Nun and Other Stories (1891); Harold Frederic in his novel of rural New York, Seth’s Brother’s Wife (1887); Hamlin Garland in his hard pastorals of the upper Middle West, Main-Travelled Roads (1891) and Prairie Folks (1893)—all these proceeded in a less cheerful mood than fiction had ordinarily employed in the eighties, and Garland was passionately devoted to the war on needless poverty which had already enlisted Henry George and Edward Bellamy. Ambrose Bierce’s fierce Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891)—later called In the Midst of Life—added a sardonic note rare in American literature. That the short story at first prevailed among these new writers was owing to the enormous popularity of Kipling, who had developed the methods of Bret Harte and had returned them to America with interest. The novel, however, early shared the new impetus, which had a characteristic exposition in Hamlin Garland’s essays, Crumbling Idols (1894). It was no longer enough, the new novelists argued and felt, to skim rosy surfaces. The novel, a powerful modern agency for civilization, must go deeper than it had gone in the United States, must turn to the light various ugly realities which, too long neglected, were growing more dangerous every day. It



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