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


Page 45

personal merit.… His feelings appeared to possess the freshness and nature of the forest in which he passed so much of his time, and no casuist could have made clearer decisions in matters relating to right and wrong; yet he was not without his prejudices, which, though few, and colored by the character and usages of the individual, were deep-rooted, and had almost got to form a part of his nature.… In short … he was a fair example of what a just-minded and pure man might be, while untempted by unruly or ambitious desires, and left to follow the bias of his feelings, amid the solitary grandeur and ennobling influences of a sublime nature.” Nature in America is no longer so solitary, and perhaps no longer so ennobling, but much of this older simplicity, downrightness, courage, competence, unsophistication, and virgin prejudice still marks the national type. No wonder then that generation after generation of American boys have read these romances as they have read no others. No wonder, either, that boys of other nations and races have admired in Leather-Stocking qualities generously transcending merely national ones. Cooper’s failure to write a sixth novel, as he at one time planned, which should show Natty in the Revolution, may be taken as a sign that he felt the difficulty of endowing the scout with the virtue of patriotism in the partizan degree which must have been demanded from that hero in that day and which would surely have been alien to the cool philosopher of the woods. Justice, not partizanship, is Leather-Stocking’s essential trait: justice as conceived, somewhat out of space and out of time, by the universal spirit of youth. Being so universal, Leather-Stocking has naturally too simple a soul to



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