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


Page 50

his invention escaped from the world of settled customs on which Scott’s art was built up, Cooper did with his invention alone what Scott, with his subsidiary qualities, could not outdo. After all else that can be said, one returns to Cooper’s invention, which is almost supreme among romancers, and which lifts him solidly above all his faults of clumsiness, prolixity, conventional characterizations, and ill-temper. Merely the multiplication of incidents could not have preserved him. Merely his good fortune in being first to celebrate the frontier would not have been enough. There had to be in him that intensity by virtue of which he so completely realized imagined, and often imaginary, events. How far this quality of his raises the quality of his invention may be observed in certain of his “recognition” scenes—scenes of that kind which Aristotle considered to be of the very essence of dramatic effect. Uncas revealing himself to the Delaware’s, the old trapper discovered on the prairie by the grandson of his former comrade—surely Euripides, had he been a writer of hasty prose romances, need not have been ashamed of scenes like these.



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