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


Page 51

III.   Romances of Adventure


1. Materials and Men

  VIEWED historically Cooper emerges from among his contemporaries as perhaps few of them realized he would after a century. Every one of the great matters of his day—the Settlement, the Revolution, the Frontier on land and water—he touched with a masterly hand, and in essential popularity he long ago distanced all his rivals. It is of course mere coincidence that he was born in the year which produced The Power of Sympathy and that when he died Uncle Tom’s Cabin was passing through its serial stage; yet the limits of Cooper’s life do mark almost exactly the first large period of American fiction; Neal, Thompson, Paulding, Kennedy, Simms, Melville—to mention no slighter figures—outlived him, but not, as a current fashion, the type of romance which had flourished under Cooper. Although by 1851 tales of adventure, as Cooper and his school conceived adventure, had begun to seem antiquated, they had rendered a large service to the course of literature: they had removed the stigma, for the most part, from the word “novel.” For the brutal scrapes of eighteenth-century fiction the new romance, of Scott and Cooper, had substituted deeds of chivalrous doings; it had supplanted the blunt fleshliness of Fielding



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