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


Page 54

place in the imagination with the Hudson, the Susquehanna, the Potomac, and the James. North of the Ohio romance achieved comparatively little and the epic of the Great Lakes remained—as indeed it still remains—unsung; but on the southern bank of the Ohio, Kentucky, “dark and bloody ground,” rivaled its mother Virginia. Bird ventured into Mexico at a time when Irving and Prescott were writing romantic histories of the Spanish discovery and conquest. Melville, the most original and enduring of Cooper’s contemporaries, concerned himself with the wonders of the Pacific and the deeds of Yankee whalers. Nor did the romancers of the period confine themselves entirely to native borders and native ships, though the exceptions are relatively unimportant: various narratives by various narrators of the life and voyages of Columbus; the African tales of Mayo; the one story of classical antiquity, Mrs. Child’s gentle, ignorant Philothea (1836); the Biblical romances of William Ware; and George Tucker’s satirical Voyage to the Moon (1827).
  The topographical arrangement is the natural arrangement of this body of romance, for as regards style, method, attitude toward the American past, present, future, general criticism of life, or individual distinction, the different novels exhibit but in rare cases any such qualities as would make classification significant or even possible. Again medieval France furnishes a parallel in the chansons de geste, which differ from these old American romances in little besides their anonymity and their meter. Were the names of the American authors transposed it would be noticed, if at all, only by experts. Almost all of these tales employ a more or less standardized idiom and terminology,



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