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


Page 6

of the new settlement, is practically a burlesque of the history of civilization in America. The settlers war with the Indians and make a constitution. They legislate like madmen, under the guidance of a visionary from Washington who holds that beasts should have the vote as well as men, and actually persuades his fellows to commission a monkey clerk and admit a hound to the bar. Brackenridge aimed his satire primarily at doctrinaires and demagogues, but he whipped as well almost all the current follies and affectations, revising his book from time to time to keep pace with new absurdities. For half a century Modern Chivalry was widely popular, and nowhere more so than along the very frontier which it satirized and which read it as more or less a true history. It was among the earliest books printed west of the Alleghanies.
  Satire had to be helped by sentiment, however, before fiction could win the largest audience. Indeed, until Scott had definitely established a new mode of fiction for the world, the potent influence in American fiction was Richardson. The amiable ladies who produced most of the early sentimental novels commonly held, like Mrs. Rowson, that their knowledge of life had been “simply gleaned from pure nature,” because they dealt with facts which had come under their own observation; but like other amateurs they saw in nature what art had assured them would be there. Nature and Richardson they found the same. Whatever bias they gave this Richardsonian universe was due to a pervading consciousness that their narratives would be followed chiefly by women. The result was a highly domestic world, limited in outlook, where the talk was of careless husbands, of grief for dead children,



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