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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Harold Frederic (1856–1898)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
MR. FREDERIC was born in Utica, New York, August 19th, 1856. He spent his boyhood in that neighborhood, and was educated in its schools. The rural Central New York of a half-century ago was a region of rich farms, of conservative ideas, and of strong indigenous types of character. These undoubtedly offered unconscious studies to the future novelist.  1
  Like many of his guild he began writing on a newspaper, rising by degrees from the position of reporter to that of editor. The drill and discipline taught him to make the most of time and opportunity, and he contrived leisure enough to write two or three long stories. Working at journalism in Utica, Albany, and New York, in 1884 he became chief foreign correspondent of the New York Times, making his headquarters in London, where he lived until his death.  2
  Mr. Frederic’s reputation rests on journalistic correspondence of the higher class, and on his novels, of which he has published several. His stories are distinctively American. He has caught up contrasting elements of local life in the eastern part of the United States, and grouped them with ingenuity and power. His first important story was ‘Seth’s Brother’s Wife,’ originally appearing as a serial in Scribner’s Magazine. Following this came ‘The Lawton Girl,’ a study of rustic life; ‘In the Valley,’ a semi-historical novel, turning on aspects of colonial times along the Mohawk River; ‘The Copperhead,’ a tale of the Civil War; ‘Mukena and Other Stories,’ graphic character sketches, displaying humor and insight; ‘The Damnation of Theron Ware,’ the most serious and carefully studied of his books; and ‘March Hares,’ a sketch of contemporary society.  3
  A student of the life about him, possessing a dramatic sense and a saving grace of humor, Mr. Frederic in his fiction was often photographic and minute in detail, while he does not forget the importance of the mass which the detail is to explain or embellish. He likes to deal with types of that mixed population peculiar to the farming valleys of Central New York,—German, Irish, and American,—bringing out by contrast their marked social and individual traits. Not a disciple of realism, his books are emphatically “human documents.”  4
  There is always moreover a definite plot, often a dramatic development. But it is the attrition of character against character that really interested him. ‘Seth’s Brother’s Wife’ and ‘The Lawton Girl’ leave a definite ethical intention. In the ‘Damnation of Theron Ware’ is depicted the tragedy of a weak and crude character suddenly put in touch with a higher intellectual and emotional life, which it is too meager and too untrained to adopt, and through which it suffers shipwreck. In ‘In the Valley’ the gayety and seriousness of homely life stand out against a savage and martial background.  5
  Mr. Frederic died at Henly, Oxfordshire, England, October 19, 1898. In the opinion of most critics his strongest work is ‘Damnation of Theron Ware,’ which attracted much attention when published in 1896. His latest works include ‘Gloria Mundi,’ 1898; ‘The Deserter and Other Stories,’ 1898; ‘The Market Place,’ 1899.  6
 
 
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