« AnteriorContinuar »
charming style. "His shorter tales and sketches are finished like so many poems in prose, sparklingly original and delightful for the airy by-play of a captivating literary style." Chief among the novels is The Still Water Tragedy (1880). This possesses a sensational realism which is well held in check by an artistic handling. It is a Trades Union Story— not altogether unlike Charles Reade's Put Yourself in His Place. Mr. Aldrich is primarily the poet, and his prose work has always the quality implied by this fact.
For the representative novelist of later years we may take WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS (b. 1837), HENRY JAMES (b. 1843), and JULIAN HAWTHORNE (b. 1846). They are united in defence of "realism" in prose, though their methods are widely different. Mr. Howells received his education in a printing office. Until 1860 he was a country editor. In 1861 he was given the consulate at Venice, which proved a stepping-stone to new fortunes. Remaining there until 1865, he published the outcome of his observationVenetian Life and Italian Journeys-in 1866 and 1867 respectively. These made him known as an observer and a writer of good prose. After some miscellaneous journalism, Mr. Howells became connected with the Atlantic Monthly, first as an assistant editor and then (1871) as chief, resigning his position in 1881. He held important posts on other big magazines for some time, but after 1892 devoted himself entirely to literary production. Possessed
of a ready and versatile pen, he has done much work in prose and poetry. Stops of Various Quills (1895) indicates the scope and manner of the latter. His many novels are marked by keen observation and kindly humor. Best is A Modern Instance (1882). Very well known is The Rise of Silas Lapham (1884). Both are marked by that somewhat analytical treatment which characterizes so much modern work. Some of his other novels are:--The Lady of the Aroostook, The Undiscovered Country, A Hazard of New Fortunes. Mr. Howells has injured himself as a writer by over-production.
Mr. Henry James belongs to Europe by long residence, but to America by birth. Born in 1843, he studied for law, but never took a University course, owing to delicate health. The greater part of his life has been spent away from his native country, in France, Italy and England. His literary career began in 1870. Since then he has written voluminously. He is what may be termed a "psychologic novelist." His books are mostly without any marked plot; their interest lies in the mental development of the characters. He is analytic to excess. He has a cosmopolitan point of view, which gives a wide sympathy to his work. His style is clean and exact, his workmanship is deft and his general culture is thorough. The Bostonians (1886) is his most typical work. He views life in a spirit of "devitalized coolness," and perhaps for that reason does not appeal to the popular as much as to
the more intellectual mind. The American and The Europeans (1878) evidence his "international” standpoint.
Julian Hawthorne labors under the disadvantage of one who dwells beneath the shadow of a great name. The son of the great Hawthorne, he attempts in his work to follow out his father's method. The result is not satisfactory, because no one can write in the style of the author of The Scarlet Letter. Julian Hawthorne also endeavors to pluck the heart out of a mystery and clothe it in living prose, but he lacks the gift of the greater pen. “It is boldness in Julian Hawthorne to write novels at all the height of daring to write them, as he habitually does, in the metaphysical manner." He was born in 1846, studied at Harvard and in Germany, began to write, settled for a time in London. In 1889 he visited Europe with a delegation to enquire into the conditions of industry. In 1897 he was commissioned by the Cosmopolitan Magazine to report on the Indian plague and its sanitation.
Archibald Malmaison is generally acknowledged as his best work. Its theme is the fascinating one of a dual life. The hero is subject to seasons of long trance, when he is as a dead man. Other titles, such as Confessions of a Convict, John Parmalee's Curse, Another's Crime, will show the trend of his genius. Like Howells and James, his chief danger lies in over-production.
"The successors of Nathaniel Hawthorne are,
consciously or unconsciously, living in his shade." Howells by his tracing of character and motive; James by his arabesque workings on the walls of thought; Julian Hawthorne by his excursions into the realm of unusual human experience. The fact has given rise to some good novels, but in spite of the personal equation, which renders difficult careful judgment, we notice the descent from the master to those who come after.
In one division of literature Americans have done quite exceptional work. This is the short story, which seems peculiarly adapted to the American mind. Irving first found his métier therein; Hawthorne and Poe widened the field by such collections as Twice-Told Tales and the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. And of late years there have not been found wanting worthy followers in the same path. Prince among recent exponents of this literary type is Mr. FRANCIS BRET HARTE. By virtue of his humor and pathos and his fine style he has gained a very high place among modern writers. Mr. Harte was born in New York State in 1839. At first he thought of teaching as a profession. But in 1854 he went to California to make his fortune, and succeeded—though not quite in the manner of his youthful dreams. From the land of gold he drew the golden coin of literary currency which proved acceptable the world over. After some experience as a miner he became editor of a local newspaper. In 1870 he published a collection
of poems-among them the famous Heathen Chinee. This was followed by a volume of realistic prose sketches of mining life, entitled The Luck of Roaring Camp. These at once gave him fame and honor. Afterwards he was United States Consul successively at Crefeld, Germany, and Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1885 he has resided chiefly in London. Mr. Bret Harte labors under the infirmity of modern popular writers. He has written too much. Gaining an instant and signal success in the domain of the raw and picturesque life, he has returned again and again without surpassing and generally without equalling the excellence of his first stories. But of their excellence there can be no doubt.
In The Luck of Roaring Camp, and the one or two of his books that are worthy to stand beside it, he has preserved in lasting prose the vanished mining camp of the young West. His best work deserves the highest praise. It is intensely real, it has something elemental about it, something of the basic qualities of human nature, which will cause it to live. And its finest trait is "the charity that believes... that there is something in the greatest drunkard, the most reckless gambler-in the men, and women, too, of no account'-that brings them within the pale of our sympathies." All his best stories show this trait: The Outcasts of Poker Flat, M'liss, Tennessee's Partner, The Idyll of Red Gulch, and others. In his poetry there is much humor and occasionally some verses of real beauty