Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/86

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68
The Later Novel

in the eighties; but his pleasant, plaintive My Lady Pokahontas (1885) cannot really compare for charm with his Virginia A History of the People (1883), a high-minded and fascinating work. Cooke was the last of Cooper’s school; but he was also the first of those who contributed to the poetic idealization of the antebellum South which has been one of the most prominent aspects of American fiction since 1865.

Less close to Cooper was another novelist who fought in the Civil War, and gave his life in one of the earliest battles, Theodore Winthrop (1828–61). Of a stock as eminent in New England and New York as Cooke’s in Virginia, Winthrop had a more cosmopolitan upbringing than Cooke: after Yale he travelled in Europe, in the American tropics, in California while the gold fever was still new, and in the North-west. His work at first found so delayed a favour with publishers that his books were all posthumous—Cecil Dreeme (1861), John Brent (1862), Edwin Brothertoft (1862), The Canoe and the Saddle (1863), and Life in the Open Air and Other Papers (1863).[1] Time might, it is urged, have made Winthrop the legitimate successor of Hawthorne, but in fact he progressed little beyond the qualities of Brockden Brown, whom he considerably resembles in his strenuous nativism, his melodramatic plots, his abnormal characters, his command over the mysterious, and his breathless style. Of the three novels John Brent is easily the most interesting by reason of its vigorous narrative of adventures in the Far West, at that time a region still barely touched by fiction, and its magnificent hero, the black horse Don Fulano. That Winthrop’s real talent looked forward in this direction rather than backward to Hawthorne appears still more clearly from The Canoe and the Saddle, a fresh, vivid, amusing, and truthful record of his own journey across the Cascade Mountains, and an established classic of the North-west. His death, however, prevented further achievement, and the Pacific Coast had to wait for Mark Twain[2] and Bret Harte.[3]

What chiefly characterized American fiction of the decade 1850–60, leaving out of account romancers like Hawthorne,

  1. Mr. Waddy's Return, written earliest of all, was first published in 1904, edited and condensed by Burton Egbert Stevenson.
  2. See Book III, Chap. VIII.
  3. See Book III, chap.VI