Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/91

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73
Mrs. Stowe's New England

This flavour was indispensable to her. When her memory of the New England she had known in her girlhood and had loved so truly that Cotton Mather’s Magnolia had seemed “wonderful stories … that made me feel the very ground I trod on to be consecrated by some special dealing of God’s providence,”—when this memory worked freely and humorously upon materials which it was enough merely to remember and set down, she was at her later best. These conditions she most fully realized in Poganuc People, crisp, sweet, spare (for her), never quite sufficiently praised, and in Oldtown Folks, like the other a series of sketches rather than a novel, but—perhaps all the more because of that—still outstanding, for fidelity and point, among the innumerable stories dealing with New England.

Adaptable to literary as to other circumstances, Mrs. Stowe had actually in Oldtown Folks fallen in with the imperious current proceeding from the example of Bret Harte, whose Luck of Roaring Camp stands at the very headwaters of American “local colour” fiction and largely gave it its direction. Elsewhere in this history that movement, so far as it concerns the short story, its chief form, has been traced;[1] in the novel a similar fondness for local manners and types appeared, but not so prompt a revolution in method, for the good reason that most writers who followed Bret Harte followed him in the dimensions of their work as well as in its subjects, and left the novel standing for a few years a little out of the central channel of imaginative production. Domestic sentimentalism, of course, did not noticeably abate, carried on with large popular success by Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819–81) of Massachusetts and Edward Payson Roe (1838–88) of New York until nearly the end of the century, when others took up the useful burden. Both Holland and Roe were clergymen, a sign that the old suspicion of the novel was nearly dead, even among those petty sects and sectarians that so long feared the effects of it. Holland, whose first novel had appeared in 1857, was popular moralist and poet[2] as well as novelist and first editor of Scribner’s Magazine (founded 1870); but Roe contented himself with fiction. Chaplain of cavalry and of one of the Federal hospitals during the Civil War, he

  1. See Book III, Chap. VI.
  2. See Book III, Chap. X.