The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/In the Valley

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The Encyclopedia Americana
In the Valley
Edition of 1920. See also In the Valley on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

IN THE VALLEY (1890), by Harold Frederic, is eminently representative of the historical novels which, during the later years of the 19th century in the United States, contended, for a time successfully, with the prevailing vogue of realism. As in so many stones of the type, the hero — a Mohawk Valley Dutchman — finds himself pitted against a brilliant villain — of course a British officer — who for a time wins the heroine — thrown among “Tories” and British but steadfastly loyal to her native colony — only in the end to lose her to the slow-witted, though courageous and honorable Douw Mauverensen, who is historian as well as hero of the tale. The book adheres to the New York tradition, early set down in Irving and Cooper, of respect for Dutch prudence, suspicion of British perfidy and active prejudice against all New Englanders, particularly those from Connecticut. There are also faithful black slaves and ferocious Indians. So far ‘In the Valley’ accepts the conventions of its order, but it goes beyond them in other respects, for it lacks the customary tinsel of archaisms and pretensions, and is not always sentimental. Frederic, later distinguished by his energetic naturalism, was, in this romance, prophetically spare and terse. Years of preparation, he said, went to the making of the book, which is full of unobtrusive erudition regarding life in the Mohawk Valley and in Albany from 1757 to 1777, when the diverse nationalities of the region were drawing together into a common Americanism. For them it was both a civil and a foreign war; the battle of Oriskany, by checking the British and Indians, not only left the valley in the hands of the colonials but also prevented the junction of St. Leger and Burgoyne and so contributed to the decision reached at Saratoga. ‘In the Valley,’ compact and dramatic throughout, comes to its fitting climax with the fight at Oriskany.

Carl Van Doren.