Page:The Cambridge History of American Literature, v3.djvu/104

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The Later Novel

claim Bret Harte, Aldrich, Stockton, Bunner, Rose Terry Cooke, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Cable, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Charles Egbert Craddock, Johnston, Page,[1] and Joel Chandler Harris,[2]—though they all wrote novels of merit,—because their talents were for pungency, fancy, brevity. But to the novel of the decade three of the five major American novelists, Mark Twain, Howells, Henry James, contributed their greatest triumphs; then appeared Ben-Hur, for a good while rivalled in popularity by Judge Albion Winegar Tourgee’s A Fool’s Errand (1879), a fiery document upon Reconstruction in the South; and there were such diverse pieces as Edward Bellamy’s much-read Utopian romance Looking Backward (1888), dainty exotics like Blanche Willis Howard’s Guenn A Wave on the Breton Coast (1884) and Arthur Sherburne Hardy’s Passe Rose (1889), E. W. Howe’s grim The Story of a Country Town (1883), Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona (1884), passionately pleading the cause of the Indians of California, Miss Woolson’s East Angels (1886), just less than a classic, Henry Adams’s[3] Democracy (1880) and John Hay’s[4] The Bread-Winners (1884), excursions into fiction of two men whose largest gifts lay elsewhere, the earlier army novels of General Charles King, and the earlier detective stories of Anna Katharine Green (Rohlfs). As a rule these novels seem more deftly built than the novels of the sixties or seventies, more sophisticated. People talked somewhat less than formerly about “The Great American Novel,” that strange eidolon so clearly descended from the large aspirations of men like Timothy Dwight and Joel Barlow[5] but by 1850 thought of less as an epic which should enshrine the national past than as a great prose performance reflecting the national present.

In the eighties began the career of that later American writer who gave to the novel his most complete allegiance, undeterred by the vogue of briefer narratives or other forms of literature. Francis Marion Crawford, son of the sculptor Thomas Crawford and nephew of Julia Ward Howe, was born at Bagni di Lucca, Tuscany, in 1854. He prepared for college at St. Paul’s School, New Hampshire, and entered Harvard,

  1. For these writers, see Book III, Chap. VI.
  2. See Book III, Chap. V.
  3. See Book III, Chap. XV.
  4. See Book III, Chap. X and XV.
  5. See Book I, Chap. IX.