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Now, in these latter days, has come one to report the same great truth by observation. Kipling, beyond all writers, is remarkable for the universality of his characterization. For him there are no boundaries of class or creed or color. In the long bazaar, where the ends of the earth strike hands, of all the motley throng there is not one he has not made his own. From all the shores of the seven seas he has added to the company, and even from the jungle's heart he has called that strange spirit who was kin to all the beasts. He is the great cosmopolitan spirit, the incarnation of the genius of his age. On three continents, and at all the crossroads of the world's traffic, he has shared the life of men. With Gaul and Teuton, Celt and Kaffir, Jew and Saxon, Hindu and Moslem, he has lived; to them all he is a brother of the blood. Not only has he seen the great composite face of humanity on all its sides, in all its moods, but he has recognized himself behind that face, has frowned and smiled, groaned and cheered, laughed and cursed with it. As the result of it all, having touched every vein of our great cosmopolitan life, having looked into its inmost heart, Kipling brings us the word that there is “neither East nor West, border nor breed nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth.” All his men, of whatever rank or color, have a common code of conduct, common standards of character, not because he has molded them to one ideal, but because at many points he has sounded the depths of human nature and found it one. Thus the realist, with his varied description of the life that now is, joins with the great company of seers and dreamers to tell us of the unity of life. This is perhaps his most •enduring message. On every sea, under every sky, of every race and creed, we are all brothers of the blood, sharing a common life; and a cosmopolitan civilization is slowly drawing us together in common standards of conduct and character. Here the realist voices the eternal truth-the heart of the world is one.
ART. VII.-A CENTURY OF AMERICAN FICTION.
THE uses of fiction are as many as the offices of preaching, and the romance is as old as the sermon. It is a matter for congratulation and not regret that the production of novels in this country has kept pace with that in foreign fields. An indigenous literature is as important as domestic manufacture. Home-made ideas are as essential to the independence and the integrity of a people as home-made goods are necessary to their physical well-being. The proportion of novels to the whole number of books published in the United States exhibits each year a steadily increasing per cent. At present they are more than one fourth of the separate works and considerably more than a majority of the individual volumes, while fully three fourths of the books taken from the public libraries belong to this class. The recent introduction of a course of fiction into the curriculum of one of the oldest col. leges and the substitution of the novel for the Bible at the Sunday evening service of a prominent church further indicate the trend of the times. Here, then, is a force to be reckoned with, since there is every prospect that this form of literary activity is to have a much larger development.
From the beginning of its history this country has presented an inviting field for the fiction-maker. The Puritan, grim and superstitious; the obese and laughter-provoking Dutchman; the red man with his bloody tomahawk and string of scalps; the proud cavalier of the South; and the hardy pioneer of the West—these and many other ingredients of our oddly mixed population have formed a background for romance as fascinating as ever appealed to the skilled
pen Dickens or a Thackeray. Indeed, these two England's greatest humorist and arch-satirist—were tempted from their native heath by these picturesque fields across the sea, soon, however, abandoning them for the old workings which they found more congenial to their taste. Thus, romantic America was left for the most part to develop its own literary artists.
The first in the field was Charles Brockden Brown, a strange composite of Quaker, infidel, and misanthrope, who
launched his Wieland just about one hundred years ago. It belongs to the class of lime-light fiction, and exhibits all the crudities of a forerunner. He revels in the weird, the sensational, and the supernatural ; his heroes walk in horrors and live under a canopy of perpetual storm. Had the author possessed other literary gifts in like degree with his talent for the tragic, he might easily have been the first of American fictionists in rank, as well as time, for the element of morbid analysis which Edgar Allan Poe acquired under the stimulus of wine and Nathaniel Hawthorne by dint of painstaking toil was to Brown the gift of nature. What this man, who towered in imaginative power above all the moderns of his craft, might have accomplished with a long life to chasten and refine his art, it is curious but useless to speculate, for an early death cut short the immature fruitage of the pioneer of American letters. Next came a man who painted with quite other pig. ments. James Kirke Paulding, our second novelist, was in emotional nature the reverse of the first. With considerable advance in literary form, we are transported from the Tartarean regions of Brown into the kindliest sun of healthful humor and manly fun. He finds something amusing in all his characters, even the stern-visaged Puritan whose jokes have a prayer meeting flavor, and he introduces us to the quaintly dignified Knickerbocker afterward so delightfully exploited by Washington Irving. In The Dutchman's Fireside, the author's highest level, there is a rich portrayal of the customs of colonial life, with no lack of incident or incisive phrase ; but the tale is amateurish, loosely jointed, and the dramatic elements lack the trained touch of a master. The same may be said of his contemporary, John Neal. A typical Yankee and a man of many trades, he is perpetually getting in front of his characters, lecturing them and us, now clergyman and now clown, spoiling his plot for the sake of his preach. In fact, almost every writer of the period must have his sermon. To tell a story for its own sake, to construct a . work of art without its moral, was, according to the notions of the age,
to have toiled in vain. The same defect mars the work of Sylvester Judd, a preacher by profession as well as in pretense, and a genius whose novel Margaret would have been immortal if only he could have divested himself of his clerical gown. To miss so narrowly a niche in the temple of fame seems a pity too, when we consider the wholesome nature of his product, for it has tonic qualities sadly lacking in present fiction with its often poisonous foreign brew. Judd's goods were home-made brands. He was a dramatist without pessimism and a realist without obscenity; but, alas ! he belongs to that numerous class who have deprived themselves of a hearing through preaching “ too long and too loud.”
The dust of time will doubtless cover all four of the writ. ers mentioned, but not so the three now to be named, each having his unique personality and destined to be read as long as the English language survives. The first of this remarkable trio is James Fenimore Cooper—first because the earliest to acquire international fame. The unprecedented success of his novels was due, however, to the richness of the new vein, rather than to the skill of the author. He is a careless workman, and makes immense draughts upon the credulity of his reader. Thoroughly objective in his treatment of his heroes, he is as deficient in psychology as a schoolboy. His Indians he draws from the largeness of his own nature, and by idealizing the red men he has given us a wrong notion of their inherent nobility. From these exalted conceptions it is a far cry to the opinion of General Crook, who said that “the only good Indian was a dead one." Still, with all his defects, his romances were more popular than those of
other author down, at least, to the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The author who next demands our attention, strange to say, has not yet his position fixed in American literature. As the place of Walt Whitman in poetry will perhaps always be a matter of dispute, so it may be will be the place of Edgar Allan Poe in fiction. That he was a star of the first constellation, and that he shed a kind of mesmeric light over many lands, charming mercurial souls of other climes more than he impressed his own countrymen, none will be disposed to deny. Indeed, as with Whitman, some persons have been so dazzled with his peculiar genius as even to render him apotheosis. Strangely incomprehensible to Americans is the extravagant, if not profane, vow of Baudelaire, himself one of the most striking personalities of all French literature: “I swear to myself henceforth to set up the following eternal rules of my life—to make each morning my prayer to God, the fount of all strength and all justice, to my father, to Mariette, and to Poe, as intercessors; to beg them to give me the strength necessary to accomplish all my duties; and to obey the principles of the strictest sobriety.” If the definition of Maurice Thompson is correct, that genius is the power to awaken in others an unmanageable enthusiasm, then Poe's gift would seem to meet the test. His orbs were lawless, cometary bodies, plunging down from the zenith or shooting up from the nadir instead of moving in the planes of ordinary human life.
The third great writer of our early fiction was Nathaniel Hawthorne, and here at last we find the artistic conscience. When, in 1850, his second novel, The Scarlet Letter, was published it was seen that a real master and scholar, vying even with Irving in grace of style and purity of language, had appeared in American literature. If his range is not so wide as that of some European novelists, he is surpassed by none in his subtle depths of insight into the human heart. There is also in his matchless creations an element hard to define. What the sun is to the scenery, what the minor scale is to music, what the sense of sacredness is to the temple—that is the potent charm with which this romantic seer, like the prophets of olden time, captivates the reader. Some call this magic spell spirituality; some, supernaturalism; some, an atmosphere; but, whatever it is, one feels himself irresistibly drawn down into the unplumbed depths of a whirlpool where the eye casts the lead in vain and the feeble cry is without avail. No man in any land or any age has more forcibly depicted the relentless law of heredity, or weighed in surer scale the responsibility of paternity. Every link between cause and effect is fast forged in the fires of fate, but fate man-created. Behind a beauty of expression and on the background of a literary art well-nigh perfect, there is the slow and awful evolution of a plot as fatal and final in the crushing of the wrongdoer as the winding of the serpents in Michael Angelo's “ Last Judgment.” This is the kind of work that belongs to immortality.
No account of the first half century of American fiction