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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICANSHORT STORYAN HISTORICAL SURVEYBY

FRED LEWIS PATTEEProfessor of American Literature in the Pennsylvania

State College

Short Story Index

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERSNEW YORK AND LONDON1923

THE DEVELOPMENT OP THE AMERICAN SHORT STORYCopyright, 1923

By Harper &

Brothers

Printed in the U.S.A.

First Edition

A-X

A

t*9CONTENTSCHAP.I.

PAOE

Washington Irving

1

II.

III.

IV.

V.VI.VII.

The Arrival of the Annuals The Western Tributary The Rise of the Lady's Books Nathaniel HawthorneEdgar Allan Poe The Decade after Poe

2752

6991

115 145 166191

VIII.

Lowell and "The Atlantic Monthly "Following the Civil

IX.

War

X.

Bret Harte XI. The Era of Localized Romance XII. The Reign of Dialect XIII. The Discovery of the "Short-Story" XIV. The Revolt of the 'Nineties XV. The Journalization of the Short Story XVI. O. Henry and the Handbooks

220245 268291

309 337 357

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICANSHORT STORYCHAPTERI

WASHINGTON IRVINGI

short story began in 1819 with Washington Short fiction there had been in America before The Irving. Sketch Book, some of it written by men of significance Franklin, Freneau, Charles Brockden Brown but from the standpoint of

The American

the modern short-story form none of it need detain us. Franklin wrote anecdotes with didactic intent; Freneau threw off narrative

Brown, as in his posthumously collected Carwin the Biloquist, and Other American Tales and Pieces, produced not short stories, but abortive romances, tales begun as novels and abandoned; others, especially in the magazines of the decade before The Sketch Book, wrote imitations of the Hannah More and Maria Edgeworth moral tracts which were so popular in England after the " great religious awakening." All none of it influenced the evolution of the short of it is negligible story. A study of the form in its American phases begins withit

propaganda, some of

in verse;

:

Irving.II

The first observation to be made upon Irving concerns the fact that he was born in New York City of British parentage, and therefore was untouched by New England. The Puritan age had been introspective, and the New England of the early nineteenth century was still basically Puritan; the eighteenth century of1

2

DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN SHORT STORY

Addison and Fielding and Goldsmith had been circumspective, and the New York of Irving's boyhood was a prolongation of it: worldly, cosmopolitan, it was even then absorbed in an allengrossing present; the romantic age that was to dominate the opening years of the new century was to be retrospective, unmindful of voices within and clamor without, while it created for itself an ideal world out of its dreams of a vanished past. Of all that savors of introspection and New England Puritanism, Irving had no trace. The grim shadows of conscience and that chilling religious atmosphere which in New England killed all early attempts at fiction and which in later days could render pale and often unearthly the work of a genius like Hawthorne, touched him not at all. Like Cooper, he could be lawless without a qualm. It is worth while to dwell upon this: it was inevitable that American fiction should have had its beginnings in New York, and especially inevitable was it that the short story should have sprung from its soil. It would have withered and died in the shadow of early New England Brahminism, for it is a thing ofthis world; it breathes worldliness or it perishes.

Irvine's birth in

New York had

another

effect.

Unlike the

Boston

had no intellectual atmosphere, no traditions of a scholarly past, no Brahmin caste, and as a result the lad, naturally bookish, was forced in upon himself and in upon his father's library, which had stopped growing at a period antedating the Revolution. To the eager boy, marooned in a literary desert, the volumes of the eighteenth-century writers came as something new and vital. The then comparatively recent advice of Dr. Johnson to give one's days and nights to the volumes of Addison was authoritative and compelling. As a result Irvingof the period, the city

prolonged the eighteenth century. Ignorant of the new literary tides that were rising to sweep away old things, he began deliberately to write as Addison would have written had he been born into the New York of the dying eighteenth century. The Jonathan Oldstyle papers, which appeared in the Morning Chronicle when Irving was nineteen, are of the age of Queen Anne rather than of the second decade of the lusty young American Republic. So, This too, with the Salmagundi papers that followed in 1807. basis of classicism, which in a way he had been forced upon, was, as we see it now, tremendously important to the young writer: it came first, it came in his impressionable years; he never wholly

WASHINGTON IRVINGleft it.

3

gave him stability while others went to extremes, it compelled restraint, it rendered impossible anything save beauty of style and perfect clearness, and it made him observant of menIt

and manners and times. But the eighteenth century was dead: even while Irving was writing his Oldstyle papers the reaction against all it had stood for had become a revolution. Already had come what Carlyle was terming "the sickliest of recorded ages, when British literature lay all puking and sprawling in Werterism, Byronism, and othersentimentalism, tearful or spasmodic (fruit of internal wind)." That the impressionable young New-Yorker sooner or later should

have been affected was inevitable. How the new forces laid hold upon him and modified his classicism is a problem tremendously important, for it is at this point, where in him the Addisonian Arctic current was cut across by the Gulf Stream of romanticism, that there was born the American short story, a new genre, something distinctively and unquestionably our own in the world ofletters.Ill

The second observation about Irving concerns his ancestry: Scotch and Cornwall-English, prevailingly Celtic. The father wasa restless soul from the Orkneys, a sailor on the North Sea, a armada against the French, an emigrant to America in the period before the Revolution. The dash of Celtic accounts for the mercurial temperament of the man, his affinity for romance, his love of the picturesque, his kinship with Scott, his swiftly changing moods. He was as temperamental as Dickens. Only when the mood was upon him would he write: for months and years and decades would he lie fallow. The mood was upon him only in periods of serenity: hence the uniform serenity of his product; hence also the surprisingly small bulk of his writings in twenty years and in the prime of his life only five volumes, all of them small. From his temperament came, too, his habits of work: he wrote by spurts and dashes, a story at a sitting. Bancroft visited him in 1821: "He took me to his room, and read to me what he had written at one sitting. I remember it to this day: It was his 'St. Mark's Eve/ from the words, 'I am now alone in my chamber,' to the end." A part of his "Rural Funerals "was written at Miller's, where he stopped in at early dawn,fighter in the

4

DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN SHORT STORY'

and excited, after having been all night at a dance, and borrowed pen and paper to jot down his thick coming fancies/" Easily was he discouraged, easily deflected. In Dresden he became interested in dramatics and translated German operas like "Abu Hassan"; later in Paris he worked -with John Howard Payne upon adaptations from the French " Richelieu," " Charles II," and the like. For months he thought apparently of nothing else. Then suddenly he plunged into a series of " American Essays," finished two or three, but at a hint from the Spanish minister threw them away and was off to Madrid to work on a life of Columbus. This biography well started, he dashed it aside to begin on The Conquest of Granada. Such a temperament will express itself, if it turns to fiction, not in long, patiently wroughtfeverish

novels, but in narrative dashes

sketches.

His indolence, too, must be noted. He was the youngest of eleven, precocious, vivacious, the pet of the family, a bit spoiled. His abortive novel "Mountjoy" possibly may have in His brothers attended Columbia it an element of autobiography. College, but not he: "He was more alive to the drudgery than the advantage of a course of academic training." Threatened with consumption, his life became for a long period a series of health excursions, which culminated at twenty-one in a year and a half It turned his attitude toward life into that in southern Europe. of the convalescent who has been watched with anxiety and whose every wish has been anticipated. His brothers sacrificed "It is with delight," wrote William, "we for him, idolized him. share the world with you; and one of our greatest sources of happiness i