dissertation, and several articles that reexamined the facts of his embezzlement trial and the use of classical allusions in his stories, O. Henry was virtually dismissed as unworthy of any further serious consideration. "The world of O. Henry is an intellectual Sahara," concluded George F. Whicher in The Literature of the United States, ed. Arthur Hobson Quinn ( 1951); A Literary History of the United States, ed. Robert Spiller ( 1953), scarcely bothered to mention his name at all.
Meanwhile, as in the past, foreign critics and literary scholars had been exhibiting a more perceptive awareness than their American counterparts of O. Henry's significant role in the art of short fiction. Just as it took a Baudelaire to reverse unfavorable American attitudes toward Poe in the 1850's, in 1919 another Frenchman, Raoul Narcy, displayed similar objectivity in summing up the important artistic qualities in O. Henry's fiction: its compactness, order, economy of specific detail, particularly its "abounding verve [and] . . . intelligence armed with irony," as well as its welcome avoidance of moral preachments. Equally objective and more comprehensive, "O. Henry; or, the Literary Trick," by the Italian scholar Cesare Paverse, was published originally in 1932, though not in an English translation until 1970. But 60 years ago perhaps the most thoroughgoing foreign of O. Henry's work was the Russian scholar B. M. Ejxenbaum "O. Henry and the Theory of the Short Story," published originally in 1925 but available in English only since 1968.
Formalist critics such as Pavese and Ejxenbaum, who could appreciate the purely literary innovations of O. Henry's short fiction without becoming enmeshed in conventional attitudes toward his moral or social limitations, foreshadowed the more balanced assessment of his work that has characterized the criticism of a few American scholars since the 1960s. Seeing him as a regionalist whose inherent good humor and extraordinary command of assorted dialects and speech patterns enabled him to capture the intonations and imagery of many levels of American society with fidelity and grace, these scholars are more inclined than those of the 1930s to give O. Henry "his rightful place in American literature" as a minor classic who is here to stay. Millions of unpretentious readers here and abroad, of course, have known that all along.
Cabbages and Kings. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1904.
The Four Million. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1906.
Heart of the West. New York: McClure, 1907.
The Trimmed Lamp, and Other Stories of the Four Million. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1907.
The Gentle Grafter. New York: McClure, 1908.
The Voice of the City: Further Stories of the Four Million. New York: McClure, 1908.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Fifty Southern Writers after 1900:A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. Contributors: Joseph M. Flora - Editor, Robert Bain - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 379.
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