The Short Story in English

By Henry Seidel Canby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE MID-CENTURY IN ENGLAND

THE STORIES OF THE ENGLISH NOVELISTS

THE short-story writers of the mid-century, both American and English, were slow to grasp the opportunity given them by the prestige of Hawthorne and the technique of Poe. Americans seem to have liked Hawthorne because he preached, and Poe because he frightened, with a preference, on the whole, for the cruder manifestations of both, while England was cheerfully oblivious of all American short stories except Irving's. In France, Poe met with a sympathetic translation from the hands of his spiritual kinsman, Charles Baudelaire, and was instantly hailed for those artistic subtleties of which, at first, we at home were only dimly appreciative. But nowhere in English-speaking countries were the literary value of the new short story and the practical possibilities of the new technique appreciated to the extent of intelligent imitation, or thoroughly successful adaptation.

Thus it happens that in order to record the literary energy which, at the turn of the mid-century, found its way through the channels of the short story, we must first engage with writers who had learned imperfectly, or not at all, the lesson that the American, Poe, could

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