The Short Story in English

By Henry Seidel Canby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE MID-CENTURY IN AMERICA

THE last chapter was English in the racial sense of the word, and dealt with a group of short narratives whose value, as in the case of Dickens's Christmas stories, was sometimes very great, while their significance for the development of a new kind of short story was almost negative. Power there was plenty of, even in these by-products of the novelists; development towards any new control of the matter of life was by no means so evident. But if we turn back again to the early mid-century, and to America, where the new short story began its career, these twentyodd years make a better showing. There is no greater number of famous short narratives, but there are more stories which show a conscious grasp of the methods and materials which were to make short narrative widely excellent and widely useful.

It may seem strange that mid-century America, with its inferior supply of literary genius, its crudity, its slavishness, should have led the way. Yet there were excellent reasons. One of them, perhaps, may be found in the dangerous, but by no means negligible, theory of Professor Baldwin, as expressed in his American Short Stories, to wit, that the Americans, with the French, are "the two nations that have in our time shown keenest consciousness of form in fiction." To this must be added that the

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