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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Thomas Allibone Janvier (1849–1913)

FOR a quarter of a century Thomas Allibone Janvier held a distinctive position in American letters. His stories had a flavor of their own; and their scenes, whether native or exotic, were always picturesque. He was born in Philadelphia in 1849, and after considerable experience in journalism turned by a natural deflection to more distinctive literary work. His profession and his tastes brought him within the confines of the alluring land of Bohemia, and he reproduced this experience delightfully in some of his books, particularly in the short stories. In New York he was a student of humanity, who tempered the realism with which he depicted the characteristics of the French, Spanish, and other Romance foreign elements there commingled, with a kindly humor and a pleasant romanticism.

His first book, ‘Color Studies: Four Stories’ (1885), is made up of slight but clever and agreeable sketches of New York life with a flavor of the studio, carried even to the naming of the personages after the colors used by the painter,—Rose Madder, Gamboge, Mangan Brown, and the like. Janvier, however, did not confine himself to the American metropolis for his studies. He made a thorough study of Mexico, and this knowledge is marked in his ‘Mexican Guide’ (1886), an admirable book of its class; while the romantic novel ‘The Aztec Treasure House: A Romance of Contemporaneous Antiquity’ (1890), makes ingenious use of that locale by the motive of a buried treasure. In spite of its fantastic character, the novel has genuine romantic power and charm, is rich in detail, and of sustained narrative interest. ‘An Embassy to Provence’ (1893)—graceful, happily touched travel sketches—gives another side of his interest in the Latin races. Janvier’s humor comes pleasantly out in ‘The Woman’s Conquest of New York: By a Member of the Committee of Safety of 1908,’ published anonymously in 1894. ‘In Old New York,’ dating the same year, is made up of sympathetic papers on bygone Gotham, the picturesqueness of the past even in the practical United States again appealing to him. To this theme he returned in ‘The Dutch Founding of New York’ (1903).

In the meantime he became interested especially in the Provençal land and literature: a long sojourn in Provence, and acquaintance with the bards Mistral and Gras and the Félibrige group of singers, led him, with the aid of his wife, to introduce Gras’s spirited ‘The Reds of the Midi’ to English readers, Janvier writing a preface to Mrs. Janvier’s felicitous translation. Another outcome of this Provençal attachment was ‘The Christmas Kalends of Provence and Other Provençal Festivals’ (1902).

His later books include ‘In the Sargosso Sea’ (1898), ‘The Passing of Thomas and Other Stories’ (1900), ‘In Great Waters’ (1901), ‘Santa Fé’s Partner’ (1907), and ‘Henry Hudson’ (1909). Whether at home or abroad, Janvier’s interest was increasingly in the scenes and character types which are furnished by the sun-loving southern peoples, with their song, romance, and riant charm. He was little touched by the realism of the day, except as his studies use the realistic method in reproducing the details of his pictures. But humor, sentiment, the touch of illusion, are always present, making him not only a pleasant but a wholesome writer. He died on June 18th, 1913.