The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XI. The Later Novel: Howells

§ 26. Ideals; Range

Thus far Crawford was carried by his cosmopolitan training and ideals: he believed that human beings are much the same everywhere and can be made intelligible everywhere if reported lucidly and discreetly. Reading his books is like conversing with a remarkably humane, sharp-eyed traveller who appears —at least at first—to have seen every nook and corner of the world. Zoroaster (1885), Khaled (1891), and Via Crucis (1898) have their scenes laid in Asia; Paul Patoff (1887), in Constantinople; The Witch of Prague (1891), in Bohemia; Dr. Claudius (1883), Greifenstein (1889), and A Cigarette-Maker’s Romance (1890), in Germany; In the Palace of the King (1900), in Spain; A Tale of a Lonely Parish (1886) and Fair Margaret (1905), in England; An American Politician (1885), The Three Fates (1892), Marion Darche (1893), Katharine Lauderdale (1894), and The Ralstons (1895), in America; and, most important group of all, the Italian tales, of which A Roman Singer (1884), Marzio’s Crucifix (1887), The Children of the King (1892), and Pietro Ghisleri (1893) are but little less interesting than the famous Roman series,—Saracinesca (1887), Sant’ Ilario (1889), Don Orsino (1892), and Corleone (1896). The Saracinesca cycle most of all promises to survive, partly because as a cycle it is imposing but even more particularly because here Crawford’s merits appear to best advantage. After all, though he considered himself an American, and though he knew many parts of the globe, he knew the inner circles of Rome better than any other section of society, and really minute knowledge came, as it did not always in his stories of America, for instance, and almost never did in his historical tales, to the aid of his invariable qualities of movement and lucidity and large general knowledge of life. If in this admirable cycle, which is to Crawford’s total work much what the Leather-Stocking cycle is to Cooper’s, Crawford actually achieved less than Cooper, it is to some extent for the reason that some cosmopolitanism finds it even harder than does some provincialism to impart to fiction true depth and body; that reality, like charity, often begins at home.