Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 26. William Vaughn Moody

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

XVIII. The Drama, 1860–1918

§ 26. William Vaughn Moody

The most notable examples of dramatic contributions within the past twenty years are William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide (3 October, 1906), Josephine Preston Peabody’s The Piper (New Theatre, 30 January, 1911), George C. Hazelton and J. H. Benrimo’s The Yellow Jacket (Fulton Theatre, 4 November, 1912), Charles Kenyon’s Kindling (Daly’s Theatre, 3 December, 1911), and Eugene Walter’s The Easiest Way (Belasco Theatre, 19 January, 1909). Moody, whose untimely death cut short the future of a man who, with his literary sense, might have grown into theatre requirements because of an innate dramatic touch, in The Great Divide created something which in substance showed a deep feeling for native atmosphere and a broad understanding of human passion. However unsatisfying certain features of The Great Divide,—for instance, its lack of unity of scene, its mistakes in motive,—yet it gives one a comprehension of stern reality which makes Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter so permanent a contribution to literature. But Moody’s poetic sense, which was stronger and greater than his sense of drama, led him entirely astray in his The Faith Healer (Savoy Theatre, 19 January, 1910), with its mystical atmosphere where belief did not mix with reality, and conviction did not rise above picturesqueness. But in The Great Divide Moody caught the permanent passions of real people. This also may be said of Alice Brown’s Children of Earth (12 January, 1915), which won a $10,000 prize offered by Winthrop Ames in the hope that competition would bring forth the American master-pieces which popular belief imagined were his under a bushel by the ruthless hand of the managers of commerce. Miss Brown committed extravagances in her desire to reflect the New England life she knows so well—an atmosphere which relates her to the school of fiction ably represented by Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Mrs. Margaret Deland. But Children of Earth failed because a narrative declaration of passion was substituted for the reality which would have made the heroine’s moment of June madness grippingly convincing.