Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 3. Theodore Winthrop

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

§ 3. Theodore Winthrop

Less close to Cooper was another novelist who fought in the Civil War, and gave his life in one of the earliest battles, Theodore Winthrop (1828–61). Of a stock as eminent in New England and New York as Cooke’s in Virginia, Winthrop had a more cosmopolitan upbringing than Cooke: after Yale he travelled in Europe, in the American tropics, in California while the gold fever was still new, and in the North-west. His work at first found so delayed a favour with publishers that his books were all posthumous—Cecil Dreeme (1861), John Brent (1862), Edwin Brothertoft (1862), The Canoe and the Saddle (1863), and Life in the Open Air and Other Papers (1863). Time might, it is urged, have made Winthrop the legitimate successor of Hawthorne, but in fact he progressed little beyond the qualities of Brockden Brown, whom he considerably resembles in his strenuous nativism, his melodramatic plots, his abnormal characters, his command over the mysterious, and his breathless style. Of the three novels John Brent is easily the most interesting by reason of its vigorous narrative of adventures in the Far West, at that time a region still barely touched by fiction, and its magnificent hero, the black horse Don Fulano. That Winthrop’s real talent looked forward in this direction rather than backward to Hawthorne appears still more clearly from The Canoe and the Saddle, a fresh, vivid, amusing, and truthful record of his own journey across the Cascade Mountains, and an established classic of the North-west. His death, however, prevented further achievement, and the Pacific Coast had to wait for Mark Twainand Bret Harte.