Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 4. Domestic Sentimentalism

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

§ 4. Domestic Sentimentalism

What chiefly characterized American fiction of the decade 1850–60, leaving out of account romancers like Hawthorne, Cooke, and Winthrop, was domestic sentimentalism, which for a time attained a hearing rare in literary history, and produced one novel of enormous influence and reputation. In that decade flowered Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, Mary Jane Holmes, and Augusta Jane Evans (Wilson), all more or less in the Charlotte Temple tradition; Anne and Susan Warner and Maria S. Cummins, pious historians of precocious young girls; and—not so far above them—the almost equally tender and tearful Donald Grant Mitchell (“Ik Marvel”) and George William Curtis, young men who, however, afterwards took themselves to sterner tasks. Professor Ingraham gave up his blood-and-thunder, became a clergyman, and wrote the long-popular biblical romance The Prince of the House of David (1855). Indeed, the decade was eminently clerical, and though Mitchell and Curtis might recall Irving and Thackeray respectively, they were less representative than the most effective writer of the whole movement, who was daughter, sister, wife, and mother of clergymen.