Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Two Eternal Types in Fiction

It's strange where research takes you. I blogged about this a long time ago. Recently I had another incidence of this.

For my book Documenting America, in which I excepted a number of historical American documents, I decided I should try to read the entire documents. Mostly I had worked from excerpts in The Annals of America. At first I felt that was good enough for my purposes. But then I thought to make sure the previous abridger hadn't removed essential contact, I had better read the entire document.

Not surprisingly, most of the documents were easy to find using Internet search engines. A couple had to be teased out by multiple searches. Google Books was the main source, though other patriotic websites also had documents I needed. In some of the documents I did find material that the previous abridgment that I could use in my essays.

One document that gave me some trouble was the essay "Our Blundering Foreign Policy" by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. I found it, but didn't bookmark it. Then I couldn't find it next time I looked for it. Then I found it again. Then, when it was time to put a link in the homeshcool edition of the book, I once again couldn't find it. I knew it appeared in the March 1895 issue of The Forum magazine, but I could no longer find it on-line. of the times I did find it I read the Table of Contents for the entire volume, and found an article titled "The Two Eternal Types in Fiction". I figured that was something I should read, so I printed it and set it aside. I found it a couple of days ago while doing a paper clean-up at the house, but I wasn't sure where it came from. I thought it might have been that magazine, but wasn't sure. So I searched for that phrase, and found a ton of information about it. That included finding a new (to me) site for accessing old documents, This is not a university site. It's a free, on-line library. I've only briefly begun to explore it, but it appears to be an on-line place I should try to know well.

So (trying to focus here), I found the article in the March 1895 issue of The Forum. It was written by a man named Hamilton W. Mabie. A little Wikipedia work gave me what I needed to know about him. He was an American writer, essayist, critic, editor, and lecturer. I decided to give Mr. Mabie's article a read.

The main premise of the article is that there are two types of novels: one being the novel of romance and adventure, the other being the novel of realism. I'm not sure that Mabie was saying these were the only kinds of novels, but these are the ones he set opposed to each other. When realism was strong, romance and adventure declines. Realism had just come through a strong, strong period, with many critics saying it was the wave of the future. Realism would dominate literature forever.

Mabrie disagreed, and gave many examples of novels of then recent years that showed just the opposite: romance and adventure were making a comeback. I must confess to not recognizing most of the names. In fact I think Arthur Conan Doyle was the only one I did recognize.

But that's not really what the two types are. The two types Mabrie refers to are two types of lead character: the hero and the wanderer. The man who achieves and the man who experiences. The man who
masters life by superiority of soul or body, and the man who masters it by completeness of knowledge.

Unfortunately, I must end this blog post now, being out of time and almost out of cooperating gray cells. Look for a follow-up post soon.

No comments: