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Corresponding to our American genius, the short story is not only short, its movement is rapid. Its action is brief, quick, pointed, like the national game of baseball. There are several ways by which this effect is achieved: by antithesis or contrast, by repression of emotion and thought, by symbolism or a thinly disguised allegory. The real short story in the modern sense is thus an entity. It cannot be written over and altered without affecting its very being ; it cannot be developed into a long story - its substance and its subject-matter by their nature forbid this. A short story in its essence keeps to a single point of view; in a long story no one point of view is kept or can be kept, and the longer the story and the greater the master the more and more does this truth become apparent. Notice the divagations and the wanderings of the masterpieces of Cervantes and Fielding and Scott. But the short story must take a particular phase, a definite moment, a supreme event. In this it is somewhat like a painting or a piece of sculpture. It seizes upon a moment of suspense and stakes all upon that. And again, like the painting or piece of statuary, it must possess both intensity and symmetry of design.
If now we seek to determine what art or literary qualities seem needed to produce these effects, we may answer, first of all, imagination — the imagination to invent, to see, to feign. That style is needed, too, is but to say that we are dealing with a true form of art. In a short story all must be of a piece; there can be no relaxation ; there must be sustained power and tone. It goes on to the end without stopping. It thus becomes adapted to and expresses the genius of an individual and of a race.
In America the history of the short story is connected particularly with bits of character painting and genre study. It is of some remote and picturesque background and setting, some romantic phase of life, some expression of a common human sentiment bizarrely placed and unsuspectingly revealed. The early Dutch settlements and the legends of the Hudson Valley and the Catskills gave Washington Irving the material wherein he is most significant; and so he gave us “Rip Van Winkle” and “ The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the gems of “The Sketch-Book," stories which none of his later efforts in the form could surpass. It is doubtful whether Irving or his first readers at all realized that he had done more than vastly to improve upon the tales and sketches that had appeared in the magazines before his day that he had unconsciously laid the foundations of a new art upon which Poe was consciously to build. Within a few years William Austin, of Massachusetts, in his “ Peter Rugg, the Missing Man,” had in a way transplanted the spirit of German romance to New England and had become a predecessor, though not a specially effective one, of Hawthorne. Irving, too, it will be remembered, has tried German romance in “The Spectre Bridegroom,” but he has retained the old-world setting. With his greater success in the strictly American tale came the natural cohort of imitators. So many American stories were written that before long the sympathetic English woman, Miss Mitford, could collect three volumes of these transatlantic productions, all of which are now forgotten. Most people do not even remember that William Cullen Bryant contributed, along with his friends Paulding, Miss Sedgewick, Verplanck, William Leggett, and Robert C. Sands, to a collection entitled “ Tales of the Glauber Spa."
America in Jackson's day was growing by leaps and bounds, hence it is not strange to find the short-story vogue reaching the South and the West. James Hall, one of the pioneers, passed down the Ohio and Mississippi and told of the life led upon their banks. “The French Village” is a picture of New Orleans dialect and life that dates from nearly half a century before Cable designed his fine work in this field. Albert Pike — born in Massachusetts — was another explorer and an even greater rover, in the lower South in Arkansas, and in the Southwest in New Mexico. “ The Inroad of the Nabajo" is a story of New Mexico done in the Arkansas territory in 1833.
These, however, were mere indications of what was to come. The new and great period was born with the work of Hawthorne and Poe. The canons of the new art were first laid down by Poe in a notable criticism of Hawthorne, and the new principles were firs:
consciously practised by Poe. What Hawthorne hit upon by chance or accident or instinct and then for a while abandoned, Poe discerned and wrought upon with design. Poe is therefore, as Professor Baldwin has shown, the true father, as he is the greatest exponent, of the art of the short story in American literature. .
Both Poe and Hawthorne used the imaginative and the romantic in full measure for their effects. Both were active from 1835 on, but in fifteen short years, by 1849, Poe was dead. Hawthorne added to his fame by elaborate romances and lived on another fifteen years, dying, not an old man, in 1864. Some of the “Twice Told Tales" had appeared before 1835 in Keepsakes and other publications ; for instance, “ The Wives of the Dead" and "Roger Malvin's Burial" in 1832. Hawthorne's “The White Old Maid” was first published in The New England Magazine for July, 1835; Poe's “Berenice” had appeared four months before in the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, Virginia, for March, 1835, and the first version of Poe's “ MS. Found in a Bottle” dates from 1833. Hawthorne's best short stories among the “Twice Told Tales" - those which best show their author's genius - are all allegorical: "The Ambitious Guest,” “The Snow Image," "The Great Stone Face,” the last of which is given in this volume. It illustrates, like “The Scarlet Letter," the story-teller's attachment to his native soil, while “ Rappaccini's Daughter” shows, like “ The Marble Faun," what he could do in the
realm of old-world mystery and romance, and also represents the range and power of his admirable collection, “ Mosses from an Old Manse.”
Poe's stories, on the other hand, deal with a greater variety of subjects. What he did was always done .consciously, and through him the short story received a distinctly recognized, definite form. The stories of
Morella,” “King Pest,” “Metzengerstein" in the Southern Literary Messenger, 1835-1836 — “Ligeia," “The Gold-Bug," "A Descent into the Maelström," “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Cask of Amontillado," gave new conceptions of the form to the world. The characteristics and qualities ascribed to the short story are those established by Poe. Indeed, as we have seen, Poe took Hawthorne to task for not rightly apprehending and pursuing the principles of the new art. Poe knew these principles from the beginning; he had only to improve and refine them. The unity, the brevity, the "totality of instinct,” so ran his phrase, were his guiding rules, principles formulated under the influence of some of Schlegel's ideas then floating about.
Among subsequent American writers of the short story in the ante-bellum period may be named the poet Longfellow in at least one episode " The Notary of Périgueux" — in “Outre-Mer" (1835). He soon more or less abandoned prose, but his ballads and narrative poems display a genuine talent for tale-telling. Another and lesser poet, Nathaniel