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A Psychological Counter-Current in Recent Fiction by William Dean Howells
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A PSYCHOLOGICAL COUNTER-CURRENT IN RECENT FICTION.

by William Dean Howells



It is consoling as often as dismaying to find in what seems a
cataclysmal tide of a certain direction a strong drift to the
opposite quarter. It is so divinable, if not so perceptible,
that its presence may usually be recognized as a beginning of the
turn in every tide which is sure, sooner or later, to come. In
reform, it is the menace of reaction; in reaction, it is the
promise of reform; we may take heart as we must lose heart from
it. A few years ago, when a movement which carried fiction to
the highest place in literature was apparently of such onward
and upward sweep that there could be no return or descent, there
was a counter-current in it which stayed it at last, and pulled
it back to that lamentable level where fiction is now sunk, and
the word "novel" is again the synonym of all that is morally
false and mentally despicable. Yet that this, too, is partly
apparent, I think can be shown from some phases of actual
fiction which happen to be its very latest phases, and which are
of a significance as hopeful as it is interesting. Quite as
surely as romanticism lurked at the heart of realism, something
that we may call "psychologism" has been present in the
romanticism of the last four or five years, and has now begun to
evolve itself in examples which it is the pleasure as well as the
duty of criticism to deal with.