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The Colonel's Dream

When we open a new book by Mr. Chesnutt we can always be certain of an earnest and interesting study of unpleasant and deplorable conditions /38/ of the South. The "Colonel's Dream" is no exception in this respect to the "House Behind the Cedars." or the "Marrow of Traditions"; but in this new serial Mr. Chesnutt's art remains a more accomplished instrument than in other books. There is something almost pathetic in Colonel French's dream-the futility of one man attempting to reform the racial prejudices of a southern community. "And so the colonel faltered, and, having put his hand to the plow, turned back. But was not his, after all, the only way? For no more now than when the Man of Sorrows looked out over the mount of Olives, can men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. The seed which the colonel sowed seemed to fall by the wayside, it is true; but other eyes have seen with the same light, and while Fetters and his kind still dominate their sections, other hands have taken up the fight which the colonel dropped." In this there is something more hopeful than in the rancorous close of the "Marrow of Tradition." And somehow we look for Mr. Chesnutt to tell us in his novels the progressive steps of racial felicity in the south. When this is so we shall expect of Mr. Chesnutt to write the great "American Novel" and justify the great French /39/ critic Taine's prophesy that it shall come from the pen of an Afro-American. Mr. Chesnutt has the art, sympathies, feelings and knowledge; it only remains for the times and temper of the south to wield its civil, political and social aspirations to the ideals of true Americanism.

Daniels, John. "The Colonel's Dream," Book review in: Alexander's Magazine, 1.8 (December, 1905): 37-9.