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The House Behind the Cedars

Within two years three books have appeared from the pen or Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt: the first, a volume of sketches in which folk-lore fancies of an eastern people play weirdly against the somber background of bondage in a western land; the second, a collection of short stories in which certain social and moral interests of human nature are treated in relation to a more or less clearly drawn color-line; the third, a novel which shows how human spirits may strive and human hearts may suffer while a great national problem waits for solution. Mr. Chesnutt has gone from strength to strength in these three books, so that we may with confidence expect still more forceful presentation of characters and conditions belonging to his chosen field. The commendation called forth by the earlier volumes will be bestowed with even stronger emphasis on "The House Behind the Cedars." In the effective portrayal of both main and minor characters and in the management of the apparently slight, really dramatic, incidents by which the tragedy of the story is worked out, mastery of the story-teller's art is clearly shown. The interest of the story centers about John Warwick, the man who has mastered fate, and his sister Rena, the woman who is conquered by fate. Both were born free, apparently white, but under hopeless ban if it is indeed true that a slight admixture of African blood blends with the Caucasian in their veins. The white lover, George Tryon, is the well-born, active young man, sure of his honor in love as in business until his inherited standards and ideals are put to the test. Mr. Chesnutt neither moralizes nor interrogates, but his story speaks to the deeper feelings of his readers.

A. E. H. "A book review of The House Behind the Cedars. By Charles W. Chesnutt." IN: Talk About Books, The Chautauquan. 32 (December 1900): 334.