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Chesnutt in the Classroom

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THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN, March 13, 1902
Three Novels of Nowadays.

--One can never foretell, though, what turn a man will take. We have been watching Mr. Charles W Chesnutt ever since we read those pleasant sketches that were grouped together under the name of "The Conjure Woman," and with continually deepening interest. In the volume called "The Wife of his Youth," there were some striking stories, and we were introduced to that curious demi-monde of the mulatto which was almost a new world to fiction. "The House behind the Cedars" followed, a story of genuine pathos, bringing home to one with terrible vividness a sense of the cruel injustice to which the superstitious horror of the negro taint may goad a man.

Now in "The Marrow of Tradition" (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, $1 50) Mr. Chesnutt plays a variation on this same theme, and we have to confess that we are disappointed. His workmanship, which was at least negatively good before, here seems to become positively bad; we were annoyed in almost every chapter by extraneous paragraphs, in which Mr. Chesnutt was evidently concerned rather to further the interests of his race than those of his story. One might almost fancy it a lot of clippings from editorials on the negro questions strung together by a few illustrative incidents and characters; so that one has all along a sense of having been trapped into reading a tract in the guise of a novel. There are effective scenes in it, but the preparation for them is so ineffective, the characters are so little realized, that they do not have the force they should.

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Rev. of "The Marrow of Tradition, in "Fireside Department," The Country Gentleman 13 Mar 1902: 228.