The Colonel's Dream. By Charles W. Chesnutt. Doubleday, Page & Co., price $1.50.
The Colonel's Dream follows The House Behind the Cedars and The Marrow of Tradition as the third novel from the pen of the most noted novelist of the race. In each of his stories Mr. Chestnutt has been able to present a different view point of the Negro Problem. This novel, like the two preceding it, is something more than a story. It is a psychological study of the Southern man's attitude toward the Negro, and the writer is portraying the situation in novel form in a manner as persuasive and perhaps as accurate, as are our discussive writers.
The book is in as charming language as the latter of the foreword which reads: "If there be nothing new between its covers, neither is love new, nor hope, nor faith, nor disappointment, nor sorrow. Yet, life is not the less worth living because, of any of these, nor has man truly lived until he has tasted all of them."
The story opens in New York city. The central figure is a wealthy widower retiring from business after a particularly fortunate deal, but in a state of nervous collapse. With his young son he returns to his native soil. He undertakes with his wealth, culture and northern ideas of progress to build up his town and vivify there the current of thought and activity. But, because his system of philanthropy included the Negro, all of his wealth and culture, his pure southern blood and ancestry and his fine business ability are of no value. His idea of a new and prosperous Clarendon abruptly and brutally ends in a "dream."
The character of the ante-bellum Negro has a graphic and beautiful portrayal in, "Uncle Peter." In the Treadwells we have represented the real old aristocracy of the South, while in Fetters and his followers we see the new and dominating white man whose influence is not only making a "Valley of Despair" of the whole Southland, but whose blighting hand, if not thrust back, will cause to rot the very foundations upon which the nation stands.
We could wish that somewhere within the confines of the pages of this book there might have given a description of the present day strong and self reliant Negro of the South, but perhaps sufficient for its mission are the characters therein given.
May we hope that in the author's own words that "Slowly, like all great social changes, but visibly to the eye of faith, is growing up a new body of thought, favorable to just laws and their administration."
Review of The Colonel's Dream, in "Book Reviews," The Voice of the Negro, 3.11 (February 1906): 143.