In "The House Behind the Cedars" Mr. Charles W. Chesnutt gives a still further earnest of the future predicted for him by those who have read his former books, "The Conjure Woman" and "The Wife of His Youth." In this, Mr. Chesnutt's first sustained work of fiction is revealed a growing breadth of conception and firmness of touch which were confidently expected. Mr. Chesnutt's first book dealt with the old-time negro of the plantations, with quaint beliefs and superstitions, set in a very convincing background. It was the easy-going life of the old regime, with its upper crust of wealth and culture in the great house, and the pathetic and humorous background of cabins and field. Old Julius McAdoo has well been called a brother to Uncle Remus, with a decided originality of his own. In the "Wife of His Youth" Mr. Chesnutt went a step further, and sought to give an insight into the life of the emancipated people in their attempts at adjustment to freedom and competition with the white race. The one was poetry, the other a dramatic and forceful study of present day conditions. In Mr. Chesnutt's novel, "The House Behind the Cedars," he has very skillfully and successfully combined the old and the new. Located in North and South Carolina, just before and after the civil war, it has the richness of local color which marked "The Conjure Woman," and contains a careful study of the picturesque old Southern town where the author spent his youth and studied the types which he has faithfully and sympathetically reproduced. The action of the story, which is of thrilling interest, concerns the efforts of a beautiful girl to escape the disabilities which the sins of others and the customs of the country and the time imposed upon her. The book is something more that a clever combination of a romantic novel and a social study of conditions which one instinctively recognizes were not only of the past, but are likely to become questions of the future. It will not only interest the reader, but furnish food for thought upon certain phases of one of the greatest problems that concern the future of our country.
Review of The House Behind the Cedars, in "New Books," The Wave [San Francisco] 22 (Dec. 22, 1900): 22.