THE MARROW OF TRADITION. By Charles W. Chesnutt. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Washington: Brentano's
The present aspect of the race question in this country is decidedly unpleasant. It arouses bitter resentments in politics and personal relations. It tends to revive the sectional differences which culminated in the civil war. It may be questioned, therefore, whether it is wise to force public sentiment in this direction by presenting the involved question in the form of a novel in which the writer's feelings are neither obliterated nor skillfully concealed. "The Marrow of Tradition" presents the race problem in its ugliest shape, involving the rise of the educated negro into social possibilities. The scene is laid, with slight disguise, in Wilmington, N. C., and the action evidently occurs during the race riots which took place in that city two or three years ago. Some of the episodes are narrated almost specifically from the record. The novel is disjointed in its succession of episodes and lacks the continuous rise of concentrated interest which the conventions require in the making of a story. But the slight thread of plot suffices to serve as a vehicle for some unmistakable strong writing and character delineation. The book will assuredly arouse criticism in the south and will be read with interest in the north. It is to be seriously doubted whether the time is ripe or occasion propitious for another "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and whether, indeed, this work, which evidently aims at the same effect as that historic story, is of a sufficiently substantial fabric to stand the strain of its strenuous purpose.