Chapter 6: the short storyThe period between the Civil War in America and the outbreak of the Great War in Europe in 1914 may be termed in the history of prose fiction the Era of the Short Story. Everywhere, in France, in Russia, in England, in America, more and more the impressionistic prose tale, the conte—short, effective, a single blow, a moment of atmosphere, a glimpse at a climactic instant—came, especially in the magazines, to dominate fictional literature. Formless at first, often overloaded with mawkishness, with essay effects, with moralizing purpose, and dominating background, it grew constantly in proportion and restraint and artistic finish until it was hailed as a new genre, a peculiar product of nineteenth century conditions, one especially adapted to the American temperament and the American kultur. That the prose story was no innovation peculiar to later literature, is an axiom that must precede every discussion of it. It is as old as the race; it has cropped out abundantly in every literature and every period. That it has taken widely differing forms during its long history is also axiomatic. Every generation and every race has had its own ideals in the matter, has set its own fashions. One needs remember only The Book of Ruth, The thousand and one nights, the Elizabethan novella, the Sir Roger de Coverley papers, Johnson's Rambler, Hannah More's moral tales, and the morbid romance of the early nineteenth-century annuals. The modem short story is only the latest fashion in story telling—short fiction à la mode. In America the evolution of the form may be traced through at least four stages. It began with the eighteenth-century tale of the Hannah More type, colourless, formless, undramatic,  ‘subservient,’ to use a contemporary phrase, ‘only to the interest of virtue’—a form peculiarly adapted to flourish in the Puritanic atmosphere of the new nation. Such stories as Chariessa, or a pattern for the sex and The danger of Sporting with innocent Credulity, both from Carey's Columbian magazine established in 1786, satisfied the American reading public for half a century. Then came the work of Washington Irving1—the blending of the moral tale with the Addisonian essay, especially in its Sir Roger de Coverley phase. The evolution was a peculiar one, a natural result of that isolation of early America which belated all its art forms and kept it always a full generation behind the literary fashions of London. Irving's early enthusiasms came from the shelves of the paternal library rather than from the book stalls of the vital centres where flowed the current literature of the day. To the impressionable youth Addison and Steele and Goldsmith were as fresh and new as they had been to their first readers. The result appears in his first publication, Salmagundi, a youthful Spectator, and later in his first serious work, The sketch Book, another essay periodical since it was issued in monthly numbers—a latter-day Bee. Never did he outgrow this formative influence: always he was of the eighteenth century, an essayist, a moralist, a sketcher of manners, an antiquarian with a reverence for the past, a sentimentalist. His sketchy moral essays and his studies of manners and character grew naturally into expository stories, illustrations, narratives of a traveller set in an atmosphere attractive to the untravelled American of the time, all imagination and longing. He added to the moral tale of his day characterization, humour, atmosphere, literary charm, but he added no element of constructive art. He lacked the dramatic; he overloaded his tales with descriptions and essay material; and he ended them feebly. His stories, even the classic Rip Van Winkle, are elaborations with pictorial intent rather than dramas with culminative movement and sharp outlines. They are essays rather than short stories. Irving advanced the short story more by his influence than by his art. The popularity of The sketch Book and the others that followed it, the tremendous fact of their author's European  fame, the alluring pictures of lands across the sea, the romantic atmosphere, the vagueness and the wonder of it, laid hold mightily upon the imagination of America. They came just in time to capture the young group of writers that was to rule the mid-century. The twenties and the thirties in America were dominated by The sketch Book. All at once came an outburst of Irvingesque sketches and tales. That the unit of measure in American fiction is a short one is to be accounted for in a very great degree by the tremendous influence of Irving in its early formative period. For the new form there sprang up in the twenties a new vehicle, the annual. For two decades the book-stands were loaded with flamboyantly bound gift books—The Token, The Talisman, The Pearl, The Amaranth, and the others, elaborate Sketch books varied soon by echoes from the new romanticism of Europe. Never before such a gushing of sentiment, of mawkish pathos, of crude terror effects, and vague Germanic mysticism. From out of it all but a single figure has survived, the sombre Hawthorne2 who was genius enough to turn even the stuff of the annuals into a form that was to persist and dominate. Hawthorne added soul to the short story and made it a form that could be taken seriously even by those who had contended that it was inferior to the longer forms of fiction. He centred his effort about a single situation and gave to the whole tale unity of impression. Instead of elaboration of detail, suggestion; instead of picturings of external effects, subjective analysis and psychologic delineation of character. Hawthorne was the first to lift the short story into the higher realms of art. The forties belong to Poe.3 With him came for the first time the science of the short story, the treatment of it as a distinct art form with its own rules and its own fields. Laws the form was bound to have if it was to persist. As the century progressed and as modern science swept from men's minds the vague and the generalizing and the disorderly, there came  necessarily the demand for more reality, for sharper outlines, for greater attention to logical order. The modem short story is but the fiction natural, and indeed inevitable, in a scientific age, and Poe was the first to perceive the new tendency and to formulate its laws. In Poe's opinion the short story owed its vogue in America to the great number of literary magazines that sprang up during the mid years of the century. ‘The whole tendency of the age is magazineward,’ he wrote in the early forties. The quarterlies are
quite out of keeping with the rush of the age. We now demand the legal artillery of the intellect; we need the curt, the condensed, the pointed, the readily diffused—in place of the voluminous, the verbose, the detailed, the inaccessible. . . . It is a sign of the times—an indication of an era in which men are forced upon the curt, the condensed, the well digested, in place of the voluminous—in a word, upon journalism in lieu of dissertation.Fiction, he contended, to be scientific must be brief, must yield a totality of impression at a single sitting. The writer must concentrate upon a single effect.
If his very initial sentence tend not to the out bringing of this effect, he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.As he wrote this, Poe was thinking of his own art more than of Hawthorne's. He had been a magazinist all his life, and he had learned to view the tale from the standpoint of the editor. He who has but a brief space at his command in which to make his impression, must condense, must plan, must study his every word and phrase. All of his stories are single strokes, swift moments of emotion, Defoe-like massings of details with exactness of diction, skilful openings, harrowing closes. More than this we may not say. He did not work in the deeps of the human heart like Hawthorne; he was an artist and only an artist, and even in his art he did not advance further than to formulate the best short story technique of his day. His tales are not to be classified at all with the products of later art. They lack sharpness of outline, finesse, and that  sense of reality which makes of a tale an actual piece of human life; His creations are tours de force; they reflect no earthly soil, they are weak in characterization, and their dialogue— as witness the conversation of the negroes in The gold Bug—is wooden and lifeless. Poe was a critic, keenly observant of the tendencies of his day, sensitive to literary values, scientific, with powers of analysis that amounted to genius. He was not the creator of the short story; he was the first to feel the new demand of his age and to forecast the new art and formulate its laws. In the realm of the short story Poe was a prophet, peering into the next age, rather than a leader of his own time. Until later years his influence was small. He had applied his new art to the old sensational material of the thirties—old wine in new bottles. The annuals and all they stood for were passing rapidly. Putnam's magazine noted in February, 1853, the great change that had come over the literature for the holiday period.
It used to be the custom to issue when Christmas approached an almost endless variety of ‘Gifts,’ ‘Remembrances,’ ‘Gems,’ ‘Tokens,’ ‘Wreathes,’ ‘Irises,’ ‘Albums,’ &c, with very bad mezzotint engravings and worse letter-press,—ephemeral works, destined to perish in a few weeks; but that custom appears to be rapidly passing away.The decline of the old type of story explains why Hawthorne turned to the production of long romances. The age of the Hawthornesque short story had passed. With the fifties had come a new atmosphere. To realize it one has but to read for a time in Godey's lady's Book and Graham's magazine and the annuals and then to turn to Harper's magazine, established in 1850, Putnam's magazine, in 1853, and The Atlantic monthly, in 1857. In England it was the period of Dickens and Thackeray and Reade and George Eliot, the golden age of the later novel. American magazines like Harper's were publishing serial after serial by British pens, yet the demand for short fiction increased rather than declined. During its first year The Atlantic monthly published upward of thirty-three short stories by twenty-three different authors, or an average of  almost three in every number. It was no longer fiction of the earlier type. A new demand had come to the short story writer; in the ‘Introductory’ to the first volume of Putnam's magazine the editor announced that American writers and American themes were to predominate, adding that ‘local reality is a point of utmost importance.’ In the first volume of the Atlantic, Emerson struck the new note: ‘How far off from life and manners and motives the novel still is. Life lies about us dumb’; and in the same volume a reviewer of George Eliot notes ‘the decline of the ideal hero and heroine.’ ‘The public is learning that men and women are better than heroes and heroines.’ By 1861 a writer like Rebecca Harding Davis could open her grim short story, Life in the Iron Mills, with a note like this;
I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me,—here into the thickest of the fog and mud and effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has lain dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing for you.The fifties and sixties in America stand for the dawning of definiteness, of localized reality, of a feeling left on the reader of actuality and truth to human life. The first significant figure of the transition was Rose Terry (1827-92), later better known as Rose Terry Cooke, who has the distinction of having contributed seven short stories to the first eight numbers of the Atlantic. Born in Connecticut—the heart of New England, a school teacher with experience in country districts, she wrote with knowledge and conviction of the area of life that she knew. In her long series of stories beginning in the forties with unlocalized romantic tales in Graham's and extending throughout the transition period into the seventies and eighties, and ending with a final collection as late as 1891, one may trace every phase of the American short story in half a century. Her early Atlantic narratives lean decidedly in the direction of the Young ladies' repository type of fiction, sentimental, leisurely, moralizing, and yet even in the poorest of them there is a sense of actuality that was new in American short fiction. They were not romances; they were homely fragments of New England rural  life. The heroine may be introduced in this unromantic fashion: ‘Mrs. Griswold was paring apples and Lizzie straining squash.’ Here for the first time we may find dialect that rings true, and, moreover, here for the first time are sprightliness and rollicking humour, varied at times with tragedy and true pathos. As one traces her work from Atlantic to Atlantic, a gradual increase in power impresses one until after her declaration of independence at the opening of Miss Lucinda (August, 1861）—‘I offer you no tragedy in high life, no sentimental history of fashion and wealth, but only a little story about a woman who could not be a heroine’—it is felt that she has found herself and that with her later work like Odd Miss Todd, Freedom Wheeler's controversy with Providence, The Deacon's Week, and last of all and in many ways her best, The town and country mouse, the final story in her collection Huckleberries, she has passed into the new period and taken a secure place with the small group of masters of the short story. Unlike Harriet Prescott Spofford, whose gorgeous In a cellar and The amber gods fluttered for a time the readers of the early sixties, she was able to heed the voice of the new period and to grow and outgrow, and it was this power that made her the pioneer and the leader not only of the group of depicters of New England life, but of the whole later school of makers of localized short fiction realistically rendered. Rose Terry came gradually, an evolution, without noise or sensation; not so Fitz-James O'Brien (1828-62), who, after his The Diamond Lens (January, 1858), was hailed loudly as a new Poe. O'Brien's career in America was meteoric. He appeared unheralded, in 1852, an adventurer who had been educated in Dublin University, and who had squandered a rich patrimony in London. For ten years he lived in the Bohemian circles of New York, writing impetuously, when the mood was upon him, temperamental, Celtic-souled material which he published here and there in the magazines—Harper's, Putnam's, the Atlantic, until, enlisting in one of the first regiments of volunteers, he fell in one of the earliest skirmishes of the Civil War. His short stories What was it? and The Wondersmith have undoubted power, but they are not to be compared with the best work of Hawthorne and Poe. What O'Brien might have done had he lived into the next period of the short story it is  idle to conjecture. As it is, he must be regarded only as an episode, a passing sensation, and he might be dismissed unmentioned but for the fact that he was an undoubted influence in the period of transition. To the art and the impressionism of Poe he added the new element of actuality. His shuddery tale What was it? is laid in a New York boarding-house with convincingness. Even his Hawthorne-like fantasia The Wondersmith has as a background a New York slum street drawn with all the pitiless realism of a Zola. O'Brien added the sense of actuality to Poe's unlocalized romance, but his influence was not large. Another figure in the transition was Edward Everett Hale4 (1822-1909), whose The man without a country, first published in 1863, has been accepted generally as an American classic. Little else that he has written, and he wrote much in many fields, gives promise of surviving, and the reasons why this should survive are not immediately evident. As a short story it would seem to have almost fatal defects. It may be used as an example of mid-century diffuseness, its moralizing intent is only thinly veiled, it is episodic, and it does not culminate. Undoubtedly its timeliness—it is a document in the history of the war—and its genuine atmosphere of patriotism account partly for its success, but there are more vital reasons. It is really a work of art. With all its episodes it presents but a single situation, and that situation at the close has been so worked upon that it becomes to the reader a haunting presence, never to be forgotten. Moreover, there is reality to the story. Everything is in the concrete. The author adds specific detail to detail with the skill of a Defoe until, in spite of its manifest impossibility, the tale becomes alive, a piece of actual history, a human document. Few modern writers have surpassed Hale in what may be called the art of verisimilitude. He was the precursor of Stockton. A story like My double and how he Undid me is manifestly a tour de force, yet one is in danger of gravely accepting it as a fact. Hale added to the short story not alone the sense of reality; he added plausibility as well. With Henry James5 the period of transition came to an end. From 1865, when he published his first story, until 1875,  the date of Roderick Hudson, he devoted himself to short fiction, contributing fourteen stories to the Atlantic alone, and he brought to his work not only the best art America had evolved, but the best of England and France as well. He was a scientist, an observer, a tabulator, as cool and accurate as even his brother William James, the psychologist. Unlike O'Brien and the others, he threw away completely the machinery of the mid-century tale—not without regret it would appear from his Romance of certain old Clothes and other early tales—and sought only the uncoloured truth. The art of Poe, especially the French adaptations of that art, he retained, but he rejected all the rest of Poe's outfit. That he understood the full possibilities of the supernatural as short story material we know from his grim tale The turn of the Screw, but the field was little to his taste. He was a naturalist rather than a super-naturalist, and his sensitive and fastidious soul could not endure the harsh and the horrible. In his second story, My friend Bingham (1866), he wrote: ‘I am of a deep aversion to stories of a painful nature . . . the literature of horrors needs no extension.’ He rejected allegory and mystery and vague impressionism as unscientific. He condemned the tradition that ‘a serious story of manners shall close with the factitious happiness of a fairy tale.’ He was a scientist; his second paper in the Atlantic is a defence of George Eliot, scientist. To both of them the first requisite of fiction was the truth, the truth told directly, simply, concretely. An age of science could no longer tolerate the unrelieved black and white of the earlier periods, but demanded shades, traces of white found even in the black. According to James, a short story was the analysis of a situation, the psychological phenomena of a group of men and women at an interesting moment. Given two, three, four different temperaments, bring them into a certain situation, and what would be the action and reaction? The story was a problem to be solved. Little was to be said about the characters: they were to reveal themselves, gradually, slowly as they do in actual life, by long continued dialogue, by little unconscious actions and reactions, by personal peculiarities in dress, manners, movement, revealed by a thousand subtle hints, descriptive touches, insinuations. Under such conditions the movement of the story must be  slow: in some of his work there seems to be no story at all, only the analysis of a situation. The method requires space: James has stretched the length of the short story to its extreme. The Aspern papers, the bare story of which could have been told in three pages, dragged through three magazine instalments. Twenty-eight of the one hundred and three stories in Henry James's final list are long enough to appear as volumes. Yet one may not doubt they are short stories: they are each of them the presentation of a single situation and they leave each of them a unity of impression. James was the most consummate artist American literature has produced. He was fastidious by nature and by early training. He had studied his art in France as men study sculpture in Italy, and he had learned the French mastery of form. Nowhere in his writings may we find slovenly work. His opening and closing paragraphs are always models, his dialogue moves naturally and inevitably,—in all the story despite its length nothing too much,—and everywhere a brilliancy new in American fiction. He is seldom spontaneous; always is he the conscious artist; always is he intellectual; always is he working in the clay of actual life, a realist who never forgets his problem to soar into the uncharted and the unscientific realms of the metaphysical and the romantic. The chief criticism of the short stories of James must concern their spirit rather than their form. The tendency of science has been to repudiate the spiritual. Romance with intuition in place of sense perception found at least the heart. With James the short story became an art form simply, cold and brilliant, a study of the surface of society, manners, endless phenomena jotted down in a note-book, human life from the standpoint of the laboratory and the test tube. Beyond the brilliant art of Henry James, the impressionistic study of situations from the standpoint of scientific truth, the American short story has never advanced. He gave distinctness to the form. Nevertheless, he is not a supreme master: that dominating factor in life that eludes scapel and test-tube he never found, and, neglecting it, he falls inevitably into second place as an interpreter of human life. That James and others of his school, like T. B. Aldrich, for instance, and H. C. Bunner, could have directed the short story  permanently into the channels that it has followed in France, is doubtful. The great success in the middle seventies of the anonymous Saxe Holm's stories, with their mid-century sentiment and romantic atmosphere, would imply that America at heart was still what it was in the days of Hawthorne and the annuals. What might have happened had James and Howells and Aldrich had full control it is idle to speculate; what did happen was the sudden appearance of a short story that stampeded America and for two decades set the style in short fiction. Bret Harte's The luck of Roaring camp, whatever one may think of its merits, must be admitted to be the most influential short story ever written in America. Francis Bret Harte6 was born in 1839 at Albany, where his father, a scholar and an itinerant teacher of languages, happened at the time to be stationed. A youth of frail physique, he became a precocious reader, preferring a Hawthorne-like seclusion among books to playground activities among boys of his own age. From his childhood he was predisposed to literature; he dreamed over it, and he began to make poems even in his early school days. His removal to California at the age of fifteen, five years after the first gold rush, came from no initiative of his. To the delicate youth dreaming over his books it was an exile at the barbarous ends of the world. For a time he lived at his mother's home at Oakland—after a nine years widowhood she had married again—and then half heartedly he began to support himself as a school teacher, as a private tutor, as a druggist's clerk, and later as a type-setter on a rural newspaper. There is little doubt that for a time he saw something of mining life during a visit to Humboldt County, but the experience was brief. He had no taste for the rough life of the border. The greater part of his seventeen years in California he spent in San Francisco, first as type-setter, then as editor in various newspaper and magazine establishments. He was a man of the city, a professional literary worker, a poet, and a dreamer over the work of the older poets and romancers. Harte came to the short story by way of Irving. His first dream was to do for the lands of the Spanish missions what Irving had done for the highlands of the Hudson. As early as  1863 he had contributed to The Atlantic monthly his Legend of Monte del Diablo, which, with half a dozen other pieces written during the same period, breathed the soul of The sketch Book. Poe had affected him not at all, but he had read much in the French, and he had been from his boyhood a devotee of Dickens. When in 1868, therefore, he found himself editor of the new Overland monthly, which was to be the Atlantic monthly of the Pacific coast, it was not strange that he should have evolved for its second number a short story like The luck of Roaring camp. The time was ready for such a production, and the place was ready: it could have come only during the decade following the war, and, moreover, it could have come only from California. The story was woven of four strands: first, there was the Dickens sentiment, melodrama, theatric presentation of lowly material; second, there was the French art that had been adapted from Poe—form, finesse, nothing too much; third, there was the unusualness of background, new skies, strange types, presented by one who seemingly had been a part of what he told, a voice of the new spirit of the age in America; and, finally, over it all there was a reminiscence of Irving, that impalpable atmosphere of romance which covers it with the soft haze of remembered things, of the far-off and the idealized. Only the third was new, the ‘local colour’ we have come to call it, that touch of strangeness added to the picture by means of strongly picturesque characters and scenes hitherto unknown to the reader. A mere spice of novelty it was, a detail of stage setting wholly subsidiary to the vital elements of the tale, and yet it was largely this single element that gave The luck of Roaring camp its enormous vogue and that made its author —at least in America—the most influential writer of short stories in a generation. And yet Harte was an effect rather than a cause. America was ready for local colour. He was the voice that started the avalanche that was bound to come sooner or later. The Civil War had liberated America from provincialism. It had done away with the boundaries of New England, of the South, of New York, of the West. The new emphasis was now upon the nation rather than upon the state or section. The first railroad across the continent was completed in 1868. Now  everywhere were problems national in scope. The tremendous activities of the war were now transferred to the breaking of the great West, to the building of new cities and industries, and to the extending into every part of the continent of a network of communication. Books of travel like Bowles's Across the continent and King's The great South began to appear, and all at once the nation awoke to a realization of its own riches, of its own picturesque diversity. The long period of the settlement had bred individualism; it had covered America with little isolated areas as provincial as if they were the only settlements on the continent. The era following the war was an era of self-discovery. America was as full of new and interesting life and environment as even Europe, and for two decades and more American writers exploited the strange new riches of the land as the first wave of placer miners excitedly rifle the nugget pockets of a new-found bonanza. Eagerly the public read of the picturesque conditions that had evolved from the California rush of '49; it wondered at the new world that Mark Twain revealed in his Jumping frog of Calaveras County, and that Cable opened in old Creole New Orleans, and at the grotesque Hoosier types revealed by Eggleston; it thrilled with astonishment at Charles Egbert Craddock's pictures of the dwellers in the Tennessee Mountains, and at Octave Thanet's revelations of life in the canebrakes of Arkansas; and it lingered over the Old South before the war as revealed by Johnston, and Harris, and Page. Never was movement launched with more impetus. No sooner had The luck of Roaring camp reached the East than the foremost publishing house of Boston hailed it as a new classic. Its author immediately was offered ten thousand dollars a year to write for The Atlantic monthly, and the progress of his train east as he came to accept his unprecedented commission was indicated by daily bulletins in the newspapers as if he were a royal personage on a tour of the land. When was short story ever so advertised before? No wonder that everybody at the earliest opportunity read it, and later, in 1870, bought the book of short stories to which it gave the title. Harte's arrival in Boston marks the climax of his career. We need not follow him to Europe whither he afterwards went to spend the rest of his life, or read widely in his voluminous  later product. The work in that first collection containing The luck of Roaring camp he never surpassed, though over and over for years he repeated its characters and backgrounds in stories of California life. If he is to endure it will be on account of the title story, or Tennessee's partner, or The Outcasts of Poker flat. Like James, Harte was a conscious artist, a workman who had served a careful apprenticeship. His stories are models of condensation, his characters are as distinct and as striking as are those of Dickens, his climaxes are dramatic, and his closing effect is always impressively theatric. Sentiment he used with a free hand, but he kept it more within control than did the creator of Little Nell. Fiction with him, as with Poe, was a deliberate thing, to be written with the reader always in mind. His unit necessarily was short. He had no power to trace the growth of a soul or to record the steps of an evolution. His one attempt at a novel, Gabriel Conroy, was a failure. He could make a situation dramatic, he could make alive a climactic moment in a reckless career, but he was powerless to deal with the resultant effects from a complexity of motives and situations. What he added to the short story of his time, aside from the obvious local colour, was the dramatic element. His stories move, they culminate, they may be translated with little change into acting plays. Moreover, Harte was the first prominently to bring into the short story the element of paradox. It is the object of the theatrical always to move strongly the emotions, to keep interest taut by swift change and by unexpected turns. With Harte paradox became almost a mannerism. Everywhere anticlimax: in a desperado suddenly an outburst of Christlike self-sacrifice; from a mild youth with seraphic countenance a fiendish outburst; from a seeming clergyman, all in a moment, profanity. The weakness of Harte was his lack of sincerity and of moral background. Unlike Cable and Page, he stood apart from his material, cold and unmoved, and sought not the truth but effect upon the reader. Every one of his extreme characters may have had somewhere a counterpart, and every separate incident, no matter how startling, may actually have happened at some time during the mining era, but the assembling of all this mass of exceptions and of isolated extremes into  pictures that give the impression that they represent the ordinary course of life everywhere in California during a period is in reality a violation of the truth. The stories are unnatural: they have about them the atmosphere of the theatre. They are melodrama: they are compounded of the stage properties of the showman. Great as has been his influence, Harte cannot rank with the supreme masters of the short story. Lacking sincerity and sympathy and moral background, he becomes a picturesque incident rather than a permanent force. After the enormous publicity given to Harte and the universal praise accorded his work both in America and in Europe, one might expect to find that a sudden change came over the spirit of American fiction. A change there was, indeed, but it was not sudden. One may leaf through whole volumes of such periodicals as Harper's magazine and find no hint of the new vogue. Artists like James and Aldrich went on with their work as if The luck of Roaring camp had never been written. The writers who were to be influenced—that group which later was to be known as the ‘local colour school’ —in 1870 were just beginning to find themselves, and they fell under the spell of Harte just as Longfellow and his circle in earlier days had fallen under the spell of Irving. It was not until the eighties and the early nineties that the tide which had begun in The Overland monthly in 1868 came to its full. Perhaps the most interesting transition during the period is that which may be traced in the work of Constance Fenimore Woolson (1838-94), a grandniece of Cooper, a native of New Hampshire, and a dweller successively by the Great Lakes, in the South, and in Italy, where she died. At the beginning of the seventies Miss Woolson was writing unlocalized poetic stories for Harper's, A Merry Christmas, An October idyl, and the like, tales that might have come from the early period of Rose Terry Cooke. But soon one notes a change, a new sense of the value of background and of strongly individualized types for characters. By 1874 she was choosing the West for her materials. Her Solomon is a study of a unique character in an isolated German settlement on One-leg Creek which flows into the Tuscarawas River in Ohio, and her Jeanette and most of the other stories in Castle nowhere (1875) deal with the primitive French habitants on Mackinac and  the islands of Lake Superior. She had been reading Harte. Later, in the South, she was stirred by the desolation and the poverty wrought by the war, and now with her heart in her work she wrote the first post-bellum Southern short stories founded upon the contrast between what was and what had been. And still later in Italy she caught again the soul of a people and wrought it into the tales to be collected under the title The front Yard. With each volume there had been an increase in definiteness, in picturesque characterization, in dramatic effect. She worked without dialect and she threw over her work the soft evening light, yet was she a realist, as Harte never was, and unlike him too she worked always with insight and sympathy. Stories like her The front Yard are constructed of the materials of life itself. One cannot forget them. A transition from another source is to be found in the stories of Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909), who also stands on the border line between the real and the romantic. She was affected not at all by Harte, but by Mrs. Stowe and Rose Terry Cooke. In her Deephaven (1877) she struck the new note of the decade, concreteness, geographical locality made so definite and so minutely real that it may be reckoned with as one of the characters in the story. Rose Terry Cooke had written of New England; Miss Jewett wrote of Deephaven, which was Berwick, Maine, her native town. Mrs. Stowe and Mrs. Cooke wrote of the New England flood tide; Miss Jewett wrote of the ebb, not despairingly like Miss Wilkins and the depressed realists, but reverently and gently. Over all her work is the hint of a glory departed, that Irving-like atmosphere which is the soul of romance. She delighted in decaying old seaports with their legends of other and better days, of old sea captains mellow and reminiscent, and of dear old ladies serene in spite of the buffets of time. Her knowledge of her materials was intimate and thorough. All through her girlhood she had ridden much with her father, a country doctor, as he went his daily round among his patients. Prom him she learned the soul of the region, and she sympathized with it, and later she interpreted it in story after story based accurately upon what she knew. Unlike Mrs. Cooke, she came late enough to avoid the mid-century gush of sentiment.  With her it became pathos, the pathos of sympathy and understanding; there is a grip of it in each one of her tales. One does not cry over a story like A White Heron, but one feels at the end of it like finding the sturdy little heroine and calling her a good girl. No art can go farther. Her delight was in the simple and the idyllic rather than in the dramatic. A story like A Native of Winby has very little of plot; but no tale was ever more worth the telling. It is a quivering bit of human life, a section of New England, a tale as true as a soul's record of yesterday. There remains the element of style. She was one of the few creators of the short story after the seventies who put into her work anything like distinction. She was of the old school in this, of the school of Irving and Hawthorne and Poe. Indeed her style has often been likened to Hawthorne's, effortless, limpid, sun-clear in its flowing sentences, and softened and mellowed into a Sleepy-Hollow atmosphere—the perfect style, it would seem, for recording the fading glories of an old regime. Her best stories are perhaps Miss Tempy's Watchers, The Dulham ladies, The Queen's twin, A White Heron, and A native of Winby. Lightness of touch, humour, pathos, perfect naturalness—these are the points of her strength. She was a romanticist, equipped with a camera and a fountain pen. To touch the seventies anywhere is to touch romance. Even Howells was not fully a realist until into the eighties. The new local colour work was not primarily realism. The new writers who now sprang up to portray local peculiarities in all parts of the land sought, even as Harte had done, to throw an idealized atmosphere over their pictures. One thinks of Mrs. Jackson and Ramona7 and of Eggleston and The Hoosier schoolmaster,8 and, in the realm of the short story, of George W. Cable and Charles Egbert Craddock. Cable was one of the discoveries of Edward King during his tour of the South for Scribner's monthly in 1872. It was in New Orleans that he found him working as a humble clerk by day, and by night dreaming over a collection of reading matter as foreign to his work-day world as that which once had engaged another dreaming clerk, Charles Lamb. Among his enthusiasms were the old Spanish and French archives of  the city; old relations of the priest-explorers; French novels— Hugo, Merimee, About; English literature and American— Thackeray, Dickens, Poe, Irving. The composite of all this, plus a unique and evanescent quality which we call personality, was already finding form in sketches and stories which Cable was writing for himself and for the New Orleans papers. Some of his stories he showed to King, who advised him to send them to Scribner's. One of these, 'Sieur George, was published the following year; others came at intervals. The young artist was not to be hurried; it was not for half a dozen years that enough had accumulated to make a volume. He had grown slowly upon the American consciousness, but the growth had been steady and sound. Old Creole days (1879) was accepted at once as a masterpiece, and there has been no revulsion of feeling. This collection, together with Madame Delphine the sum-total of his really distinctive short stories, owes its charm not alone to quaintness and strangeness of materials. It is as redolent of Cable as The luck of Roaring camp is of Harte. Cable's technique and his atmospheres may have been influenced by the French, but his style,—epigrammatic, Gallic in its swift shiftings and witty insinuations, daintily light, exquisitely pathetic at times, exotic always in its flavour of the old Creole city so strange to Northern readers,—all this is his own. No one has excelled him as a painter of dainty femininity, as a master of innuendo and suggestion, as a creator of exotic atmospheres. Whether his backgrounds are realistically true we do not ask, and whether his characters are actual types we do not care. They are true to the fundamentals of human life, they are alive, they satisfy, and they are presented ever with exquisite art. Old Creole days stands unique, one of the undisputed masterpieces in the realm of the short story. Two distinct schools ruled the short fiction of the seventies, that vital seed-time of a period: the school of unlocalized art, timeless and placeless, as Poe and Hawthorne had written it, and the new ‘local colour’ school of Harte, which was going more and more to extremes. A few there were like Henry James who went on with their work utterly oblivious of the new demand for the violently localized. T. B. Aldrich9  was one. His little story Marjorie Daw was published in the Atlantic five years after Harte's sensational debut. A trivial thing it was compared with such tragedies as Tennessee's partner or Madame Delphine, an American humorous anecdote elaborately expanded, with a ‘point’ at the end to be followed by laughter, yet its appearance marked a new stage in the history of the American short story. Tales already there had been that had held a sensation in the last sentence. The amber gods had ended with the startling words: ‘I must have died at ten minutes past one.’ But in Marjorie Daw the device was handled with a skill that made the story a model for later writers. After Aldrich, Stockton and Bunner and O. Henry. Aldrich brought a style to the short story as distinctive as Cable's, a certain patrician elegance, yet a naturalness and a simplicity that concealed everywhere its art, for art is the soul of it; every sentence, every word a studied contribution toward the final effect. There is no moral, no hidden meaning, no exotic background to be displayed, no chastening tragedy; it is a mere whimsicality light as air, a bit of American comedy. The laugh comes not from what is told but from the picture supplied by the reader's imagination. All of Aldrich's thin repertoire of short stories is of the same texture. He may be compared with no American writer. To find a counterpart of Marjorie Daw one must go to the French—to Daudet for its whimsical lightness of touch, and to Maupassant for its exquisite technique. But the interest created by the appearance of Marjorie Daw was mild compared with that accorded to Frank R. Stockton's The lady or the Tiger? （1884). Stockton (1834-1902）10 had not the technique of Aldrich nor his naturalness and ease. Certainly he had not his atmosphere of the beau monde and his grace of style, but in whimsicality and unexpectedness and in that subtle art that makes the obviously impossible seem perfectly plausible and commonplace, he surpassed not only him but Edward Everett Hale and all others. After Stockton and The lady or the Tiger? it was realized even by the uncritical that short story writing had become a subtle art and that the master of its subtleties had his reader at his mercy.  The best of Stockton's short work is to be found in his Negative Gravity, The Transferred Ghost, The Remarkable Wreck of the ‘Thomas Hyke,’ and The Late Mrs. Null. It is like nothing else in American literature: everywhere paradox presented with the utmost gravity, everywhere topsy-turviness and anticlimax and the grotesquely unexpected. There is little of substance in it all; it is opera bouffe, amusing, delightful, ephemeral. Even now Stockton is remembered only for The lady or the Tiger? and the present generation considers even that story clumsy work when compared with the creations of his successor, O. Henry. Another who did much to advance the short story toward the mechanical perfection it had attained to at the close of the century was Henry Cuyler Bunner11 (1855-96), editor of Puck and creator of some of the most exquisite vers de society of the period. The title of one of his collections, Made in France: French Tales with a U. S. Twist, forms an introduction to his fiction. Not that he was an imitator; few have been more original or have put more of their own personality into their work. His genius was Gallic. Like Aldrich, he approached the short story from the fastidious standpoint of the lyric poet. With him, as with Aldrich, art was a matter of exquisite touches, of infinite compression, of almost imperceptible shadings. The lurid splashes and the heavy emphasis of the local colourists offended his sensitive taste: he would work with suggestion, with microscopic focussings, and always with dignity and elegance. He was more American than Henry James, more even than Aldrich. He chose always distinctively native subjects,—New York City was his favourite theme,—and his work had more depth of soul than Stockton's or Aldrich's. The story may be trivial, a mere expanded anecdote, yet it is sure to be so vitally treated that, like Maupassant's work, it grips and remains, and, what is more, it lifts and chastens or explains. It may be said with assurance that Short Sixes marks one of the high places which have been attained by the American short story. In the same group belongs Ambrose Bierce (1838-1914?), though in mere point of time he is to be counted with the California group of the early Overland monthly days. A  soldier of the Civil War, editor of the San Francisco News letter in 1866, associate editor, with the younger Tom Hood, of London fun in 1872, author in London of the brilliant satirical fables Cobwebs from an empty Skull in 1874, then in California again as editor of The Argonaut and The Wasp, and finally a resident of Washington, D. C., he was one of the most cosmopolitan of American writers. It was not until 1891 that his Tales of soldiers and Civilians, later changed to In the midst of life, gave him a place with the short story writers, a very prominent place some critics would insist. Power undoubtedly he had, a certain scintillating brilliance, and a technique almost uncanny. His world was the world of Poe, timeless and placeless, ghastly often, chilling always and unnerving. At his best he was Poe returned after a half century equipped with the short story art of the new generation. Few have surpassed him in precision of diction, in reserve, in the use of subtle insinuation and of haunting climax. Some of his tales cling in one's soul like a memory of the morgue. His failure was his artificiality and his lack of sincerity and of truth to the facts of human life. Like Poe, he was a man of the intellect only, a craftsman of exquisite subtlety, an artist merely for the sake of his art. With the eighties the short story came in America fully to its own. Up to 1884 it had generally been regarded as a magazine form, a rather trivial thing as compared with the stately novel. Hawthorne had abandoned the form early with the implication that he had used it as a prentice exercise. Harte no sooner had gained recognition than he began on Gabriel Conroy. Henry James, though it must be noted that it was after his long English residence, while revising his work declared that he had felt a sense of relief when he abandoned the frail craft of the short story where he ever had felt in danger of running ashore. Scarcely one of the later group of short story writers but sooner or later sought permanence in what, though they might not have confessed it, seemed to them the more permanent and dignified form of fiction. Beginning in 1884, however, collections more and more began to dominate the output of fiction. Henry James in 1885 gathered up his scattered work of a decade and put it forth as Stories revived. Others followed him, until seven  years later the critic Copeland could devote an entire Atlantic article to the short-story collections of the year. The full triumph came in 1891, which produced this significant list of collections: Elsket, and other stories, Thomas Nelson Page; Balaam and his master, Joel Chandler Harris; Flute and violin, James Lane Allen; Otto the Knight, Octave Thanet (Alice French); Main-Travelled Roads, Hamlin Garland; Gallegher, and other stories, Richard Harding Davis; Fourteen to one, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps; Huckleberries gathered from New England Hills, Rose Terry Cooke; Iduna, and other stories, George A. Hibbard; Three tales, William Douglas O'Connor; Uncle of an Angel, Thomas A. Janvier; Zadoc pine, and other stories, Bunner; With My friends, Brander Matthews; Rudder Grangers abroad, Stockton; The Adventures of three worthies, Clinton Ross. 1884 was the climactic year in the history of the short story inasmuch as it produced The lady or the Tiger? and In the Tennessee Mountains, each one of them a literary sensation that advertised the form tremendously. No book since Harte's The luck of Roaring camp had been launched with such impetus as the latter of these. For six years the name of Charles Egbert Craddock had been appealing more and more to the national imagination because of a series in the Atlantic of strongly impressionistic studies of life in the Tennessee mountains. Now suddenly it came to light that the author was a woman, Miss Mary N. Murfree. The sensation in the Atlantic office spread everywhere and gave tremendous vogue not only to the book but to the type of short story that it represented. No one had gone quite so far before: the dialect was pressed to an extreme that made it almost unintelligible; grotesque localisms in manners and point of view were made central; and all was displayed before a curtain of mountains splashed with broad colours. The year was notable too because it produced Brander Matthews's The philosophy of the Shortstory, a magazine article later expanded into a volume, the first scientific handling of the art of the form since Poe's review of Hawthorne. Realism, or more exactly, perhaps, naturalism, ruled the decade. From all sections of the country came now a tide of short fiction the chief characteristic of which was its fidelity  to local conditions. The Century published Page's Marse Chan, a story entirely in negro dialect. Joel Chandler Harris12 contributed his inimitable Uncle Remus studies of negro folklore and added to them short stories of the mountain ‘crackers.’ Mingo and other sketches, which appeared the same year as In the Tennessee Mountains, deals with the Craddock region and people but with surer hand. Harris was himself a native of Georgia hills, though he was by no means a ‘cracker,’ and he spoke with the sympathy and the knowledge of a native, not as an outside spectator and an exhibitor like Miss Murfree. The same may be said of Richard Malcolm Johnston (1822-98), whose Dukesborough tales, dealing with rural life in the Georgia of his youth, first were given to Northern readers in 1883. The evolution of Johnston's art is an interesting study. He was inspired not by Irving or by any of the Northerners, but by Longstreet,13 whose brutally realistic Georgia scenes had appeared as early as 1835. In 1857 Johnston had written The Goose pond School and had followed it with other realistic studies for The Southern magazine. Later they were gathered for a Southern edition entitled Georgia sketches, and still later, in 1871, he had reissued them in Baltimore as Dukesborough tales. He, therefore, must be reckoned with Harte as a pioneer, though his work had few readers and no influence until it was again reissued by the Harpers in 1883. Even then, and afterwards when he had added new and more artistically handled material, he was not a highly significant figure. Studies of provincial Georgia life he could make, some of them bitingly true, but his range was small and his soundings, even within his narrow area, were not deep. He must be classified with the makers of sketches like Longstreet rather than with the short story writers of the period in which he first became known. So completely was local colour the vogue of the eighties that the novelist was regarded as a kind of specialist who moved in a narrow field of his own and who was to be reprimanded if he stepped beyond its limits. The movement had three phases: first, the Irvingesque school that romanticized its material and threw over it a softened light,—Harte, Miss  Jewett, Cable, Page; second, the exhibitors of strange material objectively presented,—Charles Egbert Craddock, Octave Thanet, and the dialect recorders of the eighties; and third, the veritists of the nineties who told what they considered to be the unidealized truth concerning the life they knew,— Garland, Miss Wilkins, Frank Norris,14 and the rest. This third group approached its task scientifically, stated its doctrines with clearness,—as for example in Hamlin Garland's Crumbling Idols,—and then proceeded to work out its careful pictures with deliberate art. Garland's Main-Travelled Roads, stories of the settlement period of the Middle Border, have no golden light upon them. They tell the truth with brutal directness and they tell it with an art that convinces. They are not mere stories; they are living documents in the history of the West. So with the Maupassant-like pictures of later New England conditions by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, in A Humble Romance (1887) and A New England Nun (1891). If the florid, sentimental school of the mid-century went to one extreme, she went to the other. Nowhere in English may one find more of repression, more pitiless studies of repressed lives, more bare searchings into the soul of a decadent social system. She wrote with conviction and a full heart of the life from which she herself had sprung, yet she held herself so firmly in control that her pictures are as sharp and cold as engravings on steel. With the nineties came the full perfection of short story art. Within their limited field A New England Nun and Main-Travelled Roads may not be surpassed. In another area of the short story James Lane Allen's Flute and violin stands by itself, and in still another such work as Margaretta Wade Deland's Old Chester tales, Grace King's Monsieur Motte, and Alice Brown's Meadow Grass. No more exquisite work, however, may be found in the whole range of the local colour school than that in Kate Chopin's (1851-1904) Bayou Folks (1894). She was of Celtic blood and spontaneously a storyteller. She wrote with abandon, yet always it was with the restrained art that we have got into the habit of calling French. Such stories as Desiree's Baby, the final sentence of which grips one by the throat like a sudden hand out of the dark, and  Madame Celestin's Divorce, with its delicious humour and its glimpse into the feminine heart, are among the few unquestioned masterpieces of American short story art. The local colour vogue during the period undoubtedly was an element toward the making of the American fictional unit short. He who would deal with the social regime of a provincial neighbourhood must of necessity be brief. There was no background of established manners in the comers of America, or in the centres, for that matter, sufficient to afford material for a Richardson or a Thackeray. Harte and Charles Egbert Craddock and most of the others attempted novels and failed. One may make a moving drama of the culminating moment in Mother Shipton's or Tennessee's life, but a complete novel written about either of them would be only a succession of picaresque adventures. The short story was peculiarly the vehicle for recording American life, so squalid, yet so glorious and moving, during the era when the country had no manners but only the rudiments of what were to become manners. Beginning about 1898 with the early work of O. Henry and Jack London, there has come what may be called the last period in the history of the short story—the work of the present day. It is the period of magazines devoted wholly to short stories, of syndicates which handle little else, of text books and college courses on the art of the short story, and even of correspondence courses in which the art of making marketable stories may be learned through the mails. In America the short story seems to have become an obsession. The demand of the decade has been for ‘stories with a punch.’ The material must be out of the ordinary; it must not only breathe the breath of unfamiliar regions but it must give the impression that it is a bit of autobiography, or at least a section of life that has passed under the author's own eyes. The short story work of F. Hopkinson Smith (1838– 1915）15 may be taken as an illustration. There is in it the breath of foreign parts, the sense of cosmopolitanism, breezy knowledge of the world. Everywhere alertness, wideawakeness, efficiency, in an easy colloquial style of narrative that has about it a businesslike ring. His brilliant narratives in such  a collection as At close range are the work of one who would have made a most efficient special reporter for a city daily. Here are modem instances in all parts of the world, engagingly told. He has been everywhere, he has seen everything, he has learned all the world's rituals and all its secrets. There is no leisurely approach, no sentimental colourings, no literary effects; they are life seen in flashes, a vivid fragment snipped from the moving film of human life. It may be illustrated also by Jack London's (1876-1916）16 headlong art: strangeness always,—Alaska of the gold rush, the ultimate South Seas, the unknown recesses of the prize ring, the no-man's land of the hobo,—impressionistic studies in sensation. He was writing for money and for little else, and he studied his market like a broker. Earlier literature was aristocratic,—it was written for the refined few; the latest literature is democratic,—it is written for the mass, and the mass is uncritical and unrefined. Its demands are gross: sensation, movement, physical thrill. London gave the mass what it demanded, every sensation which the brutal underworld he knew had afforded him, and he sold his work well. Of the graces demanded in the earlier periods, finish, elegance of style, melody, elevation in tone, he knew nothing. He had immediacy—he told vivid stories of physical prowess in the world of the present moment; he had the note of authority—he wrote only of wild epic things of which he had himself been a large part; he had sensation—the appeal of crude physical horror, the strange and the unheard — of in hitherto unknown regions; and he had a barbaric style—a lurid wealth of adjectives, a melodramatic intensity, and a headlong rush of incident that sweeps the reader along as in a stampede. Force undoubtedly he had and freshness of material, but, lacking poise and moral background and beauty of style, he must be passed as an ephemeral sensation. From the multitude of the later short story writers Richard Harding Davis17 (1864-1916), whose literary life, from the appearance of Gallegher in 1891 to his death, coincided almost exactly with the modem period in American literature, may be chosen as the typical figure. Reared in a literary home,— his mother was the author of Life in the Iron Mills,—educated  at Lehigh University, trained in a city newspaper office until he became one of the most successful special correspondents of his generation, he was admirably fitted to give to the reading public—enormous now because of the universality of the public school and the newspaper and the popular magazine—what it most wanted. He had what Jack London lacked utterly, literary traditions, poise, a certain patrician touch, and an innate love of the romantic. What he might have become in an earlier and more literary era it is not hard to conjecture; what he did become was the result of the spirit of the age, for he became a journalist, a recorder of the ephemeral moment for the ephemeral moment, a reporter with pen marvellously facile and ready, a literary craftsman who mastered every detail of his craft. That Davis satisfied his generation goes without saying. A good newspaper man, he gave it what it desired, upto-dateness, swift action, strangeness of setting presented with the authority of an eye-witness, and, moreover, a sprinkling of sentiment and mystery and romance. All of his work is brilliant, and there are parts that have the touch of distinction, but nowhere does it satisfy the supreme tests. He attempted too much, he skimmed over too much ground, he observed too much of the superficial and not enough of the real underlying heart of life. He was a facile sketcher of surfaces, a versatile entertainer, a craftsman rather than a critic of human life, an artist enamoured with his art rather than a creator who worked with the deeper materials of the human tragedy and comedy. The period closes with the work of William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry (1862-1910), whose sudden rise and enormous popularity are one of the romances of the history of the short story. Only the bare facts of his biography need detain us: his Southern origin, his limited education, his sixteen years in Texas, his unfortunate experience as a bank clerk, his flight to South America, his return after a few months to serve a sentence in the Ohio State prison, and finally his last years in New York City—as picturesque a life as may be found in the annals of literature. His short story career began almost by accident, the result of his enforced leisure in prison. His first story, Whistling  Dick's Christmas Stocking, redolent of Bret Harte, was published in McClure's magazine in 1899. Following it irregularly, came a series of Western and South American tales, and then finally a most remarkable output of stories dealing with the human comedy and tragedy of New York City. Nowhere is there anything just like them. In his best work—and his tales of the great metropolis are his best—he is unique. The soul of his art is unexpectedness. Humour at every turn there is, and sentiment and philosophy and surprise. One never may be sure of himself. The end is always a sensation. No foresight may predict it, and the sensation always is genuine. Whatever else O. Henry was, he was an artist, a master of plot and diction, a genuine humorist, and a philosopher. His weakness lay in the very nature of his art. He was an entertainer bent only on amusing and surprising his reader. Everywhere brilliancy, but too often is it joined to cheapness; art, yet art merging swiftly into caricature. Like Harte, he cannot be trusted. Both writers on the whole may be said to have lowered the standards of American literature, since both worked in the surface of life with theatric intent and always without moral background. O. Henry moves, but he never lifts. All is fortissimo; he slaps the reader on the back and laughs loudly as if he were in a bar-room. His characters, with few exceptions, are extremes, caricatures. Even his shop girls, in the limning of whom he did his best work, are not really individuals; rather are they types, symbols. His work was literary vaudeville, brilliant, highly amusing, and yet vaudeville. On the whole the short story episode in American literary history has been a symptom not of strength but of weakness. ‘Short story writing is a young man's game,’ says H. G. Wells, and it may be added that it is also the natural device of the young nation just emerging from its adolescent period. To see life in true perspective, to know the truth in its breadth and depth, demands that we fix our attention not on fragments of life, on snatches of experience, on glimpses, swift impressions, but on wholes. America has not had the time to look steadily and long at any phase of the human play. All it has wanted has been momentary impressions artistically given, surface and sensations. It has been satisfied with cleverness  rather than mastery, entertainment rather than instruction, with journalism rather than literature. What the coming period is to be it is not within the province of the historian to seek.