W.D.Howells, Atlantic Monthly 1873
DOI link for W.D.Howells, Atlantic Monthly 1873
W.D.Howells, Atlantic Monthly 1873 book
The Red Cotton Night-Cap Country is the antic name of that strange last performance of Mr. Browning’s, to which, for reasons of his own, he has given the outward form and typographical mask of poetry; but why he should have called it Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, sooner than ‘The Man in the Moon’, or ‘Ding-Dong Bell’, does not finally appear to the distracted reader of the work.… [The plot is] horrible and revolting in itself; and it is so told as to bring out its worst with a far-reaching insinuation, and an occasional frantic rush at expression of its unseemliness for which the manure-heap affords the proper imagery of ‘dung’, and ‘devil’s dung’. We suppose we shall be told of power in the story; and power there undeniably is, else no one could be dragged through the book by it. The obscurity of three fourths of it-of nearly all one might say, except the merely narrative passages-becomes almost amusing. It seems as if Mr. Browning lay in wait, and, lest any small twinkling or glimmer of meaning should reach his reader, sprang out and popped a fresh parenthesis on the offending chink that let it through. Fifty-six mortal pages explain, why the story is called Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, but without making the reader understand why, and he is left dancing upon nothing for many pages more, till his aching foot is glad to rest even on the uncleanly history of M. Miranda’s intrigue and lunacy. The poem-if it is a poem-is as unhandsome as it is unwholesome; it is both bad art and bad taste, and is to be defended, it seems to us, neither as a lesson from a miserable fact, nor as a successful bit of literary realism.