The Damnation of Harold Frederic is a finely honed work of literary criticism. Bennett examines how Frederic both directly and indirectly manipulated his own personal experiences to craft his literary pieces. (His life involved two families: one with his wife, and one with a lover, who eventually was tried for manslaughter in his sensational death.) Her book provides a critical reading of The Damnation of Theron Ware, as well as a close look at his oeuvre, including his final novel, The Market-Place, a pioneering work that paved the way for works of socioeconomic commentary such as Dreiser's Trilogy of Desire and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Drawing on material previously unavailable to scholars, Bennett engages readers in exploring how an author's private life and public works intersect.
It may take more than this useful study of journalist-novelist Fredericwho wrote the classic of American realism, The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896)to revive interest in any other of his works (which are now largely out of print anyway). Bennett (English and comparative literature, Univ. of Warwick, England) first reports how Frederic came to set up two households, one in America with his wife, Grace, the other in England with his mistress, Kate Lyon; then examines how Frederic, forever sensitive about his Utica upbringing, tried to sustain his artistic ambitions to be a serious novelist while earning his livelihood as the London correspondent for the New York Times. Bennett's discussions of his fiction tend to lose focus because she compares his every character, subject, and attitude with those of his contemporaries. However, her work provides a valuable sketch of the relatively barren American literary landscape during the Gilded Age. Recommended for large academic libraries.Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.