His first novel, Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, was published in 1896. The graphic story of an Americanized Russo-Jewish immigrant, it attracted much attention and was favorably commented on by the press both in America and in England. W. D. Howells compared Cahan's work to that of Stephen Crane, and prophesied for him a successful literary future.
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CHAPTER III. IN THE GRIP OF HIS PAST. Jake had never even vaguely abandoned the idea of supplying his wife and child with the means of coming to join him. He was more or less prompt in remitting her monthly allowance of ten rubles, and the visit to the draft and passage office had become part of the routine of his life. It had the invariable effect of arousing his dormant scruples, and he hardly ever left the office without ascertaining the price of a steerage voyage from Hamburg to New York. But no sooner did he emerge from the dingy basement into the noisy scenes of Essex Street, than he would consciously let his mind wander off to other topics. Formerly, during the early part of his sojourn in Boston, his landing place, where some of his townsfolk resided and where he had passed his first two years in America, he used to mention his Gitl and his Yosselé so frequently and so enthusiastically, that some wags among the Hanover Street tailors would sing " Yekl and wife and the baby " to the tune of Molly and I and the Baby. In the natural course of things, however, these retrospective effusions gradually became far between, and since he had shifted his abode to New York he carefully avoided all reference to his antecedents. The Jewish quarter of the metropolis, which is a vast and compact city within a city, offers its denizens incomparably fewer chances of contact with the English-speaking portion of the population than any of the three separate Ghettos of Boston. As a consequence, since Jake's advent to New York his passion for American sport had considerably cooled off. And, to make up for this, his enthusiastic nature before long found vent in dancing and in ageneral lifeof gallantry. His proved knack with the gentle sex had turned his head and now cost him all his le...