Heiress of All the Ages was first published in 1959. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
In a provocative study of American literature, Professor Wasserstrom reappraises the genteel tradition and its place in social and intellectual history. He shows that our image of this tradition has been inadequate, that most of our writers and critics have failed to recognize its profound effects.
Basing his discussion primarily on a study of the major novelists of the period from 1830 to the present, the author examines the role of women in fiction and defines some of our national attitudes toward love. He discusses especially the world of Henry James (from whose phrase "heir of all the ages" the title of this book is derived), William Dean Howells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Edith Wharton, and Robert Penn Warren. He also considers such well known novelists of their day as Bret Harte, Edgar Fawcett, Robert Herrick, Henry B. Fuller, Hamlin Garland, and Gertrude Atherton. In addition, his study is based on source material of the period: diaries, recipe books, family magazines, early issues of sociology and psychology journals, and travel books.
This book will interest not only students of literature and history but also those in the general field of American civilization and sociologists and psychologists concerned with the relation of American literature to our mores.