Red Chair Reads: Malbone, an Oldport Romance

A romance in the 19th century sense, before all that social realism set in.  I should have known that having the main character be named “Malbone” did not bode well for the story, but I was — and continue to be — enamored of writers with three names.  In defense of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, his Oldport Day, written several years after Malbone, was a mostly enjoyable read.

So . . . .  what is it all about?  Well, basically, Malbone is a young man who refuses to grow up — and those around him allow this because he is a charming man.  He is, to borrow a description of a character from the Henry James short story The Tone of Time, “the finest gentleman you’ll ever have seen, and the worst friend.”  The story, then, is about what happens when a young man, too lazy to be either truly good or bad, is indulged by his family.  And all I can say is, Henry James did it much better, and that’s why he is The Master, and Higginson is mostly forgotten.  Luckily, the Kindle has that most wonderful of things, the delete function.

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