(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Halford E. Luccock - Essay

Halford E. Luccock

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[In Dynasty of Death the] author avoids one ready pitfall of the long family-history novel, that of sacrificing everything to breadth and length. There is a stretch of a hundred years and a cast of actors running into many score. Yet there is intensity of interest, full detail and characterization at each period.

The most noticeable weakness of the novel is that the villains are too darkly and consistently villainous and the good people too obviously equipped with a halo. This is seen in the sharp black-and-white woodcut contrast between Ernest Barbour, the Napoleon of the firm, and his brother Martin, a sort of Pennsylvania St. Francis of Assisi. Ernest is a terribly integrated person—completely integrated about the dollar. He is relentless, cruel, endowed with satanic skill and all the other gifts and graces necessary to make a well rounded devil. His brother Martin gives his life in the effort to relieve the terrible slavery into which Ernest has plunged his workers. This gives an unreal effect, for real life is far more complex and perplexing. The typical munitions king or industrial grand duke is likely to be not an inhuman monster, but rather a person deserving of the classic tribute to a pirate, "as mild-mannered a man as ever scuttled a ship."

This is a novel of sustained interest, done with care and skill, notable for its picture of the unfolding industrial life of America, particularly of the steel industry. (p. 1338)

Halford E. Luccock, "One of the Sixty Families," in The Christian Century (copyright 1938 Christian Century Foundation; reprinted by permission from the November 2, 1938 issue of The Christian Century), Vol. LV. No. 44, November 2, 1938, pp. 1337-38.