More literary criticism from Tocqueville. Part II, Third Book, Chap 11.
The chapter is actually about the relationship between equality and morals. Tocqueville focuses particularly on the ability of American women to make marriages based on choice, rather than compulsion. This leads to a peculiar footnote, hard to quote, with this argument:
French novelists write - rely on - stories about married women having affairs. The reader is sympathetic to the women's behavior, because the wives are all in compulsory, loveless marriages. Americans cannot tell the same sorts of stories, because American women are in marriages of choice, so the reader has no sympathy for the bad behavior of the wives. "This is one of the causes to which must be attributed the small number of novels published in the United States."
The first thing to note is that this is not true. The example of the English novel of Tocqueville's time is a sufficient counterexample - English novelists had no trouble finding subjects. But early American literature was highly imitative. Bryant was a Wordsworthian Romantic, Cooper blatantly imitated Scott, and Irving modelled himself after older writers like Addison and Steele. And these are the early Americans we consider original!
For Americans, models mattered, and the French model was probably useless. So maybe this really did impose a limit on American literary creativity, or at least hackery. Is it a coincidence that the first major American adultery novel was The Scarlet Letter, a highly non-French treatment of the subject?
This is so common with Tocqueville. Real insights are embedded in even his worst ideas.