There is a […] reason — among the many that cannot here be mentioned — why American fiction consists so largely of lower types in our civilisation. It is much easier to write a successful novel portraying a low degree of civilisation than to write a successful novel portraying a high degree of civilisation. The more highly civilised his characters, the more highly civilised must be the novelist. A writer stands to his work as a mason to his wall: they keep the same level; they rise together. True, a man may be far above the plane of his characters and write down to them: but he cannot be far below the plane of his characters and write up to them. Hence, in the literature of the world the writers who have created the great civilised types of character in their age and country have been very great and very highly civilised men.
(James Lane Allen, “The Gentleman in American Fiction“, The Bookman, Vol. IV, 1896, p. 120)