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PENELOl'E TO ULYSSES. Over the sweet fields calling out my
Thou marvellest. husband, that I sit so Sometimes in tragic nights of surf and
And motionless, but gazing on that face Thou hast been thrown headlong in
Which now the pine-fire throws up in a howling wind
flame, On the sharp coast and up the sea
Now leaves in darkest night as thou bank streamed,
dost lean Alone. This then I strive to shape to
Massily drooping toward the log-fed words—
blaze. Thou hadst become with passing days
Such silence has come down upon us and years.
two! With night and tempest, and with sun
Yet a good silence after so long years. and sea,
We only are awake and the live sea! A presence hovering in all lights and
But thou who hast borne all things airs.
may'st perhaps Thou wert the soul then of the evening
Bear with a woman's fancies while she star,
speaks them. And thou didst roam heaven in the
Think not, my man of meu, that I am seeking moon.
cold Thou secretly wouldst speak from stirIn passion or heart! Far otherwise! I ring leaves,
see, And what was dawn but some sur
And nothing else, I see. the brow that prise of thee?
The blow of strange waves and the So, husband, though this heart beats
furious kiss wild at thee,
Of different winds, the sad-heaven- Vet lesser in imagination
roaming eyes. Art thou returned than evermore re
The mighty hands that piloted all turning.
night. Nature is but a body from henceforth.
Yet art thou paler than my dream of The soul departed, the spirit gone out
thee. of her.
The waves cry unintelligibly now.
Forgive me, O my lord, but i must That then "Ulysses" and "Ulysses" still
speak. Hissed sweetly, privately, the live-long
Well—all these years have i imagined night.
thee Ah! but thou hear'st me not, canst only
So constantly that now thy visible hear
form, A roar of memories, and for thee this
How noble! seems but shadow of such house
sight. Still plunges and takes the sea-spray
For I have seen thee in the deep of evermore.
Leap silent, sudden up the stair, and I Yet come! How thou art weary none
Fell toward thee in the darkness with can tell,
a cry, How wise, how sad. how deaf to bab
Fluttering upon thy bosom like a bird. bled words.
And I have seen thee spring upon this Vet come, and fold me, not as in old
At sunset dark against the fiery orb. But now with perils kiss me. wind me
Then have I often just upon daybreak round
Started and run down to the beach and With wonder, murmur magic in my
Thy boat grate on the pebbles: or And clasp me with the world, with
again nothing less!
It has been noon and thou hast come Stephen Phillips.
in arms The Spectator.
THE DECAY OF THE SHORT STORY.
Of all forms of literary art that of the short story is plainly one of the most difficult, if one may judge of the difficulty of an accomplishment by the number of those disciples who have mastered it. The fairly good short story is a far less common thing than the very good set of verses. The altogether excellent and admirable short story is as rare as the perfect sounet.
The full-length novel demands of its author more power of application and perhaps a larger and more generous comprehension of life and a deeper understanding of human character; but a novel may fall upon weakness or banality a score of times, between title-page and colophon, and yet be accounted a masterpiece, as witness Tom Jones, Vanity Fair, and David Co/iperfield. In the novel errors may be retrieved and blemishes thrown into shadow by the strength and beauty of subsequent passages. The novelist stands toward the short-story-writer somewhat in the same relation as the landscape-painter stands toward the etcher. One may be an expert in both departments. ln each there is scope for the display of supreme artistry. But no one who has excelled in the dual capacity, be it in landscape and etching or novel and conte, will deny that whilst the one may entail a larger expenditure of effort and a longer, heavier strain, the other exacts the more pains and the liner skill.
There is no room for any least mistake in a short story. The effect to be achieved is too instant and direct to permit of any blundering, any clumsiness. Each stroke must count tellingly, each phrase, each detail, must bear its full and true significance. Sentence by sentence, almost word by word, the short story should rise on a crescendo of interest that never droops
or falters until the brief finale. And the short-story-writer is further handicapped in that he scores as much by what he leaves out as by what he puts in. Any irrelevancy, however wise or humorous, any redundancy, however brilliant or ornamental, is a defect. Thus the short-story-writer is called upon, all the time, to make sacrifices, to exercise a mighty self-restraint such as the novelist knows nothing of. The glittering witticism, the profound reflection, the patch of glowing purple: each of these dear indulgences so precious to the author's heart, and so lightly and gaily to be seized on and revelled in by the novelist, are strictly taboo to the short-story-writer. His particular form of art is the most austere exercise of his talent that he can possibly engage upon. He must look only for his reward in a realization—that can never be complete—of his ideal and the approval of his literary conscience. He is likely to get very little other profit of his enterprise.
But the purpose of this essay is not to propound any theory, new or old, of the art of the short story, or to lay down any general principles in regard to its canons, as the present writer understands them. The foregoing pronouncements are meant merely to indicate, briefly and succinctly, the writer's appreciation of the difficulties which surround this rare and delightful branch of literature, and the high standard by which he would judge its exponents, so that there may be no misapprehension of his meaning in what follows. But it seemed necessary that so much ground should be made clear before the main body of the argument could be advanced in due form and with perfect propriety. We are frequently told that the short story is one of those things that they
do better in France. l am not concerned to dispute that contention, even if i felt wholly competent to do so. Rather am i concerned with the English short story—and quite justifiably, since it has the dignity of some noble traditions and many consummate examples to commend it to the most serious consideration of the discriminating critic, however wide or cosmopolitan his knowledge and his sympathies. But, in passing, it may be conceded that until quite recently, as literary history goes, we had no short-storywriter of the calibre of those belonging to the school of Boccaccio: an illustrious line that culminated in Balzac and found its apotheosis in Guy de Maupassant. The short story is of extraordinarily late growth in England, and for many years seemed not in the least likely ever to acclimatize itself. Sterne had something more than an inkling of what the short story might become in practised hands; but his innate disregard of form militated fatally against his latent talent in that direction, and only in such chapters of the Sentimental Journey as that entitled "The Sword," has he made any notable contributions to the art, and even in these instances he shows only a careless proficiency.
And here it is expedient to explain that the Canterbury Tales and the mass of ballad-poetry collected in such anthologies as Percy's Reliques, are deliberately and not invidiously left out of account as belonging to a hybrid sporadic kind of the picaresque narrative and not properly to the modern conception of the conte. That modern conception, as it affects English taste, owes its origin to Edgar Allan Poe, who, it will be noted, was contemporaneous with Balzac, and yet not in ary way influenced either by him or to any appreciable extent by his own fellow-countryman and immediate predecessor, Washington lrving. And to those who might be inclined, with some
appearance of good reason, to award to Washington lrving the honor that is here reserved for Poe, l would point out that Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow belong rightly to the genre of the folk-lore tale, a distinct and altogether different order from that of the modern short story—which is nothing if not episodic—as do his Tales of a Traveller also, these last being besides too flimsy in texture and structure, although very highly finished, to come legitimately into the same category with the English short story, pure and simple, as it is here defined.
Ascribing the honor to Poe. then, we are bound to acknowledge our debt to America in this regard, aibeit I'oe is, of all American authors, perhaps the least typical. As the late Bret Harte wrote in an article on "The Rise of the Short Story": lt "was familiar enough in form in America during the early half of the century; perhaps the proverbial haste of American life was some inducement to its brevity. it had been the medinm through which some of the most characteristic work of the best American writers had won the approbation of the public. Poe—a master of the art, as yet unsurpassed—had written; Longfellow and Hawthorne had lent it the graces of the English classics. But it was not the American short story of to-day. . . . And even when graced by the style of the best masters it was distinctly provincial. . . . There was much 'fine writing'; there were American Addisons, Steeles, and Lambs—there were provincial 'Spectators' and 'Tatlers.' The sentiment was English. Even irving, in the pathetic sketch of 'The Wife' echoed the style of 'Rosamund Grey.'" And other work of Washington lrving had a far closer affinity with the genins of Dickens than with what has since become familiar to us as the chief national characteristic of American fiction. Bret Harte himself also followed the Dickens convention, and thus beguiled the American taste yet further away from the straight path laid down for the perfect conte by those two pastmasters in the art, Balzac and Poe. The American short story that originally derived so much from English exemplars, and particularly from Lamb and Dickens, has progressed mainly upon those lines ever since; and very pleasant lines they are, but they do not start from the point of departure that Poe made. He, discarding the models ready to his hand, evolved an entirely new medinm and wrought solely in that, adapting all his richly various and diversified themes to the same self-invented method, and bringing them to the nearest point of perfection attainable within the limits he had imposed upon himself.
And when his work was done and he died, the particular form of art to which he had bent his powers fell rapidly into desuetude in America, and has never been revived there, or only fitfully, spasmodically, and seldom very effectively. Poe has found his truest disciples, not among his own countrymen, but here in England, where our best short-story-writers are still faithful in a more or less degree to his formulas. in America they have followed in the footsteps of Brete Harte. who followed in the footsteps of Dickens, who was never quite at his best in the short story. One has only to scan a list of the American authors who have flourished since the time of Poe to perceive that, wherever else he may have founded a school of short-story-writers it is not in his native country. Merman Melville. Lew Wallace, F. R. Stockton, Artemus Ward, Mark Twain, W. D. Howells. G. W. Cable, Henry James, Joel Chandler Harris, Marion Crawford, Harold Frederic, Stephen Crane, John Oliver Hobbes, Mary E. Wilkins, Hamlin Garland, Jack London: these are among the most important of the
names | hnt immediately occur to the memory; and not one of them suggests off-hand any kinship with Poe, neither does the work of any of them bear any very clear traces of his influence. But they do all, with the doubtful exceptions of such arch-humorists as Mark Twain and Artemus Ward, bear traces of the influence of English authors; and inevitably so, among an English-speaking people, since the novel was perfected in England before ever America founded its present Constitution.
On the other hand, the short story, in its modern form, is a product of much later growth than the novel, as has already been stated. And between the two masters. Balzac and Poe, who may be said to have originated the modern short story, the English choice of a model has preferably fallen upon Poe, obviously because he wrote in our language and we could not produce his peer among our own writers. Our imitation of his methods has never been slavish, however; has indeed been largely unconscious; nevertheless, it has been curiously close. Sir Conan Doyle has lately insisted that no modern short-story-writer can help himself in this matter, because Poe wrote practically every kind of short story, and has excelled in each. Without wishing to quarrel with this view I am, at the same time, disposed to stigmatize it as a singularly short-sighted one. since it takes no account of the fact that though the short story—even that ephemeral thing, the modern short story— has come down to us through the Panchatantra, by way of ^Esop, from the very beginnings of literature, it has never ceased to develop and improve and to take on new beauty and strength. Who, then, shall declare that it reached its apogee in Poe even if, during the last fifty years, he has had no worthy rival—a debatable point! —half a century being, in the flight of ages, as no more than the evanescent silver trail that a falling star flashes across the blue of heaven? it is far too soon to say that the short story has attained to the zenith of its power and must henceforth decline steadily into extinction. Some of Guy de Maupassant's short stories are held to be better than any of Balzac's. And i am bound to confess that l think some of the short stories written by this present generation of authors are better than any of Poe's.
Yet this is an essay on "The Decay of the Short Story." Even so. Hut had l added the word "temporary" to my title it would have been better, perhaps. For the decay of the short story has been too sudden to be natural. The crop has deteriorated, has become choked with all manner of vulgar weeds; yet it may reasonably be doubted if there is anything gravely wrong with the seed. it is rather in the soil that the fault lies. Twenty, fifteen, ten years ago. there was little to deplore in the appearance of the home-grown short story. There was much to rejoice in. Mr. James 1'ayu was conducting the Cornhill; Mr. Jerome K. Jerome the ldler; Mr. W. E. Henley was ruthlessly editing the National Observer, and afterwards the 'New Her lew; there were also the Yellow Book and Chapauin's Magazine; and always Blackwood's, Longman's, Macmillan's, Murray's, and other publishers' papilottes to impart an appropriate hyacinthine curl to their pet authors' locks. The men in charge of these periodicals were literary stalwarts having the courage of their convictions, who hailed the new good thing wheresoever and in whatever guise they found it, and would publish it to their unknown contributors' glory and their own eternal credit. They laid the foundations of the wide fame of such writers as Robert Louis Stevenson. Rudyard Kipling. W. W. Jacobs. H. G. Wells. J. M. Bnrrie, and Zangwill; and the lesser
but not less well-founded fame of such others as K. Austey, Arthur Morrison, Joseph Conrad, Marriott Watson, Hubert Crackanthorpe, Frank Mathew, Murray Gilchrist: all of them masters in the art of the short story, many of them now, alas! boiling the pot with what ought to go to the waste-paper basket. There was not then, and there is not now, anything wrong with the seed. But there is something very wrong with the soil. Or is the fault with the farmers? One thing at least is indisputable: that we do not read such short stories as these men wrote in the first flush of their dawning day. in the modern magazines that overload the bookstalls and affront the sensibilities with their loud, highly-colored appeals to the eye of the casual passerby.
At haphazard 1 take one of these modern magazines and examine into it. lt is handsomely, if not very tastefully, got-up, in good clear type on thick glazed paper. The excellent illustrations are excellently rendered. it consists of upwards of one hundred pages of letterpress and pictures sandwiched between as many pages of advertisements. There is a colored frontispiece, cleverly reproduced from an oil in the Tate Gallery. The first article deals with the art of the painter of that picture, and serves as a sufficient excuse for the reproduction of a dozen or more other pictures from the same brush, together with five or six photographs of the painter, his house, his wife, his children, his pets. The next item is a long instalment of a serial by a popular and competent novelist. Follows a contribution by Rudyard Kipling that is neither a story nor an article but something between the two. descriptive of some highly technical and mysterious happening on board a torpedo-destroyer. Then, an article signed by a world-renowned actress, but bearing internal evidences of the