Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

and not inferior pleasure to Seaman, Graves, and Godley. And as we and our fathers enjoyed in company the extravaganzas of Planché, so have we sat and laughed with our sons over the libretti of Gilbert Wedded to the music of Sullivan. In this, as in other matters, we of the nineteenth century have had much to be thankful for. Two or three stand out among the younger group of living poets whom we have deliberately forborne to estimate. Let us now name them—Mr. Watson, Mr. Phillips, and Mr. Kipling. Their genius is undoubted, and each will take the rank found due to him, as time develops his powers and accumulates his productions. That we do not attempt to appraise them comes not of failure to appreciate or reluctance to acknowledge. But we think that they more properly belong to the twentieth century, and we hope and believe that when the chronicler of the new epoch makes up his treasures their names will each have an honored place upon the roll. And now, what is the sum of the matter? Is it not that at the dawn of the last century, after a brief period of slightness and estrangement from high purpose, Poetry did rouse herself, The Edinburgh Review.

NIGHTS AT PLAY.

There are various Streets in London each of which is known to its frequenters as “The Lane.” Mincing Lane is an example. What the portly merchant may call it a humble scribe dares not speculate; but his light-hearted clerk would stare at you in amazement if you referred to that place of tea otherwise than as “The Lane.” So, too, Petticoat Lane is known to its votaries as “The Lane.” There is little fear

shake her plumes, remember her mission, and set herself anew to the serious problems of life; to this end, touching the lips, and not in vain, of Crabbe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Tennyson, and Browning? Have not all these great men caught fire from their epoch, illuminating it in turn with the coruscations of their own uncolnmunicated genius? And has there not been beside them a long and still brilliant company of lesser lights, grouped in easy gradation of achievement, from the high level of Swinburne, Arnold, and Patmore, down to that of some of those who are at work to-day? Mankind may hereafter shake their heads when they read some of the more unmeasured of contemporary eulogies, but it will always be conceded to the nineteenth century that, while it was an age in which eternal questions and issues had become more complex and more difficult than they had been or seemed to be during its predecessors, it produced poets able and zealous to attack them, and who, while they laid bare their own doubts and self-conflicts, were still fit to register every pulse and stereotype every phase of the moral, social, and intellectual movement that surged around them.

of misunderstanding. Petticoat Lane would be as grossly insulted by being confused with Mincing Lane as would Mincing Lane by being confused with Petticoat Lane. “The Lane” in each case keeps itself to itself, and regards a rival claimant to the title with haughty disfavor. In the heart of London is another “The Lane,” not to be identified with either of the other lanes —a lane with a long and varied history

[merged small][graphic]

.Ashore to rot away and slowly die,—
The scorched land cracking 'neath a brazen sky
That once held many rlce-flelds in its girth
.And never dreamed of dearth.

Last, dearest, fairest of all feeble things,
Mine are all children, borne with pain, to lire
And love and labor, and return again'

Unto the earth whence they arose to flower
The blossoms of a life-time, as the plum
And the imperial chrysanthemum
In their own season come,
The blossoms of a day and of an hour.

I make the light soft to the children's eyes

With veils of rain drawn tenderly across

The flaming sun that hunts adown the skies

The stars no man at height of day can see,

So keen a hunter he.

After the rain, lest baby eyes should weep

Because the clouds so close a cover keep

Before the bright face of the imperious sun,

I build a rainbow east and west to show

How laughter follows on the track of tears

All down the years,

How beauty shall be bullded out of fears,

Hope out of doubt be spun.

The rainbow of five colors arched in one

My symbol is. Its irises I wear

For garland in my hair;

And when the children, grown and growing old,

My face no more behold,

A rainbow of five colors in the sky

Tells them that, though all passes, here am I.

Kwannon the Merciful, with arms that strain

To clasp my children to my arms again.

Mncuiillon'i HaguIne.

[graphic]

TWELVE MONTHS' FICTION.

In sifting and assessing the mass of fiction which has appeared since our last special Fiction Number, twelve months ago, we have decided this year to abolish that literary compromise which usually influences the annual marshalling of the novelists' productions, and frankly to divide the year's production into two parts. It would be idle to deny that a novel by, say, Mr. Anthony Hope or Mr. H. S. Merriman is a book of the year. It must appear in any catalogue of the year, not only because the approval of a large majority of educated persons has given it importance, but also because it is a thoroughly capable, careful, and perhaps brilliant piece of invention and of writing. On the other hand, it would be equally idle to assert that "The Velvet Glove" or "The Intrusions of Peggy" has any real vital connection with the art of fiction, that it "counts," or that it would pass muster with, or even interest, the expert opinion of a foreign country. Every competent judge knows that it would not, and is perfectly assured that in a few years it is destined to oblivion and will be as though it had never been. Such books as those we have named, despite their skilful and honest excellence, partake of the nature of a commercial article. Consciously or unconsciously they meet a market, they are according to a pattern. They lack the distinction of mind, the seriousness, the truthfuiness, and above all the fundamental emotional force which every tr^ie work of art must possess. The majority, even the educated majority, cannot perceive these shortcomings, or if they perceive them they cannot estimate their significance.

We have selected six popular novels of the year as being the best of their

sort. We use the term popular in a moderate and decent sense—a sense which does not include the too-assertive vogue of books like "Temporal Power," by Marie Corelll; "Fuel of Fire," by Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler; and the "Hound of the Baskervilles," by Sir Conan Doyle. Such works asthese have no artistic recommendation of any kind: they appeal to the possibly harmless instincts of the populace in, the same way as a halfpenny paper does, and it would be ridiculous to pit them against the well-bred vigor and the elaborate restrained craftsmanship of writers of the calibre of Mr. Authouy Hope or Sir Walter Besant. Our selected Popular Six are as follows:—

"The Intrusions of Peggy." By Anthony Hope.

"The Velvet Glove." By H. S. Merriman.

"Scarlet and Hyssop." By E. F. Benson.

"The Conquest of Charlotte." By D. S. Meldrum.

"No Other Way." By Sir Walter Besant.

"The Right of Way." By Sir Gilbert Parker.

Of these it is not necessary to say much. We have endeavored to place them in order of merit. There can be no doubt that Sir Gilbert Parker's was the least satisfactory of the lot; indeed Sir Gilbert's talent has already lost much of its first fineness, and if "The Right of Way" had sold two million instead of a mere two hundred thousand, the fact would remain that its author cannot much longer, if his present retrogression continues, be enumerated with the serious craftsmen. Mr. Meldrum's book deserves special mention; it delighted the readers of "Blackwood," no mean achievement, and it has decidedly opened a budding reputation.

[graphic]

Ranking after this half dozen, we must specify eight other popular and praiseworthy novels, all of which, we opine, well merited the attention which they received. They are named in alphabetical order:—

"The Making of a Marchioness." By F. H. Burnett.

"Adventures of M. d'Haricot." By J. S. Clouston.

"In the Fog." By R. H. Davis.

"If I were King." By Justin H. McCarthy.

"Drift." By L. T. Meade.

"The Vultures." By H. S. Merriman.

"The Credit of the County." By W. E. Norris.

"A Mystery of the Sea." By Bram Stoker.

Mr. W. E. Norris continues to produce excellent work of its kind, work which will not offend the nicest palate, though of course it may be accused of insipidity. Mr. Bram Stoker, in "A Mystery of the Sea," did not repeat the extraordinary success of that really clever "shocker," "Dracula"; but he produced what may be called "a good story." Mr. Richard Harding Davis, in "In the Fog," showed Sir Conan Doyle and Messrs. Pemberton, Marsh, Le Queux, Donovan, and Co., how well a detective story can be done by a capable hand. "The Adventures of M. d'Haricot" offers an example of a rather obvious, popular facetlousness just kept within the bounds of literary respectability. The book was neither original in plan nor very ingenious in execution, but it had a certain tact. Mrs. Meade's "drift," which we understand to be the result of an attempt on the part of that popular author to get for once out of the groove and write to satisfy herself, was a story which wins respect for its honesty of purpose, but which is far more interesting as a pyschologlcal key to the brain-processes

of Mrs. Meade than as a serious novel.

Of the innumerable company of Adeline Sergeants, S. R. Crocketts, Max Pembertons, B. M. Crockers, and other firm pillars of the circulating library, we need not discourse. We have noticed, however, that while Miss Adeline Sergeant's amazing fecundity seems to increase, Mr. S. R. Crockett's production shows a laudable tendency towards moderation.

We come now to the Artistic Novels of the year, those which do "count." and those.which could not fail to interest any instructed foreign student of our literature. They are in alphabetical order, according to the authors' names:—

"Anna of the Five Towns." By Arnold Bennett.

"The Labyrinth." By R. Murray Gilchrist. . .

"Love and the Soul Hunters." By John Oliver Hobbes.

"The Wings of the Dove." By Henry James.

"Love with Honor." By Charles Marriott.

"The Hole in the Wall." By Arthur Morrison.

"The Success of Mark Wyngate." By U. S. Silberrad.

"The First Men in the Moon." By H. G. Wells.

"The Valley of Decision." By Edith Wharton.

In making this selection, we have entirely ignored the question of popularity or even of reputation. We have been guided solely by our artistic judgment. We put forward these nine novels as in our view the best of the year—in technique, in emotional power, and in the achievement of beauty. That the average opinion will disagree, will possibly be startled, we do not doubt, for it is a commonplace of literary history that the average opinion, though seldom contemptible, is never exactly right until it has had about fifty years in which to ripen and correct itself. All these nine novels are -artistically notable, and some, we imagine, deserve a more distinguished adjective. Mr. Murray Gilchrist's "The Labyrinth" was a fine example -of the true romantic spirit working free from the trammels of any realism; Its sensuous and virile charm, and the strange audacity of its close will be remembered. In "Love and the Soul Hunters" Mrs. Craigle furnished another instance, perhaps more ambitious and elaborate than any previous one, of her rare power of combining sensuous and intellectual subtlety, and Again combining these with a view of life at once comprehensive and feminine. The "Wings of the Dove" was a great achievement of virtuosity, but we shall not attempt to minimize the essential artistic arrogance of Mr. -James's attitude towards his readers. We incline to the view that "The First Men in the Moon," in its fusion of picturesque imagination, scientific truth, -and philosophic criticism of this planet, must rank as Mr. Wells's best novel. It has been very well received in France, and we cannot forbear to comment on the irregular and piquant fact that a narrative which satisfied the readers of "The Strand Magazine" should happen to be good art.

[graphic]

A comparatively large number of second-class serious or genuinely humorous novels deserve particular reference, but we must be content with merely naming a round score, roughly in order of artistic importance:—

"The River." By Eden Phillpotts.

"The Sea-Lady." By H. G. Wells.

"Sordon." By Benjamin Swift .

"The Westcotes." By "Q."

"The Conqueror." By Gertrude Atherton.

"The Way of Escape." By Graham Travers.

"Woodslde Farm." By Mrs. W. K. Clifford.

"The Mating of a Dove" By Mary I. Mann.

"The Founding of Fortunes." By Jane Barlow.

"The Keys of the House." By Algernon Gissing.

"Donna Diana." By Richard Bagot .

"The Lady Paramount." By Henry Hailaud.

"At Sunwich Port." By W. W. Jacobs.

"Patricia of the Hills." By C. K. Burrow.

"The Four Feathers." By A. E. W. Mason.

"Felix." By Robert Hichens.

"Luke Delmege." By Father Sheehan.

"The Happenings of Jill." By "Iota."

"Sons of the Sword." By Margaret L. Woods.

"Paul Kelver." By Jerome K. Jerome.

This list of volumes of short stories is rather notable:—

"Natives of Milton." By R. Murray Gilchrist .

"The Lady of the Barge." By W. W. Jacobs.

"The White Wolf." By "Q."

"Just So Stories." By Rudyard Kipling.

"A Book of Stories." By G. S. Street .

"The Watcher by the Threshold." By John Buchan.

"Joe Wilson." By Henry Lawson.

"The Place of Dreams." By William Barry.

"The Handsome Quaker." By Katherine Tynan.

"On the Old Trail." By Bret Harte.

Of new books by new authors, only two can be said to arouse interest:—

"Wistons." By Miles Amber. "The Sheepstealers." By Violet Jacobs.

"Wistons" was unequal. The beginning showed much promise.

Lastly, we give a list of the powerful translations of the year. It to re

« PreviousContinue »