Essays on Modern Novelists | William Lyon Phelps | Essays & Short Works, Literary Criticism | 4/4



chapter 11 of essays on modern novelists this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org essays on modern novelists by William Lyon Phelps chapter 11 Rudyard Kipling mr. Rudyard Kipling is in the anomalous unfortunate position of having enjoyed a prodigious reputation for 20 years and being still a young man few writers in the world today are better known than he and it is to be hoped and expected that he has before him over 30 years of active production he has not yet attained the age of 45 but his numerous stories novels and poems have reached the unquestioned dignity of works and in uniform binding they make on my library shelves a formidable ungallant display coroner's read them in their own tongues critical essays in various languages are steadily accumulating and he has received the honor of being himself the hero of a strange French novel his popularity with the general mass of readers has been sufficient to satisfy the wildest dreams of an author's ambition and his fame is in a way officially sanctioned by the receipt of honorary degrees from McGill University from Durham from Oxford and from Cambridge and in 1907 he was given the Nobel Prize with the ratifying applause at the whole world there is no indication that either the shouts of the mob or the hoods of doctorates have turned his head he remains today what he always has been a hard conscientious workman trying to do his best every time although mr. Kipling is British to the core there is nothing insular about his experience he is as much travelled as Ulysses for always roaming with a hungry heart much have I seen in own cities of men and manners climates councils governments myself not least but honored of them all born in India educated at an English school circumnavigator of the globe he is equally at home in the snows of the Canadian Rockies or in the fierce heat east of Suez in the fogs of the channel or under the Southern Cross at Cape Town nor is he a mere Sojourner on the earth he has lived for years in his own house in England in Vermont and in India and has had abundant opportunity to compare the climate of brattleboro with that of Bombay a born journalist and reporter his publications first saw the light in ephemeral Indian sheets in the late 80s he began to amuse himself with the composition of squibs obverse which he printed in the local newspaper these became popular and were cited in Sun with enthusiasm emboldened by this first taste of success he put together a little volume bound like a government report he then sent around reply postcards for cash orders in the fashion already made famous by Walt Whitman it is needless to say that copies of this book commanding fancy price today he immediately contracted what Holmes used to call lead poisoning and the site of his work in type made a literary career certain he produced volume after volume in both prose and verse with amazing rapidity and his fame overflowed the world a London periodical prophesied in 1888 the book gives hope of a new literary star of no mean magnitude rising in the east the amount and excellence of his output may be judged when we remember that in the three years from 1886 to 1889 he published departmental Diddy's plain tales from the hills soldiers 3 in black and white the story of the God's peace the man who would be king the phantom rickshaw Wee Willie Winkie and other narrative the originality freshness and power of all this work made Europe stare and gasp for some years he had as much notoriety as reputation we used to hear of the Kipling craze the Kipling boomed the Kipling fat and Kipling club sprang up like mushrooms it was difficult to read him in cool blood because he was discussed pro and con was so much passion he was fashionable in the manner of ping-pong and they were not wanting pessimistic prophets who looked upon him as a comet rather than a fixed star so late as 1895 a well-known American Journal said of him Roger Kipling is supposed to be the cleverest man now handling the pen the magazine's accept everything he writes and payam fabulous prices Kipling is now printing a series of jungle stories that are so weak and foolish that we have never been able to read them they are not fables they are stories of animals talking and they are pointless so far as the average reader is able to judge we have asked a good many magazine editors about Kipling's jungle stories they all expressed the same astonishment that the magazine editors accept them Kipling will soon be dropped by the magazine editors they will inevitably discover that his stories are not admired by the people Robert Lewis Stevenson dive just in time to save him from the same fate many honestly believe that mr. Kipling could write only in flashes that he was incapable of producing a complete novel his answer to this was the light that failed which although he made the mistake of giving it a reversible ending indicated that his own lamp had yet sufficient oil in 1895 he added ms lee to the solidity of the same by printing the brushwood boy the scenes of which he announced previously would be laid in england india and the world of dreams here he temporarily forced sucked the land of mysterious horror for the land of mysterious beauty and many were grateful and said so in 1896 the appearance of the seven seas proved be Cavill that he was something more than a music-hall ronster that he was really among the English poets the very next year the recessional stirred the religious consciousness of the whole english-speaking race and although much of his subsequent career seems to be a nullification of the sentiment of that poem it will remain imperishable when the absent-minded beggars and the flannel fools have reached the Oblivion Bay so richly deserved in 1897 he tried his hand for the second time at a complete novel Captains Courageous and the result might safely be called a success the moral of this story will be worth a word or two later on the next year an important volume came from his pen the day's work important because it is in this volume that the new Kipling is first plainly seen and the mechanical engineer takes the place of the literary artists such curiosities as the ship that found himself the bridge builders double-oh-seven became anything but curiosities in his later work this collection was sadly marred by the inclusion of such wretched stuff as my Sunday at home and an error in the fourth dimension but it was glorified but one of the most exquisitely tender and beautiful of all mr. Kipling's tales William the Conqueror and it should not be forgotten that the author saw fit to close this volume with the previously printed and universally popular brushwood boy then at the very height of his 10 yrs Fame Mr Kipling came closer to death than almost any other individual has safely done as he lay sick with pneumonia in New York the American people whom he has so frequently ridiculed were more generally and profoundly affected than they have been at the bedside of a dying president the Year 1899 marked the great physical crisis of his life and seems also to indicate a turning point in his literary career whatever may be thought of the relative merits of mr. Kipling's early and later style it is fortunate for him that the two decades of composition were not transposed we all read the early work because we could not help we read his 20th century compositions because he wrote them it is lucky that the plane tales from the hills preceded Park of pooks Hill and that the light that failed came before stalky and company whether these later productions could have got into print without the tremendous prestige of their authors name is a question that has all the fascination and all the insolubility of speculative philosophy the suddenness of his early popularity maybe perhaps partly accounted for by the fact that he was working on new field the two authors who have most influenced Mr Kipling style are both Americans Bret Hart and Mark Twain and the analogy between the sudden theme of heart and the sudden theme of Mr Kipling is too obvious to escape notice Bret Hart found in California or of a different kind than his madden contemporaries sought his early tales had all the charm of something new and strange what Bret Hart made out of California mr. Kipling made out of India at the beginning he was a sectional writer who with the instinct of genius made his literary opportunity out of his environment the material was at hand the time was right and the man was on the spot it was the strong local color in these powerful Indian tales that captivated readers who in faraway centers of culture and comfort delighted to read a primitive passions and savage surroundings we had all the rest and change of air that we could have obtained in a journey to the Orient without any of the expense discomfort and peril but after the spell of the Wizards imagination has left us we cannot help asking after the manner of the small boy is it true are these pictures of English and native life in India faithful reflections of fact can we depend on mr. Kipling for India as we can depend let us say on door day for a picture of the Rue de la Paix II now it is a notable fact that local color seems most genuine to those who are unable to verify it it is a melancholy truth the community portrayed by a novelist not only almost invariably denied the likeness of the portrait but that they emphatically resent the liberty taken stories of college life or laughed to scorn by the young gentleman described therein no matter how fine the local color may seem to outsiders the same is true of social strata in society of provincial towns and heaven only knows what the slums would say to their depiction in novels if only the slums kyrene one reason for this is that a novel or a short story must have a beginning and an end and some kind of a plot whereas life has no such thing nor anything remotely resembling it when honest people see their daily lives made up of thousands of unrelated incidents served up to remote readers in the form of an orderly progression of events leading up to a proper climax the whole thing seems monstrously unreal and untrue while we are not in the least like that they cry and I have purposely omitted the factor of exaggeration absolutely essential to the realistic novelist or playwright in a notice of the plane tales from the hills the london saturday review remarked mr. Kipling knows and appreciates the English in India but it is more interesting and profitable to see how his stories were regarded in the country he described in the Calcutta times for 14 September 1895 there was a long editorial which is valuable at any rate for the point of view after mentioning the plane tales soldiers three barrack room ballads etc The Times critic said except in a few instances which might easily be numbered on the fingers of one hand nothing in the books we have named is at all likely to live or deserves to live it will probably be answered that this sweeping condemnation is not of much value against the emphatic approval of the British public and the aforesaid chorus of critics and praise of the new genius the English critics have this to plead an excuse of their hyperbolic appreciation of the stronger Dickens that his first work came to them fathered with responsible guarantee for men who should have known better that it was in the way of a revelation of Anglo Indian society are letting in the light of truth on places which had been very dark indeed now the average English critic knows very little of the intricacies of social life in India and in the enthusiasm which mrs. Hawkes be and kindred creations inspired he accepted too readily as true types what are in fact caricatures or distorted presentments of some of the more poisonous social characteristics to be found in Anglo Indian as well as in every other civilized society do not let us be understood as recklessly running down Kipling in all his works he possesses in a high degree the power of describing in certain class of emotions and the flights of his imagination in some directions are extremely bold and original in such tales for instance as the man who would be a king sick and the ride of moral be Jukes sick there are qualities of the imagination which equal if they do not surpass anything in the same line with which we are acquainted the capital charge in the opinion of many the head and front of his offending is that he has produced a whole society and has spread libels broadcast Anglo Indian society may in some respects be below the average level of the best society in the Western world where the Russian stir of life and the collision of intellects combined to keep the atmosphere clearer and more bracing than in this land of tennis office boxes frontier Wars and innovation but as far as it falls below what many would wish it to be so far it rises above the description of it which now passes current at home under the sanction of Kipling's name for whether Kipling is treating of Indian subjects pure and simple of Anglo Indian subjects or is attempting a custom theme the personality of the writer is pervasive and intrusive everywhere with all its limitations of vision and information as well as with its eternal panoply of cheap smartness and spiced vulgarity smartness is always first with him and truth may shift for herself although the writer of the above article is somewhat blinded by prejudice and wrath it is nevertheless interesting testimony from the particular section of our planet which Mr Kipling was at that time supposed to know best and out in San Francisco they are still talking of mr. Kipling's visit there and the abominable libel of California life and customs he chose to publish him from sea to sea apart from mr. Kipling's good fortune and having fresh material to deal with the success of his early work they chiefly in its dominant quality force for the last 30 years the world has been full of literary experts professional story writers to whom the pen is a means of livelihood our magazines are crowded with tales which are well written and nothing else they say nothing because their writers have nothing to say the impression left on the mind by the great majority of handsomely bound novels is like that of a man who beholds his natural face in a glass the thing we miss is the thing we unconsciously demand vitality in the rare instances where vitality is the ground quality readers forgive all kinds of expressin TSA's and defects as they did 20 years ago in mr. Kipling and later for example in jack london the original vigor and strength of mr. Kipling's stories were to the jaded reader a keen refreshing breeze like Marlo in Elizabethan days he seemed a towering robust masculine personality who had at his command and inexhaustible supply of material absolutely knew this undoubted vigor was naturally unaccompanied by moderation and good taste Mr Kipling sins against artistic / poor and the law of subtle suggestion were black indeed he simply had no reserve in the man who would be king which I have always regarded as his masterpiece the subject was so big that no reserve in handling it was necessary the whole thing was an inspiration of imagination all compact but in many other instances his style was all together tuned loud for his subject one where is of eternal fortissimo many of his tail should have been printed throughout in italics in examples of this nature which are all too frequent in the complete works of Mr Kipling the tragedy becomes melodrama the humor becomes buffoonery the picture s becomes bizarre the terrible becomes horrible and vulgarity reign supreme he is far better in depicting action than in portraying character this is one reason why his short stories are better than his novels in the light that failed with all its merits he never realized the character amazing but in his tales a violent action we feel the vividness of the scene time and again his work here is effective because Mr Kipling has an acute sense of the value of words just as a great musician has a correct ear for the value of pitch when one takes the trouble to analyze his style in his most striking passages it all comes down to skill in the use of the specific word the word that makes the picture clear sometimes intolerably clear look at the nouns and adjectives in this selection from the drums of the fore and aft they then selected their men and slew them with deep gasps and short hacking coughs and groanings of leather belts against strain bodies and realized for the first time that an Afghan attacked is far less formidable than an Afghan attacking which fact old soldiers might have told them but they had no old soldiers in there Thanks there are two defects in mr. Kipling's earlier work that might perhaps be classed as moral deficiencies one is the almost ever present coarseness which the author mistook for vigor now the tendency coarseness is inseparable from force and needs to be held in check coarseness is the inevitable excrescence of super abundant vitality just as effeminacy is the danger limit of delicacy and refinement Swift and Rabelais had the coarseness of a robust English sailor at their worst they are simply abominable just as Tennyson and his worst is effeminate and silly Mr Kipling has that natural delight in coarseness that all strong nature's have whether they are willing to admit it or not a large proportion of his scenes of humor are devoted to drunkenness gloriously drunk is a favourite phrase with him the time may come when this sort of humor will be obsolete we laugh that drunkenness as the Elizabethans laughed at insanity but we are only somewhat nearer real civilization than they at any rate even those who delight in scenes of intoxication was found the theme rather overworked to mr. Kipling this same defect in him leads to indulgence in his passion for ghastly detail this is where he ceases to be a man of letters and becomes downright journalistic it is easier to excite momentary attention by physical horror than by any other device and mr. Kipling is determined to leave nothing to the imagination many instances might be cited we need only recall the gouging out of a man's eye in the light that failed and the human brains on the boot in vidalia herodsfoot the other more defect in this early work was its world-weary cynicism which was simply foolish and so young a writer his treatment of women for example compares unfavorably with that shown in the frankest tales of Bret Hart his attitude toward women in these youthful books has been well described as disillusioned gallantry the author continually gives the reader unknowing wink which after time gets on one's nerves these books after all were probably not meant for women to read and perhaps no one was more surprised than mr. Kipling himself at the rapturous exclamations of the thousands of his feminine adores a woman rejoicing in the perusal of these Indian tales seems as much out of place as she does in the office of a cheap country hotel reeking with the fumes of whiskey and stale tobacco and adorned with men who spit with astonishing accuracy into distant receptacles Mr Kipling doubtless knows more about his own faults than any of the critics and if after one has read the light that failed for the sake of the story one rereads it attentively as no apologia pro vita sua one will be surprised to see how many ideas about his art he has put into the mouth of dick under any circumstances remember four-fifths of everybody's work must be bad but the remnant is worth the trouble for its own sake one must do something always you hang your canvas up in a palm tree and let the parents criticize if we sit down quietly to work out notions that are sent to us we may or we may not do something that isn't bad a great deal depends on being master of the bricks and mortar of the trade but the instant we begin to think about success and the effect of our work to play with one eye on the gallery we lose power and touch and everything else i was told that all the world was interested in my work and everybody at commies talked turpentine and i honestly believe that the world needed elevating and influencing an all manner of impertinences by my brushes by job I actually believe that and when it's done it's such a tiny thing in the world so big and all but a moving part of it doesn't care fortunately four-fifths of Kipling's work isn't bad we are safe in describing genius to the man who wrote The Phantom rickshaw the strange ride the man who would be king william the conqueror the brushwood boy and the jungle book these and men other tales to say nothing of this poetry constitute an astounding achievement for a writer under 35 but the Kipling of the last 10 years is an imperialist and a mechanic rather than a literary man we need not classify stall kian company except to say that it is probably the worst novel ever written by a man of genius it is on a false pitch throughout and the most rasping book of recent times the only good things in it are the quotations from browning the jingle and mr. Kipling was released by the outbreak of the South African War and the author of the recessional forgot everything he had prayed God to remember he became the voice of the British Empire and the man who had always ridiculed Americans for buncombe oratory out screamed us all in this imperialistic verse and prose there is not much literature but there is a great deal of noise which has occasionally deceived the public just as an order is sure of a round of applause if his perishin is shouted at the top of his voice his recent book pukka pukka Hill is written against the grain painful effort has supplied the place of the old inspiration and the simplicity of true art is conspicuous by its absence of this volume the author name and general friendly to kipling remarks in his new part the missionary of empire Mr Kipling is living the strenuous life he has frankly abandoned storytelling and is using his completed powerful armory in the interest of patriotic zeal on the other hand mr. Owen Wister whose opinion is valuable things Park the highest plane that he has ever reached a judgment that I record with respect though to me it is incomprehensible Kipling the mechanic is less useful than an encyclopedia and not any more interesting a comic paper describes him as now a technical expert at one time a popular writer this young man was born in India came to his promise in America and lost himself in England his plane tales of the hills sick has been succeeded by n matically expositions from the dark valleys Mr Kipling has declared that the Americans have never forgiven him for not dying in their country on the contrary they have never forgiven him for not having written anything better since he was here than he did before but while there's Kipling there's hope it is to be earnestly hope that he will cease describing the machinery of automobiles ships locomotives and flying air vessels and once more look in his heart and write his worst enemy is himself he seems to be in terror lest he should say something ordinary and commonplace he has been so crazed for his originality and powerful imagination that his later books give one the impression of a man writing in the sweat of his face with the grim determination to make every sentence a literary event such a tale as Wireless shows that the zeal for originality has eaten him up one can feel on every page the straining for effect and it is as exhausting to read as it is to watch a wrestling match and not nearly so entertaining if Mr Kipling goes on in the vein of these later years he may ultimately survive his reputation as many a good man has done before him I should think even now when the author of pucker pooks Hill turns over the pages of the man who would be king he would say was Swift good god what a genius I had when I wrote that book his latest collection of tales with the significant title actions and reactions as a particularly welcome volume to those of us who prefer the 19th century Kipling to the 20th to be sure the story with the night male shows the new mechanical cleverness rather than the old inspiration it is both ingenious and ephemeral and should have remained within the covers of the magazine where it first appeared furthermore a deal in cotton the puzzler and little foxes are neither clever nor literary they are merely irritating and remind us of a book we would gladly forget call traffics and discoveries but the first narrative in this new volume with the caption and habitation enforced is the most subtle charming all together delightful things that mr. Kipling has ever given us nor has he ever brought English and American people in conjunction with so much charity and good feeling I do not think he has previously shown greater psychological power that in this beautiful story in the second tale garm a hostage Mr Kipling joins the ranks of the dog worshippers the exploits of this astonishing canine will please all dog owners and many others as well naturally he has to exaggerate instead of making his four-footed hero merely intelligent he makes him noble in reason infinite in faculty in apprehension like a god the paragon of animals but it is a brilliant piece of work the last story the house surgeon takes us into the world of spirit whether Mr Kipling has successfully conducted his readers before this mysterious domain seems to have a constantly increasing attraction for modern realistic writers and has enormously enlarged the stock of material for contemporary novelists the field is the world yes but the world is bigger than it used to be bigger than any boundaries indicated by maps or globes it would be interesting to speculate just what the influence of all these transcendental excursions will be on modern fiction as an educational force Mr Kipling apparently writes with sincere conviction and in a powerfully impressive manner the poetic interludes in this volume like those in Parker pooks Hill show that the author's skill in verse has not in the least abated the lines on the power of the dog are simply irresistible it is safe to say that actions and reactions will react favorably on all unprejudiced readers and for this relief much thanks if one wishes to observe the difference between the inspired and the ingenious Mr Kipling one has only to read this collection straight through like almost all anglo-saxon writers mr. Kipling is a moralist and as gospel is work he believes in the strenuous life as a pure your patent does not agree with Gerda not to be is greater than to do the morale of Captains Courageous is the same moral contained in the ingenious beehive story the unpardonable sin is idleness but all the work is good for Humanity it is rather limited as an ideal and we cannot rate mr. Kipling very high as a spiritual teacher God is not always in the wind or in the Earthquaker in the fire the daydreams of men like Stephenson and thackeray sometimes bear more fruit than the Furious energy of mr. Kipling but the consuming ambition of this mad and as honest desire to do his best will let us hope spare him the humiliation of being beaten by his own past after all genius is the rarest article in the world and one who undoubtedly has it is far more likely to reach the top of the hill than he is to take the road to danger which leads into a great wood or the road to destruction which leads into a wide field full of dark mountains end of chapter 11 chapter 12 of essays on modern novelists this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by kathleen essays on modern novelists by william lyon phelps lorna doone the air of devon and somerset is full of literary germs the best advice of london hack could give to a Giga Dimps would be go west young man the essential thing is to establish a resident south of Bristol grow old along with Wessex and inhale the atmosphere thousands of Reverend pilgrims on foot on bicycle and in automobile our yearly following the tragic trails of mr. Hardy's heroines to a constantly increasing circle of interested observers mr. Eden philpotts is making the topography of Devon clearer than in ordnance map if mrs. Wilcox writes a few more novels like the wingless victory and a man of genius we shall soon all be talking about her just wait and see and in the summer season when soft is the Sun the tops of coaches in North Devon and Somerset are packed with excited Americans carrying Lorna's instead of bad eckers to the book loving tourists every inch of this territory is holy ground yet the author of our favorite romance was not by Bertha Wessex man mr. Richard D Blackmore for like the creator of Robinson Crusoe his name is not nearly so well known as his work first saw the light in Berkshire the year being 1825 but he was exposed to the Wessex germs at the critical period of boyhood actually going to Blundell's school at Tiverton a small town in the heart of Devonshire 14 miles north of Exeter at the union of exeunt muleman rivers to this same school he said John Ridd as we learned in the second paragraph of the novel John Ridd the elder church warden and overseer being a great admirer of learning and well able to write his name sent me his only son to be schooled at Tiverton in the county of Devon for the chief boast of that ancient town next to it swollen staple is a worthy grammar school the largest in the West of England founded and handsomely endowed in the year 1604 by master Peter blundell of that same place clothier from this institution young black more proceeded to Exeter College Oxford where he laid the foundations of his English style by taking high rank in the classics like many potential poets and novelists he studied law and it was called to the bar in 1852 but he cared little for the dusty pearl use of the Middle Temple and not at all for city life his father was a country parson as it is the fashion for English fathers of men of letters to be and the young man loved the peace and quiet of rural scenery he finally made a home at Teddington in middle six and devoted himself to the ad vacations of fruit growing on this subject he became an authority and his articles on gardening were widely read here he died in January 1900 his death was mourned by many thousand persons who never saw him and who knew nothing about his life the public always loves the makers of its favorite books but in the case of mr. Blackmore every reader of his masterpiece felt a peculiarly intimate relation with a man who wrote it the story is so full of the milk of human kindness it's hero and heroine are so irresistibly attractive and it radiates a wholesome and romantic a charm that one cannot read it without feeling on the best possible terms with the author as if both were intimate friends of long standing for Lorna Doone is a book we think we have always been reading we can hardly recall the time when it had not become a part of our literary experience just as it takes an effort to remember that there were days and years when we were not even aware of the existence of persons who are now indissolubly close they have since become so necessary that we imagine life before we knew them must really have been more barren than it seemed like many successful novelists mr. Blackmore began his literary career by the publication of verse several volumes of poems appearing from his pen during the years 1854 to 1860 although he never entirely abandoned verse composition which it was only too apparent that he wrote with his left hand the coolness with which his muse was received may have been a cause of his attempting the quite different art of the novel it is pleasant to remember however that in these early years he translated to Virgil's George Ock's combining his threefold love of the classics of poetry and of gardening of how much practical agricultural value he found the man to and bard we shall never know contrary to a common supposition lorna doone was not his first story he launched two ventures before his masterpiece Clara Vaughn in 1864 and grey doc nolol in 1866 these one no applause and have not emerged from the congenial oblivion in which they speedily floundered after these false starts the great book came out in 1869 with no Blair of publishers trumpet with scanty notice from the critics and with no notice of any kind from the public in the preface to the 20th edition and his various purposes are well worth reading the author remarked what a lucky made you are my lorna when you first came from the western Moors nobody cared to look at you the leaders of the public taste led none of it to make test of you having struggled to the light of day through obstruction and repulses for a year and a half you shivered in a cold corner without a sunray your native land disdained your voice and America answered no child of mine knowing how small your value was you were glad to get your fare paid to any distant colony the Saturday Review 45 November 1870 added a few patronizing words appraised the book was called a real work of excellence but the reviewer timidly added we do not pretend to rank it with the acknowledged masterpieces of fiction on the whole there is a good ground for gratitude that public was so slow to see the real excellence of Morna a sudden blaze of popularity is sometimes so fiercest to consume its cause let us spend a few moments in devout medication while we recall the ashes of the book of the year the gradual dawn of Lorna's fame has assured her of a long and fair day possibly one of the reasons why this great romance made so small and impression was because it appeared at an on a propitious time the sower sowed the seed but the thorns of read and trollop sprang up and choked them these two novelists were in full action and they kept the public busy realism was strong in the market people did not know then as we do now that the cloister and the hearth was worth all the rest of charles reed put together had lorna doone appeared toward the end of the century when the romantic revival was in full swing it would have received a royal welcome but how many would have recognized its superiority to the tinsel stuff of those recent days full of galvanised nights and stuffed shadow lanes for Lorna belongs to a class of fiction with which we were flooded in the 90s though compared with the ordinary representative of its kind it is as a star to a glowworm readers then enjoyed impossible characters whose talk was mainly of gramercy and similar curiosities who they had the opportunity to revel in the glamour of a bogus antiquity but an abundance of counterfeits does not lower the value of the real metal and lorna is a genuine coin struck from the mint of historical romance in the original preface as author modestly said the work is called a romance because the incidence characters time and scenery are alike romantic and in shaping this old tale the writer neither dares nor desires to claim for it the dignity or Comber it with the difficulty of an historic novel in warmth and color incorrect visualization and in successful imitation of the pros of a bygone day which no one has ever perfectly accomplished it ranks not very far below the greatest of all english historical romances henry esmond lorna doone is ethically one more illustration of single speech Hamilton after its appearance its author wrote and published steadily for 30 years but the fact remains that not only is lorna is best-known work but that his entire reputation hangs upon it many of his other stories are good notably crips the carrier and purl across the latter has a most ingenious plot but these two now peacefully repose with their mates and undisturbed slumber at dusty library corners they had an initial sale because they came from the hand that created Lorna then they were lost in the welter of ephemeral literature mr. Blackmore offered his buyers all sorts of wares but after a momentary examination they declined what was just as good and returned to their favorite which by the way was never his he ranked at third among his productions for this novel is not only one of the best-loved books in english fiction and stands magnificently the severe test of rereading it is found to have even more admirers in the future than it has ever yet enjoyed it is visibly growing in reputation every year it may be interesting to analyze some of its elements in order to understand what has given it so assured a place the main plot is simplicity itself it is a history however that the world has always found entertaining the history of the love of a strong man for a beautiful girl they meet he falls in love he rescues her from peril she goes up to London becomes a great lady returns is dangerously wounded on her wedding day recovers and they live happily forever after voila tempt a very simple plot yet the towing fills to stout volumes with the readers interest maintained from first to last it is told in the first person the approved method of the historical romance professor Raleigh has admirably pointed out the virtues and defects of the three ways of composing a novel direct discourse by the chief actor the exclusive employment of letters and the invisible and omniscient impersonal author it is interesting to note in passing that our first English novelist Defoe adopted the first method Richardson are second novelist took the second and fielding our third novelist took the third now the great advantage of having John Ridd speak throughout is the gain in reality and vividness it is as though we SAT with him in the engl and obtained all our information at first hand what is lost by narrowness of experiences made up in intensity we follow him breathlessly as Desdemona followed oh hello and he has every moment are burning sympathy we participate more fully in his joys and sorrows in the agony of his suspense we share his final triumph he is talking directly to us and John Ridd is a good talker he is the kind of man who appeals to all classes of listeners he has the gentleness and modesty that are so becoming too great physical strength the love of children animals and all helpless creatures reverence for God purity of heart and a noble slowness to wrath such a man is simply irresistible and we are sorry when he finishes his tail the defect in this method of narration which mr. Blackmore has employed with such success is the inevitable defect in all stories written in this manner as professor Raleigh has observed it takes from the novelist the privilege of killing his hero when John Ridd is securely bound and the guns of hostile soldiers are leveled at his huge bulk with their fingers actually on the triggers we laugh at ourselves for our high beating hearts for of course he is unkillable else how could he be talking at this very moment the plot of Morna dune which as we have observed is very simple is nevertheless skillfully complicated it is not a surprise plot like that of a pair of blue eyes we are not stunned by the last page it is a suspense plot we have a well-founded hope that all will come right in the end and yet the author has introduced enough disturbing elements to put us occasionally animes this artistic suspense is attained partly by the method of direct discourse which at the same time develops the character of the hero Big John repeats and sentence dwells linka Leon minut particulars stops to enjoy the scenery and makes mountains of store raised out of molehills of fact the second complication of the plot arises from the introduction of characters that apparently divert the course of the story without really doing so there are 19 important characters all held well in hand and a conspicuous example of a complicating personages little Ruth huh Quebec she interferes in the main plot in an exceedingly harbor way the absorbing question in every readers mind is of course well John Mary lorna now Ruth's interviews with the hero are so skillfully managed and with such intervals of time between that on some pages she seems destined to be his bride and admirably drawn as her character is when her artistic purpose in the plot is fully accomplished she quietly fades out with a significant tribute Ruth ha Quebec is not married yet there is also a subsidiary plot dovetailed neatly into the main building this is the story of the attractive highwaymen Tom Vegas and his love for John's sister Annie many pages are taken up with the adventures of this gentleman who enters the novel on horseback what a horse at the moment when the old Drake is fighting for his life besides our interest in Tom himself in his wild adventures and in his Reformation we are interested in the conflict of his two passions one for the bottle and one for Annie and we wonder which will win this subsidiary a love story is still further complicated by the introduction of young in which halls and in the struggle between John Ridd in the dunes both Tom Vegas and the D which halls family play important parts it is interesting to to observe how events that seemed at the time to be of no particular importance turn out later to be highly significant when at the very beginning of the long story the little boy on his way home from school meets the lady's maid and shortly after seize the child born away on the robber settle we imagine all this is put in to enliven the journey that it is just detail long afterwards we find the artistic motive in fact one of the most notable virtues of this admirable plot is the introduction of matters apparently irrelevant and due to mere gorilla tea such as the uncanny sound for example which proved after all to be essential to the course of the narrative as for the characters they impress us differently in different moods for all John rids prodigious strength marvelous escapes and astounding feats his personality is so intensely human that he seems real his soul at any rate is genuine and wholly natural his bodily activity the extraction of Carver's biceps the wrenching of the branch from the tree the hurling of the cannon through the door makes him a dim giant in a fairy story when we think of the qualities of his mind and heart he comes quite close when we think of his physical prowess he almost vanishes in the land of fable I remember the comment of an undergraduate John Ridd is as remote as Achilles he has like a Greek myth the women are all well drawn and individualized except the heroine I ventured to say that no one has ever seen Lorna in his mind's eye she is like a plate that will not developed a very pretty girl with an affectionate disposition what more can be said but so long as the Queen has beauty and dignity she does not need to be interesting and Lorna is the queen of this romance John's mother and his two sisters are as like and on a lake as members of the same family ought to be they are real women Ruth huh quebec and gwynnie carfax are great additions to our literary acquaintances each would make an excellent heroine for a realistic novel they have the indescribable puzzling characteristics that we call feminine sudden caprices flashes of unexpected jealousy deep loyal tenderness unlimited capacity for self-sacrifice and in the last analysis mystery the humour of the story is spontaneous and of great variety running from broad mirth too whimsical subtlety the first concerted attack on the dunes is comic opera burlesque but the scenes of humor that the lightest most are those describing friendly relations with beast and bird the eye of the old Drake as he stared wildly from his precarious position and the delight of the ducks as they welcomed his rescue above all Andy's care of the wild birds in the bitter cold there was not a bird but knew her well after one day of comforting and some would come to her hand and sit and shut one eye and look at her then she used to stroke their heads and feel their breasts and talk to them and not a bird of them all was there but like to have it done to him and I do believe they would eat from her hand things unnatural to them lest she should be grieved and hurt by not knowing what to do for them one of them was a noble bird such as I had never seen before a very fine bright plumage and larger than a missel thrush he was the hardest of all to please and yet he tried to do his best whatever may be the merits of mr. Blackmore's published verse there is more poetry in Lorna Doone than in many volumes of formal rhyme the wonderful descriptions of the country and shade and shine in fog and drought the pitchers of the sunrise in the falling water the tumultuous privacy of the snowstorms these are all descriptive poems every reader has noticed the peculiar rhythm of the style and wondered if it were intentional hundreds of sentences here and there are perfect English EXA meters one can find them by opening the book at random and reading aloud but this peculiar element in the style goes much farther than isolated phrases there are solid passages of steady rhythm which might correctly be printed in verse form mr. blackboards personal character was so modest unassuming and lovable that it is not difficult to guess the source of the purity sweetness and sincerity of his great book if you were somewhat surprised at the other coldness of its first reception he never got over his amazement at the size and extent of its ultimate triumph in the preface to the sixth edition he said few things have surprised me more and nothing as more pleased me than the great success of this simple tale therefore any son of Devon may imagine and will not grudge the writers delight at hearing from a recent visitor to the West that lorna doone to a Devonshire man is as good as clotted cream almost although not have so is that it has entered many a tranquil happy pure inhospitable home and the author while deeply grateful for this genial reception escribes it partly to the fact that his story contains no word or thought disloyal to its birthright in the ferris county of england mr. Blackmar lived long enough to see an entirely different kind of local color become conventional where many a novelist portraying his native town or the community in which he dwelt emphasized with what skill he could command all its poverty squalor and meanness the disgusting vices and malignant selfishness of its inhabitants and after he had thus fouled his nest by representing it as a mass of Filth degradation and sin he imagined he had created a work of art the author of Lorna Doone had the satisfaction of knowing that he had inspired hundreds of thousands of readers with the love of his favorite West Country and with an intense desire to visit it and it being like john rid of a forgiving nature he forgave america for its early neglect of his story for being informed of the supremacy of lorna doone in the hearts of american undergrads he remarked in a letter to the present writer the good word of the young worid wants the most intelligent and the most highly educated of a vast intellectual nation augurs well for the continuance at least for a generation of my fortunate production end of Lorna Doone up to 13 of essays on modern novelists this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org essays on modern novelists by william lyon phelps chapter 13 appendix a novels as a university study some 14 years ago in the pamphlet of elective courses of study open to the senior and junior classes of yale college i announced a new course called modern novels the course in its teacher immediately became the object of newspaper notoriety which spells academic damnation from every state in the Union long newspaper clippings were sent to me in which my harmless little pedagogical skein was discussed often under enormous headlines as a revolutionary idea it was praised by some denounced by others but thoroughly advertised so that for many months I received letters from all parts of the Western Hemisphere asking for the list of novels read and the method pursued and studying them during 6 months these letters averaged three a day and they came from the north south east and west from Alaska Hawaii Central and South America the dust raised by all this hubbub crossed the Atlantic the course was gravely condemned in a column editorial in the London Daily Telegraph and finally received the crowning honor of a parody in punch things have changed somewhat in the last ten years and although i have never repeated my one year's experiment i believe that it would be perfectly safe to do so not only does the production of new novels continue at constantly accelerating speed but critical books on the novel have begun to increase and multiply in all directions at least 20 such works now stand on my shelves the latest of which by Selden whitcomb is frankly called the study of a novel and boldly begins this volume is the result of practical experience in teaching the novel and its aim is primarily pretty gajic all the objections usually formulated against novels as a university study are about as follows a the study of fiction is uh nakid emic that is lacking in dignity be students will read too many novels anyway and the emphasis should therefore be thrown on other forms of literary art see most recent and contemporary fiction is worthless and if novels are to be taught at all the title selected should be confined entirely to recognize classics d many of the novels of today are immoral and the reading of them were corrupt rather than develop adolescent minds e they are too easy to interesting and of course confined to them as totally lacking in mental discipline these objections each and all contain some truth and demand a serious answer that the study of fiction is uh nakid emic is a weighty argument but its weight is the mass of custom and prejudice rather than solid thought in old times the curriculum had little to do with real life so that the most scholarly professors and the most promising pupils were often plentifully lacking in common sense students gifted with real independence of mind marked with an alert interest in the life and thought about them shaved irritably under the old-fashioned course of study and offered treated it with neglect or open rebellion what Thomas Gray said of the Cambridge curriculum constitutes a true indictment against 18th century universities and it was not until very recent times that such studies as history European literature modern languages political economy natural sciences and the Fine Arts were thought to have equal academic dignity with the Trinity of Latin Greek and mathematics there are indeed many able and conscientious men who still believe that this Trinity cannot be successfully raw by any other possible group of studies now the novel is the most prominent form of modern literary art and if modern literature is to be studied at all fiction cannot be overlooked the profound change brought about in University curricula caused largely by the elective system is simply the bringing of college courses of study into closer contact with human life and the recognition that what young men need is a general preparation to live in life of active usefulness in modern social relations that students read too many novels anyway that is in proportion to their reading in history and biography is probably true but the primary object of course a novel reading is not to make the student read more novels instead of less in order to substitute the reading of fiction for the reading of other books the real object is after a cheerful recognition of the fact that he will read novels anyway to persuade him to read them intelligently to observe the difference between good novels and bad and so to become impatient and disgusted with cheap sensational and counterfeit specimens of the novelist's art the common problem yours mine everyone's is not too fancy what were fair in life provided it could be but finding first what maybe then find how to make it fair up to our means a very different thing no abstract intellectual plan of life quite irrespective of life's plainness laws but one a man who is man and nothing more may lead within a world which by your leave is Rome or London not fool's paradise that much of contemporary fiction is worthless and that the novel selected should be classics as a two-fold statement of which the first phrase is true and the second or non sequitur much ancient a medieval literature read in college is worthless in itself it is red because it illustrates the language or representing some literary form or because it throws light on the customs and ideas of the time the fact that a certain obscure work was written in the year 1200 does not necessarily prove that it is more valuable for study than one written in 1909 now it so happens that the modern novel has become more and more than mere of modern ideas and for a student who really wishes to know what people are thinking about all over the world today the novels of Tolstoy Bjorn some sudirman and Thomas Hardy cannot wisely be neglected why should the study of the contemporary novel and the contemporary drama be tabooed when in other departments of research the aim is to be as contemporary as possible we have courses in social conditions that actually investigates slums I'm not for a moment pleading that the study of modern novels and modern art should supplant the study of immortal masterpieces but merely that they should have their rightful place and not be regarded either with content or as unworthy of serious treatment the two most beneficial ways to study a novel are to regard it first as an art form and secondly as a manifestation of intellectual life from neither point of view should the contemporary novel be holding neglected that many of the novels of today are immoral is true but it is still more true of the classics the proportion of really immoral books to the total production is probably less today than it ever was before in fact there are an immense number of excellent contemporary novels which are spotless something that cannot be set of the classics of antiquity or of the great majority of literary works published prior to the 19th century if a morality be the cry what shall we say about Aristophanes or of it how does the case stand with the comedies are Dryden or with the novels of Henry Fielding now it is undoubtedly true that the teacher who handles modern fiction can more easily find a combination of literary excellence and purity of town than he could in any previous a but of course in novels likes mental discipline and is too easy depends mainly on the teacher and his method as regards the time consumed in preparation it is probable that a student would expend three or four times the number of hours on a course in novels then he would in ancient languages were unfortunately the use of a translation is all but universal and the translation is fatal to mental discipline but it is not merely a matter of hours novels can be taught in such a way as to produce the best kind of mental discipline which consists first in compelling a student to do his own thinking and secondly to train him properly in the expression of what ideas he has end of chapter 13 chapter 14 of essays on modern novelists this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org essays on modern novelists by william lyon phelps chapter 14 appendix b the teachers attitude toward contemporary literature two things must be admitted at the start first that no person is qualified to judge the value of new books who is not well acquainted with the old ones second that the only test of the real greatness of any book is time it is of course vain to hope that any remarks made on contemporary authors will not be misrepresented but I have placed two axioms at the beginning of this article in order to clear the ground I'm not advocating the abandonment of the study of Homer and Virgil or proposing to substitute in their stead the study of Hall Cain mrs. Ward and maria Corelli I do not believe that mr. panera is a greater dramatist than Sophocles or that the mental discipline gained by reading the jungle is equivalent to that obtained in the mastery of Euclid I am merely pleading that every thoughtful man who was alive in this year of grace should not attempt to live his whole life in the year 400 BC even though he be so humble an individual as a teacher the very word teacher means something more than scholar and scholarship mean something more than the knowledge of things that are dead a good teacher will remember that the boys and girls who come under his instruction are not all going to spend their lives in the pursuit of technical learning it is his business to influence them and he cannot exert a powerful influence without some interest in the life and thought of his own day in the environment in which his pupils exist I believe that the Cardinal era of a divinity school education is that the candidate for the ministry spends over half his time and energy in the laborious study of Hebrew whereas he should study the subjects that primarily interest not his colleagues but his audience priest should study passion how else cure mankind who come for help in passionate extremes a preacher who knows Hebrew Greek systematic theology New Testament interpretation and who knows nothing about literature history art and human nature is grotesquely unfitted for his noble profession in every age it has been the fashion to ridicule and decry the literary production of that particular time I suppose that the greatest creative period that the world has ever known occurred in England during the years 1592 1616 and here is what Ben Johnson said in 1607 now especially in dramatic or as they term at stage poetry nothing but river green profanation blasphemy all license of offense to God and man is practiced I dare not deny a great part of this and am sorry I dare not in 1610 he wrote thou were never more fair in the way too because ined than in this age in port tree especially in place we're in now the concupiscence of dances and of antics so reigneth as to run away from nature and be afraid of her is the only point of art that tickles the spectators and in 1611 he said in so thick and dark and ignorance as now almost covers the age you dare in these jig given times to countenance a legitimate poem and the age which he damned is now regarded as the world's high-water mark a man who teaches physics and chemistry is supposed to be familiar not only with the history of his subject but his latest manifestations with the work of his contemporaries a man who teaches political economy and sociology must read the most recent books on these themes both in Europe and America nay he must read the newspapers and study the markets or he will be outstripped by his own pupils a man who teaches drawing and painting should not only know the history of art but its latest developments and yet when the teacher of literature devotes a small portion of the time of his pupils to the contemplation of contemporary poets novelists and dramatists he is not only blamed for doing so but some teachers who are ignorant of the writers of their own day boast of their ignorance with true academic pride a teacher cannot read every book that appears he cannot neglect the study and teaching of the recognized classics but his attitude toward the writers of his own time should not be one of either indifference or contempt the teacher of English literature should not be the last man in the world to discover the name of an author whom all the world is talking about and I believe that every great University should offer under proper restrictions at least one course in the contemporary drama or in contemporary fiction or in some form of contemporary literary art the Germans are generally regarded as the best scholars in the world and they never think it beneath their dignity to recognize living authors of distinction while the British public were condemning in true British fashion and offer whom they have not read henrik ibsen German universities were offering courses exclusively devoted to the study of his works imagine a course in ypsi at Oxford but not only should the teacher take an intelligent interest in contemporary authors who have already won a wide reputation he should be eternally watchful eternally hopeful ready to detect signs of promise in the first books of writers whose names are wholly unknown this does not mean that he should exaggerate the merits of every fresh work norba slobber would praise every ambitious quill driver on the contrary if there be occasioned to give an opinion at all he should not hesitate to condemn what seems to him shallow trivial or counterfeit no matter how big a seller the object in his vision may be but his sympathy should be warm and keen and his mind always responsive when a new planet swims into his can one of the most joyful experiences of my life came to me some years ago when I read Bob son of battle with the unknown named Alfred elephant on the title page it was worth waiting through tons of trash to find such a jewel and is the literature of our generation really slight and mean by contemporary literature we include perhaps authors who have written or who are writing during the lifetime of those who are now let us say thirty years old contemporary literature would then embrace in the drama Ibsen bjornsen Victor Hugo on Rebecca Rostov maeterlinck sudirman helped man pinheiro Jones and others in the novel ragini of Tolstoy Dostoevsky Bronson Hugo doe days hola mocha Saul has a sudirman hardy Meredith Stevenson Kipling howls Mark Twain and many others in poetry to speak of English writers alone Tennyson browning Arnold Swinburne Morris Kipling Phillips Watson Thompson and others those who live 100 years from now we'll know more about the permanent value of the works of these men than we do but are these names really of no importance to teachers whose speciality is literature end of chapter 14 chapter 15 of essays on modern novelists this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by larry wilson essays on modern novelists by william lyon phelps Appendix C two poems it is interesting to compare the two following poems written by two distinguished English novelists both men of fine intelligence noble character in absolute sincerity mr. Hardy's poem appeared in the fortnightly review for one january nineteen oh seven new year's eve by thomas hardy i have finished another year said god in gray green white and brown i have strewn the leaf upon the sod sealed up the worm within the clod and let the last sundown and what's the good of it I said what reasons made you call from formless void this earth I tread when nine and ninety can be read wide not should be at all yay sire why shipped to you us who in this tabernacle grown if ever a joy be found here in such joy no man had wished to win if it had never known then he my labors logically you may explain not I since sealed I have wrought without a guess that I evolved a consciousness to ask for reasons why strange that ephemeral creatures who buy my own ordering our should see the shortness of my view use ethic tests I never knew or made provision for he sank to ratna says of your an opening new year's day wove it by rote as their 24 and went on working ever more in his unwitting way Dominus Illuminati maiya by richard donner rich black more in the hour of death after this life swim when the heartbeat slowed and the eyes grow dim and pain has exhausted every limb the lover of the lord shall trust in him when the will has forgotten the lifelong aim and the mind can only disgrace its fame and a man is uncertain of his own name the power of the lord shall fill this frame when the last saez heaved in the last tears shed and the coffin is waiting beside the bed in the widow and the child forsake the dead the angel of the lord shall lift his head for even the purest delight nepal the power miss fail and the pride miss fall and the love of the dearest friends grow small but the glory of the lord is all in all this poem with the signature our DB in memoriam MFG first appeared in the university magazine in eighteen seventy nine although it has been included in some anthologies the author's name was kept an absolute secret until july 1909 and the anthony 'um for 3 July 1909 was printed an interesting letter from Agnes cook by which we learned that the late mr. Blackmore actually dreamed this poem in its exact language and meter the letter from the author which was published in the same atheneum article gives the facts connected with this extraordinary dream Ted January fifth 1879 my dear sir having lately been at the funeral of a most dear relation i was there again in a dream last night and heard the mourners seeing the lines and clothes which impressed me so that I was able to write them without change of a word this morning I never heard or read them before to my knowledge they do not look so well on paper as they sounded but if you'd like to print them here they are only please not to put my name beyond initials or send me money for them with all good wishes to mrs. cook and yourself very truly yours rd blackmore k cook Esquire lld end of chapter 15 end of essays on modern novelists by william lyon phelps

2 thoughts on “Essays on Modern Novelists | William Lyon Phelps | Essays & Short Works, Literary Criticism | 4/4

  1. Essays on Modern Novelists | William Lyon Phelps | Essays & Short Works, Literary Criticism | 4/4
    Parts of this video:
    Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2h0a5vRdnE
    Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhOWXC8j_To
    Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf1XlCxsLnc
    Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMe9D5seMF0 (this video)

  2. Essays on Modern Novelists | William Lyon Phelps | Essays & Short Works, Literary Criticism | 4/4
    11: [00:00:00] – RUDYARD KIPLING
    12: [00:32:10] – ''LORNA DOONE''
    13: [00:53:34] – APPENDIX A NOVELS AS A UNIVERSITY STUDY
    14: [01:03:18] – APPENDIX B THE TEACHER'S ATTITUDE TOWARD CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE
    15: [01:11:56] – APPENDIX C TWO POEMS

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