10.25.2016 Doc for the Day

“IT is not here a question of the “unarrived,”  the ” unpublished;” these are the care-free  irresponsibles whose hours are halcyon and  whose endeavours have all the lure, all the  recklessness of adventure. They are not recognized; they have made no standards for  themselves, and if they play the saltimbanque  and the charlatan nobody cares and nobody  (except themselves) is affected.  debate words talk discussion polemic conversation writing But the writers in question are the successful  ones who have made a public and to whom  some ten, twenty or a hundred thousand  people are pleased to listen. You may believe  if you choose that the novelist, of all workers,  is independent that he can write what he  pleases, and that certainly, certainly he should  never ” write down to his readers” that he  should never consult them at all.

fantasy book story tale

On the contrary, I believe it can be proved  that the successful novelist should be more  than all others limited in the nature and character of his work more than all others he should  be careful of what he says ; more than all others  he should defer to his audience; more than all  others more even than the minister and the  editor he should feel “his public” and watch  his every word, testing carefully his every  utterance, weighing with the most relentless  precision his every statement; in a word, possess a sense of his responsibilities.  rect3336 space

For the novel is the great expression of modern life. Each form of art has had its turn at  reflecting and expressing its contemporaneous  thought. Time was when the world looked to  the architects of the castles and great cathedrals  to truly reflect and embody its ideals. And  the architects serious, earnest men produced  such ” expressions of contemporaneous thought”  as the Castle of Coucy and the Church of  Notre Dame. Then with other times came  other customs, and the painters had their day.  The men of the Renaissance trusted Angelo  and Da Vinci and Velasquez to speak for them,  and trusted not in vain. Next came the age of  drama. Shakespeare and Marlowe found the  value of x  for the life and the times in which  they lived. Later on contemporary life had  been so modified that neither painting, architecture nor drama was the best vehicle of  expression, the day of the longer poems arrived,  and Pope and Dryden spoke for their fellows.

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Thus the sequence   Each age speaks with  its own peculiar organ, and has left the Word  for us moderns to read and understand. The  Castle of Coucy and the Church of Notre Dame  are the spoken words of the Middle Ages. The  Renaissance speaks and intelligib y to us  through the sibyls of the Sistine chapel and the  Mona Lisa. ” Macbeth” and ” Tamerlane”  resume the whole spirit of the Elizabethan age,  while the “Rape of the Lock” is a wireless  message to us straight from the period of the  Restoration.sistine chapel michelangelo art church italy rome  To-day is the day of the novel. In no other  day and by no other vehicle is contempora neous life so adequately expressed; and the  critics of the twenty-second century, reviewing  our times, striving to reconstruct our civilization, will look not to the painters, not to the  architects nor dramatists, but to the novelists  to find our idiosyncrasy. rect3336 space I think this is true. I think if the matter  could in any way be statisticized, the figures  would bear out the assumption. There is no  doubt the novel will in time “go out” of popu  lar favour as irrevocably as the long poem has  gone, and for the reason that it is no longer  the right mode of expression.  rect3336 space It is interesting to speculate upon what will  take its place. Certainly the coming civilization will revert to no former means of expressing  its thought or its ideals. Possibly music will  be the interpreter of the life of the twenty-first  and twenty-second centuries. Possibly one  may see a hint of this in the characterization  of Wagner’s operas as the “Music of the Future.” This, however, is parenthetical and beside  the mark. Remains the fact that to-day is the  day of the novel. By this one does not mean  that the novel is merely popular. If the novel  was not something more than a simple diver sion, a means of whiling away a dull evening,  a long railway journey, it would not, believe  me, remain in favour another day.   rect3336 spaceIf the novel, then, is popular, it is popular with a reason, a vital, inherent reason ; that is  to say, it is essential. Essential to resume  once more the proposition because it expresses  modern life better than architecture, better  than painting, better than poetry, better than  music. It is as necessary to the civilization  of the twentieth century as the violin is necessary to Kubelik, as the piano is necessary to  Paderewski, as the plane is necessary to the  carpenter, the sledge to the blacksmith, the  chisel to the mason. It is an instrument, a  tool, a weapon, a vehicle. It is that thing  which, in the hand of man, makes him civilized  and no longer savage, because it gives him a   power of durable, permanent expression. So  much for the novel – the instrument.  books french-Balzac book Because it is so all-powerful to-day, the  people turn to him who wields this instrument  with every degree of confidence. They expect  and rightly that results shall be commensurate with means. The unknown archer who  grasps the bow of Ulysses may be expected by  the multitude to send his shaft far and true.  If he is not true nor strong he has no business  with the bow. The people give heed to him  only because he bears a great weapon. He  himself knows before he shoots whether or no  he is worthy.   It is all very well to jeer at the People and at  the People’s misunderstanding of the arts, but  the fact is indisputable that no art that is not  in the end understood by the People can live  or ever did live a single generation. In the  larger view, in the last analysis, the People  pronounce the final judgment. The People,  despised of the artist, hooted, caricatured and  vilified, are after all, and in the main, the real  seekers after Truth. Who is it, after all, whose  interest is liveliest in any given work of art?  It is not now a question of esthetic interest  that is, the artist’s, the amateur’s, the cognoscentes. It is a question of vital interest. Say  what you will, Maggie Tulliver – for instance –  is far more a living being for Mrs. Jones across  the street than she is for your sensitive, fastidious, keenly critical artist, litterateur, or critic.  The People  – Mrs. Jones and her neighbours – take the life history of these fictitious characters, these novels, to heart with a seriousness  that the esthetic cult have no conception of.  The cult consider them almost solely from their  artistic sides. The People take them into their  innermost lives. Nor do the People discriminate. Omnivorous readers as they are to-day,  they make little distinction between Maggie  Tulliver and the heroine of the last ” popular  novel.” They do not stop to separate true  from false ; they do not care. rect3336 space  How necessary it becomes, then, for those  who, by the simple art of writing, can invade  the heart’s heart of thousands, whose novels  are received with such measureless earnestness  how necessary it becomes for those who  wield such power to use it rightfully. Is it not  expedient to act fairly? Is it not in Heaven s  name essential that the People hear, not a lie,  but the Truth?   If the novel were not one of the most important factors of modern life ; if it were not the  completest expression of our civilization; if its  influence were not greater than all the pulpits,  than all the newspapers between the oceans, it would not be so important that its message  should be true. rect3336 space  But the novelist to-day is the one who reaches  the greatest audience. Right or wrong, the  People turn to him the moment he speaks, and  what he says they believe.  rect3336 space For the Million, Life is a contracted affair, is  bounded by the walls of the narrow channel of  affairs in which their feet are set. They have  no horizon. They look to-day as they never  have looked before, as they never will look  again, to the writer of fiction to give them an  idea of life beyond their limits, and they believe  him as they never have believed before and  never will again. rect3336 space  This being so, is it not difficult to understand  how certain of these successful writers of fiction  these favoured ones into whose hands the  gods have placed the great bow of Ulysses can  look so frivolously upon their craft ? It is not  necessary to specify. One speaks of those  whose public is measured by “one hundred  and fifty thousand copies sold.” We know  them, and because the gods have blessed us  with wits beyond our deserving we know their  work is false. But what of the ” hundred and  fifty thousand” who are not discerning and  who receive this falseness as Truth, who  believe this topsy-turvy picture of Life  beyond their horizons is real and vital and  sane? rect3336 space  There is no gauge to measure the extent of  this malignant influence. Public opinion is  made no one can say how, by infinitesimal  accretions, by a multitude of minutest elements.  Lying novels, surely, surely in this day and age  of indiscriminate reading, contribute to this  more than all other influences of present-day  activity. rect3336 space  The Pulpit, the Press and the Novel – these  indisputably are the great moulders of public  opinion and public morals to-day. But the  Pulpit speaks but once a week ; the Press is read  with lightning haste and the morning news is  waste-paper by noon. But the novel goes into  the home to stay. It is read word for word ; is  talked about, discussed ; its influence penetrates  every chink and corner of the family. rect3336 space Yet novelists are not found wanting who  write for money. I do not think this is an  unfounded accusation. I do not think it asking  too much of credulity. This would not matter  if they wrote the Truth But these gentlemen  who are “in literature for their own pocket  every time” have discovered that for the  moment the People have confounded the Wrong  with the Right, and prefer that which is a lie  to that which is true. “Very well, then,” say v these gentlemen. ” If they want a lie they  shall have it;” and they give the People a lie  in return for royalties.  rect3336 space The surprising thing about this is that you  and I and all the rest of us do not consider this  as disreputable – do not yet realize that the  novelist has responsibilities. We condemn an  editor who sells his editorial columns, and we  revile the pulpit attainted of venality. But  the venal novelist – he whose influence is greater  than either the Press or Pulpit – him we greet  with a wink and the tongue in the cheek.   rect3336 spaceThis should not be so. Somewhere the  protest should be raised, and those of us who  see the practice of this fraud should bring home  to ourselves the realization that the selling of  one hundred and fifty thousand books is a  serious business. The People have a right to  the Truth as they have a right to life, liberty  and the pursuit of happiness. It is not right  that they be exploited and deceived with false  views of life, false characters, false sentiment,  false morality, false history, false philosophy,  false emotions, false heroism, false notions of  self-sacrifice, false views of religion, of duty, of  conduct and of manners.   The man who can address an audience of  one hundred and fifty thousand people who –  unenlightened – believe what he says, has a   heavy duty to perform, and tremendous responsibilities to shoulder; and he should address  himself to his task not with the flippancy of a  catch-penny juggler at the county fair, but with  earnestness, with soberness, with a sense of his  limitations, and with all the abiding sincerity  that by the favour and mercy of the gods  may be his.

CC BY-NC-ND by Rick Payette
CC BY-NC-ND by Rick Payette

 

NOT that one quarrels with the historical  novel as such; not that one does not  enjoy good fiction wherever found, and in what  ever class. It is the method of attack of the  latter-day copyists that one deplores their  attitude, the willingness of so very, very many  of them to take off the hat to Fashion, and then  hold the same hat for Fashion to drop pennies in.rect3336 space   Ah, but the man must be above the work or  the work is worthless, and the man better off at  some other work than that of producing fiction.  The eye never once should wander to the  gallery, but be always with single purpose  turned inward upon the work, testing it and  retesting it that it rings true.rect3336 space   What one quarrels with is the perversion of a  profession, the detestable trading upon another  man s success. No one can find fault with  those few good historical novels that started  the fad. There was good workmanship in  these, and honesty. But the copyists, the  fakirs they are not novelists at all, though  they write novels that sell by the hundreds of thousands. They are business men. They  find out –  no, they allow some one else to find  out – what the public wants, and they give it  to the public cheap, and advertise it as a new  soap is advertised. Well, they make money;  and, if that is their aim – if they are content to  prostitute the good name of American literature  for a sliding scale of royalties – let’s have done  with them. They have their reward. But the  lamentable result will be that these copyists  will in the end so prejudice the people against  an admirable school of fiction – the school of  Scott – that for years to come the tale of historic  times will be discredited and many a great  story remain unwritten, and many a man of  actual worth and real power hold back in the  ranks for very shame of treading where so  many fools have rushed in.cropped-media-papers-newspaper.jpg   For the one idea of the fakir-  the copyist – and of the public which for the moment listens  to him, is Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, first, last  and always Clothes. Not Clothes only in the  sense of doublet and gown, but Clothes of  speech, Clothes of manner, Clothes of customs.  Hear them expatiate over the fashion of wearing a cuff, over a trick of speech, over the architecture of a house, the archeology of armour  and the like. It is all well enough in its way,  but so easily dispensed with if there be flesh and    blood underneath. Veronese put the people  of his “Marriage at Cana” into the clothes of  his contemporaries. Is the picture any less a  masterpiece ?  rect3336 space Do these Little People know that Scott’s  archeology was about one thousand years  “out” in Ivanhoe, and that to make a parallel we must conceive of a writer describing  Richelieu say in small clothes and a top hat ?  But is it not Richelieu we want, and Ivanhoe,  not their clothes, their armour? And in spite  of his errors Scott gave us a real Ivanhoe. He  got beneath the clothes of an epoch and got  the heart of it, and the spirit of it (different  essentially and vitally from ours or from every  other, the spirit of feudalism) ; and he put forth  a masterpiece.  rect3336 space The Little People so very precise in the  matter of buttons and “bacinets” do not so.  Take the clothes from the people of their  Romances and one finds only wooden manikins.  Take the clothes from the epoch of which they  pretend to treat and what is there beneath ? It  is only the familiar, well-worn, well-thumbed  nineteenth or twentieth century after all. As  well have written of Michigan Avenue, Chicago,  as “La Rue de la Harpe,” “The Great North  Road” or the “Appian Way.”  rect3336 space It is a masquerade, the novel of the copyists;   and the people wno applaud them are they  not the same who would hold persons in  respect because of the finery of their bodies?  A poor taste, a cheap one ; the taste of serving-  men, the literature of chambermaids.  rect3336 space To approach the same subject by a different  radius: why must the historical novel of the  copyist always be conceived of in the terms  of Romance ? Could not the formula of Real  ism be applied at least as well, not the Realism  of mere externals (the copyists have that), but  the Realism of motives and emotions ? What  would we not give for a picture of the fifteenth  century as precise and perfect as one of Mr.  James’s novels? Even if that be impossible,  the attempt, even though half-way successful,  would be worth while, would be better than  the wooden manikin in the tin-pot helmet and  baggy hose. At least we should get some  where, even if no farther than Mr. Kingsley  took us in “Hereward,” or Mr. Blackmore in  “Lorna Doone.”   rect3336 spaceHow about the business life and the student  life, and the artizan life and the professional  life, and above all, the home life of historic  periods ? Great Heavens ! There was some  thing else sometimes than the soldier life.  They were not always cutting and thrusting, not  always night-riding, escaping, venturing, posing.   rect3336 space  Or suppose that cut-and-thrust must be the  order of the day, where is the “man behind,”  and the heart in the man and the spirit in the  heart and the essential vital, elemental, all-  important true life within the spirit ? We are  all Anglo-Saxons enough to enjoy the sight of  a fight, would go a block or so out of the way  to see one, or be a dollar or so out of pocket.  But let it not be these jointed manikins worked  with a thread. At least let it be Mr. Robert  Fitzsimmons or Mr. James Jeffries.   boxer boxing sportsClothes, paraphernalia, panoply, pomp and  circumstance, and the copyist s public and the  poor bedeviled, ink-corroded hack of an over  driven, underpaid reviewer on an inland paper  speak of the “vivid colouring” and “the fine  picture of a bygone age” – it is easy to be  vivid with a pot of vermilion at the elbow.  Any one can scare a young dog with a false-  face and a roaring voice, but to be vivid and  use grays and browns, to scare the puppy with  the lifted finger, that’s something to the point.  rect3336 space The difficult thing is to get at the life immediately around you -the very life in which you  move. No romance in it? No romance in  you, poor fool. As much romance on Michigan  Avenue as there is realism in King Arthur’s  court. It is as you choose to see it. The  important thing to decide is, which formula is  the best to help you grip the Real Life of this  or any other age. Contemporaries always  imagine that theirs is the prosaic age, and that  chivalry and the picturesque died with their  forbears. No doubt Merlin mourned for the  old time of romance. Cervantes held that  romance was dead. Yet most of the historical  romances of the day are laid in Cervantes’s  time, or even after it.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Romance and Realism are constant qualities  of every age, day and hour. They are here  to-day. They existed in the time of Job.  They will continue to exist till the end of time,  not so much in things as in point of view of the  people who see things. rect3336 space  The difficulty, then, is to get at the immediate  life immensely difficult, for you are not only  close to the canvas, but are yourself part of  the picture. rect3336 space  But the historic age is almost done to hand.  Let almost any one shut himself in his closet  with a history and Violet LeDuc s Dictionaire  du Mobilier and, given a few months time, he  can evolve an historical novel of the kind called  popular. He need not know men – just clothes  and lingo, the ” what-ho-without-there ” gabble.  But if he only chose he could find romance and  adventure in Wall Street or Bond Street. But  romance there does not wear the gay clothes  and the showy accouterments, and to discover  it – the real romance of it – means hard work  and close study, not of books, but of people  and actualities.   rect3336 spaceNot only this, but to know the life around  you you must live – if not among people, then  in people. You must be something more than  a novelist if you can, something more than just  a writer. There must be that nameless sixth  sense or sensibility in you that great musicians  have in common with great inventors and great  scientists; the thing that does not enter into  the work, but that is back of it ; the thing that  would make of you a good man as well as a  good novelist ; the thing that differentiates the  mere business man from the financier (for it  is possessed of the financier and poet alike – so only they be big enough). rect3336 space  It is not genius, for genius is a lax, loose term  so flippantly used that its expressiveness is  long since lost. It is more akin to sincerity.  And there once more we halt upon the great  word – sincerity, sincerity, and again sincerity.  Let the writer attack his historical novel with  sincerity and he cannot then do wrong. He  will see then the man beneath the clothes, and  the heart beneath both, and he will be so  amazed at the wonder of that sight that he will  forget the clothes. His public will be small, perhaps, but he will have the better reward of  the knowledge of a thing well done. Royalties  on editions of hundreds of thousands will not  pay him more to his satisfaction than that.  To make money is not the province of a novelist.  If he is the right sort, he has other responsibili  ties, heavy ones. He of all men cannot think  only of himself or for himself. And when the  last page is written and the ink crusts on the  pen-point and the hungry presses go clashing  after another writer, the “new man” and the  new fashion of the hour, he will think of the  grim long grind of the years of his life that he  has put behind him and of his work that he has  built up volume by volume, sincere work,  telling the truth as he saw it, independent of  fashion and the gallery gods, holding to these  with gripped hands and shut teeth he will  think of all this then, and he will be able to say :  “I never truckled; I never took off the hat to  Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God,  I told them the truth. They liked it or they  didn t like it. What had that to do with me ?  I told them the truth; I knew it for the truth  then, and I know it for the truth now.”   rect3336 spaceAnd that is his reward the best that a  man may know ; the only one really worth the  striving for.

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CC BY by JeepersMedia

    THE NOVEL WITH A ” PURPOSE

rect3336 spaceAFTER years of indoctrination and expostulation on the part of the artists, the  people who read appear at last to have grasped  this one precept “the novel must not preach,”  but “the purpose of the story must be subordinate to the story itself.” It took a very long  time for them to understand this, but once it  became apparent they fastened upon it with a  tenacity comparable only to the tenacity of the  American schoolboy to the date “1492.” ” The  novel must not preach,” you hear them say.  rect3336 space As though it were possible to write a novel  without a purpose, even if it is only the purpose to amuse. One is willing to admit that  this savours a little of quibbling, for “purpose” and purpose to amuse are two different  purposes. But every novel, even the most frivolous, must have some reason for the writing  of it, and in that sense must have a “purpose.” rect3336 space  Every novel must do one of three things-  it must (i) tell something, (2) show something,  or (3) prove something. Some novels do all  three of these; some do only two; all must do  at least one.   rect3336 spaceThe ordinary novel merely tells something,  elaborates a complication, devotes itself primarily to things. In this class comes the  novel of adventure, such as “The Three  Musketeers.”

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The second and better class of novel shows  something, exposes the workings of a temper  ament, devotes itself primarily to the minds  of human beings. In this class falls the novel  of character, such as “Romola.” rect3336 space  The third, and what we hold to be the best  class, proves something, draws conclusions  from a whole congeries of forces, social tendencies, race impulses, devotes itself not to  a study of men but of man. In this class falls  the novel with the purpose, such as “Les  Miserables.”   rect3336 spaceAnd the reason we decide upon this last as  the highest form of the novel is because that,  though setting a great purpose before it as its  task, it nevertheless includes, and is forced to  include, both the other classes. It must tell  something, must narrate vigorous incidents  and must show something, must penetrate  deep into the motives and character of type-  men, men who are composite pictures of a  multitude of men. It must do this because  of the nature of its subject, for it deals with  elemental forces, motives that stir whole    nations. These cannot be handled as abstrac  tions in fiction. Fiction can find expression  only in the concrete. The elemental forces,  then, contribute to the novel with a purpose  to provide it with vigorous action. In the  novel, force can be expressed in no other way.  The social tendencies must be expressed by  means of analysis of the characters of the men  and women who compose that society, and  the two must be combined and manipulated  to evolve the purpose to find the value of x. rect3336 space  The production of such a novel is probably  the most arduous task that the writer of fiction  can undertake. Nowhere else is success more  difficult ; nowhere else is failure so easy. Unskil  fully treated, the story may dwindle down and  degenerate into mere special pleading, and the  novelist become a polemicist, a pamphleteer,  forgetting that, although his first consideration  is to prove his case, his means must be living  human beings, not statistics, and that his tools  are not figures, but pictures from life as he sees  it. The novel with a purpose is, one contends,  a preaching novel. But it preaches by telling  things and showing things. Only, the author  selects from the great storehouse of actual  life the things to be told and the things to be  shown, which shall bear upon his problem, his  purpose. The preaching, the moralizing, is     the result not of direct appeal by the writer,  but is made should be made to the reader  by the very incidents of the story.rect3336 space   But here is presented a strange anomaly, a  distinction as subtle as it is vital. Just now  one has said that in the composition of the Jcind  of novel under consideration the purpose is  for the novelist the all-important thing, and  yet it is impossible to deny that the story, as  a mere story, is to the story-writer the one  great object of attention. How reconcile then  these two apparent contradictions?rect3336 spaceVIOLIN   For the novelist, the purpose of his novel,  the problem he is to solve, is to his story what  the keynote is to the sonata. Though the  musician cannot exaggerate the importance of  the keynote, yet the thing that interests him  is the sonata itself. The keynote simply  coordinates the music, systematizes it, brings  all the myriad little rebellious notes under a  single harmonious code.

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Thus, too, the purpose in the novel. It is  important as an end and also as ” an ever-  present guide. For the writer it is as important  only as a note to w r hich his work must be  attuned. The moment, however, that the  writer becomes really and vitally interested in  his purpose his novel fails.   Here is the strange anomaly. Let us suppose    that Hardy, say, should be engaged upon a  story which had for purpose to show the injustices under which the miners of Wales were  suffering. It is conceivable that he could  write a story that would make the blood boil  with indignation. But he himself, if he is to  remain an artist, if he is to write his novel successfully, will, as a novelist, care very little  about the iniquitous labour system of the  Welsh coal-mines. It will be to him as imper  sonal a thing as the key is to the composer of a  sonata. As a man Hardy may or may not  be vitally concerned in the Welsh coal-miner.  That is quite unessential. But as a novelist,  as an artist, his sufferings must be for him a  matter of the mildest interest. They are  important, for they constitute his keynote.  They are not interesting for the reason that  the working out of his story, its people,  episodes, scenes and pictures, is for the  moment the most interesting thing in all  the world to him, exclusive of everything  else. Do you think that Mrs. Stowe was  more interested in the slave question than  she was in the writing of ” Uncle Tom s  Cabin”? Her book, her manuscript, the  page-to-page progress of the narrative, were  more absorbing to her than all the Negroes  that were ever whipped or sold. Had it not    been so, that great purpose-novel never would  have succeeded.

"Slave dance to banjo, 1780s" by Anonymous -
“Slave dance to banjo, 1780s” by Anonymous –

Consider the reverse -“Fecondite,” for instance. The purpose for which Zola wrote the  book ran away with him. He really did care  more for the depopulation of France than  he did for his novel. Result – sermons on the  fruitfulness of women, special pleading, a far  rago of dry, dull incidents, overburdened and  collapsing under the weight of a theme that  should have intruded only indirectly.  rect3336 space This is preeminently a selfish view of the  question, but it is assuredly the only correct  one. It must be remembered that the artist  has a double personality, himself as a man,  and himself as an artist. But, it will be urged,  how account for the artist s sympathy in his  fictitious characters, his emotion, the actual  tears he sheds in telling of their griefs, their  deaths, and the like ?  rect3336 space The answer is obvious. As an artist his  sensitiveness is quickened because they are  characters in his novel. It does not at all  follow that the same artist would be moved to  tears over the report of parallel catastrophes  in real life. As an artist, there is every reason  to suppose he would welcome the news with  downright pleasure. It would be for him  “good material.” He would see a story in it,   a good scene, a great character. Thus the  artist. What he would do, how he would  feel as a man is quite a different matter.  rect3336 space To conclude, let us consider one objection  urged against the novel with a purpose by the  plain people who read. For certain reasons,  difficult to explain, the purpose novel always  ends unhappily. It is usually a record of  suffering, a relation of tragedy. And the  plain people say, “Ah, we see so much suffering  in the world, why put it into novels? We  do not want it in novels.” Toward Los Angeles, California (LOC) dorothea lange photography depression poverty migration  One confesses to very little patience with  this sort. “We see so much suffering in the  world already!” Do they? Is this really  true? The people who buy novels are the  well-to-do people. They belong to a class  whose whole scheme of life is concerned solely  with an aim to avoid the unpleasant. Suffering, the great catastrophes, the social throes,  that annihilate whole communities, or that  crush even isolated individuals all these are  as far removed from them as earthquakes and  tidal-waves. Or, even if it were so, suppose  that by some miracle these blind eyes were  opened and the sufferings of the poor, the  tragedies of the house around the corner,  really were laid bare. If there is much pain  in life, all the more reason that it should appear in a class of literature which, in its highest form,  is a sincere transcription of life.rect3336 space   It is the complaint of the coward, this cry  against the novel with a purpose, because it  brings the tragedies and griefs of others to  notice. Take this element from fiction, take  from it the power and opportunity to prove  that injustice, crime and inequality do exist,  and what is left? Just the amusing novels,  the novels that entertain. The juggler in  spangles, with his balancing-pole and gilt ball,  does this. You may consider the modern  novel from this point of view. It may be a  flippant paper-covered thing of swords and  cloaks, to be carried on a railway journey and  to be thrown out the window when read,  together with the sucked oranges and peanut  shells. Or it may be a great force, that works  together with the pulpit and the universities for the good of the people, fearlessly proving that power is abused, that the strong  grind the faces of the weak, that an evil tree  is still growing in the midst of the garden, that  undoing follows hard upon unrighteousness,  that the course of Empire is not yet finished,  and that the races of men have yet to work out  their destiny in those great and terrible movements that crush and grind and rend asunder  the pillars of the houses of the nations.  rect3336 space    Fiction may keep pace with the Great  March, but it will not be by dint of amusing  the people. The muse is a teacher, not a  trickster. Her rightful place is with the  leaders, but in the last analysis that place is  to be attained and maintained not by cap-and-  bells, but because of a serious and sincere  interest, such as inspires the great teachers,  the great divines, the great philosophers, a  well-defined, well-seen, courageously sought-for  purpose.

alice in wonderland fiction book lewis carroll

rect3336 space STORY-TELLERS VS. NOVELISTS

rect3336 space    IT is a thing accepted and indisputable that  a story-teller is a novelist, but it has  often occurred to one that the reverse is not  always true and that the novelist is not of  necessity a story-teller. The distinction is  perhaps a delicate one, but for all that it seems  to be decisive, and it is quite possible that  with the distinction in mind a different judg  ment might be passed upon a very large part  of present-day fiction. It would even be  entertaining to apply the classification to the  products of the standard authors.  rect3336 space The story-telling instinct seems to be a gift,  whereas – we trend to the heretical – the art of  composing novels –using the word in apposition to stories, long or short– may be  an acquirement. The one is an endowment,  the other an accomplishment. Accordingly  throughout the following paragraphs the expression, novelists of composition, for the time  being will be used technically, and will be  applied to those fiction-writers who have not  the story-telling faculty.   It would not be fair to attempt a proof that the one is better or worse than the other.  The difference is surely of kind and not of  degree. One will only seek to establish the  fact that certain eminent and brilliant novel-  writers are quite bereft of a sense of fiction,  that some of them have succeeded in spite of  this deficiency, and that other novel-writers  possessing this sense of fiction have succeeded  because of it, and in spite of many drawbacks  such as lack of training and of education. rect3336 space  It is a proposition which one believes to be  capable of demonstration that every child contains in himself the elements of every known  profession, every occupation, every art, every  industry. In the five-year-old you may see  glimpses of the soldier, trader, farmer, painter,  musician, builder, and so on to the end of  the roster. Later, circumstances produce the  atrophy of all of these instincts but one, and  from that one specialized comes the career.  Thus every healthy-minded child no matter  if he develops in later years to be financier or  boot-maker is a story-teller. As soon as he  begins to talk he tells stories. Witness the  holocausts and carnage of the leaden platoons  of the nursery table, the cataclysms of the  Grand Trans-Continental Playroom and Front-  Hall Railroad system. This, though, is not  real story-telling. The toys practically tell   the story for him and are no stimulant to the  imagination. However, the child goes beyond  the toys. He dramatizes every object of  his surroundings. The books of the library  shelves are files of soldiers, the rugs are isles  in the seaway of the floor, the easy chair is a  comfortable old gentleman holding out his  arms, the sofa a private brig or a Baldwin  locomotive, and the child creates of his sur  roundings an entire and complex work of  fiction of which he is at one and the same  time hero, author and public.  Pixabay Image 1676098 Within the heart of every mature human  being, not a writer of fiction, there is the  withered remains of a little story-teller who  died very young. And the love of good  fiction and the appreciation of a fine novel in  the man of the world of riper years is I like  to think a sort of memorial tribute which he  pays to his little dead playmate of so very long  ago, who died very quietly with his little broken  tin locomotive in his hands on the cruel day  when he woke to the realization that it had  outlived its usefulness and its charm. rect3336 space  Even in the heart of some accepted and  successful fiction-writer you shall find this  little dead story-teller. These are the novelists  of composition, whose sense of fiction, under  stress of circumstances, has become so blunted  that when they come at last to full maturity  and to the power of using the faculty they can no  longer command it. These are novelists rather  of intellect than of spontaneous improvisation ;  and all the force of their spendid minds, every  faculty other than the lost fiction-faculty,  must be brought into play to compensate for  the lack. Some more than compensate for it,  so prodigal in resource, so persistent in effort,  so powerful in energy and in fertility of invention, that as it were by main strength they  triumph over the other writer, the natural  story-teller, from whose pen the book flows  with almost no effort at all. rect3336 space  Of this sort the novelists of intellect, in  whom the born story-teller is extinct, the  novelists of composition in a word the great  example, it would seem, is George Eliot. It  was by taking thought that the author of  “Romola” added to her stature. The result  is superb, but achieved at what infinite pains,  with what colossal labour of head rather than  of the heart ! She did not feel, she knew, and  to attain that knowledge what effort had to  be expended ! Even all her art cannot exclude  from her pages evidences of the labour, of  the superhuman toil. And it was labour  and toil for what? To get back, through  years of sophistication, of solemn education,   of worldly wisdom, back again to the point  of view of the little lost child of the doll-house  days. rect3336 space  But sometimes the little story-teller does  not die, but lives on and grows with the man,  increasing in favour with God, till at last he  dominates the man himself, and the playroom  of the old days simply widens its walls till it  includes the street outside, and the street  beyond and other streets, the whole city, the  whole world, and the story-teller discovers a  set of new toys to play with, and new objects  of a measureless environment to dramatize  about, and in exactly, exactly the same spirit  in which he trundled his tin train through the  halls and shouted boarding orders from the  sofa he moves now through the world s play  room “making up stories”; only now his  heroes and his public are outside himself and  he alone may play the author.   rect3336 spaceFor him there is but little effort required.  He has a sense of -fiction. Every instant of  his day he is dramatizing. The cable-car has  for him a distinct personality. Every window  in the residence quarters is an eye to the soul  of the house behind. The very lamp-post on  the corner, burning on through the night and  through the storm, is a soldier, dutiful, vigilant  in stress. A ship is Adventure; an engine  a living brute ; and the easy chair of his library  is still the same comfortable and kindly old  gentleman holding out his arms.   rect3336 spaceThe men and women of his world are not  apt to be to him so important in themselves  as in relation to the whirl of things in which  he chooses to involve them. They cause  events, or else events happen to them, and by  an unreasoned instinct the story-teller pre  serves the consistencies (just as the child  would not have run the lines of the hall railway  across the seaway of the floor between the  rugs). Much thought is not necessary to him.  Production is facile, a constant pleasure. The  story runs from his pen almost of itself; it  takes this shape or that, he knows not why;  his people do this or that and by some blessed  system of guesswork they are somehow always  plausible and true to life. His work is hap  hazard, yet in the end and in the main tremen  dously probable. Devil-may-care, slipshod,  melodramatic, but invincibly persuasive, he  uses his heart, his senses, his emotions, every  faculty but that of the intellect. He does  not know; he feels.   rect3336 spaceDumas was this, and “The Three Musketeers/  different from “Romola” in kind but not in  degree, is just as superb as Eliot at her best.  Only the Frenchman had a sense of fiction  which the Englishwoman had not. Her novels  are character studies, are portraits, are por  trayals of emotions or pictures of certain  times and certain events, are everything you  choose, but they are not stories, and no stretch  of the imagination, no liberalness of criticism  can make them such. She succeeded by dint  of effort where the Frenchman merely wrote. rect3336 space  George Eliot compensated for the defect artificially and succeeded eminently and conclusively, but there are not found wanting cases  in modern literature where “novelists of com  position” have not compensated beyond a very  justifiable doubt, and where, had they but rejoiced in a very small modicum of this dowry  of the gods, their work would have been to  one s notion infinitely improved.   As, for instance, Tolstoi ; incontestably great  though he be, all his unquestioned power has  never yet won for him that same vivid sense  of fiction enjoyed by so (comparatively) unimportant a writer as the author of “Sherlock  Holmes.” And of the two, judged strictly  upon their merits as story-tellers, one claims  for Mr. Doyle the securer if not the higher  place, despite the magnificent genius of the  novelist. rect3336 space

Ilya Repin - Tolstoy
Ilya Repin – Tolstoy

In the austere Russian – gloomy, sad, acquainted with grief – the child died irrevocably long, long ago ; and no power however vast,  no wisdom however profound, no effort how  ever earnest, can turn one wheel on the little  locomotive of battered tin or send it one inch  along the old right-of-way between the nursery  and the front room. One cannot but feel that  the great author of “Anna Karenina” realizes  as much as his readers the limitations that  the loss of this untainted childishness imposes.  The power was all his, the wonderful intellectual  grip, but not the fiction spirit the child s  knack and love of “making up stories.” Given  that, plus the force already his own, and what  a book would have been there ! The perfect  novel ! No doubt, clearer than all others, the  great Russian sees the partial failure of his  work, and no doubt keener and deeper than all  others sees that, unless the child-vision and the  child-pleasure be present to guide and to stimulate, the entrances of the kingdom must stay  forever shut to those who would enter, storm  they the gates never so mightily and beat they  never so clamorously at the doors.   rect3336 spaceWhatever the end of fiction may be, what  ever the reward and recompense bestowed,  whatever object is gained by good work, the  end will not be gained, nor the reward won,  nor the object attained by force alone by  strength of will or of mind. Without the auxiliary of the little playmate of the old days  the great doors that stand at the end of the  road will stay forever shut. Look once, how  ever, with the child s eyes, or for once touch  the mighty valves with the child s hand, and  Heaven itself lies open with all its manifold  wonders.   So that in the end, after all trial has been  made and every expedient tested, the simplest  way is the best and the humblest means the  surest. A little child stands in the midst of  the wise men and the learned, and their wis  dom and their learning are set aside and they  are taught that unless they become as one of  these they shall in nowise enter into the  Kingdom of Heaven.”

Frank Norris, The Responsibilities of the Novelist (first four chapters), in The Complete Works of Frank Norris–Volume 7