“IT is not here a question of the “unarrived,” the ” unpublished;” these are the care-free irresponsibles whose hours are halcyon and whose endeavours have all the lure, all the recklessness of adventure.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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. If 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. This 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.
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. 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. 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. 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 ? 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. 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.” 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. 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.” How 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. 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. Clothes, 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. Not 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). 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.” And that is his reward the best that a man may know ; the only one really worth the striving for.
THE NOVEL WITH A ” PURPOSE
AFTER 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. 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.” 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. The 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.”
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.” 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.” And 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. 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. 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? 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.
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.
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. 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 ? 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.
STORY-TELLERS VS. NOVELISTS
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. For 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. The 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. Dumas 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. 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.
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. Whatever 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.”