English and American Fiction: A Review and a Comparison
A CERTAIN melancholy as of autumn hangs over the fiction of the last few months, or perhaps it would be more correct to say, over the reader of recent fiction. It would almost seem as if nature, in mourning the death of Meredith, had resolved to produce no more great novelists at present, in her secret and inscrutable wisdom letting the fields lie fallow. As far as the eye can see are but shorn grass and reaped harvest lands, where choice stalks left for the gleaner-critic are few and far between.
The first impression gained from the pile of American and of English novels, and from perusal of stories in the magazines, both better and less good, of both countries, is that it is the novelist, not the critic, who has been doing the gleaning, sometimes from his own earlier work, sometimes from the work of those greater than he. The very name of Meredith, with its suggestion of poignant individuality, emphasizes the lack of fresh insight in the greater part of this fiction, wherein appears much imitation of manner, of technique of earlier work, without sufficient distinction of personality on the part of the author to make that imitation serve a purpose of his own. It is interesting, if disheartening, to follow the trail, in recent fiction, of writers who have made notable popular successes within a few years. So persistent is the mark of Kipling that it seems as if he were nowadays influencing almost everybody except himself; on both sides of the water magazine tales are numerous that copy all of Conan Doyle except the skill; while it is almost painful to see how far-reaching yet are the manner and mannerisms of Anthony Hope, the wit of the Dolly Dialogues suddenly beginning to crackle in long story or short, the plot of the Prisoner of Zenda coming back in numberless inadequate disguises.
This atmosphere of reminiscence is strengthened by the comments of publishers and critics of both nations, who say admiringly, “ This story is very like Cranford; ” “ These sketches recall Rab and his Friends; ” “ This author has a style like Hawthorne’s;” “‘If Shakespeare had written novels they would have been like these.” Many novels “ analyze the human heart with skill only second to that of George Eliot; ” this reminds one of Dumas, that of Fielding, this of Thackeray, that of Dickens, — in short, the new stories remind one irresistibly of every one except the author. The publishers forget that this appeal to past strength of art is a confession of present weakness, ignoring the fact that the most precious thing in literature is individuality, and that he who fails to bring some fresh interpretative power to the old spectacle fails altogether.
It would indeed have been ungracious to have headed this article “ Twice-Told Tales,” and yet there were moments when this was a temptation, as, for instance, that, when on the top of the garnered sheaf of novels, The White Sister,1 by Marion Crawford, appeared. Again we have the setting of Italian society, grown so familiar that it leaves one with the impression that Mr. Crawford could sketch it with his eyes shut, as a clever knitter can do over and over the same pattern without looking. The author’s deft manipulation of a well-worn ideal appears again in the story of Angela’s firm clinging to her nun’s vow, despite the passionate wooing of the lover who unexpectedly comes to life, while the knot is quietly untied, and the real issue evaded, by the hint that absolution can be obtained for the nun. Thus the popular desire for the heroic is satisfied, and also the still stronger desire that “ everybody shall be ridiculously happy in the end,” if one may quote the announcement of another novel. All the traits of Mr. Crawford’s skill are again illustrated here: the few characters, the economy of incident, the power of focusing attention upon a single issue and giving it leisurely development; and yet the book leaves you with the impression that you have read it all before, for the facile art which neither waxed nor waned for twenty years presents here no new achievement.
Another novel of easy skill in the handling of plot and the presentation of obvious ideals comes from that novelist of arrested development, Mr. Richard Harding Davis.2 The story of the part played by a young American in a Venezuelan revolution, in freeing an imprisoned general and winning his beautiful daughter, is reminiscent both of Mr. Davis’s earlier work and of Anthony Hope. In tying and untying the knot of his romance, the author shows his old deftness, and there is a shrewd American tenacity in his way of sticking to one point; and yet one wonders that he is content to go on doing the same old thing in the same old way. He still remains the clever boy who made a sudden success in the magazines; the repartee of the two friends in The WhiteMice3 shows how deeply he is still of the undergraduate turn of mind. It is a pity that genuine talent should reach out to no higher achievement; Mr. Davis in his new book shows himself again a novelist of gift who has set himself no high task.
One finds the trail of Kipling and of Merriman in The Dragon’s Blood, by Mr. Henry Milner Rideout; of Kipling again in Mr. Rowland Thomas’s collection of short stories, The Little Gods.4 In the work of the latter the influence of the master shows in the finer way of inspiration, and, except in the amateurish fashion in which the stories are joined together, does not degenerate into mere imitation. The best story in this book of vigorous narratives is not the prize tale, Fagan, but An Optimist, showing undoubted power, and skill in the use of significant detail. Here is ability to develop a great motif simply, in few words, and to present heroic character without analysis and without eulogy. That rare gift of giving homely things large significance appears in many ways, most notably, perhaps, in the way in which the can of bacon appears in this story; and the realists and the idealists may well quarrel as to which of them may claim Mr. Thomas.
The least fortunate phase of our tendency to glean in others’ fields is shown in the society novel, where it is not so much the manner as the material which is borrowed. A representative of this class, showing no special gift or skill, is Mr. John Reid Scott’s The Woman in Question.5 In attempting to reproduce the English novel of society, the author makes an heroic effort to keep from seeing upon a Virginia plantation anything that an Englishman would not have seen upon his estate. The hunt, the smart guests, the one cad who has crept in among them, the entailed estate, are too familiar properties of English fiction to be borrowed wholesale. It is a pity that, in a new country, under new conditions, with new problems to face, so many of our writers should close their eyes to the real opportunity before them, and follow blindly the ways and the manners of other nations; but the number of those trying to Anglicize the material of American fiction is very great.
In turning over these novels, the eye lights now and then on announcements of new fiction, and certain tendencies suggested here accord all too well with impressions gained from the stories. Publishers are a shrewd class of men, and the phrases they use in setting forth the charms of their wares undoubtedly represent fairly well the taste of the American public. Here is a tale with “ a thrill in every line;” here, “a strong love-story whose development is closely allied with the collapse of the famous Quebec bridge,” followed by “ a dashing romance,” wherein “ the interest fairly gallops away with the reader;” while of another we read, “ At these situations the reader feels a desire to continue the story even if the house be burning.” These quotations, which could be indefinitely prolonged, hardly overstate the position that incident, and sensational incident, holds in the greater part of our fiction, and they suggest only too clearly the swift and hysterical type of emotion demanded,—those impassioned moments while the motor-car waits.
That the greater part of our fiction aims at amusement for the moment, and not at the deeper pleasure which comes from seeing human lives faithfully portrayed, can be news to no one; but the familiarity of the thought does not detract from the pity of it. So far as taste in art is concerned, we are still, as a people, childish; we love to have conventional types portrayed; lovely woman even as she was in the art of the thirties, shorn only of her ringlets, noble man who is all bravery and generosity. Instead of thoughtful study in cause and effect, we like a swift tale, full of danger and accident, where, at the end, “ everybody is ridiculously happy.”
A good instance in point is The Inner Shrine,6 whose anonymous publication perhaps added to its popularity. It is a clever story, of swift movement and centred interest, developing through constant incident a theme welcome in almost any form to a public greatly addicted to self-sacrifice, — in books, — of self-abnegation and of hardships nobly borne. Our demand for the sensational is amply met; our love of the generalized and the conventional in characterdelineation is satisfied. As the heroine develops from an apparently frivolous butterfly into a high-minded, enduring woman, we cannot help feeling a wide hiatus in her growth, for the earlier Diane gives no hint of the later; and we cannot help feeling throughout the lack of that specific touch in character-portrayal that brings conviction of reality. One detects the same generalization in the character of the hero, and still more in the somewhat shop-worn figure of the wicked nobleman; for it is M. de Bienville who most definitely rouses the reader to ask whether the rest of the story, like this personage, is not done from books. Throughout is a certain remoteness from actuality, which makes one wonder whether the author really knows the life of which he is writing, or whether he is making up the wicked people and the good who play the dangerous game.
To our taste for the mediocre, too many of our clever writers are content to cater. Eager to please, more eager to earn money, easy-going, obliging, they fail to reach out toward their best, and settle comfortably to their lucrative, third-rate work. The writing of fiction as an art has suggested itself to but few among us; writing as a paying profession has suggested itself to a vast number. Possibly the large money prizes recently offered for fiction have had an unfortunate effect in diverting attention from the main issue in writing a story, which is, after all, to tell the story as well as it can be told. We need greatly more writers who do not care merely to succeed, but are content to watch closely and interpret wisely, who are original enough to eschew the fashion that has brought money and over-easy applause. In looking about, at our enthusiasms, our delusions, our failures, our successes, one cannot help reflecting how much greater is the artist’s opportunity than is the artist in our country at the present day. Surely no land has, at any time, offered better material in diversity of types, in social contrasts and race contrasts, in all that stuff of human life which is the opportunity of the novelist. There is a rich field for the writer of thoughtful comedy, in the Meredithian sense of the word, wherein the play of differing personalities might be presented. The precious quality of individuality, of depth of personal estimate, is lacking in the greater part of our fiction. In our swift civilization it is more important to keep the pace than to climb a bit beyond, a bit above, and watch with sympathy and insight and understanding, trying to see what it is all about. A deeper motiving is necessary if we are to have work that is worth while; we need a larger, wiser, more sympathetic art.
Ingratitude is one of the baser forms of discourtesy, and in making this plea one should pause to pay tribute to certain novel-writers of our country who care for the quality of their work. Thoughtful comedy is indeed represented in the stories and novels of Edith Wharton, full of fine shades of perception, steadfast to one point of view. One could but wish that, with her great gift of insight, had gone the greater gift of sympathy, without which the finest insight is impossible. Different parts of our country have found serious interpreters; different problems have won their way into fiction, though the proportion of the higher type of work seems discouragingly small. We can speak with pride of the stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, whose tender, sympathetic studies of country folk betray a human quality as rare as that of her work. Hers was a delicate art, aware of its own fine power, conscious of its limitations, kept within the bounds of what she could do, and do exquisitely well, as firmly as was Jane Austen’s. She was the most artistic interpreter of New England and its life that we have had, always excepting our best, Hawthorne.
From the South, which has had, perhaps, more than its share of people writing with artistic intent, comes The Romance of a Plain Man,7 by Ellen Glasgow, whose work is always seriously done and to be taken seriously. The fact that the theme of this latest study of causes and results in human life is less tremendous than some of the earlier ones she has treated, does not detract from its interest; and the development of the “ poor white ” lad, who, through sheer force of mind and of character, wins a place among the old families of Virginia, has the charm that the story of the self-made man has always had for the American. The earlier part of the book is worked out with much significant realism of detail; the latter part is more commonplace. In sketching the background of stately Southern custom and old-fashioned types of character, the author has attempted to bring out the real values of the life she is describing, with its poverty and its pride; and the story forms a fine contrast to the imitation-English type of Southern novel.
From the West comes a realistic, vigorous epic,8 presenting the exploits of an over-successful American man and of a town. Mr. White makes you feel the struggles of the various citizens, the failures that were achievements, the achievements that were failures, and presents the collective life of the community with great vividness, upholding throughout an honest ideal of civic uprightness. It is rather a pity that there is not, in the book, a simplicity of method to match the simplicity of attitude; for the author, probably with an idea of relieving a plain narrative, tells both ends of his story at once, with the result that it is hard to follow. He could learn much from some of the more frivolous American writers in the matter of the clean, clear-cut stroke. Rather a pity, too, is the melodramatic end.
Red Horse Hill,9 by Sidney McCall, represents a type of fiction growing common among us, — melodrama allied to a larger theme and a greater plea. Deep sympathy for humanity reveals itself here, and we realize gratefully that here is another species of fiction inspired by non-mercenary motives. If we do protest a bit against the melodrama, and against the portrait of the intellectual woman, as well as that of the abused child, —both of which seem to have been drawn from newspapers or from fiction, rather than from actual study, — we are conscious, after all, that we are making progress since the days of Mrs. Holmes. Sympathy with suffering humanity is welcome in almost any form.
Far better, perhaps best of all the fiction in the American part of the pile before us, are Miss Lucy Pratt’s stories of Ezekiel,10 several of which are masterly in their interpretative power, not only of the little black hero, but of his race. A reserve and control, a withholding of comment, letting the child in word and deed betray his own imaginative, sensitive personality, show great artistic skill, while the human sympathy underlying the artistic appreciation gives a large quality to the work.
Working down through the layers of American novels to the solid substratum of English, which, perhaps symbolically, lies underneath in this special pile, one draws out Daphne, or Marriage à la Mode,11 reads, and rubs one’s eyes in bewilderment. Can it be that we of America are not alone in bending to the success of the moment ? Is this acknowledged mistress of the art lowering her standard to meet the demand for the sensational in incident, the generalized and conventional in character ? The hereditary tendency of the Arnold family to teach the ten commandments, and the confessed inability of the later generations to teach them in the form of the ten commandments, is apparent here in the insistent setting forth of the thesis that divorce is wrong, through the medium of a rather hackneyed story, and the portrayal of the sensational character of the Spanish-American heroine. Through story, character-delineation, discussion, comes the hollow ring of fiction devised to prove an abstract proposition, with an additional hollowness arising from the fact that a maximum of conclusion is based upon a minimum of knowledge. The visiting foreigner, who, in a few weeks’ sojourn in any country, devotes his attention to the small but unfortunate class of the very rich, is hardly likely to understand the life of the sober and intelligent mass of its citizens; and Mrs. Ward suffers, as most of her countrymen suffer, from too close a focusing of interest when among us. Throughout the book is a certain vulgarity of manner, in the constant and insistent mention of money, arising not from the material alone, but from the mind working at it, and robbing the tale of “ all that atmosphere of refinement and elegance which is associated with all that comes from her pen.”
The book is superficial in thought and weak in execution, as thin in intellectual content as in art. Mrs. Ward is undoubtedly right in thinking our divorce laws too free; but if, instead of inventing a story to prove this thesis, she had worked out the real tragedy that lay at her hand, the novel would have had more profound meaning. Here is no hint of just nemesis in the fact that the young Englishman who marries for money finds himself unhappy; he remains in the author’s mind a purely pathetic figure, to whom great wrong has been done. There is more than one way of showing reverence for the marriage vow; and, surely, resisting the temptation to take it for the sake of millions of dollars would be as signal a proof of such reverence as refraining from divorce. There is something almost tawdry about the mock pathos at the end, where the hero’s ruin through drink is made the fault of agencies outside himself. Nowhere in the book is there real study of character, nowhere a trace of the analytical skill shown in David Grieve and Helbeck of Bannisdale, and other productions of the blossoming time of Mrs. Ward’s art. The autumn atmosphere, with its touch of decay, is sadly apparent here, and the author gives one the impression of having written herself out. Her admirers can but mourn the loss, or lapse, of the power shown in her earlier work, a power always lacking the final penetration that a sense of humor gives a serious mind, but still with a certain fine mastery in it.
In turning over the novels it is evident, in the English group, that the material is more diversified than it is in the American, the range of types wider. The old-fashioned story of the hero from infancy to manhood, the new-fashioned study of the life of the lower classes, the æsthetic-historical novel, the local-color tale of foreign lands, study of colonial conditions, — all these, and others, make up that solid substratum. Sebastian,12 by Frank Danby, belongs to the first class. Son of a gifted novelist and of a plain business man, Sebastian affords us, at least in the earlier stages of his development, an interesting struggle of conflicting tendencies, and yet the book leaves one puzzled as to the issue. One hardly knows whether it is Sebastian’s story or his mother’s that is being told; for the somewhat worn thesis that a woman, in writing, strips herself of all chance to live, is emphasized at the expense of the hero. Sebastian, instead of persisting in being the central personage, has a disappointing way of subsiding into a mere illustration of the fact that his mother was all wrong about everything. The book is full of genuine feeling, observation, experience; but, as is the case in many another English tale, it affords an indefinite richness, and the mingled kinds of suggestion leave one wise about many things, but not about the question in hand. With this wavering as to goal is combined an unevenness in execution, running all the way from the construction of plot, and the delineation of character, into the sentence-structure. The style, often felicitous, epigrammatic, becomes in places careless, weak, and wavering.
Still greater indirectness of method appears in The Mount,13 by C. F. Keary, a book whose interesting theme fails of its effect because of the author’s reluctance or inability to keep it before you. It is the story of a man whose over-chivalric, old-fashioned ideals lead him too far in the defense of a wronged woman, the sequel showing that the latter falls short of the measure of his sacrifice. At the outset, the reader’s attention is diverted by an elaborate description and analysis of a young woman, who disappears entirely from the story, evidently having no connection with it. In the account given of the town, its history, its standards, its politics, the background is not in any vital way connected with the tale. A curious failure to trace processes is apparent; when the hero, on page two hundred, shoots the wrong-doer, you start as at a sudden explosion, for nothing in character-treatment, or in the tone of the narrative, has prepared you for tragedy. The book is characteristic of a large class of English novels, where neither the type of story nor the special problem in hand is made clear.
It is evident, either that the English are thinking harder about the fundamental problems of their civilization, or that more of the serious thought on social questions is finding its way into fiction, than is the case with us. Sixpenny Pieces,14 by a new writer of genuine originality, is a series of microscopic slides, revealing, with startling vividness and accuracy, the minds and hearts of the many types of people in one of the poverty-stricken quarters of London. Descriptions of the poor in their rags and dirt have been plentiful enough; this new study shows how strong, in most earlier sketches, has been the emphasis on externals, for it makes us aware of the inner natures of these people, their mental processes, the limits of their intelligence and of their feeling. The author’s deep sympathy, never obviously expressed but all-pervading, his unusual power of observation, the humor and the penetration shown, make the book of unusual value, while the occasional over-audacity or flippancy of expression never for a moment conceals the seriousness of the work. You realize that, behind these impersonal sketches which tell so briefly just what these people say and do, is the mind of a thinker, pondering deeply and sympathetically on the significance of the human spectacle. If Mr. Lyons possesses constructive gifts that can weave into wholeness the scattered bits and fragments of experience, England will have gained a new writer of fiction with genuine power.
Another serious social study, presenting the class next higher in the scale, is Low Society,15 by Robert Halifax. The book deals with the business enterprises of a builder of flimsy houses in a London suburb, and tells the story of his effect upon other lives. The slow and careful method with which Mr. Halifax delineates humanity of minor moods and strong appetites and rudimentary emotions brings an air of unusual reality into the story, whose quiet course one follows with genuine interest.
It is an odd chance that thrusts next into one’s hand The Red Saint,16 by Warwick Deeping. Brilliancy of execution marks this tale of English life during the struggle between the barons and King Henry. There is vividness of incident, picturesque, impressionistic narrative, and the forest background is sketched with deep sense of its beauty. The style, graphic, admirable often, in its power of significant omissions, becomes at times a bit studied and overconscious. Through the strong emotional and æsthetic appeal made by the story, a persistent question troubles the reader. Is this tendency to use great periods and great figures of by-gone days, to deepen the emotional effects of mere love-story, an altogether fortunate one? One misses in it something always present in the simple narrative of Scott, where the emphasis is invariably on the heroic. It is primarily to Mr. Maurice Hewlett that we owe this emasculation of the historical novel, and there is reason to wonder whether the undoubted appeal of beauty in this work can atone for its unmistakable atmosphere of decadence. The motif of The Red Saint, the development of a holy woman, who, in turbulent times, suffers the ultimate wrong and lives on, is one which, if treated at all, should be treated gently. The central incident would be more significant in a tale of martyrdom than in a love-story. The sanctity of the heroine is hardly as convincing as is her womanly quality; the book, like others of the school, shows small sense of the great spiritual forces at work in the age with which it deals. This story of a saint makes far deeper appeal to sense than to soul.
Another book of the class, The Wanton,17 by Frances Forbes-Robertson, dealing with the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II, hardly needs mention, except as confirming the point, that, in the hands of these new writers, all history bids fair to come before us as a long succession of amorous moments. This story, which has indeed “ a thrill in every line,” is written in an overbrilliant style, possessing more glamour than grammar.
Something in these tales of old days, something of taint in a story of modern life that comes to hand, Everybody’s Secret,18 by Dion Clayton Calthorp, makes upon the mind an impression which is deepened by crowding memories of other recent English novels. We have confessed that the greater part of our American fiction is given over too much to startling incident and mere delight in sensational event; we cannot fail to perceive as strong a love of the sensational in the English, expressing itself in a different way. The morally startling, the risqué phrase that will pique and shock, the situation that is beyond the bounds, — does not one encounter too much of this in English novels of recent days ? The tendency is apparent in the work of Mr. Trevena, there are hints of it in Lucas Malet, it mars a bit the delightful art of Mr. Locke, and always it wears an air of bravado, as of the little lad who went up on the church steps to swear, just to see if he dared. This borrowed air of decadence does not seem to belong in the line of development of English fiction. “ The most striking tour-de-force in the book,” runs the announcement of a new English novel, “ is the sketch of the demimondaine called the Cobra, a study of one of those vampires that sometimes rise to the surface in the maelstrom of Parisian corruption.”
From work of this kind, one turns to Antonio,19 by Ernest Oldmeadow, with a sense both of surprise and of relief in finding a work of fiction with a spiritual appeal. The story deals with the dispossession of the Portuguese Benedictine monks in the early nineteenth century, and with the long struggle of one of them to win back, by labor of his head and of his hands, his monastery with its fair southern vineyard. Many readers will fail to share Antonio’s special conviction, yet will be deeply moved by his passionate faith in the reality of things unseen. The steps by which, through hunger and privation, he succeeds in his purpose, one follows with the interest that the genuinely heroic always rouses, though the somewhat morbid love story detracts greatly from the impression. The book recalls a greater novel, somewhat similar in motif, Mr. Hornung’s Peccavi, whose unflinching clinging to its theme of spiritual development brings out finely whatever of weakness there is in this. Antonio is rather an epic, wherein mind and soul are pitted against outer difficulties, than a drama of the spirit wherein the human soul is trying to work out its way among conflicting inner impulses; and the hero has as little mental misgiving as has Robinson Crusoe.
The rare pleasure in finding a new book by Lucas Malet is, in this case, checked by discovering that The Score20 is made up of two stories, neither long nor short. The first is the confession by a dying man of murder committed by him; the second records the heroic refusal, by Poppy Saint John of The Far Horizon, of the man she loves. Both stories, and especially the first, make an impression of over-conscious art or artistry, and there is throughout too much of tableau effect. One at the gates of death, whose senses had ceased to speak, would hardly stop to describe scenery, to elaborate appeals of sights and sounds and odors, placing his own past self against such appropriate backgrounds. There is always in the fiction of this author a thoroughness, a definiteness, a logic in developing character through the shock and stress of life, but the weight and emphasis of the work are too heavy for the short story; it is as if the very Queen of Brobdingnag were walking in the fields of Lilliput. The unquestioned power of Lucas Malet shows itself fully only in the long and elaborate novel.
This book confirms an impression that has long been forming that the American short stories are better than the English, a statement which may be made safely, perhaps, in the long silence of Kipling. In the American, at its best, is finer workmanship, more feeling for the essential, more sense of the point, the one point, to which a brief narrative should lead; in short, a deeper sense of the significance of this special form. The work of Mrs. Wharton, of Miss Alice Brown, of Mrs. Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews, some of Mr. Rowland Thomas’s tales, two or three of the stories in Miss Jeannette Marks’s Through Welsh Doorways,21 the tales of Ezekiel by Miss Pratt, are recent instances in point. The range is wide, running all the way from the skillful telling of a story that is all action, to the deft character-interpretation through significant central incident. The English short story is too often a tripleheaded anecdote, or a section of a longer narrative cut off at both ends, lacking in perspective, incomplete.
This consideration leads one to reflect, in looking at the harvest-pile of English and American fiction, on the peculiar strength and the weakness of each country in this art. The very quality that makes the English short story inartistic often gives worth and substance to their novels. They excel in weight and in measure; their work is more full of a lingering sense of human values, and they need the long novel to express their appreciation of things. The richness of reflection and of observation of the great Victorians we could hardly spare; every name of the period recalls some kind of delightful irrelevancy that sins against the strict canons of art. Many a modern English novel, too, shows richness of feeling, imaginative sympathy with this or that phase of life, but wanders, as their by-paths wander. Why not, when so many fragrances call, this way or that, along their overtempting hedge-rows P There is more atmosphere in their fiction, as in the English meadows; they share that gift of the common folk, in their flowerhidden cottages, of giving a poetic touch to common things. On the other hand, leisurely narrative and reflections that lack significance often degenerate into the long story that is dull and pointless, as is The Marriage of Hilary Carden, by Stanley Portal Hyatt, and Multitude and Solitude, by John Masefield.
The American, in long stories as in short, shows more sense of form, betraying itself in many ways, from plot to sentence-structure. It is in the English part of this pile of novels that the slipshod sentences have been discovered, the relative clauses that do not relate, the pronouns that go begging for antecedents. One is driven to wonder whether our apprenticeship to the French is not beginning to tell, and tell in fine ways, both in structure and in style, in American fiction. We are aware that the English are more thorough, but they are often thorough in the wrong places, elaborating the unessential, giving the unimportant as careful consideration as the important, showing a lack of sense of relative values. On the other hand, the skill of some of our writers in omission and repression sometimes brings an air of poverty into a long narrative, and makes the reader ask whether they have more method than matter. The best work that has been done among us recently has been in short stories, and it may be that this is the only form of fiction that our swift ways of living will allow us to perfect.
- The White Sister. By MARION CRAWFORD, New York : The Macmillan Co. 1909.↩
- The White Mice. By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1909.↩
- The Little Gods. By ROWLAND THOMAS. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1909.↩
- The Woman in Question. By JOHN REID SCOTT. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co. 1909.↩
- The Inner Shrine. New York: Harper and Bros. 1909.↩
- The Romance of a Plain Man. By ELLEN GLASGOW. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1909.↩
- A Certain Rich Man. By WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1909.↩
- Red Horse Hill. By SIDNEY MCCALL. Boston : Little, Brown & Co. 1900.↩
- Ezekiel. By LUCY PRATT. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1909.↩
- Daphne, or Marriage à la Mode. By MARY A. WARD. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. London : Cassell & Co. 1909.↩
- Sebastian. By FRANK DANBY. New York : The Macmillan Co. 1909.↩
- The Mount. By C. F. KEARY. London: Archibald Constable & Co.↩
- Sixpenny Pieces. By A. NEIL LYONS. London: John Lane Co. 1909.↩
- Low Society. By ROBERT HALIFAX. London : Archibald Constable & Co. 1909.↩
- The Red Saint. By WARWICK DEEPING. London : Cassell & Co. 1909.↩
- The Wanton. By FRANCES FORBESROBERTSON. London: Greening & Co. 1909.↩
- Everybody’s Secret. By DION CLAYTON CALTHORP. London : Alston Rivers. 1909.↩
- Antonio. By ERNEST OLDMEADOW. London : Grant Richards. New York: The Century Co. 1909.↩
- The Score. By LUCAS MALET. London: John Murray. 1909.↩
- Through Welsh Doorways. By JEANNETTE MARKS. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co. 1909.↩