Jinny the Carrier: A Folk-Comedy of Rural England

By ISRAEL ZANGWILL. New York: The Macmillan Company 1919. 12mo, x+607 pp. $2.00.
A LEISURELY mood is the fundamental requisite for enjoyment of this six-hundred-page story of rural England when the years of Victoria’s reign were ever so few. Slow in method, elaborate in detail, the book seems an ultimate expression of a twenty years’ attempt to ‘seize the essence of Essex its landscape, character, and dialect .'
The centre and pivot of this expression is the delightful character of Jinny. Professional carrier for the small towns on the Brad, — a business taken over unabstrusively from her Gran'fer Quarles when his temporary feebleness became permanent, with her tilt-cart, her dog, her old horse Methusalem, and her ready horn, Jinny becomes at once the goddess of the countryside and its itinerant social centre. Through her quick eye and responsive mind all the loveliness of, the Essex fields and lanes is revealed as she makes her two rounds a week. With a kind of proprietary interest she exhibits the peasant folk, and they in turn, as if struck with a spark of her own wit, reveal themselves and their simple customs, all their store of quaint ness and drollery.
Such are the background and the chief character. The story itself, to be what by authorial hypothesis it must be, a ‘blend’ novel, has to begin with ‘once upon a time' and end with ‘they all lived happy ever after.’ Will Flynt’s aversion to Jinny’s ‘carrying’ as unbecoming in a woman (he was in Canada when the transition from her grandfather to herself took place), his success as rival carrier, Jinny’s persistency, her threatened poverty, and her final triumph these spin the main thread of the romance. The close-packed pages, already filled with the comedy of this courtship and with the episodes that pile up into Jinny’ssuccess as true heroine of romance, overflow generously with the affairs of Bundock the postman, old Skindle, the aged parents of Will Flynt, Tony Flippanee the showman, and Gran’for Quarles, the hero of a grotesque elopement.
In this blend, no event seems too fantastic — not the Flood, in which Jinny and her tilt-cart ride atop a boat to rescue her obstinate lover and his parents, his trade as rival carrier being quite properly drowned with his horses; not even the digging in TJnete Lilliwhyte’s floor for the gold pieces of Jinny’s fortune. Mr. Zangwill does not merely collect material for a window-display of rustic data: in absorbing his facts, he so artfully integrates the story with them that one is capable of no incredulity about this corner of Essex in which life moves so slowly, yet not dully.
That it moves any way but dully, Jinny has every chance of living long lo prove. H. T. F.