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has disregarded the convention, and, unlike Stevenson, he has been mulcted for disregarding it. Possibly Mr. Conrad may also be affected by another consideration which weighed with Stevenson. Stevenson felt uncertainty as to his power to draw female character; but it is evident enough, not only from his letters but from parts of his work, from such a story as the ‘Parilion on the Links,' from Prince
Otto,' and most of all, of course, from his unfinished masterpiece · Weir of Hermiston,' that the romance of sex appealed to him even more strongly than to most writers. He would willingly, that is, have written of love; but, as he says in one of his letters, he was realist to the backbone, and if he treated of love he desired to handle it as he did David Bal. four's experiences when he and Alan Breck fled from dragoons in the heather. And in this track difficulties bristled. The considerations as to what is moral, what immoral, what is decent, what indecent, were such as struck terror to his heart.
Before Stevenson died, he was sure of his ground, and enough exists of Weir’ to show something of what he would have done in this matter. It is possible that many of his admirers were spared a shock. And yet, in plain truth, the emancipation of the novelist is complete enough nowadays. Mr. Meredith showed, now forty years ago, how a novelist may render the strange and beautiful iridescence of sex instinct as it arises between two clean and perfect creatures, with its frank unison of material and spiritual; and no one has outdone in boldness certain passages of Richard Feverel'nay, the whole scheme of the book, which nevertheless only the most indecent prudery could censure. But, as also Stevenson said in a letter, Mr. Meredith has done this, and no one else can do it. The question remains for the ordinary novelist, even of talent, whether the sex motive is to be discarded altogether, as Stevenson and Mr. Conrad have very largely done, or whether it is to be handled with gloves on. In this matter, English literature of the nineteenth century stands apart from all others. We have thanked God profusely, and perhaps with some reason, that we were not as our neighbours. In France, the exclusive preoccupation of novelists with breaches of the Seventh Commandment has generated a convention not less wearisome than our own. With them all action has to be related to illicit lovemaking, as the English writer must find the mainspring of his plot in someone's desire to marry some other person. Of the two traditions the British is doubtless preferable. Yet when
one considers bow much of the best talent has gone into producing this form of literature for the last seventy or eighty years, and how increasingly the novel has become the medium for conveying such ideas as used formerly to be conveyed through poetry, through drama, through the essay, and through satire, it is not so clear that we were the gainers by a tradition which demanded that the novelist should always write with his eye on the young lady reader. Thackeray cried out long ago for leave to paint a man as Fielding had painted him; but Thackeray was careful to observe the convention. Dickens, to whom insincerity came easy, rioted in mawkish sentiment. The women had more courage, and Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot were accused of gross indecency for books which to-day would not shock a schoolgirl. Mr. Meredith went entirely his own way-bis Mrs. Berry is frank as the nurse in “Romeo and Juliet'—but as no one read him, it did not matter. Little by little the convention was beaten down by successive small encroachments, and at present there is all the freedom that can fairly be desired. One may reasonably argue that men and women have at last come to recognise that the novel is the dominant literary form, that the novelist may quite conceivably have his message (in the cant phrase) to deliver, and that he must therefore not be hampered by restrictions which were justifiable only so long as he was classed among the providers of popular amusement. The fact must be faced that Count Tolstoy, to whom few would deny a high place among the great moral influences now at work in Europe, has found in the novel the most effective vehicle for his teaching, and in his use of it has not shrunk from a realism that shirks no detail necessary to the effect to be conveyed. Tolstoy's * Resurrection is a book scarcely fitter for the young reader than M. Zola's 'Nana' or 'La Terre,' but it is questionable whether we do well to pride ourselves on the fact that Tolstoy's book could hardly have been written in English.
However, the problem here raised—what should be permitted to a novelist ?-cannot be here discussed ; our business is merely to note the fact that the novelist has now a great deal more liberty than was permitted to him in the days of Scott. He indeed accepted the convention as he found it, when the novel was in deserved disrepute—a kind of safety-valve for human silliness. It was, as we have said, no part of his purpose to be a disputant, and, moreover, his nature did not incline him to any analysis of what is perhaps the leading human passion, and certainly in novels is always assumed to be so. Other men coming after him were always Iposed to the taunt that Sir Walter got on very well without bringing a blush to any cheek. But in proportion as the novelist shifted his attitude to life, as he grew more and more the serious student of human problems, a title which no one would refuse, for instance, to George Eliot-the restriction became impossible. If men and women were to give an earnest picture of life, so large and go significant a part in its workings as the sex impulse could not be left out from scrutiny in all its bearings. And in tbe work of Mr. Hardy, the most representative figure among modern novelists—for Mr. Meredith is, sui generis, unclassified—the factor of sex bulks big and ugly. Take Mr. Hardy's most characteristic book, Jude the Obscure'; it is touched with romance, but the romance of Jude's life is the pursuit of learning, the effort to rise out of ignorance to intellectual heights. Sex is a stumbling-block, and the part it plays in Jude's early career is aptly symbolised by the manner of his first meeting with the woman who trapped him into marriage. Yet though the world was mightily shocked-and no wonder-by this outrageously Aristophanic piece of symbolic episode, Mr. Hardy's position is unaffected.
Nevertheless, though the English novelist has now a perfectly free field for his ability within any sort of reasonable limits, as was proved by the great popularity of Sir • Richard Calmady,' there are signs that literary activity is seeking new directions. With the exception of Lucas Malet, it would be hard to name any contemporary writer of the first class whose best work has been done in the orthodox and accepted type of the novel. There are, of course, plenty of talented novelists—Mr. Anthony Hope and Mr. Seton Merriman to mention a couple—and Mr. Marion Crawford, who, in one little masterpiece, 'A Cigarette-maker's • Romance,' rises out of this class. Rather above these should be ranked three or four very clever ladies—Mrs. Humphry Ward, Mrs. Clifford, Miss Cholmondeley, and perhaps Mrs. Margaret Woods; but it can scarcely be said that these writers rank with Mr. Barrie and Mr. Kipling. Mr. Meredith and Mr. Hardy may for the moment be put out of sight, since Mr. Meredith began publishing before George Eliot, and Mr. Hardy belongs almost to Trollope's generation. Of the younger men it is notable that few owe their fame to a novel which conforms to the predominant type--that is, to a love intrigue concerned with modern life. Mr. Conrad's Lord
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• Jim,' as we have said already, occupies itself solely with the study of masculine character apart almost altogether from the influence of women ; his · Heart of Darkness is simply a wonderful impression of a strange and strangely peopled land, thrown into the mould of fiction. Mr. Hewlett has indeed attempted a well recognised form, the historic romance, but in our judgement with scant success ; his best work has been done in depicting scenes as far removed from the actual life of any age as those of Maeterlinck. Mr. Barrie and Mr. Kipling are both actualists with a vengeance, but they are masters of the short story, rather than of the novel. One may rate · Sentimental Tommy' or Tommy ' and Grizel' high, and yet refuse to place either book on a level with “A Window in Thrums. No one supposes 'The ‘Light that Failed' to show Mr. Kipling at his best, and though his last book, “Kim,' with some of his best work in it, is a long narrative, the love interest is wholly excluded. It might be plausibly argued that the vogue of the short story, which dates from Stevenson's day, may be derived from the desire which he shared with many writers to escape from the obsession of petticoats in a tale. Mr. Kipling, like Stevenson, wanted to write about men principally in their relations to men; and though Mr. Barrie was as keen a reader of the female heart as ever lived, many things interested him besides the love story. He was glad, no doubt, of a literary form which allowed him to study the maternal instinct without subordinating it to the other motive; to tell the story of Jess and the glove without bringing the glove's owner upon the scene.
It is notable, too, that the best writers of prose fiction are now turning aside to try their hand at other forms. Mr. Hardy's sombre genius is finding a new expression in verse, possibly because he thinks the other vehicle outworn or discredited. But especially novelists nowadays are being drawn to the drama. Hardly one of any note but has attempted it-Mr. Hardy himself experimentally, Mr. Barrie and Mr. Anthony Hope with huge success. More than one has shown a higher talent in this kind than in the otherMrs. Clifford, for instance, and, though he probably does not think so, Sir A. Conan Doyle, whose little Straggler of · Waterloo,' is, in our opinion, worth all his novels. Mr. Kipling and Mr. Hewlett are both known to be writing plays; the same tale is told of Mrs. Humphry Ward. Mrs. Woods has produced a remarkable blank-verse tragedy, though probably with little hope of stage presentment. All this is significant, and the more significant because, as Mr. Raleigh points out, the novel and the drama have never flourished together. The age of Elizabeth, the age of Charles II., were ages in which prose invention took a different bent. And no one can be blind to the fact that the drama is in England undergoing some such rehabilitation as the novel underwent in Scott's day. Not only the best among the novelists, but Mr. Phillips and Mr. Yeats, leaders among the younger poets, are writing plays with a definite view to stage production. To write plays is, in short, becoming, as Jeffrey said of the novel, 'a more creditable
exercise of ability than it had previously been accounted.' And, indeed, nothing could better show the advance which the novel has made in status than the fact that a novelist now needs, or at least needed a while ago, to apologise slightly for descending to work for the footlights.
Another ominous symptom of decadence may be observed in this branch of literature. Once the theory of any artform comes to be discussed or formulated it is safe to predict that the life of that form is dwindling. We have seen in our day much wrangling over the true method of the novelist -a subject that was not discussed when Thackeray and Dickens divided the country's homage. Stevenson, à born theorist, advocated the importance of plot and surprising incident, and laid down pretty clearly the principle-which, like all art-principles, had been instinctively observed long before anyone thought to formulate it-of gradating emotional intensity to a climax, of inventing a chain of situations, closely bound up together, yet each rising above its predecessors. Mr. Henry James and Mr. Howells, on the other hand, emphasised the importance of the other strand which goes to make up the fabric of the novel ; dwelt upon the dissection of motives, the minute analysis of actions seemingly insignificant. They dispensed almost entirely with what Stevenson essentially delighted in-the presence of danger, the blow threatened or struck, the discharge of physical energy. One can see how, in course of time, the novelist, as it were, specialised in one of these two directions. Scott, Stevenson's master, had less of the stress of emotion in his work, was well content to linger by the way, and did not so confine himself to the unfolding of a violent and exciting tale. To him the plot was not so entirely the heart of the matter as it became in the hands of the younger writer, who constructed a theory which, perhaps, assumed too completely that a man can only attend to one thing