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What amount of the white and red corpuscles of a novelist's life's blood is used for the vivifying of the children of his brain may be surmised in part by reckoning the heritage of longevity bestowed upon the dramatis personæ of the comedies and tragedies of his fiction.
What portion of his nerve force he consumes in energizing his marionnettes; what quantity of fibrine and other organic compounds he depletes himself of, for vitalizing them, is most surely indicated by whatever of living warmth and coloring he succeeds in infusing into them, as personalities born of himself, and endowed by him with the qualities and attributes of a multiform humanity.
That there is a certain expenditure of vital power in the production of the humblest Uriah Heep, nourished into being among the brain cells of the novelist, is a fact too well established to be gainsaid.
As in the economy of a physical genesis, so in that of the mental; it is the fallacious hope of the human mother to renew her life in her child's. Maternity brings its own gracious recompense, yet is the essence of its experimental joy closely allied to the perfume of the lily, which, brought to blossoming maturity, exhales the sweetest elements of its perfection in the initial effervescence of disintegration and decay. In the registry of births there is made but a single record of a "brain-child" evolved without loss of vital power on the part of the author of that child's being. Minerva's emergence, full dowered as a goddess, from the godlike forehead of Jupiter is, however, in this
nineteenth century, relegated to its proper place among the myth chronicles of an age when nymphs and dryads tripped through the mazes of their "full-dress germans" to the piping of Pandean pipes in the forests of Arcadia.
"Little Nell," that imperishable spirit of purity, was not the wearer of the helmet and shield of the goddess of wisdom, but none the less surely does her birth record entitle her to a place among the immortals in the realm of fiction. We who have had our hearts stirred by the touch of her fingers do not forget that her small life was an emanation from the brain and marrow of him who, with a prophet's vision of the pathetic tragedy to be unfolded in the brief span linking her birth with her death, became, the while, a solitary mourner in the crowded streets of London, saying, again and again, to his troubled soul: "Since she must die, would God she had never been born."
In the glooms of Rochester, the morbid rebellion of his spirit in the stern acceptance of fate's allotment to himself, there is the shadowpresentment of the brooding woes haunting the life of Charlotte Brontë. In her "Jane Eyre" we recognize, too, certain graces of character as a heritage from herself. There is the impassioned temperament blended with strength of will and steadiness of nerve; the impulsive emotions, safe anchored to a cool prudence, like the floating buoy chained to its bed-rock, under the tossing waves of a danger shoal.
In physical reproduction even, the influence of heredity is usually too elusive for analysis, and not infrequently defies detection; but as
the scions of a race of which for generations the women have been known to be beautiful and the men brave are more apt than otherwise to be gifted with the family traits, beauty and bravery, so the brain progeny of the novelist, however composite in their "make up," exhibit transmitted lineaments and characteristics enough to show that there has been a transfusion of blood constituents from the veins of the parent into the life circulation of the offspring. The matrix of genius, in which was molded the Florentine Romola, did not fail to impress upon the supersensitive nature of the ideal woman the impress of not a few unmistakable lines of resemblance to the author of her existence. A scholarly recluse, the devotee of the beautiful and true, as she wrought beauty and truth of the filaments of her own dreams; the unyielding believer in a creed of her own devising; a worshipper of images graven unto herself; the rash iconoclast, never hesitating to break in pieces the dearest idol of her soul when once her eyes were opened to see the idol's feet of clay; thus fashioned, was she not a luminous reflection of her progenitor, George Eliot?
Under the illusory charm of Tito's very human frailties may one not find a mournful sug
gestion of Marianne Evans, once she had turned her life aside from the holier, higher ideals of her youth? But indices, such as have been cited, might be indefinitely multiplied. They are significant of the vital union between the author and the creations of his imagination. These creations, if they are to outlive himself, in nine cases out of ten, are the outward expression of what he is, or what he feels he might be capable of being in his dual nature, under the pressure of a given set of circumstances. As a student of human nature, however, the novelist acquires the faculty of absorbing from the associations of his environment, and of assimilating mental pabulum, that goes not only to the repairing of his waste brain tissue, but can be used by him as so much raw material for the reconstruction or reincarnation of his heroes and heroines.
In the lifetime of a writer of novels, therefore, it is, perhaps, impossible to decide if he be gifted with the divine faculty of breathing into the nostrils of his creations that breath of his life that is to make of them living souls, endowed with the heritage of his own immortality, as the creator of a new order of intelligences. M. Sheffey-Peters.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.
What is a critic? Probably the most reasonable answer to the question is, that he is a terror to the beginner in literature. A critic is one who criticises. He is a judge in the literary world; he passes an opinion on the literary efforts of others; he tells us if they are good, bad, or indifferent; he is supposed to know.
The question may be asked sometimes, however, "Does he know?" Well, not always. Of the thousands of so-called critics in the world, how many really know how to criticise? Maybe a half a dozen; maybe a hundred; maybe a thousand; but there's not one of them who is not confident that he knows all about it.
The greater number of this peculiar class of people evidently think that criticism consists in judging an author's work harshly and unfavorably, "roasting" it, in fact, to use the vernacular of the newspaper man. Their judgment is supposed to be the general opinion, and they never will allow for one moment that their judgment can be in any respect incorrect. Oh, no; what they write of a new novel, a new play, or the performance of an actor or actress, must be right in all respects. They are critics; they know; they have passed their opinion, and that is sufficient.
the critic, and tell me that he has made a study of criticism. No, gentle reader, no; the majority of critics do not make a study of criticism, and that's where the trouble comes in. Like a batch of destroying weeds, the most of our socalled critics spring from a hot-bed of ignorance. They are given a power; they terrorize our beginners in literature and crush much of the promising genius in our rising young authors. That's what many of our critics do. They are
A CRITICISM OF "TRILBY."
"I have just finished reading George Du Maurier's Trilby.'"
"And how does it impress you?"
"As a series of art sketches, -word pictures, -marred here and there by false strokes. Svengali and Trilby are masterful creations, consistent throughout. If the hypnotic influence has never taken the form described, in the light of what is known and proven, there is no reason why it may not. The artist-author's word sketches are like his pen drawingsbold in outline and with little softening shading. Little Billee is exquisitely done, from the first to last. I think Du Maurier should have wedded him with sweet Alice, and so made one death less in the tragic category. And he need n't have 'married off' McAlister at all, as his chosen one enters not at all into the tale, and is not given even name and habitation when she is dragged in at the very close. It is the old, tiresome way of settling everybody for life at the end of a story, even when no pretense is made of giving life histories.
beside the painted, daring creatures who sit for models to figure painters. This impression might have been softened by Little Billee's recovery from his Parisian intoxication and the dressing of sober, earnest, respectable life in more attractive colors. Du Maurier, too, plainly jeers at those who love these simple things because they don't know any better.
"The most inartistic thing in the whole book is the not infrequent allusion to 'your present scribe' and 'the writer.' When, through much skilful manipulation, a climax is reached and the reader is held by the spell, it is about as effective and sudden a disenchanter to be told, 'The writer knows nothing at all about music, as the reader has doubtless discovered,' as it is to hear the prompter behind the scenes; or to have the dead on the stage, who made you cry with their dying, come smiling out in answer to plaudits; or to get a sudden glimpse of the dressing room, where the costumes are assorted and the rouge is put on.
"To go with an author on a little moralizing or philosophical side excursion is thoroughly enjoyable, but to run against a snag like this, 'This is a digression, and I don't know how I came to do it,' gives one the sensation of being played upon by a guide who has appeared as absorbed as yourself in scenes and characters, but who has not for a moment lost his self
"There are covert sneers at the honesty and innocence, and occasionally the stupidity, of the Englishmen - sort of Max O'Rell dabs, as it were; for instance: 'British, provincial, home-made music, innocent little sisterly and motherly tinklings.' And sweet Alice, with her Sunday-school class and charity works, is made to appear tame, washed-out, and insignificant consciousness, as is shown by the way he jerks
himself up when he would turn a corner and jostles you out of your dreamy and delightful contemplation.
"Another and kindred blemish in these altogether striking pictures is the occasional dropping into colloquialisms. Du Maurier describes Little Billee's malady in quite learned fashion, and then mentions his 'cerebrum or cerebellum (whichever it may be).' And speaking of Trilby's height, he says: About as tall as Miss Ellen Terry- the right height, I think.' Here you are snatched from a picture in the Latin Quartier in the 'fifties, to behold Miss Terry come upon the stage and to be told that Du Maurier likes tall women and approves of Miss Terry. Of course, the 'Trilby' spell is broken, and you feel vexed with him who did it, either ignorantly or maliciously.
"Then there are such inapt quotations! There are a thousand things that Trilby could have said at the sorrowful, critical moment, better and more in keeping than I must take the bull by the horns,' albeit she had heard the expression from Taffy, who painted toreadors. And when Little Billee saw Alice's father approaching and felt shrunken into insignificance as he compared himself with him, he should hardly have said: When Greek meets Greek,
then comes the tug of war.' The sentence, And the Laird wunk his historic wink,' makes a newspaper editor feel like reaching for his blue pencil, and at the same time scoring an over-smart reporter. Miss Lavinia Hunks, of Chicago,' is very bad. American girls who pay for, and marry, titles are not deformed and squint-eyed. It is neither realistic nor reasonable to picture one as being so, when plenty of the comely and graceful stand waiting.
"The grammatical construction of sentences is bad in some instances; for illustration: 'And each walked off in opposite direction, stiff as pokers, while Tray stood between them looking first at one receding figure, then another.'
"In spite of these blemishes, which announce themselves plainly in a fine piece of work, 'Trilby' is fascinating from first to last. Du Maurier's French slang is delicious, and his delineation of the art student's life in the Latin Quartier, which is to-day vastly like that of forty years ago, with changes of name and place, shows intimate knowledge, if not a fund of experience. The story is airy and picturesque, and will easily rank as the most notable novel of the summer from a man's hand.”
Eliot C. True.
I think many writers make a mistake in look ing too high for a market for their first attempts at writing. Many writers enter the field without any training, and with but little capital in the shape of treasured-up knowledge, and yet expect that their first crude efforts ought to be good enough for the best papers or magazines in the land.
A moment's thought ought to show them that this is expecting more than is reasonable. No reasonable person, having no knowledge whatever of the duties of a printing office, would think of entering a newspaper office with the expectation that in a few months he would be
editor-in-chief. It is the same in every department of life. The minister, the lawyer, the doctor, the teacher, whether in the higher institutions of learning or in the common school, the artisan, in every department of skilled labor, all expect to begin at the bottom of the ladder and work their way up by honest toil, by mak ing themselves worthy of a higher place. And why should not this be as true of writers as of any other workers?
I think it would be well for beginners, whether they are young or old, to send their first effusions to some of the less pretentious papers, since their contributions will be much
more likely to be accepted than if they are sent to leading papers. Many articles that are apt and in place in a good paper working in some humble sphere would have no value to the editor of a great journal.
There is a danger here, perhaps, that we ought to guard against. We may think that if we write for a paper of the humbler sort, we need not be very careful as to how we write; that almost anything will be good enough for a paper of that kind. That is not the feeling for any one to indulge who wishes to become a good writer. Do the very best you can all the time. For whatever paper you write, whether for the county paper in your own neighborhood or for some leading paper in Boston or New York, try to have your articles among the very best to be found in that paper.
An editor of my acquaintance paid a flattering compliment to one of his contributors when he said to him: "Your articles, Mr. H―, are inquired after, and always elicit favorable comment." That is the kind of articles that we should try to furnish all the time; the very brightest and best to be found in the paper we write for, no matter what the standing of the paper may be.
To summarize: Send your articles to a paper that will welcome them; do no careless work, but let your articles be so good as to attract attention; be ever aiming to "branch out" by sending occasional articles to papers of a higher standing; work faithfully and perseveringly, and the measure of success that is possible is reasonably assured. BIGELOW, Minn.