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journalist on the staff of the Daily News, the largest and most important organ of the present Liberal government. For a few years Mr. Ridsdale was employed on the Citizen, published in Gloucester (England), where he regularly wrote verse, usually of a light and topical character, to which he turned as a pleasing change from the distinctly prose work of leader writing. He has also contributed verses, stories, and articles to several other English papers and periodicals. "The Moon Maiden" was inspired by a beautiful night on the Channel Islands, of which the first two verses give an accurate description. Mr. Ridsdale's facility for verse writing seems to be in some measure inherited, for several of his family have achieved poetic distinction.
Montague. "I was much surprised," said Margaret Prescott Montague, author of "Linda," "when my friends told me that the plot of my last book had such a grip on them that they stayed up nights reading it, for that is the last thing I had thought of in putting it together. To me, plot is a secondary consideration, and is throughout subordinate to characterization.
"I write my stories for the most part in detached scenes which strike me vividly from time to time, and then fit them together later. I cannot always write the scene just as it occurs to me, for usually I do my composing in the morning, sitting down diligently every morning for three hours.
But no matter when I do the writing, my story is created in separate scenes, and the plot, originally arranged but vaguely in my mind, must be rearranged and adapted to suit the conditions.
"Of course, it suffers to some extent, but that is as it should be. When a real live plot results it is merely an additional advantage."
"But why this uncertain way of going at a book?" the interviewer naturally asked. "Why, perfectly simple. Characterization must dominate a good book, and it has always been so with stories that have a lasting value. Given the characters, one must have the circumstances to modify them, not a series of carefully-connected circumstances, for then the plot will dominate; but a series of greatly-varied, possibly disconnected circumstances which then show every side of the nature of the character to be described, and make the book a complete study of the individual.
"I shall sometime invent a plot, I think probably for a short story. and then create two or three different sets of characters and carry them through the story, just to see what the result will be.
"Of course, I re-write my finished book at least two and usually three times, so that eventually things arrange themselves smoothly.
"Take Linda,' for example. There is a great variety of situations in this book. Many people have criticised some of them as improbable but of course they do not seem so to me, else I should never have written them.
"Likewise the ending, which realists say is peculiar. Realists think no story can be true and end happily, but there are just as many true stories which culminate in joy as there are those which are enshrouded in a cloud of sorrow."
Miss Montague was asked whether she had written any short stories.
"Oh, my, yes! was the rejoinder, “but they're much harder to write than a long book. You know my style is so leisurely and easy-going that it is not suited to that
sort of a story which needs crispness more than anything.
"Besides, there is so much technique to a short story, so many details to tend to, and so many things that must be left out. All those that I ever wrote ought to have started two years later and ended a year earlier." Boston Globe.
Page. In 1877 Thomas Nelson Page sent to the old Scribner's - now the Century — a poem called "Unc. Gabe's White Folks," which was printed in the bric-a-brac department of that magazine. He received a check for fifteen dollars for it, and that was the first money he had received for literary work.
"Marse Chan," a tale of the Civil war, was accepted by the same magazine in 1881, and Page was paid eighty dollars for it, but the publication was deferred for three years, the editor explaining that the war was too recent to admit of its earlier publication. It appeared in book form soon after it had appeared in the magazine, and quickly established the author's reputation.
"The story of Marse Chan' started in my mind from an old letter which a friend of mine showed me," said Mr. Page, in reminiscent mood. "This letter was from an illiterate girl in Georgia to her soldier sweetheart. The letter was poorly written and poorly spelled, but full of pathos. The girl had, it seemed, trifled with the man, but after he had left for the war she had realized her great love for him and written.
"She wrote: I know I have treated you · mean. I ain't never done right with you all my life, and I loved you all the time. When you asked me to marry you I laughed and said I would n't have you, and it makes me cry to think you are gone away to war. Now I want you to know I love you, and I want you to git a furlow and come home and I'll marry you.' With a few words of affection the letter closed, but a postcript below was added: Don't come without a furlow, for unless you come home honorable I won't marry you.'
"This letter was received by the soldier only a few days before the battle of Seven
Swinburne. The poet's emotions in the face of death ought not to be unworthy of record when that poet happens to be one of the greatest of his time, if not of all time.
Swinburne nearly lost his life in the summer of 1868 while bathing. The timely appearance of a fishing smack prevented the premature silencing of the voice that was presently to entrance the world with the "Songs Before Sunrise."
I asked him what he thought about in that dreadful contingency, and he replied that he had no experience of what people often profess to witness, the concentrated panorama of past life hurrying across the memory. He did not reflect on the past at all.
He was filled with annoyance that he had not finished his "Songs Before Sunrise," and then with satisfaction that so much of it was ready for the press, and that Mazzini would be pleased with him.
"I reflected with resignation that I was exactly the same age as Shelley was when he was drowned," he said. This, however, was not the case. Swinburne had reached that age in March, 1867; but this was part of a curious delusion of Swinburne's that he was younger by two or three years than his real age.
Then he began to be, I suppose, a little benumbed by the water, his thoughts fixed on the clothes he had left on the beach, and he worried his clouded brain about some unfinished verses in the pocket of his coat. - Edmund Gosse, in the Cornhill Magazine.
CURRENT LITERARY TOPICS.
A Dramatist's Blackmail Bcok.- William C. de Mille, playwright, said in his study at 230 West 107th street last evening that he is going to keep a blackmail book, so that he can stop paying attorney's fees that his literary veracity may be preserved against
persons who charge that he has filched a plot, idea, or color.
"It takes $1,000 to $2,000 thus to defend oneself against such a charge," he continued, and I have, after infinite pains and advice with my attorneys, invented a system by which each idea I have shall forthwith be copyrighted and made mine beyond any question of doubt."
The system proved to be one of checks and counterchecks, which probably will make claimants to the playwright's successes hesitate before bringing suit against him, and which will, he hopes, save him some checks besides.
Mr. de Mille has a set of diaries in which he proposes to keep a brief tabulation of all the work he does each day. As each new piece of work is begun he intends to catalogue it, being careful to note the date and to keep a record of the piece's growth as it advances.
From time to time, too, the author plans to read over certain passages of his work to friends, having them initial the manuscript after the reading, so that they will be able to swear that the passages actually were produced on the dates mentioned.
As each act of each play is completed it is to be sent to Washington and copyrighted as a one-act play. When the entire drama is finished the various acts are to be copyrighted a second time as integral parts of the completed productions.
"I want to give fair warning," said the playwright, "that I'm going to fight every one of these cases to an end. It has come to a point where my literary honesty is at stake, and I'm not the only one who has been put into this embarrassing as well as unpleasant situation.
tion of a plot or dramatic situation which makes the difference, but even in this respect coincidence frequently makes this very construction and elaboration almost identical. Then the case resolves itself to a matter of priority in date of composition, and it is in such instances that my blackmail book will prove invaluable."
Mr. de Mille says that almost every man who has produced a success in the last five years has been forced to defend it in the courts. One of his plays has been assailed by six different claimants. New York Sun.
The Latest "Literary" Word. We wish to issue our customary storm warnings against the latest "literary" word.
Why Fiction Heroines Have Changed. Not long ago a friend remarked to me apropos of the heroine of "A Woman of Genius that he would have run away from that kind of a woman. Very likely; he was that kind of a man. About the same time I heard an Englishman undertake to tell a New York audience of quite the better sort that if the ladies insisted on having the vote men would no longer love them, and he was received with hilarious groans. The remark and the incident brought out for me suddenly the extent to which the stuffing has fallen out of one of the stock bogies with which women used to be terrified into good
What the feminist revolution of the past few years has proved for us is that men are not so easily frightened away from loving as they thought they were going to be, and that women bear up under their defection much better than anybody supposed they would. Following on this discovery has come a change in the character of the heroine of fiction.
Until within the present generation the prime requirement has been that she should be a charmer of men. She has been ravishingly beautiful and both the hero and the villain were madly in love with her; this demand for the quality of the enchantress extended even to the villainess, only her charms were of the deadly boa constrictor sort. And she must be also unmarried. Even Charlotte Brontë, who dared to make Jane Eyre both poor and plain, dared not show her other than able to draw the masterful and caddish Rochester to eat out of her hand.
The necessity for the heroine's remaining unmarried until the last chapter grew out of the fact that in the first place nothing was expected to happen to a married woman anyway, and in the second that novels were formerly written by men who could n't be legitimately interested in any wives other than their own or by maiden ladies who could n't be expected to know legitimately anything but the pre-marital struggle. It was not until the latter part of the Victorian age that fiction began to treat seriously of married women and women doing something else besides pursuing or being pursued. "Vanity Fair" was the first, and still remains the most notable, example of a novel in which the interest centres about the social struggles of the delightful Becky rather than her sex adventures. Becky Sharp was never really in love in her life, and only rather heavily and uninterestingly loved, but she holds us to the last page, and even then we should like to know what became of her.
Since then we have had a variety of married ladies figuring on the printed page with
a steadily rising limit of the Dangerous Age and more and more the tendency is to show women not so much as protagonists in the game of love as in the game of life. This is especially the case in America, where the mature woman holds the centre of interest on all really important matters. This is so much the fact that the inability of our men novelists to seize and portray faithfully this type is to a great extent the cause of their failure to rise to the level of the English novelists. In England the novelist has long been habituated to the fictional treatment of women who have interests other than to run away with or run away from, but in America we have to trust the women novelists for such delineation which perhaps accounts for their rapid stride toward the commanding position.
No doubt the magazine and newspaper rage for pushing young men to the front and so keeping our current literature largely in the hands of the intellectually immature has something to do with the failure of our fictionists to catch the significant phases of American womanhood, but it cannot be credited with it all. Literally hundreds of our most brilliant story writers drop out of the running just when they reach the years. when most could be expected of them Richard Harding Davis, to go no further, a man of unquestioned ability, not fulfilling the expectation he has excited. Is it not in part due to the fact that though he can draw charming girls he has never shown us a woman?
And in the early forties life is not all girls and skittles. As for David Graham Phillips and the beautiful victims of the sexomania of his heroes, what one of them has the vitality as a personage even of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, a lonely, unlovely figure engaged in the business not of enchanting men but making them? I know a popular, high-priced writer of magazine stories whose mother, deserted with her three children in a country the language of which she did not even speak, almost without friends, fought her way through to the rearing and educating of her family and is still, now that she has finished with them,
iron-gray and proud, supporting herself. But there is nothing in her son's stories but girls, girlie girls, with a leaning toward the elusive, serpentine type, and he was one of a group, happily small in America, who really took seriously a Danish novel purporting to be a revelation of the man-mad mind of women at forty. What the American woman of forty is generally doing is making personal sacrifices to keep the boys in college.
Perhaps the real cause of the prevalence of the captivating type in fiction is accounted for by our all being more or less under the obsession which forbids women telling the truth about themselves. We are not trained to speak or expect the truth, and the most advanced of us are still occasionally, by reversion, shocked by it. The business of women has for ages been held to be to please men, and men do not really care how women feel, but how they make men feel. A woman who cannot make them feel the way they are accustomed and wish to feel about her is unwomanly. This is the plain definition of that word. Not by any particular behavior, but by any which gives men sensations at variance with their predilections is woman unsexed.
She once did it by putting starch in her collar, and in some countries she does it by going about on her own feet. What society has expected of women is not a truthful presentation of herself but an acceptable one. If she had n't it by nature she must be trained and coerced into it.
Women took on mental attitudes held to be proper for them or died in the attempt; sometimes they died of it. So the heroine who tells the plain truth about herself and the plain truth about women is astonishingly like the plain truth about men is not likely to be popular for a time with a large class of readers.
We are still half unconsciously under the old racial habit of thinking that if a woman fails to please men she fails in all.
Even the men who have arrived at realizing that the value of a working-man is something better than the measure of his servility to his employer are still in the
grip of the old fallacy about the value of women. But just as women of to-day are rising to the call of a thing higher than the personal predilection, the call of the genius of the race, so the quality of heroines will rise with them. They will be women fit to be the mothers of men; whether they will also be attractive will depend largely on the quality of the men. What will astonish the particular man is that she will not care so much for his opinion, and what will astonish him even more is that he will go on marrying her just the same, for the genius of the race does not care a great deal for private opinions, either. Mary Austin, in the New York Times.
The Novelist's Requisites.-"There are three things a novelist has to do to prove himself," said Miss Ellen Glasgow, "first, show an ability to create personalities; second, exhibit a sincerity of style, and, third, evince the capacity for an intelligent criticism of life. Without these he is not worth very much in a serious big way. To contribute to the knowledge and understanding of life that should be his motive in writing — not primarily to create a pleasant impression. We must free ourselves from the fear of fear."
"In other words, be a realist in a brave way?"
"Yes, she assented readily, "for are not pity and terror profounder than pleasantness? Yet these are almost unknown in present-day prose fiction. I really believe that one of the greatest handicaps of the American novel is its agreeableness, its tendency to support the pretty sham instead of the ugly truth. As long as we persecute the writer for not being pretty, so long we produce the surface fiction. We all need deeper seriousness, deeper reason, and wider personal freedom."
'Are we not becoming conscious of this need?" I asked.
"Probably we are getting over what I call the terrible evasion in our novels. There have been several stages in our growth since the special type of fiction was evolved; there was the sentimentality of