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Down below in a snug little stateroom, before a typewriter on a little folding table, sits Sinclair Lewis, a lank, tously, redhaired figure in an impossibly gaudy silk dressing-gown. Ever and again with two powerful fingers he makes the flimsy machine resound with a staccato racket like machine gun fire. Now and then he
stops to fumble a little hurriedly and nervously among the confused pile of maps, huge books, diagrams and papers that litter the table, the couch on which he sits, the floor, the washstand and the lifepreserver-racks. Failing to find what he seeks, he rasps out in no very choice language, "Paul, what the devil have you done with Manson's "Tropical Medicine'?" A hot argument ensues, through abusive personalities to religion and philosophy, through science to the arts, dying away at last amid a renewed clattering of the typewriter.
There was also this autobiographical factor, according to Lewis:
A small boy whose memory is of being awakened by his father's talking to a patient, down at the door; of catching 3-A. M. phrases: "Where is the pain? Eh? Well, all right, but you ought to have called me earlier. Peritonitis may have set in." A small boy who was permitted to peep at anatomical charts and ponderous medical books in The Office. Then his brother going off to medical school gossip of classes, of a summer's interneship, of surgery versus general practice. And behind father and brother, a grandfather and uncle who were also doctors.
With such a background, the work and ideals of the doctors have always been more familiar to me than any others, and when I began to write novels (I started my first one just twenty years ago, and the first that was ever published fourteen years ago) I thought of some day having a doctor hero. Part of that ambition was satisfied in Dr. Kennicott, of Street", but he was not the chief character, and furthermore I desired to portray a more significant medico than Kennicott
one who could get beneath routine practice into the scientific foundation of medicine one who should immensely affect all life.
What of the result? "Arrowsmith" is a panorama of modern medicine as overwhelming in its completeness and its detail as "Main Street". It is a book that will have to go on the doctor's shelf as surely as Osler's "The
Principles and Practice of Medicine" or the volume on gynecology. It might profitably go on the shelf of the ordinary home along with Holt's "The Care and Feeding of Children". For like these books it is essentially a standard treatise.
I do not mean that it is not a story. There is a very definite story. But the feature of the work is elsewhere. (It lies in the unsparing presentation of all the aspects of medical education and practice. The crass commercialization in spots, the idealism in other spots, the working adjustment that is commonest in the profession, the blind alleys, the political factor which enters in when public health administration functions - all these trunk lines and many a branching are explored. Sometimes the exploration is very thorough; but even when it is brief the swift searchlight of Lewis gives you all the essentials.
The book is a vivisection; its subject is alive and quivering. The book is new; its subject is to the ordinary reader the most mysterious on earth. The book is human; its characters lack nothing that Lewis can give them. The idea-tendency or attitude is marked, as in "Main Street", and those who consider "Babbitt" Lewis's best novel will not be shaken in their conclusion by "Arrowsmith".
What the medical profession will say, I have no means of knowing. Their opposition will help the book very much. Their approval, I suppose, is not likely. They may merely poohpooh it gently, which attitude, without hurting it particularly, would help it least. The doctors have never mastered the arts of publicity - except here and there individually - and they have no established channels through which to make their conclusions widely heard and accepted. Had Lewis
carried out an earlier intention to review the law in a novel as he reviews medicine in "Arrowsmith", the case would be different. Lawyers can do anything, and do.
He was born at Sauk Centre, Minnesota, February 7, 1885, the son of Dr. Edwin J. Lewis and Emma (Kermott) Lewis. A country boyA country boyhood. He went east to Yale and was graduated in 1907. He was a reporter in New Haven and San Francisco and then a magazine editor for several years. I think the only magazine of the lot now surviving is "Adventure". Then he did work for two book publishing houses. Having sold several short stories to "The Saturday Evening Post", he began free lancing in 1916. He had tried it unsuccessfully for a year and a half before that; but this time it worked.
"Main Street" made a small fortune for him. He is one of the four authors who have actually received $50,000 for the serial publication rights of a novel this sum being paid for "Arrowsmith". In the best sense, money does not mean a great deal to him. He has kept enough to furnish an income for life, but he will hardly stop working, and working hard. So far as the money goes, he could have stopped after "Main Street"
or at worst have been obliged to do only a nominal task for years to come. But the picture of him at work on "Arrowsmith" is the answer.
By Helen Anthony
́OU talk of autumn fires, but have you smelled
The "Stanley Weyman" - Changed Taste in Novels - Aldous Huxley -The Libraries-Henry Seton Merriman-Middleton Murry and Keats-Worldly Success in Literature-Philip Lee Warner - John Lane "The Constant Nymph" — First Editions.
LONDON, March 1, 1925.
WAS referring a month or two back
to the suggestion made by Mr. Pett Ridge (who, I am glad to see, is now recovering from a severe illness) that public houses in England should be named after authors of excellence. It seemed a reasonable notion, but not one which we had any chance of seeing in actual practice. But there is no end to the surprises which are to be found in daily life - "Truth is stranger, etc." ... "More absorbing that any novel, etc." — and since that moment I have noticed a strange occurrence to which attention, so far as I know, has not yet been drawn in the English press. A Yorkshire fisherman was recently arrested and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment in, I think, Iceland, for fishing in prohibited waters. The name of his boat was the "Stanley Weyman". I do not suggest that there is any appropriateness in the name of the boat upon this occasion, but the literary inspiration is remarkable. Is there not scope in this department for the celebration of our writers? And, while I am upon the subject, would not the Pullman Company of America find in this field material for the naming of its coaches? The names in use are amazing enough, but they must eventually be either exhausted or superannuated. I wonder no enterprising publisher has entered into an arrangement with some such company
either railroad or steamship — to put into action the further celebration of literary success.
Stanley Weyman is now, I gather, somewhat out of fashion; but when I was young his books had a vogue of immense proportions. The best known of them was, I suppose, “A Gentleman of France"; though "Under the Red Robe" must have run it close in the minds of many. It may even have taken the lead since it has been dramatized. "A Gentleman of France" retains some life and popularity among those who do not so much follow the fashion in reading as read what they enjoy. It certainly has a character of its own. I must have read it half a dozen times at least, particularly in times of illness, when old favorites do not pall. And while I could not endorse the remark once made in my hearing to a young person who was divided between reading "The Three Musketeers” and “A Gentleman of France" - which advice was to read "The Three Musketeers" first, it was so disappointing after "A Gentleman of France" I do feel a weakness for Stanley Weyman which I should be sorry to shed. I am glad that a boat is named after him. It is very fitting. Unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be - fashions have changed. They have a way of changing. The authors who at the
height of M. Forster
present moment are the fashion in England are E. and Aldous Huxley. Mr. Forster has reached a wide public with "A Passage to India", and is the admired of all, though whether the admiration will last in face of the popularity I do not pretend to be able to foretell. He has a very subtle intellect, is a beautiful writer, and is able in the first part of "A Passage to India" to hold the attention and convince the imagination. There is something electrifying about the early chapters of the book. Later, I think, it is less satisfactory, less convincing, less interesting. The book as a whole leaves me with the doubt whether Mr. Forster is temperamentally a novelist at all. He falls back upon morbid hallucination when the need is for emotion. It is not a very good substitute, and Mr. Forster has used it before. reserve my judgment, therefore, upon Mr. Forster as a novelist. For Mr. Forster as a writer and as an intellect I have the greatest admiration. If he wishes to write novels, he shall do so without protest from me. But I think I should prefer him as an historian or as a biographer. I do not like to see a novelist, when the call is for emotion, falling back upon morbid hallucination. But perhaps I am wrong in this as in so many things.
The other writer who is at the present moment very fashionable in England is Aldous Huxley. Not only have his works a first edition value before and after they are published so that extraordinary manœuvres are resorted to by wicked dealers to possess themselves of illegitimate supplies — but when they are upon the market they are actually bought and not borrowed. American readers, who buy their
books, have no conception of the English readers' dependence upon the circulating libraries for all their books, and therefore they may miss the significance of this remark. I will repeat it, for the sake of emphasis. Huxley's books are bought. He is the only writer whose books may be seen all about Chelsea and Hampstead (the two most intellectual of London suburbs) in the hands of young women, and in the original dust covers, unsoiled. Nay, did I not with my own eyes see two separate young women in the West End of London carrying first editions of Huxley's new book, "Those Barren Leaves", on the very morning of publication! Always young women, mind you; not young men. It is the true indication of Huxley's modernity. I am very glad to see this, because Huxley has always appeared to me to be the brightest spot in our youngest writers. With every temptation to be precious, to be the idol of cliques, he is making his own progress. He lives away from the cliques, being in fact rather too large a proposition for cliques, and having rather too much humor for the coteries; and he is working. Instead of cultivating a reputation, he is earning one. If I am not mistaken, "Those Barren Leaves" is an advance upon all Huxley's other prose work. It is also interesting for something besides its positive merits. It shows that Huxley is developing. When that can be said of a man of thirty, who has quite a number of books behind him, the auspices are good.
I have more than once in these letters referred to the English habit of borrowing books. When it is realized that Messrs. W. H. Smith and Sons have branches all over England, at which,
besides selling books, they lend them for a fixed subscription; and further that Boots, the chemists, run similar subscription libraries in connection with all their branches (or nearly all), it will be seen that the Times Book Club and Mudies, with London headquarters, cover but a portion of the field. In addition to these firms, there are smaller libraries, both in London and in the provinces; there are the little shops in every village which are occasionally "in connection with Mudies", but which more often subsist upon cast off copies purchased in quantity at the distributions by which the larger firms clear their shelves of surplus stock. There are the Free Public Libraries, from which as a rule one novel and one non-fiction volume may be borrowed at one time (that is, not more often than once a day), the village libraries, made up of books which the more wealthy residents wish to disperse; and there are the uncontrollable lenders of books. These people may have had books given them for Christmas or birthday presents, and they will lend and borrow from their friends to an endless extent. This last item, you will say, indicates that some books must have been bought by the lenders. Not a bit of it. They will actually lend borrowed books! It is most commonly done. I have myself been lent books borrowed from other people. Crowning grievance an author will be asked by almost total strangers to lend them copies of his own books. The line taken is: "I'd like to read it . . . knowing you, and all that. Can't afford to buy books!" Well, I do not expect people in England to buy my own books. I do not wish them to do So.
But there are books which ought to be bought, and this is a thing which English people will have to learn if they are to be anything but parasitic book
readers. It is ridiculous to think of households which possess nothing at all in the shape of a library. There are many such households still, although the cheap editions of Messrs. Nelson and Collins have done much to remedy the evil. For this reason I am glad to hear of a new scheme which is to be tried for the better circulation of books. For the sale and purchase of books, perhaps I should have said. This is nothing more nor less than a caravan. The caravan is to go about the country with stock selected from the catalogues of about forty different publishers. The enthusiasts who are driving the caravan are going to charter local village halls in order to give better demonstrations of the books, and by means of talks, exhibitions and other efforts, they hope to achieve some tangible result. With every good wish for the enterprise, I am not hopeful that it will be commercially successful. It sounds too amateurish for my liking. But this caravaning business is becoming all the style here. We have caravan theatres and concert parties — why
not caravan booksellers? We shall see what the result is. At any rate, the books sold will be real books, and not those built up sets of rubbish which so many poor housewives are tempted into buying by traveling agents. I think the caravans should first of all tour East Anglia. In the whole of East Anglia consisting of the coun
ties of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk (I do not know how many hundreds of square miles) - there is only one bookseller's shop of any note at all. Attempts to establish other shops in such centres as Norwich have ended in disaster so wretched that booklovers in the eastern counties are in despair. If the caravan bookshop can alter this state of things, it will have done pioneer work.