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A new volume of Conrad stories is just published here, and I expect in America also. A magazine is serializing a novel by Conrad, the title of which, following the one word habit which began with "Chance", is "Suspense". I do not know whether it is realized that this title has been used before, but in any case the former use which is familiar to me is that of a book not much known in this country. The late Hugh Stowell Scott ("Henry Seton Merriman") wrote several books before he adopted the later very familiar pseudonym. These were published anonymously, and "Suspense" was one of them.
Others were "Prisoners and Captives", "Dross", "The Phantom Future", and "Young Mistley". In England, these five books are never reprinted, and I have read them all in American or Canadian editions. Speaking just now of Stanley Weyman reminded me of Henry Seton Merriman, because the two men were personal friends. I see that the sale of Merriman's novels continues, and I wonder that nobody has ever written any personal reminiscences of a writer who should not be despised. By "highbrow" standards, of course, he is nothing at all. It is the easiest thing in the world to make fun of his sententiousness and his effective and mechanical contrivances for maintaining melodramatic significance throughout a conventional story. Yet he did the thing with a great air, and for what he
whether he is known in America. I should have supposed his work ideal for film purposes.
I hear that Middleton Murry has been appointed to a lectureship at Oxford. He is to deliver a series of lectures, and the subject originally set was Shakespeare. This, in view of Murry's present great preoccupation with Keats, is to be modified, so that the series will now be on Shakespeare and Keats. The mixture will shock some bigots, and yet I do not know why it should do so. We know, upon the authority of Sir Sidney Colvin, that Keats was "underbred" (as I fear so many of us are in the eyes of the hyperrefined), but there is no poet who has more of the Shakespearian loveliness than Keats. The mixture should be a good one. Keats will be very much to the fore in a short time, for in addition to the great work which we are all expecting from Amy Lowell there is to be a book by Murry devoted entirely to Keats. With this book and the lectures, which no doubt will presently be published, Murry will have said his say about Keats, and then all the literary journalists will say their say about Murry and Keats and the canons of criticism; and we shall then know pretty well all there is to know about Keats. One point that strikes me about Keats is the number of people I have heard of who believe themselves to be reincarnations of Keats. Three distinguished writers of the present day are known by me to have had this delusion. Two of them are novelists. Not one of the three would ever strike an outsider as showing signs of reincarnation. But there must be something in a personality which has survived two books by Sir Sidney Colvin and such diversity of interpre
tation as is indicated by the delusion I if it had not been collected into book have mentioned.
When I said that I did not wish people to buy my books I was laying myself open to a charge of insincerity. In the sense that I am a professional writer I do desire that my books should be bought. It is commonly said in England, as I mentioned last month in connection with Edmund Gosse (who has now joined the glorious brigade of literary knights, so that he is once more on terms with his old idol, Sir Hall Caine), that novelists are a prostituted class with no aim but that of money getting. I should be sorry if that were true, and I prefer to think that it is untrue. Certainly, I do not hear novelists talk so much about money as do their critics. And I think it is due to the novelists to say this, that very few novelists of the present day are rich as the result of income made directly from their novels. Rich, that is, as compared with business men. But the popular reputation of a novelist is of considerable use to him in the earning market when he is required to do something other than novel writing. I imagine that when Mr. Bennett and Mr. Wells write for the press they can practically name their own terms, because the proprietors of the periodicals which require contributions from such men know that no other men can do what is wanted. Mr. Bennett and Mr. Wells have always been journalists. They were journalists before they became novelists. It is natural to them to express their views interestingly upon a great variety of subjects. Take for example Mr. Wells's latest book, "A Year of Prophesying". It has been objected by critics that this book is journalism. Of course it is. It says it is. It is set out as journalism. But
form I should never have seen it. We do not all read the same newspaper, and it is easy to miss the most charming article or short story if it is not made generally available for those who follow the work of a distinguished writer. And so I am very glad to possess a copy of “A Year of Prophesying”. More, I think it should be salutary to those who bring against the book the charge that it is journalism. Who are the people who call Mr. Wells a journalist? Are they not also journalists? The point that should really be made about this book is not merely that it is journalism, but that it is such astonishingly good journalism. If any reason were needed for Mr. Wells's enormous popularity — and I suppose there is no doubt that his work is familiar to more people than the work of any other living English writer - it is to be found here. He is, as a supercilious friend of mine once said grudgingly about Arnold Bennett, "so damned interesting”. The good journalist is the man who can be "so damned interesting" about a variety of subjects. By this standard Mr. Wells is proudly a journalist. I wish I were one.
The late Philip Lee Warner had been working so hard, and in such an almost chronic state of ill health (rather than actual illness) for so many years, that his death has taken nobody by surprise. Yet those of us who knew him well were not the less shocked upon that account. The "Times" obituary notice, although it said much that Lee Warner's friends would recognize as essentially true, made one or two slight slips, as when it said that Lee Warner was with the firm of Putnam's after his sojourn with the firm of Dent, and that the Riccardi font of type preceded the
Florence. In each case, the reverse is the fact. Lee Warner was for a time in the Bank of England. He then went into the firm of T. Fisher Unwin, the London publisher, then to Putnam's, then to Dent, proceeded to a partnership at Chatto and Windus, left at the end of the term agreed, and established the Medici Society as a separate business. The Florence type was designed at his instigation during the Chatto period, and the Riccardi type belongs to the Medici Society period. Contrary to the opinion expressed by the "Times" writer, it is extremely doubtful whether Lee Warner's taste was of the finest. He worked at such pressure that it was impossible for him personally to supervise every detail of the work which he so energetically promoted. The band of his lieutenants, indeed, was so variously recruited, and included so many men of personality only less strong than Lee Warner's own, that the organizer was in a state of perpetual battle. Half of Lee Warner's life was wasted in battle. He was as immense a battler as he was a letter writer. His letters were of extraordinary length. He was a born writer, who found his way into business and there, at top speed, with feverish energy, inaugurated vast schemes and spent enormous sums of money with romantic lavishness. I am under the impression that one of Lee Warner's novels was published some years ago by Macmillan's (the author's name being disguised, of course); but I may be wrong about this. It was a book concerning Saxon times. But he had also written, when I first knew him, some remarkable chapters of a novel about a gambler. The book of which these chapters formed a part was probably never finished, but my recollection is that it was of unusual subtlety. Lee Warner,
himself, I should say, was subtle. He was probably too subtle to be a business man, for his subtlety made him appear capricious. Yet a more lovable man I have never met in the whole of my days. He was very highstrung his eyes twitched almost incessantly was a great smoker, a man given to sudden impulses. For these reasons, the mind in memory recalls him as always in action, sweeping from one room to another like a great grey dragon fly, pouncing, blinking, talking quickly through his nose, while his body curved away from his companion as he prepared for fresh and even swifter flight. It was a good head when it allowed itself to be seen, and the brains inside it were good, too, when Lee Warner would allow himself to use them. whatever the brains, I think Lee Warner probably estranged more friends than the average man ever acquires. Most people (except myself) appear to have quarreled with him at one time or another, fearing that he was in some way overreaching them, that he was going to ruin them, or something of the kind; but I have never met a man who spoke ill of him. Some of his printing efforts, with third rate illustrations excellently reproduced, I regard as lamentable; as I think were some of his choices of pictures to be reproduced by the Medici process. This is why I questioned above the excellence of his taste. His taste seemed to me in fact very fallible. I liked him the better for that, because his faultiness was a part of his charm. That he was charming I believe there is not one who knew him who would deny. That he seriously advanced the cause of fine printing I should doubt. Nevertheless, there are many who very greatly admire the Medici prints, and for the introduction of these he will always be entitled to great praise. My own admiration and
affection for him are based upon quite other deeds than his printing and his pictures, and I always found him a loyal and generous friend.
The death of John Lane, also, should not go unmentioned here. Lane was nearly seventy one, and for some time he had not been in good health; but he did not look more than sixty. I saw him within a month of his death, after his return from the United States. was one of the few publishers who had stamped a personality upon a business. No list was at one time more "characteristic" than Lane's. In their own way, Lane's business and Heinemann's were alike; because in each case the publisher was following his own bent and making a success of it. Taste and judgment were strong enough to carry a business through all trials. Of course, in the last ten or fifteen years Lane's business had lost something of its personal interest. It had expanded, and a very large production can never retain the same air of distinction as a small list to which the publisher can give all his individual attention. But Lane retained an extraordinary degree of interest in his firm's books and enthusiasm for them. He was a real publisher, who cared greatly for certain types of books. As a personality I can only say that whenever I met him he seemed quiet, conversational, and well informed. A strong impression he did not make on me; but that was probably due to his natural modesty.
The newest author to be discussed everywhere is Margaret Kennedy. Kennedy. Young, and living as a rule down in Cornwall, far from the world of letters and tea parties, Miss Kennedy has
scored a remarkable success with "The Constant Nymph". I consider this novel one of the best novels I have read for some time in English, and one of the most promising. It is promising because it suggests such possibilities, and not because it has any air of immaturity. Judged by itself it is an astonishing performance. Perhaps the early part is the best, perhaps the one conventional woman in the book is unsympathetically treated and so made shadowy, perhaps the ending is somehow scrambled, perhaps the almost incandescent quality of the book burns so white that in memory one will make less of it than one does at the moment of reading. These things may be; yet, equally, they may not be. In any case, everybody who cares about good novels should read "The Constant Nymph". For the younger generation here it is a pity that the principal enthusiasts for the book in print have been septuagenarians who do not know a novel from a horse trough; but I can assure my readers that younger men have much admired Miss Kennedy's great talent, and that among themselves they have cordially expressed such admiration.
I was talking recently to a man who buys first editions. He told me some curious things. According to my friend, there is a considerable and increasing demand for first editions of Michael Arlen and Robert Keable.
Stevenson, Conrad, and other late enthusiasms are already on the wane. The two dead authors who are tremendously in the ascendant so that a modest buyer is alarmed, although he is told that even at present prices their books are worth "buying for a rise" are Trollope and Gissing.
AMY LOWELL ANALYZES CREATIVE GENIUS
By John Farrar
HE aspects from which Amy Lowell's Life of John Keats may be called great are so many that it is difficult to select one and call it more important than another. As a study of a sensitive, unusual, brilliant, and finally sick boy, it excels in tenderness and penetrating power. As a description of the poetic temperament in general, and of the of . progress Keats's genius in particular, it seems to me unique among critical studies. As a work of scholarly biography it presents an array of new material, marshaled with the zest usually employed by explorers to unknown lands or detectives at work on baffling mystery cases. Nor has Miss Lowell allowed any one phase of the book to run away with her sense of proportion. She weaves them, makes them whole through real love of her subject and a magnificent prose style which is always readable and shiningly clear, bursting every now and then into passages of lyric or dramatic intensity and beauty.
The book is long, some twelve hundred odd pages, and it is closely written. It offers no easy meadows for casual wandering. It is not a story by Maurois, Strachey, Werner, Dibble, or the like. It is an important biography written by a woman who knew that Sir Sidney Colvin and others had already covered the same field and covered it well. Her first excuse for undertaking it was her own collection of Keats manuscripts and first editions, which contained much new material. I think, though, that she needed no such excuse.
Her understanding and admiration for the man whom she considered the most modern of his poetical age was enough, and it is this admiration which gives the book its authentic note of genius. To recreate the life of a man in all its happy, tragic, wearisome yet fascinating detail, is what Miss Lowell set out to do. And she has made his friends and his time real to us. The writing of a phrase, the construction of a great stanza, these are as dramatic to her and to us as we read them as the two gun duel of a western thriller. This is the story of a poet by a poet, the analysis of a lover by a woman who would have understood him, who would have chid him for his weaknesses and deplored his selfishness and sentimentality, but who would have been awed by the genius of his phrases and the sweetness of his character at its best.
In her first volume Miss Lowell has been happiest; for here she has her hero in his moments of robust development, before trouble and disease had exaggerated tendencies toward melancholy. How well she uses the methods often before employed in her work, in "Can Grande's Castle" and elsewhere, of creating a period around her central figure by the recital of synchronous events! She does not hesitate to reconstruct by the aid of her vivid imagination what a journey to London must have been like to the young medical student. "Did he walk", she writes, "and leave his precious portmanteau to be sent on by wagon, or did he ride up to town on the top of the