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stores of tales which Sir Harry has at his command, editing a serial work upon the history of the world, and at the same time keeping in close touch with the dialects of a great continent from which he has now been absent for so many years. Yet that is what this charming little man does. To look at him, one would not imagine the explorer, the intrepid British Consul, the pioneer; to learn from others of his exploits, one would not picture Sir Harry as he is. And yet there is no mistake. There is no real contradiction. Sir Harry is a man who has never known fear. He may all his life have exaggerated the importance and menace of his indispositions (as he tells us in his autobiography), but he has been a great public servant, and is still a man of most remarkable character.
Another public servant's release from public service has just been celebrated in London by means of a dinner with speeches. I refer to Charles Lamb. Mr. Birrell was the principal speaker at the dinner, which was held to commemorate the centenary of Lamb's farewell to the India House, and other Lamb enthusiasts were also present. The object of Mr. Birrell's speech was to attack the legend of the "gentle Elia". But I think the speaker might
Mr. Birrell, certainly. Mr. Birrell, certainly. However, we must hope that Lamb was more gentle than Mr. Birrell. There is some talk about the formation of a Lamb Society, and I expect this will come to pass. Certainly there is no writer more loved than Charles Lamb in the whole of English literature. It is the more remarkable, therefore, that there cannot exist (owing to the claims of rival publishers and owners of copyright) a really complete edition of Lamb's greatest and most enjoyable work his Letters. If only a few publishers could sink their claims for a time, in order to allow a thoroughly satisfactory edition of these letters to be prepared
HARRY LEON WILSON
By Myla Jo Closser
since a memorable phrase from one of his early books-"Don't take life warily" had worked a drastic change upon my own fortunes. It was of this I was thinking when I came to interview him upon the methods, the minutiæ of his craft, whereby he brings the children of his fancy - Ruggles, Bunker Bean, Merton, Rufus Billop, and his latest, Professor Copplestone of "Professor, How Could You?"-to a public which roars over and adores them.
Mr. Wilson's home is at Monterey, California. I was shown to the plain upper room where he writes. Its severity is enhanced by the effect from its windows of the Pacific Ocean seen through tall pines. The windows
were open. They are always open, I learned, winter and summer.
The writer rose from a plain typewriter table, bearing a plain typewriter (the modern vehicle of genius which spares the goose its quills). Having been forewarned of what I came seeking, he wore his usual working costume
"How long at a stretch do you usually write?" was my question, just as a starter.
"Eight, nine, even ten hours is an ordinary day's work while I work. As long as I can sit at a typewriter during my working months."
"I gather you do not write the year round."
"Only for three or four months of it. The rest of the twelvemonth I pass in the firm belief that I never shall be able to write another line. If people would let me alone, I'd probably wait even longer before beginning again."
"By 'people' I suppose you mean your publishers and editors. I should not be surprised though, were you to fail to produce a story for an unconscionable length of time, if the great American People sent a round robin requesting you to go to work. I'd sign it for one." I did want him to know how much I appreciated his enlivening tales. "Am I interrupting a working day?"
"You have come at the end of one", my host said graciously, putting me at my ease. It was then nearing sunset. The clouds were banking themselves over the ocean horizon. "I work only in the daylight hours", said the writer. "Preferably the forenoon. Never at night. My breakfast is coffee. after the midday meal I go into a trance for an hour and wake up fresh.
"In this way I can finish a novel in from four to six weeks. 'Oh, Doctor!' did take two months, but 'Professor,
How Could You?' much less. A short story is done in three or four days."
I dare say I gasped, knowing the quality of that output. My astonishment brought to the author's ruddy, wise, but somewhat enigmatic face a half smile. He admitted:
"Jack's a dull boy to his friends those workadays. They are all warned not to come saying, 'The So-and-Sos are giving a poker party tonight. How about it?""
"Don't you take time off to go in search of local color?"
"Not time off. I don't 'go'. I am always in search of it. All the while I make notes on scraps of paper, jotting down ideas, phrases, or mere words which suggest ideas and phrases. By the time I begin a novel I have several hundred of these disconnected scraps. They drive me crazy but I must have them."
"And from these you make a skeleton of your story?"
"No, I don't make an outline in writing, but I have one very definitely in mind. This I change many times before beginning composition. But having decided on a plan, I do not change, and I never begin without knowing how I am going to end. The end conditions the beginning. Sometimes I start a thing by hand, fearing I may not be able to do it at all. But two pages are enough."
"Do you work your stuff over?" "Not as I go. I finish first and let the beginning get cold. Then rewrite." "Are you bothered much with outside criticisms and suggestions?" I ventured.
"I welcome them. I find some helpful and some useless, of course. None are irritating except those from people who know what the public wants. These I disregard from natural perversity. But I never read stories or
chapters in manuscript aloud to my friends and family because I am a rotten reader."
"And where do you get your ideas for stories, Mr. Wilson? Yours are always so fresh-original and unstereotyped."
"The germs for them usually come from real life. Though once I found a whole novel in a dozen line newspaper paragraph. But I often find real life. too incredible to use unaltered. Only the fiction artist can believe real life as it is. If he draws it too truly - unless he is a mere photographer of the commonplace he is told he overdraws, exaggerates.
"I do not largely use personal experience, for my own is not so rich. I listen, rather. And the emotion, without which I think no one can write, comes to me from the experiences of others rather than from my own.
"However, I rarely draw characters from life. It entertains me more to make mine up. I construct them entirely from imagination."
"And do they ever defy you and act as you have not intended, as Barrie says the persons of his stories do?"
"I have vainly longed for that delightful experience." And this time it was no half smile but a whole one. I was warmed by it to ask:
"Is alcohol helpful, do you think? Or any other stimulant? I mean in promoting ideas or their expression."
"Well it must be admitted that alcohol promotes the most gorgeous ideas. I have composed perfect gems under its influence and sworn they should be set down next morning. But they never have been, because they were not what they seemed. Now and then I have retained a mild dilution of one. But it was hardly worth the trouble. Alcohol is occasionally useful in breaking a bad rhythm of thought."
THE NEW YORKER
Spring and the Day of Bedroom Farces Arrives-A Speculation Concerning the Subscription Theatre-The Theatre Guild Attains the Rank of Bourgeoisie-More Congreve in Greenwich Village-"The Servant in the House" Limps Back—Bays for Mr. Gatti.
TOW that spring is here and the
flood gates are opened for the summer musical plays and bedroom farces, it is a good moment to look back over a season in the theatre of which we have no great reason to be proud. It brought us among American plays but four of first rate interest: "What Price Glory?", "They Knew What They Wanted", "Desire Under the Elms", and "Processional” . . . a small portion but a highly creditable one. The failing lies in the fact that there have been so few plays that were "almost good". They all seemed to have been either excellent or bad. Among the managers there has been a popular cry to the effect that the radio has hurt the attendance at their theatres. This seems to us a fatuous excuse rather than a convincing reason for the dreary list of plays which have lasted from one night to a fortnight. Most of our friends are already sick to death of the radio and have stuck their sets away in the store closet. answer lies not so much in the three tube set as in the low powered stuff which the theatres have offered.
The best evidence of our rightness in this matter is the success of the countless revivals. Certainly a season which has had a score of successful revivals argues but one thing — that it is amazingly poor in original material. To list a few of the conspicuous successes made by old plays, there have been "Candida", "Cæsar and Cleopatra",
"The Wild Duck", "Patience", "The Mikado", "Princess Ida", "The Way of the World", and "Love for Love". As one looks back over the season, another element stands out the success of the subscription theatres. years, indeed since before the collapse of the ill fated New Theatre, there has been a great agitation in certain circles for endowed theatres which could survive the crass commercial competition of Broadway. Time and again such a venture has been tried without success, proving once more that such things can grow only out of a real need for them, a need expressed by "the peepul" and not imposed upon them. At length the thing has come to pass. The opening of the "new and palatial" Guild Theatre is the triumphant proof. The Provincetown Players have had a season successful commercially as well as artistically. The Actors' Theatre has at last got off to a fine start. And now a new group called the Stagers, in which Margaret Wycherly, Mary Kennedy, Don Marquis, and a half dozen other intelligent talented players and writers are joined, has made a beginning in Fifty Second Street, a few doors from the triumphant and luxurious Guild Theatre. All this leads one to the conviction that in New York at least we are coming of age as a nation (despite even such stuff as "Ladies of the Evening", and "The Harem"). It leads still further into the belief that the so called "commercial managers"