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the publishing business, but he soon returned to the west coast and was at work on "Sunset Magazine" when he met Kathleen Thompson.
"I had heard of this remarkable Miss Thompson", he told me. "She was star reporter on the 'Call' at the time, and I did everything in my power to meet her. I finally did, and I knew at once that I must marry her."
Three meetings, and it was arranged. The young people decided to risk New York. They came on here, and the story of their struggles and their excellent management is one which deals largely in careful budgets and ambition to keep out of debt. They worked hard, both of them. He found a job on "The Christian Herald", and later on "The American Magazine". She managed the house in a way that was truly miraculous. They had a few good friends and simple pleasures. She helped by reading manuscripts by the score, and he kept encouraging her to write. She was shy about it. Years before this she had written "What Happened to Alanna", designed for "The Atlantic", and when it came back had thrown it into a drawer where it lay forgotten. Now, however, she set to work again. After they had been married about a year, Mrs. Norris wrote two stories and submitted them in a contest held by the "Telegram". Both were accepted, and she won a prize. It was then that Mr. Norris took matters into his hands, and he has been her manager ever since. There were to be more discouragements and disappointments. "What Happened to Alanna" went to a list of twenty eight magazines, beginning with "The Atlantic", before it was accepted its second trip by "The Atlantic". Then there was a baby, then the writing of "Mother", then more and more success, until the market for her
short stories was assured and she was rapidly becoming one of the best known of American women writers.
At this point Charles Norris found himself confronted with his great problem. Brother of a brilliant novelist, husband of a brilliant novelist, he faced the question of becoming her manager, no more. True, she had often felt that his name should go on the title page with hers. True, it was his constant advice and encouragement that made success possible. But this was not the life that Gaston the Fox had dreamed for himself. Nor was this the life that his wife dreamed for him. As he had encouraged her writing, she now turned to developing his. As he had made it possible for her to write in the early days of their marriage, she now made it possible for him. He wrote "The Amateur" and it found a publisher. Then he set to work on a new novel. It was about the time of the war. He enlisted and was presently a major. But "Salt" was rejected by his publisher, and he claims that it was the bitterest moment of life. He tried to forget it in the events of the war, left it with an agent, and it was placed.
Critics praised "Salt", but in point of sales it was only fair at first. However, this book of Mr. Norris's has gone on selling ever since. When he returned from the war he wrote "Brass", which became a best seller, followed it with "Bread", and his next novel, finished and sold as a serial for an enormous sum, is called "Pig Iron".
Meanwhile, Mrs. Norris had written the famous "Certain People of Importance", which did not appear as a serial, and will follow it this autumn with "Little Ships", another story which has not had serialization. She writes many short stories and two serials a year. She combines in an
unusual way the ability to tell a story and the ability to write well. Mr. Norris prefers to study characters in difficult psychological situations.
To quote again from "Noon" which, by the way, is a remarkably human little autobiography: "I always feel", she writes, "that my husband's plots create his characters while my stories are plotted about a character that especially takes my fancy. We both write only of America, but while his analytical studies of social and domestic conditions slowly force his imaginary men and women upon their logical and predestined paths, my heroines occasionally prove superior to circumstances, and arrive triumphantly at the happy ending."
Their methods of work are different, although both find that regularity is essential in the life of an author. From nine until one is sacred to their writing, and no telephone interruptions are allowed. Mrs. Norris sees her whole story clearly in her mind before she writes, usually talks it over with her husband, often writes an outline, and seldom rewrites. She works rapidly, and enjoys every moment of it.
Mr. Norris develops his story slowly. He sometimes sits for hours over a typewriter pondering a sentence, and he gathers the background material for his books with great care. He claims, and I think honestly, that he does not believe himself to be a born writer. He has taught himself to write. He is, I think, mistaken in this belief. He is a born psychologist, and his style is distinctive in its relation to his psychological understanding.
They are even with the world now, both best sellers, both having gained critical esteem, both healthy and happy in their relations with the world of books and with their own friends. have not dwelt here on Mrs. Norris's illness and her fight back to health, nor upon the beloved sister, who died during the war. Nor have I said much about the son, nephews, nieces, and cousins who make the Norris ranch a place of laughter and home atmosphere. I have been most interested in detailing what seems to me a lesson not only in the value of careful planning in the formation of writing careers, but also in the advantage of even odds in the successful progress of the marriage relation.
Of course, Mr. Norris is still the manager. It is he who opens and answers most of the mail. It is he who keeps much of the world away from his wife. Yet I should imagine that her influence is as strong in the family in its way. I fancy that the give and take is as nearly in proportion as the literary reputations. Is it easy to get into six figures in tandem? It seems to me an achievement worth our most serious consideration.
When I went to interview the Norrises, a promise was made to tell me the famous middle name - famous to me, because it had been promised for many years. It was forgotten. I found out, though; but I shall respect confidences. For whom was he named? I shall never tell. I leave you to guess. Best luck in the world to Mrs. Norris, and to Major Charles Gilman S Norris!
THE SKETCH BOOK
BOOKS OF MEMORY
By Julian Hawthorne
Y father, Nathaniel Hawthorne,
had about five hundred books when we came back from England in 1860, and took up our residence in the Wayside, in Concord.
That is my guess: they were never catalogued, or even counted. But the west wing of the little house had been done over after our return, and the ground floor room was fitted with bookshelves and called the library. room above it was my sister Una's bedchamber. The family used to assemble in the library after dinner, and my father would read aloud to us there for an hour or two: he was a perfect reader, his voice, grave and musical, conveying without effort every shade of meaning of the text. He read to us several great books Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress", Spenser's "Faerie Queene", Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered", all of Walter Scott's novels, many of De Quincey's essays, Washington Irving's "Life of Washington" none of his own books, except the stories for children called "The Wonder Book" and "Tanglewood Tales". These, indeed, he read to us in manuscript before they were published, before we went abroad. After the astral lamp had been wound up making a guttural sound lighted, he would sit in his rocking chair beside the table and begin. He would hold the book in his right hand, by the top, his fingers coming over: we seated ourselves as we pleased, but I always watched his face, lighted by the lamp. It was a masculine face, with a great, clear brow and powerful dark eyebrows
over deep blue eyes. Its expression was serene, commanding, never severe; the right eyebrow had a way of lifting at passages of humor, and at times when the fun broadened he would smile or chuckle for a moment. Again, he would kindle with the spirit of the theme, and his rendering of dialogue, as in Scott's stories, was masterly. When, in later years, I did my own reading, I realized what light and charm he had communicated to the printed page: the author would seem toneless in compari
The library, as I was going to say, was a small room, and bookshelves had been built on the west side and on part of the north. I doubt if there were more than five hundred volumes. Some of them had been preserved from his boyhood, and showed signs of service; others had happened in, as books will, many of these presentation copies from authors or publishers; then there were a few deliberately bought. On the top shelves were small, queer looking books, mostly French: all the works of Voltaire, poor of paper and print and bound in paper; Rousseau, similarly attired. Montaigne, in a large quarto, was on a lower shelf. On the lowest shelf of all were big folios, antique and somewhat dilapidated. The most ancient was bound in brown leather, now tattered and worn at the corners, "God's Revenge Against the Crying and Execrable Sin of Murther". It was an early seventeenth (or perhaps sixteenth) century compilation of grisly tales translated from the Italian, bloody tragedies, the perpetrators of which were invariably caught and executed in ways yet more bloody. On the title
page and fly leaves were signatures in faded ink of many ancestors of our family, who had read the book generation after generation, and my father's signature was among them. Beside this terrific work was Sir Philip Sidney's "Arcadia", a very early edition in folio. The text is interspersed with numerous love sonnets and lyrics in the Elizabethan style, and several of these had been underscored and marked by some forefather of mine one Daniel Hathorne (as the name was then spelled), evidently much in love in his day with a young woman named Mary Rondel, whose signature was likewise inscribed here and there. Daniel would mark
some especially impassioned lyric and scribble on the margin, "Pray, Mistris, reade this as if I myselfe wrote it." Obviously, then, the two lovers had been wont to peruse the volume together or he would pass it on to her as a sort of vicarious love letter.
And hereby hangs an odd little family ghost tale. My father, in his boyhood, had no doubt seen the marginal annotations, and perhaps guessed at their meaning; but after he went to Bowdoin College, at seventeen, the book, together with most of the others in the little domestic library, was transferred to the keeping of some relatives, the Misses Ingersoll. (It was only after our family returned from Europe, in 1860, that these volumes were brought back and placed in the little room in the west wing of the Wayside where, of course, I saw them for the first time.) In 1858 we were residing in Florence, across the way from the Robert Brownings. Now, Mrs. Browning was at that time eagerly interested in spiritualism, and it happened that our governess had the fortune or as she, being a skeptic, considered it, the misfortune to be a medium: she did automatic writing. Her pencil would
be controlled by the usual run of spiritual persons, chiefly alleged relatives of one or another of the circle, now defunct and descending from heaven to tell us to be good, that all was well, and that they were working for our benefit up yonder. Robert Browning disbelieved and scoffed, my father smiled with an arching of the eyebrow, Mrs. Browning listened prayerfully, and my mother regarded the transactions with reverential interest, if not with entire faith.
All of a sudden, in the midst of edifying and sanctimonious messages, the pencil was, as it were, violently seized our governess barely keeping her fingers on it and a name dashed onto the paper in a large, bold, irregular handwriting, quite different from that of any of the previous communicants which, in fact, had seemed like feeble imitations of the governess's own. The communicant a woman - went on to declare, in passionate haste, that she had been intimately connected with a member of the Hawthorne family, about a century before, and that she wanted the "sympathy" of Nathaniel Hawthorne!
There was a vibration of reality about this which startled all of us. There was a touch of almost savage desperation in it, nothing angelic, nothing edifying or persuasive. This was an actual person, with a suspicion of sulphur in her atmosphere, and she was grasping at an opportunity for which she had waited during three long generations. We all looked at my father, and Browning said, half laughing, "Well, Hawthorne, it's up to you!"
My father shook his head: he had never, to his knowledge, seen or heard the name before. It was a peculiar, unusual name, and in all my experience since that evening I have met with it in but one place in the margin of the old volume of Sidney's "Arcadia”,
where it stands in faded brown ink "Mary Rondel".
Poor, miserable Mary was at all events quite sure of herself, and of some wrong that had been done her by an ancestor of ours, which had caused her, as she stated, to die in hardship and unhappiness. When I opened the "Arcadia", six or seven years later, I was startled at the inscription and recalled the incident.
Then I looked at a miniature on ivory of one Daniel Hathorne, commander of a privateer in the Revolution, a handsome, daredevil sort of fellow with ruddy cheeks and bold blue eyes. The miniature is on my desk as I write, but there is no picture of Mary Rondel, and the mystery of her appeal has never been unraveled. I recollect, I recollect, however, that her irruption into our peaceful gathering in Florence broke up the meeting: no other spirit could get a hearing, and the circle, to the great relief of our governess, was discontinued.
Perhaps old, favorite books, which have been pored over by readers in previous centuries, may be haunted by their ghosts. One is sometimes half sensible of an emanation an aura from such volumes which invests the shelf on which they stand with an unaccountable, silent charm of companionship. Or is it the authors of them that bend over us as we read and are gratified at our attention? I think, at all events, that there is more about a good book than appears to eye and touch: its virtues live and affect us; the spirit that conceived and executed it is still operative.
What a marvel it is, after all, that a packet of paper cut up in oblong pieces and stitched together, and covered with little serried black marks, should powerfully influence the minds and lives of thousands, through many ages! Writing and reading are mira
cles so unfathomable that we are forced to consider them both intensely commonplace.
The money value of old books is in a different category, a puzzle of a kind less recondite. When, at last, it was decided to sell my father's books, partly because of the difficulty of avoiding loss and decay in a family so vagrant as ours, I made several surprising discoveries. There was a little old brownleather bound volume, a good deal worn at the corners and otherwise defaced, roughly printed, and full of marginal notes in crabbed chirography together with the signatures of the writers men of the Hawthorne family, beginning with the first emigrant, William Hathorne, who was also prominent in the events which the book described. It was called "The Wars with the Indians" and was, I learned, the first book printed in the American colonies. One might have picked it up on a second hand bookstall for ten cents, but the price it brought was unimaginable
so much by reason of its extreme rarity, and as much more, perhaps, on account of the scribblings with which it was defaced, or enriched, according to one's view of the matter. I can't name the exact figure, but there was money enough in that shabby pocket volume to build a good house or to make the tour of Europe.
There were others for instance an array of ten superb folios, "English State Trials", containing verbatim reports of the trial and conviction (on no evidence to speak of) of the famous Captain Kidd and several hundred other cases, as interesting or more so: authentic material to supply scores of novelists from now till doomsday. . . . But I find myself at the end of my tether for today, with almost nothing done. Books, like women, are beguiling.