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The list is one of the strangest lists I have ever seen - much stranger and more unexpected than Mr. Walpole's recent list of twenty representative novels by living authors. That Hardy should come so high is astonishing. That there should be no place in the list for some of our more notorious best sellers is inexplicable. The fact that five of the writers chosen should be real old stagers (no offense intended), whose work was familiar and popular at the turn of the century - Hardy, Kipling, Doyle, Caine, and Haggard - shows how conservative the English public is. It loves its old authors, and will continue to do so. I was recently speaking to a literary society at one of our universities, and was referring to art in the novel, and heaven knows what highbrow topics, when one of the most su
perior members of my audience a man who knew, of course, ten times more than the lecturer about the lecturer's own job, which is the way of all undergraduates, temporary and permanent stumped me by trying to estimate Rider Haggard's work by the highest standards of art. At first I supposed he was being facetious, but it turned out that the effort was being made in good faith. I was forced to confess that any conjunction between my own theme and the work of Rider Haggard seemed to me useless; but I was at the same time impressed by the knowledge that the late novelist still kept the respect of our English undergraduates and thus revealed a humanity in them which I was far from expecting. Observe, in the above list, how relatively lowly is the position of Ethel M. Dell.
A real old stager has just celebrated his centenary or rather, since he is no longer present, it has been celebrated for him R. M. Ballantyne. Ballantyne was one of the most honest and capable writers for boys who ever lived. I do not think that he was the equal of Manville Fenn for the quickness and delight of story telling and the naturalness of his conversations; but he was very good indeed. I must have read all his books in days gone by. I still possess rather well worn copies of two of them, "The Coral Island" and "Martin Rattler". Although I have forgotten what the latter is about I have not forgotten that when I was twelve, being set as a composition at school the task of telling again the story of a favorite book, and writing about "Martin Rattler", I was pleased to get top marks and the master's assurance that I should make literature my profession in after years. "The Coral Island" I
still recall in some detail, and I have to thank that book for giving me as a child some really terrible dreams. There is in it a picture of victorious South Sea Islanders launching their war canoes over the bodies of living war prisoners which, when I think of it today, still makes me shudder. The spirits of the three young heroes of "The Coral Island" were very good, I recollect, and one of them, Peterkin, was a wag. Peterkin was my favorite character, though I believe I at all times identified myself with the personality of the narrator, who was rather less showy than Peterkin and the third member of the trio. But the mere titles of Ballantyne's books, for those whose youth coincided with mine, are a reminder of hours spent in very sweet pleasure. Who, of our period, will not thrill a little at memory of "Fighting the Flames", "The Red Eric", "The Battery and the Boiler", "The Gorilla Hunters", "The Settler and the Savage", "Deep Down", "Ungava", and "The Young Fur Traders"? I was never a Henty-ite, because I found that author wooden. It was the sincerity and the naturalness of both Ballantyne and Fenn that made me their slave; and I am very glad to learn now, for the first time, that after making a mistake in one of his books Ballantyne determined that he would never again write without first hand knowledge of what he was describing. He thus lived for weeks in a lighthouse, went down into the tin mines, served as an amateur fireman, went to sea in a trawler, and traveled largely, all with this determination as the spur. No wonder his books seemed to the reader of them to be authentic! I do not know of any writer who has taken Ballantyne's place, but I imagine that the religious tone of Ballantyne is rather out of date, and that his successors have different
standards from his. Never mind, the books were good books of their kind, and I am glad to have read them, even though it was so long ago that I can recall nothing of them but the names and the satisfaction they gave.
My readers should not miss two extremely curious works of great interest, both of which I have recently read. The first of them is D. H. Lawrence's introduction to "Memoirs of the Foreign Legion" by M. M., published in England by Secker and in America by Knopf. The second is a pamphlet, "D. H. Lawrence and Maurice Magnus", by Norman Douglas, which can be obtained at the price of five shillings. from the author, care of Thomas Cook and Son, Florence, Italy. Each in its way is a masterpiece, and each is exceedingly characteristic of its author. Lawrence's vitriolic portraits of both Magnus and Douglas (though, of course, especially of Magnus) are superb pieces of description. They have such a vivid truth that you are quite overwhelmed by them. I do not know of anything to beat this introduction in its own line, or of anybody except Dostoyevsky who could beat Lawrence at this sort of work. That I regard as the highest praise which it is possible to give. Most other writers would not only be more urbane and less ruthless than Lawrence; they would also be incapable of the fierce perception which has enabled him to seize a character with such force, and the magnificent eloquence which has enabled him to produce the portrait for our knowledge. I say nothing of the genius which has chosen each detail so surely that it helps to compose Magnus for us in the printed word. Douglas's pamphlet, taken by itself, is a very fine performIt seems to me to be clearly
disingenuous, and it really leaves Lawrence unanswered; yet in itself, for the thing that it is, the expression of a personality which is suave where Lawrence's personality is white hot, this pamphlet is diabolically clever. The humor of it, and the dexterity; the blandness and cynicism — all are delicious. And it should certainly be read by those who have read only the Lawrence preface. It does not affect the preface in one way it heightens the truth of the preface and it is particularly amusing as amplifying and refining the curious portrait which Lawrence has drawn of Douglas himself. For all who care to study human nature, in fact, these two items are of interest which I could not exaggerate. I have read them both with the utmost diversion.
And now let me end upon a graver note. I see that Mr. Squire is to edit a new series of the "English Men of Letters". The titles of the new books, and the names of the men who are to write them, are just announced. Some of the books should be very interesting, and I am especially pleased to see that Robert Lynd is going to do the Stevenson. There could not have been a better choice. For the rest, the editor is to write the volume on Francis Thompson another excellent allocation. There are to be volumes upon Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Whitman, among American writers (the authors of these, respectively, are John Freeman, Edward Shanks, and John Bailey), and Donne, Blake, Swinburne, and Meredith, among Englishmen. Rather a mixed bag, perhaps, particularly when it is remembered
that Mr. Squire has taken over from a former but anonymous editor of the series Mr. Walpole's volume on Trollope. But the new books should be interesting. I observe that volumes on Oscar Wilde, Samuel Butler, John Addington Symonds, Herbert Spencer, and Froude are not announced. Ishould have thought all these interesting subjects for Mr. Squire's colleagues; but perhaps they are to form the basis of a second instalment. The authors of the present list make quite a little family party. Most of them are regular contributors to "The London Mercury". Ellis Roberts, who wrote upon Ibsen for Mr. Secker's series of monographs, is to write upon Conrad for Mr. Squire; Mr. Priestley, who is to do the Meredith, is a reader for John Lane, a reviewer on the "Daily News" and apparently on the "Times Literary Supplement", and is the author of several books of collected critical writings; Mr. Shanks is the author of three novels and several volumes of poems, besides a study of Mr. Belloc in which he collaborated with a friend; John Bailey is a writer on the "Times Literary Supplement"; Mr. Freeman is a poet who, if he had been able to resist the temptation to produce too easily, might have taken high rank, so excellent have some of his works been; Harold Nicolson is the husband of V. Sackville-West, and the author of several monographs upon defunct poets; and Geoffrey Scott, who is to write the Donne, has just published an extraordinarily good book called "The Portrait of Zélide". Among the galaxy, the Donne volume is the one to arouse my highest hopes. Mr. Scott is a man of real talent, and he has a splendid theme. SIMON PURE
GETTING INTO SIX FIGURES
By Arnold Patrick
VII: CHARLES AND KATHLEEN NORRIS
ERHAPS the most complete story
of literary success to be told about Americans is that of the Norrises, Charles and Kathleen; for here is not only a triumph of two pens but a triumph of combined careers, the story of a partnership honestly, reasonably, and happily arranged and perpetuated. There is glamor in this story, and cold detail, too. There are pictures of lean days, and of bitter disappointments. Finally, however, there is the reassuring glimpse of the Norrises as we know them now, both writers of best sellers, happy, content, kindly, of constant assistance to their friends, with a ranch in California which is overflowing with guests, with warm hearts constantly tempered by keen minds. It is a combination from which there is much to learn, for though in writing as well as personality this husband and wife are different, each has molded both the life and the work of the other.
Mrs. Norris does not like to be interviewed. She is a gracious hostess, tall, striking, carefully tailored. "One of my most vivid childhood memories", Stephen Vincent Benét tells me, "is of Kathleen Thompson, in the white shirtwaist period, walking down a San Francisco street looking for all the world like one of the best of the Gibson girls." She still looks like a Gibson girl, but one of the present period. Lunch was a pleasant meal, but it was impossible to bring the conversation around to an interview stage until we touched on
childhood. Then it was that Mrs. Norris talked for a time. Presently a dentist appointment claimed her.
Most of my story is in 'Noon"", she said, "and C. G. will tell you the rest. He's responsible for it all, anyway. Oh, he's an excellent publicity man for his wife!"
She was gone a woman with rare charm and a remarkable, impish sense of humor. If you have never heard Kathleen Norris mimic, you have missed a treat. She has a racy Irish love of the ridiculous. She can tell an amusing story with unfailing dramatic sense. Laughter is in her books; but not this kind of laughter. She keeps that for her family and her friends personality quite apart.
After she had left us Charles Norris related a remarkable story, their story. I do not know just how old Charles Norris is. Perhaps he told me; at any rate, I have forgotten. He looks younger than he is, probably, for he has vitality and a smoothness of hair and visage that disarms the seekers of approaching middle age. He is trim of figure and careful in dress. This debonair exterior conceals a personality combining imagination, force, and tenderness. They are actually much alike, these two; alike, certainly, in their friendliness. They have done countless good deeds of which their acquaintances have told me, and some of their experiments in aid have proved tragic, but it has not discouraged them
from attempting to use both worldly and spiritual means for clarifying the lives of others.
and beautifully wooded", with two acres of redwood that cost the Thompson family $325, and a house built for
Both are Californians, their early $1,400. Here were the modestly sucdays run curiously parallel.
Two scenes of childhood:
The floor stretches out. It is the battlefield. Hundreds on hundreds of lead soldiers pass in review. Now they march to battle. Now they are on gala parade. Among them sits a little boy, fascinated by the dramatic force of his brother's imagination. Later that brother was to write on the dedicatory page of "The Pit":
To my brother Charles Gilman Norris:
In memory of certain lamentable tales of the round (dining-room) table heroes; of the epic of the pewter platoon, and the romance cycle of "Gaston le Fox", which we invented, maintained and found marvelous at a time when we both were boys.
For hours Frank Norris would play with his brother. Every soldier had his name, and Charlie himself was Gaston le Fox. Later, from Paris, the young art student sent instalments of the great epic of Gaston, written in the second person. It was Charlie who lived these marvelous adventures: "You were the hero. You killed the villain. You rescued the lovely lady." From everywhere Frank borrowed his stories. For the delight of his young brother he stole at random and made his own tales of romantic power and charm.
Both boys, sons of a successful jeweler, dreamed of artistic careers. But one artist in the family was enough. Charles must be destined for business. So he resigned in favor of the dashing brother whom he adored. And Gaston the Fox, as he called himself, went soberly off to college, his dreams safely stowed.
The other scene is in Mill Valley, "a two-pronged canyon running up against the flanks of Mount Tamalpais, heavily
cessful father, manager of a San Francisco bank and president of the Bohemian Club, and the mother, later celebrated by her daughter in the novel "Mother". Here, after dinner in the evening, when Kathleen was sixteen or seventeen and her brother and sister four and six, she laid the foundations of her story telling genius. She loves to tell stories. She loves to write, unlike many of those who write best sellers, unlike her husband, as a matter of fact. In "Noon" she says, "The children themselves chose the stories, for although none was ever repeated, there were certain popular characters kept alive for years."
"I used to like the gipsies myself", she told me, "but they frightened the children. I didn't want them to be unhappy, so after a time I left out the gipsies. Perhaps that's why I like to keep them out of my stories now."
This family was soon to break with the sudden deaths of both father and mother and, under the guardianship of an aunt, work out its difficult problems. Mrs. Norris and her brother and sister turned to work wherever they could find it. While she was selling hardware, teaching, being librarian; even when she was dropped from one newspaper with the information that she could not write; when her story of the earthquake was the only one of the family's returned from the east unpublished, she yet remembered her sister's confident remark as she brought her "The Atlantic", "I'll see your name there, some day."
Meanwhile Frank Norris had died, and his brother Charles had finished college and come east with Frank Doubleday. For a time he worked in