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NE summer, a few years ago, having I believe he would have taken the world

a month's leave of absence, I ac- by the ear. He has the fine taste of an

cepted an invitation from a uni- artist, the refined ear of a musician, and versity classmate to visit him at Syracuse, the delicate imagination of a poet.” N. Y., where he had promised me “no end Ushered into the drawing-room, a slightof a good time and all kinds of it.”

built man with clear-cut, intellectual feaMy friend met me at the station. I had tures and broad forehead, well developed scarcely landed on the platform of the above the eyes and over the temples, addepot before he had introduced me to vanced, with a rare smile of welcome, to what seemed at least half the city of Syra- meet us. We were at home with one ancuse. I have never seen any other place other at once. Our conversation wandered in my life where the people flock to the from the French habitant to all sorts of station as they do in Syracuse. It seems Canadian questions.

Mr. Westcott conto be the gossip place of the city, a sort tinually surprised me with his knowledge of mutual exchange station, where the of the country - a knowledge that must news gleanings of the day are traded. It have come, as he said, of interest. He is said that the Syracusans talk well. I was familiar with the younger Canadian do not wonder at that, with such a school writers; and he professed to believe that for training in the art of conversation. all the true poetry of the last decade

Being well supplied with letters of in- had had its birth in the Frozen North,” troduction, the first day in the city sufficed as he laughingly termed Canada. Fréfor me to get acquainted with a number chette he admired greatly. He found in of the newspaper men.

To one of these him the vivacity of the Frenchman with I owe the good fortune of an acquaintance the solemn mien and heroic tendencies with the author of “David Harum,” who, of the younger Canadian poets. His deep upon our introduction, invited me to call love of nature made him more than a upon him, as he desired to have a talk Frenchman. It made him cosmopolitan. about Canada, having learned that I was Mr. Westcott quoted several stanzas a newspaper man from the Dominion. from Bliss Carman's “Yule Guest” with a

My editorial friend to whom I was in- depth of feeling that showed how thodebted for the introduction said: “You'roughly he entered into the spirit of the must call upon Westcott; he is a fellow poem. He had a beautifully flexible and well worth knowing. He can tell a story sympathetic voice that seemed to yield to fit to make a dog laugh; and he is as every shade of thought or sentiment. bright as a new quarter. He has a way Suddenly he turned to me and said, of taking off the original characters around “Mr. H- [the editor) tells me that you the town that would put Bob Burdette in are a critic and book-reviewer. I cannot the shade. Besides he is the best of good tell you how I envy you critics who spend company." So it fell out that the editor your time among books and the people and I called upon Mr. Westcott at his who make them; especially the latter. I home a few days later.

do not know of any more inviting life The twilight had begun to thicken as than that, except it be, perhaps, to be one we approached the house, a two-story of the creators; and I am not even sure cottage, with

a steep roof, projecting that the latter should be classed as the gables, and a semi-Queen-Anne air about more enjoyable. For the man who does it that blended harmoniously into the nothing but create becomes, in a sense, a softened outlines of the well-kept lawn, slave to his own creation, which calls for peeping lazily out through the first shad- ceaseless work. He is like a man who ows of coming night.

sets out with the single object in life of “Look,” said the editor, “Is not this becoming a millionaire.

The moneyplace fit to be the home of a poet ? ” — grabber and the man who grasps for fame adding, “Our friend Westcott is a poet, as an author must each throw aside all a musician, and an artist all rolled into but his one ambition. I believe,” he

The Fates have been too kind to added with a smile, “that there are many him. Had they given him one third the of us who could become millionaires, talent they have, but all in one direction, artists, or poets if we had the necessary my life.


ambition that will not let one rest. But That evening spent in Mr. Westcott's you critics Ait, like summer butterflies, house was one of the most enjoyable in from sweet to sweet, and live in the smiles

Our host seemed to be in his of those who make the world laugh.” element. The conversation wandered from “Do you ever write?" I asked.

books to men and froin men back to books « Well yes, sometimes,” he said with a again. We discussed the latest successes smile. “That is, I have the ambition to in literature for the past few years. Mr.

Westcott was enthusiastic in his praise of the technique of “Ships that Pass in the Night.” While there was a little sentiment in it that he did not exactly like, it had one of the qualities that he admired most in a book. Throughout the whole story there was present a great, tender soul that understood the most lowly and apparently uninviting of characters. Its humanity was its most marked note. He said: “The simplicity of the diction of this book and the sincerity and life-likeness of the characters attract me wonderfully. In fact some chapters in it have appealed to me so much that I have read them several times; and I have always found new beauties each time I have read them.”

Then he added, as though he were throwing in a reflection that had just come to him at the moment; though I have no doubt that he had often thought the same thought: “There is nothing so noble as directness and simplicity in the telling of 2 story.

One can understand how it was possible for a man with such views of the art of story-telling to write “David Harum.”

Although there are, at first sight, almost no points of similarity between “Ships that Pass in the Night” and David Harum,” yet I have taken great pleasure in liken

ing the one to the other, for the simple EDWARD Noyes Westcott

reason that in the former Mr. Westcott

found his ideal, or at least something write that comes to almost every man who like it, of the art of simple story-telling, loves books. But my ambition is as un- and in the latter he has worked out his steady as a kite in a gusty wind. It bobs theory of that art. Two books could about too much to do anything very seri- scarcely be more dissimilar. "Ships that ous. It is a terrible disadvantage, for any- Pass in the Night” is sombre almost one who takes himself seriously, as we all throughout, and the lamp of hope burns do, to have a bobbing genius. One never but dimly: «David Harum” has ever a knows what trick it may be going to play jest on his lips, and an unquestioning hope him. Do you know I spend more time look- in the average goodness of human nature. ing after my genius than would make me a The Disagreeable Man is as correct in his millionaire were it properly employed. I. diction as the Archbishop of Canterbury: think, if it were not for my genius I might be David rather prides himself on his rude able to write something, perhaps a book.” country dialect; the former seems to have

This was said with a perfectly serious made it his special business in life to discountenance; but there was a twinkle in courage people who have hope and ideals; his eyes that betrayed the amusement he the latter is always holding out a helping found in the half-philosophical absurdity hand to those who are willing to help themof his own remarks.

selves, and he even has a kind word for





those who have gotten so far down the road ten years in uninterrupted study, thought, and that they have not energy enough left to

observation, and the following ten years in try to work out their own salvation. Again

putting the result of his labors on paper. I one is tempted to say there could not be imagine it was in some such way as this that

all really great books were written. The author two characters and two books more com

gathered material for years before he set himpletely different in all respects. Why,

self to work it into a thing of art and beauty.” then, does the one suggest the other? I have asked myself this question many

In a discussion of the relation of plot times; and I have found but one answer.

and incident to the vitality of a story, Mr. Both authors have striven for the same

Westcott contended that neither was ideal; that is, simplicity, directness, and

necessary. He said: large human sympathy in the building up “We do not — that is most of us— live lives of of their creations. Each has almost dis- much incident, and our goings and comings are carded the use of both plot and action, not laid out in regular dramatic style, with a and each has opened the soul and shown complex plot, into which all the incidental parts us what manner of man the hero is. I

are fitted as carefully and exactly as a piece of

dovetail work. Yet the most humble life is think I know both the Disagreeable Man

full of human interest if we have but the eyes and David Harum better than I do my

to see it. I have read somewhere that, for the most intimate friend.

most part, modern Russian writers pay little On two other occasions during my visit attention to plot and incident, but depend very to Syracuse I spent the evening at Mr. largely upon human sympathy of a natural sort Westcott's house, and several times I met for means of holding the attention of their readhim elsewhere. In a diary that I kept at This is quite natural, for the country has that time I find numerous expressions of

long been in a sympathetic mood, and has lent the impression that the man created on

an attentive ear to the cry of human suffering

within itself. I think nature has made the I remember wondering why it was

Russian a natural story-teller. I would sooner that one so shrewd in his estimate of

read the story of those homely lives about me human character, and so literary in his

than the most cunningly constructed combinatastes, should not have written at least tion of plot and action. One is according to one book. I think I answered this unex- nature; the other is like those trim, tidy gardens pressed question by agreeing with Mr. that the French make by clipping and cutting Westcott himself that it was his “bobbing the trees out of all semblance to nature. I like genius” that was at fault. Perhaps I did art, but only when it is true to nature.” not go so far afield in agreeing with him.

Mr. Westcott was one of the best storyA few extracts from the diary above men- tellers I have ever met. He could make tioned will perhaps help to bring out the

the most trivial incident of the day not character of the creator of David Harum

only interesting, but often laughab better than anything I can write at this

had a way of caricaturing the curious distant date. It is only fair to state here,

people he met that was quite humorous; however, that the entries in this diary though it was always in a kindly vein. were not made as an estimate of the char

Nothing gave him greater pleasure than acter of Mr. Westcott. I have been in

the study of local character. He said to the habit of laying away ideas for future

me one day, speaking of Syracuse: «There use in newspaper work; and some of Mr.

are more humorous characters in this city Westcott's appeared to me to be of con- than would furnish material for twenty siderable value, and a few of them of no

Pickwicks, and some day a Dickens will little originality. The outlines of a few

come along and find it.” of his stories I filed away with the idea of Has not his prophecy already come working them over at some future date.

true ? Then, too, my editorial friend had led

I met Mr. Westcott on the street one me to look upon Mr. Westcott as a char

afternoon, and he said, with a quiet smile acter” even before I visited his house for

that was habitual with him whenever he the first time.

saw anything that amused him: Talking about the duty that an author

(I stood on the street corner up there for five owed to his profession, and above all to

minutes just now, and I got within the sanctum himself, Mr. Westcott said:

sanctorum of two men, one woman, and two «What a great book one might write if he families. would make a resolution and keep it, similar to «You know there is always a great crowding tnat made by Prescott, the historian, to spend of people in the centre of the city on Saturdays;



but it seems to me there are more people here to-day than I remember seeing for some time.

“I was standing waiting for a chance to cross the street, for half a dozen cars and twice as many wagons and carriages jammed up the way for half a block or more. In the van of the crush, at the cross-way, w?re two wagons, in one of which was a good-humored, roundfaced old man, and in the other a long-faced, long-bearded farmer about sixty years of age, and a stout, sour-visaged woman some years younger. These wagons were wedged in so tightly that it was impossible for them to move for the moment.

«The long-bearded man was doing his best to quiet a team of restless horses; while the woman kept urging him to go ahead; that the road was as much his as anybody's. James,' she cried, in a voice that was half a screech, (you haven't any more spunk than a milkin'

I wish I was a man; I'd teach 'em to block up the street that way. But I never knowed you to have no spunk, James. I wish I'd married a man,

I do.) “When he could get a word in edgeways the round-faced man shouted: Jist you wait a little, mister, an' I'll back out.)

«Then the woman broke out again: Didn't I tell you, James? You stan' up for your rights an' you'll get 'em. But you ain't got no spunk, you ain't. If I was a man I'd be ashamed to let a woman do ever'thin'.)

«By this time the round-faced man, who had backed out enough to allow the long-bearded man to move out, shouted: “There you are! God bless you, neighbor! Drive ahead. I know how it is; I have one like her at home.) »

chief charms of the book. It may be called the Westcott philosophy, and, as David himself might have added, "a mighty good un too."

There is considerable art in the setting of the gems in the David Harum philosophy; and Mr. Westcott learned that art in the great heart of nature. Our hearts beat in sympathy with the humanity of the chief characters; the humor of David Harum, the simplicity of Aunt Polly, and the by-play of the others. Our interest is never in the story; for there is none in the book. The author did not intend there should be. He wrote to Mr. Ripley Hitchcock, of the firm of D. Appleton & Company, in January, 1898:

“Lenox's love affair is in abeyance from the first part of the book to the last. It seems to me that if Lenox's love affair had been carried along to a prosperous conclusion from the start there would have been no reason for him or anybody else to make David Harum's acquaint

I purposely laid but little stress upon the episode; to my mind the sentiment, so to speak, of the book lies more in John's engagement of the affections of the eccentric old couple and of the prosperity which followed from it, putting him in a position to marry the woman of his choice at last.»



A careful study of such reviews as have fallen into my hands has shown me that the majority of them classify «David Harum” as a dialect sketch, and are inclined to attribute the success of the book in no small measure to the dialect element and local character-sketching.

To those who knew the author this would seem to be the furthest possible from the truth. Mr. Westcott was a man who loved to look beneath the roughened exterior of human nature for the more than average goodness of the human heart, as he expressed it one day. He had a belief that things were not exactly what they seemed. They were a little better. No evil, however bad it might appear, was an unmixed evil.

Or, as David Harum puts it: "A reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog; they keep him f'm broodin' on bein' a dog." It is this strong faith in human nature creeping out through the roughened exterior of such characters as David Harum and Aunt Polly that makes one of the

The above quotation explains better than anything I can say Mr. Westcott's plan in writing “David Harum.” He wished to lay bare to us the hearts of the eccentric old couple. He had no thought of giving us a dialect story. It is true he uses dialect skilfully and often with telling effect; but he only does so because he finds a rustic setting the fittest for the rough diamonds he has to display. He deliberately threw plot and story behind him, because they were opposed to his idea of the best art of storytelling. This may sound paradoxical; and, if it be so, it is the author's fault, not mine. But in truth it is not so; for Mr. Westcott has succeeded in telling a most delightful story that is in no sense of the word a story in the modern acceptation of the term. His work is very close to the best French character-sketch, which looks within for the soul of each character. The French writers use dialect, but always with conservatism and never for theatrical effect. The French taste is too artistic for that. The same may be said of the author of David Harum.”

I never knew a man who was more sensitive than Mr. Westcott in regard to

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the characters in the books he read. They his own, when by the same mail he received a were always living personages to him. letter with these words: Those who knew him better than I did say

(U! I have just read the famous « David Harum," that he carried his philosophy of the mak- expecting a rare treat, and was woefully disappointed. ing of books into his life; and I believe To me it was exceedingly stupid and commonplace, this is so. He seemed to be all nerves

and I wonder at its popularity. According to the

usual location of climaxes one should begin with in regard to the artistic.

the last chapter and read up to the first; for me the One day we were discussing “The Story interest began to wane after the opening chapter, and of an African Farm ;' and he said: “It is reached the vanishing point about the middle of the

book.) » a great book; the character-painting and the introspection show the hand of a It is evident that the first writer brought genius. I feel the power of the book; to his reading of David Harum ” a broad but for that reason, do you know, I al- sympathy that enabled him to appreciate most hate it. It made me miserable for a a flesh-and-blood creation that was not week after I read it. I could never write cast in the conventional mould. a book like that, and I almost wish no one The objections of the second critic are else could. I believe in Tennyson's phi- all raised against the most deliberate and losophy:

thoughtful work in David Harum." He "What is life that we should moan?

complains that the book is commonplace. Why make we such ado?) >>

What he should have said is that it is From this it will be seen that Mr. West- “about the commonplace. This was what cott had a pretty accurate conception of

Mr. Westcott considered most worthy of his his own powers. He was all sunny phi

attention. No one objects to Zola pourlosophy, nothing could daunt his cheerful- ing out his whole soul over the commonness, and the sorrows and troubles of life place, and painting the most uninviting had no attraction for him. He was the pictures of human life; and no one lays furthest possible from a pessimist. In the charge at his door of writing commonJanuary, 1899, when dying of consump- place books. And yet Zola is read only tion, and it was only a question of a few

for what he has to say; for his literary weeks when he would have done with the style is far from the best. world, he wrote to Mr. Hitchcock:

The second charge is that it is “stupid.” « If David Harum) were to be published,

It may be that the stupidity is in the even without much delay, it would in all proba

reader. I remember the same charge was bility be posthumous. I had the fun of writing

laid against Kipling not so many years it any way, and nobody will ever laugh over it ago, by those who were not able to undermore tha I have. I never could tell what stand him. Is there anything stupid in David was going to do next.”

the quaint humor of David Harum” him

self, or the lifelike picture of simple Aunt One can understand how a man who

Polly? I felt, as I read the book, that I could write the above could create “David Harum.”

had already met David and Aunt Polly be

fore Mr. Westcott introduced them to me. The estimates formed by the critics of « David Harum” have been so varied, and

The third objection is that the author

has not followed the conventional rules sometimes so contradictory, that I cannot

laid down for the upbuilding of fiction; or, resist the temptation, even at the risk of repeating myself, of summing up here a

to quote again the words of the critic,

(according to the usual location of clifew of the reasons apparent to me for its

maxes one should begin with the last popularity and the failure of some of the reviewers to find it at least passable.

chapter and read up to the first.” In the “Literary Digest” for August

It is evident that the critic is afflicted

with what someone has cleverly called the 12, 1899, I find the following:

« fiction sense.” He does not care for a « This curious diversity of literary judgment picture of real life. All he looks for in is amusingly illustrated by the story of a writer

a story is the artificial mechanism in the who lately read David Harum) with more de

modern novel, the proper development of light than he had found in any novel for many

the climax. To him the development of years; and he had read most of the novelists from Fielding and Richardson to Hardy, Tol

character is nothing. He has no symstoi, and Juan Valera. He was just on the

pathy or patience with Mr. Westcott's point of sending a copy of David Harum) to a theory that the development of character friend whose tastes were in general similar to is more truly the work of the literary

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