Puslapio vaizdai


hor. It may be that the neighbor has not the faintest suspicion that this man, who asks him over his gardenpaling whether he thinks it will rain, is the main spokesman of that great daily paper the Leader, the writer of those earnest and weighty reflections and admonitions on public affairs in the editorial columns. The identity of the leader-writer is merged absolutely in the individuality of the journal for which he writes. The controlling minds of the daily newspapers are, even in this age of publicity, unknown so far as the general public are concerned. In a few instances the editor may be a personality, but the writers of the articles which help so powerfully to form public opinion are almost without exception written by men whose names even have never been heard of by their readers. George Charles Brodrick, who wrote about sixteen hunded leading articles in the Times, "fantastic in their riety," as he says, complains, in his Memories and Impressions, of the sense of isolation induced by the maintenance of a strict anonymity. Occasionally this self-obliteration greatly depressed him. He pined for recognition. But if his services brought no public acknowledgment, he found consolation in the thought that he was "doing the work of an unrecognized statesman, and exercising a greater influence on public opinion than any politician except a very few in the foremost rank."

But it is not only that the leaderwriter is denied the pleasure of public distinction. His work is quickly overtaken by oblivion. Harriet Martineau wrote for the Daily Neus as many as sixteen hundred leading articles, at the rate, for months in succession, of six in a week. These productions were thought so valuable that it was once proposed to republish twelve volumes of them. But the writer did

not favor the proposal. "Three volumes would be enough, as so many of the articles are merely temporary," she inodestly said. However, none of the articles were reprinted. With the countless productions of thousands of other untiring journalists, they lie buried and unknown in many a dustladen newspaper file. But Frederick Knight Hunt, editor of the Daily News, was most enthusiastically appreciative of Harriet Martineau's leading articles. He told her brother that they moulded public opinion through Parliament. "They are read in the clubs," he said. "They precede the debates, and mollify the Times. The Daily News leads." On another occasion he declared, "These are not newspaper articles, but poems.” Yet in a letter to Harriet Martineau herself he indulges in some interesting reflections on leading articles and their writers which show that his standard of excellence was high. "Our contributors," he says, “never write more than four articles a week at most. It is all the best of them could fairly do. And political writers commonly deteriorate. The first article is excellent, and we think we have found a treasure. The second is less striking. But we are not surprised that so high a standard cannot in every instance be maintained. At the third we say, "Have we not read something like this very lately?” The next is so manifest a falling off that we desire no more."

The life of every day is now so full, so busy, and so interesting that few readers are able, without an effort, to recall at its close what was said in the morning paper. At any rate, as the leader-writer goes to his work he finds the public engrossed in the evening papers. What he writes to-night is obliterated from the minds of his readers at the longest the day after tomorrow. But, after all, a short memory in his readers, and its consequent

quick forgetfulness of his articles, has its compensations for the leaderwriter. He is compelled to deal often with the same topic. He must, therefore, necessarily repeat himself; but, thanks to the merciful oblivion to

Chambers's Journal.

which his work quickly passes, for its readers it always possesses freshness and originality. The shortness of the public memory is in many things a curse. To the leader-writer it is a blessing in disguise.

Michael M nagh.


The lengthening row of tall grassgreen volumes in which Mr. Henry James is marshalling his “collected works" forms a monument of art so fine in quality and at the same time so remote from anything which has preceded it that it has for the critica double portion of suggestion and challenge. It has its own intricate and highly civilized beauty, which demands characterization; and, even when we have found for this the right clue and the exact epithets, we are still faced with a series of questions with which, in treating at any rate the fiction of our own language, we are little used to be confronted. What we are accustomed to is work in which the beauties and excellencies are more or less easily detachable from the main fabric. Our novelists bring certain powers, certain gifts of humor and poetry and observation, and tumble them out in their pages in the free-handed way which we are apt to compare complacently with the severer economy practised in other lands.

We may separate from the generous heap the qualities that please us, as we might pick out the grapes or the apricots from a cornucopia of summer fruit. We make our selection accordingly, and throw away the rest. But the long procession of books which began with “Roderick Hudson" and ends (for the present) with "The Golden Bowl” will not submit, as we quickly discover, to

* "The Novels of Henry James." Edition de Luxe. In 24 Volumes. Vols. 1.-XX. (Macmillan. 8s. 6d. net each volume.)

selection in this sense. We cannot, that is to say, isolate certain qualities in them without finding ourselves involved with all the rest. The metaphor of the cornucopia will not fit them. We have to deal rather with a densely-woven tapestry, in which style, line, color, and composition are all of a piece, all inherent, all part of one process. The closeness of the web in Mr. James's later books is such that even the most completely initiated admirers cannot rustle the pages, dip into them here and there, skim or skip; they must begin at the first sentence and go steadily through to the last even to master the outline of the story. In the same way a criticism of Mr. James's work as a whole, an examination of the "novel" as it has shaped itself under his hand, demands a disentangling of the principles of the art of fiction, as to which we have to admit that we know but one critic who has explored the ground and named its divisions.

That critic is Mr. Henry James himself. The new prefaces which he has written for the collected edition of his works bristle, of course, with interest for those who know and admire the books of which they treat; but they have also a general aspect which makes their appearance an event, indeed the first event, in the history of an art almost as confusedly apprehended as it is enormously practised. The English novel, the greatest examples of it hardly less so than the least,


has bitherto been so boldly unconscious reasons to be grateful in proportion to of itself that in any exact sense it can- the number of dark founderings from not be said to have had a history at which it would help to save him. all. It has had attributes more or less Flounder he no doubt will continue to happy, and no doubt the very blindness do; but Mr. James has destroyed, once of its instinct has made for their free- for all, for any story-teller who prodom and variety; but it has never had poses to be seriously considered, that any clear or reasoned perception, for confidence in a blind and unsuspicious its own purposes, of the laws which instinct which has so often been cherevery work of art obeys, consciously or ished as a positive sign of mastery. In not, when its subject has received the all the bursting annals of fiction Mr. fullest, firmest, roundest, effect possible James is the first writer who has seen to it. Indeed, for the most part, if his art as a deliberate process of which our novels have been proudly con. a complete account can be given. It scious of anything, it has been pre- is, moreover, as we may happily recog. cisely of their own lawlessness; which nize, not now necessary to point to our has been felt, characteristically enough, row of grass-green volumes as a proof to be both the proof and the preserva- that an art so apprehended is not tive of their vigorous condition; so dif- thereby circumscribed or chilled. ficult is it for the Anglo-Saxon mind Mr. James's summary achievement to admit that laws are aimed in such on behalf of the novel is that he has matters at the enhancement and not at disengaged from a hundred misconcepthe repression of vigor. If Dickens tions the question of form. There is and Charlotte Brontë wrote good books no aspect of fiction on which criticism with none but the cloudiest notions of has on the whole been more ingenuous. their art as an art, it is not a logical A shapely design has indeed been reinference that that is the only way in garded as a merit in a novel, but as a which good books can be written. Mr. merit involving particular dangers in James's prefaces sweep aside all such other directions, and therefore to be artless conceptions and place the pursued with caution, nuost wisely pernovel at once in a completely new haps to be eschewed. Almost the only light. We may imagine them offering qualities of such shapeliness that have to the jaded novelist, as he wearily been distinctly enunciated have been casts about for fresh motives and un- those of which defects are artificiality backneyed situations, the sudden reall- and constraint. Our point for the mozation that the field of fiction, so far ment, however, is not that Mr. James from being exhausted, has hardly so has named and brought into play its much as been touched. It is greatly other properties, but rather that he has to be hoped that these penetrating crit- placed the whole question upon a new icisms, so far-reaching in their general footing. In the old parlance "form" application, may be made more easily was only one (and not even an essenaccessible. We want, indeed, above tial) element of the many that might go any criticisms, more novels from Mr.

to make up a novel. It could in any James; but will be not perhaps also case be considered apart from the othfind time to gather together in a vol- ers, and balanced against characteriume of their own at least the main zation, dialogue, description, narrative. results of his work as a theorist in his We now at last see it, not as an ingreart? A technical exposition such as dient, but as a condition uniformly laid only he could give us would be a book upon characterization and the rest. It for which any novelist would have is the form, we find, and the form

alone, which dictates the development unity, by which the story shall tell itof the characters and directs the dia- self. Narrative has the inherent weaklogue; these components are good and less that it relies at every point on right only so far as their borders coin- what Mr. James calls the “writer's cide with the line drawn round them poor word of honor." All effects are in advance; it is only in relation to the obviously cheapened if we have to take whole design that we can call them them on trust from the author; their rightly or wrongly worked out, that weight is doubled in a moment if we being the express standard for their can see them in the act of evolving measurement. This strict fusion of themselves. Mr. James has accormaterial with form is Mr. James's ingly tended more and more to make point of departure. He is in the truest bis stories act themselves dramatically. sense of the word an impressionist; The most complete example of this each of his later, more characteristic, treatment is “The Awkward Age,” in books is planned to be looked at from which drama, unaided by any other a single point of view, the centre mode of presentment, bears the whole sharply in focus, the supporting frame- burden. We are not admitted into the work all subsidiary and relative. The mind of any of the actors; we are told principle thus stated may not seem a what they said and how they looked, very new one; even for the English · but we have to draw all the conclusions reader it is not unheard of. But no for ourselves. The action arranges one before Mr. James has deliberately itself scenically, in a series of “occaadopted it with all its consequences, sions" (the author's word), so disposed much less threaded the intricate ques- round the central theme as to throw tion of what the consequences essen

successive lights on it from different tially are. The gradual solution of the angles. The structure of this extraorproblem is to be traced in his books dinary book (which is withal perhaps from first to last; it may almost be said the least known of the whole series) that to the reader attentive to this as. satisfies even its author's exacting eye; pect of them each one shows the an- he rehandles it in the preface after ten swer carried a little further than in its years' absence from it, turns it over predecessor. The new prefaces, at any and over, and genially defies the critic rate, impartially indicating merits and to find a flaw in the pattern or a loose defects, enable us to reread the books end hanging out of the web. The with a pleasant sense of high intelli- critic will hardly attempt anything of gence. With the author himself, a de- the kind; but with time and space “The tached and interested observer of his Awkward Age" might be made to give work, to point the way, we can see some pretty illustrations of literary art the whole process by which the easy at its highest pitch of concentration finished lightness of “Roderick Hud- and economy. The whole book is ridson” and “The Portrait of a Lady" de- dled with a hundred fine cross-refervelops naturally and inevitably into ences and relations, and there is not a the packed elaboration of "The Am- relation, not a reference, that strays bassadors” and “The Golden Bowl." vaguely beyond the circle of the action

The first modification to be noted, one or that fails to give a justifying acwhich early became marked in Mr. count of itself. Here, then, we have a James's novels, is the steady suppres. case of the firm unity of composition sion of narrative, the old-fashioned attainable by the complete relegation "telling" of the story, in favor of a de- of narrative and the survey of the sign, admitting a more closely knit whole action from without. The more

flexible case of the survey of the ac- single scarcely audible tap. Attention tion from within, always conditioned of perusal he certainly does, as he deby the same necessity of unity, is to be clares, everywhere postulate; but even seen in Mr. James's work in endless va- the most searching reader must often rieties of adjustment. The matter to ask himself, at the close of a converbe treated has the question put to it sation in which neither of the speakers from the first-from the point of view has once raised his voice above the of which actor do you demand to be most colloquial tone, just how and approached, and if of more than one, where some emphatic development of where is the shift to be made? A yet the story has been imparted to him. further refinement occurs where the How, for instance, in “The Wings of answer to this question is in favor, not the Dove," is the fact of Milly's love of successive points of view, but of for Densher made to loom so insistently the simultaneous fusion of two. This in the air without, from beginning to refinement is shown with sure subtlety end, a single direct indication of it in in "What Maisie Knew," itself a book so many words? It is all a question, which might be held as on the whole upon analysis, of the elaborate preparathe most exquisite of all Mr. James's tion of the ground before the just sufcreations. Much could be said in re- ficient hint is dropped; and to search gard to the art with which the deli- for the hint, to track it down and trace cious little girl's entirely childlike view the steps which lead up to it, is to of her horrible circumstances, appear- give the critical sense as fine a thrill ing as it does to embrace the whole ac- as it can well demand. When, moretion, is in fact supplemented and helped over, on occasion, in the expectant elecout by the watchful but all unper- trical atmosphere, an entirely direct and ceived author himself.

unqualified word is allowed to sound, it In Mr. James's later work drama still falls with an ominous resonance only regulates the main lines; the skeleton, made possible for it by the care with for example, of "The Golden Bowl” is which it has been hoarded and kept its linked series of self-contained self- from vulgar contacts until the moment complete scenes, each one dramatically arrives which is worthy of it. The treated and speaking for itself. But best possible example of the reward here, as in “The Wings of the Dove," reaped by this far-seeing thriftiness is as in "The Ambassadors," "drama” given by the wonderful scene in “The submits to what the author calls a Golden Bowl," where in the heavy sumcompromise with “picture.” The way mer night the Princess, from the teris prepared in advance for each scene race outside, watches the card party by innumerable touches, the air is set seated in the glow of the great stately vibrating to the tune of what is to fol- room, and for once names to herself by low, so that when the moment arrives tbeir plain names the ugly unspoken the significance of the scene makes it things with which the air is filled. self felt immediately, and with the The "scene," then, out of which the minimum of effort. Mr. James is indeed story emerges of its own accord, and a past-master at this kind of prepara- the preparation for the scene form the tory enhancement of effect; it is part ground-work of the novel as Mr. James of his general economy that he will has finally elaborated it. He is, in

waste heavy hammer-strokes fact, at once the most dramatic of when previous patient manipulation of writers, taking the word at its strict the surface to be dealt with will ena- value, and the most economical, howble him to drive his point in with a ever little the two epithets may seem


« AnkstesnisTęsti »