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PONSffilLIpES 

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OVELIST T 



Frevi\k Norris 



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VICTORIA UNIVERSITY 
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[QRIA UNIVERSITY 
UBRARY 



THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF 
THE NOVELIST 



BOOKS BY 
FRANK NORRIS 

A DEAL IN WHEAT, And Other Stories of 
the New and Old West 

THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE NOVELIST 

THE PIT ) 

} " The Epic of the Wheat " 
THE OCTOPUS ) 

A MAN'S WOMAN 

McTEAGUE 

BLIX 

MORAN OF THE LADY LETTY 



THE RESPONSIBILITIES 
OF THE NOVELIST 

AND OTHER LITERARY 
ESSAYS 



BY 

FRANK NORRIS 









LONDON 

GRANT RICHARDS 
1903 



PNso 



JUN 71965 



< / 



. J5. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Responsibilities of the Novelist . i 
The True Reward of the Novelist . .13 
The Novel with a " Purpose" . . . 23 
Story-Tellers vs. Novelists . . -35 
The Need of a Literary Conscience . .47 

A Neglected Epic 57 

The Frontier Gone at Last . . .67 
The Great American Novelist . . .83 
New York as a Literary Centre . .91 
The American Public ancf ''Popular" 

Fiction ...... 101 

Child Stories for Adults . . . .109 

Newspaper Criticismgi and American 

Fiction 117 

Novelists to Order While* You Wait . 125 
The "Nature" Revival in Literature . 135 
The Mechanics of Fiction ? . . .145 
Fiction Writing as a Business . . .155 
The "Volunteer Manuscript" . . .167 
Retail Bookseller: Literary Dictator . 181 



CONTENTS Continued 

PAGE 

An American School of Fiction? . .191 

Novelists of the Future . . . .201 

A Plea for Romantic Fiction . . .211 

A Problem in Fiction , . . .221 
Why Women Should Write the Best Novels 229 

Simplicity in Art ... . . . .239 

Salt and Sincerity . . . . .249 

Bibliography, Essays, Articles, Letters . 305 

Short Stories . . . . . 307 

Poems Published . . . . .310 

Books Published . . . . .310 



THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF 
THE NOVELIST 



THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF 
THE NOVELIST 

IT is not here a question of the "unarrived," 
the " unpublished" ; these are the care-free 
irresponsibles whose hours are halcyon and 
whose endeavours have all the lure, all the 
recklessness of adventure. They are not recog- 
nized; they have made no standards for 
themselves, and if they play the saltimbanque 
and the charlatan nobody cares and nobody 
(except themselves) is affected. 

But the writers in question are the successful 
ones who have made a public and to whom 
some ten, twenty or a hundred thousand 
people are pleased to listen. You may believe 
if you choose that the novelist, of all workers, 
is independent that he can write what he 
pleases, and that certainly, certainly he should 
never "write down to his readers" that he 
should never consult them at all. 

On the contrary, I believe it can be proved 
that the successful novelist should be more 
than all others limited in the nature and charac- 
ter of his work more than all others he should 

3 



4 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

be careful of what he says ; more than all others 
he should defer to his audience; more than all 
others more even than the minister and the 
editor he should feel "his public" and watch 
his every word, testing carefully his every 
utterance, weighing with the most relentless 
precision his every statement; in a word, pos- 
sess a sense of his responsibilities. 

For the novel is the great expression of mod- 
ern life. Each form of art has had its turn at 
reflecting and expressing its contemporaneous 
thought. Time was when the world looked to 
the architects of the castles and great cathedrals 
to truly reflect and embody its ideals. And 
the architects serious, earnest men produced 
such " expressions of contemporaneous thought" 
as the Castle of Coucy and the Church of 
Notre Dame. Then with other times came 
other customs, and the painters had their day. 
The men of the Renaissance trusted Angelo 
and Da Vinci and Velasquez to speak for them, 
and trusted not in vain. Next came the age of 
drama. Shakespeare and Marlowe found the 
value of x for the life and the times in which 
they lived. Later on contemporary life had 
been so modified that neither painting, archi- 
tecture nor drama was the best vehicle of 
expression, the day of the longer poems arrived, 
and Pope and Dry den spoke for their fellows. 



The Responsibilities of the Novelist 5 

Thus the sequence Each age speaks with 
its own peculiar organ, and has left the Word 
for us moderns to read and unders and. The 
Castle of Coucy and the Church of Notre Dame 
are the spoken words of the Middle Ages. The 
Renaissance speaks and intelligib y to us 
through the sibyls of the Sistine chapel and the 
Mona Lisa. " Macbeth" and " Tamerlane" 
resume the whole spirit of the Elizabethan age, 
while the "Rape of the Lock" is a wireless 
message to us straight from the period of the 
Restoration. 

To-day is the day of the novel. In no other 
day and by no other vehicle is contempora- 
neous life so adequately expressed; and the 
critics of the twenty-second century, reviewing 
our times, striving to reconstruct our civiliza- 
tion, will look not to the painters, not to the 
architects nor dramatists, but to the novelists 
to find our idiosyncrasy. 

I think this is true. I think if the matter 
could in any way be statisticized, the figures 
would bear out the assumption. There is no 
doubt the novel will in time "go out" of popu- 
lar favour as irrevocably as the long poem has 
gone, and for the reason that it is no longer 
the right mode of expression. 

It is interesting to speculate upon what will 
take its place. Certainly the coming civiliza- 



6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

tion will revert to no former means of expressing 
its thought or its ideals. Possibly music will 
be the interpreter of the life of the twenty-first 
and twenty-second centuries. Possibly one 
may see a hint of this in the characterization 
of Wagner's operas as the " Music of the Future." 

This, however, is parenthetical and beside 
the mark. Remains the fact that to-day is the 
day of the novel. By this one does not mean 
that the novel is merely popular. If the novel 
was not something more than a simple diver- 
sion, a means of whiling away a dull evening, 
a long railway journey, it would not, believe 
me, remain in favour another day. 

If the novel, then, is popular, it is popular 
with a reason, a vital, inherent reason ; that is 
to say, it is essential. Essential to resume 
once more the proposition because it expresses 
modern life better than architecture, better 
than painting, better than poetry, better than 
music. It is as necessary to the civilization 
of the twentieth century as the violin is neces- 
sary to Kubelik, as the piano is necessary to 
Paderewski, as the plane is necessary to the 
carpenter, the sledge to the blacksmith, the 
chisel to the mason. It is an instrument, a 
tool, a weapon, a vehicle. It is that thing 
which, in the hand of man, makes him civilized 
and no longer savage, because it gives him a 



The Responsibilities of the Novelist 7 

power of durable, permanent expression. So 
much for the novel the instrument. 

Because it is so all-powerful to-day, the 
people turn to him who wields this instrument 
with every degree of confidence. They expect 
and rightly that results shall be commen- 
surate with means. The unknown archer who 
grasps the bow of Ulysses may be expected by 
the multitude to send his shaft far and true. 
If he is not true nor strong he has no business 
with the bow. The people give heed to him 
only because he bears a great weapon. He 
himself knows before he shoots whether or no 
he is worthy. 

It is all very well to jeer at the People and at 
the People's misunderstanding of the arts, but 
the fact is indisputable that no art that is not 
in the end understood by the People can live 
or ever did live a single generation. In the 
larger view, in the last analysis, the People 
pronounce the final judgment. The People, 
despised of the artist, hooted, caricatured and 
vilified, are after all, and in the main, the real 
seekers after Truth. Who is it, after all, whose 
interest is liveliest in any given work of art? 
It is not now a question of esthetic interest 
that is, the artist's, the amateur's, the cogno- 
scente's. It is a question of vital interest. Say 
what you will, Maggie Tulliver for instance 



8 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

is far more a living being for Mrs. Jones across 
the street than she is for your sensitive, fastidi- 
ous, keenly critical artist, litterateur, or critic. 
The People Mrs. Jones and her neighbours 
take the life history of these fictitious charac- 
ters, these novels, to heart with a seriousness 
that the esthetic cult have no conception of. 
The cult consider them almost solely from their 
artistic sides. The People take them into their 
innermost lives. Nor do the People discrimi- 
nate. Omnivorous readers as they are to-day, 
they make little distinction between Maggie 
Tulliver and the heroine of the last "popular 
novel." They do not stop to separate true 
from false ; they do not care. 

How necessary it becomes, then, for those 
who, by the simple art of writing, can invade 
the heart's heart of thousands, whose novels 
are received with such measureless earnestness 
how necessary it becomes for those who 
wield such power to use it rightfully. Is it not 
expedient to act fairly? Is it not in Heaven's 
name essential that the People hear, not a lie, 
but the Truth? 

If the novel were not one of the most impor- 
tant factors of modern life ; if it were not the 
completest expression of our civilization ; if its 
influence were not greater than all the pulpits, 
than all the newspapers between the oceans, it 



The Responsibilities of the Novelist 9 

would not be so important that its message 
should be true. 

But the novelist to-day is the one who reaches 
the greatest audience. Right or wrong, the 
People turn to him the moment he speaks, and 
what he says they believe. 

For the Million, Life is a contracted affair, is 
bounded by the walls of the narrow channel of 
affairs in which their feet are set. They have 
no horizon. They look to-day as they never 
have looked before, as they never will look 
again, to the writer of fiction to give them an 
idea of life beyond their limits, and they believe 
him as they never have believed before and 
never will again. 

This being so, is it not difficult to understand 
how certain of these successful writers of fiction 
these favoured ones into whose hands the 
gods have placed the great bow of Ulysses can 
look so frivolously upon their craft ? It is not 
necessary to specify. One speaks of those 
whose public is measured by "one hundred 
and fifty thousand copies sold." We know 
them, and because the gods have blessed us 
with wits beyond our deserving we know their 
work is false. But what of the "hundred and 
fifty thousand" who are not discerning and 
who receive this falseness as Truth, who 
believe this topsy-turvy picture of Life 



io The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

beyond their horizons is real and vital and 
sane? 

There is no gauge to measure the extent of 
this malignant influence. Public opinion is 
made no one can say how, by infinitesimal 
accretions, by a multitude of minutest elements. 
Lying novels, surely, surely in this day and age 
of indiscriminate reading, contribute to this 
more than all other influences of present-day 
activity. 

The Pulpit, the Press and the Novel these 
indisputably are the great moulders of public 
opinion and public morals to-day. But the 
Pulpit speaks but once a week ; the Press is read 
with lightning haste and the morning news is 
waste-paper by noon. But the novel goes into 
the home to stay. It is read word for word ; is 
talked about, discussed ; its influence penetrates 
every chink and corner of the family. 

Yet novelists are not found wanting who 
write for money. I do not think this is an 
unfounded accusation. I do not think it asking 
too much of credulity. This would not matter 
if they wrote the Truth But these gentlemen 
who are "in literature for their own pocket 
every time" have discovered that for the 
moment the People have confounded the Wrong 
with the Right, and prefer that which is a lie 
to that which is true. "Very well, then," say 



The Responsibilities of the Novelist 1 1 

these gentlemen. "If they want a lie they 
shall have it;" and they give the People a lie 
in return for royalties. 

The surprising thing about this is that you 
and I and all the rest of us do not consider this 
as disreputable do not yet realize that the 
novelist has responsibilities. We condemn an 
editor who sells his editorial columns, and we 
revile the pulpit attainted of venality. But 
the venal novelist he whose influence is greater 
than either the Press or Pulpit him we greet 
with a wink and the tongue in the cheek. 

This should not be so. Somewhere the 
protest should be raised, and those of us who 
see the practice of this fraud should bring home 
to ourselves the realization that the selling of 
one hundred and fifty thousand books is a 
serious business. The People have a right to 
the Truth as they have a right to life, liberty 
and the pursuit of happiness. It is not right 
that they be exploited and deceived with false 
views of life, false characters, false sentiment, 
false morality, false history, false philosophy, 
false emotions, false heroism, false notions of 
self-sacrifice, false views of religion, of duty, of 
conduct and of manners. 

The man who can address an audience of 
one hundred and fifty thousand people who 
unenlightened believe what he says, has a 



12 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

heavy duty to perform, and tremendous respon- 
sibilities to shoulder; and he should address 
himself to his task not with the flippancy of a 
catch-penny juggler at the county fair, but with 
earnestness, with soberness, with a sense of his 
limitations, and with all the abiding sincerity 
that by the favour and mercy of the gods 
may be his. 



THE TRUE REWARD OF THE NOVELIST 



THE TRUE REWARD OF THE NOVELIST 

NOT that one quarrels with the historical 
novel as such; not that one does not 
enjoy good fiction wherever found, and in what- 
ever class. It is the method of attack of the 
latter-day copyists that one deplores their 
attitude, the willingness of so very, very many 
of them to take off the hat to Fashion, and then 
hold the same hat for Fashion to drop pennies in. 

Ah, but the man must be above the work or 
the work is worthless, and the man better off at 
some other work than that of producing fiction. 
The eye never once should wander to the 
gallery, but be always with single purpose 
turned inward upon the work, testing it and 
retesting it that it rings true 

What one quarrels with is the perversion of a 
profession, the detestable trading upon another 
man's success. No one can find fault with 
those few good historical novels that started 
the fad. There was good workmanship in 
these, and honesty. But the copyists, the 
fakirs they are not novelists at all, though 
they write novels that sell by the hundreds of 



1 6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

thousands. They are business men. They 
find out no, they allow some one else to find 
out what the public wants, and they give it 
to the public cheap, and advertise it as a new 
soap is advertised. Well, they make money; 
and, if that is their aim if they are content to 
prostitute the good name of American literature 
for a sliding scale of royalties let's have done 
with them. They have their reward. But the 
lamentable result will be that these copyists 
will in the end so prejudice the people against 
an admirable school of fiction the school of 
Scott that for years to come the tale of historic 
times will be discredited and many a great 
story remain unwritten, and many a man of 
actual worth and real power hold back in the 
ranks for very shame of treading where so 
many fools have rushed in. 

For the one idea of the fakir the copyist 
and of the public which for the moment listens 
to him, is Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, first, last 
and always Clothes. Not Clothes only in the 
sense of doublet and gown, but Clothes of 
speech, Clothes of manner, Clothes of customs. 
Hear them expatiate over the fashion of wear- 
ing a cuff, over a trick of speech, over the archi- 
tecture of a house, the archeology of armour 
and the like. It is all well enough in its way, 
but so easily dispensed with if there be flesh and 



The True Reward of the Novelist 17 

blood underneath. Veronese put the people 
of his "Marriage at Cana" into the clothes of 
his contemporaries. Is the picture any less a 
masterpiece ? 

Do these Little People know that Scott's 
archeology was about one thousand years 
"out" in Ivanhoe, and that to make a paral- 
lel we must conceive of a writer describing 
Richelieu say in small clothes and a top hat ? 
But is it not Richelieu we want, and Ivanhoe, 
not their clothes, their armour? And in spite 
of his errors Scott gave us a real Ivanhoe. He 
got beneath the clothes of an epoch and got 
the heart of it, and the spirit of it (different 
essentially and vitally from ours or from every 
other, the spirit of feudalism) ; and he put forth 
a masterpiece. 

The Little People so very precise in the 
matter of buttons and "bacinets" do not so. 
Take the clothes from the people of their 
Romances and one finds only wooden manikins. 
Take the clothes from the epoch of which they 
pretend to treat and what is there beneath ? It 
is only the familiar, well-worn, well-thumbed 
nineteenth or twentieth century after all. As 
well have written of Michigan Avenue, Chicago, 
as "La Rue de la Harpe," "The Great North 
Road" or the "Appian Way." 

It is a masquerade, the novel of the copyists ; 



1 8 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

and the people who applaud them are they 
not the same who would hold persons in 
respect because of the finery of their bodies? 
A poor taste, a cheap one ; the taste of serving- 
men, the literature of chambermaids. 

To approach the same subject by a different 
radius: why must the historical novel of the 
copyist always be conceived of in the terms 
of Romance ? Could not the formula of Real- 
ism be applied at least as well, not the Realism 
of mere externals (the copyists have that), but 
the Realism of motives and emotions ? What 
would we not give for a picture of the fifteenth 
century as precise and perfect as one of Mr. 
James's novels? Even if that be impossible, 
the attempt, even though half-way successful, 
would be worth while, would be better than 
the wooden manikin in the tin-pot helmet and 
baggy hose. At least we should get some- 
where, even if no farther than Mr. Kingsley 
took us in "Hereward," or Mr. Blackmore in 
"Lorna Doone." 

How about the business life and the student 
life, and the artizan life and the professional 
life, and above all, the home life of historic 
periods ? Great Heavens ! There was some- 
thing else sometimes than the soldier life. 
They were not always cutting and thrusting, not 
always night-riding, escaping, venturing, posing. 



The True Reward of the Novelist 19 

Or suppose that cut-and-thrust must be the 
order of the day, where is the "man behind," 
and the heart in the man and the spirit in the 
heart and the essential vital, elemental, all- 
important true life within the spirit ? We are 
all Anglo-Saxons enough to enjoy the sight of 
a fight, would go a block or so out of the way 
to see one, or be a dollar or so out of pocket. 
But let it not be these jointed manikins worked 
with a thread. At least let it be Mr. Robert 
Fitzsimmons or Mr. James Jeffries. 

Clothes, paraphernalia, panoply, pomp and 
circumstance, and the copyist's public and the 
poor bedeviled, ink-corroded hack of an over- 
driven, underpaid reviewer on an inland paper 
speak of the "vivid colouring" and "the fine 
picture of a bygone age" it is easy to be 
vivid with a pot of vermilion at the elbow. 
Any one can scare a young dog with a false- 
face and a roaring voice, but to be vivid and 
use grays and browns, to scare the puppy with 
the lifted finger, that's something to the point. 

The difficult thing is to get at the life imme- 
diately around you the very life in which you 
move. No romance in it? No romance in 
you, poor fool. As much romance on Michigan 
Avenue as there is realism in King Arthur's 
court. It is as you choose to see it. The 
important thing to decide is, which formula is 



20 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the best to help you grip the Real Life of this 
or any other age. Contemporaries always 
imagine that theirs is the prosaic age, and that 
chivalry and the picturesque died with their 
forbears. No doubt Merlin mourned for the 
old time of romance. Cervantes held that 
romance was dead. Yet most of the historical 
romances of the day are laid in Cervantes' s 
time, or even after it. 

Romance and Realism are constant qualities 
of every age, day and hour. They are here 
to-day. They existed in the time of Job. 
They will continue to exist till the end of time, 
not so much in things as in point of view of the 
people who see things. 

The difficulty, then, is to get at the immediate 
life immensely difficult, for you are not only 
close to the canvas, but are yourself part of 
the picture. 

But the historic age is almost done to hand. 
Let almost any one shut himself in his closet 
with a history and Violet LeDuc's Dictionaire 
du Mobilier and, given a few months' time, he 
can evolve an historical novel of the kind called 
popular. He need not know men just clothes 
and lingo, the " what-ho-without-there " gabble. 
But if he only chose he could find romance and 
adventure in Wall Street or Bond Street. But 
romance there does not wear the gay clothes 



The True Reward of the Novelist 21 

and the showy accouterments, and to discover 
it the real romance of it means hard work 
and close study, not of books, but of people 
and actualities. 

Not only this, but to know the life around 
you you must live if not among people, then 
in people. You must be something more than 
a novelist if you can, something more than just 
a writer. There must be that nameless sixth 
sense or sensibility in you that great musicians 
have in common with great inventors and great 
scientists; the thing that does not enter into 
the work, but that is back of it ; the thing that 
would make of you a good man as well as a 
good novelist ; the thing that differentiates the 
mere business man from the financier (for it 
is possessed of the financier and poet alike 
so only they be big enough). 

It is not genius, for genius is a lax, loose term 
so flippantly used that its expressiveness is 
long since lost. It is more akin to sincerity. 
And there once more we halt upon the great 
word sincerity, sincerity, and again sincerity. 
Let the writer attack his historical novel with 
sincerity and he cannot then do wrong. He 
will see then the man beneath the clothes, and 
the heart beneath both, and he will be so 
amazed at the wonder of that sight that he will 
forget the clothes. His public will be small, 



22 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

perhaps, but he will have the better reward of 
the knowledge of a thing well done. Royalties 
on editions of hundreds of thousands will not 
pay him more to his satisfaction than that. 
To make money is not the province of a novelist. 
If he is the right sort, he has other responsibili- 
ties, heavy ones. He of all men cannot think 
only of himself or for himself. And when the 
last page is written and the ink crusts on the 
pen-point and the hungry presses go clashing 
after another writer, the "new man" and the 
new fashion of the hour, he will think of the 
grim long grind of the years of his life that he 
has put behind him and of his work that he has 
built up volume by volume, sincere work, 
telling the truth as he saw it, independent of 
fashion and the gallery gods, holding to these 
with gripped hands and shut teeth he will 
think of all this then, and he will be able to say : 
"I never truckled; I never took off the hat to 
Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, 
I told them the truth. They liked it or they 
didn't like it. What had that to do with me ? 
I told them the truth; I knew it for the truth 
then, and I know it for the truth now." 

And that is his reward the best that a 
man may know ; the only one really worth the 
striving for. 



THE NOVEL WITH A " PURPOSE 



THE NOVEL WITH A "PURPOSED 

A FTER years of indoctrination and expos- 
-*- * tulation on the part of the artists, the 
people who read appear at last to have grasped 
this one precept "the novel must not preach," 
but "the purpose of the story must be subordi- 
nate to the story itself." It took a very long 
time for them to understand this, but once it 
became apparent they fastened upon it with a 
tenacity comparable only to the tenacity of the 
American schoolboy to the date "1492." " The 
novel must not preach," you hear them say. 

As though it were possible to write a novel 
without a purpose, even if it is only the pur- 
pose to amuse. One is willing to admit that 
this savours a little of quibbling, for "pur- 
pose" and purpose to amuse are two different 
purposes. But every novel, even the most friv- 
olous, must have some reason for the writing 
of it, and in that sense must have a "purpose." 

Every novel must do one of three things 
it must (i) tell something, (2) show something, 
r (3) prove something. Some novels do all 
three of these; some do only two; all must do 
at least one. 

25 



26 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

The ordinary novel merely tells something, 
elaborates a complication, devotes itself pri- 
marily to things. In this class comes the 
novel of adventure, such as "The Three 
Musketeers." 

The second and better class of novel shows 
something, exposes the workings of a temper- 
ament, devotes itself primarily to the minds 
of human beings. In this class falls the novel 
of character, such as "Romola." 

The third, and what we hold to be the best 
class, proves something, draws conclusions 
from a whole congeries of forces, social ten- 
dencies, race impulses, devotes itself not to 
a study of men but of man. In this class falls 
the novel with the purpose, such as "Les 
Miserables." 

And the reason we decide upon this last as 
the highest form of the novel is because that, 
though setting a great purpose before it as its 
task, it nevertheless includes, and is forced to 
include, both the other classes. It must tell 
something, must narrate vigorous incidents 
and must show something, must penetrate 
deep into the motives and character of type- 
men, men who are composite pictures of a 
multitude of men. It must do this because 
of the nature of its subject, for it deals with 
elemental forces, motives that stir whole 



The Novel with a "Purpose" 27 

nations. These cannot be handled as abstrac- 
tions in fiction. Fiction can find expression 
only in the concrete. The elemental forces, 
then, contribute to the novel with a purpose 
to provide it with vigorous action. In the 
novel, force can be expressed in no other way. 
The social tendencies must be expressed by 
means of analysis of the characters of the men 
and women who compose that society, and 
the two must be combined and manipulated 
to evolve the purpose to find the value of x. 

The production of such a novel is probably 
the most arduous task that the writer of fiction 
can undertake. Nowhere else is success more 
difficult ; nowhere else is failure so easy. Unskil- 
fully treated, the story may dwindle down and 
degenerate into mere special pleading, and the 
novelist become a polemicist, a pamphleteer, 
forgetting that, although his first consideration 
is to prove his case, his means must be living 
human beings, not statistics, and that his tools 
are not figures, but pictures from life as he sees 
it. The novel with a purpose is, one contends, 
a preaching novel. But it preaches by telling 
things and showing things. Only, the author 
selects from the great storehouse of actual 
life the things to be told and the things to be 
shown, which shall bear upon his problem, his 
purpose. The preaching, the moralizing, is 



28 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the result not of direct appeal by the writer, 
but is made should be made to the reader 
by the very incidents of the story. 

But here is presented a strange anomaly, a 
distinction as subtle as it is vital. Just now 
one has said that in the composition of the kind 
of novel under consideration the purpose is 
for the novelist the all-important thing, and 
yet it is impossible to deny that the story, as 
a mere story, is to the story-writer the one 
great object of attention. How reconcile then 
these two apparent contradictions? 

For the novelist, the purpose of his novel, 
the problem he is to solve, is to his story what 
the keynote is to the sonata. Though the 
musician cannot exaggerate the importance of 
the keynote, yet the thing that interests him 
is the sonata itself. The keynote simply 
coordinates the music, systematizes it, brings 
all the myriad little rebellious notes under a 
single harmonious code. 

Thus, too, the purpose in the novel. It is 
important as an end and also as an ever- 
present guide. For the writer it is as important 
only as a note to which his work must be 
attuned. The moment, however, that the 
writer becomes really and vitally interested in 
his purpose his novel fails. 

Here is the strange anomaly. Let us suppose 



The Novel with a "Purpose" 29 

that Hardy, say, should be engaged upon a 
story which had for purpose to show the injus- 
tices under which the miners of Wales were 
suffering. It is conceivable that he could 
write a story that would make the blood boil 
with indignation. But he himself, if he is to 
remain an artist, if he is to write his novel suc- 
cessfully, will, as a novelist, care very little 
about the iniquitous labour system of the 
Welsh coal-mines. It will be to him as imper- 
sonal a thing as the key is to the composer of a 
sonata. As a man Hardy may or may not 
be vitally concerned in the Welsh coal-miner. 
That is quite unessential. But as a novelist, 
as an artist, his sufferings must be for him a 
matter of the mildest interest. They are 
important, for they constitute his keynote. 
They are not interesting for the reason that 
the working out of his story, its people, 
episodes, scenes and pictures, is for the 
moment the most interesting thing in all 
the world to him, exclusive of everything 
else. Do you think that Mrs. Stowe was 
more interested in the slave question than 
she was in the writing of "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin " ? Her book, her manuscript, the 
page-to-page progress of the narrative, were 
more absorbing to her than all the Negroes 
that were ever whipped or sold. Had it not 



30 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

been so, that great purpose-novel never would 
have succeeded. 

Consider the reverse "Fecondite*," for in- 
stance. The purpose for which Zola wrote the 
book ran away with him. He really did care 
more for the depopulation of France than 
he did for his novel. Result sermons on the 
fruitfulness of women, special pleading, a far- 
rago of dry, dull incidents, overburdened and 
collapsing under the weight of a theme that 
should have intruded only indirectly. 

This is preeminently a selfish view of the 
question, but it is assuredly the only correct 
one. It must be remembered that the artist 
has a double personality, himself as a man, 
and himself as an artist. But, it will be urged, 
how account for the artist's sympathy in his 
fictitious characters, his emotion, the actual 
tears he sheds in telling of their griefs, their 
deaths, and the like ? 

The answer is obvious. As an artist his 
sensitiveness is quickened because they are 
characters in his novel. It does not at all 
follow that the same artist would be moved to 
tears over the report of parallel catastrophes 
in real life. As an artist, there is every reason 
to suppose he would welcome the news with 
downright pleasure. It would be for him 
4 'good material." He would see a story in it, 



The Novel with a "Purpose'' 1 31 

a good scene, a great character. Thus the 
artist. What he would do, how he would 
feel as a man is quite a different matter. 

To conclude, let us consider one objection 
urged against the novel with a purpose by the 
plain people who read. For certain reasons, 
difficult to explain, the purpose novel always 
ends unhappily. It is usually a record of 
suffering, a relation of tragedy. And the 
plain people say, "Ah, we see so much suffering 
in the world, why put it into novels? We 
do not want it in novels." 

One confesses to very little patience with 
this sort. "We see so much suffering in the 
world already!" Do they? Is this really 
true? The people who buy novels are the 
well-to-do people. They belong to a class 
whose whole scheme of life is concerned solely 
with an aim to avoid the unpleasant. Suffer- 
ing, the great catastrophes, the social throes, 
that annihilate whole communities, or that 
crush even isolated individuals all these are 
as far removed from them as earthquakes and 
tidal-waves. Or, even if it were so, suppose 
that by some miracle these blind eyes were 
opened and the sufferings of the poor, the 
tragedies of the house around the corner, 
really were laid bare. If there is much pain 
in life, all the more reason that it should appear 



32 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

in a class of literature which, in its highest form, 
is a sincere transcription of life. 

It is the complaint of the coward, this cry 
against the novel with a purpose, because it 
brings the tragedies and griefs of others to 
notice. Take this element from fiction, take 
from it the power and opportunity to prove 
that injustice, crime and inequality do exist, 
and what is left? Just the amusing novels, 
the novels that entertain. The juggler in 
spangles, with his balancing-pole and gilt ball, 
does this. You may consider the modern 
novel from this point of view. It may be a 
flippant paper-covered thing of swords and 
cloaks, to be carried on a railway journey and 
to be thrown out the window when read, 
together with the sucked oranges and peanut 
shells. Or it may be a great force, that works 
together with the pulpit and the universi- 
ties for the good of the people, fearlessly prov- 
ing that power is abused, that the strong 
grind the faces of the weak, that an evil tree 
is still growing in the midst of the garden, that 
undoing follows hard upon unrighteousness, 
that the course of Empire is not yet finished, 
and that the races of men have yet to work out 
their destiny in those great and terrible move- 
ments that crush and grind and rend asunder 
the pillars of the houses of the nations. 






The Novel with a "Purpose" 33 

Fiction may keep pace with the Great 
March, but it will not be by dint of amusing 
the people. The muse is a teacher, not a 
trickster. Her rightful place is with the 
leaders, but in the last analysis that place is 
to be attained and maintained not by cap-and- 
bells, but because of a serious and sincere 
interest, such as inspires the great teachers, 
the great divines, the great philosophers, a 
well-defined, well-seen, courageously sought-for 
purpose. 



STORY-TELLERS VS. NOVELISTS 



STORY-TELLERS VS. NOVELISTS 

TT is a thing accepted and indisputable that 
a story-teller is a novelist, but it has 
often occurred to one that the reverse is not 
always true and that the novelist is not of 
necessity a story-teller. The distinction is 
perhaps a delicate one, but for all that it seems 
to be decisive, and it is quite possible that 
with the distinction in mind a different judg- 
ment might be passed upon a very large part 
of present-day fiction. It would even be 
entertaining to apply the classification to the 
products of the standard authors. 

The story-telling instinct seems to be a gift, 
whereas we trend to the heretical the art of 
composing novels using the word in appo- 
sition to stories, long or short may be 
an acquirement. The one is an endowment, 
the other an accomplishment. Accordingly 
throughout the following paragraphs the expres- 
sion, novelists of composition, for the time 
being will be used technically, and will be 
applied to those fiction-writers who have not 
the story-telling faculty. 

It would not be fair to attempt a proof that 
37 



38 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the one is better or worse than the other. 
The difference is surely of kind and not of 
degree. One will only seek to establish the 
fact that certain eminent and brilliant novel- 
writers are quite bereft of a sense of fiction, 
that some of them have succeeded in spite of 
this deficiency, and that other novel-writers 
possessing this sense of fiction have succeeded 
because of it, and in spite of many drawbacks 
such as lack of training and of education. 

It is a proposition which one believes to be 
capable of demonstration that every child con- 
tains in himself the elements of every known 
profession, every occupation, every art, every 
industry. In the five-year-old you may see 
glimpses of the soldier, trader, farmer, painter, 
musician, builder, and so on to the end of 
the roster. Later, circumstances produce the 
atrophy of all of these instincts but one, and 
from that one specialized comes the career. 
Thus every healthy-minded child no matter 
if he develops in later years to be financier or 
boot-maker is a story-teller. As soon as he 
begins to talk he tells stories. Witness the 
holocausts and carnage of the leaden platoons 
of the nursery table, the cataclysms of the 
Grand Trans-Continental Playroom and Front- 
Hall Railroad system. This, though, is not 
real story-telling. The toys practically tell 



Story-tellers vs. Novelists 39 

the story for him and are no stimulant to the 
imagination. However, the child goes beyond 
the toys. He dramatizes every object of 
his surroundings. The books of the library 
shelves are files of soldiers, the rugs are isles 
in the seaway of the floor, the easy chair is a 
comfortable old gentleman holding out his 
arms, the sofa a private brig or a Baldwin 
locomotive, and the child creates of his sur- 
roundings an entire and complex work of 
fiction of which he is at one and the same 
time hero, author and public. 

Within the heart of every mature human 
being, not a writer of fiction, there is the 
withered remains of a little story-teller who 
died very young. And the love of good 
fiction and the appreciation of a fine novel in 
the man of the world of riper years is I like 
to think a sort of memorial tribute which he 
pays to his little dead playmate of so very long 
ago, who died very quietly with his little broken 
tin locomotive in his hands on the cruel day 
when he woke to the realization that it had 
outlived its usefulness and its charm. 

Even in the heart of some accepted and 
successful fiction-writer you shall find this 
little dead story-teller. These are the novelists 
of composition, whose sense of fiction, under 
stress of circumstances, has become so blunted 



40 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

that when they come at last to full maturity 
and to the power of using the faculty they can no 
longer command it. These are novelists rather 
of intellect than of spontaneous improvisation ; 
and all the force of their spendid minds, every 
faculty other than the lost fiction-faculty, 
must be brought into play to compensate for 
the lack. Some more than compensate for it, 
so prodigal in resource, so persistent in effort, 
so powerful in energy and in fertility of inven- 
tion, that as it were by main strength they 
triumph over the other writer, the natural 
story-teller, from whose pen the book flows 
with almost no effort at all. 

Of this sort the novelists of intellect, in 
whom the born story-teller is extinct, the 
novelists of composition in a word the great 
example, it would seem, is George Eliot. It 
was by taking thought that the author of 
"Romola" added to her stature. The result 
is superb, but achieved at what infinite pains, 
with what colossal labour of head rather than 
of the heart ! She did not feel, she knew, and 
to attain that knowledge what effort had to 
be expended ! Even all her art cannot exclude 
from her pages evidences of the labour, of 
the superhuman toil. And it was labour 
and toil for what? To get back, through 
years of sophistication, of solemn education, 



Story-tellers vs. Novelists 41 

of worldly wisdom, back again to the point 
of view of the little lost child of the doll-house 
days. 

But sometimes the little story-teller does 
not die, but lives on and grows with the man, 
increasing in favour with God, till at [last he 
dominates the man himself, and the playroom 
of the old days simply widens its walls till it 
includes the street outside, and the street 
beyond and other streets, the whole city, the 
whole world, and the story-teller discovers a 
set of new toys to play with, and new objects 
of a measureless environment to dramatize 
about, and in exactly, exactly the same spirit 
in which he trundled his tin train through the 
halls and shouted boarding orders from the 
sofa he moves now through the world's play- 
room "making up stories"; only now his 
heroes and his public are outside himself and 
he alone may play the author. 

For him there is but little effort required. 
He has a sense of fiction. Every instant of 
his day he is dramatizing. The cable-car has 
for him a distinct personality. Every window 
in the residence quarters is an eye to the soul 
of the house behind. The very lamp-post on 
the corner, burning on through the night and 
through the storm, is a soldier, dutiful, vigilant 
in stress. A ship is Adventure; an engine 



42 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

a living brute ; and the easy chair of his library 
is still the same comfortable and kindly old 
gentleman holding out his arms. 

The men and women of his world are not 
apt to be to him so important in themselves 
as in relation to the whirl of things in which 
he chooses to involve them. They cause 
events, or else events happen to them, and by 
an unreasoned instinct the story-teller pre- 
serves the consistencies (just as the child 
would not have run the lines of the hall railway 
across the seaway of the floor between the 
rugs). Much thought is not necessary to him. 
Production is facile, a constant pleasure. The 
story runs from his pen almost of itself; it 
takes this shape or that, he knows not why; 
his people do this or that and by some blessed 
system of guesswork they are somehow always 
plausible and true to life. His work is hap- 
hazard, yet in the end and in the main tremen- 
dously probable. Devil-may-care, slipshod, 
melodramatic, but invincibly persuasive, he 
uses his heart, his senses, his emotions, every 
faculty but that of the intellect. He does 
not know; he feels. 

Dumas was this, and "The Three Musketeers/' 
different from "Romola" in kind but not in 
degree, is just as superb as Eliot at her best. 
Only the Frenchman had a sense of fiction 






Story-tellers vs. Novelists 43 

which the Englishwoman had not. Her novels 
are character studies, are portraits, are por- 
trayals of emotions or pictures of certain 
times and certain events, are everything you 
choose, but they are not stories, and no stretch 
of the imagination, no liberalness of criticism 
can make them such. She succeeded by dint 
of effort where the Frenchman merely wrote. 

George Eliot compensated for the defect arti- 
ficially and succeeded eminently and conclu- 
sively, but there are not found wanting cases 
in modern literature where "novelists of com- 
position" have not compensated beyond a very 
justifiable doubt, and where, had they but re- 
joiced in a very small modicum of this dowry 
of the gods, their work would have been to 
one's notion infinitely improved. 

As, for instance, Tolstoi ; incontestably great 
though he be, all his unquestioned power has 
never yet won for him that same vivid sense 
of fiction enjoyed by so (comparatively) unim- 
portant a writer as the author of "Sherlock 
Holmes." And of the two, judged strictly 
upon their merits as story-tellers, one claims 
for Mr. Doyle the securer if not the higher 
place, despite the magnificent genius of the 
novelist. 

In the austere Russian gloomy, sad, ac- 
quainted with grief the child died irrevoca- 



44 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

bly long, long ago ; and no power however vast, 
no wisdom however profound, no effort how- 
ever earnest, can turn one wheel on the little 
locomotive of battered tin or send it one inch 
along the old right-of-way between the nursery 
and the front room. One cannot but feel that 
the great author of "Anna Karenina" realizes 
as much as his readers the limitations that 
the loss of this untainted childishness imposes. 
The power was all his, the wonderful intellectual 
grip, but not the fiction spirit the child's 
knack and love of "making up stories." Given 
that, plus the force already his own, and what 
a book would have been there ! The perfect 
novel ! No doubt, clearer than all others, the 
great Russian sees the partial failure of his 
work, and no doubt keener and deeper than all 
others sees that, unless the child-vision and the 
child-pleasure be present to guide and to stimu- 
late, the entrances of the kingdom must stay 
forever shut to those who would enter, storm 
they the gates never so mightily and beat they 
never so clamorously at the doors. 

Whatever the end of fiction may be, what- 
ever the reward and recompense bestowed, 
whatever object is gained by good work, the 
end will not be gained, nor the reward won, 
nor the object attained by force alone by 
strength of will or of mind. Without the 



Story-tellers vs. Novelists 45 

auxiliary of the little playmate of the old days 
the great doors that stand at the end of the 
road will stay forever shut. Look once, how- 
ever, with the child's eyes, or for once touch 
the mighty valves with the child's hand, and 
Heaven itself lies open with all its manifold 
wonders. 

So that in the end, after all trial has been 
made and every expedient tested, the simplest 
way is the best and the humblest means the 
surest. A little child stands in the midst of 
the wise men and the learned, and their wis- 
dom and their learning are set aside and they 
are taught that unless they become as one of 
these they shall in nowise enter into the 
Kingdom of Heaven. 



THE NEED OF A LITERARY 
CONSCIENCE 



THE NEED OF A LITERARY CONSCIENCE 

T)ILATE saith unto them: what is truth?" 
* and it is of record that he received no 
answer and for very obvious reasons. For 
is it not a fact, that he who asks that question 
must himself find the answer, and that not 
even one sent from Heaven can be of hope or 
help to him if he is not willing to go down into 
his own heart and into his own life to find it ? 

To sermonize, to elaborate a disquisition on 
nice distinctions of metaphysics is not appro- 
priate here. But it is so one believes 
appropriate to consider a certain very large 
class of present day novelists of the United 
States who seldom are stirred by that spirit 
of inquiry that for a moment disturbed the 
Roman, who do not ask what is truth, who do 
not in fact care to be truthful at all, and who 
and this is the serious side of the business 
are bringing the name of American literature 
perilously near to disrepute. 

One does not quarrel for one instant with 
the fact that certain books of the writers in 
question have attained phenomenally large 
circulations. This is as it should be. There 

49 



50 The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

are very many people in the United States, 
and compared with such a figure as seventy 
million, a mere hundred thousand of books 
sold is no great matter. 

But here so it seems is the point. He 
who can address a hundred thousand people 
is, no matter what his message may be, in an 
important position. It is a large audience, 
one hundred thousand, larger than any roofed 
building now standing could contain. Less 
than one one-hundredth part of that number 
nominated Lincoln. Less than half of it won 
Waterloo. 

And it must be remembered that for every 
one person who buys a book there are three 
who will read it and half a dozen who will 
read what some one else has written about it, so 
that the sphere of influence widens indefinitely, 
and the audience that the writer addresses 
approaches the half -million mark. 

Well and good; but if the audience is so 
vast, if the influence is so far-reaching, if the 
example set is so contagious, it becomes incum- 
bent to ask, it becomes imperative to demand 
that the half -million shall be told the truth and 
not a lie. 

And this thing called truth "what is it?" 
says Pilate, and the average man conceives at 
once of an abstraction, a vague idea, a term 



The Need of a Literary Conscience 51 

borrowed from the metaphysicians, certainly 
nothing that has to do with practical, tangible, 
concrete work-a-day life. 

Error ! If truth is not an actual workaday 
thing, as concrete as the lamp-post on the 
corner, as practical as a cable-car, as real and 
homely and workaday and commonplace as a 
bootjack, then indeed are we of all men most 
miserable and our preaching vain. 

And truth in fiction is just as real and just 
as important as truth anywhere else as in 
Wall Street, for instance. A man who does not 
tell the truth there, and who puts the untruth 
upon paper over his signature, will be very 
promptly jailed. In the case of the Wall 
Street man the sum of money in question 
may be trivial $100, $50. But the untruth- 
ful novelist who starts in motion something 
like half a million dollars invokes not fear nor 
yet reproach. If truth in the matter of the 
producing of novels is not an elusive, intangible 
abstraction, what, then, is it ? Let us get at the 
hard nub of the business, something we can hold 
in the hand. It is the thing that is one's own, 
the discovery of a subject suitable for fictitious 
narration that has never yet been treated, 
and the conscientious study of that subject and 
the fair presentation of results. Not a difficult 
matter, it would appear, not an abstraction, not 



52 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

a philosophical kink. Newspaper reporters, 
who are not metaphysicians, unnamed, unre- 
warded, despised, even, and hooted and 
hounded, are doing this every day. They do 
it on a meager salary, and they call the affair 
a "scoop." Is the standard of the novelist 
he who is entrusted with the good name of 
his nation's literature lower than that of a 
reporter ? 

"Ah, but it is so hard to be original," "ah, 
but it is so hard to discover anything new." 
Great Heavens ! when a new life comes into 
the world for every tick of the watch in your 
pocket a new life with all its complications, 
and with all the thousand and one other com- 
plications it sets in motion ! 

Hard to be original ! when of all of those 
billion lives your own is as distinct, as indi- 
vidual, as "original," as though you were born 
out of season in the Paleozoic age and yours 
the first human face the sun ever shone upon. 

Go out into the street and stand where the 
ways cross and hear the machinery of life 
work clashing in its grooves. Can the utmost 
resort of your ingenuity evolve a better story 
than any one of the millions that jog your 
elbow? Shut yourself in your closet and turn 
your eyes inward upon yourself deep into 
yourself, down, down into the heart of you; 



The Need of a Literary Conscience 53 

and the tread of the feet upon the pavement 
is the systole and diastole of your own being 
different only in degree. It is life ; and it is 
that which you must have to make your book, 
your novel life, not other people's novels. 

Or look from your window. A whole Lit- 
erature goes marching by, clamouring for a 
leader and a master hand to guide it. You 
have but to step from your doorway. And 
instead of this, instead of entering into the 
leadership that is yours by right divine, instead 
of this, you must toilfully, painfully endeavour 
to crawl into the armour of the chief of some 
other cause, the harness of the leader of some 
other progress. 

But you will not fit into that panoply. You 
may never brace that buckler upon your 
arm, for by your very act you stand revealed 
as a littler man than he who should be chief 
a littler man and a weaker; and the casque 
will fall so far over your face that it will only 
blind you, and the sword will trip you, and 
the lance, too ponderous, will falter in your 
grip, and all that life which surges and thun- 
ders behind you will in time know you to be 
the false leader, and as you stumble will trample 
you in its onrush, and leave you dead and for- 
gotten upon the road. 

And just as a misconception of the truth 



54 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

makes of this the simplest and homeliest of 
things, a vagary, an abstraction and a bugbear, 
so it is possible that a misconception of the 
Leader creates the picture of a great and 
dreadful figure wrapped in majesty, solemn 
and profound. So that perhaps for very lack 
of self-confidence, for very diffidence, one 
shrinks from lifting the sword of him and 
from enduing one's forehead with the casque 
that seems so ponderous. 

In other causes no doubt the leader must 
be chosen from the wise and great. In science 
and finance one looks to him to be a strong 
man, a swift and a sure man. But the litera- 
ture that to-day shouts all in vain for its chief 
needs no such a one as this. Here the battle is 
not to the strong nor yet the race to the swift. 
Here the leader is no vast, stern being, profound, 
solemn, knowing all things, but, on the contrary, 
is as humble as the lowliest that follow after 
him. So that it need not be hard to step into 
that place of eminence. Not by arrogance, 
nor by assumption, nor by the achievement of 
the world's wisdom, shall you be made worthy 
of the place of high command. But it will 
come to you, if it comes at all, because you shall 
have kept yourself young and humble and pure 
in heart, and so unspoiled and unwearied and 
un jaded that you shall find a joy in the mere 



The Need of a Literary Conscience 55 

rising of the sun, a wholesome, sane delight 
in the sound of the wind at night, a pleasure in 
the sight of the hills at evening, shall see God 
in a little child and a whole religion in a brood- 
ing bird. 



A NEGLECTED EPIC 



A NEGLECTED EPIC 

OUDDENLY we have found that there is 
*^ no longer any Frontier. The westward- 
moving course of empire has at last crossed 
the Pacific Ocean. Civilization has circled the 
globe and has come back to its starting point, 
the vague and mysterious East. 

The thing has not been accomplished peace- 
fully. From the very first it has been an affair 
of wars of invasions. Invasions of the East 
by the West, and of raids North and South 
raids accomplished by flying columns that 
dashed out from both sides of the main army. 
Sometimes even the invaders have fought 
among themselves, as for instance the Trojan 
War, or the civil wars of Italy, England and 
America; sometimes they have turned back on 
their tracks and, upon one pretext or another, 
reconquered the races behind them, as for 
instance Alexander's wars to the eastward, the 
Crusades, and Napoleon's Egyptian campaigns. 

Retarded by all these obstacles, the march 
has been painfully slow. To move from 
Egypt to Greece took centuries of time. More 

59 



60 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

centuries were consumed in the campaign 
that brought empire from Greece to Rome, 
and still more centuries passed before it crossed 
the Alps and invaded northern and western 
Europe. 

But observe. Once across the Mississippi, 
the West our Far West was conquered in 
about forty years. In all the vast campaign 
from east to west here is the most signal vic- 
tory, the swiftest, the completest, the most 
brilliant achievement the wilderness subdued 
at a single stroke. 

Now all these various fightings to the 
westward, these mysterious race-movements, 
migrations, wars and wanderings have pro- 
duced their literature, distinctive, peculiar, 
excellent. And this literature we call epic. 
The Trojan War gave us the " Iliad," the 
"Odyssey" and the "./^neid"; the campaign 
of the Greeks in Asia Minor produced the 
"Anabasis"; a whole cycle of literature grew 
from the conquest of Europe after the fall of 
Rome "The Song of Roland," "The Nibel- 
ungenlied," "The Romance of the Rose," 
" Beowulf, " " Magnusson, " " The Scotch Border 
Ballads," "The Poem of the Cid," "The 
Hemskringla, " " Orlando Furioso, " "Jerusalem 
Delivered," and the like. 

On this side of the Atlantic, in his clumsy, 



A Neglected Epic 61 

artificial way, but yet recognized as a producer 
of literature, Cooper has tried to chronicle the 
conquest of the eastern part of our country. 
Absurd he may be in his ideas of life and 
character, the art in him veneered over with 
charlatanism; yet the man was solemn enough 
and took his work seriously, and his work is 
literature. 

Also a cycle of romance has grown up around 
the Civil War. The theme has had its poets 
to whom the public have been glad to listen. 
The subject is vast, noble ; is, in a word, epic, 
just as the Trojan War and the Retreat of the 
Ten Thousand were epic. 

But when at last one comes to look for the 
literature that sprang from and has grown 
up around the last great epic event in the 
history of civilization, the event which in 
spite of stupendous difficulties was consum- 
mated more swiftly, more completely, more 
satisfactorily than any like event since the 
westward migration began I mean the con- 
quering of the West, the subduing of the 
wilderness beyond the Mississippi What has 
this produced in the way of literature? The 
dime novel ! The dime novel and nothing else. 
The dime novel and nothing better. 

The Trojan War left to posterity the charac- 
ter of Hector ; the wars with the Saracens gave 



62 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

us Roland; the folklore of Iceland produced 
Grettir ; the Scotch border poetry brought forth 
the Douglas; the Spanish epic the Cid. But 
the American epic, just as heroic, just as ele- 
mental, just as important and as picturesque, 
will fade into history leaving behind no finer 
type, no nobler hero than Buffalo Bill. 

The young Greeks sat on marble terraces 
overlooking the ^Egean Sea and listened to 
the thunderous roll of Homer's hexameter. 
In the feudal castles the minstrel sang to the 
young boys, of Roland. The farm folk of 
Iceland to this very day treasure up and read 
to their little ones hand-written copies of the 
Gretla Saga chronicling the deeds and death of 
Grettir the Strong. But the youth of the 
United States learn of their epic by paying a 
dollar to see the " Wild West Show. " 

The plain truth of the matter is that we 
have neglected our epic the black shame of it 
be on us and no contemporaneous poet or 
chronicler thought it worth his while to sing 
the song or tell the tale of the West because 
literature in the day when the West was being 
won was a cult indulged in by certain well-bred 
gentlemen in New England who looked east- 
ward to the Old World, to the legends of 
England and Norway and Germany and Italy 
for their inspiration, and left the great, strong, 



A Neglected Epic 63 

honest, fearless, resolute deeds of their own 
countrymen to be defamed and defaced by 
the nameless hacks of the "yellow back" 
libraries. 

One man who wrote "How Santa Claus 
Came to Simpson's Bar" one poet, one 
chronicler did, in fact, arise for the moment, 
who understood that wild, brave life and who 
for a time gave promise of bearing record of 
things seen. 

One of the requirements of an epic a true 
epic is that its action must devolve upon some 
great national event. There was no lack of 
such in those fierce years after '49. Just that 
long and terrible journey from the Mississippi 
to the ocean is an epic in itself. Yet no serious 
attempt has ever been made by an American 
author to render into prose or verse this event 
in our history as "national" in scope, in origin 
and in results as the Revolution itself. The 
prairie schooner is as large a figure in the 
legends as the black ship that bore Ulysses 
homeward from Troy. The sea meant as 
much to the Argonauts of the fifties as it did to 
the ten thousand. 

And the Alamo! There is a trumpet-call 
in the word; and only the look of it on the 
printed page is a flash of fire. But the very 
histories slight the deed, and to many an 



64 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

American, born under the same flag that the 
Mexican rifles shot to ribbons on that splendid 
day, the word is meaningless. Yet Thermopylae 
was less glorious, and in comparison with that 
siege the investment of Troy was mere wanton 
riot. At the very least the Texans in that 
battered adobe church fought for the honour 
of their flag and the greater glory of their 
country, not for loot or the possession of the 
person of an adultress. Young men are taught 
to consider the " Iliad, " with its butcheries, its 
glorification of inordinate selfishness and vanity, 
as a classic. Achilles, murderer, egoist, ruffian 
and liar, is a hero. But the name of Bowie, 
the name of the man who gave his life to his 
flag at the Alamo, is perpetuated only in the 
designation of a knife. Crockett is the hero 
only of a " funny story " about a sagacious coon ; 
while Travis, the boy commander who did what 
Gordon with an empire back of him failed to do, 
is quietly and definitely ignored. 

Because we have done nothing to get at the 
truth about the West ; because our best writers 
have turned to the old-country folklore and 
legends for their inspiration; because ''melan- 
choly harlequins" strut in fringed leggings 
upon the street-corners, one hand held out for 
pennies, we have come to believe that our West, 
our epic, was an affair of Indians, road-agents 



A Neglected Epic 65 

and desperadoes, and have taken no account 
of the brave men who stood for law and justice 
and liberty, and for those great ideas died by 
the hundreds, unknown and unsung died that 
the West might be subdued, that the last stage 
of the march should be accomplished, that the 
Anglo-Saxon should fulfil his destiny and 
complete the cycle of the world. 

The great figure of our neglected epic, the 
Hector of our ignored Iliad, is not, as the dime 
novels would have us believe, a lawbreaker, 
but a lawmaker; a fighter, it is true, as is 
always the case with epic figures, but a fighter 
for peace, a calm, grave, strong man who 
hated the lawbreaker as the hound hates the 
wolf. 

He did not lounge in barrooms; he did not 
cheat at cards; he did not drink himself to 
maudlin fury; he did not " shoot at the drop of 
the hat. " But he loved his horse, he loved 
his friend, he was kind to little children ; he was 
always ready to side with the weak against the 
strong, with the poor against the rich. For 
hypocrisy and pretense, for shams and subter- 
fuges he had no mercy, no tolerance. He 
was too brave to lie and too strong to steal. 
The odds in that lawless day were ever against 
him; his enemies were many and his friends 
were few; but his face was always set bravely 



66 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

against evil, and fear was not in him even at 
the end. For such a man as this could die no 
quiet death in a land where law went no further 
than the statute books and lite lay in the crook 
of my neighbour's forefinger. 

He died in defense of an ideal, an epic hero, 
a legendary figure, formidable, sad. He died 
facing down injustice, dishonesty and crime; 
died "in his boots"; and the same world that 
has glorified Achilles and forgotten Travis 
finds none too poor to do him reverence. No 
literature has sprung up around him this 
great character native to America. He is of all 
the world-types the one distinctive to us 
peculiar, particular and unique. He is dead 
and even his work is misinterpreted and mis- 
understood. His very memory will soon be 
gone, and the American epic, which, on the 
shelves of posterity, should have stood shoulder 
to shoulder with the " Hemskringla " and the 
" Tales of the Nibelungen" and the "Song of 
Roland, " will never be written. 



THE FRONTIER GONE AT LAST 



THE FRONTIER GONE AT LAST 

T TNTIL the day when the first United States 
^ marine landed in China we had always 
imagined that out yonder somewhere in the 
West was the borderland where civilization 
disintegrated and merged into the untamed. 
Our skirmish-line was there, our posts that 
scouted and scrimmaged with the wilderness, 
a thousand miles in advance of the steady 
march of civilization. 

And the Frontier has become so much an 
integral part of our conception of things that 
it will be long before we shall all understand 
that it is gone. We liked the Frontier; it was 
romance, the place of the poetry of the Great 
March, the firing-line where there was action 
and fighting, and where men held each other's 
lives in the crook of the forefinger. Those 
who had gone out came back with tremendous 
tales, and those that stayed behind made up 
other and even more tremendous tales. 

When we we Anglo-Saxons busked our- 
selves for the first stage of the march, we 
began from that little historic reach of ground 

69 



70 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

in the midst of the Friesland swamps, and we 
set our faces Westward, feeling no doubt the 
push of the Slav behind us. Then the Frontier 
was Britain and the sober peacefulness of land 
where are the ordered, cultivated English farm- 
yards of to-day was the Wild West of the 
Frisians of that century ; and for the little chil- 
dren of the Frisian peat cottages Hengist was 
the Apache Kid and Horsa Deadwood Dick 
freebooters, law-defiers, slayers-of-men, epic 
heroes, blood brothers, if you please, of Boone 
and Bowie. 

Then for centuries we halted and the van 
closed up with the firing-line, and we filled all 
England and all Europe with our clamour 
because for awhile we seemed to have gone 
as far Westward as it was possible; and the 
checked energy of the race reacted upon itself, 
rebounded as it were, and back we went to the 
Eastward again crusading, girding at the 
Mahommedan, conquering his cities, breaking 
into his fortresses with mangonel, siege-engine 
and catapult just as the boy shut indoors 
finds his scope circumscribed and fills the 
whole place with the racket of his activity. 

But always, if you will recall it, we had a 
curious feeling that we had not reached the 
ultimate West even yet, and there was still a 
Frontier. Always that strange sixth sense 



The Frontier Gone at Last 71 

turned our heads toward the sunset; and all 
through the Middle Ages we were peeking and 
prying into the Western horizon, trying to reach 
it, to run it down, and the queer tales about 
Vineland and that storm-driven Viking* s ship 
would not down. 

And then at last a naked savage on the 
shores of a little island in what is now our 
West Indies, looking Eastward one morning, 
saw the caravels, and on that day the Frontier 
was rediscovered, and promptly a hundred 
thousand of the more hardy rushed to the 
skirmish-line and went at the wilderness as 
only the Anglo-Saxon can. 

And then the skirmish-line decided that it 
would declare itself independent of the main 
army behind and form an advance column of 
its own, a separate army corps ; and no sooner 
was this done than again the scouts went for- 
ward, went Westward, pushing the Frontier 
ahead of them, scrimmaging with the wilder- 
ness, blazing the way. At last they forced 
the Frontier over the Sierra Nevadas down 
to the edge of the Pacific. And here it would 
have been supposed that the Great March 
would have halted again as it did before the 
Atlantic, that here at last the Frontier ended. 

But on the first of May, 1898, a gun was fired 
in the Bay of Manila, still farther Westward, 



72 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

and in response the skirmish-line crossed the 
Pacific, still pushing the Frontier before it. 
Then came a cry for help from Legation Street 
in Peking, and as the first boat bearing its 
contingent of American marines took ground 
on the Asian shore, the Frontier at last after 
so many centuries, after so many marches, 
after so much fighting, so much spilled blood, 
so much spent treasure, dwindled down and 
vanished; for the Anglo-Saxon in his course of 
empire had circled the globe and brought the 
new civilization to the old civilization, and 
reached the starting point of history, the place 
from which the migrations began. So soon as 
the marines landed there was no longer any 
West, and the equation of the horizon, the 
problem of the centuries for the Anglo-Saxon 
was solved. 

So, lament it though we may, the Frontier 
is gone, an idiosyncrasy that has been with us 
for thousands of years, the one peculiar pic- 
turesqueness of our life is no more. We may 
keep alive for many years the idea of a Wild 
West, but the hired cowboys and paid rough 
riders of Mr. William Cody are more like 
"the real thing" than can be found to-day in 
Arizona, New Mexico or Idaho. Only the 
imitation cowboys, the college-bred fellows 
who "go out on a ranch," carry the revolver 



The Frontier Gone at Last 73 

or wear the concho. The Frontier has become 
conscious of itself, acts the part for the Eastern 
visitor; and this self -consciousness is a sign, 
surer than all others, of the decadence of a 
type, the passing of an epoch. The Apache 
Kid and Deadwood Dick have gone to join 
Hengist and Horsa and the heroes of the 
Magnusson Saga. 

But observe. What happened in the Middle 
Ages when for awhile we could find no Western 
Frontier? The race impulse was irresistible. 
March we must, conquer we must, and checked 
in the Westward course of empire, we turned 
Eastward and expended the resistless energy 
that by blood was ours in conquering the Old 
World behind us. 

To-day we are the same race, with the same 
impulse, the same power and, because there is 
no longer a Frontier to absorb our overplus of 
energy, because there is no longer a wilderness 
to conquer and because we still must march, 
still must conquer, we remember the old days 
when our ancestors before us found the outlet 
for their activity checked and, rebounding, 
turned their faces Eastward, and went down 
to invade the Old World. So we. No sooner 
have we found that our path to the Westward 
has ended than, reacting Eastward, we are at 
the Old World again, marching against it, 



74 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

invading it, devoting our overplus of energy 
to its subjugation. 

But though we are the same race, with the 
same impulses, the same blood-instincts as the 
old Frisian marsh people, we are now come 
into a changed time and the great word of our 
century is no longer War, but Trade. 

Or, if you choose, it is only a different word 
for the same race-characteristic. The desire 
for conquest say what you will was as big 
in the breast of the most fervid of the Crusaders 
as it is this very day in the most peacefully 
disposed of American manufacturers. Had 
the Lion-Hearted Richard lived to-day he 
would have become a " leading representative 
of the Amalgamated Steel Companies," and 
doubt not for one moment that he would have 
underbid his Manchester rivals in the matter 
of bridge-girders. Had Mr. Andrew Carnegie 
been alive at the time of the preachings of 
Peter the Hermit he would have raised a com- 
pany of gens d'armes sooner than all of his 
brothers-in-arms, would have equipped his men 
better and more effectively, would have been 
first on the ground before Jerusalem, would have 
built the most ingenious siege-engine and have 
hurled the first cask of Greek-fire over the walls. 

Competition and conquest are words easily 
interchangeable, and the whole spirit of our 



The Frontier Gone at Last 75 

present commercial crusade to the Eastward 
betrays itself in the fact that we cannot speak 
of it but in terms borrowed from the glossary 
of the warrior. It is a commercial " invasion," 
a trade "war," a "threatened attack" on the 
part of America; business is "captured," 
opportunities are "seized," certain industries 
are "killed," certain former monopolies are 
"wrested away." Seven hundred years ago a 
certain Count Baldwin, a great leader in the 
attack of the Anglo-Saxon Crusaders upon the 
Old World, built himself a siege-engine which 
would help him enter the beleaguered city of 
Jerusalem. Jerusalem is beleaguered again 
to-day, and the hosts of the Anglo-Saxon 
commercial crusaders are knocking at the 
gates. And now a company named for 
another Baldwin and, for all we know, a 
descendant of the Count leaders of the 
invaders of the Old World, advance upon 
the city, and, to help in the assault, 
build an engine only now the engine is no 
longer called a mangonel, but a locomotive. 

The difference is hardly of kind and scarcely 
of degree. It is a mere matter of names, and 
the ghost of Saladin watching the present 
engagement might easily fancy the old days 
back again. 

So perhaps we have not lost the Frontier, 



76 The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

after all. A new phrase, reversing that of 
Berkeley's, is appropriate to the effect that 
"Eastward the course of commerce takes its 
way," and we must look for the lost battle- 
line not toward the sunset, but toward the 
East. And so rapid has been the retrograde 
movement that we must go far to find it, that 
scattered firing-line, where the little skirmishes 
are heralding the approach of the Great March. 
We must already go farther afield than England. 
The main body, even to the reserves, are 
intrenched there long since, and even conti- 
nental Europe is to the rear of the skirmishers. 

Along about Suez we begin to catch up with 
them where they are deepening the great canal, 
and we can assure ourselves that we are fairly 
abreast of the most distant line of scouts only 
when we come to Khiva, to Samarcand, to 
Bokhara and the Trans-Baikal country. 

Just now one hears much of the " American 
commercial invasion of England." But adjust 
the field-glasses and look beyond Britain and 
seach for the blaze that the scouts have left 
on the telegraph poles and mile-posts of 
Hungary, Turkey, Turkey in Asia, Persia, 
Baluchistan, India and Siam. You'll find the 
blaze distinct and the road, though rough hewn, 
is easy to follow. Prophecy and presumption 
be far from us, but it would be against all 



The Frontier Gone at Last 77 

precedent that the Grand March should rest 
forever upon its arms and its laurels along the 
Thames, the Mersey and the Clyde, while its 
pioneers and frontiersmen are making roads 
for it to the Eastward. 

Is it too huge a conception, too inordinate 
an idea to say that the American conquest of 
England is but an incident of the Greater 
Invasion, an affair of outposts preparatory to 
the real maneuver that shall embrace Europe, 
Asia, the whole of the Old World? Why not? 
And the blaze is ahead of us, and every now 
and then from far off there in the countries 
that are under the rising sun we catch the faint 
sounds of the skirmishing of our outposts. One 
of two things invariably happens under such 
circumstances as these: either the outposts fall 
back upon the main body or the main body 
moves up to the support of its outposts. One 
does not think that the outposts will fall back. 

And so goes the great movement, Westward, 
then Eastward, forward and then back. The 
motion of the natural forces, the elemental 
energies, somehow appear to be thus alterna- 
tive action first, then reaction. The tides 
ebb and flow again, the seasons have their 
slow vibrations, touching extremes at periodic 
intervals. Not impossibly, in the larger view, 



78 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

is the analogy applicable to the movements of 
the races. First Westward with the great 
migrations, now Eastward with the course 
of commerce, moving in a colossal arc measured 
only by the hemispheres, as though upon the 
equator a giant dial hand oscillated, in gradual 
divisions through the centuries, now marking 
off the Westward progress, now traveling pro- 
portionately to the reaction toward the East. 

Races must follow their destiny blindly, 
but is it not possible that we can find in this 
great destiny of ours something a little better 
than mere battle and conquest, something a 
little more generous than mere trading and 
underbidding? Inevitably with constant 
change of environment comes the larger view, 
the more tolerant spirit, and every race move- 
ment, from the first step beyond the Friesland 
swamp to the adjustment of the first American 
theodolite on the Himalayan watershed, is an 
unconscious lesson in patriotism. Just now 
we cannot get beyond the self -laudatory mood, 
but is it not possible to hope that, as the prog- 
ress develops, a new patriotism, one that shall 
include all peoples, may prevail? The past 
would indicate that this is a goal toward which 
we trend. 

In the end let us take the larger view, ignor- 
ing the Frieslanders, the Anglo-Saxons, the 



The Frontier Gone at Last 79 

Americans. Let us look at the peoples as 
people and observe how inevitably as they 
answer the great Westward impulse the true 
patriotism develops. If we can see that it is 
so with all of them we can assume that it must 
be so with us, and may know that mere victory 
in battle as we march Westward, or mere 
supremacy in trade as we react to the East, 
is not after all the great achievement of the 
races, but patriotism. Not our present selfish 
day conception of the word, but a new patriot- 
ism, whose meaning is now the secret of the 
coming centuries. 

Consider then the beginnings of patriotism. 
At the very first, the seed of the future nation 
was the regard of family; the ties of common 
birth held men together, and the first feeling 
of patriotism was the love of family. But the 
family grows, develops by lateral branches, 
expands and becomes the clan. Patriotism is 
the devotion to the clan, and the clansmen 
will fight and die for its supremacy. 

Then comes the time when the clans, tired 
of the roving life of herders, halt a moment 
and settle down in a chosen spot; the tent, 
becoming permanent, evolves the dwelling- 
house, and the encampment of the clan becomes 
at last a city. Patriotism now is civic pride; 
the clan absorbed into a multitude of clans is 



8o The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

forgotten ; men speak of themselves as Atheni- 
ans, not as Greeks, as Romans, not as Italians. 
It is the age of cities. 

The city extends its adjoining grazing fields; 
they include outlying towns, other cities, and 
finally the State comes into being. Patriotism 
no longer confines itself to the walls of the 
city, but is enlarged to encompass the entire 
province. Men are Hanoverians or Wurt em- 
burgers, not Germans; Scots or Welsh, not 
English; are even Carolinians or Alabamans 
rather than Americans. 

But the States are federated, pronounced 
boundaries fade, State makes common cause 
with State, and at last the nation is born. 
Patriotism at once is a national affair, a far 
larger, broader, truer sentiment than that first 
huddling about the hearthstone of the family. 
The word " brother" may be applied to men 
unseen and unknown, and a countryman is 
one of many millions. 

We have reached this stage at the present, 
but if all signs are true, if all precedent may 
be followed, if all augury may be relied on 
and the tree grow as we see the twig is bent, 
the progress will not stop here. 

By war to the Westward the family fought 
its way upward to the dignity of the nation ; by 
reaction Eastward the nation may in patriotic 



The Frontier Gone at Last 81 

effect merge with other nations, and others 
and still others, peacefully, the bitterness of 
trade competition may be lost, the business 
of the nations seen as a friendly quid pro quo, 
give and take arrangement, guided by a gen- 
erous reciprocity. Every century the bound- 
aries are widening, patriotism widens with 
the expansion, and our countrymen are those of 
different race, even different nations. 

Will it not go on, this epic of civilization, 
this destiny of the races, until at last and at 
the ultimate end of all we who now arrogantly 
boast ourselves as Americans, supreme in 
conquest, whether of battle-ship or of bridge- 
building, may realize that the true patriotism 
is the brotherhood of man and know that the 
whole world is our nation and simple humanity 
our countrymen? 



THE GREAT AMERICAN 
NOVELIST 



THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVELIST 

all the overworked phrases of over- 
worked book reviewers, the phrase, the 
"Great American Novelist," is beyond doubt 
worn the thinnest from much handling or 
mishandling. Continually the little literary 
middlemen who come between the producers 
and the consumers of fiction are mouthing the 
words with a great flourish of adjectives, scare- 
heading them in Sunday supplements or pla- 
carding them on posters, crying out, "Lo, he 
is here!" or "lo, there!" But the heathen 
rage and the people imagine a vain thing. 
The G. A. N. is either as extinct as the Dodo 
or as far in the future as the practical aeroplane. 
He certainly is not discoverable at the present. 

The moment a new writer of fiction begins to 
make himself felt he is gibbeted upon this 
elevation upon this false, insecure elevation, 
for the underpinning is of the flimsiest, and at 
any moment is liable to collapse under the 
victim's feet and leave him hanging in midair 
by head and hands, a fixture and a mockery. 

And who is to settle the title upon the aspi- 
rant in the last issue ? Who is to determine 
85 



86 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

what constitutes the G. A. N. Your candidate 
may suit you, but your neighbour may have 
a very different standard to which he must 
conform. It all depends upon what you mean 
by Great, what you mean by American. Shake- 
speare has been called great, and so has Mr. 
\ Stephen Phillips. Oliver Wendell Holmes 
was American, and so is Bret Harte. Who is 
to say? 

And many good people who deplore the 
decay of American letters are accustomed to 
refer to the absence of a G. A. N. as though 
there were a Great English Novelist or a Great 
French Novelist. But do these two people 
exist? Ask any dozen of your friends to 
mention the Great English Novelist, and out of 
the dozen you will get at least a half-dozen 
different names. It will be Dickens or Scott or 
Thackeray or Bronte or Eliot or Stevenson, 
and the same with the Frenchman. And it 
seems to me that if a novelist were great 
enough to be universally acknowledged to be 
the Great one of his country, he would cease 
to belong to any particular geographical area 
and would become a heritage of the whole 
world ; as for instance Tolstoi ; when one thinks 
of him it is is it not ? as a novelist first and 
as a Russian afterward. 

But if one wishes to split hairs, one might 



The Great American Novelist 87 

admit that while the Great American Novelist 
is yet to be born, the possibility of A note 
the indefinite article A Great American Novel 
is not too remote for discussion. But such a 
novel will be sectional. The United States is 
a Union, but not a unit, and the life in one part 
is very, very different from the life in another. 
It is as yet impossible to construct a novel 
which will represent all the various charac- 
teristics of the different sections. It is only 
possible to make a picture of a single locality. 
What is true of the South is not true of the 
North. The West is different, and the Pacific 
Coast is a community by itself. 

Many of our very best writers are working 
on this theory. Bret Harte made a study of 
the West as he saw it, and Mr. Howells has 
done the same for the East. Cable has worked 
the field of the Far South, and Eggleston has 
gone deep into the life of the Middle West. 

But consider a suggestion. It is an argu- 
ment on the other side, and to be fair one must 
present it. It is a good argument, and if based 
on fact is encouraging in the hope that the 
Great man may yet appear. It has been said 
that "what is true vitally and inherently 
true for any one man is true for all men." 
Accordingly, then, what is vitally true of the 
Westerner is true of the Bostonian yes, and 



88 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

of the creole. So that if Mr. Cable, say, should 
only go deep enough into the hearts and lives of 
his Creoles, he would at last strike the universal 
substratum and find the elemental thing that 
is common to the Creole and to the Puritan 
alike yes, and to the Cowboy and Hoosier 
and Greaser and Buckeye and Jay Hawker, 
and that, once getting hold of that, he could 
produce the Great American Novel that should 
be a picture of the entire nation. 

Now, that is a very ingenious argument and 
sounds very plausible. But it won't do, and 
for this reason: If an American novelist 
should go so deep into the lives of the people 
of any 9ne community that he would find the 
thing that is common to another class of people 
a thousand miles away, he would have gone 
too deep to be exclusively American. He 
would not only be American, but English as 
well. He would have sounded the world-note ; 
he would be a writer not national, but inter- 
national, and his countrymen would be all 
humanity, not the citizens of any one nation. 
He himself would be a heritage of the whole 
world, a second Tolstoi, which brings us back 
to the very place from which we started. 

And the conclusion of the whole matter? 
That fiction is very good or very bad there 
is no middle ground; that writers of fiction ir> 



The Great American Novelist 89 

their points of view are either limited to a cir- 
cumscribed area or see humanity as a tremen- 
dous conglomerate whole; that it must be 
either Mary Wilkins or George Eliot, Edward 
Eggleston or William Shakespeare; that the 
others do not weigh very much in the balance 
of the world's judgment; and that the Great 
American Novel is not extinct like the Dodo, 
but mythical like the Hippogriff , and that the 
thing to be looked for is not the Great American 
Novelist, but the Great Novelist who shall also 
be an American. 



NEW YORK AS A LITERARY 
CENTRE 



NEW YORK AS A LITERARY CENTRE 

TT has been given to the present writer 
* to know a great many of what one 
may call The Unarrived in literary work, and 
of course to be one himself of that "innumer- 
able caravan," and speaking authoritatively 
and of certain knowledge, the statement may 
be made, that of all the ambitions of the Great 
Unpublished, the one that is strongest, the 
most abiding, is the ambition to get to New 
York. For these, New York is the "point de 
depart," the pedestal, the niche, the indispensa- 
ble vantage ground; as one of the unpub- 
lished used to put it : " It is a place that I can 
stand on and holler." 

This man lived in a second-class town west 
of the Mississippi, and one never could persuade 
him that he might holler from his own, his 
native heath, and yet be heard. He said it 
would be "the voice of one crying in the 
wilderness." New York was the place for 
him. Once land him in New York and all 
would be gas and gaiters. 

There are so many thousands like this young 
man of mine that a word in this connection 

93 



94 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

seems appropriate; and the object of this 
present writing is to protest against this blind 
and unreasoned hegira, and to urge the point 
that tradition, precedent to the contrary not- 
withstanding, New York is not a literary 
centre. 

I am perfectly well aware that this statement 
savours of hearsay, but at the same time I think 
it can be defended. As for instance : 

Time was when Boston claimed the dis- 
tinction that one now denies to New York. 
But one asserts that Boston made her claims 
good. In those days the reactionary movement 
of populations from the cities toward the coun- 
try had not set in. A constant residence 
winter and summer in the country was not 
dreamed of by those who had the leisure and 
the money to afford it. As much as possible 
the New England writers crowded to Boston, 
or to Cambridge, which is practically the same 
thing, and took root in the place. There was 
their local habitation; there they lived, and 
thence they spread their influence. Remember 
that at the height of the development of the 
New England school there were practically no 
other writers of so great importance the length 
and breadth of the land. This huddling about 
a common point made it possible to visit all 
the homes of nearly all of the most eminent 



New York as a Literary Centre 95 

American literati in a single day. The younger 
men, the aspirants, the Unpublished, however, 
thrown into such society, could not fail to be 
tremendously impressed, and, banded together 
as these great ones were, their influence counted 
enormously. It was no unusual sight to see 
half a dozen of these at the same dinner table. 
They all knew each other intimately, these 
Bostonians, and their word was Lex, and the 
neophites came from all corners of the compass 
to hear them speak, and Boston did in good 
earnest become the Hub, the centre of Literary 
thought and work in the United States. 

But no such conditions obtain in New York 
to-day. During the last ten years two very 
important things have happened that bear upon 
this question. First has come the impulse 
toward a country life a continued winter and 
summer residence in the country. Authors 
more than any other class of workers can afford 
this since their profession can be carried any- 
where. They need no city offices. They 
are not forced to be in touch with the actual 
business life of Broadway. Secondly, since 
the days of the Bostonian supremacy a tre- 
mendous wave of literary production has 
swept over the United States. Now England 
has ceased to be the only place where books are 
written. Poems are now indited in Dakota, 



g6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

novels composed in Wyoming, essays written 
in Utah, and criticisms flourish in Kansas. A 
thousand and one Little Centres have sprung 
up. Literary groups are formed everywhere, 
in Buffalo, in San Francisco, in Indianapolis 
and Chicago. 

All this detracts from the preponderance of 
any one city, such as New York, as Literary 
dictator. You shall find but a very small and 
meager minority of the Greater Men of Letters 
who have their homes in Manhattan. Most of 
them preferred to live in the places whereof 
they treat in their books, in New Orleans, 
in Indiana, in Kentucky, or Virginia, or 
California, or Kansas, or Illinois. If they 
come to New York at all it is only tem- 
porarily, to place their newest book or to 
arrange with publishers for future work. 

The result of this is as is claimed. New 
York is not a literary centre. The publishing 
houses are there, the magazines, all the dis- 
tributing machinery, but not the writers. They 
do not live there. They do not care to come 
there. They regard the place simply as a 
distributing point for their wares. 

Literary centres produce literary men. Paris, 
London and Boston all have their long lists of 
native-born writers men who were born in 
these cities and whose work was identified 



New York as a Literary Centre 97 

with them. But New York can claim but 
ridiculously few of the men of larger caliber 
as her own. James Whitcomb Riley is from 
Indiana, Joel Chandler Harris is a Southerner. 
Howells came from Boston, Cable from New 
Orleans, Hamlin Garland from the West. Bret 
Harte from California, Mark Twain from the 
Middle West, Harold Frederic and Henry 
James found England more congenial than the 
greatest city of their native land. Even among 
the younger generation there are but few who 
can be considered as New Yorkers. Although 
Richard Harding Davis wrote accurately and 
delightfully of New York people, he was not 
born in New York, did not receive his first 
impetus from New York influences, and does 
not now live in New York. Nor is his best 
work upon themes or subjects in any way 
related to New York. 

In view of all these facts it is difficult to see 
what the Great Unpublished have to gain by 
a New York residence. Indeed, it is much 
easier to see how very much they have to lose. 

The writing of fiction has many drawbacks, 
but one of its blessed compensations is the fact 
that of all the arts it is the most independent. 
Independent of time, of manner and of place. 
Wherever there is a table and quiet, there the 
novel may be written. "Ah, but the publishing 



98 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

houses are in New York." What has that to do 
with it? Do not for a moment suppose that 
your novel will be considered more carefully 
because you submit it in person. It is not as 
though you were on the lookout for odd jobs 
which, because of a personal acquaintance with 
editors and publishers, might be put in your 
way. The article, the story, the essay, poem 
or novel is just as good, just as available, just as 
salable whether it comes from Washington 
Territory or Washington Square. 

Not only this, but one believes that actual 
residence in New York is hostile and inimical 
to good work. The place, admittedly, teems 
with literary clubs, circles, associations, organ- 
izations of pseudo-literati, who foregather at 
specified times to ''read papers" and "discuss 
questions." It is almost impossible for the 
young writer who comes for a first time to the 
city to avoid entangling himself with them; 
and of the influences that tend to stultify 
ambition, warp original talent and definably 
and irretrievably stamp out the last spark of 
productive ability one knows of none more 
effective than the literary clubs. 

You will never find the best men at these 
gatherings. You will never hear the best work 
read in this company, you will never evolve 
any original, personal, definite ideas or ideals 



New York as a Literary Centre 99 

under such influence. The discussions of the 
literary clubs are made up of puerile argu- 
ments that have done duty for years in the 
college text-books. Their work the papers 
quoted and stories read aloud is commonplace 
and conventional to the deadliest degree, while 
their "originality" the ideas that they claim 
are their very own is nothing but a distor- 
tion and dislocation of preconceived notions, 
mere bizarre effects of the grotesque and the 
improbable. "Ah, but the spur of competi- 
tion." Competition is admirable in trade 
it is even desirable in certain arts. It has no 
place in a literary career. It is not as though 
two or more writers were working on the 
same story, each striving to better the others. 
That would, indeed, be true competition. But 
in New York, where the young writer any 
writer may see a dozen instances in a week of 
what he knows is inferior work succeeding 
where he fails, competition is robbed of all 
stimulating effect and, if one is not very careful, 
leaves only the taste of ashes in the mouth 
and rancour and discontent in the heart. 

With other men's novels the novelist has 
little to do. What this writer is doing, what 
that one is saying, what books this publishing 
house is handling, how many copies so-and-so's 
book is selling all this fuss and feathers 



ioo The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

of "New York as a literary centre" should be 
for him so many distractions. It is all very- 
well to say "let us keep in touch with the 
best thought in our line of work." "Let us be 
in the movement." The best thought is not 
in New York; and even if it were, the best 
thought of other men is not so good for you as 
your own thought, dug out of your own vitals 
by your own unaided efforts, be it never so 
inadequate. 

You do not have to go to New York for that. 
Your own ideas, your own work will flourish 
best if left alone untrammeled and uninfluenced. 
And believe this to be true, that wherever 
there is a table, a sheet of paper and a pot of 
ink, there is a Literary Centre if you will. You 
will find none better the world over. 



THE AMERICAN PUBLIC AND 
"POPULAR" FICTION 



THE AMERICAN PUBLIC AND u POPU- 
LAR" FICTION 

HE American people judged by Old World 
standards even sometimes according 
to native American standards have always 
been considered a practical people, a material 
people. 

We have been told and have also told our- 
selves that we are hard-headed, that we rejoiced 
in facts and not in fancies, and as an effect of 
this characteristic were not given to books. 
We were not literary, we assumed, were not 
fond of reading. We, who were subjugating 
a continent, who were inventing machinery 
and building railroads, left it to the older and 
more leisurely nations to France and to 
England to read books. 

On the face of it this would seem a safe 
assumption. As a matter of fact, the American 
people are the greatest readers in the world. 
That is to say, that, count for count, there 
are more books read in the United States in one 
year than in any other country of the globe in 
the same space of time. 

Nowhere do the circulations attain such 
103 



104 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

magnitude as they do with us. A little while 
ago ten years ago the charge that we did 
not read was probably true. But there must 
exist some mysterious fundamental connection 
between this recent sudden expansion of things 
American geographic, commercial and other- 
wise and the demand for books. Imperialism, 
Trade Expansion, the New Prosperity and the 
Half Million Circulation all came into existence 
at about the same time. 

Merely the fact of great prosperity does not 
account for the wider reading. Prosperous 
periods, good prices, easy credit and a mobile 
currency have occurred often before without 
producing the demand for books. Something 
more than prosperity has suddenly swept across 
the continent and evaded the spirit of the 
times. Something very like an awakening, 
something very like a renaissance and the 
70,000,000 have all at once awakened to the 
fact that there are books to be read. As 
with all things sudden, there is noticeable with 
this awakening a lack of discrimination, the 
70,000,000 are so eager for books that, faute 
de mieux, anything printed will pass current for 
literature. It is a great animal, this American 
public, and having starved for so long, it is 
ready, once aroused, to devour anything. And 
the great presses of the country are for the most 



The American Public and "Popular" Fiction 105 

part merely sublimated sausage machines that 
go dashing along in a mess of paper and printer's 
ink turning out the meat for the monster. 

There are not found wanting many who 
deplore this and who blackguard the great 
brute for his appetite. Softly, softly. If the 
Megatherium has been obliged to swallow 
wind for sustenance for several hundred years, 
it would be unkind to abuse him because he eats 
the first lot of spoiled hay or over-ripe twigs 
that is thrust under the snout of him. Patience 
and shuffle the cards. Once his belly filled, and 
the pachyderm will turn to the new-mown 
grass and fruit trees in preference to the hay 
and twigs. 

So the studios and the Browning classes need 
not altogether revile the great American public. 
Better bad books than no books ; better half a 
loaf of hard bread than no frosted wedding- 
cake. The American people, unlike the English, 
unlike the French and other Europeans, have 
not been educated and refined and endoctrinated 
for 2,000 years, and when you remember what 
they have done in one hundred years, tamed an 
entire continent, liberated a race, produced a 
Lincoln, invented the telegraph, spanned the 
plains when you remember all this, do not 
spurn the 70,000,000 because they do not 
understand Henry James, but be glad that they 



io6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

even care for "The Duchess" and "Ouida." 
The wonder of it is not that they do not read 
or appreciate the best, but that they have set 
apart any time at all in the struggle of civiliz- 
ing the wilderness and forging steel rivets to 
so much as pick up any kind or description of 
a book. 

Consider the other nations, France for 
instance the very sanctum of Art, the home 
and birthplace of literature. Compare the 
rural districts of France with the rural dis- 
tricts of the United States, and in the com- 
parison allow, if you like, for all the centuries 
of quiet uninterrupted growth, the wilderness 
tamed, life domesticated, reduced to routine 
that modern France enjoys. Do you suppose for 
one moment that a bourgeois family of say 
Tours is on the same level in the matter of 
its reading as the household of a contractor's 
family in for example Martinez, California, 
or Cheyenne, Wyoming ? 

I tell you there is no comparison whatever. 
The West may be wild even yet, may be what 
Boston would call uncultured, but it reads. 
There are people in Cheyenne and Martinez 
who can express an opinion and a more 
intelligent opinion, mark you on Maeterlinck 
and Bourget, better than the same class of 
readers in Belgium and France. And quite 



The American Public and "Popular" Fiction 107 

as likely as not the same class of people in the 
very native countries of the two writers named 
have never so much as heard of these writers. 

This, admittedly, is the exception, but if our 
exceptional Martinez and Cheyenne people are 
so far advanced in literary criticism, we may 
reasonably expect that the rank and file below 
them are proportionately well on. Maeterlinck 
and Bourget are closed books to those rank- 
and-file readers yet. But again I say, this is not 
the point. The point is, that they are readers 
at all. Let them in the name of future 
American literature read their Duchesses and 
Ouidas and Edna Lyalls and Albert Rosses. 
What are their prototypes in France, Germany 
and Russia reading? They simply are not 
reading at all, and as often as not it is not 
because of the lack of taste, but because of 
the lack of sheer downright ability, because 
they do not know how to read. 

A very great man once said that " books 
never have done harm," and under this sign let 
us conquer. There is hardly a better to be 
found. Instead, then, of deploring the vast 
circulation of mediocre novels, let us take 
the larger view and find in the fact not a 
weakness, but a veritable strength. The more 
one reads it is a curious consolatory fact 
the more one is apt to discriminate. The 



io8 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

ten-year-old who reads "Old Sleuth" to-day, 
in a little while will find Scott more to his liking. 
Just now the 70,000,000 is ten years old. But 
it is started right. Patience. Books have 
never done harm, and in the end let us be 
certain that the day will come when the real 
masterpiece, the real literature, will also be 
selling in its "five hundredth thousand." 



CHILD STORIES FOR ADULTS 



CHILD STORIES FOR ADULTS 

'TpHERE was a time, none too remote at 
* this date of writing, when juvenile and 
adult fiction were two separate and distinct 
classifications. Boys read stories for boys 
and girls stories for girls, and the adults con- 
tented themselves with the wise lucubrations 
of their equals in years. But the last few 
years have changed all that have changed 
everything in American literature, in fact. 

Some far-distant day, when the critics and 
litterateurs of the twenty-second and twenty- 
third centuries shall be writing of our day and 
age, they will find a name for the sudden and 
stupendous demand for reading matter that 
has penetrated to all classes and corners since 
1890. A great deal could be said upon this 
sudden demand in itself, and I think it can be 
proved to be the first effects of a genuine awak- 
ening a second Renaissance. But the sub- 
ject would demand an article by itself, and 
in the meanwhile we may use the term awaken- 
ing as a self-evident fact and consider not so 
much the cause as the effects. 

One of the effects, as has been already sug- 
iii 



ii2 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

gested, is the change in classifications. Old 
forms and formulas are, or are being rapidly 
broken up, and one school and style merging 
into others, till now what was once amusement 
for the children has become entertaining for the 
elders. And vice versa. The abruptness of 
the awakening has disjointed and inverted all 
the old fabric. "Robinson Crusoe," written 
for adults, is now exclusively a "juvenile," 
while "Treasure Island," written for boys, has 
been snapped up by the parents. 

Simultaneously with this topsy-turvy busi- 
ness, and I am sure in some way connected 
with it, comes the craze for stories about very 
young children for adult reading. A boy's 
story must now be all about the doings of men, 
fighters preferably, man-slayers, terrible fellows 
full of blood and fury, stamping on their 
quarter-decks or counting doubloons by torch- 
light on unnamed beaches. Meanwhile the 
boy's father with a solemn interest is following 
the fortunes of some terrible infant of the 
kindergarten, or the vagaries of a ten-year-old 
of a country town, or the teacup tragedy of 
"The Very Little Girl," or "The Indiscretion 
of Pinky Trevethan," or "The Chastening of 
Skinny McCleave," etc., etc. 

It is interesting to try to account for this. 
It may either be a fad or a phase. It is almost 



Child Stories for Adults 113 

too soon to tell, but in either case the matter 
is worth considering. 

Roughly speaking, the Child's Stories for 
Adults fall into three classes. First there is 
'The Strange Child Story." This is a very 
old favourite, and was pretty well installed 
long before the more recent developments. 
In "The Strange Child Story" the bid for the 
reader's pity and sympathy fairly clamoured 
from between the lines. Always and per- 
sistently The Strange Child was misunderstood. 
He had "indefinable longings" that were 
ridiculed, budding talents that were nipped, 
heartaches terrible, tear-compelling heart- 
aches that were ignored; and he lived in an 
atmosphere of gloom, hostility and loneliness 
that would have maddened an eremite. 

But as his kind declined in popular esti- 
mate the country boy, the ten-year-old who 
always went in swimmin' and lost his tow 
appeared in the magazines. There is no 
sentiment about him. Never a tear need be 
shed over the vicarious atonements of Pinky 
Trevethan or Skinny McCleave. 

It is part of the game to pretend that the 
Pinkys and Skinnys and Peelys and Mickeys 
are different individuals. Error. They are 
merely different names of the boy that peren- 
nially and persistently remains the same. Do 



ii4 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

you know who he is? He is the average 
American business man before he grew up. 
That accounts for his popularity. The average 
business man had clean forgotten all about 
those early phases of primitive growth, and it 
amuses him immensely to find out that the 
scribe has been making a study of him and 
bringing to light the forgotten things that are 
so tremendously familiar when presented to 
the consideration. It is not fiction nor yet 
literature in the straightest sense of the word, 
this rehabilitation of Skinny McCleave. It has 
a value vaguely scientific, the same value that a 
specimen, a fossil insect, has when brought to 
the attention of the savant. It is the study of 
an extinct species, a report upon the American 
boy of thirty years ago. 

Then lastly the latest development there 
is the cataclysm of the kindergarten, the 
checked apron drama, the pigtail passion, the 
epic of the broken slate-pencil. This needs 
a delicacy of touch that only a woman can 
supply, and as a matter of fact it is for the most 
part women who sign the stories. The interest 
in these is not so personal and retrospective as 
in the Skinny McCleave circle, for the kinder- 
garten is too recent to be part of the childhood 
memories of the present generation of adult 
magazine readers. It is more informative, a 



Child Stories for Adults 115 

presentation of conditions hitherto but vaguely 
known, and at the same time it is an attempt to 
get at and into the heart and head of a little 
child. 

And in this last analysis it would seem as if 
here existed the barrier insurmountable. It 
is much to be doubted if ever a genius will 
arise so thoughtful, so sensitive that he will 
penetrate into more than the merest outside 
integument of a child's heart. Certain phases 
have been guessed at with beautiful intention, 
certain rare insights have been attained 
with exquisite nicety, but somehow even 
the most sympathetic reader must feel 
that the insight is as rare as the interest is 
misguided. 

Immanuel Kant conceived of, and, in the 
consummate power of his intellect, executed 
the "Critique of Pure Reason "; Darwin had 
taken the adult male and female human and 
tracked down their every emotion, impulse, 
quality and sentiment. The intellectual powers 
and heart-beats of a Napoleon or a Shake- 
speare have been reduced to more common- 
place corner gossip, but after thousands of 
years of civilization, with the subject ever be- 
fore us, its workings as near to us as air itself, 
the mind of a little child is as much a closed 
book, as much an enigma, as much a blank 



n6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

space upon the charts of our intellectual 
progress as at the very first. 

Volumes have been written about the child, 
and stories for and of the child, and very 
learned men have lectured and other very 
eminent and noble men have taught, and it 
has all been going on for nineteen hundred and 
two years. And yet, notwithstanding all this, 
there lurks a mystery deep down within the 
eye of the five-year-old, a mystery that neither 
you nor I may know. You may see and 
understand what he actually does, but the 
thinking part of him is a second hidden nature 
that belongs to him and to other children, not 
to adults, not even to his mother. Once the 
older person invades the sphere of influence of 
this real undernature of the child and it congeals 
at once. It thaws and thrives only in the 
company of other children, and at the best we 
older ones may see it from a distance and from 
the outside. Between us and them it would 
appear that a great gulf is bridged; there 
is no knowing the child as he really is, and until 
the real child can be known the stories about 
him and the fiction and literature about him 
can at best be only a substitute for the real 
knowledge that probably never shall be ours. 



NEWSPAPER CRITICISMS AND 
AMERICAN FICTION 



NEWSPAPER CRITICISMS AND AMERICAN 
FICTION 

/ TpHE limitations of space impose a re- 
-* stricted title, and one hastens to 
qualify the substantive " criticisms" by the 
adjective ''average." Even "average" is not 
quite specialized enough; "vast majority" is 
more to the sense, and the proposition expanded 
to its fullest thus stands, "How is the vast 
majority of newspaper criticisms made, and 
how does it affect American Fiction?" And 
it may not be inappropriate at the outset to 
observe that one has adventured both hazards 
criticism (of the "vast majority" kind) and 
also Fiction. One has criticized and has been 
criticized. Possibly then it may be permitted 
to speak a little authoritatively; not as the 
Scribes. Has it not astonished you how many 
of those things called by the new author 
"favourable reviews" may attach themselves 
barnacles upon a lifeless hulk to a novel 
that you know, that you know every one must, 
must know, is irretrievably bad? "On the 
whole, Mr. 's story is a capital bit of vigor- 
ous writing that we joyfully recommend" 
119 



i2o The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

11 A thrilling story palpitating with life," "One 
of the very best novels that has appeared in 
a long time," and the ever-new, ever-dutiful, 
ever-ready encomium, " Not a dull page in the 
book" (as if by the furthest stretch of con- 
ceivable human genius a book could be written 
that did not have a dull page ; as if dull pages 
were not an absolute necessity). All these 
you may see strung after the announcement of 
publication of the novel. No matter, I repeat, 
how outrageously bad the novel may be. Now 
there is an explanation of this matter, and it 
is to be found not in the sincere admiration 
of little reviewers who lack the ingenuity to 
invent new phrases, but in the following fact: 
it is easier to write favourable than unfavour- 
able reviews. It must be borne in mind that 
very few newspapers (comparatively) employ 
regularly paid book-reviewers whose business 
it is to criticize novels and nothing else. Most 
book-reviewing is done as an odd job by sub- 
editors, assistants and special writers in the 
intervals between their regular work. They 
come to the task with a brain already jaded, 
an interest so low as to be almost negligible, 
and with as often as not a mind besieged 
by a thousand other cares, responsibilities 
and projects. 

The chief has said something like this 



Newspaper Criticisms and American Fiction 121 

(placing upon the scribe's table a column of 
novels easily four feet high, sent in for review) : 

"Say, B , these things have been stacking 

up like the devil lately, and I don't want 'em 
kicking 'round the office any longer. Get 
through with them as quick as you can, and 
remember that in an hour there's such and 
such to be done." 

I tell you I have seen it happen like this a 
hundred times. And the scribe "must" read 
and "review" between twenty and thirty 
books in an hour's time. One way of doing it 
is to search in the pages of the book for the 
"publisher's notice," a printed slip that has a 
favourable review that is what it amounts 
to all ready-made. The scribe merely turns 
this in with a word altered here and there. 
How he reviews the books that have not this 
publisher's notice Heaven only knows. He 
is not to blame, as they must be done in 
.an hour. Twenty books in sixty minutes 
three minutes to each book. Now, it is impos- 
sible to criticize a book adversely after a 
minute and a half of reading (we will allow a 
minute and a half for writing the review). In 
order to write unfavourably it is necessary to 
know what one is writing about. But it is 
astonishing how much commendatory palaver 
already exists that can be applied to any kind 



122 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

or condition of novel. Is it a novel of adven- 
ture (the reviewer may know if it be such by 
the ship on the cover design) it will be appro- 
priate to use these terms: " Vibrant with 
energy," or "Full of fine fighting," or "The 
reader is carried with breathless interest from 
page to page of this exciting romance." Is it 
a novel of rural life ? These may be made use 
of : " Replete with quaint humour," " A faithful 
picture of an interesting phase of American 
life," etc., etc. Is it a story of the West (you 
can guess that from the chapter headings), it 
will be proper to say, "A strong and vital por- 
traying of the wild life of the trail and frontier." 

And so one might run through the entire 
list. The books must be reviewed, the easiest 
way is the quickest, and the quickest way is 
to write in a mild and meaningless phraseology, 
innocuous, "favourable." In this fashion is 
made the greater mass of American criticism. 
As to effects: It nas of course no effect upon 
the novel's circulation. Only one person is at 
all apt to take these reviews, this hack-work, 
seriously. 

Only one person, I observed, is at all apt to 
take these reviews seriously. This way lies the 
harm. The new writer, the young fellow with 
his first book, who may not know the ways of 
reviewers. The author, who collects these 



Newspaper Criticisms and American Fiction 123 

notices and pastes them in a scrap-book. He 
is perilously prone to believe what the hacks 
say, to believe that there is "no dull page in 
the story," that his novel is " one of the notable 
contributions to recent fiction," and cherishing 
this belief he is fated to a wrench and a heart- 
ache when, six months after publication day, 
the semi-annual account of copies sold is 
rendered. There is unfortunately no palaver 
in the writing of this no mild-mannered 
phraseology; and the author is made to see 
suddenly that "this exciting romance" which 
the reviewers have said the readers "would 
follow with a breathless interest till the end 
is reached and then wish for more, " has circu- 
lated among possibly five hundred of the 
breathless. 

Thus, then, the vast majority of criticisms. 
It is not all, however, and it is only fair to say 
that there are exceptions-^great papers which 
devote whole supplements to the consideration 
of literary matters and whose reviewers are 
deliberate, thoughtful fellows, who do not read 
more than one book a week, who sign their opin- 
ions and who have themselves a name, a reputa- 
tion, to make or keep These must have an 
effect. But even the most conspicuous among 
them cannot influence very widely. They 
may help, so one believes, a good book which 



124 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

is already becoming popular. No one of them 
can "make" a book by a "favourable review," 
as they could a little while ago in France. No 
number of them could do it, here in America. 
There are too many other reviewers. No one 
man, nor aggregation of men, can monopolize 
the requisite authority. And then with us the 
spirit of independent thinking and judgment 
is no doubt too prevalent. 



NOVELISTS TO ORDER-WHILE 
YOU WAIT 



NOVELISTS TO ORDER WHILE YOU 
WAIT 



at all absurd, "Novelists to order 
while you wait," provided you order 
the right sort, and are willing to wait long 
enough. In other words, it is quite possible 
to make a novelist, and a good one, too, 
if the thing is undertaken in the right spirit, 
just as it is possible to make a painter, or an 
actor, or a business man. 

I am prepared to hear the old objections 
raised to this: "Ah, it must be born in you"; 
"no amount of training can 'make' an artist" ; 
"poets are born and not made," etc., etc. 
But I am also willing to contend that a very 
large percentage of this talk is sheer non- 
sense, and that what the world calls "genius" 
is, as often as not, the results of average 
ability specialized and developed. The original 
"spark" in the child-mind, that later on 
"kindles the world into flame with its light," 
I do believe could be proved to be the same for 
the artist, the actor, the novelist, the inventor, 
even the financier and "magnate." It is only 
made to burn in different lamps. Nor does any 
127 



128 The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

one believe that this " spark" is any mysterious, 
supernatural gift, some marvelous, angelic 
"genius," God-given, Heaven-given, etc., etc., 
etc., but just plain, forthright, rectangular, 
everyday common sense, nothing more extra- 
ordinary or God-given than sanity. If it were 
true that Genius were the gift of the gods, it 
would also be true that hard work in cultivat- 
ing it would be superfluous. As well be with- 
out genius if some plodder, some dullard, can 
by such work equal the best you can do you 
with your God-given faculties. 

Is it not much more reasonable more noble, 
for the matter of that to admit at once that all 
faculties, all intellects are God-given, the only 
difference being that some are specialized to one 
end, some to another, some not specialized at 
all. We call Rostand and Mr. Carnegie geniuses, 
but most of us would be unwilling to admit 
that the genius of the American financier 
differed in kind from the genius of the French 
dramatist. However, one believes that this is 
open to debate. As for my part, I suspect that, 
given a difference in environment and training, 
Rostand would have consolidated the American 
steel companies and Carnegie have written 
"L'Aiglon." But one dares to go a little 
further a great deal further and claims that 
the young Carnegie and the young Rostand 



Novelists to Order While You Wait 129 

were no more than intelligent, matter-of-fact 
boys, in no wise different from the common 
house variety, grammar school product. They 
have been trained differently, that is all. 

Given the ordinarily intelligent ten-year-old, 
and, all things being equal, you can make 
anything you like out of him a minister of 
the gospel or a green-goods man, an electrical 
engineer or a romantic poet, or return to our 
muttons a novelist. If a failure is the result, 
blame the method of training, not the quantity 
or quality of the ten-year-old's intellect. Don't 
say, if he is a failure as a fine novelist, that he 
lacks genius for writing, and would have been 
a fine business man. Make no mistake, if he 
did not have enough " genius" for novel-writing 
he would certainly have not had enough for 
business. 

' 'Why, then," you will ask, "is it so impos- 
sible for some men, the majority of them, to 
write fine novels, or fine poems, or paint fine 
pictures? Why is it that this faculty seems 
to be reserved for the chosen few, the more 
refined, cultured, etc. ? Why is it, in a word, 
that, for every artist (using the word to in- 
clude writers, painters, actors, etc.) that appears 
there are thousands of business men, com- 
mercial ' ' geniuses' ' ? 

The reason seems to lie in this: and it is 



130 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

again a question of training. From the very 
first the average intelligent American boy is 
trained, not with a view toward an artistic 
career, but with a view to entering a business 
life. If the specialization of his faculties along 
artistic lines ever occurs at all it begins only 
when the boy is past the formative period. In 
other words, most people who eventually 
become artists are educated for the first eighteen 
or twenty years of their life along entirely 
unartistic lines. Biographies of artists are 
notoriously full of just such instances. The 
boy who is to become a business man finds, the 
moment he goes to school, a whole vast machin- 
ery of training made ready for his use, and not 
only is it a matter of education for him, but the 
whole scheme of modern civilization works in 
his behalf. No one ever heard of obstacles 
thrown in the way of the boy who announces 
for himself a money-making career; while for 
the artist, as is said, education, environment, 
the trend of civilization are not merely indiffer- 
ent, but openly hostile and inimical. One hears 
only of those men who surmount and at what 
cost to their artistic powers those obstacles. 
How many thousands are there who succumb 
unrecorded ! 

So that it has not often been tried the 
experiment of making a novelist while you 



Novelists to Order While You Wait 131 

wait i. e. y taking a ten-year-old of average 
intelligence and training him to be a novelist. 
Suppose all this modern, this gigantic perfected 
machinery all this resistless trend of a com- 
mercial civilization were set in motion in favour 
of the little aspirant for honours in artistic 
fields, who is to say with such a training he 
would not in the end be a successful artist, 
painter, poet, musician or novelist. Training, 
not "genius," would make him. 

Then, too, another point. The artistic train- 
ing should begin much, much earlier than the 
commercial training instead of, as at present, 
so much later. 

Nowadays, as a rule, the artist's training 
begins, as was said, after a fourth of his life, 
the very best, the most important has been 
lived. You can take a boy of eighteen and 
make a business man of him in ten years. But 
at eighteen the faculties that make a good 
artist are very apt to be atrophied, hardened, 
unworkable. Even the ten-year-old is almost 
too old to begin on. The first ten years of 
childhood are the imaginative years, the creative 
years, the observant years, the years of a 
fresh interest in life. The child "imagines" 
terrors or delights, ghosts or fairies, creates a 
world out of his toys, and observes to an extent 
that adults have no idea of. ("Give me," a 



132 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

detective once told me, "a child's description 
of a man that is wanted. It beats an adult's 
every single time . " ) And imagination, creation, 
observation and an unblunted interest in life are 
exactly the faculties most needed by novelists. 

At eighteen there comes sophistication or a 
pretended sophistication, which is deadlier. 
Other men's books take the place of imagination 
for the young man; creation in him is satisfied 
by dramas, horse-races and amusements. The 
newspapers are his observation, and oh, how 
he assumes to be above any pleasure in simple, 
vigorous life ! 

So that at eighteen it is, as a rule, too late 
to make a fine novelist out of him. He may 
start out in that career, but he will not go 
far so far as he would in business. But if he 
was taken in hand as soon as he could write in 
words of three syllables, and instead of being 
crammed with commercial arithmetic (How 
many marbles did A have? If a man buys a 
piece of goods at I2j4 cents and sells it for 
15 cents, etc., etc.) 

If he had been taken in hand when his 
imagination was alive, his creative power 
vigorous, his observation lynxlike, and his 
interest keen, and trained with a view toward 
the production of original fiction, who is to say 
how far he would have gone? 



Novelists to Order While You Wait 133 

One does not claim that the artist is above 
the business man. Far from it. Only, when 
you have choked the powers of imagination 
and observation, and killed off the creative 
ability, and deadened the interest in life, don't 
call it lack of genius. 

Nor when some man of a different race than 
ours, living in a more congenial civilization, 
whose training from his youth up has been 
adapted to a future artistic profession, succeeds 
in painting the great picture, composing the 
great prelude, writing the great novel, don't 
say he was born a "genius," but rather admit 
that he was made "to order" by a system whose 
promoters knew how to wait. 



THE "NATURE" REVIVAL IN 
LITERATURE 



THE NATURE REVIVAL IN LITER- 
ATURE 



r 



T has been a decade of fads, and "the 
people have imagined a vain thing," 
as they have done from the time of Solomon 
and as no doubt they will till the day of the 
New Jerusalem . And in no other line of activity 
has the instability and changeableness of the 
taste of the public been so marked as in that 
of literature. Such an overturning of old gods 
and such a setting up of new ones, such an 
image-breaking, shrine-smashing, relic-ripping 
carnival I doubt has ever been witnessed in all 
the history of writing. It has been a sort of 
literary Declaration of Independence. For 
half a century certain great names, from 
Irving down to Holmes, were veritable Abra- 
cadabras impeccable, sanctified. Then all at 
once the fin de siecle irreverence seemed to 
invade all sorts and conditions simultaneously, 
and the somber, sober idols were shouldered 
off into the dark niches, and not a man of us 
that did not trundle forth his own little tin- 
god-on-wheels, kowtowing and making obei- 

137 



138 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

sance, and going before with cymbals and a 
great noise, proclaiming a New Great One; 
now it was the great Colonial Image, now the 
Great Romantic Image, now the Great Minor- 
German Kingdom Image. 

There are a great many very eminent and 
very wise critics who frown upon and deplore 
the reaction. But it is a question if, after all, 
the movement will not prove ultimately 
beneficial. Convention, blind adherence to 
established forms, inertia, is the dry rot of a 
national literature. Better the American public 
should read bad books than no books, and 
that same public is reading now as never 
before. It is a veritable upheaval, a breaking- 
up of all the old grounds. Better this than 
supineness ; better this than immobility. Once 
the ground turned over a bit, harrowed and 
loosened, and the place is made ready for the 
good seed. 

Some of this, one chooses to believe, has 
already been implanted. In all the parade of 
the new little tin-gods some may be discovered 
that are not tin, but sterling. Of all the fads, 
the most legitimate, the most abiding, the 
most inherent so it would appear is the 
" Nature" revival. Indeed, it is not fair 
to call it a fad at all. For it is a return 
to the primitive, sane life of the country, 



The "Nature" Revival in Literature 139 

and the natural thing by its very character 
cannot be artificial, cannot be a "fad." The 
writers who have followed where Mr. Thompson 
Seton blazed the way are so numerous and so 
well known that it is almost superfluous in this 
place to catalogue or criticize them. But it is 
significant of the strength of this movement 
that such an outdoor book as " Bob, Son of 
Battle," was unsuccessful in England, and only 
attained its merited popularity when published 
here in America. We claimed the "good gray 
dog" as our own from the very first, recognizing 
that the dog has no nationality, being indeed a 
citizen of the whole world. The flowers in 
" Elizabeth's German Garden" also world citi- 
zens we promptly transplanted to our own 
soil. Mr. Mowbray, with his mingling of fact 
and fiction, made his country home for the 
benefit I have no doubt of hundreds who 
have actually worked out the idea suggested 
in his pages. The butterfly books, the garden 
books, the flower books, expensive as they are, 
have been in as much demand as some very 
popular novels. Mr. Dugmore astonished and 
delighted a surprisingly large public with his 
marvelous life-photographs of birds, while 
even President Roosevelt himself deemed 
Mr. Wallihan's "Photographs of Big Game" 
of so much importance and value that 



140 The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

he wrote the introductory notice to that ex- 
cellent volume. 

It is hardly possible to pick up a magazine 
now that does not contain the story of some 
animal hero. Time was when we relegated 
this sort to the juvenile periodicals. But now 
we cannot get too much of it. Wolves, rabbits, 
hounds, foxes, the birds, even the reptilia, all 
are dramatized, all figure in their little roles. 
Tobo and the Sand-hill Stag parade upon the 
same pages as Mr. Christie's debutantes and 
Mr. Smedley's business men, and, if you please, 
have their love affairs and business in precisely 
the same spirit. All this cannot but be signifi- 
cant, and, let us be assured, significant of good. 
The New England school for too long domi- 
nated the entire range of American fiction 
limiting it, specializing it, polishing, refining 
and embellishing it, narrowing it down to a 
veritable cult, a thing to be safeguarded by 
the elect, the few, the aristocracy. It is small 
wonder that the reaction came when and as 
it did ; small wonder that the wearied public, 
roused at length, smashed its idols with 
such vehemence ; small wonder that, declaring 
its independence and finding itself suddenly 
untrammeled and unguided, it flew off 
"mobishly" toward false gods, good only 
because they were new. 



The "Nature" Revival in Literature 141 

All this is small wonder. The great wonder 
is this return to nature, this unerring groping 
backward toward the fundamentals, in order 
to take a renewed grip upon life. If you care 
to see a proof of how vital it is, how valuable, 
look into some of the magazines of the seventies 
and eighties. It is astonishing to consider 
that we ever found an interest in them. The 
effect is like entering a darkened room. And 
not only the magazines, but the entire literature 
of the years before the nineties is shadowed and 
oppressed with the bugbear of "literature." 
Outdoor life was a thing apart from our read- 
ing. Even the tales and serials whose mise 
en scene was in the country had no breath of 
the country in them. The " literature " in them 
suffocated the life, and the humans with their 
everlasting consciences, their heated and arti- 
ficial activities, filled all the horizon, admitting 
the larks and the robins only as accessories ; con- 
sidering the foxes, the deer and the rabbits only 
as creatures to be killed, to be pursued, to be 
exterminated. But Mr. Seton and his school, 
and the Mowbrays, and the Ollivants, the 
Dugmores and the Wallihans opened a door, 
opened a window, and mere literature has had 
to give place to life. The sun has come in and 
the great winds, and the smell of the baking 
alkali on the Arizona deserts and the reek of the 



142 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

tar-weed on the Colorado slopes; and nature 
has ceased to exist as a classification of science, 
has ceased to be w*s-understood as an aggregate 
of botany, zoology, geology and the like, and 
has become a thing intimate and familiar and 
rejuvenating. 

There is no doubt that the estate of Ameri- 
can letters is experiencing a renaissance. For- 
mality, the old idols, the demi-gorgons 
and autocrats no longer hold an absolute 
authority. A multitude of false gods are 
clamouring for recognition, shouldering 
one another about to make room for their 
altars, soliciting incense as if it were 
patronage. No doubt these "draw many after 
them," but the "nature revival" has brought 
the galvanizing, vital element into this tumult 
of little inkling sham divinities and has shown 
that life is better than "literature," even if the 
"literature" be of human beings and the life 
be that of a faithful dog. 

Vitality is the thing, after all. Dress the 
human puppet never so gaily, bedeck it never 
so brilliantly, pipe before it never so cunningly, 
and, fashioned in the image of God though it 
be, just so long as it is a puppet and not a 
person, just so long the great heart of the 
people will turn from it, in weariness and 
disgust, to find its interest in the fidelity of 



The "Nature' 1 Revival in Literature 143 

the sheep-dog of the North o' England, the 
intelligence of a prairie wolf of Colorado, or 
the death-fight of a bull moose in the tim- 
berlands of Ontario. 



THE MECHANICS OF FICTION 



THE MECHANICS OF FICTION 

'ITT'E approach a delicate subject. And 
if the manner of approach is too 
serious it will be very like the forty thousand 
men of the King of France who marched terribly 
and with banners to the top of the hill with the 
meager achievement of simply getting there. 
Of all the arts, as one has previously observed, 
that of novel-writing is the least mechanical. 
Perhaps, after all, rightly so; still it is hard 
to escape some formality, some forms. There 
must always be chapter divisions, also a begin- 
ning and an end, which implies a middle, con- 
tinuity, which implies movement, which in turn 
implies a greater speed or less, an accelerated, 
retarded or broken action; and before the 
scoffer is well aware he is admitting a multitude 
of set forms. No one who sets a thing in 
motion but keeps an eye and a hand upon its 
speed. No one who constructs but keeps 
watch upon the building, strengthening here, 
lightening there, here at the foundations 
cautious and conservative, there at the cornice 
fantastic and daring. In all human occupa- 
tions, trades, arts or business, science, morals 
147 



148 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

or religion, there exists, way at the bottom, 
a homogeneity and a certain family likeness, 
so that, quite possibly after all, the discussion 
of the importance of the mechanics of fiction 
may be something more than mere speculative 
sophistry. 

A novel addresses itself primarily to a reader, 
and it has been so indisputably established 
that the reader's time and effort of attention 
must be economized that the fact need not be 
mentioned in this place it would not econo- 
mize the reader's time nor effort of attention. 

Remains then the means to be considered, 
or in other words, How best to tell your story. 

It depends naturally upon the nature of the 
story. The formula which would apply to one 
would not be appropriate for another. That 
is very true, but at the same time it is hard to 
get away from that thing in any novel which, 
let us call, the pivotal event. All good novels 
have one. It is the peg upon which the fabric 
of the thing hangs, the nucleus around which 
the shifting drifts and currents must suddenly 
coagulate, the sudden releasing of the 
brake to permit for one instant the entire 
machinery to labour, full steam, ahead. Up 
to that point the action must lead; from it, it 
must decline. 

But and here one holds at least one mechan- 



The Mechanics of Fiction 149 

ical problem the approach, the leading up to 
this pivotal event must be infinitely slower 
than the decline. For the reader's interest 
in the story centres around it, and once it is 
disposed of attention is apt to dwindle very 
rapidly and thus back we go again to the 
economy proposition. 

It is the slow approach, however, that tells. 
The unskilled, impatient of the tedium of 
meticulous elaboration, will rush at it in a 
furious gallop of short chapters and hurried 
episodes, so that he may come the sooner to 
the purple prose declamation and drama that 
he is sure he can handle with such tremendous 
effect. 

Not so the masters. Watch them during 
the first third say of their novels. Nothing 
happens or at least so you fancy. People 
come and go, plans are described, localities, 
neighbourhoods; an incident crops up just for 
a second for which you can see no reason, a note 
sounds that is puzzlingly inappropriate. The 
novel continues. There seems to be no prog- 
ress; again that perplexing note, but a little 
less perplexing. By now we are well into the 
story. There are no more new people, but the 
old ones come back again and again, and yet 
again; you remember them now after they 
are off the stage; you are more intimate with 



150 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the two main characters. Then comes a series 
of pretty incidents in which these two are 
prominent. The action still lags, but little by 
little you are getting more and more acquainted 
with these principal actors. Then perhaps 
comes the first acceleration of movement. The 
approach begins ever so little to rise, and 
that same note which seemed at first so out of 
tune sounds again and this time drops into place 
in the progression, beautifully harmonious, 
correlating the whole gamut. By now all the 
people are "on"; by now all the groundwork 
is prepared. You know the localities so well 
that you could find your way about among 
them in the dark; hero and heroine are inti- 
mate acquaintances. 

Now the action begins to increase in speed. 
The complication suddenly tightens; all along 
the line there runs a sudden alert. An episode 
far back there in the first chapter, an episode 
with its appropriate group of characters, is 
brought forward and, coming suddenly to the 
front, collides with the main line of development 
and sends it off upon an entirely unlooked- 
for tangent. Another episode of the second 
chapter let us suppose all at once makes 
common cause with a more recent incident, and 
the two produce a wholly unlooked-for counter- 
influence which swerves the main theme in 



The Mechanics of Fiction 151 

still another direction, and all this time the 
action is speeding faster and faster, the compli- 
cation tightening and straining to the breaking 
point, and then at last a ' 'motif" that has been 
in preparation ever since the first paragraph 
of the first chapter of the novel suddenly comes 
to a head, and in a twinkling the complication 
is solved with all the violence of an explosion, 
and the catastrophe, the climax, the pivotal 
event fairly leaps from the pages with a rush 
of action that leaves you stunned, breathless 
and overwhelmed with the sheer power of its 
presentation. And there is a master-work of 
fiction. 

Reading, as the uninitiated do, without an 
eye to the mechanics, without a consciousness 
of the wires and wheels and cogs and springs 
of the affair, it seems inexplicable that these 
great scenes of fiction short as they are 
some of them less than a thousand words in 
length should produce so tremendous an 
effect by such few words, such simple language ; 
and that sorely overtaxed word, "genius," is 
made to do duty as the explanation. But the 
genius is rare that in one thousand simple words, 
taken by themselves, could achieve the effect 
for instance of the fight aboard The Flying 
Scud in Stevenson's ' 'Wrecker." Taken by 
itself, the scene is hardly important except 



152 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

from the point of view of style and felicity of 
expression. It is the context of the story 
that makes it so tremendous, and because 
Osborne and Stevenson prepared for that 
very scene from the novel's initial chapter. 

And it seems as if there in a phrase one could 
resume the whole system of fiction-mechanics 
preparations of effect. 

The unskilled will invariably attempt to 
atone for lack of such painstaking preparation 
for their " Grande Scenes" by hysteria, and by 
exclamation in presenting the catastrophe. 
They declaim, they shout, stamp, shake then- 
fists and flood the page with sonorous adjectives, 
call upon heaven and upon God. They sum- 
mon to their aid every broken-down device to 
rouse the flaccid interest of the reader, and con- 
clusively, irretrievably and ignominiously fail. 
It is too late for heroic effort then, and the 
reader, uninterested in the character, unfamiliar 
with the locale, unattracted by any charm of 
"atmosphere," lays down the book unper- 
turbed and forgets it before dinner. 

Where is the fault? Is it not in defective 
machinery? The analogies are multitudinous. 
The liner with hastily constructed boilers will 
flounder when she comes to essay the storm; 
and no stoking however vigorous, no oiling 
however eager, if delayed till then, will avail 



The Mechanics of Fiction 153 

to aid her to ride through successfully. It is 
not the time to strengthen a wall when the 
hurricane threatens; prop and stay will not 
brace it then. Then the thing that tells is 
the plodding, slow, patient, brick-by-brick 
work, that only half shows down there at the 
foot half -hidden in the grass, obscure, unnoted. 
No genius is necessary for this sort of work, 
only great patience and a willingness to plod, 
for the time being. 

No one is expected to strike off the whole 
novel in one continued fine frenzy of inspiration. 
As well expect the stone-mason to plant his 
wall in a single day. Nor is it possible to lay 
down any rule of thumb, any hard-and-fast 
schedule in the matter of novel writing. But 
no work is so ephemeral, so delicate, so in a 
word artistic that it cannot be improved by 
systematizing. 

There is at least one indisputably good 
manner in which the unskilled may order his 
work besides the one of preparation already 
mentioned. He may consider each chapter 
as a unit, distinct, separate, having a definite 
beginning, rise, height and end, the action 
continuous, containing no break in time, the 
locality unchanged throughout no shifting 
of the scene to another environment. Each 
chapter thus treated is a little work in itself, 



154 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

and the great story of the whole novel is told 
thus as it were in a series of pictures, the author 
supplying information as to what has inter- 
vened between the end of one chapter and the 
beginning of the next by suggestion or by 
actual resume. As often as not the reader 
himself can fill up the gap by the context. 

This may be over-artificial, and it is con- 
ceivable that there are times when it is neces- 
sary to throw artificiality to the winds. But 
it is the method that many of the greatest 
fiction writers have employed, and even a 
defective system is at any rate, in fiction 
better than none. 



FICTION WRITING AS A 
BUSINESS 



FICTION WRITING AS A BUSINESS 

E exaggerated and exalted ideas of the 
* unenlightened upon this subject are, I 
have found, beyond all reason and beyond all 
belief. The superstition that with the 
publication of the first book comes fame and 
affluence is as firmly rooted as that other 
delusion which asks us to suppose that "a 
picture in the Paris Salon" is the 1 certificate of 
success, ultimate, final, definite. 

One knows, of course, that very naturally 
the "Eben Holden" and " David Harum" and 
" Richard Carvel" fellows make fortunes, and 
that these are out of the discussion; but also 
one chooses to assume that the average, honest, 
middle-class author supports himself and even 
a family by the sale of his novels lives on his 
royalties. 

Royalties ! Why in the name of heaven were 
they called that, those microscopic sums that 
too, too often are less royal than beggarly? 
It has a fine sound royalty. It fills the 
mouth. It can be said with an air royalty. 
But there are plenty of these same royalties 
that will not pay the typewriter's bill. 



158 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

Take an average case. No, that will not 
do, either, for the average published novel I 
say it with my right hand raised is, irretriev- 
ably, hopelessly and conclusively, a financial 
failure. 

Take, then, an unusually lucky instance, 
literally a novel whose success is extraordinary, 
a novel which has sold 2,500 copies. I repeat 
that this is an extraordinary success. Not one 
book out of fifteen will do as well. But let us 
consider it. The author has worked upon it 
for at the very least three months. It is 
published. Twenty-five hundred copies are 
sold. Then the sale stops. And by the word 
stop one means cessation in the completest 
sense of the word. There are people I know 
plenty of them who suppose that when a book 
is spoken of as having stopped selling, a gener- 
ality is intended, that merely a falling off of the 
initial demand has occurred. Error. When 
a book a novel stops selling, it stops with 
the definiteness of an engine when the fire goes 
out. It stops with a suddenness that is appall- 
ing, and thereafter not a copy, not one single, 
solitary copy is sold. And do not for an instant 
suppose that ever after the interest may be 
revived. A dead book can no more be resusci- 
tated than a dead dog. 

But to go back. The 2,500 have been sold. 



Fiction Writing as a Business 159 

The extraordinary, the marvelous has been 
achieved. What does the author get out of 
it ? A royalty of ten per cent. Two hundred 
and fifty dollars for three months' hard work. 
Roughly, less than $20 a week, a little more than 
$2.50 a day. An expert carpenter will easily 
make twice that, and the carpenter has infi- 
nitely the best of it in that he can keep the 
work up year in and year out, where the 
novelist must wait for a new idea, and the 
novel writer must then jockey and maneuver 
for publication. Two novels a year is about 
as much as the writer can turn out and yet 
keep a marketable standard. Even admitting 
that both the novels sell 2,500 copies, there is 
only $500 of profit. In the same time the 
carpenter has made his $1,800, nearly four 
times as much. One may well ask the 
question: Is fiction writing a money-making 
profession ? 

The astonishing thing about the affair is 
that a novel may make a veritable stir, almost 
a sensation, and yet fail to sell very largely. 

There is so-and-so's book. Everywhere you 
go you hear about it. Your friends have read 
it. It is in demand at the libraries. You don't 
pick up a paper that does not contain a review 
of the story in question. It is in the "Book 
of the Month" column. It is even, even the 



160 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

pinnacle of achievement in that shining roster, 
the list of best sellers of the week. 

Why, of course the author is growing rich! 
Ah, at last he has arrived ! No doubt he will 
build a country house out of his royalties. 
Lucky fellow ; one envies him. 

Catch him unawares and what is he doing? 
As like as not writing unsigned book reviews 
at five dollars a week in order to pay his 
board bill and glad of the chance. 

It seems incredible. But one must remem- 
ber this : That for every one person who buys 
a book, there will be six who will talk about it. 
And the half -thousand odd reviewers who are 
writing of the book do not buy it, but receive 
"editorial" copies from the publishers, upon 
which no royalty is paid. 

I know it for an undisputed fact that a certain 
novel which has ever been called the best 
American novel of the nineteenth century, and 
which upon publication was talked about, 
written about and even preached about, from 
the Atlantic to the Pacific, took ten years in 
which to attain the sale of 10,000 copies. Even 
so famous, so brilliant an author as Harold 
Frederic did not at first sell conspicuously. 
"That Lawton Girl," "The Copperhead," 
"Seth's Brother's Wife," masterpieces though 
they are, never made money for the writer. 



Fiction Writing as a Business 161 

Each sold about 2,000 copies. Not until 
"Theron Ware" was published did Mr. 
Frederic reap his reward. 

Even so great a name as that of George 
Meredith is not a * 'sesame," and only within 
the last few years has the author of "Evan 
Harrington" made more than five or six 
hundred dollars out of any one of his world- 
famous books. 

But of course there is another side. For 
one thing, the author is put to no expense in 
the composing of his novel. (It is not always 
necessary to typewrite the manuscript.) The 
carpenter must invest much money in tools; 
must have a shop. Shop rent and tools repaired 
or replaced cut into his $1,800 of profit. Or 
take it in the fine arts. The painter must have 
a studio, canvases, models, brushes, a whole 
equipment ; the architect must have his draught- 
ing room, the musician his instrument. But 
so far as initial expense is concerned, a half- 
dollar will buy every conceivable necessary 
tool the novelist may demand. He needs no 
office, shop or studio ; models are not required. 
The libraries of the city offer him a quiet 
working place if the home is out of the 
question. Nor, as one has so often urged, is 
any expensive training necessary before his 
money-earning capacity is attained. The archi- 



1 62 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

tect must buy instruction for many years. 
The painter must study in expensive studios, 
the musician must learn in costly conservatories, 
the singer must be taught by high-priced 
maestros. Furthermore, it is often necessary 
for the aspirant to travel great distances to 
reach the cities where his education is to be 
furthered; almost invariably a trip to and a 
residence in Europe is indispensable. It is a 
great undertaking and an expensive one to 
prepare for the professions named, and it takes 
years of time years during which the aspirant 
is absolutely non-productive. 

But the would-be novel writer may deter- 
mine between breakfast and dinner to essay 
the plunge, buy (for a few cents) ink and 
paper between dinner and supper, and have 
the novel under way before bedtime. 

How much of an outlay of money does his 
first marketable novel represent? Practically 
nothing. On the other hand, let us ask the 
same question of, say, the painter. How 
much money has he had to spend before he was 
able to paint his first marketable picture ? To 
reach a total sum he must foot up the expenses 
of at least five years of instruction and study, 
the cost of living during that time, the cost of 
materials, perhaps even the price of a trip to 
Paris. Easily the sum may reach $5,000. 



Fiction Writing as a Business 163 

Fifty cents' worth, of ink and paper do not 
loom large beside this figure. 

Then there are other ways in which the fiction 
writer may earn money by fiction. The 
novelist may look down upon the mere writer 
of short stories, or may even look down upon 
himself in the same capacity, but as a rule the 
writer of short stories is the man who has the 
money. It is much easier to sell the average 
short story than the average novel. Infinitely 
easier. And the short story of the usual length 
will fetch $100. One thousand people think 
of it one thousand people must buy copies of 
your novel before it will earn so much for you. 
It takes three months to complete the novel 
the novel that earns the $250. But with 
ingenuity, the writer should be able to turn 
out six short stories in the same time, and 
if he has luck in placing them there is $600 
earned more than twice the sum made by 
the novel. So that the novelist may eke out 
the alarming brevity of his semiannual state- 
ments by writing and selling " short stuff." 

Then so far as the novel is concerned 
there is one compensation, one source of revenue 
which the writer enjoys and which is, as a rule, 
closed to all others. Once the carpenter sells 
his piece of work it is sold for good and all. 
The painter has but one chance to make money 



164 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

from the sale of his picture. The architect 
receives payment for his design and there is the 
end. But the novelist and one speaks now of 
the American may sell the same work over 
many times. Of course, if the novel is a fail- 
ure it is a failure, and no more is said. But 
suppose it is a salable, readable, brisk bit of 
narrative, with a swift action and rapid move- 
ment. Properly managed, this, under favour- 
able conditions, might be its life history: 
First it is serialized either in the Sunday press 
or, less probably, in a weekly or monthly. 
Then it is made up into book form and sent over 
the course a second time. The original pub- 
lisher sells sheets to a Toronto or Montreal 
house and a Canadian edition reaps a like 
harvest. It is not at all unlikely that a special 
cheap cloth edition may be bought and launched 
by some large retailer either of New York or 
Chicago. Then comes the paper edition with 
small royalties, it is true, but based upon an 
enormous number of copies, for the usual paper 
edition is an affair of tens of thousands. Next 
the novel crosses the Atlantic and a small sale 
in England helps to swell the net returns, which 
again are added to possibly by the " colonial 
edition" which the English firm issues. Last 
of all comes the Tauchnitz edition, and with 
this (bar the improbable issuing of later special 



Fiction Writing as a Business 16$ 

editions) the exploitation ceases. Eight separate 
times the same commodity has been sold, no 
one of the sales militating against the success of 
the other seven, the author getting his fair slice 
every time. Can any other trade, profession 
or art (excepting only the dramatist, which is, 
after all, a sister art) show the like? Even 
(speaking of the dramatist) there may be a 
ninth reincarnation of the same story and the 
creatures of the writer's pages stalk forth upon 
the boards in cloak and buskin. 

And there are the indirect ways in which he 
may earn money. Some of his ilk there are 
who lecture. Nor are there found wanting 
those who read from their own works. Some 
write editorials or special articles in the maga- 
zines and newspapers with literary depart- 
ments. But few of them have "princely" 
incomes. 



THE "VOLUNTEER MANU- 
SCRIPT" 



THE "VOLUNTEER MANUSCRIPT" 

AT a conservative estimate there are 
* * 70,000,000 people in the United States. 
At a liberal estimate 100,000 of these have lost 
the use of both arms; remain then 69,900,000 
who write novels. Indeed, many are called, 
but few oh, what a scanty, skimped handful 
that few represent are chosen. 

The work of choosing these few, or rather 
of rejecting these many, devolves upon the 
manuscript readers for the baker's dozen of 
important New York publishing houses, and a 
strange work it is, and strange are the contri- 
butions that pass under their inspection. 

As one not unfamiliar with the work of 
" reading," the present writer may offer a little 
seasonable advice. 

i. First have your manuscript typewritten. 
The number of manuscripts is too great and 
the time too short to expect the reader to 
decipher script; and, besides, ideas presented 
or scenes described in type are infinitely more 
persuasive, more plausible than those set down 
in script. A good story typewritten will appear 
169 



170 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

to better advantage; a poor one similarly 
treated seems less poverty stricken. 

2. Do not, by any manner of means, announce 
in a prefatory note that you "lay no claim to 
literary excellence," with the intention thereby 
of ingratiating yourself with regard to the 
"reader," winning him over by a parade of 
modesty. Invariably the statement is prejudi- 
cial, producing an effect exactly contrary to 
the one desired. It will make the mildest of 
"readers" angry. If you have no claims upon 
literary excellence, why in Heaven's name are 
you bothering him to read your work? 

3. Enclose a forwarding address in case 
of rejection. This, seemingly, is superfluous 
advice. But it is astonishing how many manu- 
scripts come in innocent even of the author's 
name, with never a scrap nor clue as to their 
proper destination. 

4. Don't ask for criticism. The reader is 
not a critic. He passes only upon the avail- 
ability of the manuscript for the uses of the 
publisher who employs him. And a manu- 
script of paramount literary quality may be 
rejected for any number of reasons, none of 
which have anything to do with its literary 
worth or accepted for causes equally outside 
the domain of letters. Criticism is one thing, 
professional "reading" quite another. 



The "Volunteer Manuscript" 171 

5. Don't bother about "enclosing stamps for 
return." The manuscript will go back to you 
by c. o. d. express. 

6. Don't submit a part of a manuscript. 
It is hard enough sometimes to judge the story 
as a whole, and no matter how discouraging 
the initial chapter may be the publisher will 
always ask to see the remaining portions before 
deciding. 

7. Don't write to the publisher beforehand 
asking him if he will consider your manuscript. 
If it is a novel he will invariably express his 
willingness to consider it. How can he tell 
whether he wants it or not until he, through 
his "reader," has seen it? 

8. Don't expect to get an answer much 
before a month. Especially if your story has 
merit, it must pass through many hands and 
be considered by many persons before judg- 
ment is rendered. The better it is the longer 
you will wait before getting a report. 

9. Don't, in Heaven's name, enclose com- 
mendatory letters written by your friends, 
favourable reviews by your pastor or by the 
president of the local college. The story will 
speak for itself more distinctly than any of 
your acquaintances. 

10. Don't say you will revise or shorten to 
suit the tastes or judgment of the publisher. 



172 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

At best that's a servile humility that in itself 
is a confession of weakness and that will make 
you no friends at court. 

11. Don't forward a letter of introduction, 
no matter from how near a friend of the pub- 
lisher. The publisher will only turn the MS. 
over to his " readers," and with them the letter 
from a stranger carries no weight. 

12. Don't write a Colonial novel. 

13. Don't write a Down East novel. 

14. Don't write a " Prisoner of Zenda" novel. 

15. Don't write a novel. 

1 6. Try to keep your friends from writing 
novels. 

And of all the rules, one is almost tempted 
to declare that the last two are the most 
important. For to any one genuinely inter- 
ested in finding "good stuff" in the ruck 
and run of volunteer manuscripts, nothing is 
more discouraging, nothing more apparently 
hopeless of ultimate success than the consistent 
and uniform trashiness of the day's batch of 
submitted embryonic novels. Infinitely better 
for their author had they never been written; 
infinitely better for him had he employed his 
labour at the very least it is labour of three 
months upon the trade or profession to which 
he was bred. It is very hard work to write a 
good novel, but it is much harder to write a 



The "Volunteer Manuscript" 173 

bad one. Its very infelicity is a snare to the 
pen, its very clumsiness a constant demand 
for laborious boosting and propping. 

And consider another and further word of 
advice number 17, if you please. Don't go 
away with that popular idea that your manu- 
script will be considered, or if really and unde- 
niably good will be heedlessly rejected. Bad 
manuscripts are not read from cover to cover. 
The reader has not the right to waste his 
employer's time in such unremunerative dili- 
gence. Often a page or two will betray the 
hopelessness of the subsequent chapters, and no 
one will demand of the "reader" a perusal of a 
work that he knows will be declined in the end. 

Nor was there ever a sincere and earnest 
effort that went unappreciated in a publisher's 
place of business. I have seen an entire office 
turned upside down by a " reader" who believed 
he had discovered among the batch of volumin- 
ous MS. something "really good, you know," 
and who almost forced a reading of the offering 
in question upon every member of the firm 
from the senior partner down to the assistant 
salesman. 

As a rule, all manuscripts follow the same 
routine. From the clerk who receives them 
at the hands of the expressman they go to the 
recorder, who notes the title, address and date 



174 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

of arrival, and also, after turning them over 
to the junior reader, the fact of the transfer. 
The junior reader's report upon the manu- 
script is turned in to one of the members of 
the firm, whose decision is final. The manu- 
script itself goes up to the senior reader, 
who also reports upon it to the firm member. 
If both reports are unfavourable, this latter 
directs the manuscript to be returned with or 
without a personal letter, as he deems proper. 
If both the readers' reports are favourable, or 
even if one is sufficiently laudatory, he calls 
for the manuscript and reads it himself. If he 
disagrees with the readers' reports, the manu- 
script is declined. If not, he passes the manu- 
script on to one of the partners of the house, 
who also reads it. The two " talk it over," and 
out of the conference comes the ultimate 
decision in the matter. 

Sometimes the circulation manager and head 
salesman are consulted to decide whether or 
not putting all questions of the book's literary 
merits aside the "thing will sell." And 
doubt not for a moment that their counsel 
carries weight. 

Another feature of the business which it is 
very well to remember is that all publishers 
cannot be held responsible for the loss of or 
damage to unsolicited manuscripts. If you 



The "Volunteer Manuscript 11 175 

submit the MS. of a novel you do it at your own 
risk, and the carelessness of an office-boy may 
lose for you the work of many months years, 
even ; work that you could never do over again. 
You could demand legally no reparation. The 
publishers are not responsible. Only in a case 
where a letter signed by one of the ''heads" 
has been sent to the author requesting that the 
manuscript be forwarded does the situation 
become complicated. But in the case of an 
unknown writer the monetary value of his work 
in a court of law would be extremely difficult 
to place, and even if an award of damages could 
be extorted it would hardly more than pay the 
typewriter's bill. 

But the loss of manuscript may be of serious 
import to the publisher for all that. That 
reputation for negligence in the matter of 
handling unsolicited matter fastens upon a 
firm with amazing rapidity. Bothersome as 
the number of volunteer manuscripts are, they 
do to a certain extent gauge the importance 
of a given concern. And as they arrive in 
constantly increasing quantities, the house 
may know that it is growing in favour and in 
reputation : and so a marked falling off reverses 
the situation. Writers will be naturally averse 
to submitting manuscripts to offices which are 
known to be careless. And I know of at least 



176 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

one instance where the loss of a couple of manu- 
scripts within a month produced a marked 
effect upon the influx of the volunteers. Some- 
how the news of the loss always gets out, and 
spreads by some mysterious means till it is 
heard of from strangely remote quarters. The 
author will, of course, tell his friends of the 
calamity, and will make more ado over the 
matter than if his story was accepted. Of 
course, this particular story is the one great 
masterpiece of his career; the crass stupidity 
of the proud and haughty publisher has ruined 
his chance of success, and the warning: " Don't 
send your stuff to that firm. It will be lost !" 
is passed on all along the line. So that repeated 
instances of the negligence may in the end 
embarrass the publisher, and the real master- 
piece, the first novel of a New Man, goes to a 
rival. 

I have in mind one case where a manuscript 
was lost under peculiarly distressing circum- 
stances. The reader, who had his office in 
the editorial rooms of a certain important house 
of New York, was on a certain day called to 
the reception room to interview one of the host 
of writers who came daily to submit their 
offerings in person. 

In this case the reader confronted a little 
gentleman in the transition period of genteel 



The "Volunteer Manuscript" 177 

decay. He was a Frenchman. His mustache, 
tight, trim and waxed, was white. The frock 
coat was buttoned only at the waist; a silk 
handkerchief puffed from the pocket, and a 
dried carnation, lamentably faded, that had 
done duty for many days, enlivened with a 
feeble effort the worn silk lapel. 

But the innate French effervescence, debo- 
nair, insouciant, was not gone yet. The 
little gentleman presented a card. Of course 
the name boasted that humblest of titles 
baron. The Baron, it appeared, propitiated 
destiny by ''Instruction in French, German 
and Italian," but now instruction was no 
longer propitious. With a deprecating giggle 
this was explained; the Baron did not 
wish to make the "reader" feel bad to 
embarrass him. 

"I will probably starve very soon," he 
observed, still with the modifying little giggle, 
and, of course, the inevitable shrug, "unless 
my faith something turns up." 

It was to be turned up, evidently, by means of 
an attenuated manuscript which he presented. 
He had written during the intervals of 
instruction a series of articles on the charac- 
ter of Americans as seen by a Frenchman, and 
these had been published by a newspaper of 
the town in which he instructed an absolutely 



178 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

obscure town, lost and forgotten, away up 
among the New Hampshire hills. 

The articles, he insinuated, might be made 
into a book a book that might be interesting 
to the great American public. And, with a 
naivete that was absolutely staggering, he 
assumed without question that the firm would 
publish his book that it was really an impor- 
tant contribution to American literature. 

He would admit that he had not been paid 
very liberally by the country paper for the 
articles as they appeared. He was not Emile 
Zola. If he was he might have sold his articles 
at fifteen or twenty dollars each. 

He said just that. Think of it! The poor 
little Instructor-Baron Zola ! Fifteen dollars ! 
Well! 

He left the articles neatly cut out and 
pasted in a copy-book with the "reader," and 
gave as his address a dreadfully obscure hotel. 

The "reader" could not make up his mouth to 
tell him, even before looking over the first para- 
graph of the first article, that as a book the 
commercial value of the offering was absolutely, 
irrevocably and hopelessly nil, and so the little 
manuscript went into the mill and in two days 
was lost. 

I suppose that never in the history of that 
particular firm was the search for a missing 



The "Volunteer Manuscript" 179 

manuscript prosecuted with half the energy 
or ardour that ensued upon the discovery of 
this particular loss. From the desk-files of 
the senior partner to the shipping-slips of the 
packer's assistant the hunt proceeded and all 
in vain. 

Meanwhile the day approached on which the 
Baron was to come for his answer and at last it 
arrived, and promptly at the appointed hour 
the poor little card with the hyphenated titled 
name written carefully and with beautiful 
flourishes in diluted ink was handed in. 

Do you know what the publisher did? He 
wrote the absurd, pompous name across the 
order line of a check and signed his own name 
underneath, and the check was for an amount 
that would make even unpropitious Destiny 
take off his hat and bow politely. 

And I tell you that my little Instructor- 
Baron, with eminent good-humour, but with the 
grand manner, a Marechal du royaume, waved 
it aside. Turenne could have been no more 
magnificent. (They do order these matters 
better in France.) His whole concern 
hunger-pinched as he may easily have been 
at the very moment his whole concern was 
to put the embarrassed publisher at his ease, 
to make this difficulty less difficult. 

He assured him that his articles were written 



180 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

comme-ci, comme-ca, for his own amusement, 
that he could not think of accepting, etc. 

And I like to remember that this whole 
affair, just as if it had been prepared in 
advance for a popular magazine whose editor 
insisted upon "happy endings," did end 
well, and the publisher, who at the moment 
was involved in the intricacies of a vast corre- 
spondence with a Parisian publishing house, 
found a small position as translator in one of 
his sub-departments for the little Instructor- 
Baron who had the great good fortune to 
suffer the loss of a manuscript in the right 
place. 

And now the card engraved, if you please 
bears proudly the Baron's name, supported 
by the inscription, "Official Translator and 
Director of Foreign Correspondence to the 
o f & Co., Publishers. " 



RETAIL BOOKSELLER: LITERARY 
DICTATOR 



RETAIL BOOKSELLER: LITERARY 
DICTATOR 

all the various and different kinds 
and characters of people who are con- 
cerned in the writing and making of a novel, 
including the author, the publisher, the critic, 
the salesman, the advertisement writer, 
the drummer of all this " array of talent," 
as the bill-boards put it, which one has the most 
influence in the success of the book? Who, 
of all these, can, if he chooses, help or hurt the 
sales the most? assuming for the moment 
that sales are the index of success, the kind of 
success that at the instant we are interested in. 
Each one of these people has his followers 
and champions. There are not found wanting 
those who say the publisher is the all-in-all. 
And again it is said that a critic of authority 
can make a book by a good review or ruin it 
by an unfavourable one. The salesman, others 
will tell you he who is closest allied to the 
money transaction can exert the all-powerful 
influence. Or again, surely in this day of 
exploitation and publicity the man who con- 
cocts great "ads" is the important one. 



184 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

The author is next included. He can do no 
more than write the book, and as good books 
have failed and bad ones have succeeded 
always considering failure and success in their 
most sordid meanings the mere writing need 
not figure. But the fact remains that there 
are cases where publishers have exerted every 
device to start a book and still have known it 
to remain upon their hands; that critics have 
raved to heaven or damned to hell, and the 
novel has fallen or flown in spite and not 
because of them; that salesmen have cajoled 
and schemed, and yet have returned with 
unfilled orders, and that advertisements that 
have clamoured so loudly that even they who 
ran must have read, and yet the novel in 
question remained inert, immovable, a failure, 
a "plug." 

All these, then, have been tried and at times 
have been found wanting. There yet remains 
one exponent of the business of distributing 
fiction who has not been considered. He, one 
claims, can do more than any or all of the gen- 
tlemen just mentioned to launch or strand a 
novel. 

Now let it be understood that by no possible 
manner of means does one consider him infalli- 
ble. Again and again have his best efforts 
come to nothing. This, however, is what is 



Retail Bookseller: Literary Dictator 185 

claimed: he has more influence on success or 
failure than any of the others. And who is he ? 
The retailer. One can almost affirm that 
he is a determining factor in American fiction ; 
that, in a limited sense, with him, his is the 
future. Author, critic, analyst and essayist 
may hug to themselves a delusive phantom of 
hope that they are the moulders of public 
opinion, they and they alone. That may be, 
sometimes. But consider the toiling and spin- 
ning retailer. What does the failure or success 
of the novel mean to the critic ? Nothing more 
than a minute and indefinite increase or decrease 
of prestige. The publisher who has many 
books upon his list may recoup himself on one 
failure by a compensating success. The sales- 
man's pay goes on just the same whether his 
order slips are full or blank; likewise the 
stipend of the writer of "ads." The author 
has no more to lose materially than the price 
of ink and paper. But to the retail bookseller 
a success means money made ; failure, money 
lost. If he can dispose of an order of fifty 
books he is ahead by calculable, definite, con- 
crete profits. If he cannot dispose of the fifty 
his loss is equally calculable, equally definite, 
equally concrete. Naturally, being a business 
man, he is a cautious man. He will not order 
a book which he deems unsalable, but he will 



1 86 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

lay in a stock of one that promises returns. 
Through him the book is distributed to the 
public. If he has a book in stock, the public 
gets it. If he does not have it, the public goes 
without. The verdict of the public is the essen- 
tial to popularity or unpopularity, and the 
public can only pass verdict upon what it has 
read. The connection seems clear and the 
proposition proved that the retail bookseller 
is an almost paramount influence in American 
literature. 

It is interesting to see what follows from this 
and to note how the retailer in the end can 
effectually throttle the sham novelist who has 
fooled the public once. Were it not for the 
retailer, the sham novelist would get an 
indefinite number of chances for his life ; but so 
long as the small book-dealer lives and acts, 
just so long will bad work and one means by 
this wholly bad, admittedly bad, hopelessly 
bad work fail to trick the reading public twice. 
Observe now the working of it. Let us take a 
typical case. A story by an unknown writer 
is published. By strenuous exploitation the 
publishers start a vogue. The book begins 
to sell. The retailer, observing the campaign 
of publicity managed by the publishers, stocks 
up with the volume ; surely when the publishers 
are backing the thing so strong it will be a safe 



Retail Bookseller: Literary Dictator 187 

venture; surely the demand will be great. It 
does prove a safe venture ; the demand is great ; 
the retailer disposes of fifty, then of a second 
order of one hundred, then of two hundred, 
then of five hundred. The book is now in the 
hands of the public. It is read and found 
sadly, sadly wanting. It is not a good story; 
it is trivial; it is insincere. Far and wide the 
story is condemned. 

Meanwhile the unknown writer, now become 
famous, is writing a second novel. It is finished, 
issued, and the salesman who travels for the 
publishers begins to place his orders. The 
retailer, remembering the success of this author's 
past venture, readily places a large order. Two 
hundred is not, in his opinion, an overstock. So 
it goes all over the country. Returns are made 
to the author, and he sees that some fifty 
thousand have been sold. Encouraging, is it 
not? Yes, fifty thousand have been sold 
by the publisher to the retailer; but here is the 
point not by the retailer to the public. Of 
the two hundred our dealer took from the 
publisher's traveling salesman, one hundred 
and ninety yet remain upon his counters. The 
public, fooled once, on the first over-praised, 
over-exploited book, refuse to be taken in a 
second time. Who is the loser now ? Not the 
author, who draws royalties on copies sold to 



1 88 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the tradesman the retailer ; not the publisher, 
who makes his profit out of the same trans- 
action; but the retailer, who is loaded down 
with an unsalable article. 

Meanwhile our author writes his third novel. 
So far as he can see, his second book is as great 
a popular success as his first. His semiannual 
statements are there to show it there it is in 
black and white; figures can't lie. The third 
novel is finished and launched. At the end of 
the first six months after publication day the 
author gets his publisher's statement of sales. 
Instead of the expected 10,000 copies sold, 
behold the figure is a bare 1,500. At the end of 
the second six months the statement shows 
about 250. The book has failed. Why? Be- 
cause the retailer refuses to order it. He has 
said to the soliciting salesman, "Why should I, 
in Heaven's name, take a third book by this 
man when I have yet one hundred and ninety 
copies of his second novel yet to sell?" 

It is hard for the salesman to controvert 
that argument. He may argue that the third 
book is a masterpiece, and mark this it may 
in fact be a veritable, actual masterpiece, a 
wonderful contribution to the world's litera- 
ture; it is all of no effect. There stands the 
block of unsold books, 190 strong, and all the 
eloquence in the world will not argue them 



Retail Bookseller: Literary Dictator 189 

off the counter. After this our author's pub- 
lisher will have none of his books. Even if he 
writes a fourth and submits it, the publisher 
incontinently declines it. This author is no 
longer a " business proposition." 

There cannot but be an element of satisfac- 
tion in all this, and a source of comfort to those 
who take the welfare of their country's litera- 
ture seriously to heart. The sham novelist 
who is in literature (what shall we say) "for his 
own pocket every time" sooner or later meets 
the wave of reaction that he cannot stem nor 
turn and under which he and his sham are con- 
clusively, definitely and irrevocably buried. 
Observe how it works out all down the line. 
He fools himself all of the time, he fools the 
publisher three times, he fools the retail dealer 
twice, and he fools the Great American Public 
just exactly once. 



AN AMERICAN SCHOOL OF 
FICTION? 



AN AMERICAN SCHOOL OF FICTION? 

TT seems to me that it is a proposition 
not difficult of demonstration that the 
United States of America has never been able 
to boast of a school of fiction distinctively its 
own. And this is all the more singular when 
one considers that in all other activities 
Americans are peculiarly independent in 
thought and in deed, and have acquired 
abroad a reputation even a notoriety for 
being original. 

In the mechanical arts, in the industries, in 
politics, in business methods, in diplomacy, in 
ship-building, in war, even in dentistry, if you 
please even in the matter of riding race-horses 
Americans have evolved their own methods, 
quite different from European methods. 

Hardy and adventurous enough upon all other 
lines, disdainful of conventions, contemptuous 
of ancient custom, we yet lag behind in the 
arts slow to venture from the path blazed 
long ago by Old World masters. 

It is preeminently so in the fine arts. No 
sooner does an American resolve upon a career 
of painting, sculpture or architecture than 
193 



194 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

straight he departs for Paris, the Beaux Arts 
and the Julien atelier; and, his education 
finished, returns to propagate French ideas; 
French methods; and our best paintings to- 
day are more French than American ; French 
in conception, in composition, in technique 
and treatment. 

I suppose that the nearest we ever came to 
an organized school of native-born Americans, 
writing about American things from an Ameri- 
can point of view, was in the days of Lowell, 
Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier and the rest of 
that illustrious company. But observe : How 
is this group spoken of and known to literature ? 
Not as the American school, but as the New 
England school. Even the appellation " New" 
England as differentiated from ''old" England 
is significant. And New England is not 
America. 

Hawthorne, it will be urged, is a great name 
among American writers of fiction. Not pecu- 
liarly American, however. Not so distinctively 
and unequivocally as to lay claim to a vigorous 
original Americanism. "The Scarlet Letter" 
is not an American story, but rather a story of 
an English colony on North American soil. 
"The Marble Faun " is frankly and unreservedly 
foreign. Even the other novels were pictures 



An American School of Fiction? 195 

of a very limited and circumscribed life the 
life of New England again. 

Cooper, you will say, was certainly American 
in attitude and choice of subject ; none more so. 
None less, none less American. As a novelist 
he is saturated with the romance of the con- 
temporary English story-tellers. It is true 
that his background is American. But his 
heroes and heroines talk like the characters out 
of Bulwer in their most vehement moods, while 
his Indians stalk through all the melodramatic 
tableaux of Byron, and declaim in the periods 
of the border noblemen in the pages of Walter 
Scott. 

Poe we may leave out of classification; he 
shone in every branch of literature but that of 
novel-writing. Bret Harte was a writer of 
short stories and oh, the pity of it, the folly 
of it ! abandoned the field with hardly more 
than a mere surface-scratching. 

There can be no doubt that had Mr. Henry 
James remained in America he would have been 
our very best writer. If he has been able to 
seize the character and characteristics so forci- 
bly of a people like the English, foreign to 
him, different, unfamiliar, what might he not 
have done in the very midst of his own country- 
men, into whose company he was born, reared 
and educated. All the finish of style, the 



196 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

marvelous felicity of expression would still have 
been his and at the same time, by the very 
nature of the life he lived and wrote about, 
the concrete, the vigorous, the simple direct 
action would have become a part of his work, 
instead of the present ultimate vagueness and 
indecision that so mars and retards it. 

Of all the larger names remain only those 
of Mr. Howells and Mr. Clemens. But as the 
novelists, as such, are under consideration, 
even Mark Twain may be left out of the dis- 
cussion. American to the core, posterity will 
yet know him not as a novel-writer, but as a 
humourist. Mr. Howells alone is left, then, 
after the elimination is complete. Of all pro- 
ducers of American fiction he has had the broad- 
est vision, at once a New Englander and a New 
Yorker, an Easterner and in the Eastern sense 
a Westerner. But one swallow does not make 
a summer, nor does one writer constitute a 
"school." Mr. Howells has had no successors. 
Instead, just as we had with "Lapham" 
and "The Modern Instance" laid the founda- 
tion of fine, hardy literature, that promised to 
be our very, very own, we commence to build 
upon it a whole confused congeries of borrowed, 
faked, pilfered romanticisms, building a crum- 
bling gothic into a masonry of honest brown- 
stone, or foisting colonial porticos upon facades 






An American School of Fiction? 197 

of Montpelier granite, and I cannot allow this 
occasion to pass without protest against what 
I am sure every serious-minded reader must 
consider a lamentable discrowning. 

Of the latter-day fiction writers Miss Wilkins 
had more than all others convinced her public 
of her sincerity. Her field was her own; the 
place was ceded to her. No other novelist 
could invade her domain and escape the censure 
that attaches to imitation. Her public was 
loyal to her because it believed in her, and it 
was a foregone conclusion that she would be 
loyal to it. 

More than this: A writer who occupies so 
eminent a place as Miss Wilkins, who has 
become so important, who has exerted and 
still can exert so strong an influence, cannot 
escape the responsibilities of her position. 
She cannot belong wholly to herself, cannot be 
wholly independent. She owes a duty to the 
literature of her native country. 

Yet in spite of all this, and in spite of the fact 
that those who believe in the future of our 
nation's letters look to such established repu- 
tations as hers to keep the faith, to protest, 
though it is only by their attitude, silently and 
with dignity, against corruptions, degradations ; 
in spite of all this, and in the heyday of her 
power, Miss Wilkins chooses to succumb to 



198 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the momentary, transitory set of the tide, and 
forsaking her own particular work, puts forth, 
one of a hundred others, a "colonial romance." 
It is a discrowning. It can be considered as 
no less. A deliberate capitulation to the 
clamour of the multitude. Possibly the novel- 
ist was sincere, but it is perilously improbable 
that she would have written her "Colonial 
Romance" had not "colonial romances" been 
the fashion. On the face of it Miss Wilkins 
has laid herself open to a suspicion of dis- 
ingenuousness that every honest critic can 
only deplore. Even with all the sincerity in 
the world she had not the right to imperil the 
faith of her public, to undermine its confidence 
in her. She was one of the leaders. It is as 
if a captain, during action, had deserted to 
the enemy. 

It could not have been even for the baser 
consideration of money. With her success 
assured in advance Miss Wilkins can be 
above such influences. Nor of fame. Surely 
no great distinction centres upon writers of 
"colonial romances" of late. Only the author 
herself may know her motives, but we who 
looked to her to keep the standard firm and 
high have now to regret the misfortune of a 
leader lost, a cause weakened 

However, it is a question after all if a "school," 



An American School of Fiction? 199 

understood in the European sense of the word, 
is possible for America just yet. France has 
had its schools of naturalism and romance, 
Russia its schools of realism, England its schools 
of psychologists. But France, Russia and 
England now, after so many centuries of 
growth, may be considered as units. Certain 
tendencies influence each one over its whole 
geographical extent at the same time. Its 
peoples have been welded together to a certain 
homogeneousness. It is under such conditions 
that "schools" of fiction, of philosophy, of 
science and the like arise. 

But the United States are not yet, in the 
European sense, united. We have existed as 
a nation hardly more than a generation and 
during that time our peoples have increased 
largely by emigration. From all over the 
globe different races have been pouring in upon 
us. The North has been settled under one 
system, the South under another, the Middle 
West under another, the East under another. 
South Central and Far West under still others. 
There is no homogeneousness among us as yet. 
The Westerner thinks along different lines from 
the Easterner and arrives at different con- 
clusions. What is true of California is false of 
New York. Mr. Cable's picture of life is a far 
different thing than that of Mr. Howells. 



200 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

The " school" implies a rallying of many 
elements under one standard. But no such 
thing is possible to-day for American writers. 
Mr. Hamlin Garland could not merge his per- 
sonality nor pool his ideals with Edith Wharton. 
Their conceptions of art are as different as the 
conditions of life they study in their books. 

The school of fiction American in thought, 
in purpose and in treatment will come in time, 
inevitably. Meanwhile the best we can expect 
of the leaders is to remain steadfast, to keep 
unequivocably to the metes and bounds of the 
vineyards of their labours; no trespassing, no 
borrowing, no niching of the grapes of another 
man's vines. The cultivation of one's own 
vine is quite sufficient for all energy. We want 
these vines to grow in time to take root deep 
in American soil so that by and by the fruit 
shall be all of our own growing. 

We do not want distinctly and vehemently 
we do not want-the vine-grower to leave his own 
grapes to rot while he flies off to the gathering 
of what? The sodden lees of an ancient 
crushing. 



NOVELISTS OF THE FUTURE 



NOVELISTS OF THE FUTURE 

TT seems to me that a great deal could be 
-^ said on this subject a great deal that 
has not been said before. There are so many 
novelists these latter days. So many whose 
works show that they have had no training, 
and it does seem that so long as the fiction 
writers of the United States go fumbling and 
stumbling along in this undisciplined fashion, 
governed by no rule, observing no formula, 
setting for themselves no equation to solve, 
that just so long shall we be far from the desir- 
able thing an American school of fiction. 
Just now (let us say that it is a pity) we have 
no school at all. We acknowledge no master, 
and we are playing at truant, incorrigible, 
unmanageable, sailing paper boats in the creek 
behind the schoolhouse, or fishing with bent 
pins in the pools and shallows of popular favour. 
That some catch goldfish there is no great 
matter, and is no excuse for the truancy. We 
are not there for the goldfish, if you please, but 
to remain in the school at work till we have 
been summoned to stand up in our places and 
tell the master what we have learned. 
203 



204 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

There's where we should be, and if we do not 
observe the rules and conform to some degree 
of order, we should be rapped on the knuckles 
or soundly clumped on the head, and by vigor- 
ous discipline taught to know that formulas 
(a b; a-|-b) are important things for us to 
observe, and that each and all of us should 
address ourselves with all diligence to finding 
the value of x in our problems. 

It is the class in the Production of Original 
Fiction which of all the school contains the 
most truants. Indeed, its members believe 
that schooling for them is unnecessary. Not 
so with the other classes. Not one single mem- 
ber of any single one of them who does not 
believe that he must study first if he would pro- 
duce afterward. Observe, there on the lower 
benches, the assiduous little would-be car- 
penters and stone-masons ; how carefully they 
con their tables of measurement, their squares 
and compasses. "Ah, the toilers," you say, 
"the grubby manual fellows of course they 
must learn their trade !" 

Very well, then. Consider higher up the 
class, on the very front row of benches the 
Fine Arts row, the little painters and architects 
and musicians and actors of the future. See 
how painfully they study, and study and study. 
The little stone-mason will graduate in a few 



Novelists of the Future 205 

months; but for these others of the Fine Arts 
classes there is no such thing as graduation. 
For them there shall never be a diploma, signed 
and sealed, giving them the right to call 
themselves perfected at their work. All their 
lives they shall be students. In the vacations 
maybe they write, or build, or sing, or act, 
but soon again they are back to the benches, 
studying, studying always; working as never 
carpenter or stone-mason worked. Now and 
then they get a little medal, a bit of gold and 
enamel, a bow of ribbon, that is all ; the stone- 
mason would disdain it, would seek it for the 
value of the metal in it. The Fine Arts people 
treasure it as the veteran treasures his cross. 

And these little medals you the truants, the 
bad boys of the paper boats and the goldfish 
you want them, too; you claim them and 
clamour for them. You who declare that no 
study is necessary for you; you who are not 
content with your catch of goldfish, you must 
have the bits of ribbon and enamel, too. Have 
you deserved them? Have you worked for 
them ? Have you found the value of x in your 
equation? Have you solved the parenthesis 
of your problem? Have you even done the 
problem at all? Have you even glanced or 
guessed at the equation? The shame of it be 
upon you ! Come in from the goldfish and go 



206 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

to work, or stay altogether at the fishing and 
admit that you are not deserving of the medal 
which the master gives as a reward of merit. 

" But there are no books that we can study/' 
you contest. " The architect and the musician, 
the painter and the actor all of these have 
books ready to hand; they can learn from 
codified, systematized knowledge. For the 
novelist, where is there of cut-and-dried science 
that he can learn that will help him?' 1 

And that is a good contention. No, there 
are no such books. Of all the arts, the art of 
fiction has no handbook. By no man's teach- 
ing can we learn the^knack of putting a novel 
together in the best way. No one has ever 
risen to say, "Here is how the plan should be; 
thus and so should run the outline." 

We admit the fact, but neither does that 
excuse the goldfishing and the paper-boat busi- 
ness. Some day the handbook may be com- 
piled it is quite possible but meanwhile, and 
faute de mieux, there is that which you may 
study better than all handbooks. 

Observe, now. Observe, for instance, the 
little painter scholars. On the fly-leaves of 
their schoolbooks they are making pictures 
of what? Remember it, remember it and 
remember it of the people around them. So 
is the actor, so the musician all of the occu- 



Novelists of the Future 207 

pants of the Fine Arts bench. They are study- 
ing one another quite as much as their boots 
even more, and they will tell you that it is 
the most important course in the curriculum. 

You the truant little would-be novelist 
you can do this, quite as easily as they, and for 
you it is all the more important, for you must 
make up for the intimate knowledge of your 
fellows what you are forced to lack in the igno- 
rance of forms. But you cannot get this 
knowledge out there behind the schoolhouse 
hooking goldfish. Come in at the tap of the 
bell and, though you have no books, make 
pictures on your slate, pictures of the Fine 
Arts bench struggling all their lives for the 
foolish little medals, pictures of the grubby 
little boys in the stone-mason's corner, jeering 
the art classes for their empty toiling. The 
more you make these pictures, the better you 
shall do them. That is the kind of studying 
you can do, and from the study of your fellows 
you shall learn more than from the study of all 
the text-books that ever will be written. 

But to do this you must learn to sit very 
quiet, and be very watchful, and so train your 
eyes and ears that every sound and every 
sight shall be significant to you and shall 
supply all the deficiency made by the absence 
of text-books. 



2o8 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

This, then, to drop a very protracted alle- 
gory, seems to be the proper training of the 
novelist: The achieving less of an aggressive 
faculty of research than of an attitude of mind 
a receptivity, an acute sensitiveness. And 
this can be acquired. 

But it cannot be acquired by shutting one- 
self in one's closet, by a withdrawal from the 
world, and that, so it would appear, is just the 
mistake so many would-be fiction writers allow 
themselves. They would make the art of the 
novelist an aristocracy, a thing exclusive, to 
be guarded from contact with the vulgar, 
humdrum, bread-and-butter business of life, 
to be kept unspotted from the world, consider- 
ing it the result of inspirations, of exaltations, 
of subtleties and above all things of refine- 
ment, a sort of velvet jacket affair, a studio 
hocus-pocus, a thing loved of women and of 
esthetes. 

What a folly ! Of all the arts it is the most 
virile; of all the arts it will not, will not, will 
not flourish indoors. Dependent solely upon 
fidelity to life for existence, it must be practised 
in the very heart's heart of life, on the street 
corner, in the market-place, not in the studios. 
God enlighten us ! It is not an affair of women 
and esthetes, and the muse of American fiction 
is no chaste, delicate, superfine mademoi- 



Novelists of the Future 209 

selle of delicate poses and "elegant" attitudin- 
izings, but a robust, red-armed bonne femme, 
who rough-shoulders her way among men and 
among affairs, who finds a healthy pleasure in 
the jostlings of the mob and a hearty delight 
in the honest, rough-and-tumble, Anglo-Saxon 
give-and-take knockabout that for us means 
life. Choose her, instead of the sallow, pale- 
faced statue-creature, with the foolish tablets 
and foolish, upturned eyes, and she will lead 
you as brave a march as ever drum tapped to. 
Stay at her elbow and obey her as she tells you 
to open your eyes and ears and heart, and as you 
go she will show things wonderful beyond 
wonder in this great, new, blessed country of 
ours, will show you a life untouched, untried, 
full of new blood and promise and vigour. 

She is a Child of the People, this muse of our 
fiction of the future, and the wind of a new 
country, a new heaven and a new earth is in 
her face and has blown her hair from out the 
fillets that the Old World muse has bound across 
her brow, so that it is all in disarray. The tan 
of the sun is on her cheeks, and the dust of the 
highway is thick upon her buskin, and the 
elbowing of many men has torn the robe of her, 
and her hands are hard with the grip of many 
things. She is hail-fellow-well-met with every 
one she meets, unashamed to know the clown 



2io The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

and unashamed to face the king, a hardy, 
vigorous girl, with an arm as strong as a man's 
and a heart as sensitive as a child's. 

Believe me, she will lead you far from the 
studios and the esthetes, the velvet jackets 
and the uncut hair, far from the sexless crea- 
tures who cultivate their little art of writing 
as the fancier cultivates his orchid. Tramping 
along, then, with a stride that will tax your best 
paces, she will lead you if you are humble 
with her and honest with her straight into 
a World of Working Men, crude of speech, swift 
of action, strong of passion, straight to the heart 
of a new life, on the borders of a new time, and 
there and there only will you learn to know 
the stuff of which must come the American 
fiction of the future. 



A PLEA FOR ROMANTIC FICTION 









A PLEA FOR ROMANTIC FICTION 

T ET us at the start make a distinction. 
Observe that one speaks of romanti- 
cism and not sentimentalism. One claims that 
the latter is as distinct from the former as is 
that other form of art which is called Realism. 
Romance has been often put upon and over- 
. burdened by being forced to bear the onus of 
abuse that by right should fall to sentiment; 
but the two should be kept very distinct, for 
a very high and illustrious place will be claimed 
for romance, while sentiment will be handed 
down the scullery stairs. 

Many people to-day are composing mere 
sentimentalism, and calling it and causing it to 
be called romance; so with those who are too 
busy to think much upon these subjects, but 
who none the less love honest literature, 
Romance, too, has fallen into disrepute. 
Consider now the cut-and-thrust stories. 
They are all labeled Romances, and it is 
very easy to get the impression that Romance 
must be an affair of cloaks and daggers, 
or moonlight and golden hair. But this is 
not so at all. The true Romance is a 

213 



214 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

more serious business than this. It is not 
merely a conjurer's trick-box, full of flimsy 
quackeries, tinsel and claptraps, meant 
only to amuse, and relying upon deception to 
do even that. Is it not something better than 
this? Can we not see in it an instrument, 
keen, finely tempered, flawless an instrument 
with which we may go straight through the 
clothes and tissues and wrappings of flesh down 
deep into the red, living heart of things ? 

Is all this too subtle, too merely speculative 
and intrinsic, too precieuse and nice and 
" literary " ? Devoutly one hopes the contrary. 
So much is made of so-called Romanticism in 
present-day fiction that the subject seems 
worthy of discussion, and a protest against the 
misuse of a really noble and honest formula 
of literature appeals to be timely misuse, that 
is, in the sense of limited use. Let us suppose 
for the moment that a romance can be made 
out of a cut-and-thrust business. Good 
Heavens, are there no other things that are 
romantic, even in this falsely, falsely called 
humdrum world of to-day? Why should it 
be that so soon as the novelist addresses himself 
seriously to the consideration of contem- 
porary life he must abandon Romance and take 
up that harsh, loveless, colourless, blunt tool 
called Realism? 






A Plea for Romantic Fiction 215 

Now, let us understand at once what is 
meant by Romance and what by Realism. 
Romance, I take it, is the kind of fiction that 
takes cognizance of variations from the type of 
normal life. Realism is the kind of fiction 
that confines itself to the type of normal life. 
According to this definition, then, Romance 
may even treat of the sordid, the un- 
lovely as for instance, the novels of M. Zola. 
(Zola has been dubbed a Realist, but he is, on the 
contrary, the very head of the Romanticists.) 
Also, Realism, used as it sometimes is as a term 
of reproach, need not be in the remotest sense 
or degree offensive, but on the other hand 
respectable as a church and proper as a deacon 
as, for instance, the novels of Mr. Howells. 

The reason why one claims so much for 
Romance, and quarrels so pointedly with 
Realism, is that Realism stultifies itself. It 
notes only the surface of things. For it, Beauty 
is not even skin deep, but only a geometrical 
plane, without dimensions and depth, a mere 
outside. Realism is very excellent so far as it 
goes, but it goes no further than the Realist 
himself can actually see, or actually hear. 
Realism is minute ; it is the drama of a broken 
teacup, the tragedy of a walk down the block, 
the excitement of an afternoon call, the adven- 
ture of an invitation to dinner. It is the visit 



2i6 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

to my neighbour's house, a formal visit, from 
which I may draw no conclusions. I see my 
neighbour and his friends very, oh, such very ! 
probable people and that is all. Realism 
bows upon the doormat and goes away and 
says to me, as we link arms on the sidewalk: 
"That is life." And I say it is not. It is not, 
as you would very well see if you took Romance 
with you to call upon your neighbour. 

Lately you have been taking Romance a 
weary journey across the water ages and 
the flood of years and haling her into the 
fusby, musty, worm-eaten, moth-riddled, rust- 
corroded "Grandes Salles" of the Middle Ages 
and the Renaissance, and she has found the 
drama of a bygone age for you there. But 
would you take her across the street to your 
neighbour's front parlour (with the bisque 
fisher-boy on the mantel and the photograph 
of Niagara Falls on glass hanging in the front 
window) ; would you introduce her there ? Not 
you. Would you take a walk with her on Fifth 
Avenue, or Beacon Street, or Michigan Avenue ? 
No, indeed. Would you choose her for a com- 
panion of a morning spent in Wall Street, or an 
afternoon in the Waldorf-Astoria? You just 
guess you would not. 

She would be out of place, you say inap- 
propriate. She might be awkward in my 



A Plea for Romantic Fiction 217 

neighbour's front parlour, and knock over the 
little bisque fisher-boy. Well, she might. If 
she did, you might find underneath the base of 
the statuette, hidden away, tucked away 
what ? God knows. But something that would 
be a complete revelation of my neighbour's 
secretest life. 

So you think Romance would stop in the 
front parlour and discuss medicated flannels 
and mineral waters with the ladies? Not for 
more than five minutes. She would be off up- 
stairs with you, prying, peeping, peering into 
the closets of the bedroom, into the nursery, 
into the sitting-room; yes, and into that little 
iron box screwed to the lower shelf of the closet 
in the library; and into those compartments 
and pigeon-holes of the secretaire in the 
study. She would find a heartache (maybe) 
between the pillows of the mistress's bed, and 
a memory carefully secreted in the master's 
deed-box. She would come upon a great hope 
amid the books and papers of the study-table 
of the young man's room, and perhaps 
who knows an affair, or, great Heavens, an 
intrigue, in the scented ribbons and gloves and 
hairpins of the young lady's bureau. And she 
would pick here a little and there a little, 
making up a bag of hopes and fears and a pack- 
age of joys and sorrows great ones, mind you 



218 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

and then come down to the front door, and, 
stepping out into the street, hand you the bags 
and package and say to you "That is Life !" 

Romance does very well in the castles of the 
Middle Ages and the Renaissance chateaux, 
and she has the entree there and is very well 
received. That is all well and good. But let 
us protest against limiting her to such places 
and such times. You will find her, I grant you, 
in the chatelaine's chamber and the dungeon 
of the man-at-arms; but, if you choose to look 
for her, you will find her equally at home in the 
brownstone house on the corner and in the 
office-building downtown. And this very day, 
in this very hour, she is sitting among the rags 
and wretchedness, the dirt and despair of the 
tenements of the East Side of New York. 

" What ? " I hear you say, " look for Romance 
the lady of the silken robes and golden crown, 
our beautiful, chaste maiden of soft voice and 
gentle eyes look for her among the vicious 
ruffians, male and female, of Allen Street and 
Mulberry Bend?" I tell you she is there, and 
to your shame be it said you will not know 
her in those surroundings. You, the aristo- 
crats, who demand the fine linen and the purple 
in your fiction ; you, the sensitive, the delicate, 
who will associate with your Romance only so 
long as she wears a silken gown. You will not 



A Plea for Romantic Fiction 219 

follow her to the slums, for you believe that 
Romance should only amuse and entertain you, 
singing you sweet songs and touching the harp 
of silver strings with rosy-tipped fingers. If 
haply she should call to you from the squalour 
of a dive, or the awful degradation of a dis- 
orderly house, crying: "Look! listen! This, 
too, is life. These, too, are my children ! Look 
at them, know them and, knowing, help!" 
Should she call thus you would stop your ears ; 
you would avert your eyes and you would 
answer, "Come from there, Romance. Your 
place is not there !" And you would make of 
her a harlequin, a tumbler, a sword-dancer, 
when, as a matter of fact, she should be by 
right divine a teacher sent from God. 

She will not often wear the robe of silk, the 
gold crown, the jeweled shoon; will not always 
sweep the silver harp. An iron note is hers 
if so she choose, and coarse garments, and 
stained hands; and, meeting her thus, it is for 
you to know her as she passes know her for 
the same young queen of the blue mantle 
and lilies. She can teach you if you will be 
humble to learn teach you by showing. 
God help you if at last you take from Romance 
her mission of teaching; if you do not believe 
that she has a purpose a nobler purpose and a 
mightier than mere amusement, mere enter- 



22O The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

tainment. Let Realism do the entertaining 
with its meticulous presentation of teacups, 
rag carpets, wall-paper and haircloth sofas, 
stopping with these, going no deeper than it 
sees, choosing the ordinary, the untroubled, 
the commonplace. 

But to Romance belongs the wide world for 
range, and the unplumbed depths of the human 
heart, and the mystery of sex, and the problems 
of life, and the black, unsearched penetralia 
of the soul of man. You, the indolent, must 
not always be amused. What matter the 
silken clothes, what matter the prince's houses ? 
Romance, too, is a teacher, and if throwing 
aside the purple she wears the camel' s-hair 
and feeds upon the locusts, it is to cry aloud 
unto the people, "Prepare ye the way of the 
Lord; make straight his path." 






A PROBLEM IN FICTION 



A PROBLEM IN FICTION 

OO many people writers more especially 
- claim stridently and with a deal of 
gesturing that because a thing has happened 
it is therefore true. They have written a 
story, let us say, and they bring it to you to 
criticize. You lay your finger upon a certain 
passage and say "Not true to life." The 
author turns on you and then annihilates you 
in his own mind with the words, "But it 
actually happened." Of course, then, it must 
be true. On the contrary, it is accurate only. 
For the assumption is, that truth is a higher 
power of accuracy that the true thing includes 
the accurate; and assuming this, the authors 
of novels that are not successful suppose 
that if they are accurate, if they tell the thing 
just as they saw it, that they are truthful. It 
is not difficult to show that a man may be 
as accurate as the spectroscope and yet lie like 
a Chinese diplomat. As for instance: Let us 
suppose you have never seen a sheep, never 
heard of sheep, don't know sheep from shav- 
ings. It devolves upon me to enlighten your 
223 



224 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

ignorance. I go out into the field and select 
from the flock a black sheep, bring it before 
you, and, with the animal there under our 
eyes, describe it in detail, faithfully, omitting 
nothing, falsifying nothing, exaggerating noth- 
ing. I am painfully accurate. But you go 
away with the untrue conviction that all sheep 
are black ! I have been accurate, but I have 
not been true. 

So it is with very, very many novels, written 
with all earnestness and seriousness. Every 
incident has happened in real life, and because 
it is picturesque, because it is romantic, because, 
in a word, it is like some other novel, it is seized 
upon at once, and serves as the nucleus of a tale. 
Then, because this tale fails of success, because 
it fails to impress, the author blames the public, 
not himself. He thinks he has gone to life for 
his material, and so must be original, new and 
true. It is not so. Life itself is not always 
true ; strange as it may seem, you may be able 
to say that life is not always true to life from 
the point of view of the artist. It happened 
once that it was my unfortunate duty to tell 
a certain man of the violent death of his only 
brother, whom he had left well and happy but 
an hour before. This is how he took it: He 
threw up both hands and staggered back, pre- 
cisely as they do in melodrama, exclaiming all 



A Problem in Fiction 225 

in a breath: "Oh, my God! This is terrible! 
What will mother say?" You may say what 
you please, this man was not true to life. 
From the point of view of the teller of tales 
he was theatrical, false, untrue, and though the 
incident was an actual fact and though the 
emotion was real, it had no value as " material," 
and no fiction writer in his senses would have 
thought of using it in his story. 

Naturally enough it will be asked what, then, 
is the standard. How shall the writer guide 
himself in the treatment of a pivotal, critical 
scene, or how shall the reader judge whether 
or not he is true. Perhaps, after all, the word 
"seem," and not the word "true," is the most 
important. Of course no good novelist, no 
good artist, can represent life as it actually is. 
Nobody can, for nobody knows. Who is to say 
what life actually is ? It seems easy easy for 
us who have it and live in it and see it and hear 
it and feel it every millionth part of every 
second of the time. I say that life is actually 
this or that, and you say it is something else, 
and number three says " Lo ! here," and number 
four says "Lo! there." Not even science is 
going to help you; no two photographs, even, 
will convey just the same impression of the 
same actuality; and here we are dealing not 
with science, but with art, that instantly 



226 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

involves the personality of the artist and all 
that that means. Even the same artist will 
not see the same thing twice exactly alike. 
His personality is one thing to-day and another 
thing to-morrow is one thing before dinner 
and another thing after it. How, then, to 
determine what life actually is ? 

The point is just this. In the fine arts we 
do not care one little bit about what life actually 
is, but what it looks like to an interesting, 
impressionable man, and if he tells his story 
or paints his picture so that the majority of 
intelligent people will say, "Yes, that must 
have been just about what would have hap- 
pened under those circumstances," he is true. 
His accuracy cuts no figure at all. He need 
not be accurate if he does not choose to be. 
If he sees fit to be inaccurate in order to make 
his point so only his point be the conveying 
of a truthful impression that is his affair. We 
have nothing to do with that. Consider the 
study of a French cuirassier by Detaille ; where 
the sunlight strikes the brown coat of the horse, 
you will see, if you look close, a mere smear of 
blue light blue. This is inaccurate. The 
horse is not blue, nor has he any blue spots. 
Stand at the proper distance and the blue smear 
resolves itself into the glossy reflection of the 
sun, and the effect is true. 



A Problem in Fiction 227 

And in fiction: Take the fine scene in 
"Ivanhoe," where Rebecca, looking from the 
window, describes the assault upon the outer 
walls of the castle to the wounded knight lying 
on the floor in the room behind her. If you 
stop and think, you will see that Rebecca 
never could have found such elaborate language 
under the stress of so great excitement -those 
cleverly managed little climaxes in each phrase, 
building up to the great climax of the para- 
graph, all the play of rhetoric, all the nice chain 
and adjustment of adjectives; she could not 
possibly have done it. Neither you nor I, nor 
any of us, with all the thought and time and 
labour at our command, could have ever written 
the passage. But is it not admirably true 
true as the truth itself ? It is not accurate : it 
is grossly, ludicrously inaccurate; but the fire 
and leap and vigour of it; there is where the 
truth is. Scott wanted you to get an impres- 
sion of that assault on the barbican, and you 
do get it. You can hear those axes on the outer 
gate as plainly as Rebecca could; you can see 
the ladders go up, can hear them splinter, can 
see and feel and know all the rush and trample 
and smashing of that fine fight, with the Fetter- 
lock Knight always to the fore, as no merely 
accurate description accurate to five points 
of decimals could ever present it. 



228 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

So that one must remember the distinction, 
and claim no more for accuracy than it deserves 
and that's but little. Anybody can be 
accurate the man with the foot-rule is that. 
Accuracy is the attainment of small minds, 
the achievement of the commonplace, a mere 
machine-made thing that comes with nig- 
gardly research and ciphering and mensuration 
and the multiplication table, good in its place, 
so only the place is very small. In fiction it 
can under certain circumstances be dispensed 
with altogether. It is not a thing to be striven 
for. To be true is the all-important business, 
and, once attaining that, "all other things shall 
be added unto you." Paint the horse pea- 
green if it suits your purpose ; fill the mouth of 
Rebecca with gasconades and rhodomontades 
interminable: these things do not matter. It 
is truth that matters, and the point is whether 
the daubs of pea-green will look like horseflesh 
and the mouth-filling words create the impres- 
sion of actual battle. 



WHY WOMEN SHOULD WRITE 
THE BEST NOVELS 



WHY WOMEN SHOULD WRITE THE 
BEST NOVELS 

TT is rather curious upon reflection and upon 
A looking over the rank and file of achieve- 
ment during the period of recorded history, 
to observe that of all the occupations at first 
exclusively followed by men, that of writing 
has been in all civilizations and among all 
people one of the very first to be successfully 
mark the qualification of the adverb to be 
successfully invaded by women. We hear of 
women who write poetry long before we hear 
of women who paint pictures or perform upon 
musical instruments or achieve distinction 
upon the stage. 

It would seem as if, of all the arts, that of 
writing is the one to which women turn the 
quickest. Great success in the sciences or in 
mercantile pursuits is, of course, out of the 
question, so that as at the first it may be 
said, speaking largely, that of all the masculine 
occupations, that of writing is the first to be 
adopted by women. 

If it is the first it must be because it is the 
easiest. Now to go very far back to the 
231 



232 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

earliest beginnings, all occupations, whether 
artistic or otherwise, were the prerogative of 
the male; considering this fact, I say, does it 
not follow, or would not the inference be strong, 
that given an equal start women would 
write more readily than men, would do so 
because they could do so; that writing is 
a feminine not accomplishment merely but 
gift. 

So that the whole matter leads up to the point 
one wishes to make, namely, that here, in our 
present day and time, it should be easier for 
women to write well than for men. And 
as writing to-day means the writing of fiction, 
we arrive, somewhat deviously and perhaps 
after jumping many gaps and weak spots en 
route a little lamely, at the very last result of 
all, which is this: Women should be able to 
write better novels than men. 

But under modern conditions there are 
many more reasons for this success of women 
in fiction than merely a natural inherent gift 
of expression. 

One great reason is leisure. The average 
man, who must work for a living, has no time 
to write novels, much less to get into that 
frame of mind, or to assume that mental 
attitude by means of which he is able to see 
possibilities for fictitious narrative in the 



Why Women Should Write the Best Novels 233 

life around him. But, as yet, few women 
(compared with the armies of male workers) 
have to work for a living, and it is an unusual 
state of affairs in which the average woman of 
moderate circumstances could not, if she would, 
take from three to four hours a day from her 
household duties to devote to any occupation 
she deemed desirable. 

Another reason is found, one believes, in 
the nature of women's education. From almost 
the very first the young man studies with an 
eye to business or to a profession. In many 
State colleges nowadays all literary courses, 
except the most elementary which, indeed, 
have no place in collegiate curriculums are 
optional. But what girls' seminary does not 
prescribe the study of literature through all 
its three or four years, making of this study a 
matter of all importance ? And while the courses 
of literature do not, by any manner of means, 
make a novelist, they familiarize the student 
with style and the means by which words are 
put together. The more one reads the easier 
one writes. 

Then, too (though this reason lies not so 
much in modern conditions as in basic princi- 
ples), there is the matter of temperament. 
The average man is a rectangular, square-cut, 
matter-of-fact, sober-minded animal who does 



234 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

not receive impressions easily, who is not 
troubled with emotions and has no over- 
mastering desire to communicate his sensations 
to anybody. But the average woman is just 
the reverse of all these. She is impressionable, 
emotional and communicative. And impres- 
sionableness, emotionality and communicative- 
ness are three very important qualities of mind 
that make for novel writing. 

The modern woman, then, in a greater 
degree than her contemporaneous male, has 
the leisure for novel writing, has the education 
and has the temperament. She should be 
able to write better novels, and as a matter 
of fact she does not. It is, of course, a con- 
ceded fact that there have been more great men 
novelists than women novelists, and that to-day 
the producers of the best fiction are men and 
not women. There are probably more women 
trying to write novels than there are men, but 
for all this it must be admitted that the ranks 
of the "arrived" are recruited from the razor 
contingent. 

Why, then, with such a long start and with 
so many advantages of temperament, opportu- 
nity and training should it be that women do not 
write better novels than men ? 

One believes that the answer is found in 
the fact that life is more important than liter- 



Why Women Should Write the Best Novels 235 

ature, and in the wise, wise, old, old adage that 
experience is the best teacher. Of all the 
difficult things that enter into the learning of a 
most difficult profession, the most difficult of all 
for the intended novelist to acquire is the 
fact that life is better than literature. The 
amateur will say this with conviction, will 
preach it in public and practise the exact 
reverse in private. But it still remains true 
that all the temperament, all the sensitiveness 
to impressions, all the education in the world 
will not help one little, little bit in the writing 
of the novel if life itself, the crude, the raw, the 
vulgar, if you will, is not studied. An hour's 
experience is worth ten years of study of 
reading other people's books. But this fact 
is ignored, and the future writer of what it is 
hoped will be the great novel of his day and age 
studies the thoughts and products of some 
other writer, of some other great novel, of some 
other day and age, in the hope that thereby 
much may be learned. And much will be learned 
very much, indeed of the methods of con- 
struction ; and if the tyro only has wits enough 
to study the great man's formula, well and good. 
But the fascination of a great story-writer 
especially upon the young, untried little story- 
writer is strong, and before the latter is well 
aware he is taking from the big man that which 



236 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

he has no right to take. He is taking his code 
of ethics, his view of life, his personality, even 
to the very incidents and episodes of his story. 
He is studying literature and not life. 

If he had gone direct to life itself, all would 
have been different. He would have developed 
in his own code, his own personality, and he 
would have found incidents and episodes that 
were new yes, and strikingly forceful, better 
than any he could have imagined or stolen, 
and which were all his own. In the end, if the 
gods gave him long life and a faculty of appli- 
cation, he would have evolved into something 
of a writer of fiction. 

All this digression is to try to state the 
importance of actual life and actual experience, 
and it bears upon the subject in hand in this, 
that women who have all the other qualifica- 
tions of good novelists are, because of nature 
and character that invariably goes with these 
qualifications, shut away from the study of, 
and the association with, the most important 
thing of all for them real life. Even making 
allowances for the emancipation of the New 
Woman, the majority of women still lead, in 
comparison with men, secluded lives. The 
woman who is impressionable is by reason 
of this very thing sensitive (indeed, sensi- 
tiveness and impressionableness mean almost 



Why Women Should Write the Best Novels 237 

the same thing), and it is inconceivably hard for 
the sensitive woman to force herself into the 
midst of that great, grim complication of men's 
doings that we call life. And even admitting 
that she finds in herself the courage to do 
this, she lacks the knowledge to use knowl- 
edge thus gained. The faculty of selection 
comes even to men only after many years of 
experience. 

So much for causes exterior to herself, and it 
is well to admit at once that the exterior causes 
are by far the most potent and the most impor- 
tant ; but there are perhaps causes to be found 
in the make-up of the woman herself which 
keep her from success in fiction. Is it not a fact 
that protracted labour of the mind tells upon 
a woman quicker than upon a man. Be it 
understood that no disparagement, no invidious 
comparison is intended. Indeed, it is quite 
possible that her speedier mental fatigue is due 
to the fact that the woman possesses the more 
highly specialized organ. 

A man may grind on steadily for an almost 
indefinite period, when a woman at the same 
task would begin, after a certain point, to "feel 
her nerves," to chafe, to fret, to try to do too 
much, to polish too highly, to develop more 
perfectly. Then come fatigue, harassing 
doubts, more nerves, a touch of hysteria occa- 



238 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

sionally, exhaustion, and in the end complete 
discouragement and a final abandonment of 
the enterprise: and who shall say how many 
good, even great, novels have remained half 
written, to be burned in the end, because their 
women authors mistook lack of physical 
strength for lack of genuine ability ? 



SIMPLICITY IN ART 



SIMPLICITY IN ART 

upon a time I had occasion to buy 
so uninteresting a thing as a silver 
soup-ladle. The salesman at the silversmith's 
was obliging and for my inspection brought 
forth quite an array of ladles. But my purse 
was flaccid, anemic, and I must pick and 
choose with all the discrimination in the world. 
I wanted to make a brave showing with my 
gift to get a great deal for my money. I 
went through a world of soup-ladles ladles 
with gilded bowls, with embossed handles, with 
chased arabesques, but there were none to my 
taste. "Or perhaps," says the salesman, 
"you would care to look at something like 
this, ' ' and he brought out a ladle that was as 
plain and as unadorned as the unclouded sky 
and about as beautiful. Of all the others this 
was the most to my liking. But the price ! ah, 
that anemic purse ; and I must put it from me ! 
It was nearly double the cost of any of the rest. 
And when I asked why, the salesman said : 

"You see, in this highly ornamental ware 
the flaws of the material don't show, and you 
241 



242 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

can cover up a blow-hole or the like by wreaths 
and beading. But this plain ware has got to 
be the very best. Every defect is apparent. " 
And there, if you please, is a conclusive com- 
ment upon the whole business a final basis of 
comparison of all things, whether commercial 
or artistic; the bare dignity of the unadorned 
that may stand before the world all unashamed, 
panoplied rather than clothed in the conscious- 
ness of perfection. We of this latter day, we 
painters and poets and writers artists must 
labour with all the wits of us, all the strength 
of us, and with all that we have of ingenuity 
and perseverance to attain simplicity. But 
it has not always been so. At the very earliest, 
men forgotten, ordinary men were born with 
an easy, unblurred vision that to-day we would 
hail as marvelous genius. Suppose, for instance, 
the New Testament was all unwritten and one 
of us were called upon to tell the world that 
Christ was born, to tell of how we had seen 
Him, that this was the Messiah. How the 
adjectives would marshal upon the page, how 
the exclamatory phrases would cry out, how 
we would elaborate and elaborate, and how 
our rhetoric would flare and blazen till so we 
should imagine the ear would ring and the 
very eye would be dazzled; and even then we 
would believe that our words were all so few 



Simplicity in Art 243 

and feeble. It is beyond words, we should 
vociferate. So it would be. That is very 
true words of ours. Can you not see how we 
should dramatize it? We would make a point 
of the transcendent stillness of the hour, of the 
deep blue of the Judean midnight, of the lip- 
lapping of Galilee, the murmur of Jordan, the 
peacefulness of sleeping Jerusalem. Then the 
stars, the descent of the angel, the shepherds 
all the accessories. And our narrative would 
be as commensurate with the subject as the 
flippant smartness of a "bright" reporter in 
the Sistine chapel. We would be striving to 
cover up our innate incompetence, our impo- 
tence to do justice to the mighty theme by 
elaborateness of design and arabesque intricacy 
of rhetoric. 

But on the other hand listen: 

"The days were accomplished that she 
should be delivered, and she brought forth 
her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling 
clothes and laid him in a manger, because there 
was no room for them in the inn. " 

Simplicity could go no further. Absolutely 
not one word unessential, not a single adjective 
that is not merely descriptive. The whole 
matter stated with the terseness of a military 
report, and yet there is the epic, the world 
epic, beautiful, majestic, incomparably digni- 



244 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

fied, and no ready writer, no Milton nor Shak- 
spere, with all the wealth of their vocabularies, 
with all the resources of their genius, with all 
their power of simile or metaphor, their pomp 
of eloquence or their royal pageantry of hexa- 
meters, could produce the effect contained in 
these two simple declarative sentences. 

The mistake that we little people are so 
prone to make is this: that the more intense 
the emotional quality of the scene described, 
the more "vivid," the more exalted, the more 
richly coloured we suppose should be the 
language. 

When the crisis of the tale is reached there 
is where we like the author to spread himself, 
to show the effectiveness of his treatment. 
But if we would only pause to take a moment's 
thought we must surely see that the simplest, 
even the barest statement of fact is only not 
all-sufficient but all-appropriate. 

Elaborate phrase, rhetoric, the intimacy 
of metaphor and allegory and simile is for- 
givable for the unimportant episodes where 
the interest of the narrative is languid; where 
we are willing to watch the author's ingenuity 
in the matter of scrolls and fretwork and 
mosaics-rococo work. But when the catas- 
trophe comes, when the narrative swings clear 
upon its pivot and we are lifted with it from 



Simplicity in Art 245 

out the world of our surroundings, we want 
to forget the author. We want no adjectives 
to blur our substantives. The substantives 
may now speak for themselves. We want no 
metaphor, no simile to make clear the matter. 
If at this moment of drama and intensity the 
matter is not of itself preeminently clear no 
verbiage, however ingenious, will clarify it. 
Heighten the effect. Does exclamation and 
heroics on the part of the bystanders ever make 
the curbstone drama more poignant? Who 
would care to see Niagara through coloured 
fire and calcium lights. 

The simple treatment, whether of a piece 
of silversmith work or of a momentous religious 
epic, is always the most difficult of all. It 
demands more of the artist. The unskilful 
story-teller as often as not tells the story to 
himself as well as to his hearers as he goes along. 
Not sure of exactly how he is to reach the end, 
not sure even of the end itself, he must feel his 
way from incident to incident, from page to 
page, fumbling, using many words, repeating 
himself. To hide the confusion there is one 
resource elaboration, exaggerated outline, 
violent colour, till at last the unstable outline 
disappears under the accumulation, and the 
reader is to be so dazzled with the wit of the 
dialogue, the smartness of the repartee, the 



246 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

felicity of the diction, that he will not see the 
gaps and lapses in the structure itself just 
as the "nobby" drummer wears a wide and 
showy scarf to conceal a soiled shirt-bosom. 

But in the master-works of narrative there 
is none of this shamming, no shoddyism, no 
humbug. There is little more than bare out- 
line, but in the care with which it is drawn, 
how much thought, what infinite pains go to 
the making of each stroke, so that when it is 
made it falls just at the right place and exactly 
in its right sequence. This attained, what need 
is there for more? Comment is superfluous. 
If the author make the scene appear terrible 
to the reader he need not say in himself or in 
the mouth of some protagonist, " It is terrible !" 
If the picture is pathetic so that he who reads 
must weep, how superfluous, how intrusive 
should the author exclaim, "It was pitiful to 
the point of tears. " If beautiful, we do not 
want him to tell us so. We want him to make 
it beautiful and our own appreciation will 
supply the adjectives. 

Beauty, the ultimate philosophical beauty, 
is not a thing of elaboration, but on the con- 
trary of an almost barren nudity: a jewel may 
be an exquisite gem, a woman may have a 
beautiful arm, but the bracelet does not make 
the arm more beautiful, nor the arm the brace- 



Simplicity in Art 247 

let. One must admire them separately, and 
the moment that the jewel ceases to have a 
value or a reason upon the arm it is better in 
the case, where it may enjoy an undivided 
attention. 

But after so many hundreds of years of art 
and artists, of civilization and progress, we have 
got so far away from the sane old homely 
uncomplex way of looking out at the world 
that the simple things no longer charm, and 
the simple declarative sentence, straightforward, 
plain, seems flat to our intellectual palate flat 
and tasteless and crude. 

What we would now call simple our forbears 
would look upon as a farrago of gimcrackery, 
and all our art the art of the better-minded 
of us is only a striving to get back to the 
unblurred, direct simplicity of those writers 
who could see that the Wonderful, the Coun- 
selor, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace, 
could be laid in a manger and yet be the 
Saviour of the world. 

It is this same spirit, this disdaining of sim- 
plicity that has so warped and inflated The 
First Story, making of it a pomp, an affair of 
gold-embroidered vestments and costly choirs, 
of marbles, of jeweled windows and of incense, 
unable to find the thrill as formerly in the plain 
and humble stable, and the brown-haired, 



248 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

grave-eyed peasant girl, with her little baby; 
unable to see the beauty in the crumbling mud 
walls, the low-ceiled interior, where the only 
incense was the sweet smell of the cow's breath, 
the only vestments the swaddling clothes, 
rough, coarse-fibered, from the hand-looms of 
Nazareth, the only pomp the scanty gifts of 
three old men, and the only chanting the 
crooning of a young mother holding her first- 
born babe upon her breast. 



SALT AND SINCERITY 



SALT AND SINCERITY 

I 

TF the signs of the times may be read 
aright, and the future forecasted, the 
volume of short stories is in a fair way of 
becoming a "rare book." Fewer and fewer 
of this kind of literature are published every 
year, and only within the last week one of the 
foremost of the New York publishers has said 
that, so far as the material success was con- 
cerned, he would prefer to undertake a book 
of poems rather than a book of stories. Also 
he explains why. And this is the interesting 
thing. One has always been puzzled to account 
for this lapse from a former popularity of a 
style of fiction certainly legitimate and incon- 
testably entertaining. The publisher in ques- 
tion cites the cheap magazines the monthlies 
and weeklies as the inimical factors. The 
people go to them for their short stories, not 
to the cloth-bound volumes for sale at a dollar 
or a dollar and a half. Why not, if the cheap 
magazines give "just as good"? Often, too, 
they give the very same stories which, later, 
are republished in book form. As the case 
251 



252 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

stands now, any fairly diligent reader of two 
or three of the more important monthlies and 
weeklies may anticipate the contents of the 
entire volume, and very naturally he cannot 
be expected to pay a dollar for something he 
already has. 

Or even suppose as is now generally 
demanded by the publisher the author adds 
to the forthcoming collection certain hitherto 
unpublished stories. Even this does not tempt 
the buyer. Turning over the leaves at the 
bookseller's, he sees two, three, five, half a 
dozen familiar titles. "Come," says he, "I 
have read three-fourths of this book already. 
I have no use for it. " 

It is quite possible that this state of affairs 
will produce important results. It is yet, 
perhaps, too soon to say, but it is not outside 
the range of the probable that, in America 
at least, it will, in time to come, engender a 
decay in the quality of the short story. It 
may be urged that the high prices paid by 
periodicals to the important short-story writers 
the best men will still act as a stimulus to 
production. But this does not follow by any 
means. Authors are queer cattle. They do 
not always work for money, but sometimes for 
a permanent place in the eyes of the world. 
Books give them this not fugitive short 



Salt and Sincerity 253 

stories, published here and there, and at 
irregular intervals. Reputations that have 
been made by short stories published in periodi- 
cals may be counted upon the ringers of one 
hand. The "life of a novel" to use a trade 
term is to a certain extent indeterminable. 
The life of a short story, be it never so excellent, 
is prolonged only till the next issue of the 
periodical in which it has appeared. If the 
periodical is a weekly it will last a week, if a 
monthly a month and not a day more. If 
very good, it will create a demand for another 
short story by the same author, but that one 
particular contribution, the original one, is 
irretrievably and hopelessly dead. 

If the author is in literature "for his own 
pocket every time, " he is generally willing to 
accept the place of a short-story writer. If 
he is one of the "best men," working for a 
"permanent place," he will turn his attention 
and time, his best efforts, to the writing of 
novels, reverting to the short story only when 
necessary for the sake of boiling the Pot and 
chasing the Wolf. He will abandon the field 
to the inferior men, or enter it only to dispose 
of "copy" which does not represent him at his 
best. And, as a result, the quality of the short 
story will decline more and more. 

So, "taking one consideration with another, " 



254 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

it may be appropriate to inquire if it is not 
possible that the American short story is liable 
to decline in quality and standard of excellence. 

And now comes again this question addressed 
to certain authors, " Which book do you con- 
sider your best?" and a very industrious and 
painstaking person is giving the answer to the 
world. 

To what end it is difficult to see. Who cares 
which of the "Waverleys" Sir Walter thought 
his best? or which of the Rougon-Maquart 
M. Zola favours the most? The author's 
point of view is very different from yours 
the reader's. Which one do you think the 
best? That's the point. Do you not see that 
in the author's opinion the novel he is working 
on at the moment, or which is in press and 
about to appear in fine, the last one written 
is for a very long time the best he has done? 
He would be a very poor kind of novelist if he 
did not think that. 

And even in retrospect his opinion as to 
"his best book" is not necessarily final. For 
he will see good points in "unsuccessful" 
novels that the public and critics have never 
and will never discover; and also defects in 
what the world considers his masterpiece that 
for him spoil the entire story. His best novel 
is, as was said, the last he has written, or and 



Salt and Sincerity 255 

this more especially the one he is going to 
write. For to a certain extent this is true of 
every author, whether fiction writer or not. 
Though he very often does better than he thinks 
he can, he never does so well as he knows he might. 

His best book is the one that he never quite 
succeeds in getting hold of firmly enough to 
commit to paper. It is always just beyond 
him. Next year he is going to think it out, 
or the next after that, and instead heTcompro- 
mises on something else, and his chef d'ceuvre 
is always a little ahead of him. If this, too, 
were not so, he would be a poor kind of writer. 
So that it seems to me the most truthful answer 
to the question, "What is your best book?' 
would be, "The one I shall never write. " 

Another ideal that such of the "people who 
imagine a vain thing" have long been pursuing 
is an English Academy of letters, and now 
that "the British Academy for the promotion 
of Historical, Philosophical and Philological 
studies" has been proposed, the old discussion 
is revived, and especially in England there is 
talk of a British Academy, something on the 
same lines as the Academie Frangaise, which 
shall tend to promote and reward particularly 
the production of good fiction. In a word, 
it would be a distinction reserved only for the 
worthy, a charmed circle that would open only 



256 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

to the elite upon the vote of those already 
admitted. The proposition strikes one as pre- 
eminently ridiculous. Literature is of all arts 
the most democratic; it is of, by and for the 
people in a fuller measure than even govern- 
ment itself. And one makes the assertion 
without forgetting that fine mouth-filling 
phrase, the "aristocracy of letters." The 
survival of the fittest is as good in the evolution 
of our literature as of our bodies, and the best 
"academy" for the writers of the United 
States is, after all, and in the last analysis, to 
be found in the judgment of the people, exer- 
cised throughout the lapse of a considerable 
time. For, give the people time enough, and 
they will always decide justly. 

It was in connection with this talk about an 
"Academy" that Mr. Hall Caine has made the 
remark that "no academic study of a thing 
so variable, emotional and independent as the 
imaginative writer's art could be anything but 
mischievous." One is inclined to take excep- 
tion to the statement. Why should the aca- 
demic study of the principles of writing fiction 
be mischievous? Is it not possible to codify 
in some way the art of construction of novels 
so that they may be studied to advantage? 
This has, of course, never been done. But one 
believes that, if managed carefully and with a 



Salt and Sincerity 257 

proper disregard of "set forms" and hampering 
conventions, it would be possible to start and 
maintain a school of fiction-writing in the 
most liberal sense of the word " school. " Why 
should it be any more absurd than the painting 
schools and music schools ? Is the art of music, 
say, any less variable, less emotional, less 
independent, less imaginative than the fiction- 
writer's. Heretical as the assertion may ap- 
pear, one is thoroughly convinced that the art 
of novel writing (up to a certain point, bien 
entendu) can be acquired by instruction just as 
readily and with results just as satisfactory 
and practical as the arts of painting, sculpture, 
music, and the like. The art of fiction is, in 
general, based upon four qualities of mind: 
observation, imagination, invention and sym- 
pathy. Certainly the first two are " acquired 
characters. " Kindergarten children the world 
over are acquiring them every day. Invention 
is immensely stimulated by observation and 
imagination, while sympathy is so universally 
a fundamental quality with all sorts and condi- 
tions of men and women especially the latter 
that it needs but little cultivation. Why, 
then, would it be impossible for a few of our 
older, more seriously minded novelists to 
launch a School of Instruction in the Art 
of Composition just as Eougereau, Lefevre, 



258 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

Boulanger and Tony Robert Fleury founded 
Julien's in Paris ? 

At present the stimulus to, and even the 
manner of, production of very much of Ameri- 
can fiction is in the hands of the publishers. 
No one not intimately associated with any one 
of the larger, more important "houses'* can 
have any idea of the influence of the publisher 
upon latter-day fiction. More novels are writ- 
ten practically to order than the public has 
any notion of. The publisher again and again 
picks out the man (one speaks, of course, of 
the younger generation), suggests the theme, 
and exercises, in a sense, all the functions of 
instructor during the period of composition. 
In the matter of this "picking out of the man" 
it is rather curious to note a very radical change 
that has come about in the last five years. 
Time was when the publisher waited for the 
unknown writer to come to him with his manu- 
script. But of late the Unknown has so fre- 
quently developed, under exploitation and by 
direct solicitation of the publisher, into a 
"money-making proposition" of such formid- 
able proportions that there is hardly a publish- 
ing house that does not now hunt him out with 
all the resources at its command. Certain 
fields are worked with the thoroughness, 
almost, of a political canvass, and if a given 



Salt and Sincerity 259 

State as, for instance, Indiana has suddenly 
evolved into a region of great literary activity, 
it is open to suspicion that it is not because 
there is any inherent literary quality in the 
people of the place greater than in other States, 
but that certain firms of publishers are "work- 
ing the ground." 

It might not have been altogether out of 
place if upon the Victor Hugo monument 
which has just been unveiled in Paris there had 
been inscribed this, one of the most important 
of the great Frenchman's maxims : 

"Les livres n'ont jamais faites du mal"; 

and I think that in the last analysis, this is the 
most fitting answer to Mr. Carnegie, who, in 
his address before the Author's Club, put him- 
self on record as willing to exclude from the 
libraries he is founding all books not three years 
old. No doubt bad books have a bad influence, 
but bad books are certainly better than no 
books at all. For one must remember that the 
worst books are not printed the really tawdry, 
really pernicious, really evil books. These are 
throttled in manuscript by the publishers, who 
must be in a sense public censors. No book, 
be assured, goes to press but that there is 
oh, hidden away like a grain of mustard 
some bit, some modicum, some tiny kernel of 



260 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

good in it. Perhaps it is not that seed of good- 
ness that the cultured, the fastidious care much 
about. Perhaps the discriminating would call 
it a platitude. But one is willing to believe 
that somewhere, somehow, this atom of real 
worth makes itself felt and that's a beginning. 
It will create after awhile a taste for reading. 
And a taste for reading is a more important 
factor in a nation's literary life than the birth 
of a second Shakespeare. 

It is the people, after all, who "make a litera- 
ture. " If they read, the few, the " illuminati, " 
will write. But first must come the demand 
come from the people, the Plain People, the 
condemned bourgeoisie. The select circles of 
the elite, the "studio" hangers-on, the refined, 
will never, never, clamour they never so loudly, 
toil they never so painfully, produce the Great 
Writer. The demand which he is to supply 
comes from the Plain People from the masses, 
and not from the classes. There is more signifi- 
cance as to the ultimate excellence of American 
letters in the sight of the messenger boy 
devouring his "Old Sleuths" and "Deadwood 
Dicks" and " Boy Detectives, " with an earnest, 
serious absorption, than in the spectacle of a 
"reading circle" of dilletanti coquetting with 
Verlaine and pretending that they understand. 

By the same token, then, is it not better to 






Salt and Sincerity 261 

welcome and rejoice over this recent "literary- 
deluge" than to decry it? One is not sure 
it is not a matter for self-gratulation not a 
thing to deplore and vilify. The "people" are 
reading, that is the point ; it is not the point that 
immature, untrained writers are flooding the 
counters with their productions. The more 
the Plain People read the more they will dis- 
criminate. It is inevitable, and by and by 
they will demand "something better." It is 
impossible to read a book without formulating 
an opinion upon it. Even the messenger boy 
can tell you that, in his judgment, No. 3,666, 
"The James Boys Brought to Bay," is more 
or less, as the case may be exciting than No. 
3,667, " The Last of the Fly-by-nights. " Well, 
that is something. Is it not better than that 
the same boy should be shooting craps around 
the corner? Take his dime novel from him, 
put him in the "No Book" condition and 
believe me, he will revert to the craps. And 
so it is higher up the scale. In the name of 
American literature, let the Plain People read, 
anything anything, whether it is three days 
or three years old. Mr. Carnegie will not 
educate the public taste by shutting his libraries 
upon recent fiction. The public taste will 
educate itself by much reading, not by restricted 
reading. "Books have never done harm," 



262 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

Victor Hugo said it, and a bad book that is 
to say, a poor, cheap, ill- written, " trashy" 
book is not after all so harmful as "no 
book" at all. 

Later on, when the people have learned dis- 
crimination by much reading, it will not be 
necessary to bar fiction not three years old 
from the libraries, for by then the people will 
demand the " something better," and the 
writers will have to supply it or disappear, 
giving place to those who can, and then the 
literary standards will be raised. 



II 



IN a recent number of his periodical, the 
editor of Harper's Weekly prints a letter 
received from a gentleman who deplores the 
fact that the participants in the Harvard- 
Yale track teams are given a great place in 
the daily newspapers while by implication 
his son, an arduous student and winner of a 
"Townsend prize," is completely and definitely 
ignored. "I could not but think of my son/' 
writes the gentleman, "a Yale Senior who, as 
one of the results of nine years' devotion to 
study, won a Townsend prize." One will ask 
the reader to consider this last statement. The 
publicity of the college athletes is not the point 
here. The point is "nine years' devotion to 
study" and "a Townsend prize." Nine years 
think of it the best, the most important 
of a boy's life given to devoted study ! not of 
Men, not of Life, not of Realities, but of the 
books of Other People, mere fatuous, unrea- 
soned, pig-headed absorption of ideas at second- 
hand. And the result? Not a well-ordered 
mind, not a well-regulated reasoning machine, 
263 



264 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

not a power of appreciation, not an ability to 
create. None of these, but Great Heavens ! 
a Townsend Prize, a rectangular piece of the skin 
of a goat, dried and cured and marked with 
certain signs and symbols by means of a black 
pigment ; this and a disk of the same metal the 
Uganda warrior hangs in his ears. A Townsend 
Prize. And for this a young American living 
in the twentieth century, sane, intelligent, 
healthful, has pored over Other People's books, 
has absorbed Other People's notions, has 
wearied his brain, has weakened his body, has 
shut himself from the wide world, has denied 
himself, has restrained himself, has stultified 
emotion, has in a word buried his talent in the 
earth wrapped carefully in a napkin. "And," 
comments the editor, "the boy who won the 
Townsend prize for scholarship, if he keeps on, 
will some day be honoured by his fellowmen, 
when the athletic prize-winner, if he does 
nothing else, will be a director of a gymnasium. 
The serious worker comes out ahead every time." 
But winning Townsend prizes by nine years 
of study is, we submit, not serious work, 
but serious misuse of most valuable time and 
energy. Scholarship? Will we never learn 
that times change and that sauce for the 
Renaissance goose is not sauce for the New 
Century gander ? It is a fine thing, this scholar- 



Salt and Sincerity 265 

ship, no doubt; but if a man be content with 
merely this his scholarship is of as much use and 
benefit to his contemporaries as his deftness in 
manicuring his ringer nails. The United States 
in this year of grace of nineteen hundred and 
two does not want and does not need Scholars, 
but Men Men made in the mould of the 
Leonard Woods and the Theodore Roosevelts, 
Men such as Colonel Waring, Men such as 
Booker Washington. The most brilliant schol- 
arship attainable by human effort is not, 
to-day, worth nine years of any young man's 
life. I think it is Nathaniel Hawthorne who 
tells the story of a "scholar" who one day, 
when a young man, found the tooth of a mam- 
moth. He was a student of fossil remains, 
and in his enthusiasm set out to complete the 
skeleton. His mind filled with this one idea, 
to the exclusion of all else, he traveled up and 
down the world, year after year, picking up 
here a vertebra, here a femur, here a rib, here 
a clavicle. Years passed ; he came to be an old 
man; at last he faced death. He had suc- 
ceeded. The monstrous framework was com- 
plete. But he looked back upon the sixty years 
of his toil and saw that it was a vanity. He 
had to show for his life-work the skeleton of 
a mammoth. And, believe this implicitly : if 
as the editor and commentator remarks if 



266 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

the Townsend prize-winner keeps on, this will 
be the result, a huge thing no doubt, a thing 
that looms big in the eye and in the imagina- 
tion, but an empty thing, lifeless, bloodless, 
dead; yes and more than dead extinct; a 
mere accumulation of dry bones, propped up 
lest it fall to the ground, a thing for the wind 
to blow through and the vulgar to gape at. 

But in connection with this subject one may 
cite so high an authority as Doctor Patton of 
Princeton, who has recently said that nowa- 
days men do not go to colleges to become 
scholars, and that it was time and money 
wasted to try to make them such. This is a 
good saying and should be taken to heart 
by every college faculty between the oceans. 
Sooner or later there is bound to come a funda- 
mental change in the mode of instruction now 
in favour in most American colleges. The 
times demand it; the character of the student 
body, the character of the undergraduate, is 
changing. One chooses to believe that the 
college of the end of the present century will be 
an institution where only specialized work will 
be indulged in. There will be courses in engi- 
neering, in electricity, in agriculture, in law, 
in chemistry, in biology, in mining, etc., and 
the so-called general "literary" or "classical" 
courses will be relegated to the limbo of Things 



Salt and Sincerity 267 

No Longer Useful. Any instructor in collegiate 
work will tell you to-day that the men in the 
special courses are almost invariably the hard- 
est, steadiest, most serious workers. The man 
who studies law at college finishes his work a 
lawyer, he who studies engineering ends an 
engineer, the student of biology graduates 
a biologist, the student of chemistry, a chemist. 
But the student in the "literary" course does 
not no, not once in a thousand instances 
graduate a literary man. He spends the four 
years of his life over a little Greek, a little 
Latin, a little mathematics, a little literature, 
a little history, a little "theme" writing, and 
comes out just what it would be difficult to 
say. But he has in most cases acquired a very- 
pronounced distaste for the authors whose 
work he has studied in class and lecture-room. 
Great names such as those of Carlyle, Macaulay 
and De Quincey are associated in his mind 
only with tedium. He never will go back to 
these books, never read with enjoyment what 
once was "work." Even his conscientious- 
ness supposing him to be animated with such 
a motive will trap him and trick him. I do 
not think that I shall ever forget the spectacle 
and impression of a student in my own Alma 
Mater a little lass of seventeen (the college 
was co-educational), with her hair still down 



268 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

her back and her shoes yet innocent of heels, 
rising in her place in the classroom to read 
before a half-hundred of raw boys and unde- 
veloped girls not three months out of the 
high school a solemn and quite unintelligible 
"theme" on "The Insincerity of Thomas 
Babington Macaulay." 

Just at the time of the present writing a 
controversy has been started in London literary 
circles as to the legitimacy of a reviewer pub- 
lishing the whole or parts of the same unsigned 
article in two or more periodicals. Mr. Arthur 
Symons is the reviewer under fire, and his article 
a critique of the dramas of Mr. Stephen Phillips. 
It was Mr. Phillips, so we are told, who first 
started the protest, and he has found followers 
and champions. And on first consideration 
there does seem to be ground for complaint 
here. It has been assumed that the first 
publisher of the article has a right to expect 
that for the money he pays to the writer this 
latter shall give to him all he has to say upon 
the subject. If he has very much to say 
enough for another article is it not the duty 
of the scribe to condense and compact so that 
the matter may be represented as a unit and 
not as a fragment? Moreover, does it seem 
fair to Mr. Phillips that three reviews as was 
the case all unfavourable, should appear in as 



Salt and Sincerity 269 

many publications, thus giving to the public 
the impression that a group of critics, instead 
of merely one, was hostile to his work ? Lastly, 
it has been urged that it is not honest to sell a 
thing twice that if a horse has been sold by 
A to B, A cannot sell it again to C. 

But none of the objections seems valid. If 
the space allotted to the article in the paper 
is not sufficient, that is the fault of the editor, 
not the writer. The editor pays only for what 
he prints: the surplusage is still the author's 
property and can be by him disposed of as 
such. As tor the public considering the single 
unfavourable review as the opinions of three 
men, and as such unfair to Mr. Phillips, this 
as well is inadequate and incompetent. Another 
critic, reviewing Mr. Phillips favourably, is just 
as much at liberty to split up his work as the 
adverse reviewer. Last of all, it is under 
certain circumstances perfectly honest to sell 
the same thing twice. Articles, stories, poems 
and the like are continually syndicated in 
hundreds of newspapers simultaneously, and 
in this sense are sold over and over again. 
The analogy between the sale of a horse and 
the sale of a bit of literature is quite misleading. 
For the matter of that, the writer does not sell 
the actual concrete manuscript of his work, 
but merely the right to print it, and unless the 



270 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

word " exclusively" is understood in the agree- 
ment he is in no wise bound. The writer is 
not selling his copy as the owner sells his horse. 
The analogy would be true if A sold to B the 
use of the horse. When B had got the "use" 
out of the animal no one will deny the right of 
A to sell the same "use" to C, D, E, and so on 
through the whole alphabet. The reviewer of 
books has a hard enough time of it as it is. It 
is only fair to give him the same freedom as a 
livery stable keeper. 

It has often occurred to me as a thing of 
some importance and certain significance that 
all great travelers are great writers. And the 
fact is so well established, the effect flows so 
n variably from the cause, that there would 
seem to be here a matter for reflection. One 
affirms and will maintain that the one is the 
direct result of the other, that the faculty of 
adequate expression, of vivid presentation, of 
forceful and harmonious grouping of words, is 
engendered and stimulated and perfected by 
wide journeying. 

This is not at all an orthodox view, not at 
all the theory cherished by our forbears. The 
writer, according to unvarying belief, is the man 
of the closet, the bookish man, a student, a 
sedentary, a consumer of kerosene, a reader 
rather than a rover. And the idea is plausible. 



Salt and Sincerity 271 

The nomad, he without local habitation, has 
no leisure, no opportunity, nor even actual 
concrete place to write. Would it not seem 
that literature is the quiet art, demanding an 
unperturbed mind, an unexcited, calm, repose- 
ful temperament? This is a very defensible 
position, but it is based upon a foundation of 
sand. It assumes that the brain of the writer 
is a jar full of a precious fluid a bottle full of 
wine to be poured out with care and with a 
hand so quiet, so restful and unshaken that not 
a drop be spilled. Very well. But when the 
jar, when the bottle is emptied then what? 
Believe me, the gods give but one vintage to 
one man. There will be no refilling of the ves- 
sel ; and even the lees are very flat, be the wine 
ever so good. The better the grape, the bitterer 
the dregs; and the outpouring of the "best that 
is in you" in the end will be soured by that 
brackish, fade sediment that follows upon 
lavish expenditure, so that the man ends 
ignobly and because of exhaustion and deple- 
tion, with all the product of his early and mature 
richness making more prominent and pitiful 
the final poverty and tenuity of his outgiving 
ends the butt of critics, the compassion of the 
incompetent, a shard kicked of every scullion. 
And in all the world there is nothing more 
lamentable than this the end of a man once 



272 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

strong who has used himself up but who decants 
lees and not wine. Even when the lees are 
spent he absorbs them once more and once 
more gives them forth, each time a little staler, 
a little thinner, a little feebler, realizing his 
exhaustion, yet urged by some whip of for- 
tune forced to continue the miserable per- 
formance till the golden bowl be broken and 
the pitcher shattered at the fountain. 

But suppose the productive power of the 
writer be considered not as a golden bowl to 
be emptied and in the end broken, but as a 
silver cord of finest temper that only needs to be 
kept in tune. True, the cord may be stretched 
to the breaking-point. But its end comes at 
the very height and in the very consummate 
fulness of its capacity, and oh, the grand world- 
girdling Note that it sends forth in the breaking ! 
the very soul of it at mightiest tension, the 
very spirit of it at fiercest strain. What matter 
the loosening or the snapping when so noble 
an Amen as that vibrates through the nations 
to sound at once the Height and the End of 
an entire Life a whole existence concentrated 
into a single cry ! 

Or it may become out of tune. But this is 
no great matter, because so easily remedied. 
The golden bowl once emptied there will be 
no refilling, but by some blessed provision of 



Salt and Sincerity 273 

heaven nothing is easier than to attune the 
cords of being which are also the cords the 
silver singing cords of expression. 

But and here we come around once more 
to the point de depart the silver cords once 
gone discordant, once jaded and slack, will 
not, cannot be brought again to harmony in the 
closet, in the study, in the seclusion of the cabi- 
net. Tinker them never so cunningly, never so 
delicately, they will not ring true for you. 
Thought will avail nothing, nor even rest, 
nor even relaxation. Of oneself, one cannot 
cause the Master-note to which they will 
respond to vibrate. The cords have been 
played on too much. For all your pottering 
they will yet remain a little loose, and so long 
as they are loose the deftest fingering, the most 
skilful touch, will produce only false music. 

And the deadly peril is that the cords of 
Life and the cords of expression lie so close 
together, are so intricately mingled, that the 
man cannot always tell that the cords of expres- 
sion are singing out of tune. Life and expres- 
sion are two parts of the same instrument. If 
the whole life be out of tune, how can the man 
distinguish the false music from the true? 
There is a danger here, but it is not great. 
Sooner or later the conviction comes that the 
productive power is menaced. A little frank- 



274 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

ness with oneself, a little uncompromising 
testing of the strings, and the dissonance 
begins to impress itself. 

And as was said the remedy is not to be 
found by the taking of thought, but by an 
heroic, drastic thrusting out from the grooves 
and cogs of the life of other men of the life 
of the city and the comfortable stay-at-home, 
hour-to-hour humdrum, and a determined 
journeying out into the great wide world itself. 

The further a-field the better. The Master- 
note will not be heard within "commuting 
distance of the city. " The whir of civilization 
smothers it. The click of the telegraph, the 
hiss of steam and the clatter of the printing- 
press drown it out. It is not always and of 
necessity a loud note. Though Nansen heard 
ft in the thunder of the pack-ice of the Farthest 
North, it came to the ear of Stevenson in the 
lap of lazy wavelets in the hushed noonday 
of a South Sea strand. 

Travel is the only way. Travel in any 
direction, by any means, so only it be far 
very, very far is the great attuner of the list- 
less cords of the writer's instrument. For 
again and again and again his power is not a 
bowl to be emptied, but an instrument to be 
played on. To be of use it must be sensitive 
and responsive and true. And to be kept sensi- 



Salt and Sincerity 275 

tive and responsive and true it must go once 
in so often to the great Tuner to Nature. 

We speak of the Mountains, the Rivers, 
Deserts and Oceans as though we knew them. 
We know the Adirondacks from a fortnight in a 
"summer camp"; the Rivers and the Deserts 
in kinetoscopic glimpses from the Pullman's 
windows ; the Ocean God forgive us ! from 
the beach of a "resort" or the deck of an 
Atlantic "greyhound." And I think the gods 
of the Mountains, Rivers, Deserts and Oceans 
must laugh in vast contempt of our credulity 
to suppose that we have found their secrets or 
heard their music in this timid, furtive peeping 
and pilfering. For such little minds as these 
the gods have inexhaustible stores of tinkling 
cymbals and sounding brasses Brummagem 
ware that they sell us for the price of "commu- 
tation tickets" and mileage-books. 

The real knowledge, the real experience that 
tautens and trims the fibers of being, that tunes 
the cords, is a very different matter. The trail 
and the tall ship lead to those places where the 
Master-note sounds, lead to those untracked, 
uncharted corners of the earth, and dull indeed 
must be the tympanum that once within ear- 
shot cannot hear its majestic diapason. It 
sounds in the canyons of the higher mountains, 
in the plunge of streams and swirling of rivers 



276 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

yet without names in the wildernesses, the 
plains, the wide-rimmed deserts. It sings a 
sonorous rhapsody in the rigging of the clipper 
ship driven by the trade winds, in the ratlines 
and halyards of South Sea schooners, and 
drums ''reveille" on the tense, hard sails of the 
fishing-boats off the " Banks. " You can hear 
it in the cry of the lynx, the chant of the wild 
goose, the call of the moose, and in the "break" 
of the salmon in the deeper pools below the 
cataract. It is in the roar of the landslide and 
in the drone of the cicada; in the war-whoop 
of the savage and in the stridulating of crickets ; 
in the thunder of the tempest and in the faintest 
breath of laziest zephyrs. 

And the silver cord of our creative faculty 
the thing nearest to perfection in all the make- 
up of our imperfect human nature responds 
to this Master-note with the quickness and 
sensitiveness of music-mathematics; responds 
to it, attunes itself to it, vibrates with its 
vibration, thrills with its quivering, beats with 
its rhythm, and tautens itself and freshens itself 
and lives again with its great pure, elemental 
life, and the man comes back once more to the 
world of men with a true-beating heart, and a 
true-hearing ear, so that he understands once 
more, so that his living, sensitive, delicately 
humming instrument trembles responsive to 



Salt and Sincerity 277 

the emotions and impulses and loves and joys 
and sorrows and fears of his fellows, and the 
Man writes true and clear, and his message rings 
with harmony and with melody, with power 
and with passion of the prophets interpreting 
God's handwriting to the world of men. 



Ill 



THERE can be no question nor reasonable 
doubt that the " language, institutions 
and religion" of fiction writers are at 
present undergoing the most radical revolution 
in the history of literature. And I mean by 
that that the men themselves are changing 
their characters, their attitudes toward life; 
even the mode and manner of their own life. 
Those who are not thus changing are decaying. 
And those others, the Great Unarrived who 
do not recognize the Change, who do not 
acknowledge the Revolution, will never succeed, 
but will perish untimely almost before they 
can be said to have been born at all. 

Time was when the author was an aristocrat, 
living in seclusion, unspotted from the world. 
But the Revolution of which there is question 
here has meted out to him the fate that Revolu- 
tions usually prepared for Aristocrats, and his 
successor is, must be, must be if he is to voice 
the spirit of the times aright, if he is to interpret 
his fellows justly the Man of the People, the 
Good Citizen. 

How the novelists of the preceding genera- 
279 



280 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

tion played the Great Game is no matter for dis- 
cussion here. Times were different then. One 
shut oneself in the study; one wore a velvet 
coat; one read a great deal and quoted Latin; 
one knew the classics ; one kept apart from the 
vulgar profane and never, never, never read 
the newspapers. But for the novelist of the 
next fifty years of this twentieth century these 
methods, these habits, this conception of litera- 
ture as a cult, as a refinement to be kept invio- 
late from the shoulderings and elbowings of 
the Common People is a clog, is a stumbling- 
block, is a pitfall, a bog, mire, trap anything 
you like that is false, misleading and pernicious. 
I have no patience with a theory of literature 
and oh, how often one hears it preached ! 
that claims the Great Man belongs only to the 
cultured few. "You must write," so these 
theorists explain, "for that small number of 
fine minds who because of education, because 
of delicate, fastidious taste are competent to 
judge. ' ' I tell you this is wrong. It is precisely 
the same purblind prejudice that condemned 
the introduction of the printing-press because 
it would cheapen and vulgarize the literature 
of the day. A literature that cannot be vul- 
garized is no literature at all and will perish 
just as surely as rivers run to the sea. The 
things that last are the understandable things 



Salt and Sincerity 281 

understandable to the common minds, the 
Plain People, understandable, one is almost 
tempted to say, to the very children. 

It is so in every branch of art: in music, 
painting, sculpture, architecture. The great 
monuments of these activities, the things that 
we retain longest and cherish with the most 
care are plain almost to bareness. The most 
rudimentary mind can understand them. All 
the learning, all the culture, all the refinement 
in the world will not give you a greater thrill 
on reading your " Iliad" than the boy of fifteen 
enjoys. Is the "Marseillaise" a thing of 
subtlety or refinement? Are the Pyramids 
complex ? Are Angelo's Sibyls involved ? But 
the " Iliad," the "Marseillaise," the Pyramids, 
the Sibyls will endure and endure and endure 
while men have eyes to see, ears to hear and 
hearts to be moved. These great things, these 
monuments were not written nor composed, 
nor builded, nor painted for the select, for the 
cultured. When Homer wrote there were no 
reading circles. Rouget de Lisle gave no 
"recitals." One does not have to "read up" 
to understand the message of Cheops, nor take 
a course of art lectures to feel the mystery of 
the Delphic Sibyl. 

And so to come back to the starting place, 
the Revolution in the character of the writer of 



282 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

fiction. If the modern novelist does not under- 
stand the Plain People, if he does not address 
himself directly to them intelligibly and simply, 
he will fail. But he will never understand 
them by shutting himself away from them. 
He must be and here one comes to the con- 
clusion of the whole matter a Man of the 
World. None more so. Books have no place 
in his equipment, have no right to be there; 
will only cumber and confuse him. His prede- 
cessor never read the newspapers, but for him 
the newspaper is more valuable than all the 
tomes of Ruskin, all the volumes of Carlyle. 
And more valuable than all are the actual, vital 
Affairs of Men. The function of the novelist of 
this present day is to comment upon life as he 
sees it. He cannot get away from this ; this is 
his excuse for existence, the only claim he has 
upon attention. How necessary then for him 
of all men to be in the midst of life ! He can- 
not plunge too deeply into it. Politics will 
help him, and Religious Controversies, Explora- 
tions, Science, the newest .theory of Socialism, 
the latest development of Biology. He should 
find an interest in Continental diplomacy and 
should have opinions on the chances of a 
Russo-Japanese war over the Corean question. 
He should be able to tell why it is of such 
unusual importance for Queen Wilhelmina of 






Salt and Sincerity 283 

Holland to give birth to an heir, and should 
know who ought to be nominated for Governor 
of his native State at the next convention. 

No piece of information mere downright 
acquisition of fact need be considered worth- 
less. Nothing is too trivial to be neglected. 
I know a novelist of international reputation 
who told me that the following little bits of 
knowledge (collected heaven knows where and 
stored up for years in some pigeon-hole of his 
memory) had been of use to him in the com- 
position of a novel he is now at work upon: 
That great cities ten4 to grow to the westward ; 
that race-horses are shod with a long and 
narrow shoe; and that the usual price charged 
by an electrician for winding an armature is 
four dollars. And he seemed prouder of the 
fact that he had these tiny odds and ends at his 
command, when needed, than he was of the 
honorary degree just conferred upon him by 
Harvard University. 

I suppose this is an exaggerated case, and it 
is not to be denied that it is better to have a 
Harvard degree than to know the shape of a 
race-horse's shoe, but it surely goes to prove 
the point that, as far as actual material worth 
and use were concerned, the fugitive foolish 
memory-notes were of more present help than 
the university degree, and that so far as infor- 



284 The Responsibilities of ike Novelist 

mation is concerned the novelist cannot know 
too much. 

In a recent number of The Bookman there 
appears an able article under the title "Attack- 
ing the Newspapers." The title is a trifle 
misleading, since the author's point and text 
are a defense of modern journalism, or rather 
let us say an apology. The apology is very 
well done. The manner of presentation is 
ingenious, the style amusing, but none the less 
one cannot let the article pass without protest 
or, at the least, comment. 

The original function of a newspaper was, 
and still should be, to tell the news and, 
if you please, nothing more than that. The 
"policy" of the paper was (before the days 
of the yellow press) advocated and exploited 
in the editorial columns. 

The whole difficulty lies in the fact that 
nowadays the average newspaper is violently 
partizan and deliberately alters news to suit its 
partizanship. "Not a very criminal proced- 
ure," I hear it said; "for by reading the 
opposition papers the public gets the other 
side. " But one submits that such a course is 
criminal, and that it can be proved to be such. 
How many people do you suppose read the 
"opposition" papers? The American news- 
paper readers have not time to read "both 



Salt and Sincerity 285 

sides" unless presented to them in one and 
the same paper. 

Observe now how this partizanship works 
injustice and ruin. Let us suppose a given 
newspaper is hostile to the Governor of the 
State. Now every man even a journalist 
has a right to his opinions and his hostilities, 
and important men in public life must expect 
to be abused. There are for them compensa- 
tions; their position is too high, too secure to 
be shaken by the vituperation of malevolent 
journals. But these journals have one favour- 
ite form of attacking important public men 
which, though it does not always harm the 
personage assaulted, may easily ruin the sub- 
ordinates with which he surrounds himself. 
This is the habit of discrediting the statesman 
by defaming his appointees. The Governor, 
we will say, has appointed John Smith to be 
the head of a certain institution of the State. 
But the Governor has incurred the enmity of 
the Daily Clarion the leading newspaper. 
Promptly the Clarion seizes upon Smith. His 
career as head of the institution has been a 
record of misrule (so the Clarion reads), has 
been characterized by extravagance, incom- 
petency, mismanagement, and even misappro- 
priation of the State's money. And here begins 
the cruel injustice of the business. The editor 



286 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

of that paper will set no bounds upon the 
lengths to which he will urge his reporters in 
their vilification of Smith. The editor knows 
he is a liar, the reporters know they are liars, 
but the public, ninety-nine times out of a 
hundred, ignoring motives, unable to see that 
the real object of attack is the Governor, 
unable to understand the brute callousness and 
wretched hypocrisy of the whole proceeding, 
believes the calumny, believes that Smith is an 
incompetent, a spendthrift, even a thief. 
And even the better class of readers, even the 
more intelligent who make allowances for the 
paper's political prejudices, will listen to the 
abuse and believe that there "must be some 
fire where there is so much smoke." Do you 
suppose for one moment that Smith will ever 
get a hearing in that paper? Do you suppose 
its reporters will ever credit him with a single 
honest achievement, a single sincere effort? 
If you do, you do not understand modern 
journalism. 

Ah, but the opposition papers ! They will 
defend Smith. They will champion him as 
vehemently as the Clarion attacks. That is 
all very well, but suppose there are no opposition 
papers. Politics are very complicated. The 
press of a given community is not always 
equally divided between the Republican and 



Salt and Sincerity 287 

Democratic parties. Time and time again it 
happens that all the leading newspapers of a 
city, a county, or even a State, Democratic, 
Republican, Independent, etc., are banded to- 
gether to oppose some one Large Man. 

Where then will Smith get his hearing? 
He cannot fight all the newspapers at once. 
He is not strong enough to retaliate even 
upon the meanest. The papers are afraid 
of nothing he can do. They hold absolute 
power over his good name and reputation. 
And for the sake of feeding fat the grudge 
they bear the Great One they butcher the 
subordinate without ruth and without re- 
proach. Believe me, it has been shown 
repeatedly that, placed in such a position, 
the modern newspaper will check at no lie 
however monstrous, at no calumny however 
vile. If Smith holds a position of trust he 
will be trumpeted from end to end of the 
community as a defaulter, gambling away 
the public moneys entrusted to his care. He 
will be pictured as a race-track follower, a 
supporter of fast women, a thief, a blackguard, 
and a reprobate. If he holds an administra- 
tive office, it will be shown how he has given 
and taken bribes; how he has neglected his 
duties and ignored his responsibilities till his 
office has engendered calamity, ruin, and even 



288 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

actual physical suffering. If his work is in the 
nature of supervision over one of those State 
institutions where the helpless are cared for 
the infirm, the imbecile, the aged, or sick, or 
poor his cruelty to his wards will be the theme, 
and he will be written of and pictured as whip- 
ping or torturing old men and little children, 
imprisoning, tormenting, making a hell of what 
was meant to be a help. 

And the man once blackened after this 
fashion will never again rehabilitate himself 
in the eyes of the public. The people who read 
newspapers always believe the worst, and when 
an entire press, or even the major part of it, 
unite to defame a man there is no help or 
redress possible. He is ruined, ruined profes- 
sionally and financially, ruined in character, 
in pocket, and in the hopes of ever getting 
back the good name that once was his. 

And all this is done merely as a political move, 
merely to discredit the Big Man who put Smith 
in his place, merely to hurt his chances of 
renomination, merely to cut down the number 
of his votes. It is butchery; there is no other 
word than this with which to characterize the 
procedure, butchery as cruel, as wanton and 
as outrageous as ever bloodied the sands of the 
Colosseum. It is even worse than this, for the 
victim has no chance for his life. His hands 



Salt and Sincerity 289 

are tied before the beasts are loosed. He is 
trussed and downed before the cages are opened, 
and the benches thunder for his life, not as 
for a victim to be immolated, but as a criminal 
to be punished. He is getting only his deserts, 
his very memory is an execration, and his 
name whenever mentioned is a by-word and 
a hissing. 

And this in face of the fact that the man 
may be as innocent of the charges urged as if 
he had never been born. 

Yet Doctor Colby in The Bookman article 
writes: "If we must attack the newspapers 
let it be as critics, not as crusaders, for the 
people who write for them are under no 
stricter obligations than ourselves. ' ' What ! the 
reporter or the editor who by some fillip of 
fortune is in a position to make public opinion 
in the minds of a million people under no more 
obligations than you and I ! If every obliga- 
tion bore down with an all but intolerable 
weight it is in just his case. His responsibility 
is greater than that of the Pulpit, greater than 
that of the Physician, greater than that of the 
Educator. If you would see the use to which 
it is put, you have only to try to get at the real 
truth in the case of the next public character 
assailed and vilified in the public prints. 

Doctor Colby is wrong. It is a crusade and 



290 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

not a criticism that will put down the modern 
yellow newspaper from the bad eminence to 
which the minds of the hysterical, of the violent, 
of the ignorant, brutal and unscrupulous have 
exalted it. 



IV 



THERE is a certain journal of the Middle 
West of the United States which has 
proclaimed, with a great flourish of trumpets, 
that Mme. Humbert of Paris would have made 
a great "fictionist" if she had not elected to 
become a great swindler. This is that Mme. 
Humbert who cheated a number of bankers, 
capitalists and judges out of a great deal of 
money with a story of $20,000,000 in a safe 
which for certain reasons she could not open. 
Very naturally, when her hand was forced the 
safe was empty. And this person, the Middle 
West paper claims, is a great novelist manquee, 
"a female Dumas or Hugo." The contention 
would not be worthy of notice were it not for 
the fact that it is an opinion similar to that 
held by a great number of people intelligent 
enough to know better. In a word, it is the 
contention that the personal morality of the 
artist (including "fictionists") has nothing 
to do with his work, and that a great rascal 
may be a good painter, good musician, good 
novelist. With painters, musicians and the 
291 



292 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

like this may or may not be true. With the 
novelist one contends, believes and avers that 
it is absolutely and unequivocally false, and that 
the mind capable of theft, of immorality, of 
cruelty, of foulness, or falseness of any kind is 
incapable, under any circumstances, or by any 
degree of stimulation, of producing one single 
important, artistic or useful piece of fiction. 
The better the personal morality of the writer, 
the better his writings. Tolstoi, for instance: 
it is wholly and solely due to the man's vast 
goodness and philanthropy that his novels 
carry weight. The attitude of the novelist 
toward his fellow-men and women is the great 
thing, not his inventiveness, his ingenuity, 
his deftness, or glibness, or verbal dexterity. 
And the mind wholly mean, who would rob a 
friend of $40,000 (after the manner of the 
Humbert person), or could even wilfully and 
deliberately mar the pleasure of a little child, 
could never assume toward the world at large 
that attitude of sympathy and generosity and 
toleration that is the first requisite of the 
really great novelist. Always you will find 
this thing true: that the best, the greatest 
writers of fiction are those best loved of troops 
of friends; and for the reason that, like the 
Arab philosopher of the poem, they, first of all, 
have "loved their fellow-men." It is this that 



Salt and Sincerity 293 

has made their novels great. Consider Steven- 
son, or our own "Dean," or Hugo, or Scott, 
men of the simplest lives, uncompromising in 
rectitude, scrupulously, punctiliously, Quixoti- 
cally honest ; their morality surely in the cases 
of Stevenson and Hugo setting a new standard 
of religion, at the least a new code of ethics. 
And thus it goes right down the line, from the 
greater lights to the lesser and to the least. It 
is only the small men, the "minor" people 
among the writers of books who indulge in 
eccentricities that are only immortalities under 
a different skin; who do not pay their debts; 
who borrow without idea of returning; who 
live loose, " irregular," wretched, vicious lives, 
and call it " Bohemianism," and who believe 
that "good work" can issue from the turmoil, 
that the honeycomb will be found in the 
carcass, and the sweet come forth from the 
putrid. So that in the end one may choose to 
disagree with the Middle West editor and to 
affirm that it is not the ingenious criminal who 
is the novelist manque, but the philanthropist, 
the great educator, the great pulpit orator, the 
great statesman. It is from such stuff that the 
important novels are made, not from the 
deranged lumber and disordered claptrap of the 
brain of a defective. 

In the course of a speech made at a recent 



294 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

dinner given in London, Sir Donald Mackenzie 
Wallace has deplored the fact that our present 
generation of English writers has produced no 
worthy successors to the great men of the mid- 
Victorian period that there are no names to 
place beside Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Brown- 
ing, or Keats. But he also brought forward 
extenuating circumstances, chief among which 
was the fact that the novelists of to-day were 
working overtime to supply the demands of an 
ever-increasing public, and that, by implication, 
their work was therefore deteriorating. One 
does not believe that this is so. Rapid work 
may cause the deterioration of a commercial 
article, but it by no means follows that the 
authors who are called upon to produce a very 
large number of books are forced into the com- 
position of unworthy literature. The writer's 
brain does not hold the material for his books. 
It is not like a storehouse, from which things 
may be taken till nothing remains. The 
writer's material is life itself, inexhaustible 
and renewed from day to day, and his brain 
is only the instrument that adapts life to fiction. 
True, this instrument itself may wear out after 
awhile, but it usually lasts as long as the man 
himself, and is good for more work than the 
unthinking would believe possible. As a matter 
of fact, the best novelists have, as a rule, been 



Salt and Sincerity 295 

the most prolific, have been those who had to 
write rapidly and much to satisfy, if not the 
demands of the public, then at least other 
more personal demands, none the less insistent. 
Scott and Dickens were unusually prolific, yet 
the rapidity with which they accomplished 
their work did not hurt the quality of the work 
itself. Balzac and Dumas produced whole 
libraries of books and yet kept their standards 
high. As one has urged before, it is the demand 
of the People that produces the great writer, 
not reduces the quality and fineness of his work. 
If he has the "divine spark," the breath of the 
millions will fan rather than extinguish it. 

One does not choose to believe that the art of 
fiction nor the standards of excellence have 
deteriorated since the day of Scott, Dickens 
and Thackeray. True, we have no men to 
equal them as yet, but they are surely coming. 
Time was, at the end of the seventeenth 
century, when the dearth of good fiction was 
even more marked than "at present. But 
one must bear in mind that progress is never 
along a direct line, but by action and reaction. 
A period will supervene when a group of 
geniuses arise, and during the course of their 
activities the average of excellence is high, 
great books are produced, and a whole New 
Literature is launched. Their influence is 



296 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

profound ; the first subschool of imitators follow 
good enough men but second-rate. These in 
turn are followed by the third-raters, and these 
by the fourth-raters, and no one is found bold 
enough to strike out for himself until the bot- 
tom is reached. Then comes the reaction, and 
once more the group of giants towers up from 
out the mass. We are probably living through 
the era of the fourth-raters just now, and one 
believes that we are rather near to the end even 
of that. The imitators of the romantic school 
have imitated to ten places decimals and have 
diluted and rediluted till they can hardly go 
further without producing something actually 
and really new. At any rate, the time is most 
propitious for a Man of Iron who can be bent 
to no former shape nor diluted to no old-time 
essence. Then will come the day of the New 
Literature, and the wind of Life itself will blow 
through the dry bones and fustian and saw- 
dust of the Imitation, and the People will all at 
once realize how very far afield the fourth- 
raters have drawn them and how very differ- 
ent a good novel is from a bad one. 

For say what you will, the People, the Plain 
People who Read, do appreciate good literature 
in the end. One must keep one's faith in the 
People the Plain People, the Burgesses, the 
Grocers else of all men the artists are most 



Salt and Sincerity 297 

miserable and their teachings vain. Let us 
admit and concede that this belief is ever so 
sorely tried at times. Many thousands of 
years ago the wisest man of his age declared 
that "the People imagine a vain thing. " Con- 
tinually they are running away after strange 
gods; continually they are admiring the fake 
and neglecting actual worth. But in the end, 
and at last, they will listen to the true note and 
discriminate between it and the false. In the 
last analysis the People are always right. Some- 
how, and after all is said and done, they will 
prefer Walter Scott to G. P. R. James, Shak- 
spere to Marlowe, Flaubert to Goncourt. 
Sometimes the preference is long in forming, 
and during this formative period they have 
many reversions, and go galloping, in herds of 
one hundred or one hundred and fifty thousand 
(swelling the circulations), after false gods. 
But note this fact: that the fustian and the 
tinsel and the sawdust are discovered very 
soon, and, once the discovery made, the 
sham idol can claim no single devotee. 

In other words, it is a comfort to those who 
take the literature of the Americans or even 
of the Anglo-Saxons seriously to remember, 
in the long run and the larger view, that a circu- 
lation of two hundred, three hundred or four 
hundred thousand judging even by this base- 



298 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

scale of "copies sold" is not so huge after all. 
Consider. A "popular" novel is launched 
and sells its half-million. Within a certain 
very limited period of time, at most five years, 
this sale stops definitely and conclusively. 
The People have found out that it is not such a 
work of genius after all, and will have no more 
of it. But how about the circulation of the 
works of the real Masters, Scott and Dickens, 
say to be more concrete, let us speak of 
"Ivanhoe" and "David Copperfield " have 
not each of these " sold " more than two hundred 
thousand since publication? Is not two hun- 
dred million nearer the mark? And they are 
still selling. New editions are published every 
year. Does not this prove that the People 
are discriminating; that they are after all 
preferring the best literature to the mediocre; 
that they are not such a mindless herd after all ; 
that in the end, in fine, they are always right ? 
It will not do to decry the American public; 
to say that it has no taste, no judgment ; that 
it "likes to be fooled." It may be led away 
for a time by clamorous advertising and the 
"barking" of fakirs. But there comes a day 
when it will no longer be fooled. A million 
dollars' worth of advertising would not today 
sell a hundred thousand copies of "Trilby." 
But "Ivanhoe" and "Copperfield," without 



Salt and Sincerity 299 

advertising, without reclames for exploitation, 
are as marketable this very day as a sack of 
flour or a bag of wheat. 

Mr. Metcalfe, in a recent issue of Life, has 
been lamenting the lack of good plays on the 
American stage during the past season, and 
surely no one can aver that the distinguished 
critic is not right. One cannot forbear a wince 
or two at the thought of what future art histori- 
ans will say in their accounts of the American 
drama at the beginning of the twentieth century. 
Frankly and unreservedly the native American 
drama is jusl: about as bad as it can be, and 
every intelligent-minded person is quite willing 
to say so. The causes are not difficult to trace. 
Two come to the mind at once, which in them- 
selves alone would account for the degeneracy 
i. e., the rage for Vaudeville and the exploita- 
tion of the Star. The first has developed in 
the last ten years, an importation from English 
music halls. Considered at first as a fad by 
the better class of theatre-goers, a thing to be 
countenanced with amused toleration like 
performing bears and the animal circus, it has 
been at length boosted and foisted upon the 
public attention till, like a veritable cancer, it 
has eaten almost into the very vitals of the 
Legitimate Comedy (using the word in its tech- 
nical sense). Continually nowadays one may 



300 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

see a "specialty" generally in the form of a 
dance lugged in between the scenes of a 
perfectly sober, perfectly sane Comedy of 
Manners. The moment any one subordinate 
feature of a dramatic action is developed at the 
expense of vraisemblance and the Probabilities, 
and for the sake of amusing the galleries, there is 
the first bacillus of decay. Vaudeville is all 
very well by itself, and one will even go so far 
as to admit that it has its place as much as 
an Ibsen problem-play. But it should keep to 
that place. It is ludicrously out of place in a 
comedy quite as much so as the " Bible 
Incident" in Ebsmith would be in a Hoyt farce. 
But because the "specialty," because Vaude- 
ville, will "go" with the "gallery" at any time 
and at any place, the manager and the pity 
of it ! the author, too, will introduce it when- 
ever the remotest possibility occurs, and by 
just so much the tone of the whole drama is 
lowered. It has got to such a pass by now, 
however, that one ought to be thankful if this 
same " tone " is not keyed down to the specialty. 
But the exploiting of the Star, it would seem, 
is, of all others, the great cause of the mediocrity 
of present-day dramatic literature. One has 
but to glance at the theatre programmes and 
bills to see how matters stand. The name of the 
leading lady or leading man is "scare-headed" 



Salt and Sincerity 



so that the swiftest runner cannot fail to see. 
Even the manager proclaims his patronymic 
in enormous "caps." But the author! as 
often as not his name is not discoverable at all. 
The play is nothing thus it would seem the 
managers would have us believe it is the 
actress, her speeches, her scenes, her gowns, 
her personality, that are the all-important 
essentials. It is notorious how plays are cut, 
and readjusted, and dislocated to suit the Star. 
Never mind whether or not the scene is artistic, 
is vivid, is dramatic. Does the Star get the 
best of it? If not, write it over. The Star 
must have all the good lines. If they cannot 
be built into the Star's part, cut 'em out. 
The Probabilities, the construction, artistic 
effect, climax, even good, common, forthright, 
horse sense, rot 'em ! who cares for 'em ? Give 
the Star the lime-light that's the point. 

If the audience is willing to pay its money to 
see Miss Marlowe, Miss Mannering or Mrs. 
Carter put through her paces, that's another 
thing; but let us not expect that good dramas 
will issue forth from this state of affairs. 

Where are the Books for Girls? Adults' 
books there are and books for boys by 
the carload, but where is the book for the 
young girls? Something has already been 
said about literature for the amiable young 



302 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

woman, but this, now, is a very different 
person. One means the girl of fourteen to 
eighteen. The boy passing through this most 
trying formative period finds his literature 
ready to hand. Boys' books, tales of hunting, 
adventure and sport abound. They are good 
books, too, sane, "healthy," full of fine spirit 
and life. But the girl, where does she read? 
Surely the years between fourteen and eighteen 
are even more trying to a young girl than to a 
boy. She is not an active animal. When the 
boy is out-of-doors, pitching curves or " running 
the ends, " the girl (even yet in the day and age 
of "athletics for women") is in the house, and, 
as like as not, reading. And reading what, if 
you please? The feeblest, thinnest, most 
colourless lucubrations that it is given to the 
mind of misguided man to conceive or to per- 
petuate. It must be this or else the literature 
of the adult; and surely the novels written for 
mature minds, for men and women who have 
some knowledge of the world and powers of 
discrimination, are not good reading, in any 
sense of the word, for a sixteen-year-old girl in 
the formative period of her life. 

Besides Alcott, no one has ever written 
intelligently for girls. Surely there is a field 
here. Surely a Public, untried and unex- 
plored, is wailing for its author; nor is it a 



Salt and Sincerity 303 

public wanting in enthusiasm, loyalty or 
intelligence. 

But for all this great parade and prating of 
emancipated women it nevertheless remains 
a fact that the great majority of twentieth- 
century opinion is virtually Oriental in its 
conception of the young girl. The world to-day 
is a world for boys, men and women. Of all 
humans, the young girl, the sixteen-year-old, is 
the least important or, at least, is so deemed. 
Wanted : a Champion. Wanted : the Discoverer 
and Poet of the Very Young Girl. Unimportant 
she may now appear to you, who may yet call 
her by her first name without fear and without 
reproach. But remember this, you who believe 
only in a world of men and boys and women; 
the Very Young Girl of to-day is the woman of 
to-morrow, the wife of the day after, and the 
mother of next week. She only needs to put 
up her hair and let down her frocks to become 
a very important person indeed. Meanwhile, 
she has no literature; meanwhile, faute de 
mieux, she is trying to read Ouida and many 
other books intended for maturer minds; or, 
worse than all, she is enfeebling her mind by 
the very thin gruel purveyed by the mild- 
mannered gentlemen and ladies who write for 
the Sunday-school libraries. Here is a bad 
business ; here is a field that needs cultivation. 



304 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

All very well to tend and train the saplings, 
the oaks and the vines. The flowers they 
have not bloomed vet are to be thought 
about, too. 

All the more so that the young girl takes a 
book to heart infinitely more than a boy. The 
boy his story once read votes it "bully," 
takes down his cap, and there's an end. But 
the average Very Young Girl does not read her 
story: she lives it, lingers over it, weeps over 
it, lies awake nights over it. So long as she 
lives she will never quite forget the books she 
read when she was sixteen. It is not too much 
to say that the " favourite" books of a girl at 
this age become a part of her life. They influ- 
ence her character more than any of us, I 
imagine, would suspect or admit. All the 
more reason, then, that there should not only 
be good books for girls, but plenty of good 
books. 

THE END. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY, ESSAYS, ARTI- 
CLES, LETTERS 

"Ancient Armour" (first published article), San Fran- 
cisco Chronicle, March 31, 1889. 

Series of letters from South Africa concerning Uitlander 
Insurrection, published in the San Francisco Chronicle: 
"A Californian in City of Cape Town," January 19, 1896; 
" In the Compound of a Diamond Mine," February 2, 1896 ; 
" From Cape Town to Kimberley Mine," January 
"In the Veldt of the Transvaal," February 9, 1896; "A 
Zulu War Dance," March 15, 1896. 

"Types of Western Men," published in San Francisco 
Wave, May 2, 1896. 

"Western City Types," published in San Francisco 
Wave, May 9, 1896. 

"The Bivalve at Home," published in San Francisco 
Wave, July 16, 1896. 

"Italy in California," published in San Francisco 
Wave, October 24, 1896. 

"A Question of Ideals," published in San Francisco 
Wave, December 26, 1897. 

" New Year's at San Quentin," published in San Fran- 
cisco Wave, January 9, 1897. 

"Hunting Human Game," published in San Francisco 
Wave, January 23, 1897. 

"Passing of Little Pete," published in San Francisco 
Wave, January 30, 1897. 

"A California Artist," published in San Francisco 
Wave, February 6, 1897. 

"A Lag's Release," published in San Francisco Wave, 
March 12, 1897. 

305 



306 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

"Among the Cliff- Dwellers," published in San Fran- 
cisco Wave, May 15, 1897. 

"The Sailing of the ' Excelsior,' " published in San 
Francisco Wave, July 31, 1897. 

"The Tale and the Truth," published in San Francisco 
Wave, September 25, 1897. 

"Art Education in San Francisco," published in San 
Francisco Wave, September 25, 1897. 

"The End of the Act," published in San Francisco 
Wave, November 27, 1897. 

"Comida," published in Atlantic Monthly, March, 1899. 

"With Lawton to Caney," published in Century 
Magazine, June, 1899. 

"Student Life in Paris," published in Collier's Weekly, 
May 12, 1900. 

Series of New York letters to Chicago American, com- 
mencing May, 1901 September, 1901. 

Series of Articles to Boston Transcript, commencing 
November 15 February 5 (weekly articles). 

"The Unknown Author and the Publisher," published 
in World's Work, April, 1901. 

"True Reward of the Novelist," published in World's 
Work, September, 1901. 

"Mr. Kipling's 'Kim,'" published in World's Work, 
September, 1901. 

"Story-Teller vs. Novelist," published in World's Work, 
March, 1902. 

"The Frontier Gone at Last," published in World's 
Work, February, 1902. 

"The Need of a Literary Conscience," published in 
World's Work, May, 1902. 

"The Novel with a Purpose," published in World's 
Work, May, 1902. 

Series of articles to The Critic, entitled "Salt and 
Sincerity," published monthly from May to October, 1902. 

"Life in the Mining Region," published in Everybody's 
Magazine, September, 1902. 

"In Defense of Doctor W. Lawlor," published in San 
Francisco Argonaut, August n, 1902. 



Bibliography 307 

"The Responsibilities of a Novelist," published in 
The Critic, December, 1902. 

"The Neglected Epic," published in World's Work, 
December, 1902. 

The "Great American Novelist," syndicated, January 
19, 1903. 

"The American Public and Popular Fiction," syndi- 
cated, February 2, 1903. 

"Child Stories for Adults," syndicated, February 9, 
1903. 

"The Nature Revival in Literature," syndicated, 
February 16, 1903. 

"Novelists to Order While You Wait," syndicated, 
February 23, 1903. 

"Newspaper Criticism and American Fiction," syndi- 
cated, March 9, 1903. 

"Richard Harding Davis," syndicated, January 26, 
1903. 

"Chances of Unknown Writers," syndicated, March 2, 
1903. 

SHORT STORIES 

"Babazzouin," published in San Francisco Argonaut, 
May, 1891. 

"Son of a Sheik," published in San Francisco Argonaut, 
June, 1891. . f 

"Le Gongleur de Taillebois," published in San Fran- 
cisco Wave, December 25, 1891. 

"Arachne," published in San Francisco Wave, 1892. 

"Lauth," published in Overland Monthly, March, 1893. 

"Travis Hallets, Half-Back," published in Overland 
Monthly, January, 1894. 

"Outward and Visible Signs Series" of short stories, 
published in the Overland Monthly, commencing February, 
1894 titles as follows: "Thoroughbred," February, 1894; 
"She and the Other Fellow," March, 1894; "The Most 
Noble Conquest of Man," May, 1894; "Outside the 
Zewana," July, 1894; "After Strange Gods, "October, 1894. 



308 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

"The Caged Lion," published in San Francisco Argo- 
naut, August, 1894. 

"A Defense of the Flag," published in San Francisco 
Argonaut, October, 1895. 

"A Salvation Boom in Matabeleland," published in 
San Francisco Wave, April 25, 1896. 

"The Heroism of Jonesie," published in San Francisco 
Wave, May 16, 1896. 

Series of Sketches entitled ' ' Man Proposes," published in 
San Francisco Wave, May 23, 1896; May 30, 1896; June 13, 
1896; June 27, 1896; July 4, 1896. 

"In the Heat of Battle," published in San Francisco 
Wave, December 19, 1896. 

"His Sister," published in San Francisco Wave, Decem- 
ber 28, 1896. 

"The Puppets and the Puppy," San Francisco Wave, 
May 22, 1897. 

"Beer and Skittles," published in San Francisco Wave, 
May 29, 1897. 

"Through a Glass Darkly," published in San Francisco 
Wave, June 12, 1897. 

"Little Dramas of the Curbstone," published in San 
Francisco Wave, June 26, 1897. 

"The Strangest Thing," published in San Francisco 
Wave, July 3, 1897. 

"This Animal of a Buldy Jones," published in San 
Francisco Wave, July 17, 1897. 

"Boom," published in San Francisco Wave, August 7, 
1897. 

" Reversion to Type," published in San Francisco Wave, 
August 14, 1897. 

"House with the Blinds," published in San Francisco 
Wave, August 21, 1897. 

"The Third Circle," published in San Francisco Wave, 
August 28, 1897. 

"The End of the Beginning," published in San Fran- 
cisco Wave, September 4, 1897. 

"A Case for Lombroso," published in San Francisco 
Wave, September n, 1897. 



Bibliography 309 

"His Single Blessedness," published in San Francisco 
Wave, September 18, 1897. 

"Execution without Judgment," published in San 
Francisco Wave, October 2, 1897. 

"Miracle Joyeux," published in San Francisco Wave, 
October 9, 1897. 

"Judy's Service of Gold Plate," published in San 
Francisco Wave, October 16, 1897. 

"The Associated Un- Charities," published in San 
Francisco Wave, October 30, 1897. 

"Fantasie Printaniere," published in San Francisco 
Wave, November 6, 1897. 

"His Dead Mother's Portrait," published in San 
Francisco Wave, November 13, 1897. 

"Shorty Stack, Pugilist," published in San Francisco 
Wave, November 20, 1897. 

"Isabella Regina," published in San Francisco Wave, 
November 27, 1897. 

"Perverted Tales" (Parodies on several well-known 
authors), published in San Francisco Wave, December 
25, 1897: "The Rickshaw that Happened," by R d 
K g; "The Green Stone of Unrest," by S n Cr e; "Van 
Bubble's Story," by R d H g D s; "Ambrosia Beer," 
by A e B e; "I Call on Lady Dotty," by A y H e; 
"The Hero of Tomato Can," by B t H e. 

"The Drowned Who Do Not Die," published in San 
Francisco Wave, September 24, 1898. 

" Miracle Joyeux," republished McClure's Magazine, 
December, 1898. 

"This Animal of a Buldy Jones," republished in 
McClure's Magazine, March, 1899. 

"The Riding of Felipe," published in Everybody's 
Magazine, March, 1901. 

" Buldy Jones, Chef du Claque," published in Everybody's 
Magazine, May, 1901. 

"Kirkland at Quarter," published in Saturday Evening 
Post, December 12, 1901. 

"A Memorandum of Sudden Death," published in 
Collier's Weekly, January, 1902. 



310 The Responsibilities of the Novelist 

"A Bargain with Peg-leg," published in Collier's 
Weekly, March i, 1902. 

" Grettir at Drangey," published in Everybody's Magazine 
March, 1902. 

"A Statue in an Old Garden," published by Ladies' 
Home Journal about April, 1902. 

"Dying Fires," published in Smart Set about April, 
1902. 

"The Passing of Cock-Eye Blacklock," published in 
Century Magazine, July, 1902. 

"The Guest of Honour," published in the Pilgrim 
Magazine, July and August, 1902. 

" A Deal in Wheat," published in Everybody's Magazine, 
August, 1902. 

"Two Hearts That Beat as One," published in Brander 
Magazine (unable to ascertain date). 

"The Dual Personality of Slick Dick Nickerson," pub- 
lished in Collier's Weekly, November, 1902. 

"The Ship That Saw a Ghost," published in Overland 
Monthly, December, 1902. 

"The Wife of Chino," published in Century Magazine, 
January, 1903. 

"The Ghost in the Cross-Trees," published in New York 
Herald, March, 1903. 

POEMS PUBLISHED 

"Poitier," medieval ballad, published in Berklyian 
Magazine, 1891. 

" Brunhilda," poem, illustrated by author, published 
in California Illustrated Magazine (discontinued), 1891. 

" Crepusculum," sonnet, published by Overland Monthly, 
April, 1892. 

BOOKS PUBLISHED 

"Yvernelle," long poem, published by Lippincott & 
Company, 1892. 

" Moran of the Lady Letty," serialized in San Francisco 



Bibliography 311 

Wave about January, 1898. Published by Doubleday & 
McClure, September, 1898. 

"McTeague," published by Doubleday & McClure, 
February, 1899. 

"Blix," serialized in The Puritan about April, 1899. 
Published by Doubleday & McClure, September, 1899. 

"A Man's Woman," serialized in New York Evening 
Sun about July October, 1899; in San Francisco 
Chronicle, July 23, 1899 October 8, 1899. Published by 
Doubleday & McClure, February, 1900. 

"Octopus," published by Doubleday, Page & Company, 
April, 1901. 

"The Pit," serialized in Saturday Evening Post, Septem- 
ber 27, 1902 January 31, 1903. Published by Doubleday. 
Page & Company, January, 1903. 




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LIBRARY