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guished temperament that the unhappy girl appeals to us more strongly than many of stronger mould. For it certainly is a tragedy when anything so rare and beautiful finds itself forced to mere denial of impossibilities. And it is Mrs. Wharton's great achievement, in a book where all is fine, that she makes us see and sympathise with the true distinction in a woman who on the surface has little else than beauty and charm.
The spectacle of this tragedy is presented upon a sordid stage. In spite of all the gold possessed by everybody but Miss Bart, it is not a brilliant world, and in spite of the cheerful name which Mrs. Wharton's irony attaches, it is not a cheerful one. Nobody except the heroine holds our interest or respect. Of Miss Bart's particular friends, Gus Trenor was a lout as well as a glutton, and his wife a cold-hearted manager. George Dorset was a forlorn hypochondriac and his wife an implacable maniac. Rosedale had good things about him, but not enough to make him a pleasant friend. Mrs. Peniston was an insufferable example of brownstone-front respectability. And so on with the rest, all presented, of course, with the utmost happiness and sureness. Even the two good people are no real exceptions. Gertrude Farish was a good woman, worthy of respect and love. But Mrs. Wharton is so absorbed in her heroine's standpoint, or, rather, wishes us to be, that she has little but flouts for her. And as for Mr. Selden, it is chiefly by being informed of the fact that we know him to be that wondrous combination, an intelligent worldling.
There were once heard-may be heard to-day-complaints from such as dislike "such a combination of low-toned commonplaceness." Why should Mrs. Wharton "find it worth while continually to describe the belittling qualities and frailties of human nature instead of using her talent to give the world some uplifting picture of moral effort"? Why, indeed? Why is not comedy greater than tragedy? Why is not Prospero or Portia greater than Hamlet? That is certainly an interesting question, which we may properly refer to the æsthetic psychologist. Why, however, our complainant may continue, if one must be so deadly serious-why not
relieve the scene a bit, if only for contrast? Is there no one interesting in the best society of New York? Perhaps there is, but perhaps, also, the Miss Barts do not know it. As for Lily, her heart has to be hardened, or, rather, her eyes have to be shut, lest she see, feel and be saved. It is a legitimate enough literary convention. You must combine these things so as to show the essentials: you cannot present the whole world.
There are books that do it: is not The Newcomes as tragic in feeling and as severe in arraignment? Probably it is. Probably, also, Mrs. Wharton is quite unable to keep her eye on her patient and her finger on her pulse and at the same time be charmed and delighted at the predominant joy and humour and beauty of human nature. Until she can do so, she should not be pronounced the greatest novelist of recent times. Pending her arrival at that modest eminence, we may be grateful that Mrs. Wharton accomplishes with apparent ease the most difficult part of her task.
For that she certainly does. Some time. since it was said by a master of a very different kind of fiction that "it is one thing to remark and to dissect, with the most cutting logic, the complications of the human spirit; it is quite another to give them body and blood." Observation, analysis, logic: these processes, probably, Mrs. Wharton has employed rather more than Stevenson would have done. But whatever Mrs. Wharton may have done herself, these intellectual operations are. not obvious in her book. "In anything fit to be called by the name of reading," continues the same authority, "the process should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves, and rise from the perusal, our mind filled with the busiest kaleidoscopic dance of images, incapable of sleep or of continuous thought." That is a very exact description of a mental state that many will probably experience on reading The House of Mirth. It is not observation, analysis, logic; it is real humanity, if not the whole of it, and that is something likely to hold our interest and absorb our attention. After perhaps a slight repulsion at first, one is attracted to the unhappy butterfly, and follows her
flutterings with a growing feeling, to which the last few pages come with a suave and necessary relief.
And after that, what then? one may ask. Suppose you are voluptuously absorbed, that your mind sees stars, that you cannot sleep? Is that all one can say? Is there no moral teaching? No problem? No message? No criticism of life? There is not, very fortunately, any one of these things. There is nothing that needs to be discussed or talked about, or answered. There is simply the impression of poignant tragedy, the pity and awe with which one becomes silent.
E. E. Hale, Jr.
ROBERT BARR'S "THE SPECULATIONS OF JOHN STEELE"
The Speculations of John Steele belongs
to the modern school of business novel of which the stories of Messrs. Merwin and Webster and Mr. Robert Herrick are fair examples and for which the railroad and the Stock Exchange furnish the heroes. These are novels of the West, their scene is Chicago, their theme the making of money, and their atmosphere one of such hurry and bustle as to make New York seem like a country town in comparison. Insomuch as they deal with money-making, these books are alike; but there the resemblance ceases, for while Calumet K. is a record of achievement, of something added to the world's possessions, The Speculations of John Steele is merely a chronicle of money lost or won by gambling, passing from the pocket of one man to that of another without benefiting any one on its way. A well-known author has called the speculator the pirate of commerce, and Mr. Barr's book is a story of adventures as interesting as those of Captain Kidd, for it has been reserved for America to surround the business of money-getting with the varied incidents that make a book of this type as thrilling as a novel of adventure and lifts the hustle of commercial life into the domain of romance.
John Steele is a type, not a character,
*The Speculations of John Steele. Robert Barr. New York: The F. A. Stokes Company.
and he is a fair example of that class of hustler which may be called typically American, in that no other country produces it. Starting, as have most of the successful men in this country, as a poor boy, he owes his first promotion to a quickness of decision which averts a collision at the lonely shanty where he is station-agent and general factotum. Inheriting some money from an uncle who had made it by judicious investments, John Steele, the author tells us, "began to wonder if he, too, had inherited this seventh sense of money-making which has produced those bulky, unearned fortunes for which America is celebrated or notorious."
His legacy enables him to test his suspected abilities, and he begins a series of speculations, in following which the reader shares in the excitement attending that form of diversion. Sometimes Steele is fortunate, sometimes he is not, but in all his transactions he displays a fertility of resource, a courage and decision that are only defeated when they are pitted against unlimited money and entire unscrupulousness. These forces are united in Peter Berington, whose personality more than suggests the most remarkable figure in the business life of our country to-day. Mr. Barr describes him as "the greatest financial brain the world had hitherto produced-the modern embodiment of Mammon. In early life there had occurred to him the obvious proposition that if any one man could control the manufacture and sale of some simple article in universal use, he would secure a fortune greater than that of all the monarchs on earth put together. Peter Berington chose soap as his medium, and the world-renowned trust called Amalgamated Soap has been the outcome. His methods were as simple as his products. He offered what he considered a fair price to a rival for his business, and if that rival refused, Peter crushed him by a competition the other could not withstand. . . . Berington's air-tight monopoly finally produced an annual income in excess of the fortune any man on earth possessed twenty-five years ago. The few who knew him in private life described him as a quiet, timorous man, apparently without
opinions of his own, who was withal deeply religious. Yet all the histories. printed of him never contained the record of any man who had defeated him."
This is the man whom Steele thwarts in his transactions in wheat and who now pursues him with a relentless, neverslackening desire for revenge.
This is the weakest point in the book. It is necessary for the interest of the story that Steele should be pitted against some malignant and powerful enemy, but whether such a tremendous combination as the Soap Trust would consider it worth while to buy a railroad for the purpose of ruining a man who had interfered with one of its schemes, is open to question, and that it would try to lure a man to his death is still more doubtful. But it is a question of degree, not of kind, and the author may be right.
Mr. Barr takes no stand as to the ethics of speculation. His only aim is to show what possibilities it offers, and the fact that John Steele is ultimately ruined through the actions of the Soap Trust shows how well he knows the slight chance one man has against a combination backed by unlimited resources.
The Speculations of John Steele is sure to interest women in spite of its dealing chiefly with men and their affairs and its almost entire lack of sentiment. It is not until the last chapter that the author awakes to a sense of his responsibilities and describes a tumultuous wooing which recalls the climax of Mr. Harry Wilson's The Spenders, and leads us to believe that Chicago is as energetic in her love-making as in her business methods.
It is characteristic of this class of novel that all its action takes place in the public eye. The scene shifts from officebuildings to railway stations and from thence to Pullman cars, but there is hardly the suggestion of a home in the book. There is not a dull page in the story. It moves on to a happy ending and the situations are so well handled that the reader's attention is held from the beginning to the end, while as he reads he begins to understand why the mere pursuit of unearned wealth in this country is so absorbing. Mary K. Ford.
MR. HOUGH'S "HEART'S DESIRE."*
When you have read Mr. Hough's book you will be sure to be looking for "Heart's Desire" the next time you go through the far West country. And you will be sure you will know it when you see it. Not so much by the look of the valley, or of the hills about it, or of the scattered adobe houses with earthen roofs which line the arroyo, as by the "feel" of the place, by the spirit of unworldliness which it breathes. But it is not likely you will have the good luck to chance upon it. Where you go almost any one else can go as easily, and does go, and so your place, if it ever was "Heart's Desire," is that no longer. For it was because no one, or almost no one except the people of the place itself, knew it that "Heart's Desire" was what it was. Mr. Hough himself was there once; if he wasn't, then he must know some place very like it. Perhaps he is the Learned Counsel of the story. At any rate, he makes us see it through the eyes of one who loves it.
So much for the place. As for its people, you know them and like them from the start, and that ought to be enough. If it isn't, and you ask impertinent questions as to whether they are "the real thing" in cowboys, all I can say is that Mr. Hough is not telling a story of cow punching, but the story of "Heart's Desire" and of how Eve came to it.
By the way, there are two Eves, and the reader is surprised, after a good deal has been done to prepare the way for the first one-the "Littlest Girl," who promises a whole story in herself to have her married out of hand to the rollicking, impetuous Curly with his crop of red hair and his easy confidence in himself. But then you begin to learn things about Dan Anderson, and instinctively you apprehend that his is to be the real story. Anderson is of Princeton College, and he is in "Heart's Desire" because, as he puts it, there is there "no life, no trouble, no woman." Hearing this, you say to yourself, "He means the woman," and you
*Heart's Desire. By Emerson Hough. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company.
are prepared for the coming of Constance Ellsworth. She arrives with her father, who has money, and who plans a railroad which shall link "Heart's Desire" with the rest of the world. This last is the ostensible reason of his coming. Whatever private reason Miss Ellsworth has for her visit the reader is entitled to know only as he turns the pages of the book. That this other reason, however, is a potent one and quite sufficient to bring about what follows will not generally be questioned.
pleasantly. For this same quality no quarrel may be had because some of these anecdotes seem a bit irrelevant-if we except the extraordinary recital of the adventures of the King of Gee-Whiz, which is entirely gratuitous and wholly inexplicable.
The author of The Girl at the Half Way House will probably not repeat with his present book the popular success of The Mississippi Bubble-it is not the same sort of thing at all-but in many ways I like Heart's Desire better. Churchill Williams.
And yet I find myself wishing that the second Eve did not come into the story at all, and that "Heart's Desire" might have been to the very end the "Heart's GERTRUDE ATHERTON'S "THE TRAVELDesire" of the first chapter, and that Curly, and Doc, and McKinney, and Tom Osby with his graphophone, and the Littlest Girl and the twins made up the book by themselves. There is so much more about them which I am sure Mr. Hough knows, though he does not tell it, and what he has told is just enough to whet the appetite.
But to blame a book for what it is not is unreasonable, and just now to ask for a Western story, particularly a story in which there are cowboys, and then to object to the introduction of a pretty girl from the East who has education and fashionable clothes and a heart, is heretical. So to those who would not be satisfied without a Constance and the complicating factor of Porter Barkley, "rival," I shall only say that Mr. Hough has made these last characters do what is expected of them and do it sufficiently well to pass muster. Personally, I like the book for something quite apart from its "plot" or its "love story." I like it for its bits of description and for the talk among its people, which immediately put one on a footing with real men; which make the hotel of Uncle Jim Brothers plain to the eye; which make one a participant in the trial of Curly for shooting the pig; which make one a witness to that remarkable race in which a cross-eyed horse, owing to the ministrations of an osteopath and the ingenious device of its owners, all but wins the prize. Mr. Hough's anecdotes are, many of them, racy of the soil, and if they interrupt the flow of the narrative, they do so very
The chief impression gleaned from Mrs. Atherton's The Travelling Thirds is the fresh proof therein afforded of the fearful and wonderful phrases now exhibited in the popular stories of the day. Writing seems to be developing into the quest of the weirdest rather than the best word; and we judge it is held to be an indication of mediocrity to employ any "common or garden" expression on the premises. As for allowing a noun to appear in public unchaperoned by some sort of an adjective, however incompetent, that would be frankly shabby and indecorous. Or, rather, is it not the adjective that it is a delight to honour, while the noun trudges obscurely at its heels?
Since Thackeray's solemn assertions to the contrary, there has come to be so pronounced a literary snobbishness abroad in the land that we need no longer try to look the other way. And those of us whose modest little conversational violets have been ruthlessly mowed down by automatic rhetorical machines in human guise, or who have had their literary standards curtly snubbed on some bumptious page, cannot help resenting these apparently groundless assumptions. It is cold comfort to reflect that snobbishness presupposes a grievous lack of humour, or that the author failed to note, as we did, the funny side of things. Yet we are sure that had it been so in this in
*The Travelling Thirds. By Gertrude Atherton. New York: Harper and Brothers. $1.25.
stance, Mrs. Atherton would never have told us that the heroine "moved her head slowly on the long column of her throat," and not expect us at once to be reminded of a china Mandarin, nodding industriously in some Celestial's shop. There is also the peculiar thought that "her claim to distinction was in her grooming, her beauty mien." etc. We do not think any one in real life, anywhere, could refer even once to a person's "beauty mien" and not be laughed at, or relate how, "after they had rambled in silence for an hour," some one of the party "emerged from her centres" without being taken seriously in hand by the family. Why not be as genuine in a book? Mrs. Atherton endows her heroine with the rare faculty of seeing colour in the atmosphere, but we doubt if that would suffice, in her own case, to explain what we hope is an equally rare phenomenon, and that we shall not often be invited to consider what she terms "a rich, brown silence," as we would a gravy, or run the risk of being daubed by some one's "pale-blue gaze. To have feet, any feet, even immortal. feet, "boyishly asunder," rather than apart, also strikes us as pretentious, since they are not treading the realm of poetry on the heels of Paradise Lost. There are still, thank heaven, a few prosy old words that can be used again and again without half as much risk of cheapness as such upstart expressions give. While, speaking of the ridge of Montserrat in Spain, Mrs. Atherton asserts fiercely, "Nature would seem to have spat it out through gnashing teeth"-a bilious setting for the legend of the Holy Grail, to say the least.
The Travelling Thirds are Mr. Lyman T. Moulton, an American literary prig, and his wife, two daughters, a second
cousin named Catalina, and later, an English guardsman, who falls in love with the cousin when she has "emerged" from those "centres," before alluded to, and ceased to remind us-and possibly him-of the china Mandarin. She is, notwithstanding these peculiarities, and a mouth resembling a perfect Indian bow-easily accounted for by an Indian ancestress-an attractive young person, and the adventures of herself and party, resulting from the purchase of third-class tickets in Spain, are decidedly picturesque. We rather wonder at Catalina's having only to don a fresh shirtwaist to create an immense sensation, and at another girl's getting several paragraphs simply because her belt happens to make good connections in the back. Both have gone without saying so long among Americans as to make only the exceptions as conspicuous as this tailor-made pair. Yet Mrs. Atherton tricks her women out for the most part in seedy blouses, and never takes a fresh toilet after a dusty ride as a matter of course. As for Lydia's "little waistbag," the shopping world spurned it so long ago as as to make it a positive anachronism in a story of to-day.
In Mr. Lyman, Mrs. Atherton neatly ridicules "a beacon-light of American literature"-one of those ready-made thinkers whose palatable platitudes are eagerly swallowed whole by dependent minds. His daughter Jane, also, is "thirdrate, and tries to conceal the fact from herself and others by an affectation of such of the literary galaxy as make the least appeal to the popular taste." Mrs. Atherton discusses the education of American women as well, and incidentally points a moral, if she cannot be said always to adorn her tale.
G. W. A.