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ought to which sorrow does not vibrate terrible and exquisite pulsations. The in, beaten-out leaf of tremulous gold 1at chronicles the direction of forces hich the eye cannot see is in comparison oarse."

And so Wilde records in words that are full of music those "terrible and exquisite pulsations." He dwells with epicurean tenderness upon Dante and St. Francis of Assisi, upon Demeter and Dionysus and Christ. "Christ's place," he says, "is with the poets." And the place of Oscar Wilde is with the Greeks. It is as a Greek of the decadence or of the soft Ionian type that one should think of him and judge him. He was a Hellene post-dated, and no Englishman a sensuous, beauty-loving soul, at once poetical and pagan.

Rafford Pyke.


In a trilogy of one act dramas under the common title Morituri, Herman Sudermann depicts the mental state of three men in the prime of life, with everything to live for, who know that in less than twenty-four hours they will be dead. Two of these little dramas are merely literary "stunts," although very clever stunts. The third contains a strong arraignment of certain false social traditions. Comparison with the Sudermann drama-cycle is what comes to the mind in reading Mr. Darrow's book; that is, if one is obliged to find some terms of literary criticism or literary comparison for it. But it is as difficult to apply the standards of academic criticism to this book as it would be to apply them to an actual death-bed confession. And yet

*An Eye For an Eye. By Clarence S. Darrow. New York: Fox, Duffield and Company.

if to create an illusion, to attain the effect aimed at, completely and entirely, is literary art, then Mr. Darrow's work is literary art of the highest, in spite of an apparent neglect of all the canons of literary art.

Mr. Darrow's hero, who, on the eve of his hanging for the murder of his wife, tells a friend how it happened, has one point of difference from the Sudermann heroes in that, although still in the best years of his life, and strong and well, he hasn't so very much to live for, unless it be the mere brute instinct of continuing to live. Jim Jackson realises that he is one of the many who “didn't never have a chance" in life. The very mildness and humility of his attitude towards life, brought about by a natural gentleness of disposition and the consciousness of the shadow of death hanging over him-this very mildness is a more severe arraignment of social conditions than the fiercest tirades could be.

This simple crude narrative of an unlettered man in the lower walks of life

digressing often to dwell upon what appear to be unessentials, but holding the thread straight and true with wonderful directness-throws a cruel searchlight upon so many evils of our modern social system that it is hard to know just where to begin to enumerate them. Whether it be the sin of the death penalty, the crime of hasty public opinion and a system of justice-machinery influenced thereby, or the influence upon public opinion of a sensational press-or the greater, because more fundamental, wrong that keeps the man at the bottom of the heap down beyond all hope of rising except through dominant brutality-all of these are held up in Jim Jackson's simple rambling story in a way to make the most thoughtless shudder. Grace Isabel Colbron.



ANY critics find a congenial and harmless pleasure in trying to explain why the popular standard in fiction and the drama has not risen to a higher level .At least it is harmless so long as we realize that such attempts seldom contain more than a few half-truths intermixed with a good deal of random guessing; for you cannot reduce to a mathematical proposition a question as broad and unstable as human nature itself. But perhaps it is no wilder a guess than many others to lay the blame upon the inability of the average reader, and the average writer too, to draw a hard-and-fast line between the novel of adventure and the out-and-out melodrama. Ask the next person you meet casually how he defines a melodramatic story, and he will probably tell you that it is a hodge-podge of extravagant adventures, full of blood and thunder, clashing swords and hair's-breadth escapes. Here again we have only a halftruth. These things are all ingredients of a melodrama, but they cannot by themselves make it melodramatic, nor explain why it is so. There is nothing inherently melodramatic in thunder or in blood. The clash of swords, the roar of cannon, the groans of the dying, the whole red spectacle of actual warfare, is not melodrama, but grimly sober prose; the violent death, in war or in peace, by poison, suicide, collapsing houses or sinking ships, is one of the common-places of modern existence. And commoner even than the violent death is the hair'sbreadth escape. A few weeks ago, in a collision between an express train and a local, one passenger coach was ground to kindling wood, and the reported casualties included one dead and upward of forty wounded; in other words, forty hair's-breadth escapes to one violent death. And in the daily life of a big city that is probably a fair average proportion.

The author who just saves his

hero forty times and lets his villain die by violence is not perhaps writing an artistic story or one that will win credence; but he is not necessarily writing melodrama. Quite recently in an installment of Italian magazines that arrived in New York in a single mail, no less than three short stories, by three different authors, ended by the hero or heroine falling headlong to death from a third-story window. Any one of these stories by itself might have been accepted without protest; but the three together, the accumulated horror of them, not unnaturally led to their being tossed aside in disgust, with the verdict "rank melodrama." And yet within a week a New York paper contained a record of the same number of deaths through falls from windows; within the limits of greater New York alone.

The truth is that the taint of melodrama is quite independent of character or plot. It rises from the method of the telling. It makes you look upon life through defective lenses that magnify and distort reality to the verge of caricature. To grasp just what the word "melodrama" means, one should remember its earlier use as a synonym for opera-a drama interspersed with song. Consider for a moment the extent to which the opera differs from real life, and you have a pretty clear idea of the falsity of conventional melodrama. The opera is a world where men and women sing their clearest, highest notes when they are suffering, persecuted, dying. In real life, we have the silence of despair, the discord of human agony, the deathrattle. In the opera, the orchestra heralds the approach of joy or sorrow with appropriate strains or dirge or lyric; the lime-light moon pours its brightest rays on happy lovers; the world grows dark when murder stalks abroad. In the real world, fate has a bluff and inconsiderate way of dropping from a clear sky, without the kindly warning of a preliminary funeral march. In the opera, neither fire


nor sword, sickness nor imprisonment avails to mar the spotlessness of the tenor's linen, or disarrange by a single hair the faultless coiffure of the soprano. And in the opera we forgive all this, because the vital, living part of it is not the libretto, but the music; and because the singers, with a few soaring notes, can make you oblivious to all the incongruity, the falsity to life.

But melodrama is a sort of bastard cousin to the old Italian book of the opera, retaining all its absurdities without the music which alone was its excuse for existence. In play or in novel, the melodramatic taint shows in the tawdry, tinsel glitter, the dark-lantern atmosphere, the glaring falsity, not of the things that are done, but of the way they do them. In plays and novels of the romantic school, it is permissible to take a hero an inch or too taller than other men, a degree or two stronger, a bit cleverer of brain and nimbler with the sword. But it is not enough to tell us all this; it is necessary also to make the hero live up to his reputation-make him do the things demanded of him by his extra inches and extra muscles and extra cleverness and at th same time not overdo them. To paraphrase the hackneyed formula, the romantic hero can get the better of some of his enemies all the time and all of his enemies some of the time, but not even a Dumas Musketeer can get the best of all his enemies all the time. That is a valuable fact that Harrison Ainsworth does not seem to have known; and there we have one of the numerous reasons why Dumas was a bigger novelist than the author of Admirable Crichton. What one really cannot forgive to melodrama is not so much that it tricks us into believing for the time being a series of happenings that would be impossible in real life—but rather because, by overstepping the mark, it destroys illusions, spoils a dramatic effect by a sort of reductio ad absurdum. There was a luridly romantic piece upon the boards upward of a generation ago the name escapes the mind for the moment-but there was one memorable scene in it that always provoked great applause from the upper galleries: the scene in which the hero escapes from the tower with a rescued baby under his arm,

crosses a raging torrent, leaping from stone to stone, and meeting his arch-enemy in the dark, fights him to a finish, the rescued baby still tucked cosily under his left arm. This of course is rampant romanticism, but the one touch too much, the touch that turns it into opera-bouffe, is the fact that throughout all the turmoil and excitement that rescued baby is supposed not to have once waked up!

Since the novel of adventure is a popular type with most men and with some women, it is a pity that we so seldom find one that really deserves the name, one that carries us triumphantly and masterfully along with it, and leaves us with an abiding sense of its genuineness, its possession, in short, of the true spirit of adventure. Whether it is a story of the Valois kings or the Pilgrim Fathers, the Western cow boy or just a light social comedy of errors, like The Man On the Box, in nine cases out of ten the taint of melodrama, the glare of the light, reveals itself to spoil the illusion. Other things it is chiefly the so-called historical novel that seems to turn to melodrama as naturally as milk turns sour. And the most exasperating book of all is the one that is melodramatic only in streaks. You take up such a book in an indulgent mood. The frontispiece, with two Louis XV courtiers settling an affair of honour, or a much-befeathered Indian neatly removing a scalp, ought to warn you. But instead, you tell yourself this is just the sort of book you have been looking for; you are going to shut your eyes to its exaggerations, you are going to yield yourself to it, believe in it, let it give you pleasant little thrills, such as years ago you used to get from Scott and Dumas. And because it is only melodramatic in streaks, you almost succeed. And then suddenly you run across an episode so brazenly extravagant, so cheaply lurid, so grotesque, that you recognize it for just what it is, plain ordinary opera-bouffe. The heroine, why she is simply Madame Angot's daughter or the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein; those brave marines are only the crew of H. M. S. Pinafore, those blood-curdling pirates are nothing more dangerous than the Pirates of Penzance. There is only one other type of fiction more irritating, and

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that is the story which tricks you into reading it halfway through before you discover that it is only a disguised advertisement of a popular automobile or a new health food.

One thing to be said in favour of Randall Parrish's books is that the melodrama does not appear in streaks; it is part of their very essence; you recognise it at once from a certain trick of style that sounds like an echo of Ouida at her worst.

A Sword of the Old Frontier

Open at random her latest volume, A Sword of the Old Frontier; you are sure to encounter some grandiloquent turn of speech that is meant to show you how different her characters are from ordinary mortals, and how differently they speak and act. The soldiers, trappers, scouts, the dainty French women, the swarthy halfbreeds that throng her pages are not merely a mixed crowd: they are "an almost constant stream of miscellaneous humanity." A mixed crowd is expected to be roughly clad, but "miscellaneous humanity" wears "the coarse habiliments of the plains”—all but the dainty French women and the Indians. The former are not merely women: they are "quality in high-heeled shoes and laced petticoat;" and when the band plays, they do not merely dance, they "yield impulsively to the witchery of the music." As for the Indians, they too are different. Ordinary Indians are just half naked. Randall Parrish's Indians go about "in almost total nudeness." As for the story itself, it unwinds in a swiftly moving panorama of events at Fort Chartres and Detroit in early colonial days-a panorama full of war and carnage, French finesse and Indian treachery, all painted in flamboyant colours.

The story moves forward in a rather breathless way. An ex-officer, cashiered unjustly, and now masquerading as a simple coureur de bois, is sent on a delicate mission to Pontiac, the chief who is preparing a raid upon the English Settlements. France and England are nominally at peace, and the coureur de bois simply has to make Pontiac understand quite confidentially that whatever harm he does those English settlements will se

cretly gratify France immensely. There is a treacherous half-breed with whom the hero quarrels in the opening chapter, publicly denouncing him in a speech intended to be stately, but which somehow smacks of Billingsgate: "Sacré! I am a gentleman of France; I do not fight such half-breed dogs as you." There are also two young English girls, on their way to join their families under guidance of this same half-breed dog. Our coureur de bois has plenty of work cut out for him to fulfill his mission to Pontiac, to protect the two girls, who don't trust him, from dangers they won't believe in, and to keep clear of the half-breed's treachery. And it is only when the last page is turned that you realise he has not succeeded by his own efforts in doing any one of these things. His mission to Pontiac is a failure; the half-breed checkmates him at every move; and it is only by blind luck that the girls escape and that the coureur de bois lives to marry the one he has chosen. And that is all there is to the story.

Sir Galahad of New France, by William Henry Johnson, offers in some

Sir Galahad


New France

ways a pleasant contrast to the foregoing book. Ribaut's ill-fated atIt is a tale based upon tempt to found a French colony on the Florida coast, in the year 1652, and the subsequent capture of the colonists by the Spaniard Menendez. The historical setting of the story distinguishes it from the great mass of colonial romances, and the simple, straightforward style of narration, free from all verbal embroidery, also speaks in its favour. Etienne Cazenove, the Sir Galahad of the title, promptly banished by the colonists, because he is too refined to join in with their freebooter methods, is nursed through a long illness by a young Indian girl, daughter of the Natchez tribe; and throughout many months he and the Indian girl live blamelessly together, he teaching her not only his language but the rest of his small store of learning. In the evenings, his bible serves as spelling-book and reader, and at night his sword lies on the ground between them, in good old knightly fashion. It is a harmless little idyl, pleasantly told,

a new version of The Forest Lovers, plus a race problem, and minus Hewlett's genius. If you can share the author's conviction of the high racial quality of the Natchez Indians, if you can accept the possibility of an Indian girl with a beauty like a Greek goddess and a mind capable of enjoying Homer, you may find pleasure in a volume which others will toss aside as too much of a strain upon credulity. But at least it is not melodramatic.

It is hard to avoid melodrama in stories that deal with the international

A Maker of History

relations of the great nations of Europe especially where the author takes the liberty of inventing secret treaties and bringing France and Germany, England and Russia to the verge of an imaginary war. That is why such a book as A Maker of History, by E. Phillips Oppenheim, deserves something more friendly than a mere perfunctory notice. In substance, of course, it is merely a sort of exalted dime novel. But it is written with such admirable restraint, such a matter-of-fact style, as though the events were being chronicled for the columns of a conservative daily newspaper, that you are cleverly led on from mild curiosity to a breathless sort of interest, from an amused tolerance to a sense that the outcome of that book is of quite seriuos import. And really the basic idea is undeniably clever. A and inoffensive English youth, ping off from a stalled train the Russian-German frontier, fiinds himself left behind on the tracks, and lying down to take a brief nap under a heap of forest leaves awakes just in time. to see a meeting between two exalted personages who have arrived, each in his private car, the one from the east, the other from the west, and whose interview is a state secret destined to change the map of Europe. The mild young Englishman, not for a moment dreaming of the magnitude of the thing he sees, witnesses the signing of a treaty that is to blot England from the geography of Eu rope; and when a stray breeze wafts page 17, the page with the vital conditions on it, through the car window, he picks it up

mild step


and pockets it as a souvenir of an interesting scene. He does not know that from that moment he has become a "maker of history," that the fact of his presence at that spot becomes known, and the emissaries of three different governments dog his footsteps all the way back to Paris, where one night he happens to visit the Café Montmartre and then quietly drops out of sight. His sister, coming to Paris in search of him, follows the trail as far as the Café Montmartre, and then she too vanishes as completely as though she had stepped over a precipice. The man who loves the sister also follows the trail to the Café, and for the time seems on the verge of success; but the poor little French girl who promises to give him information is found the next day with her throat cut. Undoubtedly the taint of melodrama lies heavily on some pages of a story of this sort; but you really do not mind that—all you are thinking of is that you want to know what has become of the Englishman, what has become of the Englishman's sister, what has become of the missing page, page 17 with the vital terms of the secret treaty. And when at last you find out, the interest does not suddenly weaken; there is none of that sensation, only too common even in dime novels of the exalted type, of having been tricked into an undeserved and unseemly enthusiasm. It is a book that promises you at the outset to furnish a couple of hours of substantial entertainment and it keeps its promise like a gentleman.

It seems a trifle unjust that the taint of melodrama should attach to the use of

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