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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (May 1, 1887)
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T 11 E SS'PEJtl A V.
all such cases, is .not always infallible, ami is apt to change
with varying circumstances. Some hooks which, upon their
lirst appearance have excited little or no interest, have after
wards come to he regarded with no little favor, and their full
beauty and real worth seen and appreciated. The most re
markable instance of this that occurs to us is Dickens' "Pick
wick Papers," which were by no means successful at first, and
yet, few there are now who are not acquainted with the amia
ble Pickwick's adventures, and who do not leel a friendly in
terest in 'SamiveP Wcller. On the other hand, many works
of fiction have met with immediate and astonishing success,
but their popularity has been short-lived, and they have sank
into an oblivion from which they are not likely to emerge.
Now, although we cannot of course speak with any degree of
certainty, we cannot but think that Mr. Haggard's "She"
bids fair to be classed in this category. Even now the inter-
est fell in it is rapidly waning, and it is more than likely that
its notoriety will be very transitory indeed.
Mr. IIaggar.1 proceeds to ride roughshod over our modem
American novelists in a manner that must wound these gentle
men's sensibilities very much, if they arc at all sensitive to
literary criticism. He quotes them as saying that there are
no stories left to be told, and then tells us that their works
clearly show the truth of the statement, at least as regards
themselves. Mr. Haggard kindly informs us that our novel
ists have developed a new style of romance; that their hero
ines arc things of silk and cambric, who soliloquize and dis
sect their petty feelings and elaborately review the feeble
promptings which serve them for passions. Their heroes, to
Mr. Haggard's discriminating perceptions, are not a whit
better, and arc evidently titled for nothing but to dangle
around the heroines and pass away their time in frivolous
amusements. Now, it is difficult to understand how a man of
Mr. Haggard's knowledge can make such bold statements,
and expect for a single instant that they will be believed.
Granted that there are a few American novelists who do pro
duce such works as he has described, has he any right to class
the works of our best writers with those abortive attempts?
Mr. Haggard seems to think that if a novel is produced by an
American it is not worth the paper upon which if is written.
'Not only this, but he proceeds to compare them with the
works of Swift, Fielding and Thackeray. Why does he not
institute a comparison between the modem American novels
and the modern English novels? Mr. Haggard, we imaginc,is
too shrewd not to see that the English novelists would suffer
by the comparison, so he therefore has recourse to some of
the best English writers of the proceeding ages. True, he
has been kind enough to class Nathaniel Hawthorne with
Swift, Fielding and Thackeray, and for that condescension
we are thankful, but we are grieved to see a gentleman of Mr.
Haggard's ability display such a remarkable ignorance of
what is produced in our unfortut'atc country.
Then there is a second school of fiction, the Naturalistic, al
the headof which is Zola. With all that Mr. Haggard has to
say regarding this detestable school, we heartily agree. He
is severe in his criticism of it, but he is deservedly so, and he
has certainly shown up the writers of this class in a manner
which they richly deserve. If Zola, notwithstanding his pro
testations to the contrary, chooses to exert a baitcful infhr
ence upon those of his readers who arc weak enough to be
influenced by him, he ought to be censured with unsparing
severity by those who have' a love for what is good, pure
and beautiful, and Mr. Haggard has not failed to excit all
his scorn against the upholders of this wretched system.
Our author now comes to the third great school of fic
tion, which he classes as that devoted to the Young Person.
He complains against the restrictions of this school' with
amusing petulance. Mr, Haggard thinks it hard that fiction
should be judged by the standard of fitness for yyung
girls of sixteen to rend. He seems to think thai this evil,- a,s
he evidently considers it, is confined solely" vt England, and
he being an Englishman himself,, it is perhaps for .that very
reason he finds it so hard to put up with. '. .
He asks why it is that men scarcely, ever read a nov.cl,an.d,
then tells us that in a great majority of cases i' is because it
presents no Hue picture of life and manners, but "is awcak,
vapid collection of absurdities. Now, in view of this fact '
Mr. Haggard's most celebrated novel can certainly not come
under the first class, and also that one or two of his other
works might be classed in the second, wc are a little .
at a loss where to place him in the literary field. Does he
think that "She" is a realistic piece of life? No, ve have.,
his express statement that he docs not so consider it. ' Then
perhaps he is severe upon himself and, recognizing the de
maud which he thinks is made upon all writers of fiction, Jie:
has catered to this demand in order to attain a certain degree-"
of success. The question is too difficult for us loanswcr,aud
we must live in the hope that perhaps Mr. Haggard may -see-fit
to throw some light upon it. ,,
Mr. Matthew Arnold's recent "Estimate" of General
Grant and his "memoirs" is but another illustration of that'
tendency so frequently manifested among men who have se
cured an acknowledged place in literature, to censure, in the"
writings of others, anything that does not come up' to their
standard of excellence. It must be acknowledged that if any'
one is capable of applying correct rules of criticism to litera
ry productions, that man is Mr. Arnold; but in the present in
stance wc think he has presumed too much upon his own
judgment and preslige, audhas stated his views as though he
never anticipated that an exception would ever be taken to
his expressed opinions. Notwithstanding Mr. Arnold's evi
dent belief in his own infallibility, we cannot but think, that
he has been not only careless, but unjust, in hs strictures up
on the General's work. He does not take into consideration
the fact that Gen. Grant produced this admirable work under,
conditions when even Mr. Arnold, be it aid, Would probably 4
never have been able to perform any work".' of "any quality '
whatever, nbt to mention a work of such' dimensions 'as' the ,
ore in question. Mr. Arnold proceeds'to makeltTs criticism
as though the General had set to work uiiderJthe best 'possible '
circumstances, and had had ample tinie to make his revision,
pay attention to the style, form, and grammatical accuracy of .
his sentences, instead of beingobliged to devote'all of his.
time to the matter and no time to its artistic aYraug'ciuehf.' ' ' .
One of the most important objections -which' MY. Arnold"
makes is that the General's English is not ''high' bred,' fre- '
quently giving evidence of the fact that the tlener'al" was" hot '
so conversant as might be with the commonest rules' of gram
mar, ll is 'some what amusing to Hole that nf criticising this .'
feature of Gen. Grant's style Mr. Arnold .makes far " 'greater N
mistakes in the same particular than those upon which he '
sits in judgment. Mr. Arnold's, prefuse-dtsplay of pronouns
without any discernible antecedents raralher-bewildering to;
one who is not a master of syntax,, and yet . we' think thaf'
Mr. Arnold might have, condescended to clothe his'.thbughts in !
plainer English than here used, in prderthat his less leanicd
readers should be,able ta understand him. . . ' -vJl
Then again, the uncompromising way in which )Mr. -Arnold t
judges of Grant's work by the standard of. Drilish approval .1
is," to the patriotic American, somewhat exasperating,- to tsay A
the least. We arc pleasantly .informed, at, .the, conclusion pf.;
Mr. Arnold's not very creditable performance that "np, doubt