11 FEBRUARY 1905, Page 21

Graham's volume under the head of fiction, seeing that its

ironical title is identical with that given to the narrative, founded on a book published in Mexico, of an episode in the recent history of that Republic, and that the remaining contents are sketches or transcripts of experience rather than efforts of constructive imagination. Yet it is hard to see under what other category this strange volume could be more conveniently classed. Mr. Cunninghame Graham's methods are so irregular and unconventional as to provoke a reviewer to emulate his eccentricity. Truth as envisaged and expounded by so uncompromising a free-lance is not only stranger than fiction, but often a great deal better reading ; and though he never abandons the medium of prose, his temper and point of view are always those of a rebel against the tyranny of matter-of-fact, his mode of presentation is fantastic, and the quality of his writing distinctly poetical.

"Mere facts," as he remarks in his preface, " are in the reach of any fool to prose about," and though he is full

of curious lore, he has a holy horror of communicating it in precise terminology. Thus the use of the word " camelote" prompts a footnote to the effect that it is "a very thick- growing water-lily which sometimes chokes small streams. It no doubt has a scientific name, which would cut it out of the writer's recollection if he looked it out and used it." With that view of the literary artist's responsibilities which regards self-effacement as a virtue he is in constant and avowed antagonism. The revelation of his personal likes and dislikes is an integral part of his method, and he is seldom able to write for half-a-dozen pages without lashing out against the evils of modern civilisation, whether it be materialism, or machinery, or missionaries.

The desire to shock and startle prudes is human enough ; unluckily, it prompts Mr. Cunninghame Graham, in moments

of irresponsible bravado, to indulge in violent, and even disgusting, phrases. Nothing is gained by these explosions. So far from fortifying or glorifying, they vulgarise his reactionary idealism. It is as though a hidalgo suddenly adopted the manners of a "hooligan." But though these lapses from taste are a serious blot on the book, and render

it unsuitable for general perusal, they are fortunately power- less to destroy the impression created by Mr. Cunninghame Graham's remarkable and engaging talent when he is dealing with scenes and personalities remote from the contact of modernity. When Mr. Cunningbame Graham forgets the existence of Mrs. Grundy, and is not obsessed by the desire to stick pins into her—as, for example, in the beautiful legend of the Arab widow who made a pilgrimage to Mecca to see the Prophet, and argue with him on the injustice of excluding women from Paradise—be is at his best. But his

sense of tenderness is intermittent, and in the main he seems to derive most satisfaction from the description of types in whom the Machiavellian virtil is incarnate. Humility is not

a quality which specially appeals to him, and it is difficult to imagine him rendering poetic justice to any one who was neither a horseman nor a fighter. For the rest, his philosophy is perhaps best expressed in the opening passages of " Mariano Gonzalez ":—

" Life only really is understood, either by simple men whose cares and joys are bounded by the parish where they live, or by those disillusioned folk who look out on the world as a cow looks out on a road, resting her head upon a gate. Your true Nirvana • Progress, and other Sketches. By E. B. Canninghame Graham. London Duckworth and Co. [62.] can only be attained by those who, in the sun, the tides, the phases of the moon, the miracle of buds and flowers, green leaf and then dry boughs again, find happiness, and pass their lives in thinking without bitterness on that which might have been. Occasionally on some lost island beach in the Pacifie, in ranches on the plains, in hulks upon the Oil Rivers, in seeming uncongenial places up and down the world, we come across them. Some- times, indeed, amongst the busy haunts of men they live detached, aloof from all around them ; but in every case their touchstone is the apparent failure of their lives. That is, they must have had some quality which put them out of tune, made them too sharp or flat, not up to concert pitch ; in fact, unfit for excellence in the pursuits their fellows prize, and rise to eminence by following, becoming county councillors, generals, and admirals of routine—eminent, worthy, and uninteresting—dying high in tho respect of those who, born without appreciation, endue their heroes with their own qualities intensified. Something of pathos clings to those who, having left the world alone to run its maddening course, have thus become, as it were, moth-eaten gods in threadbare marriage garments. To be a god is to be quite detached from all around, or else so permeated with every- thing as to bo part of it. So live the trees, the grass, the birds, and beasts, and, as a general rule, those men from whom alone one can expect something out of the common ; something within themselves which far surpasses all accomplishment. A painter or poet (all but the greatest) may excel and yet be as common as a countess in Mayfair, or as a shop girl in the Brompton Road; but the beach-comber or the man left stranded by the waves of life may be a drunkard, possibly a thief, but it is hard for him to be a snob, for if he had been he must inevitably have drifted to success."

There is arrogance, affectation, and not a little of the detest- able cant of talking about cant in this queer book, but it would be idle to deny that it has originality and distinction, or that the figures which people its pages—rogues, bravos, and fanatics, gauchos, Arabs, and Mexicans—are brought before one with a vivid picturesqueness born of close and intimate observation.