15 APRIL 1916, Page 20



Jr would be hard to find a better illustration of the gulf that divides Georgian from mid-Victorian fiction than that which is furnished by Miss Sir.elair's choice of a hero. The heroes of fifty or sixty years ego were generally of the Admirable Crichton type ; handsome, athletic, and distinguished. They took Double Firsts, played in the University Eleven, and rowed in the University Eight. James Tasker Jevons

did none of these things. Ho had no social or educational advantages; he was undersized, and was only redeemed from physical vulgarity by the freakish irregularity of his features and his fine eyes. When we first meet him he had struggled up from being a printer on to the lower rungs of the journalistic ladder, and was earning a bare livelihood by reporting football matches. But he was a genius, and he knew it ; he had mapped out his career in advance and carried out his plans to the letter. When we say that he was a genius, it is right to add

that he was not a Shakespeare or a Milton. But he had a perfect genius for success. He meant to achieve resounding popularity and fortune as a writer, laid his plans accordingly and carried them out to the letter. He foretold the stages of his advance with an uncanny prescience, always giving himself a specified time to do what he wanted and then going and doing it. Incidentally we may note that he pro- phesied the coming of the war, and the part to be played therein by submarines. Obviously we have to deal with an unusual person, when it is borne in mind that he had to gain a hearing on his own merits, and that in less than ten years he made a mint of money as a novelist and playwright and had become one of the most celebrated men of his time. But perhaps his most remarkable achievement was his marriage. While still a struggling and impecunious journalist, without manners, or " aitehes," or breeding, he fascinated a young woman of good family and beauty to such an extent that she not only discarded an eligible suitor, but burnt her boats so as to make sure of J3vons marrying her. Viola Thesiger's behaviour was largely due to reaction against the Cathedral atmosphere in which sho had been brought up. She was the daughter, not of "a Dean rich, fat, and rather apoplectic," but of a Canon of austere ideals and endowed with a beautiful voice. She had also six sisters. Hence in her desire to "slake her thirst for the unusual" she was ready to go to considerable lengths, and to face the (Cathedral) mush). Besides, Jevons had infected her with his confidence, and she was convinced that his star was greatly in the ascendant. Still, her choice of a man who was a little " bounder " of genius and her methods of securing him naturally shocked her family and friends. But Jevons had no wish to estrange them ; on the contrary, he at once laid himself out to conciliate and conquer their prejudices, and in great measure succeeded, though Viola's favourite brother—a soldier—remained intransigent. Reggie Thesigcr could not stand Jevons's social lapses, and these unfortunately became more pronounced as he advanced to fame and fortune. He became materialized and vulgarized by success, revelled in his popularity, and developed a passion for furniture which culminated in "an explosion of all the upholsteries," as Carlyle would have put it, in his Mayfair Tudor house. His table manners were never good, though they were better than Dr. Johason's, and in moments of hilarity ho became vulgar without being funny. It was the Tudor furniture that began Viola's

disillusionment; and once Jevons began to get on her nerves she ceased to be an adoring doormat, and, though occasionally hypnotized by his personality, began to seek consolation in the company of a soldier cousin. At this stage of Jevons's fortunes, though outwardly he was more

prosperous than ever, everything seemed to be heading for disaster. It only remained for the war to provide him with the supremo occasion for his genius for success. Baffled in his attempts to enlist, thwarted and rebuffed by the authorities, he went out to Belgium to scout for wounded in his motor-car, exhibited a reckless and astonishing valour, and finally crowned all by rescuing his brother-in-law at the risk of his own life and the loss of a limb. The conquest of the Cathedral was thus triumphantly completed, and Viola's devotion to her husband restored on an unshakable basis.

The foregoing sketch of the rise and greatness of Tasker Jevons is inevitably imperfect, and perhaps misleading. The picture given by his friend is a long study in reluctant admiration, but the admiration is none the less genuine for the large reserves with which it is accompanied. Even as to his literary genius the narrator makes no positive claim, and abstains from telling us any details about his books or plays beyond

• Taster Awns: the Real Story. By May Sinclair. London: Hutchinson and Co. (Ga.] their almost invariable popularity and financial success. To him the man was much more interesting than what he wrote. That was merely the vehicle in which he "arrived." Hence we are told a great deal about his adventure, his campaign, and his business, but very little about his books. Jevons's ideals were frankly material : he wanted to make money, and to make it rapidly. He had no fastidious scruples in turning his experiences into " copy." "There was no delay, no reverse, no calamity that Jevons couldn't turn into use and profit as it came." It is not even certain that he took himself seriously as a writer. But "he wanted most awfully to arrive." And yet you couldn't hate him. He did unspeak- able things and was often socially impossible, yet he had most of the elemental virtues. He was benevolent, generous, considerate in large things, loyal to his friends, a gosd son to a disreputable father, and always more desirous to win over those who disliked him than to "get back" on them. In the elopement episode he could fairly cry quits with the young lady, and at a critical moment he was saved from his worse self by a sudden impulse of chivalry. Perhaps the most disputable part of this minute and engrossing study is the culminating episode in Belgium, in which, after weeks of agonizing apprehension, Jevons achieves perfect fearlessness in the face of danger. But the manifestations of courage are so unexpected and mysterious that we do not wish to dogmatize on the subject. Miss Sinclair has given us a brilliantly written and extremely interesting book with a new type of hero, for whom, if we cannot love him, we come in the long run to entertain a feeling of intermittent affection.