NOVELS OF THE WEEK.*
AT rare intervals Mr. Marion Crawford has abandoned his studies of contemporary manners for an isolated excursion into the realm of historical romance. The last, if we mistake not, was Zoroaster (which the circulating library clientele not infrequently used to pronounce as a trisyllable, to rhyme with "boaster "), and involved a backward flight down the gulf of time of some three thousand years. Less exacting in the present instance, Mr. Crawford carries us no further back than the period of the second Crusade. Following the best * (1.) Via Cruets. By F. Marlon Crawford. London : Macmillan and Co. [Cs.] —(2.) The Story of the Treasure Seekers : being the Adventures of the Bastable Children in Search of a Fortune. By E. Nesbit. With Pictures by Gordon Browne and Lewis &Rimer. London : T. Fisher Unwin. [6s.]—(3.) The Lion and the Unicorn. By Richard Harding Davis. Illustrated by H. C. Christy. London : W. Heinemann. [Gs.]—(4.) Twelve Tales. By Grant Allen. London : Grant Richards. [6s.]—(5.) Cold Steel. By M. P. Shiel. London : Grant Richards. [6s.) —(6.) A Fair Imperialist. By Vincent J. Leatherdale. London : T. Fisher UnwIn. [6s.]—(7.) A Kiss for a Kingdom. By Bernard Hamilton. London : Hurst and Blackett. [613.]—(8.) A Passing Fancy. By Mrs. Lovett Cameron. London : John Long. [ea.]—(9.) Miss Marjorie of Silvermead. By Evelyn Everett-Green. London : Hutchinson and Co. [68.]—(10.) The Queen of the World ; or, Under the Tyranny. By Luke Netterville. London : Lawrence and Sullen. DS.]
traditions of this kind of fiction, °Ilford assigns the
central role of Via Crucis to an imaginary personage, a young Englishman named Gilbert Warde, whose father Sir Raymond, an adherent of the Empress Maud, has been treacherously slain by Sir Arnold de Curboil, a partisan of Stephen. To complicate the situation, the false Lady Goda, Gilbert's mother, marries Sir Arnold within a month of Sir Raymond's death ; while Sir Arnold's daughter, Beatrix, loves and is beloved by Gilbert. The latter, after an ineffectual effort to avenge his father in which he nearly falls a victim to the sword of his stepfather, is nursed back to convalescence by some kindly monks, journeys to France, where he joins the train of Duke Geoffrey, and inspires no less exalted a personage than Queen Eleanor with a passion which he cannot return. Seeking refuge in flight, he journeys to Rome, but is recalled by the Queen on the pretext that Beatrix has joined her Court. The rest of the story resolves itself practically into a contest between the Queen and her maid of honour for the English knight, Beatrix's constancy and courage ultimately inducing Eleanor to renounce her claim. Incidentally we have portraits of Bernard of Clair. _Ix, Arnold of Brescia, young Henry Plantagenet, and other historical personages ; picturesque descriptions of the pageantry and squalor of the time ; and no lack of heroic encounters between mail-clad heroes. We yield to none in our admiration of Mr. Crawford's talent, to which we owe the swift passage of many delightful hours, but we cannot pronounce his latest venture to be more than a skilful tour de force, well costumed and staged, but only redeemed from perfunctoriness in characterisation and incident by the fluency and tact of the handling.
Miss Nesbit may perh aps be surprised at finding her story included under the heading "Novels," but we shall be much more surprised if any of our readers who may be led to purchase and devour The Story of the Treasure Seekers resent our somewhat elastic interpretation of the term. The main point is that the story is a work of fiction, and that it will entertain and touch any adult reader who is not destitute of natural affections. For this, in a word, is one of those rare books which enable a reviewer to earn the gratitude of the public by the simple act of cordial recommendation. We will not discount the pleasure of perusal by any detailed account of its contents. Let it be enough to say that it sets forth the adventures of a family of six motherless children living in a London suburb, and threatened with the pinch of poverty, who have resolved to "restore the fortunes of the house of Bastable." Various expedients are tried. They dig for treasure ; they adopt the roles of amateur detectives ; they bombard an editor; they rescue a nobleman from peril; they answer advertisements ; they besiege a moneylender in force ; and finally they capture, captivate, and enslave a long-lost uncle. Long before that, however, they have made a complete conquest of the reader, from Oswald, the narrator, down to Horace Octavius, the youngest of the sextet. To close this necessarily imperfect survey of a Celightful book we may quote an obiter dictum of the narrator : "Girls would never do for African explorers or anything like that, they are too beastly particular," and his account of the sanguinary signature of the Bandit Captain. It was written with Horace Octavius's blood, "only the blood gave out when we got to 'Restored,' and we had to write the rest with crimson lake, which is not the same colour, though I always use it, myself, for wounds."
Mr. Richard Harding Davis, one of the ablest American tellers of short stories, gives us several excellent specimens of his invention in The Lion. and tlu, Unicorn. The story which gives its name to the collection is concerned with the fortunes, in love and manager-hunting, of a young American play- wright who lodges over a Royal-warrant-holder's shop in Jermyn Street. Philip Carroll is deeply in love with a charming but irresponsive compatriot, who disregards his chivalrous devotion until she suspects him of paying his attentions to an attractive actress. As long as she was certain of him she treated him with neglect ; at the first hint of inconstancy she finds that be is the only man. As a matter of fact, the flirtation with the actress, who is already engaged to be married, is a plot of the latter's devising, and brings about the intended rapprochement. In a much more seriously sentimental vein is the tale of the wounded soldier on the fever-ship, who in his delirium mistakes the nurse for
his betrothed. t b again Mr. Davis converts the possibilities of trage y into a happy ending. Of the remain- ing stories, we may note the effective little comedy of high and low life in New York entitled "Cinderella," in which we are glad once more to encounter our old friend Van Bibber ; "The Last Ride Together," where the author ingeniously brackets three points of view of the most ignominious episode in the recent annals of English military history ; and "The Man with One Talent" a really fine satire on American politics and politicians.
The Twelve Tales by the late Mr. Grant Allen which have been published in a handsome but awkwardly shaped volume may be regarded as fairly representative of the author's achievement in the domain of the short story. They are in part collected from three previous volumes of tales, while an equal number have been gleaned from the author's contributions to various magazines and periodicals, and are now published independently for the first time. The results go far to show that Mr. Grant Allen never improved as a story-teller upon his earliest efforts, notably "The Reverend John Creedy," that strange, powerful, and uncomfortable essay in " mis- cegenation " and heredity, and that he was never happier than when drawing upon the experiences gained during his sojourn in the West Indies. One cannot help, again, being struck by the strange incongruity that a man who in his private and domestic life seems to have been all kindness, gentleness, and unselfishness, should have had as a writer of fiction such an overmastering predilection for unpleasant, and even repulsive, themes. In regard to style he combined lucidity and fluency to a high degree, but entirely lacked distinction, a lack which was probably accounted for by the dangerous facility with which he composed. The author of an "In Memoriam" article in the Fortnightly describes how when he was at work at big typewriter there was seldom any perceptible pause. Nothing, we may add, is more interesting in this volume than the fragments of literary autobiography contained in the introduction, especially the passage relating to Mr. Grant Allen's dealings with Mr. James Payn.
There is a spasmodic vehemence about the language of Mr. Shiers romance, Cold Steel, which occasionally makes for fatigue. We suppose that the plea of realism must be held to cover the occasional Elizabethan frankness of the language ; and as the story chiefly concerns that great Queen's royal father, we cannot expect any very great delicacy in the motif: The heroine is attractive, the figure of the old magician effective ; and yet one has a feeling that the whole novel has, as the spiritualists say, somehow "failed to materialise."
The Imperialism of the characters in Mr. Leatherdale's story, A Fair Imperialist, seems to be entirely limited to occasional eulogistic references to Mr. Cecil Rhodes and to "
dealings" in South African mine shares. As the whole book is concerned with the doings of a party of people on the Riviera, the reader cannot help feeling that the title was invented when the book was finished to lend the story a topical and up-to-date complexion. The book is to a certain extent readable, though the motives which govern the actions of the personages are not always quite clear to the reader, who will probably be as "thoroughly mystified" as Charlie Wyborne (one of the characters) at finding in the last scene that there was still no open engagement between the hero and heroine. It is probably the modern hatred of "an end, a veritable end" as untrue to life, which is at bottom of the mystery, for as the author lets the reader see that he fully intends Petronella and Hurlston to marry there seems no other reason why they should not be engaged, even if Petronella is going off to the Cape, on Hurlston's own suggestion, to look after her brother. Mr. Leatherdale has still to learn that subtlety does not consist in omission.
Mr. Bernard Hamilton's novel, A Kiss for a Kingdom, intro- duces an innovation into the fashionable realm of mock royalty. An American millionaire, by name Julius Ctesar Jones, has a fancy for presenting his "best girl" with a real, genuine crown, and this is the story of how, with the aid of a British Baronet, he sets about seizing the government of a small republic in Italy. Poor Julius Cesar is really in effect the tool of a wily Italian inventor of armoured motor-cars, &c., Sagro by name, who wishes for the kingdom for himself when Jones has furnished the sinews of war. His schemes after many most ca iting adventures, including the drath
of poor Jones, are happily frustrated by the valiant Baronet aforesaid, who tells the story. The book, which indulges in some lurid forecasts of the state of France in the next century, is throughout readable and often exciting.
Mrs. Lovett Cameron is as usual facile and readable in her new novel, A Passing Fancy, though the present writer has a rooted prejudice against the mixing up of the love affairs of two generations. That a man in love with a very young- looking woman (a widow) should even in a moment of passing madness elope with her grown-up son's fiancée, and should, after a short and unhappy married life and the death of his wife and her former lover, return to and marry his first love, seems to us neither a pleasant nor a con- vincing motive for a story.
Miss Marjorie of Silvermea,cl, by Miss E. Everett-Green, is a well-meaning little middle-class story with gilt edges to its pages (actual and metaphorical) and a number of rather dis- tressing illustrations. There is a mystery, a lunatic, and at the end no less than three happy marriages of young people, whose previous complicated engagements have been the source of much unhappiness to themselves all through the book.
As the first novel on our list carries us back seven hundred and fifty years, so the last projects us into the third quarter of the twenty-first century. The hero of The Queen of the World, after performing certain mysterious rites in a cave of the Southern Andes, wakes up on December 14th, 2174, in the dominion of a tyrant in South America. Obviously such a work challenges comparisons with Mr. Wells's exploits in proleptic romance, and it emerges from the ordeal with credit rather than distinction. The motive of Mr. Netterville's romance is the rebellion of the Anglo-Saxon race against the domination of a vast Mongolian tyranny. Locomotion is mainly carried on by flying machines, and the story closes with an aerial Armageddon in which the Yellow Horror is overthrown by the English forces. Mr. Netterville's inven- tion is vigorous rather than ingenious, and lacks the humour as well as the circumstantial quality without which such efforts grow tedious and even irritating.