22 APRIL 1882, Page 22


THERE is more plot in Mr. Payn's latest novel than there was in its immediate predecessor, A Grape from a Thorn, upon whose heels it treads with surprising closeness. For Cash Only reminds us of the earlier style of the "novel-writingest " man of the time, who does not, however, show any signs of writing himself out. Mr. Payn is not likely to perform that too familiar operation, so long as he chooses to go on writing at all;

for he can never be at a loss for the materials with which he works, and his skill in the handling of them gains in deftness and nicety by practice. He is a close observer, a sedulous picker-up of traits and indications of character; his intimate acquaintance with modern life in a variety of aspects gives him a great facility for contriving scenes and circumstances which display his portraits to advantage, and his cheeriness and chattiness may always be depended upon to relieve the effect of even his sternest choice of incidents. We believe that the great popularity which Mr. Payn has attained as a novelist—. popularity attested by the issue of edition after edition of his works in various forms and sizes—is largely due to hie genuine homeliness (in the accurate meaning of that wordX' and to the sound common-sense that pervades his writings.- He does not parade or sentimentalise the one, as Dickens did, nor does he insist upon and lengthen out the other, as Trollope does ; but both are always to be found in his books as they are to be found in honest, ordinary English lives, and they are recognised and liked with a heartiness and unanimity that speak well for the reading public, and contrast favourably with other examples of literary popularity.

Mr. Payn has always been a good hand at depicting .a. villain, and he has rarely yielded to the temptation of making his villains attractive. There is no Eugene Aram in the tolerably long, list of his murderers ; there is no Paul Cliffoid among his thieves or swindlers ; he never fails to invest villainy with its almost inseparable characteristic (in real life), base and ever active selfishness. He has also a happy knack of por- traying a fool; but he is at his best when his subject is so well adjusted a combination of villain and fool as the young gentle man who does the lying and the smaller dirty work in For Cash Only, under the guidance and inspection of the leading villain.

Gerald Lyster might be described in the terms of Quilp's apo- strophe to Sampson Brass, just before the drowning of the dwarf;

* For Cash Only. By Jamee. Payn. London : Chatto and Windns. it would be difficult to find in fiction a more base and cowardly oar. The story-teller gives him his deserts ; there is no sentimentalising about the drinking, lying, cruel, young scoun- drel, who calumniates his dead father for a bribe, robs his sister, -and deserts his ill-treated and wretched wife. When he is *drowned on his way home (purposing to do more evil, in the -working out of a very ingenious plot), every one is glad of it, and the relief of the circumstance is allowed to be as complete as it would undoubtedly be in real life. The leading scoundrel of the tale is differently, but as ably treated. We take leave of shim not as a drowned corpse, indeed, but as a " welsher," supposed by an otherwise clever spinster, whose education -has been neglected in Turf matters, to " have changed his nationality, in order to avoid recognition." We are not disposed to quarrel with the author's distribution of ',retributive justice in Percy Fibbert's case, either. The interest of the story depends chiefly, as its title indicates, --upon money matters; but these are ingeniously and liberally smixed up with the love-affairs to whose claims Mr. Payn has :invariably been fully alive, and of whose intricacies and diffi- 'culties he is wonderfully an fait, for a novelist of what Mr. ..Squeers called " the conflicting gender." We derive a notion, from the general tone, and especially from the surprising diversity of his variations on that old theme, "The course of true love never did run smooth," that Mr. Payn has frequently played the part of confidential friend and adviser, and has been consulted in many a delicate dilemma. That his warmest sym- pathy and his most respectful confidence are always on the side of the lady, is matter of course ; his thoroughgoing partisanship of women reminds us of Miss Austen's Jane Bennet, in 'Pride and Prejudice, who could not endure to think any one would be wilfully in the wrong, and would persist in believing that all the parties to a bad transaction were victims of circumstances. There is a certain Mildred Fibbert in For 'Cash Only, who, if she had been dealt with by a novelist of her own sex, would have been " arranged" after the terrible- example fashion, " carbonadoed," as Barham has it, but who is not more than " half-bad " (which does not mean at all im- :proper), under the gentle handling of Mr. Payn. One of the cleverest touches in the book, which abounds in clever touches,

the last appearance of Mildred. Our sense of the fitness of things, which is totally distinct from poetical justice (in that Mr. Payn does not deal), is fully satisfied by the descent of the -curtain on the welsher's wife.

By far the ablest portraiture in the book, however, is that of 4 Mr. Lyster, on whose death, literally to a minute, the fate of all concerned hangs. The idea is, so far as our acquaintance with novels extends, quite original, and it is admirably worked out. The nervous, ailing, dying man, who, without deliberate wrong- doing, has drifted into a position which may, at any moment, be rendered desperate by a financial accident, and who clings

• to life, to only a little shred of it, as the means of rescuing his beloved daughter from the possible penalty of his errors, is drawn with more than the author's usual power ; and the -scene which terminates Mr. Lyster's suspense, is the best in the long list of Mr. Payn's works, with the solitary exception of • the decisive interview between the two Englishmen at the Chinese prison in By Proxy. The title of the story pre- .pares the reader for the action of sordid motives in its development, and he finds them ; but they are not universal, nor omnipotent. Herbert Newton is an ade- quate counterpoise to Percy Fibbert ; and Clare Lyster is a gem of a girl, remarkable even among the numerous ,gracious and real life-like girl-portraits which form so char-

acteristic a feature of Mr. Payn's stories. The author is particu- larly fortunate in his samples of talk in this novel. He brings 'them in with more ease and more a propos than usual, and his

introduction of Miss Darell, the rather odd, very amusing, thoroughly downright spinster friend of Clare Lyster, who sees through everybody, and puts everything to rights, and whose talk is admirably easy and characteristic, is a happy thought. Miss Darell plays general utility to perfection ; and we hope, for the sake of some good people who deserve the blessing of such a head and such a heart devoted to their service, that she -has a living, moving, talking prototype.

It may lie that Mr. Payn, like Mr. Chuckster, has his " worst enemies ;" but even they, if they included all the unsuccessful

novelists known to the butterman and the paper mills, cannot accuse him of being " preachy." Yet this present work of his is embellished with one of the smartest possible little sermons against the reading of bad books, and dexterous use is made in support of that discourse of the doings and sufferings of Mildred Fibbert, who points the moral, if she does not adorn the tale of For Cash Only. Again, Sir Peter Fibbert, than whom the clever attorney, Mr. Oldcastle, remarks that he " never saw a man lie with less ingenuity or a worse grace," could be drawn only by one who had closely observed his fellows, and noted the effects of circumstances on character.

For Cash Only abounds in clever bits of description ; we have space only for the following, taken from a carefully drawn portrait of Stokeville, the manufacturing town in whose vicinity the scene of the story is laid :—

"Cotton and iron are the flesh and bone of Stokeville; and its life-blood is commercial prosperity. Everything to the outward eye is of man's making. Nature has been expelled. The unoccupied spaces, which in other towns would be pleasure-grounds, oases of verdure in the desert of brick and mortar, are here mere waste places, of which the gardener can make nothing, and which have been given up to the cinder-sifters. In Stokevillo the art of cinder-sifting has been carried to perfection ; and where no cinders can be distributed, on account of elevation, or other obstacles, there are smuts. To wash, except on Sunday, is useless; and as a substitute, perhaps, a large portion of the population anoint themselves with oil. It is said that they aro born white, but the impression of the beholder is to the contrary ; at all events, from a very early period they assume the 'local colour.' Nevertheless, if you get below the surface, which is not promising, of the good folks of Stokeville, you come upon the best of soils (though unknown to geologists). True Grit The merchant princes of Stokeville can command all the luxuries of the earth, but what is in other places thought a necessary, namely, fresh air, they cannot get. It is, however, agreed upon to ignore this fact. They dwell in palaces of ebony, and call them alabaster. They import trees and plant them, and talk of them as if they grew ; the leaves wither and the branches shrivel (' Air, air!' they murmur ; ' thin is smoke; bah ! worse, it's soda ') ; but their owners regard them with complacency. Our plantation,' they say, is getting on nicely !' Indeed, next summer it looks as well as ever. The fact is, they have imported more trees, but it is the local courtesy adopted by every well-bred visitor (and the Stokeville magnates are hospitality itself) to believe them to be the old ones."

There are many excellent incidental sketches of places and persons in this story ; hors d'couvres, so to speak, that add a piquant flavour to the general repast. Mr. Roden is quite a dainty dish of himself. We wonder by what name he is known at " the Club."