26 MARCH 1898, Page 22


WHEN Mr. Howells writes as he does in An Open-Eyed Con- spiracy, one must forgive him even his essays in literary criticism,—can a British reviewer say more than that ? As a writer of fiction, Mr. Howells is especially worthy of admira- tion in that, well-nigh alone amid American contemporary novelists of the front rank, he has withstood what may be called the denationalising drift,—the tendency to lay the scene anywhere but in America, and to people the stage with cosmopolitan characters. What is more, his literary patriotism has condemned him to no taint of provincialism ; while, last and best of all, his work is always clean, fresh, and fragrant. The delicacy and distinction of his method, and the wholesome sanity of his outlook, were never more happily • (1.) An Open-Eyed Conspiracy. By W. D. Howells. Edinburgh: David Donglas.---(2.) The Pride of Jenr.ieo. By Acnei Castle and Egerton Castle. London : Bentley and Son.-13.) American Wives and Eylish Husbands. By Gertrude Atherton. London: Service and Paton.—(4.) The Lady Charlotte. By Adeline Sergeant. London: Hutchinson and Co.—(5.) The Vintage. By H. F. Benson. London: Methuen and Co.—(6.) A Voyage of Consolation. By Sara Jeannette Duncan. London Methuen and (jo.—(7.) The Rer. Annabel Loa: a Tale of To-morrow. By Robert Buchanan. London : 0. Arthur Pearson. —(8.) Ribstone Pippins. By Maxwell Gray. London: Harper and Brothers.

illustrated than in the delightful little comedy—fall of grace and tenderness—which grows out of the compassion shown

by a clever, kind-hearted middle-aged couple at Saratoga for a beautiful country girl, dying to have a "good time," and with no one to show her the way. Her rural chaperon and devoted friend is obliged to return home to nurse a sick husband, but Mr. and Mrs. Marsh, the middle-aged pair, come nobly to the rescue, and take charge of their new protegee. Then a handsome and amiable young literary man—a great friend of the Marshes—arrives on the scene, and is at once enlisted in the service. Mr. and Mrs. Marsh realise the extent of their responsibilities from the outset, but matters are soon taken out of their hands by the inevitable course of events. Julia Gage, the rural beauty, adorably igno- rant, but with plenty of character; ICendricks, the young literary man, charmingly chivalrous and unselfish ; and the two good genii of the story, Mr. Marsh, the kindly, whimsical satirist who acts as narrator, and his impulsive, inconsistent, generous wife, make up an admirably contrasted quartet. The dialogue is natural and alert, the comments of the narrator abound in shrewd and delicately humorous sayings, and the pictures of life at Saratoga are fall of vivid and illuminating touches. What Kendricks says of Saratoga may, with the necessary modifications, be applied to this delightful love-story : "It's American down to the ground. Yes ; that's what makes it so delightful. No other people could have invented it, and it doesn't try to be anything but what we made it."

Instances of the successful collaboration in fiction of husband and wife are by no means common. Mr. and Mrs. Egerton Castle may, however, be cordially congratulated on the happy results which have attended their experiment in dual authorship. The Pride of Jennico is an uncommonly agreeable specimen of the fantastic romance of which Stevenson's Prince Otto is the most brilliant, and Mr. Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda the most popular, example. Captain Basil Jennico, the cadet of an old English family, has taken service in the Austrian Army, in which his grand- uncle holds the rank of Field-Marshal, and on the latter's death succeeds to his Schloss and estates in Moravia. There he falls in with a Princess of the blood and her maid of honour, who, to suit the caprice of the former, have changed places during an enforced flight to the neighbourhood to escape from an outbreak of an epidemic at one of the Royal country seats. Jennico falls in love with the pretended Princess —who is beautiful but dull—proposes an elopement, and when at their midnight wedding his bride removes her veil, finds that he has married, as he thinks, the maid of honour, in reality the Princess Ottilie. Even in the moment of his resentment she fascinates him, and he soon falls entirely in love with her. Still he harps from time to time on her deception, till one day, stung by a cruel taunt, she suddenly leaves him. Jennico soon bitterly repents of his hasty words, pursues her fruitlessly—for all the time he keeps asking for the wrong woman—and drifts to England, where, still ignorant of his wife's identity, he is nearly assassinated by her cousin and lover. Finally, he returns to Austria, and with the aid of the maid of honour finds his way to the Princess's side, and, after a succession of bloodcurdling perils, carries her back to his castle. The Princess is a delightful creature ; and the whole story may be best described as a most engrossing fairy-tale for grown- up readers. The local colour is happily laid on, but the element of " actuality " is quite refreshingly absent, while the joint authors wield the pen as gallantly as one of them wields the rapier.

Though there are a few painful pages in Mrs. Atherton's new novel, American Wives and English Husbands is in the main a welcome change from the lurid sensationalism of Patience Sparhawk, while in characterisation, style, and taste it marks a considerable advance on the earlier work. Once again we have a heroine of exuberant in- dividuality, a Southerner with a touch of the Creole, born and bred in San Francisco, the social life in which city is sketched with remarkable skill and brilliancy by Mrs. Atherton. Lee Tarlton while still a child strikes up a great friendship with an Eton boy travelling with his father. Her mother shortly before her death exacts a promise from the boy—then barely fifteen — that he will marry her child, and some ten years later Cecil Maundrell, after taking a double first at Oxford, comes to redeem his promise. Lee has grown up to be a miracle of loveliness, adored by many eligible suitors.

but the Englishman—his father, by the way, has succeeded to a peerage—carries her off in triumph to his ancestral halls. There inevitable friction arises between his bride and his step-mother, also an American, but of the most unmodulated Chicagesque type. Cecil becomes absorbed in politics, and his wife, after loyally endeavouring to adapt her exuberant individuality to her new surroundings, grows terribly homesick, and meditates a long visit to California in the company of one of her former admirers. From this risky course she is rescued by the tragic end of her father-in-law, who blows out his brains on discovering that his wife is bankrupt, and that he is really the pensioner of her lover, an odious parvenu. So Lee dismisses her American admirer, and remains to console Cecil. The book is a strange compound of extravagance and intuition. Mrs. Ather- ton is, on the whole, a far severer critic of her com- patriots than of us, though she certainly does not spare the venal aristocrats of the Old Country. Her sympathies, again, are much more with the South and the West than with the North or East. New England does not appeal to her, and Chicago excites her antipathy. The denouement strikes us as rather strained, the betrothal of the children absurd, and the admirable Cecil a decided prig. But the American women are drawn from the life, and in depicting their love of life and pleasure and admiration, as well as their capacity for hatred, Mrs. Atherton writes with a sort of fierceness that is curiously impressive.

It is only when we compare The Lady Charlotte with Miss Adeline Sergeant's best work that it disappoints the reviewer, who, like panting time, toils in vain to keep up with her never-tiring pen. For, if we estimate it by the light of her abnormal literary productivity, the result must be pronounced most meritorious. It is true that we miss the olive-com- plexioned, insinuating foreigner, with artistic tastes and supple, sinuous movements so familiar to students of Miss Sergeant's earlier novels, but his place is, on the whole, creditably filled by the unscrupulous but attractive literary man, who sponges on his hard-working and altogether admirable female cousin, palms himself off as her brother on her titled employers, worms himself into their con- fidence, purloins their family papers, and trifles with the affection of their niece and heiress. A terrible Nemesis, however, overtakes this unprincipled scribe. Lady Charlotte Byng—who reminds us not a little of Mrs. Grote in Mrs. Simpson's reminiscences—a lady of tremendous force of character, who is employed by a firm of publishers as an amateur "reader," is sent by accident the MS. of a book in which Arthur Ellison—the wicked literary man mentioned above—has incorporated the stolen documents. Whereupon she goes straight to his chambers, armed with a silver- mounted revolver—she is, we may add, a dead shot—and forces him to give up the stolen papers and sign a confession of his theft. After which there is nothing left for him to do but to take an overdose of chloral. The story is brimful of absurdities—e.g., the hands of an otherwise attractive young lady are described as "undeniably claw-like "—but quite readable, thanks to Miss Sergeant's unflagging energy. There is one passage which will give male readers intense amusement. Arthur Ellison, on visiting his cousin, after stretching his limbs comfortably over her chintz-covered sofa, "without waiting for her consent, exerted himself so far as to extract a cigarette from a silver case, and to light it with a fusee, which diffused a pleasant aromatic odour through the room." The fondness of women for the smell of a fusee is a strange fact, but we never remember to have Been it alluded to in a novel before.

We welcome in The Vintage, from the pen of Mr. E. F. Benson, a timely departure from the desipience, not always sweet or reasonable, of his earlier excursions into the realm of fiction. It is a far cry from Dodo to—shall we saaa?— Dodona, but Mr. Benson has gallantly turned his back on mere "details of the day," and given us an elaborately planned and, in the main, well-carried-out romance of the War of Greek Independence, in which his residence in the country, familiarity with the traits of national character, and appreciation of its scenery are turned to excellent account. As regards his general attitude towards the Greeks, he may be said to steer a middle course between the censorious judgments of Finlay and the sentimental eulogies of Alex- ander Soutsos. He makes no attempt to extenuate the ferocious reprisals in which the Greeks indulged, and justly condemns their treachery in violating the terms of the capitu- lation of Monemvasia. Still, the novel on its historical side is in great part a vindication—we will not use the ugly word "whitewashing "—of the Greek character. Though many real personages figure in these pages—Germanos, the Arch- bishop of Patras, in particular appears in a much more favourable light than in Finlay's narrative—the chief actors in Mr. Benson's romance are non-historical. These are Nicholas Vidalis, a highly accomplished bandit, a veritable Ulysses in resource, animated by an undying thirst for vengeance on the murderers of his wife and child, and his nephew Mitsos, a young Hercules of Nauplia, whose careful training by his uncle is fully and admirably described. The love interest is furnished by Mitsos' at- tachment to a young Greek girl in a Turkish harem, and the climax of the story is reached when .Mitsos, at the bidding of his uncle, Betting patriotism before personal feelings, fires a Turkish ship which he believes to contain his Suleima. Perhaps too much space is devoted to the prepara- tions for the revolt, though these abound in exciting incidents, and the contrast between Mitsos' idyllic courtship and the perils which beset him on his journeys as a missioner of revolt is very happily contrived. The local colour is picturesquely laid on; and Mr. Benson is most fortunate in his illustrator, Mr. Jacomb-Hood, whose drawings are admirably finished and expressive. As regards the characterisation, it may be said that Mitsos and his cousin occasionally converse rather too much in the manner of young 'Varsity men. Here and there, again, we encounter phrases which strike oddly on the ear in a historical novel. For instance, we wonder whether Queen Olga of Greece, to whom the book is dedicated, will fully understand what it means to say a thing "in an infernally superior manner."

A Voyage of Consolation belongs to the category of sequels, but Miss Duncan has acquitted herself of this notoriously perilous task with remarkable skill. Indeed, for sheer clever- ness it is perhaps the ablest work that has yet issued from her vivacious pen. The point of departure is very simple. Miss Mamie Wick returned from her sojourn in England engaged to Professor Arthur Page, of Yale University. But within a fortnight of her return to Chicago they quarrel on the subject of her Anglomania and his accent, and at a moment's notice she sweeps off her parents to the Continent, with the literary intention of transmitting her European impressions "through the prism of damaged affections." Round this trio—the tyrannical, irresponsible daughter, the sentimental mother, and the shrewd and imperturbable Senator—are grouped a number of travelling companions and acquaint- ances, chiefly American and English, and the result is a sort of feminine "Tramp Abroad," rounded off with the inevitable reconciliation to the youthful Professor. Miss Duncan's satire, as Bindle said of the society manners of George IV., is seductive and impartial. Indeed, the only serious fault to be found with her pages is that they are almost fatiguingly exhilarating. Of all the characters none pleases us more than the Senator, who, when at home—owing to the number of Irish residents in Illinois—" really didn't know some- times whether he was himself or a shillelagh," but when con- versing privately with his daughter abroad often mentioned what a comfort it was to be his own mouthpiece. When the Senator stood before Mona Lisa's portrait in the Louvre he observed, "Did you ever Bee anything more intellectual and cynical, and contemptuous and sweet, all in one ! Lookin' at you as much as to say, Who are you, anyhow, from way back in the State of Illinois—commercial traveller ? And what do you pretend to know ?' " Excellent also are the audacious Miss Callis, "who called herself a child of Nature, but really resided in Brooklyn," and eventually captured the heir to an English peerage ; and Mrs. Portheris, who "wore the expression of one passing through the Stone Age to a somewhat more mobile period." Sometimes Miss Duncan's genuine sense of fun deteriorates into a rather frigid facetiousness, as in the conversation on the Morgue, or into burlesque, as in the scene in the Catacombs. But much may be forgiven to her for her indomitable high spirits and flashes of real wit,—e.g., the heroine's comment on her father's dis- paraging comments on Great Britain. " 'We are always twisting a tail,' I said reproachfully, that does nothing but wag at as." The cover and the title of Mr. Buchanan's new novel both militate against its chance of a sympathetic hearing. The former, representing an angelic female in mortar-board and lawn sleeves against a crude blue background, verges on the ludicrous ; while The Res. Annabel Lee irresistibly provokes a smile. This is unfortunate, for the story is evidently meant in deadly earnest. Mr. Buchanan projects himself into the twenty-first century, and imagines a materialistic Millennium very much a is Bellamy. Sin, crime, and disease have virtually been abolished by science ; the effete and the unfit are gently but firmly directed to eliminate themselves ; flying machines, phonoscopes, and other delights are within every- body's reach, the Thames flows as crystal-clear as in the dreams of the late Mr. William Morris, and regenerate mortals only require to eat once a week. But Christianity has been replaced by the religion of Humanity, and it remains for the Rev. Annabel Lee to revive the forgotten evangel and arouse the dormant spirituality of a race hardened by monotonous prosperity. Her course is hampered by the devotion of her lovers, Thiel, a deformed musician, who embraces Christianity from interested motives, and Eustace, an incorrigible supporter of the new regime. In the issue Eustace, maddened by jealousy, denounces Uriel and Annabel, and the former is condemned to death under the Elimination Clause of an unrepealed statute. In a riot that ensues on the announcement of the verdict, 'Oriel is killed, but Annabel is allowed to go free after saluting Uriel as the fret martyr of the resuscitated creed. We are regretfully obliged to declare this novel a most unconvincing tour de force. The story is perpetually trembling on the verge of the grotesque. Infelicitous touches of realism—e.g., the case of the child crushed by a descending flying machine—con- stantly jar on the reader. It cannot be said that Mr. Buchanan's attitude is in the least irreverent. It is simply that the prosaic surroundings of his scientific Millennium infect the very characters who are entrusted with the role of its spiritual redemption.

It is pleasant to turn aside from sophisticated novels of town life to so entirely rural an idyll as "Maxwell Gray's" Eibslone Pippins. The story is of the slightest, the action being almost entirely confined to a young waggoner's ride to market, and his visit to the farmhouse where his sweetheart is employed. But the bird has flown, and an evil fellow- servant poisons his ear with calumnies against her fair fame. The clouds are dispelled as quickly as they gathered, and the sketch ends with the reunion of the rustic lovers. The con- versation of the waggoners—given in broad West Country dialect—their rough but not unkindly banter, and the shrewd philosophy of old "Grammer" Hardinge on the subject of 'courtship and matrimony are excellently contrasted with the somewhat rhapsodic descriptions of the landscape, and the waggoners' songs—whether original or traditional we cannot say—have the true ring about them. Perhaps this little book gives too roseate a view of the life of the agricultural labourer, but when nine out of every ten novels of country life follow in the sombre track of A Village Tragedy a little optimism affords a welcome diversion.