29 APRIL 1899, Page 39

NOVELS OF THE WEEK.* THE heroine of Miss Beatrice Harraden's

new and charming novel reminds us not a little of the heroine of what is, after all, the best of Cherbuliez's romances, Samuel Brat et Cie. Nora Penhurst, in the words of the author, "was one of those who seem to stroll through life carrying everything before them, but carrying it gallantly and unaggressively." She was not strictly a great beauty, but "a lovely expreseion of frank- ness lingered in her eyes and around her mouth. It was that which was the secret of her beauty,—that and her gallant bearing. She looked like a ship in full sail, riding confidently over the waves, strong in build and buoyant in possibilities." Readers of the French novel will remember the description of the heroine's bearing, and how it corresponds to that of Nora Penhurst. But we have no desire to labour what is, after all, a mere family likeness. Both heroines are frank and charming with a gait like that of Delilah, and neither of them are infal- lible as judges of male character. But there -is a world of difference between Samuel Brohl, the romantic impostor, and Theodore Bevan, the viperous little cynic whose object in life was to annex and annihilate the souls of desirable young women, and who by dint of imperturbable persistence came very nigh achieving his end in the present instance. Bevan, be it understood, is no vulgar amorist. Physically a weakling, insignificant in appearance, he is inspired with that malevolence which, as in the case of dwarfs and deformed persons, seems to have its origin in a desire for revenge on an unkindly Nature by embittering the lives of others. The fascination he exerts is merely mental ; his victims are never at their ease in his company, and yet they find it almost im- possible to shake off his overshadowing, soul - poisoning influence. His victory over Nora. Penhurst bids fair to be greater than any of his previous conquests, and we can well imagine how many modern novelists would have revelled in painting the irrevocable ruin of her life. Her extrication from the snare of the fowler, however, as set forth by Miss Harra.den, reconciles the claims of poetic justice with those of verisimili- tude, a.nd though the. little pan-snake is only scotched, not killed, Nora'a deliverance is final and complete. By way of homely contrast with the poignant interest of the main plot, we have in the patriarchal courtship of Mrs. Mary Shaw by Mr. Parrington a study of middle-class life not unworthy of comparison with the rural humours of George Eliot. We have only to add that Miss Harraden's sympathetic portraits of the emancipated women of the day are calculated to disarm the most uncompromising reactionaries. The "new woman," whether as nurse, bookbinder, scholar, or club president, has never been invested with greater charm.

Mrs. Mannington Caffyn's novel starts luridly enough at the death-bed of an opium-soddened artist, whose wonderful face is framed in "dainty, womanish lace frills," and who takes as unconscionably long a time in delivering his last blasphemies as Valentine in delivering his swan-song in Gounod's Faust. Julian Lytton, however, though his malodorous memory per- • (1.) The Fowler. By Beatrice Harraden. London : W Blackwood and Son& (Ss.]—(2.) Anne Maukverer. By Mrs. Mannington Caffyn ("Iota "). London : Methuen and Co. Ces.)—(41.) 4 Semi-Detached Marriage. By Arabella Kenealy. London : Hutchinson and Co. [6s.]—(4.) The Maternity of Marriott Wickert. By Mrs. Henry Dudeney. London : W. Heinemann. (es.)—(5.) Unholy Matrimony. By John Le Breton. London : John MacQueen. (811.1—(o.) The Garden of Swords. By Max Pemberton. London: Cassell and Co. pe.]—(7.) The Man and his Kingdom. By E. Phillips Oppenheim. London : Ward. Lock, and Co. [Be. ed.]—(S.) The Rebels. By M. McDonnell Bodkin. London : Ward, Lock, and Co. [68.]—(9.) Rose d Charlitte. By Marshall Saunders. London : Methuen and Co. [13a.]—(10.) On the Edge- of a Precipice. By Mary. Angela Dickens. London : Hutchinson and Co. [es.]—(11.) Sunningham and the Curc.te : a Study of Creeds and Commerce. By Eolith A. Barnett. London : Chapman and Hall. tes.]—(l2.) The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings. By L. T. Meade and Robert Eustace. London : Ward, Lock, and Co. Ds.) meates the book, disappears at the end of the first chapter ; and we are thenceforth chiefly concerned with the career of the young woman, half Madonna, half Amazon, who, though he had jilted her for a lady "with sparse outlines, but a comfort- able income," nursed him devotedly in his last illness and adopted his impish child Julian, junior, who "for the first fruits of his adoption kicked her soundly and called her by a most exceedingly evil name." Perhaps the best comment on Anne's conduct is that supplied by a candid friend, who remarks : "When, I think of you, of you, Anne Mauleverer, sane in the main, and, goodness knows, with the strength of a Goliath, in a simmer of mawkish, faugh ! love ! for, for a wisp of attenuated vices, you must excuse tne,,, my love, -I cannot, even for your sake, truckle with the truth ; for six years—six years, I declare I—I feel faint and sick." That is really admirably put, and will probably express the feelings of not a few readers of this strange narrative. At the other end of the book we find Anne appealed to by a jealous wife to assist her in winning her husband's love. "It's been," observes this young lady, "it' been like living with a god—a mannish god with conventional eyes who sees cat at the foun- dation of all women's animality, and is, in consequence, pro- foundly pitiful towards their shortcomings." If, however, it is impossible to commend Anne Mauleverer as an elevating or entertaining study of humanity, as a storehouse of eccentric, affected, spasmodic, and extravagant modes of expression it should. prove invaluable to the student of literary degeneracy. Strenuous preciosity interlarded with slang,—that is the essence of Mrs. Cairyn's style. She tells us that the obvious- ness of her heroine "frequently hit you like a blow." That is very much the effect of every second paragraph of this book. To read it is like living in the company of riveters in a boiler factory..

Miss Kenealy's work, though disfigured by exaggeration, is always readable and often something more. Ind Semi-Detached Marriage the heroine is the heiress of a millionaire dynamite manufacturer who, without knowing it, is in love with John Strahan, the managing partner, to whom her father left a sealed letter bidding him marry his daughter. Unfortunately a fin-d-e-siecle Baronet, Sir Latimer Coyle, makes violent love to Celia, who thinks herself in love with him, and eventu- ally becomes his wife. It subsequently comes to the know- ledge of Strahan that the first Lady Coyle was alive at the time of Celia's marriage ; the bad Baronet, after a good deal of dallying, most unnaturally refuses to be re- married, and we are treated to a distressingly Adelphic scene, in which the rejected Celia struggles home through the snow. The exposure nearly kills her and quite kills her unborn baby but„ in the end Sir Latimer is opportunely eliminated by an explosion in the dynamite factory, and Celia and Strahan are happily married. The novel is forcibly written and at times amusing, but suffers from melodramatic violence, while• the minor characters are painted with very crude exaggeration. — With Miss Kenealy's novel may be bracketed that of Mrs. Dudeney, the title of which, The Maternity of Harriott Wicken, is surely the reductio ad absurdum of a well-worn formula. The story is as follows. Dr. Owens, of Brixton, is in love with Harriott Wicken, but does not propose to her on learning from Mrs. Megson (also of Brixton) the story of Harriott's parentage and predisposition to insanity. Mean- while, Harriott is in love with Mr. Dandie Darnell, whom she met in a'bus and subsequentlymarries. Dandie, who, as becomes his name, is a fastidious personage, removes Harriott from the undistinguished Brixton entourage, and is overjoyed on the birth of a child. But during his absence in South America, Harriott, discovering that her baby is an idiot, farms it out, and procures, with the assistance of Dr. Owens, a pretty, nameless child, which she passes off as his own to her husband on his return. This deception leads to a succession of catastrophes culminating in Harriott's suicide. The minor characters here are well drawn, notably the Brixton aunt ; but the story, though not lacking in force, is repellent, with a sordid realism that descends on occasion to downright greasiness.—Another specimen of dreary and gratuitous realism is Mr. Le Breton's Unholy Matrimony, which describes the tortures inflicted on a high- minded curate by a dipsomaniac barmaid, whom he married out of pure quixotry. The novel is avowedly intended to pro- mote an alteration of the Divorce Laws, but- the 'cogency , of its appeal is vitiated by the artificiality of the plot. The Franco-Prussian War as viewed by combatants and non-combatants in and near Straisburg furnishes Mr. Max Pemberton vritlythermaterials for a spirited, though very far from convincing, international love - story. The heroine, English on her father's side• and by education, is married in the first chapter to a gallant French cavalry officer, who is summoned a few days after the wedding to take the field with his regiment. He is. taken prisoner at Worth; while 'his wife, penetrating the German lines in search of her husband; is chivalrously escorted into security by Brandon North, a young Englishman, 'a friend and rival of her _husband, serving in tlfe German Army. North's attentions are misconstrued by Captain Lefort on his release, and lead to an estrangement between husband and wife only terminated by a death-bed conciliation. The narrative is handled with Mr.' Pembertcrn'a usual vigour and animation, but the sympathies of the reader are largely alienated by the transference of Beatrix's allegiance from the French to the German side. "The defeat of France's army had changed her," so we are told, "perchance had driven her to that very pride in Saxon might which she deplored but could not modify." Neither Beatrix's antecedents nor her personal leanings prepare us for this volte-face, which in`a professedly romantic tale comes on the reader with 'some- thing like a shock.—Mr. Oppenheim's intrepid invention is displayed to advantage in The Man and his Kingdom, the scene of which is laid in an imaginary 'South American Republic. The hero is a benevolent English millionaire and ex-M.P. who, after many adventures,- marries the President's beautiful daughter and rules in his stead. The convensicin. of the unscrupulous President's blackguardly son is highly improbable, but it is in keeping with. the general aim of the author, who is a purveyor of excitement and surprise rather than a conscientious realist.—Mr. Bodkin gives in The Rebels a stirring account of '98 from the Nationalist point of view, with Lord Edward FitzGerald- as the central figure. The English, of course, commit every sort of nameless atrocity, and much sympathy is expressed with the French who were taken prisoners at Ballinamuck after a series of gallant victories.—Rose a Charlitte is an eminently, pleas- ing story of the Acadians and village life in Canada. The heroine is charming, though her goodness becomes somewhat oppressive in the end.—On the Edge of a Precipice is a story of suspended mernOry in a beautiful girl, who while in this state exactly reproduces the fine tragic acting taught her by an evil and ugly friend. The hero, having been in love with the former all through, on her recovering her memory and identity marries the female villain. Miss Dickens writes with ease and fluency, but the novel will not add to her reputation. —Miss Barnett's novel, Sunningham and the Curate gives a curiously minute but decidedly unattractive picture of life in a semi-suburban neighbourhood in the sixties—Mrs. Meade and Mr. Robert Eustace have collaborated in a highly sensa- tional romance, in which the resources of modern science are employed by a secret society, with a woman for its leading spirit, in the execution of a series of diabolical designs against mankind. Such a work as The Brotherhood of the Seven Kings inevitably challenges and suffers from comparison with the achievements in a similar direction of Mr. H. G. Wells.