4 NOVEMBER 1905, Page 18

Mn. WELLS abandons the role of prophet and sociologist in

his new book for the more modest function' of delineator. Of contemporary life. In this he reverts -to the earliei manner represented in comedy by his delightful extravaganza The Wheels of Chance, and in its more serious guise by Love and Mr. Lewislunn. One is more particularly reminded of The Wheels of Chance because Kipps, like the hero of that engaging tale, plunges into the world from the counter of a draper's shop, and in many respects exhibits • a family resemblance to the inimitable Mr..Hoopdriver. But the spirit and temper in • which Mr. *Wells develops his -new theme are much nearer akin to those 'shown in Love and Mr. Lewisham. the other stciry. • For this is not a fantastic episode treated in * Hipps the Story of a Simple Soul, By H. G. Wells. London* Maeraillan and Co. pal irresponsible :fashion, _ but . a, detailed . account of -mental and moral evolution from early boyhood to manhood But just as Mr. Wells. combines with the most audacious flights of his -scientific .imagination. an attention to minute and circumstantial details, so conversely in this remorseless record Of the generally drab career of a little counter- jumper he does not hesitate to introduce the tipbeaving element of the wildly unexpected. Mr. Hoopdriver _en his fortnight's holiday found himself suddenly entrusted with the ist/e of a modern paladin. Kipps, when thrown On his beam-ends by an adverse. stroke of fate, is suddenly. exalted to affluence by an unexpected legacy. But though this addiction to the marvellous. removes Mr. Wells from the cittegory of the photographic realist, it is thoroughly characteristic of his method that he should have limited the fortune to 21,200 a year. Samuel Warren, in dealing with asimilar theme, endowed Mr. Tittlebat Titmouse with £10,000 a year, and a sensational novelist of to-day would Probably not be content to deal with such a freak of fortune on a basis of less than five times that income. Mr. Wells shows excellent sense by this moderation. To have made Kipps a millionaire would have rendered the situation commonplace or grotesque. His vicissitudes and trials are capable of much more lifelike and poignant illustration amid respectable middle-class gurroundings than if he had been projected into the society of parasitic -Peers.

Kipps when we first encounter him is an orphan child in the charge of an aunt and uncle, small shopkeepers at New Romney. Of his parentage we hear little, and that only indirectly; but the impression is created of certain social aspirations on the part of his mother, and- it is in keeping with these traditions that he should be despatched in due course to a shabby-genteel school at Hastings where the boys wear mortar-boards, but are inadequately fed and inefficiently taught by the semi-literate possessor of a bogus diploma. By comparison with the mental and physical starvation of Cavendish Academy, Kipps's holidays were paradisiacal_ in their comfort and freedom and happiness ; but this recurrent solace was soon abridged on his being apprenticed to a draper at Folkestone for seven years. The squalor, the privation, and all the humiliations to which a shop assistant is subjected by a greedy and dishonest tradesman are set forth with rdentless precision by Mr. Wells. What is remarkable about the narrative, however, is that, mean; vulgar, and insignificant though Kipps undoubtedly is during this stage of his development, he seldom fails to excite compassion, and often inspires liking. Underneath his undistinguished exterior and appalling accent—which Mr. Wells ,reproduces with theconscientiousness of a gramophone—one realises that the little man has a certain kindliness of heart, a consciousness of his imperfections, and a faint leaven of divine discontent impelling him, ineffectually but sincerely, to embark on various efforts at self -culture,—including shorthand and wood-carving. Kipps's emancipation from the thraldom of the shop is abruptly effected by his chance contact with a strolling player, an irrepressible Bohemian, who initiates his new friend into the ways of the world with results momentarily disastrous. Then comes the miraculous legacy, and Kipps makes a fresh start on a higher plane, more than ever conscious of his social disabilities, and predestined by his naivete and ignorance to fall a victim to the wiles of adven- turers. He engages a Pecksniffian teacher in deportment, but his education is really taken in hand by the handsome young lady who had conducted the wood-carving class, and who, to his intense surprise, condescends to accept his suit. Miss Walshingham, we may note in passing, is a rather complex and bewildering character, and we are not greatly astonished when Kipps, overwhelmed by her excessive and exacting gentility, literally runs away from his fiancée and elopes with the humble playmate of his childhood. The marriage is a success but for the' burden of keeping up appearances on the 21,200 a year basis, and it is really a relief when a speculating solicitor makes ducks and drakes of Kipps's fortune, and relieves him and his -wife from the painful necessity of aping their social superiors. Kipps's return to his old love is, allowing for certain Wellsian touches, quite in keeping with the best Adelphian traditions ; and that nothing may be wanting to their comfort, Kipps is re-endowed with quite a comfortable income as the result of a purely wild-cat investment in a share of the strolling actor's farce. Some reviewers have regarded the main aim of- the story as satirical, but we have failed to find warrant for such a view.. On the contrary, we have found Kipp in many 'sari the: most human and sympathetic of Mr. Wells's stories. Its minute realism is of subordinate interest; in essentials it relies frankly upon sentiment, betrays something like affection in the author for his struggling hero, and, for all its uncon- ventionality, deliberately engineers a happy ending, and' inculcates the ancient and orthodox moral that it is dangerous to marry above your breeding.

On Company's Service. By W. Pett Ridge. (Hodder and Stoughton. 5s.)—This book contains a collection of short stories linked together by the fact that the characters in all of them are people connected with the great railways. These per- ' sonages range from porters to railway directors, and Mr. Pett Ridge is most successful in the portrayal of the porters. The stories are all entertaining, though they make no pretence to being more than slight sketches. "Collector Richardson's, Crime" is one of the most amusing ; but none of the little, studies are dull, though perhaps they do not exhibit Mr. Pett Ridge at his best.

Green Cliffs. By Rowland Grey. (Hutchinson and Co. 6s.)— This little book should really have appeared during the summer. holidays. It gives an attractive picture of the life led by two young women in a French watering-place. But to be properly, enjoyed it should not be read with an equinoctial gale blowing round the house; one should be seated under a green umbrella by the seashore. The French characters in the book are vividly described, and the whole story is pleasantly written. The figure of the cripple, Victor De Verton, is described with great tender- ness and comprehension, and gives the reader the impression of a portrait, not of an imaginary conception.