- Evelyn Scott's The Narrow House
Double, doubleToil and troubleFire burn andCauldron bubble.—The Witches, Macbeth
Narrow House, Narrow Minds, Narrow Vision, narrow, narrow, narrow. The Narrow House (1921) is Evelyn Scott's first novel, followed by Narcissus (1922) and The Golden Door (1925), a trilogy in which the books are related through the continuing lives of the characters, with the focus changing in each book.
In The Narrow House, a subjective, psychological novel, Scott's approach makes each character equally important as the novel deals with the people living within and connected to the "narrow house." There is no one central character, no protagonist; all the characters are antagonists. In The Narrow House, the reader is exposed to Scott's tough intellect, her insightful observations of human behavior, and her perceptive intuitions. The comparison made of Scott with Henry James, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford as psychological novelists is valid. [End Page 435]
Evelyn Scott published nineteen books between 1921 and 1941:1 twelve novels, two autobiographies, two volumes of poems, three children's books, one play, a number of short stories, and articles on communism, the problems of the artist, and photography. In the same year she published The Wave, praised by Carl Van Doren as the greatest Civil War novel and named by Robert Lively, a historian with a respected literary sensibility, as one of the best fifteen Civil War novels (12), Scott's publisher, Harrison Smith, gave Scott the manuscript of The Sound and the Fury to read. Smith had published three earlier Faulkner novels, although Faulkner was not then receiving much critical recognition. But Scott, in her response to her editor, was so receptive to the new book that she was asked to expand her comments, and her essay was circulated with advance copies of The Sound and the Fury. The publisher's comments about Scott's essay were:
This essay by Evelyn Scott, whose recent novel The Wave placed her among the outstanding literary figures of our time, has been distributed to those who are interested in Miss Scott's work and the writing of Faulkner. The Sound and the Fury should place William Faulkner in the company of Evelyn Scott. The publishers believe, in the issuance of this little book, that a valuable and brilliant reflection of the philosophies of two important American authors is presented to those who care for such things.
In Faulkner Joseph Blotner gives a full account of Scott's promotion of The Sound and the Fury (627-629).
As far as I now know, Faulkner never publicly acknowledged Scott's influence on his career, and I have not found any correspondence between the two. The only reference to Scott that I know Faulkner made was in an interview by Don Brennan in 1940. When Brennan asked Faulkner whether there were any good women writers, Faulkner replied, "Well, Evelyn Scott was pretty good," but added, "for a woman" (quoted in Callard 116). Evelyn Scott in later years felt Faulkner was involved when one of her unpublished novels, Before Cock Crow, mysteriously disappeared, and she held the opinion that it was incorporated into Faulkner's A Fable. The irony is too obvious: Faulkner became our most renowned southern writer, whereas Evelyn Scott's work faded from the American literary scene.
Although she was recognized by the Agrarians as an important literary figure, Scott felt that their view of the South was a romantic one and that they had only a "before the War" or "after the War" sense of time. Scott thought that the Agrarians envisioned not only a South that had been lost through the war but a South that had never been. She addressed [End Page 436] many of the same issues they dealt with in I'll Take My Stand (1930): the effect of industrialism on the South, the black's place in society, the problem of the artist in society, the cultural sterility of the South, the relation between religion and politics.
Scott promoted the work of James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence,2 Jean Rhys, Kay Boyle, and Jean Stafford. When she died in 1963 in the...