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  • Selected Times Literary Supplement Reviews by Virginia Woolf

"Chippinge."

Chippinge by Stanley Weyman
Friday, November 9, 1906, 377

To read Mr. Stanley Weyman is, perhaps, as safe an undertaking as an adventure of that kind can possibly be. You are confident from the beginning that you are in able hands, and trust in his author is as great an advantage to a novel reader as trust in his doctor is essential to an invalid. But in dwelling upon his sound sober qualities of care, and thoroughness, and technical skill we must not forget that rarer virtues are needed to produce such results as he has produced. A book like CHIPPINGE (Smith, Elder, 6s.), for instance, has a certain steady glow about it that makes it, as the phrase runs, difficult to lay down unread. You are recalled to the drama as though you could see it acted before you in the flesh. Mr. Weyman places his characters in the year of the Reform Bill, and the interest of the story is cleft asunder by that measure into its two divisions; the lady and her parent are on this side—the gentleman and his principles are on that. Nor is this by any means one of those convenient situations which a novelist uses for his own ends and dismisses when he has done with it. The conflict of the two parties at Westminster, at Chippinge, and at Bristol is the very backbone of the book; indeed, the danger is that you may read it rather as history than as fiction. For Mr. Weyman, we guess, was attracted to the subject because he saw in it a tremendous drama in which the deepest interests of his country were concerned. But he was inclined to forget that the purpose of a novelist demands individual men and women who will fall in love with each other, and tight their dragons and live happily ever afterwards. And the dragons serve but to develop their virtues and to exhibit their characters. But when that dragon is the Reform Bill the lovers run a terrible risk of annihilation, and that is the fault which we have to find with Mr. Weyman. We follow him so closely in the House of Commons, at the hustings, among the rioters, we are so eager to listen to all that Lord Brougham and Sir Charles Wetherell have to say, that we have really no time to think of the love affairs of Arthur Vaughan and Mary Vermuyden. Their private fortunes are nicely twisted by the public disasters; the same disasters unravel them as smoothly in the end, but the interest of the book does not lie there. It is as a picture of a crowd where the action of separate legs and arms is merged in the whole that the book is memorable; and the impression of stir and tumult over a vast space is so well conveyed that the reader has little cause to complain. Novels that urge you along with them as "Chippinge" does are not so common that you can afford to quarrel with the means by which they do it. [End Page 284]

"Occasion's Forelock."

Occasion's Forelock by Violet A. Simpson
Friday, December 7, 1906, 409

No one certainly ever took hold of occasion's forelock with greater energy and success than Eustace Gleig in OCCASION'S FORELOCK, by Violet A. Simpson (Arnold, 6s.). At the outset we find him considering whether he shall kill himself or go into the workhouse, and a bundle of unpaid bills bequeathed him by a disreputable father is the only tie which determines him to remain in this world. However, novels are not made out of such material, and occasion presents him immediately with the post of private secretary to the famous statesman Lucian Harwich. Then there are the two daughters, there is the family skeleton, there are the diverse paths of duty and ambition. Miss Simpson is certainly generous—and generous beyond her means, for these lavish promises remain in outline, with no substance in their composition. Her interest, we may venture to affirm, does not lie in the House of Commons, or in the intricacies...

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