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The Master. Reclaiming Zangwill's Only Künstlerroman Lilian Falk Retired St. Mary's University Halifax, Nova Scotia ISRAEL ZANGWILL'S STATUS as an important writer is firmly established. His weakest works are falling out of sight, while his best confirm his claim to fame. The Big Bow Mystery ( 1892) is recognized as a pioneering work in the locked-door genre of mystery. The King of Schnorrers (1894) merrily reappears in new editions every decade or so, often with the original illustrations by George Hutchinson, propelled, as it seems, by its own comedie energy. As for Children of the Ghetto, its standing as an undisputed classic has been recently consolidated by Meri-Jane Rochelson's scholarly new edition (1998). All three are readable ; all three are still read, not by scholars only, but also by the general public: the first for its suspense, the second for its humour, the third for its portrait of a peculiar people.1 At the same time, other works recede into shadows. Among them The Bachelors' Club (1891), still funny, but too strained; Jinny the Carrier (1905), too slow-moving; and The Master (1895), too ponderous, too discouraging because of its small print, dense pages, heavy prose-style, and its scarcity in all but the larger university libraries.2 Yet these too can attract attention in unexpected ways. Jinny touches on a modern concern because it deals with the question of a woman earning her own living in a male-dominated society. A joke from The Bachelors'Club has made its way into the popular film You've Got Mail, where Tom Hanks, playing the part of a bachelor encumbered by two lively bratty children, explains that the little boy is really his uncle, which indeed he is.3 Whatever the provenance of this joke in the film, Zangwill readers will recognize it from the story "A New Matrimonial Relation" in The Bachelors' Club. They may even recall the amusing drawing which accompanied the story.4 Like the illustrations to The King of Schnorrers, this drawing was also done by George Hutchinson, at one time Zangwill's favourite il275 ELT 44 : 3 2001 lustrator. And even The Master has seen a revival of interest: it is being read and reread by scholars interested in poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) ever since new research revealed a connection between this novel and Bishop's great-uncle, George Hutchinson.5 The connection to George Hutchinson was not known to London critics, or even to Zangwill's British and American biographers. It was known in Nova Scotia to friends and relatives of Hutchinson, and articles about it were published in several little-known journals, and then forgotten again. But now that the connection has become more widely known, The Master can be reexamined in a new light. It is now possible to treat The Master seriously as a source of knowledge about George Hutchinson and his family, and to treat the detailed descriptions of life in Nova Scotia in the 1860s and 1870s as authentic. Conversely, it is also possible to reexamine the novel's structure, so as to observe Zangwill's way of fashioning a serious work of fiction out of the facts of George Hutchinson's early life, his family background and his career. While reviews in 1895 were mostly directed against the novel's excessively ornate prose, it now makes sense to concentrate on the novel's substance rather than on its style. The plot is straightforward. The hero, Matt Strang, a poor boy growing up in rural Nova Scotia, yearns to become a famous painter in London . After the death of his father at sea, young Matt goes to work to support the family and to save money for his trip to England. In London he meets with many hardships; sick and destitute he returns to Canada. Here he meets with more bad luck and is sent to prison for debt. Upon his release he marries Rosina Coble, the prosaic daughter of a prosperous merchant. Matt settles with his wife in London, but although he achieves success, happiness still eludes him. He falls in love with a beautiful , cultured woman with whom, he thinks, he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 275-296
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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