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ELT 45 : 4 2002 given the nature of his talent, but they also see their research as establishing "the incontrovertible if uncomfortable fact that Wilde was a writer who did not have an abundance of either intellectual resources or material." Here one may feel that their case for Wilde's practical success has diminished him more generally as an author. Two brief remarks: first, however "uncomfortable" the authors' conclusion is, they deserve credit for discussing this topic at all. "For many readers of Wilde," they observe, "one work seems uncannily to recapitulate the concerns of others , even when the genre is quite different." This captures nicely an impression Wilde's works do leave, and so their "modular" theory of his creativity has the virtue of explaining something that Wilde criticism should explain. Second, one might resist their estimate of Wilde's talent by acknowledging that his works turn around a limited set of concerns, while noting the richness of those concerns—the relation between the aesthetic and the moral realms, for instance—and the tendency of his works to explore these concerns from different angles, rather than merely "to recapitulate" one another. Readers of Oscar Wilde's Profession are certain to learn a lot about Wilde's career as a professional writer, while also having some reservations about the significance the authors see in the story they so meticulously reconstruct. That readers have these reservations shouldn't prevent them from recognizing that Guy and Small have written a permanently useful book for Wilde scholars. Bruce Bashford SUNY, Stony Brook Chesterton's First Novel G. K. Chesterton. Basil Howe: A Story of Young Love. Denis J. Conlon, ed. London: New City, 2001. 189 pp. Cloth £12.95 Paper £8.50 IT IS UNFORTUNATE that the appearance of this unpublished first novel by Chesterton has attracted so little attention, especially in view of the remarkable story that lies behind its publication. As Denis Conlon explains in his introduction, the discovery οι Basil Howe began with the death of Dorothy Collins, Chesterton's secretary, in 1989. One of the things that the subsequent clearance of material from Top Meadow Cottage unearthed was an old chest containing a large number of Chesterton's early papers and notebooks (all of which have since been catalogued by the British Library). By working through this material, 464 BOOK REVIEWS Conlon has managed to piece together an early novel by Chesterton, written c. 1893-1894, that had lain forgotten hitherto. Despite the extensive nature of the detective work that has been undertaken here, the title page of the novel remains lost. In its absence, Conlon has chosen a simple title reflecting the rudimentary narrative of a novel in which Basil Howe, the hero, falls in love with Gertrude Grey, the youngest of three sisters. We are told in Conlon's detailed introduction to the novel that this love affair is to be read autobiographically, with Gertrude representing a love interest who is said to have existed before the appearance of Frances Bloggs, Chesterton's future wife. Conlon supports this reading by providing us with an early poem by Chesterton and "Our Future Prospects," an unfinished story written by the members of the Junior Debating Society of St Paul's School in anticipation of their future prospects. It is easy to see the rationale behind this autobiographical interpretation—those familiar with Chesterton's teenage years will see much of the author in the story's principal character —yet Conlon's approach, though plausible and insightful, runs the risk of encouraging a reading that is unnecessarily reductive, and blinding us to the fictional nature of Basil Howe. Nevertheless, in spite of my misgivings about Conlon's interpretation , it has to be admitted that much of the story's interest lies in the light that it sheds on its author. In particular, both the period in which the novel was written and the subjects that it addresses help to locate Chesterton in the cultural context of the 1890s. Though his first published nove\,Napoleon ofNotting Hill, did not appear until 1904, the formative period for Chesterton's most important novels was a decade earlier, as a number of critics have recognised. The...


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pp. 464-467
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