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The Egoist, 5 (Jan 1918) 10

The Fortune: A Romance of Friendship, by Douglas Goldring. Dublin: Maunsel, 1917. Pp. vi + 332. 2

It is usually presumed that a moral or political motive is a detriment to a novel, but here is evidence that the question cannot be stated in such simple terms. For Mr. Goldring’s book would be called definitely propagandist; it is a pacifist novel; and it is a novel with brilliant things and weak things in it. But the weakest things are not the propagandist things. Goldring has a definite point of view toward the war which is exposed in the second part of the book, and probably his conviction here gives him an interest in what he is doing which holds this part of the book together. The first half of the book is boring. It is a hasty biography of a young Pendennis from the time of leaving school up to his establishment as a successful playwright at the beginning of the war; it is chiefly a notebook of the author’s own intellectual development and a catalogue of all the shams he got tired of between schooldays and maturity. 3 It is not unintelligent, but it is unimportant, and it is not literary art. James, the hero, or rather the hero’s hero (cf. George Warrington), the strong cynical enemy of nonsense, is unfortunately also Mr. Goldring’s hero, and therefore rather wooden. He is real only as he is seen through the eyes of the high life into which Harold (the Pendennis, the admirer of James) marries. Harold’s wife has a friend, Gwen, who remarks of James:

There’s no getting away from it that Murdoch is an out-and-out bad man. . . . It is unfortunate that poor, dear Harold should have fallen so completely under his domination. I always thought there was something uncanny about it. . . . It’s my belief the man used hypnotic influence. . . . [213]

James at once lives, and he lives also in the admiration of Harold. This, and the character of Harold’s wife, are extremely well done. There is a remarkably well-sustained chapter on Harold’s sensations and ideas in the trenches.

But the most successful part of the book is the presentation of the mind of English Society in August 1914; a telling and restrained satire. Very often in the writing there is a sentence too much; but this is unquestionably a brilliant novel. 4

Summer, by Edith Wharton. London: Macmillan, 1917. Pp. 282. 5

Even Mrs. Wharton’s parerga have importance, and this parergon, a very brief novel, offers interest as a work in a curious kind of satire which Mrs. Wharton has made her own; and just the kind of satire, it may be remarked, that her literary training and sympathies might have made most difficult for her. The book is, in fact–or should be–the death-blow to a kind of novel which has flourished in New England, the novel in which the wind whistles through the stunted firs and over the granite boulders into the white farmhouses where pale gaunt women sew rag carpets. Mrs. Wharton does the trick by a deliberate and consistent realism, by refraining from the slightest touch of irony, by suppressing all evidence of European culture. She even allows herself to be detected in just the slight smile of an inhabitant of Boston (where the type of novel in question is read) at the name of the Honorius Hatchard Memorial Library, 1832, in the village of North Dormer. The young man comes up from the city (Springfield), Charity gives him all she has, and the young man returns to marry Annabel Balch of Springfield. The scene of the county fair at Nettleton is one of unrelieved horror. This novel will certainly be considered “disgusting” in America; it is certain that not one reader in a thousand will apprehend the author’s point of view. But it should add to Mrs. Wharton’s reputation...

Published By:   Faber & Faber logo    Johns Hopkins University Press