Alice-for-Short (1907) and Somehow Good (1908) are strong novels, but Joseph Vance, with its carelessly constructed plot and power to awaken tears and smiles, remains De Morgan’s best piece of fiction.
William John Locke was born in the Barbados in 1863. He gained much of his reputation from his tenth book, The Beloved Vagabond (1906). The book takes its charm from the whimsical and quixotic temperament of the hero. He is typical of Locke’s other leading characters, who, like Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, take “fortune’s buffets and rewards with equal thanks.” Like other novels by the same author, this story is pervaded by a distinctly Bohemian atmosphere, wherein the ordinary conventions of society are disregarded.
Locke’s humor, his deft characterization, his toleration of human failings, largely compensate for his lack of significant plots. He is sometimes whimsical to the point of eccentricity, and his high spirits often verge on extravagance; but at his best he has the power of refreshing the reader with gentle irony, genial laughter, and love for human kind.
Israel Zangwill, the Jewish writer, was born in London in 1864. He first won fame by interpreting the Jewish temperament as he saw it manifested in London’s dingy, pitiful Ghetto quarter. “This Ghetto London of ours,” he says, “is a region where, amid uncleanness and squalor, the rose of romance blows yet a little longer in the raw air of English reality, a world of dreams as fantastic and poetic as the mirage of the Orient where they were woven.”
In his volume, The Children of the Ghetto (1892), Zangwill admirably chronicles the lives of these people and the sharp contrasts between their quaint traditions and a great modern commercial city’s customs.
The Celtic Renaissance.—Some of the best recent English verse has been written by poets of Irish birth or sympathies. Because of the distinctive quality of both the poetry and prose of these Celtic writers, the term “Celtic Renaissance” has been applied to their work, which glows with spiritual emotion and discloses a world of dreams, fairies, and romantic aspiration. As Richard Wagner received from the Scandinavian folk-lore the inspiration for his great music, as Tennyson found the incentive for The Idylls of the Kings in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, so the modern Celtic poets turned back to the primitive legends of their country for tales of Cuchulain who fought the sea, Caolte who besieged the castle of the gods, Oisin, who wandered three hundred years in the land of the immortals, and Deirdre who stands in the same relation to Celtic literature as Helen to Greek and Brunnhilde to German literature. Some of the fascination that the past and its fairy kingdom exerted over these poets may be found in this stanza from Russell’s The Gates of Dreamland:—