Ensphered in flesh we live
And see a myriad souls adrift,
Our likes, and send our voiceless cry
Shuddering across the void: “The truth!
Succour! The truth!” None can reply.
That is the state of our case. We can cope with mere events, comedy, tragedy, farce. The things that happen to us are not our life. They are imposed upon life, they come and go. But life is a secret process. We only see the accretions.
The novel which I dreamed of writing has recently been done, or rather begun, by Miss Dorothy Richardson. She betters the example of Jane Austen by telling us much more about what seems to be infinitely less, but is not so in reality. She dips into the well whereof Miss Austen skims the surface. She has essayed to report the mental process of a young woman’s lifetime from moment to moment. In the course of four, if not five, volumes nothing has happened yet but the death of a mother and the marriage of a sister or so. She may write forty, and I shall be ready for the forty-first. Mental process, the states of the soul, emotional reaction—these as they are moved in us by other people are Miss Richardson’s subject-matter, and according as these are handled is the interest we can devote to her novels. These fleeting things are Miss Richardson’s game, and they are the things which interest us most in ourselves, and the things which we desire to know most about in our neighbours.