Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.
the other in Rome, could easily be kept apart.  But in a tale of modern life no trick could well be stagier.  Besides the incomparable Margaret—­of whom it does one good to hear Mr. Besant say, “No heroine in fiction is more dear to me”—­Reade drew some admirable portraits of women; but his men, to tell the truth—­and especially his priggish young heroes—­seem remarkably ill invented.  Again, of course, I except The Cloister.  Omit that book, and you would say that such a character as Bailie Nicol Jarvie or Dugald Dalgetty were altogether beyond Reade’s range.  Open The Cloister and you find in Denis the Burgundian a character as good as the Bailie and Dalgetty rolled into one.

Other authors have been lifted above themselves.  But was there ever a case of one sustained at such an unusual height throughout a long, intricate and arduous work?

HENRY KINGSLEY

Feb. 9, 1895.  Henry Kingsley.

Mr. Shorter begins his Memoir of the author of Ravenshoe with this paragraph:—­

“The story of Henry Kingsley’s life may well be told in a few words, because that life was on the whole a failure.  The world will not listen very tolerantly to a narrative of failure unaccompanied by the halo of remoteness.  To write the life of Charles Kingsley would be a quite different task.  Here was success, victorious success, sufficient indeed to gladden the heart even of Dr. Smiles—­success in the way of Church preferment, success in the way of public veneration, success, above all, as a popular novelist, poet, and preacher.  Canon Kingsley’s life has been written in two substantial volumes containing abundant letters and no indiscretions.  In this biography the name of Henry Kingsley is absolutely ignored.  And yet it is not too much to say that, when time has softened his memory for us, as it has softened for us the memories of Marlowe and Burns and many another, the public interest in Henry Kingsley will be stronger than in his now more famous brother."[A]

A prejudice confessed.

I almost wish I could believe this.  If one cannot get rid of a prejudice, the wisest course is to acknowledge it candidly:  and therefore I confess myself as capable of jumping over the moon as of writing fair criticism on Charles or Henry Kingsley.  As for Henry, I worshipped his books as a boy; to-day I find them full of faults—­often preposterous, usually ill-constructed, at times unnatural beyond belief.  John Gilpin never threw the Wash about on both sides of the way more like unto a trundling mop or a wild goose at play than did Henry Kingsley the decent flow of fiction when the mood was on him.  His notion of constructing a novel was to take equal parts of wooden melodrama and low comedy and stick them boldly together in a paste of impertinent drollery and serious but entirely irrelevant moralizing.  And yet each time I read Ravenshoe—­and

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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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