Looking through a heavy mail, he extracted a letter from his New York agent:
’Oct. 2nd, 1916.
’DEAR MR. SELWYN,—You will be interested to know that the extraordinary sensation caused by your writings in America has resulted in the sale of them to Mr. J. V. Schneider for foreign rights. They have been translated, and will shortly appear in the press of Spain, Norway, Holland, and the various states of South America.
’It would be impossible for me to forward more than a small percentage of the comments of our press on your work, but in my whole literary experience I don’t remember any writer who has caused such a storm of comment on every appearance as you. As you can see by the selection I have made, the papers are by no means entirely favourable. I feel that you should know that you are openly accused of pro-Germanism, of being a conscientious objector, &c., &c.—all of which, of course, means excellent advertisement.
’I have had many inquiries as to whether you would care to conduct a lecture-tour. There is a Mr. C. B. Benjamin, who is financially interested in Mr. Schneider’s affairs, and who is willing to pay you almost anything within reason, if you care to state your terms.
’Of course, the most discussed article of all is “The Island of Darkness,” in which you accuse Britain of contributing so largely towards bringing about the present war. The German-American organisations and the strong Irish section here were especially jubilant, and every one concedes that it has awakened a great deal of resentment against Britain that had been forgotten since the beginning of the war. Even your detractors admit that “The Island of Darkness” will live as a literary classic.
’Your first ten articles have been made into book form under the title America’s War, and are selling most satisfactorily. The first edition has gone into 40,000 copies. The attached clipping from the New York Express is fairly typical of the reception given the book by the pro-Entente press.
’Your September statement will go forward to-morrow with cheque covering foreign rights, royalties, &c.—I am, Mr. Selwyn, yours very truly,
S. T. LYONS.’
With hardly more than a merely casual interest, Selwyn glanced at the clipping attached to the letter. It was from the editorial page of the Express.
’THE MENACE OF SELWYN.
’In 1912 Austin Selwyn was known as a younger member of New York’s writing fraternity. He had done one or two good things and several mediocre ones, but promised to reach the doubtful altitude of best-sellership without difficulty. To-day Selwyn is the mouthpiece of neutrality. He has preached it in a language that will not permit of indifference. He has succeeded in surrounding his doubtful idealism with a vigour that commands attention, even if not respect. Right in the heart of London he is turning out insidious propaganda which is being seized upon by every neutral American who has his own reasons for wanting us to keep out of war. It would be absurd to say that one man’s writing could in itself sway a great nation, but nevertheless it is a vehicle which is being used to the limit by every pro-German agency in this free land.