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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Critical and Biographical Introduction

By Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947)

ONE of the younger school of English literary workers, who stand for the newer methods and aims, is Richard Le Gallienne, of repute as poet and essayist. Born in Liverpool in 1866, he got his education at the college of that city; then came to London and took the position of secretary to Wilson Barrett, the actor-playwright, holding it for several years. Later he became literary critic of the London Star, and by his writing for this and other publications became identified with the new in art and letters,—one of the fellowship of the younger literati.

Le Gallienne has done, prose and verse, nearly a dozen volumes already; a considerable literary baggage for so young a man. ‘Prose Fancies,’ in two series, contain the main qualities of his essay work: grace, poetry, sometimes running into sentimentality, something of preciosity in seeking for the fine phrase, delicate fancy, and now and then genuine tenderness and beauty. The faults seem partly those of immaturity, partly due to a tendency to pose. ‘Retrospective Reviews’ and ‘The Book-Bills of Narcissus’ are further illustrations of his style and content; the latter being a decidedly happy piece of whimsy. By far the strongest prose work Le Gallienne has done is his ‘Religion of a Literary Man’; full of suggestive and thoughtful things, testifying to wide reading, and revealing the more earnest side of the man. A critical work of some value is Le Gallienne’s ‘George Meredith: Some Characteristics.’ ‘The Quest of the Golden Girl,’ which describes the adventures of a young man who goes a-seeking the ideal feminine, to find her in a happy marriage, has charm and many poetic touches. It is perhaps too autobiographic,—this being a characteristic of Le Gallienne in all he writes,—a tendency pushed to the limit of taste. That he has attraction in the essay when at his best, cannot be denied; and in the main he expresses the romantic, chivalric, ideal aspects of life. His blemishes are not fundamental.

In his books of verse—‘English Poems,’ ‘My Lady’s Sonnets,’ ‘Robert Louis Stevenson, and Other Poems,’ ‘The Lonely Dancer and Other Poems,’ ‘War Verse’ (1915)—Le Gallienne exhibits the modern phenomenon of a writer of romantic impulse striving to be realistic withal. This is illustrated in his poems which have London for motive; and in truth some of his most virile conceptions are those describing the streets and sights of the mighty English capital. But most readers will like best his purely fanciful or daintily imaginative verse, playful yet tender, with song in it and the smile that is not far from tears.

In fine, Richard Le Gallienne may be regarded as a pleasing writer hampered by certain mannerisms and limitations which have prevented him from realizing the high expectations at one time formed of his talent.