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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
G. R. Lomer, ed. The Student’s Course in Literature.

Early Twentieth-Century Fiction

By Dorothy Brewster (1883–1979)

I. English and American

THACKERAY once ventured to hint to tender mothers that their little rosy-cheeked sons were “quite awfully wise upon certain points,” that the theory of life as orally learned at a great public school was a prodigious thing. But he did not make Victorian mothers blush by expounding this theory of life. Thackeray’s successors say in effect: “Come! we will tell you everything your little boy feels and thinks. Neither art nor discretion shall draw a veil. We will strip the English public school of its conventional sentiment. We will reveal the soul of youth,—its dreams and passions, its secret sins and hidden thoughts,—for out of them grows character.” Such a book as Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Sinister Street’ makes known to us all that over which Thackeray, rather regretfully, drew the veil. And if Thackeray dared not reveal to Victorian readers the soul of youth, no more did he venture to depict to his utmost power a man. No writer of fiction (so runs the much-quoted remark in the ‘Pendennis’ preface) since the author of ‘Tom Jones’ has been permitted to do that; he must be draped and provided with a conventional simper. “You will not hear” (Thackeray seems to be addressing the ladies who objected to what Henry James calls Thackeray’s “sighing and protesting look-in” on the affair between Pendennis and Fanny Bolton), “it is best not to know it, what moves in the real world, what passes in society, in the clubs, colleges, news-rooms,—what is the life and talk of your son.” Well, if women do not hear this now, it is through refusal to listen. For one of the strongest tendencies among contemporary novelists—Continental and English both—is to depict to the full a man. “It is a man I am creating,” says M. Rolland, in answer to the criticism that he had not written a novel. Some authors think they have fully depicted a man when they have followed Fielding in fully depicting the sensual man. The hero Mr. Theodore Dreiser has chosen for his “trilogy of desire” is a sort of jungle man with two strong instincts—appetite for money and appetite for women—demonstrated with wealth of naturalistic detail in chapters in which financial deals alternate with erotic episodes. To other novelists, dreams and ideals and the reflective life of man are equally important. The hero of Mr. H. G. Wells is obsessed by ideas, but he too must sooner or later encounter Sex, and usually to his undoing. For the eminently personal sex-experience, jealous of other interests, interferes disastrously with the plans of the “collective-minded” for the betterment of the race. Mr. Galsworthy turns aside from the distressing spectacle of social injustice and hide-bound conservatism to write a purely lyrical novel, in three passionate episodes, on the love-life of one man. Briefly, all the drapery employed by the Victorians is stripped off, and the conventional simper disappears from the face of the youth terribly in earnest about his instincts and his emotions, and much puzzled by them and by Society’s attitude towards them.

The removal of the restrictions that hampered Thackeray and his fellow-Victorians, though some of them hugged their chains, is due partly to the naturalistic movement led by Zola, powerful to clear away much traditional cant in its demand for actuality in the name of science. The methods of the naturalists, discredited though they have been in certain respects, continue to bear fruit in the determination of contemporary writers to spare no detail in making us understand the medium in which their characters move. We must be saturated in that medium, breathe its air of “packed actuality.” The attempt to be close and fresh and authentic in detail has been fostered, too, by the growing influence of the Russian writers, who have never been governed by any conventions but the convention of perfect frankness. Both influences, French and Russian, have led here and there to an over-emphasis of facts of a certain order, giving us a glimpse, not of reality, but of some one’s private nightmare. But the Russian influence has been as strong in the direction of subtle psychology as of frank naturalism.

In those decades of the twentieth century, Mr. Wells says somewhere, they were writing trilogies. The attempt to draw the full-length portrait of a man has made the one volume novel blossom out into the trilogy. Compton Mackenzie’s study of Michael Fane is virtually a trilogy, for the second volume of ‘Sinister Street’ contains two books—and 1,600 pages. Mr. Dreiser’s two volumes on the career of Frank Cowperwood are to be followed by a third, completing a “trilogy of desire.” J. D. Beresford devotes a trilogy to his Jacob Stahl and Mr. Bennett to his Clayhanger.

This tendency is significant of the flaming up of the individual. Though society may be too strong for these heroes in the end, they persist in seeking self-realization. Contemporary fiction is full of this revolt, and this search for new pathways. Away with pretences and impostures and conventions! The unpardonable sin is Conventionality. The word Respectability sums up all evil. Note the attacks upon the Family. Samuel Butler, whose ‘Way of All Flesh’ was written in the ’70s but not published until 1903, delivers telling blows against the family as a British ideal. “He was a really happy man,” he says of someone; “he was without father, without mother, and without descent. He was a born orphan.” That relatives do not always love one another is a fact never ignored in the English novel of the past; but families conspicuous for lack of harmony, it was implied, were deviations from the ideal, which remained aloft in all its beauty. But Butler and others attack the ideal itself. In their work, the capital letter in Family may quite well be, not of holy, but of diabolical significance. We have studies of the Family in Gilbert Cannan’s ‘Round the Corner,’ in Arnold Bennett’s ‘Old Wives’ Tale,’ in John Galsworthy’s ‘Man of Property.’ If our novelists do not defiantly acclaim, they painstakingly record or sorrowfully contemplate the disruption of the Home.

Naturally, the institution of marriage, as the bulwark of the family, comes in for earnest scrutiny. No reader of fiction can doubt that “Something has Got to be Done about Marriage.” One comes to see the command in capitals. When unsatisfactory marriages were treated in earlier novels, we realized that something would have to be done to the particular marriage under consideration, but not to marriage as an institution. No longer, save in the ephemeral fiction that continues to feed the popular taste for “mild idealism and sentimental solutions,” do they marry on the last page. Rather they marry early in the book and proceed to exemplify the truth of the “Needles and pins …” nursery rhyme of our childhood. Mr. D. H. Lawrence gives in ‘The Trespasser’ and ‘The White Peacock’ studies in mismating; in his ‘Sons and Lovers’ the theme is the inability to mate at all. Mr. W. L. George’s ‘Strangers’ Wedding’ is a sociological investigation of what marriage can mean to a sensitive, university-bred man and an average working girl. The Reverend Mr. Folyat’s family, in ‘Round the Corner,’ exhibits all varieties of mismating. Mr. Galsworthy is haunted by a vision of marriage in which woman is the property of man; and she tries desperately to possess her own soul—or at least give it to some one more appreciative than her husband. The H. G. Wells hero never secures at the first attempt the “collective-minded” woman to match him; and the antiquated English marriage laws make the situation extremely inconvenient. How can each live a full life? Are their interests reconcilable at all? In ‘Marriage,’ they go to Labrador and save each other’s lives amid the ice and snow of a primitive existence; but such a solution is not of general application to marital incompatibility. American writers still pick their way somewhat delicately in these fields. But the infinite possibilities of our varied divorce laws give a different twist to the American problem. The discontented American wife may well achieve three husbands in one volume. One of Robert Herrick’s preoccupations is the tragedy of mismated marriage; in ‘Together’ his theme is Marriage quite as clearly as if the book bore that title. His problem is “how to remedy the prevailing lack of common interest in husband and wife; the man engrossed in the great game of amassing wealth, the woman equally engrossed in the game of spending it; the decrease in domesticity, in motherhood, in the old-fashioned family affection and loyalty.”

The problem of marriage becomes involved in the far bigger problem of Feminism. Woman’s search for individuality, her effort to readjust herself to a rapidly changing social and industrial organism, her cry for economic independence,—all are reflected in the novel. Foolish New Women become the target for satire; Militant New Women, for reprobation. We are called on to admire noble New Women, or to pity unfortunate “Old” Women, who uphold to their own undoing the earlier traditions. The Feminist novel forms a distinct class. It may be a delicate and fine study, like Ellen Glasgow’s ‘Virginia,’ of the woman faithfully living up to the traditional standards of sweet domesticity and renunciation and so failing to meet successfully the problems of her life; or a half-farcical study of the wife of Sir Isaac Harman (in Mr. Wells’s novel), who, by smashing a window, secures the blessing of a few weeks’ reposeful contemplation in jail and so comes into possession of her own soul; or a study of English militancy, by the resolute “anti,” Mrs. Ward, who sees in the enthusiasm of the militants only sex-instinct gone astray.

The woman’s protest is only a part of that demand for social justice which Mr. Galsworthy ascribes to “the awakened humanity in the conscience of our time,” and which seems to him part of what is below the surface a religious movement—“part of a slow but tenacious groping towards a new form of vital faith—the faith of all for one and one for all—a great visiting wind sweeping into the house of our lives through a hundred doors.” A sense, sometimes merely groping, sometimes explicit, that something is wrong with our industrial organization pervades the novels that exhibit the unscrupulous business methods of capitalism. No better work has been done by H. G. Wells than the genial and yet damning picture of irresponsible capitalism in ‘Tono-Bungay.’ Impatience with social and economic oppression characterizes much of Mr. Herrick’s work. In the background of many novels is the mass of the people, the poverty-stricken and the exploited, sometimes patient, sometimes with threatening fists. It is to the Danish writer, Martin Nexø, that we have to go for the great labor epic. But the cry of the angry dockers comes to us from Ernest Poole’s ‘Harbor’; the pathetic dingy baby in Galsworthy’s ‘Fraternity’ pleads the cause of the poor irresistibly; the sufferings of the starved peasants of the west of Ireland are pictured unforgettably in Patrick MacGill’s ‘Rat-pit.’ There is a background of coming struggle behind the individual drama. What part does the Church play in this “religious” movement? There are few definitely religious novels. Winston Churchill’s ‘Inside of the Cup’ attacks directly the position of the church, dependent on the wealthy, doomed to lose their support as soon as it attempts really to deal with the underlying causes of poverty and so threaten the privileges of the few. The hero of H. S. Harrison’s ‘V. V.’s Eyes’ tries to practice in an industrial community the social gospel of Christ.

The Great War has already called forth novels, most of them wofully incommensurate with its greatness. Prior to 1914, one went to Tolstoy, to Zola, for the truth about war. Such English writers as Kipling made it attractive. Hugh Walpole’s ‘Dark Forest,’ best of the war novels, in its combination of realistic detail and subtle war psychology, owes much of its inspiration to the Russians.

This rough classification has left out some important names. Maurice Hewlett, of the older group, continues to give us the finished comedy of manners and character, with an occasional excursion into romance—romance that in ‘Frey and His Wife’ and ‘Thorgils’ is reminiscent of the Norse saga. Like her master, Henry James, Mrs. Wharton follows the French tradition of Flaubert, the tradition of refinements and exclusions and subtleties. Her characters study their own and one another’s refined and delicate intellectual, moral, and emotional reactions on the terraces and in the drawing-rooms and studios of that small leisure class in America to whom the voice of the oppressed has not risen above the tinkle of the silver teaspoon. Ethel Sidgwick, too, has Henry James for her literary father. Social problems, raw realism, and sex do not interest her; music and France do. Joseph Conrad, perceiving, like Thomas Hardy, that man is pitted against vast and untamable natural forces, is no revolutionist. The world rests on a few very simple and very old ideas, he says, notably the idea of fidelity. “At a time when nothing that is not revolutionary in some way or other can expect to attract much attention, I have not been revolutionary in my writings.” His novels deal with “great quests and absorbing passions,” often tragically frustrated. The spirit of unrest is present in his work, as it is in that of Wells; but it is a personal mood, not the intellectual unrest of the man of ideas. It is a spirit to be appeased, not by reorganizing society, but by holding fast to the simple virtues of honor, loyalty, steadfastness, in the face of an indifferent universe. Conrad, who has faced storms and shipwreck in his many years of sea-faring, does not allow us to forget the hard conditions of life on our planet.

Jack London, too, pits man against nature, though he is concerned more with action than with character. He is no subtle psychologist like Conrad. He gives us tales of the “tooth and claw,” of struggle and endurance and suffering in the frozen North. Most of his stories deal with savages in one clime or another. He delighted in struggle, and it was the wars that were to bring about the ideal state that made socialism attractive to him. His best work is in the short story. American writers have been conspicuously successful in this branch of fiction. They have developed a distinctly efficient technique—too efficient, some critics think, who would prefer more variety of theme. There are only a few themes, they say: the sentimental theme; the theme of intellectual analysis and moral psychology; the big business theme; the theme of American effrontery; of successful crime; of social contrast; of the supernatural. After all, here is considerable variety. The best stories handle character realistically in a setting perfectly familiar to the authors. Mrs. Freeman and Miss Alice Brown continue their studies of New England and New England types. Richard Harding Davis’s excellent stories of New York life antedate this century; so do Hamlin Garland’s stories of the Middle West. O. Henry strikes off many American types, from the Texas ranger to the New York clerk. In England, Mr. W. W. Jacobs is best with his amusing sailors and bargemen. And there is still Kipling.

Fiction has been rightly conceived as a mighty force in deepening and widening our civilization through sympathy. Writers have become more and more conscious of their social mission. Sometimes they were more effective civilizers when they were less self-conscious. “The success of civilization,” remarks Mr. Wells, “amounts ultimately to a success of sympathy and understanding.” And the novel has before it a great work of human reconciliation and elucidation. In the uneasiness, the restlessness, the groping for new standards, the sense of social responsibility, reflected in the fiction of the last few years, it is surely not fanciful to see a prophecy of the upheaval that is now convulsing the world. An old order is perishing. Will the novel after the Great War rise to the tremendous task of deepening and widening the civilization of the new epoch that is dawning?

Reading Recommended

Of the following lists, the first two give the names (in alphabetical order) and the most important works (in chronological order) of the leading English and American writers of fiction. The third list classifies according to subject-matter novels that fall into fairly well-defined groups. It includes a few novels by authors not mentioned in the first two lists. No attempt is made to classify short stories; or novels that deal with the moral problems of the individual (like Mrs. Deland’s ‘Awakening of Helena Ritchie’ or Miss Glasgow’s ‘Ancient Law’); or psychological studies (like the later novels of Henry James); or comedies of manners (like Mr. Hewlett’s ‘Love and Lucy’). The list is intended to be merely suggestive, not exhaustive. F. T. Cooper’s ‘Some American Story Tellers’ (1911) and ‘Some English Story Tellers’ (1912), and W. L. Phelps’s ‘Advance of the English Novel’ (1915) contain information and criticism. Margaret Ashmun’s ‘Modern Short Stories’ (1914) includes biographies, bibliographies, and a useful classification of short stories; and ‘A Handbook on Story Writing’ by B. C. Williams (1917) discusses the theory and problems of the short story.

I. English Writers

Bennett, Arnold: Anna of the Five Towns (1902); Leonora (1903); Tales of the Five Towns (1905); The Grim Smile of the Five Towns (short stories); The Old Wives’ Tale (1908); Clayhanger (1910); Hilda Lessways (1911); These Twain (1915).

Beresford, J. D.: The Early History of Jacob Stahl (1911); A Candidate for Truth (1912); A World of Women (title of English edition—Goslings); The Invisible Event (1915); These Lynnekers (1916); House-Mates.

Cannan, Gilbert: Devious Ways (1910); Round the Corner (1913); Old Mole; Young Earnest; Three Sons and a Mother (title of English edition—Three Pretty Men); Mendel: A Story of Youth (1916).

Conrad, Joseph: Almayer’s Folly (1895); An Outcast of the Islands (1896); The Nigger of the Narcissus (title of American edition—Children of the Sea); Tales of Unrest; Lord Jim (1900); Youth: A Narrative and Two Other Tales (1902); Typhoon and Other Stories (1903); Nostromo (1904); The Secret Agent (1907); A Set of Six (short stories); Under Western Eyes (1911); Chance (1914); Victory (1915); Within the Tides (short stories, 1916); The Shadow Line (1917).

De Morgan, William: Joseph Vance (1906); Alice-for-Short (1907); Somehow Good (1908); It Never Can Happen Again (1909); An Affair of Dishonor; A Likely Story; When Ghost Meets Ghost (1914).

Galsworthy, John: The Villa Rubein (1900); The Island Pharisees (1904); The Man of Property (1906); The Country House (1907); Fraternity (1909); The Patrician (1911); The Dark Flower (1913); The Freelands (1915); Beyond (1917).

George, W. L.: The City of Light (1912); Until the Day Break (1913); The Making of an Englishman (1914); The Second Blooming (1915); The Strangers’ Wedding (1916).

Hewlett, Maurice: The Forest Lovers (1898); Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay (1900); New Canterbury Tales (short stories); The Queen’s Quair (1904); Fond Adventures (short stories); The Fool Errant (1905); Halfway House (1908); Open Country (1909); Rest Harrow (1910); Brazenhead the Great; The Song of Renny; Mrs. Lancelot (1912); Bendish (1913); Frey and his Wife (1916); Love and Lucy (1916); Thorgils (1917).

Jacobs, W. W.: The Lady of the Barge (1902); Odd Craft (1903); Captains All (1905); Short Cruises (1907); Sailors’ Knots (1909); Ship’s Company; Night Watches (1914); The Castaways (1917). (These are representative collections of his short stories.)

James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw (1898); The Soft Side (short stories—1900); The Sacred Fount (1901); The Wings of the Dove (1902); The Better Sort (short stories—1903); The Ambassadors (1903); The Golden Bowl (1904); The Ivory Tower; The Sense of the Past (1917).

Kipling, Rudyard: Kim (1901); Just So Stories (1902); The Five Nations (1903); Traffics and Discoveries (1904); Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906); Actions and Reactions (1909); Rewards and Fairies (1910); A Diversity of Creatures (1917).

Lawrence, David H.: The Trespasser; The White Peacock (1911); Sons and Lovers (1915).

Locke, William J.: The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne (1905); The Beloved Vagabond (1906); Septimus (1909); Simon the Jester (1910); The Glory of Clementina Wing (1911); The Wonderful Year (1916); The Red Planet (1917).

Mackenzie, Compton: Carnival (1912); Sinister Street (1913–1914); Youth’s Encounter (included in the English edition of Sinister Street); Plasher’s Mead (1915).

Moore, George: Esther Waters (1894); Evelyn Innes (1898); Sister Teresa (1901); The Lake (1905); The Brook Kerith (1916); Lewis Seymour and Some Women (1917).

Phillpotts, Eden: Children of the Mist (1898); The Striking Hours (short stories—1901); The River (1902); The Secret Woman (1905); The Portreeve (1906); The Whirlwind (1907); The Mother (1908); The Three Brothers (1909); Brunel’s Tower (1915); The Human Boy and the War (1916); The Banks of Colne (1917).

Sidgwick, Ethel: Herself (1912); Promise; Succession (1913); A Lady of Leisure (1914); The Accolade (1915); Hatchways (1916).

Sinclair, May: The Divine Fire (1904); The Helpmate (1907); The Judgment of Eve (1908); The Three Sisters (1914); The Belfry (1916).

Walpole, Hugh: The Gods and Mr. Perrin (1911); Fortitude (1913); The Duchess of Wrexe (1914); The Wooden Horse; The Golden Scarecrow (1915); The Dark Forest (1916).

Ward, Mrs. Humphry: Eleanor (1900); Lady Rose’s Daughter (1903); Fenwick’s Career (1906); The Testing of Diana Mallory (1908); The Coryston Family (1913); Delia Blanchflower (1914); Lady Connie (1916).

Wells, H. G.: Romances: When the Sleeper Wakes; The First Men in the Moon; The Food of the Gods; In the Days of the Comet; The World Set Free. Novels: The Wheels of Chance (1896); Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900); Kipps (1905); Tono-Bungay (1909); Anne Veronica (1909); The History of Mr. Polly (1910); The New Machiavelli (1911); Marriage (1912); The Passionate Friends (1913); The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914); Bealby (1915); The Research Magnificent (1915); Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916); The Soul of a Bishop (1917).

II. American Writers

Atherton, Gertrude: Senator North (1900); The Conqueror (1902); Rezánov (1906); Ancestors (1907); Julia France and Her Times (1912).

Brown, Alice: High Noon (1904); The County Road (1906); The Story of Thyrza (1908); John Winterbourne’s Family (1910); Country Neighbors (1910); Vanishing Points (1913); Prisoner (1917); Bromley Neighborhood (1917).

Churchill, Winston: The Crisis (1901); The Crossing (1904); Coniston (1906); Mr. Crewe’s Career (1908); A Modern Chronicle (1910); The Inside of the Cup (1913); A Far Country (1915).

Davis, Richard Harding: Short stories: In the Fog (1901); Ranson’s Folly (1902); Once upon a Time (1910); The Man Who Could Not Lose (1911); The Red Cross Girl (1912); The Lost Road (1913); Somewhere in France (1915).

Deland, Margaret: The Awakening of Helena Ritchie (1906); The Iron Woman (1911); The Voice (1912); Partners (1913); The Rising Tide (1916); Dr. Lavender’s People (short stories—1903); R. J.’s Mother (1908); Around Old Chester (short stories—1915).

Dreiser, Theodore: Sister Carrie (1901); Jennie Gerhardt (1911); The Financier (1912); The Titan (1914); The Genius (1915).

Freeman, Mary E. Wilkins: Novels: The Portion of Labor (1901); The Debtor (1905); The Shoulders of Atlas (1908). Short stories: The Givers (1904); The Fair Lavinia (1907); The Winning Lady and Other Stories (1909); The Copy-Cat and Other Stories (1914)

Gerould, Katherine Fullerton: Short stories: Vain Oblations (1914); The Great Tradition (1915).

Glasgow, Ellen: The Battle Ground (1902); The Deliverance (1904); The Wheel of Life (1906); The Ancient Law (1908); The Romance of a Plain Man (1909); The Miller of Old Church (1911); Virginia (1913); Life and Gabriella (1916).

Harrison, Henry Sydnor: Queed (1911); V. V.’s Eyes (1913); Angela’s Business (1915).

Herrick, Robert: The Gospel of Freedom (1898); The Web of Life (1900); Their Child (1903); The Common Lot (1904); The Memoirs of an American Citizen (1905); Together (1908); A Life for a Life (1910); One Woman’s Life (1913); Clark’s Field (1914).

London, Jack: Short stories: Son of the Wolf (1900); Children of the Frost (1902); The Call of the Wild (1903); The Faith of Men; Tales of the Fish Patrol; Love of Life and Other Stories; Moon Face and Other Stories; Lost Face; South Sea Tales (1911); The House of Pride and Other Tales of Hawaii (1912); The Strength of the Strong (1914); The Turtles of Tasman (1916). Novels: The Sea Wolf (1904); White Fang (1905); The Iron Heel (1907); Martin Eden (1909); Burning Daylight (1910); John Barleycorn (1913); The Valley of the Moon (1913); The Mutiny of the Elsinore (1914).

Norris, Frank: McTeague (1899); Blix (1899); A Man’s Woman (1900); The Octopus (1901); The Pit (1903); A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories (1903).

O. Henry: Cabbages and Kings (1905); The Four Million; The Trimmed Lamp; The Heart of the West; The Gentle Grafter; The Voice of the City; Roads of Destiny; Options; Strictly Business (1910); Whirligigs (1910); Sixes and Sevens (1911); Rolling Stones (1912).

Poole, Ernest: The Harbor; His Family (1917).

Smith, F. Hopkinson: Short stories: The Under Dog (1903); At Close Range (1905); The Wood Fire in No. 3 (1905); The Veiled Lady and Other Men and Women (1907); Forty Minutes Late and Other Stories (1909). Novels: Oliver Horn; The Tides of Barnegat; Peter; Felix O’Day.

Tarkington, Booth: The Gentleman from Indiana (1899); Monsieur Beaucaire (1900); The Conquest of Canaan (1905); The Guest of Quesnay (1908); Penrod (short stories—1914); The Turmoil (1915); Penrod and Sam (1916); Seventeen (1916).

Wharton, Edith: Short stories: The Touchstone (1900); Crucial Instances (1901); The Descent of Man (1904); Madame de Treymes (1907); The Hermit and the Wild Woman (1908); Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910); Xingu and Other Stories (1916). Novels: The Valley of Decision (1902); The House of Mirth (1906); The Fruit of the Tree (1907); Ethan Frome (1911); The Reef (1912); The Custom of the Country (1913); Summer (1917).

Wister, Owen: The Virginian (1902); Philosophy Four (1903); Lady Baltimore (1906); Mother (1907); Members of the Family (short stories—1911).

III. Historical Novels

Hewlett: The Forest Lovers, Life and Death of Richard Yea-and-Nay, The Queen’s Quair, The Song of Renny.

Moore: The Brook Kerith.

Atherton: The Conqueror.

Churchill: The Crisis, The Crossing.

Glasgow: The Battle Ground.

Smith: Oliver Horn.

Wharton: The Valley of Decision.

IV. Realistic “Life” Novels

Bennett: Old Wives’ Tale, and the trilogy, Clayhanger, Hilda Lessways, These Twain.

Beresford: The Early History of Jacob Stahl, A Candidate for Truth, The Invisible Event (a trilogy).

Butler: The Way of All Flesh.

Cannan: Round the Corner, Young Earnest, Mendel.

De Morgan: Joseph Vance, Alice-for-Short, When Ghost Meets Ghost.

Mackenzie: Carnival, Sinister Street, Plasher’s Mead.

Sinclair: The Divine Fire.

Dreiser: Sister Carrie, Jennie Gerhardt, The Financier, The Titan, The Genius.

V. Sociological Novels

1. Feminism:

Wells: Anne Veronica, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman.

Ward: Delia Blanchflower.

Atherton: Julia France, Senator North.

Deland: The Rising Tide.

Glasgow: Virginia, Life and Gabriella.

Harrison: Angela’s Business.

2. Marriage and divorce:

Galsworthy: Man of Property, The Dark Flower.

George: The Strangers’ Wedding.

Lawrence: The Trespasser, The White Peacock, Sons and Lovers.

Sinclair: The Helpmate, The Judgment of Eve.

Wells: Marriage, The Passionate Friends.

Churchill: A Modern Chronicle.

Herrick: The Gospel of Freedom, Together.

Wharton: The Custom of the Country.

3. Politics:

Ward: The Coryston Family.

Wells: The New Machiavelli.

Churchill: Coniston, Mr. Crewe’s Career.

4. Poverty, social justice, religion:

Galsworthy: Fraternity, The Freelands.

MacGill, Patrick: The Rat-Pit.

Wells: History of Mr. Polly.

Churchill: The Inside of the Cup, The Dwelling-place of Light.

Freeman: The Portion of Labor, The Shoulders of Atlas.

Herrick: Clark’s Field.

Harrison: V. V.’s Eyes.

Poole, Ernest: The Harbor.

5. Capitalism, and business ethics:

Wells: Tono-Bungay.

Churchill: A Far Country.

Herrick: Memoirs of an American Citizen, A Life for a Life.

London: The Iron Heel.

Norris: The Octopus, The Pit.

Tarkington: The Turmoil.

Sinclair: King Coal.

6. War:

De Selincourt, Hugh: A Soldier of Life.

Phillpotts: The Human Boy and the War.

Walpole: The Dark Forest.

Wells: Mr. Britling Sees It Through.

Comfort, Will Levington: Routledge Rides Alone, Red Fleece.

II. Russian

Among the first Russian writers to achieve a European reputation was Turgenev. This was due partly to his long residence in Paris and his intimate relations with French authors. Tolstoy’s work became known in France at first largely through his influence. As for Dostoyevsky, perhaps the greatest genius of the three, as Turgenev was unquestionably the greatest artist, and Tolstoy the most commanding personality, he is a twentieth-century discovery to the readers of England and America, for most of his books have been adequately translated only within the last few years. The Great War has been an immense stimulus to interest in Russian literature, and contemporary writers like Andreyev, Artsybashev, and Gorky find their way into English without much delay. Everybody goes to Russian fiction to find out what we have to hope or fear from Russia; books about Russia have multiplied—sentimental books, many of them, that see (as Hugh Walpole has said) “in the Russian a blessed sort of Idiot unable to read or write, but vitally conscious of God.” The Revolution of 1917 has happily relieved partisans of the Allies from the troublesome task of justifying the alliance of the democratic nations of the West with the backward autocracy of Eastern Europe. Their insistence upon the progressive and democratic spirit of the Russian people, so marked in their fiction, is at length justified by events. Russian fiction has been above all democratic; its watchword has been “art for life’s sake,” art devoted to the service of society, seeking to raise society to higher humanitarian levels. It has been true in the main to the ideals first fully expressed by Gogol, before the middle of the nineteenth century: democracy, unflinching realism, humanitarianism. It has insisted on handling the biggest and most vital problems in the national life with complete freedom and an always fresh questioning spirit. If it has not always answered its own questions, it has at least presented them vividly and powerfully, stripped of the disguises they often wear in other literatures. There is no denying the gloom that hangs over much of this fiction, a gloom that makes the picture of a little student (one of the suicides of Artsybashev’s ‘Breaking-Point’), hanging in his garret in the bluish light of a winter’s dawn, somehow typical of a long series of depressing scenes. How much of this gloom is characteristic of the Slavic temperament, how much is due to the evils of the old autocratic régime, the social and political oppression? The literature that will follow the revolutionary upheavals of 1917 may answer that question.

Of the more recent Russian writers of fiction, Chekhov is a sort of bridge between the three giants of the nineteenth century and the group of contemporary authors whose stories and plays reflect the revolutions and shifting ideas of the last fifteen years. Chekhov’s many stories interpret the Russia of the ’80s and ’90s, Russia of the reaction and oppression that followed upon the Liberal hopes of the ’60s, the educational activity among the people in the ’70s, and the terrorism and revolutionary propaganda that culminated in the assassination of the Czar in the early ’80s. The period of the ’80s and ’90s was marked by intellectual and spiritual prostration. Apathy succeeded enthusiasm and activity; there was general disillusionment. Chekhov’s work reflects this disenchantment. He portrays many types of men who see the evil around them, but do not rebel, have even lost the desire to rebel. It is chiefly the gifted, the idealists, who suffer from the sense of the futility of existence. Like events in life, many of his stories are unfinished in effect; they give an impression of character, a dramatic moment, a glimpse of peasant life, a fleeting mood. Others are elaborated, worked out in detail; his studies in abnormal psychology, like ‘The Black Monk’ or ‘Ward No. 6,’ for instance, or such somber pictures of peasant life as ‘In the Ravine.’ Very charming are the stories of children. He is as delicate and impersonal as Turgenev; as faithful a realist as Tolstoy. And he is by no means without humor.

Gorky sounds the note of revolt. The writer, he says, must awaken in the hearts of men a desire for liberty, a determination to create new forms of life. His own life, as recorded in ‘My Childhood,’ and ‘In the World,’ is more fascinating than any novel or story he has written. Even the cockroaches, those cockroaches that seem to swarm over the pages of Russian fiction, become truly delightful when, harnessed to a paper sledge, they prance over the smooth kitchen table. Yet this picture of his early life is full of black shadows. Gorky’s novels lack the power of his short stories; they suffer from the formlessness that is the besetting sin of the Russian novel. ‘Foma Gordyeef’ deals with the Russian merchant class on the Volga; ‘Mother’ is a vivid picture of life among the workers in a Russian factory; ‘The Spy’ is a study of police spies and secret agents, and has for hero a half-idiotic youth whom Professor Phelps characterizes, with academic elegance, as a “disgusting whelp.” Gorky’s most original achievement was to introduce the Barefoot Brigade into literature. He idealizes this type: the rebellious, strong spirits, who thirst for liberty, who hate all authority and all fixed things, who declare open war against society, and, for the sake of freedom, despise the pleasures and rewards of civilized life. His best stories (like ‘Chelkash’) present this ideal of personal liberty, strength, and fierce rebellion. These super-tramps, thieves, smugglers, murderers, as some of them are, compare very favorably with another type found in his stories,—the weak, helpless, depraved, who suffer from a melancholy that one suspects to be the result of laziness, vodka, and generally unsanitary living. Gorky’s achievement, original as it is and full of vitality, has scarcely equalled his promise.

Sologub is an interesting contrast to Gorky in some of his work, particularly in his fairy tales and humorous stories. He has power to create atmosphere and to handle the fantastic. Both fantasy and realism are curiously blended in the two novels that have been translated, ‘The Little Demon,’ and ‘The Created Legend.’ Kuprin, who has been compared to Kipling, is a satirical realist, with some fourteen volumes of short stories to his credit. His novel of garrison life, ‘The Duel,’ a masterpiece of realism, was taken as an indictment of army life, though he disclaimed any but an artistic intention. Artsybashev is the most sensational, both in choice of themes and in treatment, of present-day writers in Russia. His hero Sanine is a cheerful anarchist who strolls through life entirely self-possessed and self-sufficient, delighting in his own natural instincts, totally unaffected by public opinion. He is rather a pleasant contrast to that weak-willed, self-tormented type of Russian hero, who continually seeks the meaning of life: “I sneezed just now,” (Artsybashev ironically represents such a youth as saying); “have I in sneezing fulfilled my destiny?” ‘Sanine’ is an apology for individualism. But Saninism seems to break down in the more powerful novel, ‘The Breaking-Point.’ The theme is the deadly nausea produced by mere existence; the grayness and folly of living. Most of the characters reach the breaking-point sooner or later and commit suicide. To escape from the depressing influence of this often brilliant book, one takes, in self-defense, to counting up the casualties and making flippant remarks. When one realizes that out of some fifteen characters, seven kill themselves by rope, water, bullet, and knife, that three die natural but ghastly deaths, that every woman, except one who is dying of consumption when the story opens, is seduced during the course of the book,—one begins to think of it all as a bad dream. But bad dreams may be too vivid to forget.

Andreyev’s characters, like Dostoyevsky’s, are mostly abnormal—madmen, neurasthenics, beings fatally wounded in the struggle of life. ‘The Dilemma’ is an astonishingly subtle and impressive analysis of a foundering intelligence. ‘The Crushed Flower’ reveals a tender and sympathetic handling of a child’s imagination; but he usually prefers to portray melancholy moods and the torments of existence. His characters tend to become incarnations and symbols rather than human beings. Like Poe, who influenced him, he has a predilection for the horrible and a passion for the study of solitude, silence, death. But Poe never comes in touch with reality: his stories are of no time or place. Andreyev, in the true Russian tradition, is an uncompromising realist in detail, even when he is most abstract in theme. And in his best work, ‘The Red Laugh’ (to be recommended to any who feel disposed to glorify war) and ‘The Seven Who Were Hanged,’ it is the harmony between the imaginative and the realistic that gives them their power. Andreyev is probably greatest and sanest in ‘The Seven Who Were Hanged,’ which reveals a truly divine compassion and insight, worthy of Dostoyevsky; and most powerful in ‘The Red Laugh.’ He is a thorough artist. But so far, his mind has dwelt by preference on the abnormal and diseased.

Reading Recommended

For a list of English translations of Russian fiction, see ‘Russian Literature’ by Louis S. Friedland.

For a history of Russian Literature, see Prince Kropotkin’s ‘Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature’ (1915), and A. Brückner’s ‘Literary History of Russia’ (1908). For criticism, see W. L. Phelps’s ‘Essays on Russian Novelists,’ M. Baring’s ‘Landmarks in Russian Literature,’ E. M. Vogüé’s ‘The Russian Novel,’ and S. Persky’s ‘Contemporary Russian Novelists.’ See also Leo Wiener’s ‘Anthology of Russian Literature.’

III. German, Scandinavian, Dutch

Germany. Of the three German novelists selected by Professor Lewisohn (‘Spirit of Modern German Literature’) in support of his claim that Germany can show work as great in the novel as in the drama, one, Thomas Mann, is known as yet in only one English translation. Clara Viebig’s ‘Our Daily Bread’ (‘Das tägliche Brod’), a study of the character and life of a servant girl among the Berlin poor, recalls George Moore’s ‘Esther Waters’ in theme, and Zola’s ‘L’Assommoir’ or ‘Ventre de Paris’ in naturalistic technique. We are assured, however, that the German naturalists are not children of Zola’s spirit; they do not shrink from recording brutality and squalor, but they are inspired by compassion,—somewhat unfair, this, to Zola. Gustav Frenssen, the Holstein country parson, interprets and reflects the world of the peasantry in an ancient land. He gives us studies of the peasant under the pressure of modern problems of the state and of the soul. It is unfortunate that the highly praised work of such younger writers as Ricarda Huch and Hermann Hesse remains untranslated, while Sudermann’s ‘Song of Songs’ achieves a scandalous success with English readers.

Sweden has produced one of the greatest and best-loved of modern novelists in Selma Lagerlöf, whose studies of Swedish peasant life, with its background of superstition and folk-lore, its poverty and its religious aspiration, are handled with charm and psychological insight, and informed with a fine idealism. Sweden did well to furnish Miss Lagerlöf as an antidote to Strindberg.

The Danish Martin Nexø’s ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ is being recognized as the greatest of labor novels. The volumes entitled in Dutch ‘The Books of the Small Souls’ have now been translated from the Dutch of Louis Couperus. In this study of a large family in The Hague, social convention is the central theme; subservience to convention is the vice of small souls. Queredo’s ‘Toil of Men,’ in a series of realistic pictures of a community of market gardeners near the capital, unrolls a panorama of toil and poverty waging a losing battle with nature.

Reading Recommended


1. German:

Frenssen, Gustav: Jörn Uhl (1905); Holyland (1906); Three Comrades (1907); Peter Moor’s Journey to Southwest Africa (1908); Klaus Hinrich Baas (1911); Peter Moor (1914).

Hauptmann, Gerhart: Fool in Christ: Emanuel Quint (1911); Atlantis.

Mann, Thomas: Royal Highness (1917).

Rosegger, Petri: The Forest Schoolmaster (1901); The God Seeker (1901); Earth and the Fulness Thereof (1902); Forest Farm; Tales of the Austrian Tyrol (1912).

Schnitzler, Arthur: Bertha Garlan: A Novel (1913); Viennese Idyls (1913); The Road to the Open (1913).

Sudermann, Hermann: Dame Care; The Undying Past (Es War, 1906); Regina (Der Katzensteg); The Song of Songs (Das Hohe Lied, 1909); The Indian Lily and Other Stories (1912).

Viebig, Clara: Absolution; Our Daily Bread; The Son of His Mother.

Wolzogen, Ernst Von: Florian Mayr (1914); Third Sex (1914)

2. Norse:

Björnson, Björnstjerne: The Novels (13 volumes, edited by Edmund Gosse, 1897–1912, Macmillan).

Hamsun, Knut Pedersen: Shallow Soil (1914).

3. Swedish:

Lagerlöf, Selma: The Story of Gösta Berling; Invisible Links; From a Swedish Homestead; Jerusalem (2 parts, pub. W. Heinemann); The Wonderful Adventures of Nils; Christ Legends; Further Adventures of Nils; The Girl from the Marshcroft and Other Stories; The Miracles of Anti-Christ; Liliencrona’s Home; Legend of the Sacred Image; The Emperor of Portugallia. (Collected works published by Doubleday, Page & Co.)

Strindberg, August: Easter and Stories from the Swedish (1912); Confessions of a Fool (1913); In Midsummer Days and Other Tales (1913); The Red Room (1913); The German Lieutenant and Other Stories (1915); Married; On the Seaboard.

4. Danish:

Nexø, Martin Andersen: Pelle the Conqueror (complete translation in 4 volumes, 1917).

5. Dutch:

Couperus, Louis: Small Souls (1914); The Later Life; The Twilight of the Souls.

Queredo, I.: Toil of Men (1910).

IV. French

The exaggerated emphasis of the naturalistic school in France upon the external and the physical led to a reaction in favor of the analysis of mind and sentiment and the study of moral problems. Important as an influence, too, was the psychological intensity of the Russian novelists, who were more promptly appreciated in France than in England. “Reaction against Realism,” writes Miss Stephens, “characterizes alike the novel of manners of Anatole France, the sociological novel of Barrès, the psychological novel of Bourget, the passion novel of Prévost, and the moral studies of Édouard Rod.” With most of these novelists, all excellent psychologists, some special type of character is associated: the scholar, with France; the politician, with Barrès; the peasant, with Bazin; the sailor, with Loti; the lover, with Rod; the fashionable cynic, with Bourget. Pierre de Coulevain’s novels emphasize the contrast between the French, and the English or American temperament. René Bazin felt that naturalism, especially in Zola’s ‘La Terre,’ had misrepresented the French peasant. He interprets provincial and rustic life. As a Catholic, M. Bazin can regard poverty as a blessing in disguise; and (one critic remarks) this doctrine, though it may be economically pernicious, is artistically an advantage to his work. M. Bazin handles certain problems of a social nature, such as the abandonment of the country for the town (‘La Terre qui Meurt’), the tragedy of race antagonism in Alsace and Lorraine (‘Les Oberlé’), the tyranny of the trades unions (‘Le Blé qui Lève’), the misfortune of the nuns thrown out into the world by the action of the government in closing their schools (‘L’Isolée’). His main theme is the love of the peasant for his native soil.

A marked tendency of the twentieth century has been a revolt against intellectualism, a revolt stimulated by the philosophy of William James and of M. Bergson, with its emphasis on instinct and intuition. It has expressed itself in a desire to return to authority, instead of relying on the individual reason. It is associated with a revival of Catholicism, of nationalism, even of monarchism. Jean-Christophe, the hero of the life-novel that best reflects all the changing developments of French thought before the War, finds himself puzzled, towards the close of his career, by the ideas of the son of his old friend Olivier. Georges wants certitude, discipline, authority; he joins societies, lays down rules. The free-lance Christophe has never felt this need: “Why should one shut oneself up in a camp? Isn’t it much better outside?” “The mind needs certitude,” replies Georges; “it needs to adopt principles admitted by the mass of mankind at a given period.” To Jean-Christophe, this need for rules, this fear of one’s own intelligence, is merely a hanging-on to one’s great-grandmother’s apron strings: “Can’t you walk alone?” “We must take root, ‘s’enraciner.’” “Do trees need to be in pots in order to take root? The earth’s there, free to every one. Strike your roots deep into it. Find your own laws.” M. Rolland fears intellectual indolence in this return to authority. Monarchism is associated with the critic Charles Maurras, nationalism with the novelist M. Barrès, both of them anti-Dreyfusard. Some understanding of the Dreyfus case is essential to any reader of modern French. Unfortunately, M. Barrès, one of the most influential writers, is not yet accessible in English translation. Neither Maurras nor Barrès is a Catholic, though they urge the restoration of the authority of the Pope. M. France refers ironically to the revival of religion, as a sort of fashion, in his ‘Revolt of the Angels.’ Under the Ancien Régime, he notes, the people were believers, the nobility and the educated bourgeoisie were not; to-day the people believe in nothing; the bourgeoisie want to believe, and succeed—sometimes. M. Barrès is a republican, who has evolved nationalism out of regionism and traditionism; you must root yourself in your native soil, and stick to your ancestors; cultivate all that is racial. Nationalism declares itself, also, in colonial and maritime novels. Pierre Mille, sometimes called the French Kipling, has handled subjects connected with the foundation and extension of the French colonial empire.

Reading Recommended

See also ‘French Novelists of To-day’ (series 1, 1908; series 2, 1915) by Winifred Stephens; and ‘Five Masters of French Romance’ by Albert Léon Guérard (1916). The list that follows includes the principal English translations, with their dates.


Aicard, Jean: The King of Camargue (1901); The Diverting Adventures of Maurin (1909); Maurin the Illustrious (1910).

Bazin, René: A Blot of Ink (1892); The Coming Harvest (1908); The Nun (L’Isolée, 1908); This, My Son (Les Noêllet, 1909); Redemption (De Toute son Âme); The Barrier (1910); The Children of Alsace (Les Oberlé, 1912); The Autumn Glory (La Terre Qui Meurt); The Penitent; Davidée Birot; Those of His Own Household (Madame Corentine, 1914).

Berger, Marcel: Ordeal by Fire (Le Miracle du Feu).

Bourget, Paul: Love’s Cruel Enigma (1891); Pastels of Men (1892); The Son (André Cornélis, 1893); Cosmopolis (1893); A Living Lie (Mensonges); Antigone and Other Portraits of Women (Voyageuses, 1898); The Land of Promise; The Disciple (1901); A Tragic Idyl; Monica and Other Stories (1902); A Divorce (1904); A Saint (1907); The Weight of the Name (1908); The Night Cometh (Le Sens de la Mort, 1916).

Boylesve, René: A Gentlewoman of France (1916).

Coulevain, Pierre de (Mme. Favre de Coulevain): American Nobility (1897); Eve Triumphant (1902); On the Branch (1910); The Unknown Isle; The Wonderful Romance (1914).

France, Anatole: Jocasta and the Famished Cat; The Crime of Sylvester Bonnard; The Aspirations of Jean Servien; My Friend’s Book; Balthasar; Thaïs; Mother-of-Pearl; The Red Lily; At the Sign of the Reine Pédauque; The Well of St. Clare; The Elm-Tree on the Mall; The Wickerwork Woman; The White Stone; The Gods are Athirst; The Revolt of the Angels.

Loti, Pierre: Romance of a Spahi; Rarahu; An Iceland Fisherman; Madame Chrysanthème; The Book of Pity and of Death; A Phantom from the East; A Child’s Romance; Ramuntcho; Disenchanted.

Mille, Pierre: Joffre Chaps and Some Others (1915); Under the Tricolour (1915); Louise and Barnavaux (1916).

Prévost, Marcel: Simply Women (selections from his works, 1910); Letters of Women; Frédérique; Guardian Angels (1914).

Rod, Édouard: The White Rocks; Pastor Naudié’s Young Wife.

Rolland, Remain: Jean-Christophe (1910–1913).

Tinayre, Marcelle: The House of Sin; The Shadow of Love (1911); Madeleine at Her Mirror (1913).

V. Spanish and Italian

Modern Spanish fiction (of which, unfortunately, there are few English translations) has had two preoccupations: to give a faithful picture of old, conservative Spain; and to present the momentous problems of Church and society, now exercising the intelligence of the nation. The first has resulted in what is called the regional novel, which utilizes, as the background of some human drama, the social, political, and religious peculiarities of some provincial community. The ‘José’ of Armando Valdés pictures the life of a simple fishing village. But the presentation of genre pictures and the interpretation of provincial life is yielding to the fiction that reflects radical changes in the thought of the nation. Books obnoxious to the Church and the conservatism of old Spain are said to be very popular; it is even reported that an English suffragette figures in a recent novel. A common motive in the modern novel is the breach of the Seventh Commandment. Galdós, writer of historical novels that follow the events of nineteenth-century Spanish history, attacks the interference of the Church in society and politics. The prophet of revolution is Blasco Ibañez. He treats of the herd, the lowest dregs in the cities, the vineyards, and the fishing villages. ‘La Catedral,’ with its pictures of the Toledo clergy, tells the story of a Barcelona anarchist, a dreamer of dreams, whose doctrines have disastrous effect on some of those who follow without understanding him.

In contemporary Italian fiction, two writers have achieved international reputation—Fogazzaro and D’Annunzio, one a Christian idealist, the other a pagan. Fogazzaro’s usual theme is the ultimate triumph of the ideal aspirations of the soul over man’s baser instincts. In ‘The Saint’ he attempted to reconcile traditional Catholicism to modern thought and science, with the result that his book was placed upon the Index. Fogazzaro is one of the few Italian novelists uninfluenced by Zola. The Neapolitan, Matilde Serao, “a vivid painter and a rich register of sensations and impressions,” is a disciple of Zola. As for D’Annunzio, as a novelist, no one has characterized him better than Henry James, with his “artistic intelligence of extraordinary range and fineness concentrated almost wholly on the life of the senses.” He aims at beauty at any price, not in any perceptible degree moral beauty. He is unrivaled in recording the phenomena of passion, as it prevails between his men and women; and as James truly says, scarcely anything else does prevail.

Reading Recommended


1. Spanish:

Alarcón, Don Pedro: Captain Poison (1914); The Child of the Ball (1892).

Galdós, Pérez: Trafalgar (1884); The Court of Charles IV (1888); The Battle of Salamanca; Saragossa (1899).

Ibañez, Vicente Blasco: The Shadow of the Cathedral; The Blood of the Arena; Sonnica.

Valdés, Armando: Sister Saint Sulpice (1890); The Joy of Captain Ribot (1900); José (1901); The Fourth Estate (1901).

2. Italian:

D’Annunzio, Gabriele: The Child of Pleasure (Il Piacere); The Intruder (L’Innocente); Episcopo & Co.; The Triumph of Death; The Virgins of the Rocks; The Flame of Life.

Fogazzaro, Antonio: The Woman (Malombra, 1907); The Politician (Daniele Cortis, 1908); The Patriot (Piccolo Mondo Antico); The Sinner (Piccolo Mondo Moderno); The Saint (1907); Leila (1911).

Serao, Matilde: After the Pardon (1909); The Ballet Dancer and On Guard; The Conquest of Rome; Fantasy; The Land of Cockayne.