« ZurückWeiter »
name of “Masks and Faces.” But “Christie Johnstone” had not plot enough for the drama, though an almost perfect story, and Taylor urged Reade to publish it as a novel. It remains one of Reade's most artistic performances. Several of the novels were written “with a purpose.” “Never Too Late to Mend” is an exposure of the infamous iniquities of the English jails; “Hard Cash" is an attack on private insane asylums, and “Put Yourself in His Place” portrays the tyranny of the trades unions, and there is little question that like some of Dickens' novels they brought about substantial reforms. Aside from “the purpose" which too often interferes with artistic completeness, there are passages in these novels which for intensity, rapidity of movement, and brilliancy have been rarely equaled in fiction. The Australian adventures in “Never Too Late to Mend,” the great sea fight with the pirate in “Hard Cash,” and the inundation in “Put Yourself in His Place” are triumphs of powerful and masterly description only to be found in the greatest of romances. They may be read and reread with constant delight. Christie's rescue of the young artist carried out by the tide is another that may “The Cloister and the Hearth '' is Reade's masterpiece, and it is undoubtedly a very great story. Splendid in invention, accurate in its historic setting, replete with learning, incomparable in its simplicity, tenderness, and pathos, and full of stirring scenes and adventures, it is a noble and beautiful romance. It is founded on the rather mythical story of Gerard, or Gerhard, the father of Erasmus, betrothed to Margaret Brandt, who becomes a mother when Gerard is absent at Rome on a special mission. The period of the tale is the fifteenth century. “Griffith Gaunt, or Jealousy" is a story of great power, turning as it does on the most tremendous passion in human nature. The three chief characters, Griffith, the madly jealous, capricious, and passionate man; Catharine, his wife, the proud, hasty, but devotedly religious woman, and Mercy Wint, the lovely and self-sacrificing victim, are vividly drawn. Nothing better illustrates the change in our way of looking at novels in the last forty years than this work. When it appeared it was savagely assailed by the critics, just as “Jane Eyre" had been a few years earlier, because of its immorality.
pare in its portrayal of illicit love with the novels of Sarah Grand, Thomas Hardy, George Moore, and a dozen others of our modern novelists who deal in nastiness and filth, but in Reade's day those subjects were tabooed or only remotely hinted at, and hence the outcry. Reade, as was his invariable custom, assailed his critics in his turn, calling them “prurient prudes.” He brought an action for libel against one of his American critics, gaining a nominal verdict. Even in the briefest notice of Charles Reade his methods and habits as a writer must be described. He was as unblushing and bold a pla– giarist as ever lived. In the preface to “A Simpleton’’ he undertakes to explain and justify his system by the example of Shakespeare, Molière, Scott and some others known to fame. But his defense is weak. They “lifted” and transformed. They found dead bodies and made them living souls. Reade's stealing was grand larceny only. In “Griffith Gaunt” the trial scene is taken bodily, with but the change of name here, and there, from one of the old English state trials. In “The Cloister and the Hearth” whole passages are transferred from the “Colloquies” of Erasmus,
while some of the insane asylum scenes in
“Hard Cash ’’ are taken from “Valentine Vox,” an earlier novel, dealing with the same subject, or from newspaper reports.
The last story he ever wrote is entitled “The Picture,” which was first published in Harper's Magazine for 1884. It is almost a literal translation of a French story that appeared in 1855, entitled “ Mademoiselle Malapeire,” by Mme. Reybaud.
There was just enough change in the names and few minor details to show Reade's consciousness that he was dealing in stolen goods. The theft was discovered at once, but just after the story appeared Reade died and the incident was closed.
These things, entirely unnecessary to him, for he was a man of the most undoubted genius and original power, were due to his perversity, and to the same half-insane notion that made him believe that he was a playwright, “Shakespeare stole, Molière took his own wherever he found it, Sterne appropriated the learning of others, therefore I can do the same.” That was his logic. He was a great writer and novelist, and to such a one much can be forgiven.
PHILIP JAMES BAILEY,
A LONG FORGOTTEN POET.
Do many people remember Philip James Bailey There must be a good many readers that have some acquaintance with the once famous poem entitled “Festus,” that two generations ago delighted and thrilled countless readers of the English-speaking world. It was in 1839 that Philip James Bailey published “Festus.” He had been educated at Glasgow university, and was studying law. He was afterward called to the bar as a member of Lincoln's Inn, but he never practised. When his poem appeared it was a time of dearth in English poesy. Wordsworth and Southey had ceased writing, Browning had written only “Pauline,” “Paracelsus” and “Stratford,” and had no readers. Tennyson was still obscure, his volume of 1833 being all that he had published, and this mercilessly scored by the critics,
while Richard Hengist Horne had not yet written