Sivut kuvina

Galahad, by John Erskine. Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill Co. 1926. 12mo. viii+340 pp. $2.50.

IN modernizing part of the Galahad story, Mr. Erskine is in the medieval tradition, which always preferred retelling to invention. And this book, like his Helen, suggests that translation into modernity has one advantage. It makes us aware of the abiding freshness of the old tales. For both Helen and Galahad are capital novels, and both are written with remarkable fidelity to the former versions. The more intimately the reader knows the originals, the more he will enjoy the new renderings, for Mr. Erskine has a great knack at ingeniously utilizing hints. The ennui which had fallen on Arthur's court before Galahad came, the queer episode of Arthur's visit in disguise to see Iseult, the malicious traits of Gawain, Lancelot's madness in the Isle de Joie, all are used. And when changes are introduced, as in the rape of Guinevere by Meliagrance, one appreciates the reason. The piquant talk, the merry or satirical reading of motive, are Erskine's own, but the framework is carefully selected from the vast structure of


Here they are, old and new; and no one need mind if some of us perversely prefer the old. Perhaps classical scholars feel that way about Helen. Certainly most lovers of romance will continue to like their Malory straight. We do not know much about Helen. Guinevere and Galahad are different. Long brooding on these great figures by the mediaeval imagination had at last imparted to them a certain finality. Mr. Erskine troubles us when he says, 'We shall tell the story as it was before poets lifted it out of its origin, and used it as a language for remote and mystical things. For the process went just the other way. The human story was the last stage. The tales began as myth, crumbled into legend, grew slowly humanized, and the characters, when at long last projected with an intensity which gripped hearts for generations, had gathered into themselves too many elements to be lightly reinterpreted. 'We ⚫ confine our report to the first causes, as it were, of these famous dreams,' says Mr. Erskine. No, no. The first causes were never two women and a man.

Galahad's mother, for instance, that sad Grail maiden on whom rests in a mystery the fulfillment of fate-it is an outrage to present her as an attractive flapper! There are flappers in romance, but she is not one. To be sure, if the strange begetting of Galahad is to be told with no reference to the Grail, it must be so cheapened. But are we to see Guinevere turned into that

most insufferable type, the woman bent on exerting an influence? As for Galahad, there is no warrant for handing him over-save the mark!

to be modeled by Guinevere! More moving in its grave reticence is the one page in Malory where these two are brought face to face. Mr. Erskine's Galahad grows from a naughty boy spoiled by his mother to a tedious young man schooled by Guinevere to deny human nature. We see too much of him. Malory is wiser - Malory, who lets him say very little, and shows him for the most part only in brief flashes, as he flees down vanishing vistas.

What can one expect? The grave imaginative beauty, the human passion, of the great old story depend on the elements which Mr. Erskine, wisely for his purposes, rejects. A Galahad story that ignores the Grail must turn to sarcasm. For, unless there is a real Grail worth pursuing, the seeking idealist will always be both deluded and priggish. Omit spiritual mystery, and the whole belittled story becomes, to speak frankly, disagreeable. Direction, destiny, depth, are the three words Spengler associates with the 'Faustian' soul; all are needed to explain Grail romance. In this 'megalopolitan' version, direction is gone, depth is replaced by surface polish, there is no destiny to be fulfilled. Mr. Erskine's book is singularly apt illustration of Spengler's theories; reading it, we observe not only the decline of the West,' but the dying of the 'Faustian' soul. Perhaps this little review takes the book too seriously but let us be on our guard against assuming that Mr. Erskine has brushed away accretions and disinterred buried reality. Rather. he has uprooted a beautiful thing, and given us something else in its place. The very cleverness of his book prevents one from accepting it as a skit, forces one to regard it as a portent.

[ocr errors]


You Can't Win, by Jack Black. New York Macmillan Co. 1926. 12mo. xiii+394 pp. $2.00.

FOR brief summary of You Can't Win one can hardly do better than quote the author:

'A bleak background! Crowded with robberies. burglaries, and thefts too numerous to recall. All manner of crimes against property. Arrests, trials, acquittals, convictions, escapes. Penitentiaries! I see in the background four of them. County jails, workhouses, city prisons, Mounted Police barracks, dungeons, solitary confinement. bread and water, hanging up, brutal floggings, and the murderous strait-jacket.

A Novel by Struthers Burt


With the great success of "The Interpreter's House," his first novel, Struthers Burt, who was previously distinguished for short stories and poems, came into recognition as one of the most entertaining and acute commentators upon the modern

Vanity Fair as well as one who saw our civilization in relation to that of other nations, and therefore regarded it with an unusually embracing vision.

In this romance of a wealthy young Philadelphian and a chorus girl from a Broadway revue, Struthers Burt has taken a broad canvas on which to depict modern American society, and to contrast with convincing effectiveness the mannered social attitudes of Philadelphia aristocracy, the swift, elaborate cruelty of stage and studio life in New York, and the serene, powerful beauty of life on a ranch in the mountains of Wyoming.

It is a moving story, told with humor, warmth, and sophistication, and showing the author's unusual understanding of the social and intellectual conflicts peculiar to the present day.



[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

'I see hop joints, wine dumps, thieves' resorts, and beggars' hangouts.

'Crime followed by swift retribution in one form or another.

'I had very few glasses of wine as I traveled this route. I rarely saw a woman smile and seldom heard a song.'

It is a good thing that many law-abiding people are reading this remarkable autobiography of an ex-criminal, thirteen years removed from the criminal class, but in his time as complete a criminal as any seeker for authentic information could desire. The effort of organized society to protect itself from the outlaw element may reasonably gain power from understanding the enemy, and in this book the reader meets and mingles with criminals almost, one might say, as he meets and mingles with actual friends and acquaintances. He will very likely begin to think that this underworld can no more be expressed adequately by statistics and psychological theory than the upperworld in which he lives himself. He will observe that among the lawbreakers, as among the law-abiders, youth often drifts into a means of livelihood that maturity follows from force of habit, knowing nothing different. In this community of crime Mr. Black lived and 'worked' for some thirty years (fifteen of them in this prison or that). Jesse James died just before the beginning of this period, and it ended before the advent of the automatic for murder and the automobile for escape.

'In the underworld,' says Mr. Black, 'one has good or bad character as in any other layer of society. The thief who pays off borrowed money, debts, or grudges has a good character; and the thief who does the reverse has a bad character. Thieves strive for good character and make as many sacrifices to keep it as men do anywhere else. A burglar can have friends, but he has to pay his room rent or he will lose them, and they will despise him.'

Jack Black, potential criminal, had character, and this was recognized by three criminals of character in his first prison, whence followed his induction into the vocation of crime, and, for that matter, his reformation thirty years afterward. It is significant that these three criminals stood out from the miscellaneous prison population. Of one of them he says later, they were then working together at safe-breaking, 'George, although past fifty, never spoke of quitting. I doubt if the thought ever entered his mind. He was as much attached to his trade as any carpenter or bricklayer, and went about it as methodically as any mechanic.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Having started this book, I for one was unwilling to stop before I had finished it. I shall read it again, and recommend it to others as an autobiographical thriller - the honest story of a real criminal. Mr. Robert Herrick, writing the introduction, finds 'the most depressing fact in criminology that the present book illustrates' is that 'the criminal is almost always of an inferior mentality. It is only a superior mentality such as

Black's that can survive and ultimately win to freedom.' This evolution of a right-thinking mentality in a wrong-thinking environment gives authenticity to the narrative. A prison library did much for Jack Black toward the ex-criminal status. Prison brutality temporarily hardened and strengthened him as a criminal. The book, as Mr. Herrick says, is 'well worth reading and pondering upon. Besides, it is entertaining, because unvarnished and unpretentious.' Sincerity has perhaps created art: at any rate the lawabiding reader will never come nearer feeling like a burglar at work.


Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe, by Hervey Allen. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1926. 8vo. 2 vols. xx+408+486 pp. Illus. $10.00.

BIOGRAPHY seems to be becoming more and more a matter of background. We see eminent men, not so much as errant examples of genius or individuality, but as the product of their surroundings and of their time, influenced, in their strength and in their weakness both, by the numerous and complicated currents of thought and feeling that manifest themselves in the general movement of the age.

It is in this spirit that Mr. Allen has dealt with the life of Poe, and has endeavored to make it clear that not only much of his achievement but much of his limitation and erratic failure was connected with the conditions under which he lived and worked. The early background of Richmond and the complicated relations with the Allans are developed to a point far beyond anything possible hitherto, since Mr. Allen has had access to documents not used by previous biographers. The life at the University, in the army, at West Point, and the confused goings and comings between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, are all elucidated with extraordinary patience and clarity. Poe's varied feminine relations, from Frances Allan to Helen Whitman, are all studied and analyzed in their delicate comparative significance, and foremost among them all stand the pathetically contrasted figures of the mother and daughter, Maria Clemm and Virginia Poe, one of whom made the poet's material life possible, if not tolerable, while the other played the chief rôle in his fantastic world of dreams. And everywhere there is the underlying element of dire, insistent, unescapable poverty, the bitter need of snatching bare subsistence from every sort of shift and expedient, which more than anything else drove a sensitive temperament and a high-wrought imagination to the fatal refuges of alcohol and opium.

The thoroughness and patience of Mr. Allen's research and effort in all this investigation of background cannot be too much commended. Only those who know the enormous difficulty of the subject can appreciate what he has accomplished. Yet, after all this vast research, there is

[blocks in formation]



to be added to the



FOUR of the latest Modern Library titles were never
before obtainable except in expensive limited editions.
The other three are such world-famous masterpieces that
every literary epicure will be eager to possess them.

All Modern Library volumes are printed in good clear
type on fine book paper, and bound in full limp fashion.
They are as handsome to the eye as they are absorbing to
the mind. Go to your local bookseller for the SEVEN
NEW TITLES. They cost 95c each. Take time, while there,
to browse through the Modern Library titles. You will find
books whose genius the book-lovers of the world have
long applauded-many of which you will want as personal

dington Symond's famous translation. Complete and unabridged.
24. W. H. HUDSON. The Purple Land.

Introduction by William McFee.

60. THE PHILOSOPHY OF SPINOZA. Selected from his chief
works with a life of Spinoza and an introduction by Joseph Ratner of
Columbia University.

68. NIETZSCHE. Ecce Homo and the Birth of Tragedy.
Translated by Clifton P. Fadiman. Presented here complete and un-

93. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. The Scarlet Letter.
Introduction by William Lyon Phelps.

126. JAMES BRANCH CABELL. The Cream of the Jest.

127. MODERN AMERICAN POETRY. Selected by Conrad Aiken.

P. S. Should your bookseller be unable to supply you,
send your remittance of $1.00 for each volume (95c for
the book, 5c for postage) direct to us. New illustrated
catalog free.

71 West 45th Street, N. Y. C.

Please mail me MODERN LIBRARY book Nos..

I enclose $1.00 for each volume (95c for the book, 5c for postage)
Please send me, free of charge, your new illustrated catalogue,
describing all of the books in the Modern Library.








The Importance of Being Earnest, and Lady Windermere's Fan


An Ideal Husband, and A Woman of No Importance



VOST Manon Lescaut 86 WALTER PATER

The Renaissance
Introduction by
Arthur Symons


Green Mansions


Marius the Epicurean 91 WILLIAM BLAKE Poems 92 GUSTAVE FLAUBERT The Temptation of St. Anthony


The New Spirit

The Child of Pleasure
Jörn Uhl
Women and Boats
Winesburg, Ohio

LOON Ancient Man

Wuthering Heights 107 HENRI FABRE

The Life of the Caterpillar


Sons and Lovers 110 ANATOLE FRANCE

The Queen Pédauque 111 EUGENE O'NEILL The Moon of the Caribbees, and Six Other Plays of the Sea 112 GABRIELE D'ANNUNZIO

The Triumph of Death 113 w. s. GILBERT Pinafore

and Other Plays, including Patience, Yeomen of the Guard and Ruddigore


The Philosophy of
William James

Poor White


Zuleika Dobson 117 OSCAR WILDE

De Profundis 119 HERMAN MELVILLE Moby Dick

A Night in the Lux-


The Return of the


Moll Flanders

[blocks in formation]

still an almost pathetic incompleteness, which appears in the constant reiteration of 'probably' and 'we may then imagine.' In this close study of the past even plain matter of fact so frequently eludes us. And when it comes to the portrayal of the soul, the complication is far greater. What makes the study of souls the most fascinating in the world is at once its difficulty and its necessity. We can never really know the souls of others, or even our own. Yet no knowledge is so absolutely essential to us, and we must pursue it unfailingly, so long as we think at all. Mr. Allen recognizes this difficulty and complexity to the full, appreciates the subtlety of the general problem, and above all the extreme remoteness and involved intricacy of the soul of Edgar Poe. 'All the evidence about Poe is like this, paradoxical, contradictory, and true.' Mr. Allen applies all his delicate skill of analysis, all the resources of modern psychology, all the sexual conjecture of the Freudians, which I for one could sometimes spare. And still the author of The Raven keeps skillfully, elusively, evasively out of reach. The utmost, inner secrets of the spirit are almost beyond our probing. But surely no one has yet supplied, or probably ever will supply, richer material for such research than Mr. Allen furnishes in this biography.


Dark of the Moon, by Sara Teasdale. New York: Macmillan Co. 1926. 12mo. xiv+78 pp. $1.50.

Streets in the Moon, by Archibald MacLeish. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1926. 8vo. xiv+101 pp. $5.00.

Dark of the Moon, by Sara Teasdale, and Streets in the Moon, by Archibald MacLeish, have little in common except the moon and a pervading sadness. Yet even in their resemblances there is a difference. Miss Teasdale is sad with autumn; Mr. MacLeish is sad with spring. And it is difficult to concede the moon to either of these poets. Dark of the Moon is too sentimental a title for a book which is decidedly not sentimental. 'So Be It,' a recurrent phrase in Miss Teasdale's latest volume, would more accurately express its philosophical mood. Streets in the Moon, on the other hand, is tonally pleasant and symbolically provocative - but what, exactly, does it mean?

Sara Teasdale is done with spring. She accepts the dying year with her old gentleness and quietness and lyric simplicity, but she adds to these virtues a hard something which is surely cerebral. The serene singer has become also, after a passage of years, the firm thinker. It is a distinct advance. Dark of the Moon, although less concerned with eager lovers and therefore destined for less popularity, perhaps, than Rivers to the Sea and Flame and Shadow, is nevertheless Sara Teasdale's most considerable volume. She has lived longer. She has looked deeper. 'The Crystal Gazer' expresses not so much an intention as an achievement:

I shall gather myself into myself again,

I shall take my scattered selves and make them


Fusing them into a polished crystal ball

Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.

I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent, Watching the future come and the present go, And the little shifting pictures of people rushing In restless self-importance to and fro.

Not that Dark of the Moon has much range. Miss Teasdale plays sweetly and monotonously on her three or four notes. 'February Twilight,' 'Arcturus in Autumn,' 'Winter Night Song' these are typical titles. Falling leaves, the everlasting stars, the surety of love proven, the blessedness of memories held in the heart these are typical themes. Once in a while, not often, the subject matter seems too slight to warrant a separate poem. 'So This Was All' has been written a hundred times. 'Appraisal' lacks unity. "The Fountain' uses images which fail to impress with great sharpness or great loveliness the dubious truth that

Nothing escapes, nothing is free.

But ninety per cent of the volume maintains the high level of excellence which Sara Teasdale has resolutely set for herself. American poetry is definitely enriched by poems like

There will be stars over the place forever..

and the fine 'Effigy of a Nun,' which begins,

Infinite gentleness, infinite irony

Are in this face with fast-sealed eyes.

and that noble statement of a woman's soul:

Bear witness for me that I loved my life,

All things that hurt me and all things that healed,

And that I swore to it this day in March,
Here at the edge of this new-broken field.

The ways of the heart are simple. The ways of the mind are devious.

Streets in the Moon divides itself, technically, into three parts: experimental verse, unexperimental verse, and a fusion of the two types. The chaotic first group, in the fashion of T. S. Eliot and E. E. Cummings, is indifferently good or downright bad. The ordered second group is usually good. The 'fusions,' or third group, are tremendous and sure. There are, of course, sharp exceptions to these generalities. 'Corporate Entity,' although conglomerate and 'modern,' electric in its effect. "The End of the World,' although typographically conventional, juxtaposes its octave and sestet in such a way that its last line comes with the impact of a revelation.

« EdellinenJatka »