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by village bards. These tales describe the good fortunes acquired by the devotees and the misfortunes that attended the non-believers. The gods and goddesses are often described as coming down from their respective heavens to fight on behalf of their worshippers. Like the Druids, they sometimes raised storms in the seas and by other ways punished those who would not accept them. The stories of Manasa Devi (the goddess of Serpents), Shitala Devi (the goddess of Small-Pox), Mangal Chandi (the goddess of Fortune), the Dharma (the Buddha), and even Satya Pir (the deity worshipped by the Hindus and Muhammedans alike), are full of glowing accounts of the favours and acts of grace done to the favoured ones, and of the misfortunes that attended those who entertained sceptical views in regard to their power and authority.

These tales were originally in the form of short poems that could be recited in less than an hour's time. Such recitations were held indispensable to, and formed a part of, the ritual of worship. As particular gods and goddesses rose in popular estimation, counting a large number of followers, new poets came forward to contribute to the development of these poems; and often a few brief adulatory verses of the earlier poets supplied the foundation of elaborate poems in which the main plot and its incidents were minutely worked out by the gifted poets of a succeeding generation. The period of worship also extended from a few hours to a full month or even more for the celebration of pompous rituals.

as they grew in size and excellence, were no longer recited but sung and played before the particular deities, whose acts and deeds they described, by professional musical parties headed by the Gayanas or the minstrels. These people introduced many episodes into the poems for the purpose of creating a greater effect upon the audience; and the dramatic element in the poems was gradually developed, though the lyrical feature still predominated in this class of performances. An element of humour was always added when the poems themselves lacked it, and this proved highly interesting. All this used to be done, as it is still done, before the image of a god or goddess, when the deity is worshipped. The worship of a particular deity is attended by a performance of these musical parties. The Mangala gans and yatras have all originated in this manner. The difference between these two is that, whereas in the former verses are generally recited in a sing-song voice with singing and dance at intervals, the yatras aim at being more dramatic in form with considerable prose dialogues, though,

The poems

in the earlier of them, even conversation used to be con: ducted by means of songs.

"The chief place for the performance of a Yatra, a Panchali or a Kirtana has always been the Chandi-manda pa or courtyard facing a temple. Of course these players hold perform. ances at any time and anywhere, and there is not much restriction as to that; but the chief place for their performances has always been the courtyards attached to temples, and the chief season of their activity and earning is that when the particular deities of whom they sing are worshipped. Even when a Kirtana or a Panchali is sung for ordinary purposes of imparting religious instruction or for mere amusement's sake (at other times than that of worship), it is customary to place a picture of the god or goddess associated with the play in front of the party and audience, and the performers begin their play by reverentially bowing down before it.'

This important statement, together with the wellknown fact that in the classical Sanskrit dramas the performances always began and ended with prayers to the gods, thus corroborates the conclusion at which we have already arrived from much more positive evidence, namely, that the Hindu serious drama had its origin in the cult of deified persons, a process which has been in full activity from the Vedic times down to the present, and that not merely in Bengal but all over Southern India. But I have elsewhere shown the same principle in full operation in modern times in Northern India, in the case of Hakikat, a Hindu lad who refused to embrace the Moslem faith and was martyred at Lahore in 1734. There is a considerable literature about him, and dramatic performances representing his fate became exceedingly popular all over the North-West Provinces ; but, as they led to great bitterness between Hindus and Muhammedans, the Government had to forbid them. There are two other historical characters, Gopi Chand and Puran, who form the subjects of very popular dramas all over the same region. Both of these were famous devotees and are believed to have found salvation during their earthly existence, thus corresponding exactly to the devotees of Southern India whose lives are similarly dramatised.

WILLIAM RIDGEWAY.

Art. 8.-THE FICTION MARKET.

1. The Master of Man. By Hall Caine. Heinemann, 1921. 2. The Mountebank. By William J. Locke. Lane, 1921. 3. Her Father's Daughter. By Gene Stratton Porter, Murray, 1921.

And other works.

In the years of unrecognised ease, before the War with its realities brought us to a truer perception of values, there was a tendency to decry the Victorian age as belonging to the backwaters of Time, and to consign to a vast derision its outstanding persons, their movements, works, ideals. The ethics and the eloquence of Ruskin and Carlyle, the economics of Mill, the inspiration of Tennyson, history as it was written by Froude and J. R. Green, the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brother. hood, with much else characteristic that was limned or penned by the Victorians—with their fashions, of crinolines, wall-papers, whiskers-suffered the elaborate and rehearsed contempt of the new Intelligentsia.

The tendency was not unnatural. Progress is bound to alter conditions, and it is absurd to quarrel with progress. The sins, especially the artistic sins, of the fathers are visited upon the children; so that it is only fair that the children, retaliating, should discover the ideas of their parents to be extravagant, inadequate, wrong. Reaction, however, in this case has gone too far, for-leaving aside the exceptional human nobility of sacrifice proved in the War-save in science, that is, in material and not spiritual effort, the Victorian age has shown an incomparable superiority over anything discovered within the succeeding twenty years.

The truth is especially evident in creative literature. In fiction, as in verse, though the lyrical poets have risen to their opportunity better than writers in prose have done, mediocrity has ruled and continues to prevail. . With no lack of energy and even a colossal output, there has been a dearth of originality, and since Mr Hardy put by his pen after the supreme effort of. The Dynasts' -no outstanding figure; whereas the Victorians-for years their names will shine. By the side of Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, the Brontës, Meredith, to

mention but a few of those who rest in the familiar knowledge of every man, whom have we? A host of the well-meaning mediocre industriously at work, with hurrying pens scribbling for the hungry presses, and providing novels and the magazines, poor and popular, with stuff enough in any one year to raise Pelion, and upon it to pile Ossa, in mass prodigious! And what besides ? One fact, characteristic and phenomenal; it is known as the Best-Seller. The very name, habitually accepted, proclaims the cause and effect of the artistic drouth. The Muses are commercialised. Apollo is forced to become obsequious before the business-manager.

At the head of this article are the titles of three novels, each of which from inception was assured of an enormous sale. Sir Hall Caine in the advertisement pages of his book, The Master of Man,' gives facts and figures which add an interest to the volume even surpassing the call of the fiction. It is easy to imagine Thackeray staring through his glasses at these particulars, with a gleam of irony pointing the interest in his eyes ;

for here are revelations set down with a showman's frankness. To name but three of the books : of • The Woman Thou Gavest Me,' 475,000 copies were sold in English editions; of The Christian,' 653,098 (how admirable is the precision of those figures !); of The Eternal City,' over a million; and besides such enormous sales in these islands and overseas, these works have been translated into French, German, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Finnish, Bohemian, Roumanian, Greek, and Japanese. This means that not only is Sir Hall Caine's name known the world over, but that to thirteen countries—from France in the West to Japan in the East-he stands as a literary ambassador and representative of our national mind. The thought is serious, more especially when it is recognised that the novels named, judged by the standards, are not good books, or even their author's best. They are, indeed, his worst, having been written under the impulse of a certain rivalry, with the crudeness of action, colouring, and characterisation, the overstrain for effect and the flagrant emotionalism, which may win the plaudits of the undiscerning multitude, but must sadden

those to whom Art is a mirror to life and not a distorting and exuberant reflector.

Let us, however, in a spirit of simple inquiry, examine these chief and typical •Best-Sellers.' In most novels of very wide popular appeal, a purpose, not too obtrusive, is found. The purpose of The Master of Man' is to right the long martyrdom of woman through all the ages,' by re-making the laws and re-telling the old tales, so that she shall be the equal comrade of man. Besides this excellent intention, the book endeavours to prove that a sin cannot be redeemed by any short-cut. Victor Stowell is as perfect and accomplished a young gentleman as ever stepped the boards of melodrama. So far as we are shown, he had only one fault, and that in the circumstances was not inexcusable; for, with a prescience and particularity only indulged by the gods of bravest coincidence, a girl, thrust from her home by a heavily villainous step-father, can find refuge-while the storm thunders and the rain is a deluge—nowhere else but under Victor's roof. The result may be imagined, even by maiden-aunts. Before Bessie's infant is born, Stowell has succeeded his father as Deemster; and so, under the urgency of galloping coincidence, becomes the judge at her trial for the murder of his own child. In the hands of a master what a theme! How moving, stirring, compelling, would Tolstoi or Dostoievsky have made it! Sir Hall Caine is otherwise. With the best will in the world, even to feel sympathy for Victor, for Bessie, for her doglike lover, Alick Gell, in their predicament, the truth of emotion is prevented through an obvious shallowness.

The people of the tale proceed along their ordered courses, and, with the exception of Bessie and her crazed mother, have no more vitality than a fashion-plate. The Deemster must, however, win his redemption without a short-cut. So, using the authority of his office, he contrives Bessie's escape on the eve of execution and gives himself up, proclaims his guilt in open court, and goes to prison, to win the inevitable happy ending; for his affinity, built of the same fire and clay as he, the blameless and beautiful Fenella, elects to join him in the gaol, but as a wardress; and within its horrid walls they are married. Not, though, before Victor must suffer a further ordeal, which will certainly thrill the gallery and

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