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the first tale, "The Tragical History of Richard Greenow." It is the treatment of a flagrantly impossible situation with neither charm nor skill. Mr. Huxley is apparently groping rather vaguely for a "style," meanwhile employing one that is artificial and painstakingly self-conscious. One has eternally the sense of a striving for effect, and the effect is never attained. The characters are unreal, apparently even more so to the author than to the reader. He seems to be perpetually studying them, trying to understand them, and never quite putting his conclusions on paper. The background is insufficient and hazy, the plots labored and unconvincing. In his dread of platitudes, his sentences are strained and often absurd, though he is deft enough sometimes to evade the ridiculous. The most interesting thing in the book is the elaborate dialogue, “Happy Families," a fantastic study of the psychological processes of a man and girl in intimate conversation. And the most perfect of the narratives is the last, "The Death of Lully."
Minor defects are innumerable-errors of taste, faults of construction, etc. We can only hope that Mr. Huxley will find himself-or, more accurately, lose himself-eventually, and produce a volume more worthy of his unquestioned talents, keen critical power-which, subjectively applied, is at once the worst fault and the redeeming grace of this volume-and of the constructive power of the author of "Leda." Meanwhile, we lay down his book with a feeling of exhaustion probably equaled by his own after the creation of its labored pages.
J. A. T.
Luca Sarto. By Charles S. Brooks. (The Century Company.)
In this day of the so-called "pyschological" novel, "Luca Sarto," a book of pure adventure, comes like a breath of clean, winter air into a stuffy room. The hero is not one of those warped and nastily introspective people that contemporary authors drag through scores of inconclusive chapters. He is an Italian artist and adventurer-frankly modeled after the great Benvenuto. Hand on hilt, he strides boldly from page to page in this purple and gold tale of fifteenth century Italy and France. Charles S. Brooks, the author, makes no attempt to disguise the fact that he has a liking for Hewlett and Dumas. Some of
the characters indeed, and many of the incidents, he has borrowed almost in toto from those two tellers of tales. Sarto is a stiff-necked hero with a long sword and a high heart—as admirable and debonair in a street brawl as in a king's palace. (To say the truth, they must have been much alike in Sarto's day.) He has a way of addressing an enemy with haughty insolence that makes us envy him. And his habit of kissing every pretty wench he meets, and of coming off unscathed, makes us more envious still. But what seems best of all to us poor moderns, he has a faithful man-servant who worships him, and absorbs his kicks or his gold with equal cheerfulness.
Luca is successful in everything. Nothing is too impossible. for him to try. To get his desire, he brandishes the papacy over the wicked head of Louis XI, the spider of France; but few of his enemies survive the last chapter; and, in the end, he wins Diane, a "French girl, with a light in her eyes which no one shall describe."
But what makes the book, is its atmosphere, which is more convincing than might be expected in so extravagant a story. Dingy, evil-smelling Paris, the country inns, and the people in them, the king's dungeons-all are painted in a way that proves Mr. Brooks an artist of no mean skill. He seems to be of the people he portrays; and we are pleasantly surprised to find a modern author who can think of things medieval with some degree of open-mindedness, and can see a vestige of good in the simple spirit of religiousness that was born in the glorious thirteenth century.
But this satisfying book is more than a tale of adventure. There is a gentle touch of humor in it, and a satire that mocks the vanity and provincialism of man. We suspect, too, the author is poking fun at the very type of book he has produced, for, from beginning to end, we are conscious that Luca Sarto does not "haggle on all lesser points" of fact. It is this aspect of the book that calls the author's charming essays to our minds, and causes us to look forward to some such future fantasy as "Luca Sarto." For, when we have finished this book, there is no sour taste in the mouth, nor do we feel, as often we do after a modern novel, that our minds were better for a breath of fresh air, and a little of God's good sunshine.
The LIT. office was cold and dark, with that unpleasantly dank odor like a rather poorly ventilated tomb. The Purple Bird was depressed. He sat swathed in mufflers, looking a trifle cross. The Black Orchid was also visibly depressed. He had wilted somewhat, having sat there in the dark for hours. Little Nemo, running around in his flannel pajamas, was really the only cheerful one of the party, looking into empty drawers and climbing over great stacks of back numbers of the LIT., prattling childishly. "I know all about this place," he remarked triumphantly. "I have been here before."
"I know," said the Purple Bird solemnly.
"So you said," remarked the Black Orchid a trifle snappishly. "Where is the Diplomat?" said the Purple Bird a bit wearily. "He's probably sick." The Black Orchid added his note of cheer. "And the Débutante?" continued the Purple Bird, even more depressed. "She is very busy," chirped Little Nemo.
"She's always busy!" The Black Orchid waved lanquidly back and forth on its stem.
"Look! See what I have found!" said Little Nemo, holding out a great armful of manuscripts. "I found them in a box on the door," he announced triumphantly.
The Purple Bird was not to be deceived. "They have been handed in before," he said, pointing to the marks of the old Board.
"And rejected!" shouted the Black Orchid triumphantly. "They think we're green."
"But we have nothing else," croaked the Purple Bird, and then all conversation stopped. Hours passed. The Black Orchid wilted on his stem. Little Nemo, curled upon the couch, stirred uneasily in his sleep. The only sound was the Purple Bird, as he clawed over the thricerejected manuscripts-reading and rereading. At last he raised his head.
"This," he said, raising his head, "will probably be the worst issue the LIT. has ever known." And the others, if they had not been asleep, would probably have agreed with him.
The old mill wheel of yesterday has gone. Today the forces of immense volumes of water are harnessed and sent miles away to supply the needs of industry and business and the comforts of the home.
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