My Contemporaries In Fiction

David Christie Murray

Contemporaries In Fiction, by David Christie Murray

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Title: My Contemporaries In Fiction
Author: David Christie Murray
Release Date: August 1, 2007 [EBook #22203]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
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Produced by David Widger

MY CONTEMPORARIES IN FICTION
By David Christie Murray
LONDON
CHATTO & WINDUS
1897

CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTORY
MY CONTEMPORARIES IN FICTION
I.!FIRST, THE CRITICS, AND THEN A WORD ON DICKENS
II.!CHARLES READE
III.!ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
IV.!LIVING MASTERS!MEREDITH AND HALL CAINE
V.!LIVING MASTERS!RUDYARD KIPLING
VI.!UNDER FRENCH ENCOURAGEMENT!THOMAS HARDY
VII.!UNDER FRENCH ENCOURAGEMENT!GEORGE MOORE
VIII.!MR. S. R. CROCKETT!IAN MACLAREN
IX.!DR. MACDONALD AND MR. J. M. BARRIE
X.!THE PROBLEM SEEKERS!SEA CAPTAIN AND LAND CAPTAIN
XI.!MISS MARIE CORELLI
XII.!THE AMERICANS
XIII.!THE YOUNG ROMANCERS

INTRODUCTORY
When these essays were originally printed (they appeared simultaneously in many newspapers), I expected to make some enemies. So far, I have been most agreeably disappointed in that regard; but I can affirm that they have made me many friends, and that I have had encouragement enough from fellow craftsmen, from professional critics, and from casual readers at home, in the colonies, and the United States to bolster up the courage of the most timorous man that ever held a pen. As a set-off against all this, I have received one very noble and dignified rebuke from a Contemporary in Fiction, whom the world holds in high honour, who regrets that I am not engaged in creative work--in lieu of this--and pleads that 'authorship should be allowed the distinction of an exemption from rank and title.' With genuine respect I venture to urge that this is an impossible aspiration, and in spite of the lofty sanction which the writer's name must lend to his opinion, I have been unable to surrender the belief that the work done in these pages is alike honourable and useful. It is, as will be seen, in the nature of a crusade against puffery and hysteria. It is not meant to instruct the instructed, and it makes no pretence to be infallible, but it is issued in its present form in the belief that it will (in some degree) aid the average reader in the formation of just opinions on contemporary art, and in the hope that it may (in some degree) impose a check on certain interested or over-enthusiastic people.

MY CONTEMPORARIES IN FICTION

I.--FIRST, THE CRITICS, AND THEN A WORD ON DICKENS
The critics of to-day are suffering from a sort of epidemic of kindness. They have accustomed themselves to the administration of praise in unmeasured doses. They are not, taking them in the mass, critics any longer, but merely professional admirers. They have ceased to be useful to the public, and are becoming dangerous to the interests of letters. In their over-friendly eyes every painstaking apprentice in the art of fiction is a master, and hysterical schoolgirls, who have spent their brief day in the acquisition of ignorance, are reviewed as if they were so many Elizabeth Barrett Brownings or George Eliots. One of the most curious and instructive things in this regard is the use which the modern critic makes of Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter is set up as a sort of first standard for the aspirant in the art of fiction to excel. Let the question be asked, with as much gravity as is possible: What is the use of a critic who gravely assures us that Mr. S. R. Crockett 'has rivalled, if not surpassed, Sir Walter'? The statement is, of course, most lamentably and ludicrously absurd, but it is made more than once, or twice, or thrice, and it is quoted and advertised. It is not Mr. Crockett's fault that he is set on this ridiculous eminence, and his name is not cited here with any grain of malice. He has his fellow-sufferers. Other gentlemen who have 'rivalled, if not surpassed, Sir Walter,' are Dr. Conan Doyle, Mr. J. M. Barrie, Mr. Ian Maclaren, and Mr. Stanley Weyman. No person whose judgment is worth a straw can read the writings of these accomplished workmen without respect and pleasure. But it is no more true that they rival Sir Walter than it is true that they are twelve feet high, or that any one of them believes in his own private mind the egregious announcement of the reviewer. The one great sufferer by this craze for setting men of middling stature side by side with Scott is our beautiful and beloved Stevenson, who, unless rescued by some judicious hand, is likely to be buried under foolish and unmeasured praises.
It would be easy to fill pages with verifications of the charge here made. Books of the last
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