Publication: Morning Post

Full Citation

  • Title RECENT NOVELS
  • Publication Title Morning Post
  • Collection Morning Post
  • Date Thursday,  June 3, 1897
  • Issue Number 38998
  • Page Number 2
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library British Library
RECENT NOVELS. DRACULA.* Mr. Bram Stoker, who has always chosen sub- jects apart from those which suggest themselves to the ordinary novelist, shows still more originality of imagination in his present work than in his earlier essays in fiction. Seeing that the story is " almost," one miyht even say quite, "at variance with the possibilities of latter-day belief," its scene is aptly placed for the most part in a remote part of Transylvania, where the wild Carpathians make a fitting frame for scenes of horror. Now extremely picturesque and now gloomy in the extreme, it would be difficult to meet in any recent novel with finer pages of descriptive writing than those which tell of Jonathan Harker's journey to the accursed Castle of Dracula. The descriptive passages of the book are, indeed, among its best features. They have a dramatic intensity which appeals with more success to the imagination than incident even in its most sensational form. In a sense one is more impressed by the drive through the dark pass between towering rocks, by the howling of the wolves, the superstitious dread of Harker's fellow passengers, and the sudden appearance amidst the surrounding gloom of the caleche with the coal- black steeds than by the doings of the vampires, of whom the Count is the chief. It is perhaps becom- ing a too common habit to compare pictures drawn by the pen with those of the great painters, yet as regards effects of light and shade Mr. Bram Stoker is to be accounted a disciple of Rembrandt. Readers who are accustomed, with but little warrant as a rule, to regard a novelist's works as the expressions of his opinions may be puzzled to decide whether or not they are asked to believe in the possibilities of this uncanny theme. Is it all to be taken as a weird dream in Hofmann's best manner, or is there a section of the public that credits the existence of a race of creatures sometimes called vampires, at others the " Un- Dead," whose souls can only be released from their servitude to the powers of darkness by the most nhastly means? The question will no doubt be answered according to the idiosyncrasies of each individual. Meanwhile, although some may regret that Mr. Bram Stoker should have employed his remarkable gifts in this peculiar field, the novel is unquestionably a striking example of imaginative power. * Dracula. By Bram Stoker. 1 vol. Westminster Archibald Constable and Co. THE WAYS OF LIFE.* It may justly be said that Mrs. Oliphant's pre- face, contrary to the nature of prefaces in general, is one of the best parts of an interesting work. So far is this true that were space not limited the tempta- tion to quote from it freely would be great. As the case stands, it must suffice to say that in- stead of treating of youth and its feelings "as if there were no other in the world," the author paints certain phases of the ebb of life in a manner which will convince her readers that this " has its poetry too," although "the colours are more sombre, the sentiment different." As in Nature each season has charms for those who know how to discern them, so in humanity is there no age, no mood, that will not repay the artist who seeks faithfully to reproduce it. Courage is required to deviate from the ordinary way of fiction, and also the experience and art of writing, which few possess so thoroughly as Mrs. Oliphant. Of these two stories, the first conveys by far the better idea of the fatal psychological moment when a man makes the discovery that he is "being carried away by the retiring waters, no longer coming in upon the top of the wave, but going out." Such a moment comes to Sand- ford, the prosperous painter, whose career has given him success, a pleasant life, and a delightful home-circle. Sandford has had difficult beginnings and known poverty, but, unhappily, has continued to live without a care for his own or his children's future. Thus the blow, if not sudden, since it is only gradually that his decrease in popularity makes itself felt, is compli- cated by the terrible knowledge that it means ruin, inevitable and complete. All the gradations of this sad descent are finely rendered. At first, trifles light as air contribute to show him the truth. He is painting the largest of his Academy pictures, which is well-nigh finished, when Daniells, the picture- dealer, vulgar, but with a heart of gold, sends him the great art-patron Lord Okeham. Everything is admired, some of the artist's sketches judiciously criticised, but the Cabinet Minister says not a word about wishing to enrich his gallery with a specimen of the work displayed. Daniells, in the exuberance of his good-natured sym- pathy, almost forces on the sale of the "Black Prince " to a newly-fledged millionaire, who, although over-persuaded, maintains that " big things like that as don't tell their story plain, they're not exactly my taste." The climax of Sand-;ord's bitter mortification is reached when he discovers three of his pictures that have passed into Daniells's hands unsold, their faces to the wall, their constant presence in his rooms kept secret by the worthy dealer, whose rude attempts at consolation when found out are as natural as they are useless. From this point the story is less satisfactory until the closing scene, which is marked by a very true pathos. The tale of Mr. Robert Dalyell's mis- doing, in spite of its incidence being drawn from real life, impresses one less. Yet here again Mrs. Oliphant's skill carries her successfully over ground that would have been commonplace in the hands of the majority of writers. * Tbe Ways of Life. By Mra. Oliphant. 1 voL London : Smith, Elder, and Co. THE LOVE OF AN OBSOLETE WOMAN* This story of a woman, who believed in the old adage, "All for love and the world well lost," is not to be recommended to the young person, since it has no pretension to follow ordinary ethical lines. The unimaginative may be excused for condemning the tale root and branch. Yet it is moving in its unvarnished simplicity, and very cleverly told. A real human document written with a living touch that takes hold of one, and well nigh secures the condonation of a passion, if misplaced, so absorbing and sincere as to leave the sinner without a thought of remorse or re<ret. It may seem a curious thing to say of a book, but the great merit of the one in question is the absence of pose in which so many modern novelists take delight. The author, whether man or woman, is contented to lay bare the innermost " kinks and crannies " of a heart and mind during a period of life filled by a passionate love. Faulty as the woman no doubt is, still she is of far finer fibre than the man whom she calls her "Other Half." Besides surviving the knowledge that her idol is largely made of clay, her love is of the nature that leads her to efface herself if thereby his life-path can be made easier. The "poor Other Half " is of the earth earthy, yet there is something infinitely pathetic in the instinct which leads him back to die near the woman who has loved him to her own destruction. English fiction rarely indulges in efforts of this kind, and no doubt wisely ; for it is given to few to possess the quality of pathos, which like charity covers a multitude of sins. •The Lore of an Obsolete Woman. Chronicled by Heraelf. 1 voL Westminster : Archibald Constable and Co. TRISCOMBE STONE.* Here is another romance dealing with Mon- mouth's Rebellion, which, if less powerful than one or two of its predecessors, is well written and makes excellent reading for those who affect this style of fiction. The authors love to linger on the natural beauties of the Quantock Hills ; its descriptive vein is indeed one of the strong points of the book. With the historical incidents of the time all are familiar, but with them are here interwoven others that contain all the excitement that can be desired. The old Manor House of Weathercombe, in which much of the action passes, is the abode of Squire Hewlyn and his daughter, for whose good graces two suitors contend— one a neighbouring Baronet, the villain of the story, the other a follower of Monmouth's, and a very gallant gentleman to boot. These indications will almost suf- fice to show the experienced novel reader the general tenor of the plot. Sir Mark, in his quality of traitor, of course keeps the Government informed of his rival's efforts in favour of Monmouth. When the Duke's cause is lost, Sir Mark hunts down Annersley with the aid of the Royal troops, but meets with a frightful death at the hands of a man whose sweetheart he has wronged, while, in the good old fashion, Annersley escapes, and lives happily ever afterwards. As will be perceived, the book has no novel feature, but historical fact and dramatic incident are made the most of. * Triscombe Stone. By Portland Akerman and Norman Hurst. With a frontispiece by T. H. Robinson. 1 toL London : Bliss, Sands, and Co. Messrs. George Philip and Son are now issuing a series of cycling maps, which are likely to be much ap- preciated. There iH, for example, '" Philip's Cyclist's Map of England and Wales" on a scale of 14 miles to lin., wherein the main routes are marked in red. Again! there is "Philip's Topographical Map of England and Wales," compiled under the direction of Mr. E. G. Ra yen- stein from tha latest sources, in 40 sections, each 17in. by 21in., and oa a scale of three miles to lin. These section's are issued in two forms — on paper folded in a cloth case, and on waterproof untearahle cloth in limp waterproof cover. In these sectional sheets, of which 10 have alread . appeared, all good or fairly good roads are marked ia red", and impossible roads by arrows. Distances from London and between each cycling road junction are also shown, as well as other features, such as railways, canals, woods, and parks. "Philips's Cyclist's Map of Ireland" on the same principles m that ef -Siyglaad, has also been W**w*Vm%*i