By Walter Lionel George
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Additional resources for A Novelist on Novels 1918
Wells leave strange shadows upon his memory. Of Mr Bennett he says: 'Oh, yes, he writes about the North Country, doesn't he? Or is it the West Country? Tried one of his books once. I forget its name, and now I come to think of it, it may have been by somebody else. ' Mr H. G. Wells is more clearly pictured: 'Wells? the fellow who writes about flying machines and men in the moon. Jules Verne sort of stuff, isn't it? ' And so out with Mr Bennett, one of our best modern stylists, who in spite of an occasional crowding of the canvas has somehow fixed for us the singular and ferocious tribe from which he springs; so out with Mr Wells, with his restless, impulsive, combative, infinitely audacious mind.
Any man of position who has shown interest in public affairs may be asked to sit on a royal commission ... provided he is not a novelist. Only one novelist has attained so giddy a height: Sir Rider Haggard; how it happened is not known: it must have been a mistake. We are not weighty enough, serious enough to be called on, even if our novels are so weighty and so serious that hardly anybody can read them. We are a gay tribe of Ariels, too light to discuss even our own trade. For royal commissions concern themselves with our trade, with copyright law, with the restrictions of the paper supply.
Verse, however, should not be pressed. But I think I should propose modern plays of the lighter kind, Mr Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara and John Bull's Other Island, for instance. One could pass by degrees to the less obvious plays of Mr Shaw, certainly to those of St John Hankin, and perhaps to The Madras House. I think also a start might be made on foreign works, but these would develop mainly in the Fourth Period Good translations being available, I would suggest notably:— Madame Bovary (Flaubert) Resurrection (Tolstoi) Fathers and Children (Turgenev) Various short stories of Tchekoff.