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´╗┐Title: James Lane Allen: A Sketch of his Life and Work
Author: Unknown
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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produced from images generously made available by The
Kentuckiana Digital Library)



James Lane Allen

A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE AND WORK


WITH PORTRAIT


The Macmillan Company
66 Fifth Avenue, New York

NEW YORK
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.



JAMES LANE ALLEN

A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE AND WORK


While "_The Choir Invisible_" was primarily a love story, the setting
in which its action moved was historical. Apart from the masterly
handling of human passion and the harmony of thought and expression
with which he has treated the larger and deeper movements of life, it
is probably Mr. Allen's ability to picture forth the early settlement
of Kentucky that has given his writings so solid a foundation in the
literary affections of English speaking people.

The fascination that "_The Choir Invisible_" has had for so many
thousands of readers is assuredly due as much to the author's faithful
historic treatment of the mighty stream of migration which had begun to
spread through the jagged channels of the Alleghanies over the then
unknown illimitable West as to his power to tell an absorbing story.
When "_The Choir Invisible_" appeared, this perhaps most fascinating
period of early American history had not been used as a background of
his story by any great master of fiction, and it requires no very keen
literary insight to discover the sources of the popularity which has
been accorded to the four or five recent novels, each of which has for
its setting a period in our history whose glamour has touched our
hearts and stirred our imaginations.

Contemporary judgment is singularly unanimous in placing Mr. Allen in
the front rank of American novelists, and it may not be out of place
here to quote the opinions of two or three of the leading literary
critical journals. WILLIAM MORTON PAYNE, in the _Dial_ says that:

    "Looking about among our younger men of letters for the promise of
    some new and vital impulse, it has for several years seemed to us
    that such an impulse might be expected to come from the work of Mr.
    James Lane Allen. He has published few books as yet, but the number
    is sufficient to reveal a steadily increasing mastery of his art,
    and the quality such as to warrant readers of discernment in
    predicting for him a brilliant career and an assured place in the
    front rank of American writers. _The Choir Invisible_ does not
    disappoint these expectations. It is not only the most ambitious of
    Mr. Allen's books, considered merely as to its sale, but it is also
    the one in which he has carried to the highest pitch that fineness
    of perception and that distinction of manner that have from the
    first set his work apart from the work of nearly all of his
    contemporaries. Hardly since Hawthorne have we had such pages as
    the best of these; hardly since _The Scarlet Letter_ and _The
    Marble Faun_ have we had fictive work so spiritual in essence and
    adorned with such delicate and lovely embroiderings of the
    imagination. There are descriptive passages so exquisitely wrought
    that the reader lingers over them to make them a possession
    forever; there are inner experiences so intensely realized that
    they become a part of the life of his own soul."...

And again writing in the _Boston Transcript_, Bliss Carman, says:

    "There are two chief reasons why Mr. Allen seems to me one of the
    first of our novelists to day. He is most exquisitely alive to the
    fine spirit of comedy. He has a prose style of wonderful beauty,
    conscientiousness and simplicity.... He has the inexorable
    conscience of the artist, he always gives us his best; and that
    best is a style of great purity and felicity and sweetness, a style
    without strain and yet with an enviable aptness for the sudden
    inevitable word.... And yet that care, that deliberation is never
    tedious."

Hamilton W. Mabie is attracted more by the landscape beauty of Mr.
Allen's work, and he too makes an original contribution to our subject.
He says in _The Outlook_:

    "No American novelist has so imbedded his stories in Nature as has
    James Lane Allen; and among English novels one recalls only Mr.
    Hardy's three classics of pastoral England, and among French
    novelists George Sand and Pierre Loti. Nature furnishes the
    background of many charming American stories, and finds delicate or
    effective remembrance in the hands of writers like Miss Jewett and
    Miss Murfree; but in Mr. Allen's romances Nature is not behind the
    action; she is involved in it. Her presence is everywhere; her
    influence streams through the story; the deep and prodigal beauty
    which she wears in rural Kentucky shines on every page; the
    tremendous forces which sweep through her disclose their potency in
    human passion and impulse. There was a fine note in Mr. Allen's
    earliest work; a prelusive note with the quality of the flute....
    In _Summer in Arcady_ a deeper note in the treatment of Nature was
    struck, and Mr. Allen's style took on, not only greater freedom,
    but a richer beauty. The story is a kind of incarnation of the
    tremendous vitality of Nature, the unconscious, unmoral sweep of
    the force which makes for life. So completely enveloped is the
    reader in the atmosphere of the opulent world about him, so deeply
    does he realize the primeval forces rushing tumultuous through that
    world, that at times the human figures seem as subordinate as those
    in Corot's landscapes. And yet these human struggles are intensely
    real, the human drama intensely genuine. Whatever may be thought of
    the wisdom of presenting the sex problem so frankly, Mr. Allen's
    sharpest critic must confess that in no other American book is
    atmosphere so pervasive, so potential, so charged with passion and
    beauty.

    In _The Choir Invisible_ a still deeper note is struck; the moral
    insight, always clear, is more penetrating; the feeling for life is
    at once more restrained and more passionate; the constructive skill
    is more marked; the style surer and entirely moulded to its theme.
    This story is so steeped in beauty, both of the world and of the
    spirit, that it is not easy to write of it dispassionately. It has
    a richness of texture which American fiction, as a rule, has
    lacked; there are depths in it which American fiction has not, as
    rule, brought to the consciousness of readers; depths of life below
    the region of observation. There is in it the unconsciousness and
    abandon which are the very substance of art, and which are so
    constantly missed in the fiction of extreme sophistication."

Our final opinion, that of James McArthur when he was editor of the
_Bookman_ carries some weight both on account of the position of the
writer and also by reason of his keen literary sense.

    "... Poetry, 'the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge,'
    according to Wordsworth, the impassioned expression which is in the
    countenance of all science'--that poetry irrespective of rhyme and
    metrical arrangement which is as immortal as the heart of man, is
    distinctive in Mr. Allen's work from the first written page. Like
    Minerva issuing full-formed from the head of Jove, Mr. Allen issues
    from his long years of silence and seclusion a perfect master of
    his art--unfailing in its inspiration, unfaltering in its classic
    accent.... So that when we arrive at _The Choir Invisible_ we find
    there a ripeness of matured thought, an insight into the moral
    depths of passion, and an entrance into the larger, deeper
    movements of life, a realizing power, a broader sense of humor, as
    well as humor itself, a concentrated and universal human interest;
    all of which is not so much the result of finer art as of a greater
    absorption of life, which comes not from more knowledge, but from
    more wisdom. _The Choir Invisible_ is like an inward realization of
    the 'Domain of Arnheim!' More than in his other books there rests
    upon this work that unembarrassed calm, where truth sits Jove-like
    'on the quiet seat above the thunder,' where the spirit is
    dignified, is priest-like, and inspired; where beauty dwells in a
    harmony of thought and expression that subdues and haunts us. In
    short, in _The Choir Invisible_ Mr. Allen has come to that stage of
    quiet and eternal frenzy in which the beauty of holiness and the
    holiness of beauty burn as one fire, shine as one light, which, as
    Sidney Lanier has demonstrated, denotes the great artist. _The
    Choir Invisible_ undeniably places its author among the foremost in
    American letters. Indeed, we venture to say that it would be
    difficult to recall any other novel since _The Scarlet Letter_ that
    has touched the same note of greatness, or given to one section of
    our national life, as Hawthorne's classic did to another, a voice
    far beyond singing.

    A word, however, about Mr. Allen's _Summer in Arcady_ which
    precedes this, and was published * * * subsequent to _A Kentucky
    Cardinal_ and _Aftermath_. In these two books Nature was interwoven
    benignantly with the human nature resting on her bosom, leading her
    lover, Adam Moss, with gentle influences to the human lover, and
    when bereft of human love, receiving him back into her healing
    arms. Not so in _Summer in Arcady_; the sunlight that brooded in
    calm over the forces of Nature that nursed Adam Moss's latent
    powers of loving into domestic serenity, rouses the fierce claw and
    tooth of Nature to drag Hilary and Daphne down to her level. As
    clearly as the poet saw that, 'all's Love, yet all's Law' so
    clearly is the same truth held in these stories with their
    divergent ends. The lawlessness of Nature is the lawlessness of
    man, untempered and ungoverned by that principle of chastity which
    is the law of love; and again Nature, lawless in herself, becomes
    beneficent, law-abiding, when controlled by that higher law of
    instinct in man which is the seal and sign of the Divine upon his
    soul. Without moralizing, a moral principle is at work in _Summer
    in Arcady_; it is its vital distinction that over the whole action
    reigns a moral simplicity which, like sunlight, licks up the
    foetid, the exciting, sickening, uncertain torch-flames of passion.
    And in order to point the way to a full justification of the
    author's sincerity and moral purpose against the charge of
    pandering to a decadent taste for the 'downwardtending' fiction of
    the hour, it will be sufficient to show that the plea for the
    Divine supremacy of goodness, and for an unfallen purity in man and
    woman, has never been more strongly urged in modern fiction than in
    _The Choir Invisible_.

    If in _Summer in Arcady_ there were readers who were troubled by
    the heat lightning of passion that incessantly fluttered in its
    bosom and threatened to bolt from the blue, their fears will be
    laid to rest in the contemplation of Mr. Allen's new work which is
    pervaded by an intense summer calm--the brooding calm of the
    Country of the Spirit--but which does not preclude, rather is
    reached through, the fierce fightings of human spirit for victory
    over the evil passions of human nature--the fiercest struggle that
    can rend asunder the human breast, that of holding fast the
    integrity and purity of manhood and womanhood at any cost."

As a historical novelist then, Mr. Allen has taken his rank with the
few men of whom Nathaniel Hawthorne is perhaps the most famous; and for
the same reason. Both have given us pictures of the lives of our
forefathers, whose faithfulness has assured them a position as classics
in American literature. True to the instinct of his genius Mr. Allen
has again chosen a stirring period in our history as a background for
his new novel "_The Reign of Law_" which THE MACMILLAN COMPANY publish.
Both the hero and heroine are products of a Revolution, and the scene
of the plot is situated in the Kentucky hemp fields. The Revolution on
the one hand was the social upheaval that our Civil War caused in the
South. While on the other hand it was the moral and intellectual
Revolution which followed the great discoveries in physical and social
science in the middle of this Century.

The two chief characters of the story are a young man and a young
woman. The young man sprung from the lowest stratum of Southern
society, and the young woman from the highest. The story of the
intermingling of their lives must be left for the reader to discover.

As was so often the case during the political reconstruction of the
South, the heroine passed from the sphere of the high social
organization which existed at her birth to the humblest and most
obscure hard manual work, while the hero rose from the lowest social
condition to the highest intellectual plane, finding his development
along the lines of religious and scientific thought. When they finally
meet, the latter half of the story shows their influences on each
other.

The involved social and political conditions, the play and interaction
of phases of life, so utterly different as those which form the
experiences of these two people, have allowed Mr. Allen a wide scope
for the subtle analysis of character of which in his exquisitely
delicate art he is such a master.

The trend of the book, and the religious crisis through which its hero
passes, give the story its title; while an important part in the
development of the hero's character is played by his passionate love
story.

A well known critic affirms that the story contains by far the finest
and noblest work Mr. Allen has yet done, both in respect of that human
passion and interest which characterizes his former work, and also in
the tender reverential feeling with which he dwells on the simple rural
life of the Kentucky which he loves so well. In spite of the reserve
which characterizes the author, a few of the leading facts of his life
have found their way into print, and may be of interest to many who
read his books.

He comes from Virginia ancestry and a pioneer Kentucky family. His
mother's maiden name was Helen Foster, whose parents settled in
Mississippi and were of Revolutionary Scotch-Irish stock of
Pennsylvania. He was born on a farm in Fayette County seven miles from
Lexington, Kentucky, where he spent his early childhood. He was
educated in Kentucky (Transylvania) University, and graduated in 1872.
For several years afterward he taught in District schools, at first
near his home and then in Missouri. He afterward became a private
tutor, and finally accepted a Professorship at his Alma Mater which he
exchanged for a similar position at Bethany College, West Virginia. He
gave up this latter profession in 1884 and began his career as a writer
in the city of New York.

The chief literary and critical Magazines and papers of those years
contain many of his essays, while all his short stories saw the light
in "Harper's Magazine" and the "Century." These short stories were
collected and published under the title of "_Flute and Violin_." His
other books are "_The Blue Grass Region of Kentucky_," "_A Kentucky
Cardinal_," and its sequel, "_Aftermath_," "_A Summer in Arcady_," and
lastly "_The Choir Invisible_," some two hundred and fifty thousand
copies of which have found their way into the hands of readers on both
sides of the Atlantic.

A new and complete edition of Mr. Allen's works is now being issued by
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. It will contain seven volumes; including _The
Reign of Law, A Story of the Kentucky Hemp Fields_, an account of which
has been given in the preceding pages.


                     *      *      *      *      *


JAMES LANE ALLEN'S

NEW NOVEL

The Reign of Law

A TALE OF THE KENTUCKY HEMP FIELDS

Cloth, 8vo.    Illustrated $1.50


OTHER WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR


FLUTE AND VIOLIN                        Cloth, 12mo, $1.50

BLUE GRASS REGION OF KENTUCKY           Cloth, 12mo, $1.50

A KENTUCKY CARDINAL                     Cloth, 16mo, $1.00

AFTERMATH                               Cloth, 16mo, $1.00

TWO GENTLEMEN OF KENTUCKY               Cloth, 18mo, $2.00

A SUMMER IN ARCADY                      Cloth, 12mo, $2.00

THE CHOIR INVISIBLE                     Cloth, 12mo, $1.50

The same Illustrated with Photogravures and Line
Drawings, by ORSON LOWELL.     Sateen.      $2.50


PUBLISHED BY
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
66 FIFTH AVENUE         NEW YORK





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