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Title: Materials and Methods of Fiction - With an Introduction by Brander Matthews
Author: Hamilton, Clayton Meeker, 1881-1946
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Materials and Methods of Fiction - With an Introduction by Brander Matthews" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Translator's Notes: Original spelling and punctuation were retained,
with the following exceptions. On page 3, 'a mind native and indued to
actuality' was corrected to 'a mind native and induced to actuality'; on
page 15 'but who have have been discarded' to 'but who have been
discarded'; on page 21 'The kindgom of adventure' to 'The kingdom of
adventure'; and on page 91 'The Master of Ballantræ' to 'The Master of
Ballantrae' to match all other instances of this word. On page 227, the
one instance of 'A Humble Rèmonstrance' was corrected to 'A Humble
Remonstrance' to match the other instances. The oe ligature is
represented by '[oe]']







  _Copyright, 1908, by_


  _Published, May, 1908_




  CHAPTER                                                PAGE

       INTRODUCTION                                        ix

     I THE PURPOSE OF FICTION                               1

    II REALISM AND ROMANCE                                 23

   III THE NATURE OF NARRATIVE                             42

    IV PLOT                                                58

     V CHARACTERS                                          75

    VI SETTING                                             97

   VII THE POINT OF VIEW IN NARRATIVE                     117

  VIII EMPHASIS IN NARRATIVE                              136

    IX THE EPIC, THE DRAMA, AND THE NOVEL                 153


    XI THE STRUCTURE OF THE SHORT-STORY                   184

   XII THE FACTOR OF STYLE                                201

       INDEX                                              221



In our time, in these early years of the twentieth century, the novel
is the prosperous parvenu of literature, and only a few of those who
acknowledge its vogue and who laud its success take the trouble to
recall its humble beginnings and the miseries of its youth. But like
other parvenus it is still a little uncertain of its position in the
society in which it moves. It is a newcomer in the literary world;
and it has the self-assertiveness and the touchiness natural to the
situation. It brags of its descent, although its origins are obscure.
It has won its way to the front and it has forced its admission into
circles where it was formerly denied access. It likes to forget that
it was once but little better than an outcast, unworthy of recognition
from those in authority. Perhaps it is still uneasily conscious that
not a few of those who were born to good society may look at it with
cold suspicion as though it was still on sufferance.

Story-telling has always been popular, of course; and the desire is
deep-rooted in all of us to hear and to tell some new thing and to
tell again something deserving remembrance. But the novel itself, and
the short-story also, must confess that they have only of late been
able to claim equality with the epic and the lyric, and with comedy
and tragedy, literary forms consecrated by antiquity. There were nine
muses in Greece of old, and no one of these daughters of Apollo was
expected to inspire the writer of prose-fiction. Whoever had then a
story to tell, which he wished to treat artistically, never dreamed
of expressing it except in the nobler medium of verse, in the epic,
in the idyl, in the drama. Prose seemed to the Greeks, and even to
the Latins who followed in their footsteps, as fit only for pedestrian
purposes. Even oratory and history were almost rhythmic; and mere
prose was too humble an instrument for those whom the Muses cherished.
The Alexandrian vignettes of the gentle Theocritus may be regarded as
anticipations of the modern short-story of urban local color; but this
delicate idyllist used verse for the talk of his Tanagra figurines.

Even when the modern languages entered into the inheritance of Latin
and Greek, verse held to its ancestral privileges, and the brief tale
took the form of the ballad, and the longer narrative called itself
a _chanson de geste_. Boccaccio and Rabelais and Cervantes might win
immediate popularity and invite a host of imitators; but it was
long after their time before a tale in prose, whether short or long,
achieved recognition as worthy of serious critical consideration. In
his study of Balzac, Brunetière recorded the significant fact that
no novelist, who was purely and simply a novelist, was elected to the
French Academy in the first two centuries of its existence. And the
same acute critic, in his "History of Classical French Literature,"
pointed out that French novels were under a cloud of suspicion even so
far back as the days of Erasmus, in 1525. It was many scores of years
thereafter before the self-appointed guardians of French literature
esteemed the novel highly enough to condescend to discuss it.

Perhaps this was not altogether a disadvantage. French tragedy was
discussed only too abundantly; and the theorists laid down rules for
it, which were not a little cramping. Another French critic, M. Le
Breton, in his account of the growth of French prose-fiction in the
first half of the nineteenth century, has asserted that this exemption
from criticism really redounded to the benefit of the novel, since the
despised form was allowed to develop naturally, spontaneously,
free from all the many artificial restrictions which the dogmatists
succeeded in imposing on tragedy and on comedy, and which resulted
at last in the sterility of the French drama toward the end of the
eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. While this
advantage is undeniable, one may question whether it was not bought
at too great a price and whether there would not have been a certain
profit for prose-fiction if its practitioners had been kept up to the
mark by a criticism which educated the public to demand greater
care in structure, more logic in the conduct of events, and stricter
veracity in the treatment of characters.

However much it might then be deemed unworthy of serious
consideration, the novel in the eighteenth century began to attract
to itself more and more authors of rich natural endowment. In English
literature especially, prose-fiction tempted men as unlike as Defoe
and Swift, Richardson and Fielding, Smollett and Sterne, Goldsmith and
Johnson. And a little earlier the eighteenth century essayists, with
Steele and Addison at the head of them, had developed the art of
character-delineation, a development out of which the novelists were
to make their profit. The influence of the English eighteenth-century
essay on the growth of prose-fiction, not only in the British Isles,
but also on the continent of Europe, is larger than is generally
admitted. Indeed, there is a sense in which the successive papers
depicting the character and the deeds of Sir Roger de Coverley may be
accepted as the earliest of serial stories.

But it was only in the nineteenth century that the novel reached its
full expansion and succeeded in winning recognition as the heir of the
epic and the rival of the drama. This victory was the direct result of
the overwhelming success of the Waverley novels and of the countless
stories written more or less in accordance with Scott's formula, by
Cooper, by Victor Hugo and Dumas, by Manzoni, and by all the others
who followed in their footsteps in every modern language. Not only
born story-tellers but writers who were by natural gift poets or
dramatists, seized upon the novel as a form in which they could
express themselves freely and by which they might hope to gain a
proper reward in money as well as in fame. The economic interpretation
of literary history has not received the attention it deserves; and
the future investigator will find a rich field in his researches for
the causes of the expansion of the novel in the nineteenth century
simultaneous with the decline of the drama in the literature of almost
every modern language except French.

As the nineteenth century drew towards its maturity, the influence of
Balzac reinforced the influence of Scott; and realism began to
assert its right to substitute itself for romance. The adjustment
of character to its appropriate background, the closer connection of
fiction with the actual facts of life, the focusing of attention
on the normal and the usual rather than on the abnormal and the
exceptional,--all these steps in advance were more easily taken in
the freer form of the novel than they could be in the more restricted
formula of the drama; and for the first time in its history
prose-fiction found itself a pioneer, achieving a solidity of texture
which the theater had not yet been able to attain.

The novel revealed itself at last as a fit instrument for applied
psychology, for the use of those delicate artists who are interested
rather in what character is than in what it may chance to do. In the
earliest fictions, whether in prose or verse, the hero had been merely
a type, little more than a lay-figure capable of violent attitudes, a
doer of deeds who, as Professor Gummere has explained, "answered the
desire for poetic expression at a time when an individual is merged in
the clan." And as the realistic writers perfected their art, the more
acute readers began to perceive that the hero who is a doer of deeds
can represent only the earlier stages of culture which we have long
outgrown. This hero came to be recognized as an anachronism, out
of place in a more modern social organization based on a full
appreciation of individuality. He was too much a type and too little
an individual to satisfy the demands of those who looked to literature
as the mirror of life itself and who had taught themselves to relish
what Lowell terms the "punctilious veracity which gives to a portrait
its whole worth."

Thus it was only in the middle years of the nineteenth century, after
Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert, after Thackeray and George Eliot, and
Hawthorne, that the novel found out its true field. And yet it was in
the middle years of the seventeenth century that the ideal to which it
was aspiring had been proclaimed frankly by the forgotten Furetière in
the preface to his "Roman Bourgeois." Furetière lacked the skill and
the insight needful for the satisfactory attainment of the standard he
set up,--indeed, the attainment of that standard is beyond the
power of most novelists even now. But Furetière's declaration of the
principles which he proposed to follow is as significant now as it was
in 1666, when neither the writer himself nor the reader to whom he had
to appeal were ripe for the advance which he insisted upon. "I shall
tell you," said Furetière, "sincerely and faithfully, several stories
or adventures which happened to persons who are neither heroes nor
heroines, who will raise no armies and overthrow no kingdoms, but who
will be honest folk of mediocre condition, and who will quietly make
their way. Some of them will be good-looking and others ugly. Some of
them will be wise and others foolish; and these last, in fact, seem
likely to prove the larger number."


The novel had a long road to travel before it became possible for
novelists to approach the ideal that Furetière proclaimed and before
they had acquired the skill needed to make their readers accept
it. And there had also to be a slow development of our own ideas
concerning the relation of art to life. For one thing, art had been
expected to emphasize a moral; there was even a demand on the drama
to be overtly didactic. Less than a score of years after Furetière's
preface, there was published an English translation of the Abbé
d'Aubignac's "Pratique du Théâtre" which was entitled the "Whole Art
of the Stage" and in which the theory of "poetic justice" was
set forth formally. "One of the chiefest, and indeed the most
indispensable Rule of Drammatick Poems is that in them Virtues always
ought to be rewarded, or at least commended, in spight of all the
Injuries of Fortune; and that likewise Vices be always punished or at
least detested with Horrour, though they triumph upon the Stage for
that time."

Doctor Johnson was so completely a man of his own century that he
found fault with Shakspere because Shakspere did not preach, because
in the great tragedies virtue is not always rewarded and vice is not
always punished. Doctor Johnson and the Abbé d'Aubignac wanted
the dramatist to be false to life as we all know it. Beyond all
peradventure the wages of sin is death; and yet we have all seen the
evil-doer dying in the midst of his devoted family and surrounded by
all the external evidences of worldly success. To insist that virtue
shall be outwardly triumphant at the end of a play or of a novel is to
require the dramatist or the novelist to falsify. It is to
introduce an element of unreality into fiction. It is to require the
story-teller and the playmaker to prove a thesis that common sense
must reject.

Any attempt to require the artist to prove anything is necessarily
cramping. A true representation of life does not prove one thing only,
it proves many things. Life is large, unlimited, and incessant; and
the lessons of the finest art are those of life itself; they are
not single but multiple. Who can declare what is the single moral
contained in the "Oedipus" of Sophocles, the "Hamlet" of Shakspere,
the "Tartufe" of Molière? No two spectators of these masterpieces
would agree on the special morals to be isolated; and yet none of them
would deny that the masterpieces are profoundly moral because of their
essential truth. Morality, a specific moral,--this is what the
artist cannot deliberately put into his work, without destroying its
veracity. But morality is also what he cannot leave out if he has
striven only to handle his subject sincerely. Hegel is right when he
tells us that art has its moral,--but the moral depends on him
who draws it. The didactic drama and the novel-with-a-purpose are
necessarily unartistic and unavoidably unsatisfactory.

This is what the greater artists have always felt; this is what they
have often expressed unhesitatingly. Corneille, for one, although he
was a man of his time, a creature of the seventeenth century, had the
courage to assert that "the utility of a play is seen in the simple
depicting of vices and virtues, which never fails to be effective if
it is well done and if the traits are so recognizable that they cannot
be confounded or mistaken; virtue always gets itself loved, however
unfortunate, and vice gets itself hated, even though triumphant."
Dryden, again, a contemporary of d'Aubignac and a predecessor of
Johnson, had a clearer vision than either of them; and his views are
far in advance of theirs. "Delight," he said, "is the chief if not the
only end of poesy," and by poesy he meant fiction in all its forms;
"instruction can be admitted but in the second place, for poetry
only instructs as it delights." And once more, when we pass from the
seventeenth century of Corneille and Dryden to the nineteenth century
when the novel has asserted its rivalry with the drama, we find the
wise Goethe declaring to Eckermann the doctrine which is now winning
acceptance everywhere. "If there is a moral in the subject it will
appear, and the poet has nothing to consider but the effective
and artistic treatment of his subject; if he has as high a soul as
Sophocles, his influence will always be moral, let him do what he

A high soul is not given to all writers of fiction, and yet there
is an obligation on them all to aspire to the praise bestowed on
Sophocles as one who "saw life steadily and saw it whole." Even the
humblest of story-tellers ought to feel himself bound, not to preach,
not to point a moral ostentatiously, not to warp the march of events
for the sake of so-called "poetic justice," but to report life as
he knows it, making it neither better nor worse, to represent it
honestly, to tell the truth about it and nothing but the truth, even
if he does not tell the whole truth--which is given to no man to
know. This is an obligation that not a few of the foremost writers of
fiction have failed to respect. Dickens, for example, is delighted to
reform a character in the twinkling of an eye, transforming a bad man
into a good man over night, and contradicting all that we know about
the permanence of character.

Other novelists have asked us to admire violent and unexpected acts of
startling self-sacrifice, when a character is made to take on himself
the responsibility for the delinquency of some other character. They
have invited our approbation for a moral suicide, which is quite as
blameworthy as any physical suicide. With his keen insight into ethics
and with his robust common sense, Huxley stated the principle which
these novelists have failed to grasp. A man, he tells us, "may refuse
to commit another, but he ought not to allow himself to be believed
worse than he actually is," since this results in "a loss to the
world of moral force which cannot be afforded." The final test of the
fineness of fiction lies in its veracity. "Romance is the poetry of
circumstance," as Stevenson tells us, and "drama is the poetry of
conduct"; we may be tolerant and easy-going in our acceptance of
a novelist's circumstances, but we ought to be rigorous as regards
conduct. As far as the successive happenings of his story are
concerned, the mere incidents, the author may on occasion ask our
indulgence and tax our credulity a little; but he must not expect us
to forgive him for any violation of the fundamental truths of human

It is this stern veracity, unflinching and inexorable, which makes
"Anna Karénina" one of the noblest works of art that the nineteenth
century devised to the twentieth, just as it is the absence of this
fidelity to the facts of life, the twisting of character to prove a
thesis, which vitiates the "Kreutzer Sonata," and makes it unworthy of
the great artist in fiction who wrote the earlier work. It is not too
much to say that the development of Tolstoi as a militant moralist is
coincident with his decline as an artist. He is no longer content to
picture life as he sees it; he insists on preaching. And when he uses
his art, not as an end in itself, but as an instrument to advocate his
own individual theories, although his great gifts are not taken from
him, the result is that his later novels lack the broad and deep moral
effect which gave his earlier studies of life and character their
abiding value.

Stevenson had in him "something of the shorter catechist"; and the
Scotch artist in letters, enamored of words as he was, seized firmly
the indispensable law. "The most influential books, and the truest in
their influence, are works of fiction," he declared. "They do not
pin their reader to a dogma, which he must afterward discover to be
inexact; they do not teach a lesson, which he must afterward unlearn.
They repeat, they rearrange, they clarify the lessons of life; they
disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the acquaintances
of others, and they show us the web of experience not as we can see it
for ourselves, but with a singular change--that monstrous, consuming
ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out. To be so, they must be
reasonably true to the human comedy; and any work that is so serves
the turn of instruction." This is well thought and well put, although
many of us might demand that novels should be more than "reasonably
true." But even if Stevenson was here a little lax in the requirements
he imposed on others, he was stricter with himself when he wrote
"Markheim" and the "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Another story-teller, also cut off before he had displayed the best
that was in him, set up the same standards for his fellow-craftsmen
in fiction. In his striking discussion of the responsibility of the
novelist, Frank Norris asserted that the readers of fiction have "a
right to the Truth as they have a right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. It is _not_ right that they be exploited and
deceived with false views of life, false characters, false sentiment,
false morality, false history, false philosophy, false emotions, false
heroism, false notions of self-sacrifice, false views of religion, of
duty, of conduct, and of manners."


Even if there may have been a certain advantage to the novel, as M.
Le Breton maintains, because it was long left alone unfettered by any
critical code, to expand as best it could, to find its own way unaided
and to work out its own salvation, the time has now come when it
may profit by a criticism which shall force it to consider its
responsibilities and to appraise its technical resources, if it is to
claim artistic equality with the drama and the epic. It has won its
way to the front; and there are few who now question its right to
the position it has attained. There is no denying that in English
literature, in the age of Victoria, the novel established itself as
the literary form most alluring to all men of letters and that it
succeeded to the place held by the essay in the days of Anne and by
the play in the days of Elizabeth.

And like the play and the essay in those earlier times, the novel now
attracts writers who have no great natural gift for the form. Just
as Peele and Greene wrote plays because play-writing was popular and
advantageous, in spite of their inadequate dramaturgic equipment, and
just as Johnson wrote essays because essay-writing was popular and
advantageous in spite of his deficiency in the ease and lightness
which the essay demands, so Brougham and Motley and Froude adventured
themselves in fiction. We may even doubt whether George Eliot was a
born story-teller and whether she would not have been more successful
in some other epoch when some other literary form than the novel had
happened to be in fashion. In France the novel tempted Victor Hugo,
who was essentially a lyric poet, and the elder Dumas, who was
essentially a playwright. There are not lacking signs of late that the
drama is likely in the immediate future to assert a sharper rivalry
with prose-fiction; and novelists like Mr. Barrie and M. Hervieu have
relinquished the easier narrative for the more difficult and more
dangerous stage-play. But there is no evidence that the novel is soon
to lose its vogue. It has come to stay; and as the nineteenth century
left it to the twentieth so the twentieth will probably bequeath it to
the twenty-first unimpaired in prosperity.

Perhaps the best evidence of the solidity of its position is to be
found in the critical consideration which it is at last receiving.
Histories of fiction in all literatures and biographies of the
novelists in all languages are multiplying abundantly. We are
beginning to take our fiction seriously and to inquire into its
principles. Long ago Freytag's "Technic of the Drama" was followed by
Spielhagen's "Technic of the Novel," rather Teutonically philosophic,
both of them, and already a little out of date. Studies of
prose-fiction are getting themselves written, none of them more
illuminative than Professor Bliss Perry's. The novelists themselves
are writing about the art of fiction, as Sir Walter Besant did, and
they are asking what the novel is, as Mr. Marion Crawford has done.
They are beginning to resent the assertion of the loyal adherents of
the drama, that the novel is too loose a form to call forth the best
efforts of the artist, and that a play demands at least technical
skill whereas a novel may be often the product of unskilled labor.

Questions of all kinds are presenting themselves for discussion.
Has the rise of realism made romance impossible? Is there a valid
distinction between romance and romanticism? Is the short-story a
definite form, differing from the novel in purpose as well as in
length? What is the best way to tell a story,--in the third person,
as in the epic,--in the first person, as in an autobiography,--or
in letters? Which is of most importance, character or incident or
atmosphere? Is the novel-with-a-purpose legitimate? Why is it that
dramatized novels often fail in the theater? Ought a novelist to take
sides with his characters and against them, or ought he to suppress
his own opinions and remain impassive, as the dramatist must? Does a
prodigality in the invention of incidents reveal a greater imagination
in the novelist than is required for the sincere depicting of simple
characters in every-day life? Why has the old trick of inserting brief
tales inside a long novel--such as we find in "Don Quixote" and "Tom
Jones" and the "Pickwick Papers"--been abandoned of late years? How
far is a novelist justified in taking his characters so closely from
actual life that they are recognizable by his readers? What are the
advantages and disadvantages of local color? How much dialect may a
novelist venture to employ? Is the historical novel really a loftier
type of fiction than the novel of contemporary life? Is it really
possible to write a veracious novel about any other than the
novelist's native land? Why is it that so many of the greater writers
of fiction have brought forth their first novel only after they
had attained to half the allotted threescore years and ten? Is the
scientific spirit going to be helpful or harmful to the writer of
fiction? Which is the finer form for fiction, a swift and direct
telling of the story, with the concentration of a Greek tragedy, such
as we find in the "Scarlet Letter" and in "Smoke," or an ampler and
more leisurely movement more like that of the Elizabethan plays, such
as we may see in "Vanity Fair" and in "War and Peace"?

These questions, and many another, we may expect to hear discussed,
even if they cannot all of them be answered, in any consideration
of the materials and the methods of fiction. And the result of these
inquiries cannot fail to be beneficial, both to the writer of fiction
and to the reader of fiction. To the story-teller himself they will
serve as a stimulus and a guide, calling attention to the technic of
his craft and broadening his knowledge of the principles of his art.
To the idle reader even they ought to be helpful, because they will
force him to think about the novels he may read and because they
will lead him to be more exacting, to insist more on veracity in
the portrayal of life and to demand more care in the method of
presentation. Every art profits by a wider understanding of its
principles, of its possibilities and of its limitations, as well as by
a more diffused knowledge of its technic.





Before we set out upon a study of the materials and methods of
fiction, we must be certain that we appreciate the purpose of the
art and understand its relation to the other arts and sciences. The
purpose of fiction is to embody certain truths of human life in a
series of imagined facts. The importance of this purpose is scarcely
ever appreciated by the casual careless reader of the novels of
a season. Although it is commonly believed that such a reader
overestimates the weight of works of fiction, the opposite is true--he
underestimates it. Every novelist of genuine importance seeks not
merely to divert but also to instruct--to instruct, not abstractly,
like the essayist, but concretely, by presenting to the reader
characters and actions which are true. For the best fiction, although
it deals with the lives of imaginary people, is no less true than the
best history and biography, which record actual facts of human life;
and it is more true than such careless reports of actual occurrences
as are published in the daily newspapers. The truth of worthy fiction
is evidenced by the honor in which it has been held in all ages among
all races. "You can't fool all the people all the time"; and if the
drama and the epic and the novel were not true, the human race would
have rejected them many centuries ago. Fiction has survived, and
flourishes to-day, because it is a means of telling truth.

It is only in the vocabulary of very careless thinkers that the words
_truth_ and _fiction_ are regarded as antithetic. A genuine antithesis
subsists between the words _fact_ and _fiction_; but _fact_ and
_truth_ are not synonymous. The novelist forsakes the realm of fact
in order that he may better tell the truth, and lures the reader away
from actualities in order to present him with realities. It is of
prime importance, in our present study, therefore, that we should
understand at the very outset the relation between fact and truth, the
distinction between the actual and the real.

A fact is a specific manifestation of a general law: this general law
is the truth because of which that fact has come to be. It is a fact
that when an apple-tree is shaken by the wind, such apples as may
be loosened from their twigs fall to the ground: it is a truth that
bodies in space attract each other with a force that varies inversely
as the square of the distance between them. Fact is concrete, and is
a matter of physical experience: truth is abstract, and is a matter
of mental theory. Actuality is the realm of fact, reality the realm of
truth. The universe as we apprehend it with our senses is actual; the
laws of the universe as we comprehend them with our understanding are

All human science is an endeavor to discover the truths which underlie
the facts that we perceive: all human philosophy is an endeavor to
understand and to appraise those truths when once they are discovered:
and all human art is an endeavor to utter them clearly and effectively
when once they are appraised and understood. The history of man is
the history of a constant and continuous seeking for the truth. Amazed
before a universe of facts, he has striven earnestly to discover the
truth which underlies them,--striven heroically to understand the
large reality of which the actual is but a sensuously perceptible
embodiment. In the earliest centuries of recorded thought the search
was unmethodical; truth was apprehended, if at all, by intuition, and
announced as dogma: but in modern centuries certain regular methods
have been devised to guide the search. The modern scientist begins
his work by collecting a large number of apparently related facts and
arranging them in an orderly manner. He then proceeds to induce from
the observation of these facts an apprehension of the general law that
explains their relation. This hypothesis is then tested in the light
of further facts, until it seems so incontestable that the minds of
men accept it as the truth. The scientist then formulates it in an
abstract theoretic statement, and thus concludes his work.

But it is at just this point that the philosopher begins. Accepting
many truths from many scientists, the philosopher compares,
reconciles, and correlates them, and thus builds out of them a
structure of belief. But this structure of belief remains abstract and
theoretic in the mind of the philosopher. It is now the artist's turn.
Accepting the correlated theoretic truths which the scientist and
the philosopher have given him, he endows them with an imaginative
embodiment perceptible to the senses. He translates them back into
concrete terms; he clothes them in invented facts; he makes them
imaginatively perceptible to a mind native and induced to actuality;
and thus he gives expression to the truth.

This triple process of the scientific discovery, the philosophic
understanding, and the artistic expression of truth has been explained
at length, because every great writer of fiction must pass through the
entire mental process. The fiction-writer differs from other seekers
for the truth, not in the method of his thought, but merely in its
subject-matter. His theme is human life. It is some truth of human
life that he endeavors to discover, to understand, and to announce;
and in order to complete his work, he must apply to human life an
attention of thought which is successively scientific, philosophic,
and artistic. He must first observe carefully certain facts of actual
life, study them in the light of extended experience, and induce from
them the general laws which he deems to be the truths which underlie
them. In doing this, he is a scientist. Next, if he be a great
thinker, he will correlate these truths and build out of them a
structure of belief. In doing this, he is a philosopher. Lastly,
he must create imaginatively such scenes and characters as will
illustrate the truths he has discovered and considered, and will
convey them clearly and effectively to the minds of his readers. In
doing this, he is an artist.

But although this triple mental process (of scientific discovery,
philosophic understanding, and artistic expression) is experienced
in full by every master of fiction, we find that certain authors are
interested most in the first, or scientific phase of the process,
others in the second, or philosophic phase, and still others in the
third, or artistic phase. Evidently Emile Zola is interested chiefly
in a scientific investigation of the actual facts of life, George
Eliot in a philosophic contemplation of its underlying truths, and
Gabriele D'Annunzio in an artistic presentation of the dream-world
that he imagines. Washington Irving is mainly an artist, Tolstoi
mainly a philosopher, and Jane Austen mainly a scientifically accurate
observer. Few are the writers, even among the greatest masters of the
art, of whom we feel, as we feel of Hawthorne, that the scientist, the
philosopher, and the artist reign over equal precincts of their minds.
Hawthorne the scientist is so thorough, so accurate, and so precise in
his investigations of provincial life that no less a critic than James
Russell Lowell declared the "House of the Seven Gables" to be "the
most valuable contribution to New England history that has yet been
made." Hawthorne the philosopher is so wise in his understanding of
crime and retribution, so firm in his structure of belief concerning
moral truth, that it seems that he, if any one, might give an answer
to that poignant cry of a despairing murderer,--

  "Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
  Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
  Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
  And with some sweet oblivious antidote
  Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
  Which weighs upon the heart?"[1]

[Footnote 1: Macbeth: Act V; Scene 3.]

And Hawthorne the artist is so delicate in his sensitive and loving
presentation of the beautiful, so masterly both in structure and in
style, that his work, in artistry alone, is its own excuse for being.
Were it not for the _confinement_ of his fiction--its lack of range
and sweep, both in subject-matter and in attitude of mind,--his work
on this account might be regarded as an illustration of all that may
be great in the threefold process of creation.

Fiction, to borrow a figure from chemical science, is life distilled.
In the author's mind, the actual is first evaporated to the real,
and the real is then condensed to the imagined. The author first
transmutes the concrete actualities of life into abstract realities;
and then he transmutes these abstract realities into concrete
imaginings. Necessarily, if he has pursued this mental process
without a fallacy, his imaginings will be true; because they represent
realities, which in turn have been induced from actualities.

In one of his criticisms of the greatest modern dramatist, Mr.
William Archer has called attention to the fact that "habitually
and instinctively men pay to Ibsen the compliment (so often paid to
Shakespeare) of discussing certain of his female characters as though
they were real women, living lives apart from the poet's creative
intelligence." [It is evident that Mr. Archer, in saying "real women,"
means what is more precisely denoted by the words "actual women."]
Such a compliment is also paid instinctively to every master of the
art of fiction; and the reason is not hard to understand. If the
general laws of life which the novelist has thought out be true laws,
and if his imaginative embodiment of them be at all points thoroughly
consistent, his characters will be true men and women in the highest
sense. They will not be actual, but they will be real. The great
characters of fiction--Sir Willoughby Patterne, Tito Melema,
D'Artagnan, Père Grandet, Rosalind, Tartufe, Hamlet, Ulysses--embody
truths of human life that have been arrived at only after thorough
observation of facts and patient induction from them. Cervantes must
have observed a multitude of dreamers before he learned the truth of
the idealist's character which he has expressed in Don Quixote. The
great people of fiction are typical of large classes of mankind. They
live more truly than do you and I, because they are made of us and of
many men beside. They have the large reality of general ideas, which
is a truer thing than the actuality of facts. This is why we know
them and think of them as real people--old acquaintances whom we knew
(perhaps) before we were born, when (as is conceivable) we lived with
them in Plato's Realm of Ideas. In France, instead of calling a man
a miser, they call him an Harpagon. We know Rosalind as we know our
sweetest summer love; Hamlet is our elder brother, and understands our
own wavering and faltering.

Instinctively also we regard the great people of fiction as more
real than many of the actual people of a bygone age whose deeds are
chronicled in dusty histories. To a modern mind, if you conjure with
the name of Marcus Brutus, you will start the spirit of Shakespeare's
fictitious patriot, not of the actual Brutus, of a very different
nature, whose doings are dimly reported by the chroniclers of Rome.
The Richelieu of Dumas père may bear but slight resemblance to the
actual founder of the French Academy; but he lives for us more really
than the Richelieu of many histories. We know Hamlet even better than
we know Henri-Frédéric Amiel, who in many ways was like him; even
though Amiel has reported himself more thoroughly than almost any
other actual man. We may go a step further and declare that the actual
people of any age can live in the memory of after ages only when the
facts of their characters and their careers have been transmuted into
a sort of fiction by the minds of creative historians. Actually, in
1815, there was but one Napoleon; now there are as many Napoleons as
there are biographies and histories of him. He has been recreated in
one way by one author, in another by another; and you may take your
choice. You may accept the Julius Cæsar of Mr. Bernard Shaw, or the
Julius Cæsar of Thomas De Quincey. The first is frankly fiction;
and the second, not so frankly, is fiction also,--just as far from
actuality as Shakespeare's adaptation of Plutarch's portraiture.

One of the most vivid illustrations of how a great creative mind,
honestly seeking to discover, to understand, and to express the truth
concerning actual characters of the past, necessarily makes fiction
of those characters, is given by Thomas Carlyle in his "Heroes and
Hero-Worship." Here, in Carlyle's method of procedure, it is easy to
discern that threefold process of creation which is undergone by
the fiction-making mind. An examination of recorded facts concerning
Mohammed, Dante, Luther, or Burns leads him to a discovery and a
formulation of certain abstract truths concerning the Hero as Prophet,
as Poet, as Priest, or as Man of Letters; and thereafter, in composing
his historical studies, he sets forth only such actual facts as
conform with his philosophic understanding of the truth and will
therefore represent this understanding with the utmost emphasis. He
makes fiction of his heroes, in order most emphatically to tell the
truth about them.

In this way biography and history at their best are doomed to employ
the methods of the art of fiction; and we can therefore understand
without surprise why the average reader always says of the histories
of Francis Parkman that they read like novels, even though the most
German-minded scientists of history assure us that Parkman is always
faithful to his facts. Facts, to the mind of this model of historians,
were indicative of truths; and those truths he endeavored to express
with faultless art. Like the best of novelists, he was at once a
scientist, a philosopher, and an artist; and this is not the least of
reasons why his histories will endure. They are as true as fiction.

Not only do the great characters of fiction convince us of reality:
in the mere events themselves of worthy fiction we feel a fitness
that makes us know them real. Sentimental Tommy really did lose that
literary competition because he wasted a full hour searching vainly
for the one right word; Hetty Sorrel really killed her child; and Mr.
Henry must have won that midnight duel with the Master of Ballantrae,
though the latter was the better swordsman. These incidents conform to
truths we recognize. And not only in the fiction that clings close to
actuality do we feel a sense of truth. We feel it just as keenly in
fairy tales like those of Hans Christian Andersen, or in the worthiest
wonder-legends of an earlier age. We are told of The Steadfast Tin
Soldier that, after he was melted in the fire, the maid who took away
the ashes next morning found him in the shape of a small tin heart;
and remembering the spangly little ballet-dancer who fluttered to him
like a sylph and was burned up in the fire with him, we feel a
fitness in this little fancy which opens vistas upon human truth. Mr.
Kipling's fable of "How the Elephant Got His Trunk" is just as true
as his reports of Mrs. Hauksbee. His theory may not conform with the
actual facts of zoological science; but at any rate it represents a
truth which is perhaps more important for those who have become again
like little children.

Just as we feel by instinct the reality of fiction at its best, so
also with a kindred instinct equally keen we feel the falsity of
fiction when the author lapses from the truth. Unless his characters
act and think at all points consistently with the laws of their
imagined existence, and unless these laws are in harmony with the laws
of actual life, no amount of sophistication on the part of the author
can make us finally believe his story; and unless we believe his
story, his purpose in writing it will have failed. The novelist, who
has so many means of telling truth, has also many means of telling
lies. He may be untruthful in his very theme, if he is lacking in
sanity of outlook upon the things that are. He may be untruthful in
his characterization, if he interferes with his people after they are
once created and attempts to coerce them to his purposes instead of
allowing them to work out their own destinies. He may be untruthful
in his plotting, if he devises situations arbitrarily for the sake
of mere immediate effect. He may be untruthful in his dialogue, if he
puts into the mouths of his people sentences that their nature does
not demand that they shall speak. He may be untruthful in his comments
on his characters, if the characters belie the comments in their
actions and their words.

With the sort of fiction that is a tissue of lies, the present study
does not concern itself; but even in the best fiction we come upon
passages of falsity. There is little likelihood, however, of our
being led astray by these: we revolt instinctively against them with a
feeling that may best be expressed in that famous sentence of Ibsen's
Assessor Brack, "People don't do such things." When Shakespeare
tells us, toward the end of "As you Like It," that the wicked Oliver
suddenly changed his nature and won the love of Celia, we know that he
is lying. The scene is not true to the great laws of human life. When
George Eliot, at a loss for a conclusion to "The Mill on the Floss,"
tells us that Tom and Maggie Tulliver were drowned together in a
flood, we disbelieve her; just as we disbelieve Mr. J. M. Barrie
when he invents that absurd accident of Tommy's death. These three
instances of falsity have been selected from authors who know
the truth and almost always tell it; and all three have a certain
palliation. They come at or near the very end of lengthy stories.
In actual life, of course, there are no very ends: life exhibits a
continuous sequence of causation stretching on: and since a story has
to have an end, its conclusion must in any case belie a law of nature.
Probably the truth is that Tommy didn't die at all: he is living
still, and always will be living. And since Mr. Barrie couldn't
write forever, he may be pardoned a makeshift ending that he himself
apparently did not believe in. So also we may forgive that lie of
Shakespeare's, since it contributes to a general truthfulness
of good-will at the conclusion of his story; and as for George
Eliot--well, she had been telling the truth stolidly for many hundred

But when Charlotte Brontë, in "Jane Eyre," tells us that Mr. Rochester
first said and then repeated the following sentence, "I am disposed to
be gregarious and communicative to-night," we find it more difficult
to pardon the apparent falsity. In the same chapter, the author states
that Mr. Rochester emitted the following remark:--"Then, in the
first place, do you agree with me that I have a right to be a little
masterful, abrupt, perhaps exacting, sometimes, on the grounds I
stated, namely, that I am old enough to be your father, and that
I have battled through a varied experience with many men of many
nations, and roamed over half the globe, while you have lived quietly
with one set of people in one house?"

Such writing is inexcusably untrue. We cannot believe that any human
being ever asked a direct question so elaborately lengthy. People
do not talk like that. As a contrast, let us notice for a moment the
poignant truthfulness of speech in Mr. Rudyard Kipling's story, "Only
a Subaltern." A fever-stricken private says to Bobby Wick, "Beg y'
pardon, sir, disturbin' of you now, but would you min' 'oldin' my
'and, sir?"--and later, when the private becomes convalescent and
Bobby in his turn is stricken down, the private suddenly stares in
horror at his bed, and cries, "Oh, my Gawd! It can't be _'im_!" People
talk like that.

Arbitrary plotting, as a rule, is of no avail in fiction: almost
always, we know when a story is true and when it is not. We seldom
believe in the long-lost will that is discovered at last on the back
of a decaying picture-canvas; or in the chance meeting and mutual
discovery of long-separated relatives; or in such accidental
circumstances as the one, for instance, because of which Romeo fails
to receive the message from Friar Laurence. The incidents of fiction
at its best are not only probable but inevitable: they happen because
in the nature of things they have to happen, and not because the
author wants them to. Similarly, the truest characters of fiction are
so real that even their creator has no power to make them do what
they will not. It has been told of Thackeray that he grew so to love
Colonel Newcome that he wished ardently that the good man might live
happily until the end. Yet, knowing the circumstances in which the
Colonel was enmeshed, and knowing also the nature of the people who
formed the little circle round about him, Thackeray realized that his
last days would of necessity be miserable; and realizing this, the
author told the bitter truth, though it cost him many tears.

The careless reader of fiction usually supposes that, since the
novelist invents his characters and incidents, he can order them
always to suit his own desires: but any honest artist will tell you
that his characters often grow intractable and stubbornly refuse at
certain points to accept the incidents which he has foreordained for
them, and that at other times they take matters into their own hands
and run away with the story. Stevenson has recorded this latter
experience. He said, apropos of "Kidnapped," "In one of my books, and
in one only, the characters took the bit in their teeth; all at once,
they became detached from the flat paper, they turned their backs
on me and walked off bodily; and from that time my task was
stenographic--it was they who spoke, it was they who wrote the
remainder of the story."

The laws of life, and not the author's will, must finally decide the
destinies of heroes and of heroines. On the evening of February
3, 1850, just after he had written the last scene of "The Scarlet
Letter," Hawthorne read it to his wife,--"tried to read it, rather,"
he wrote the next day in a letter to his friend, Horatio Bridge, "for
my voice swelled and heaved, as if I were tossed up and down on an
ocean as it subsides after a storm. But I was in a very nervous state
then, having gone through a great diversity of emotion while writing
it for many months." Is it not conceivable that, in the "great
diversity of emotion" which the author experienced while bringing his
story to a close, he was tempted more than once to state that Hester
and Dimmesdale escaped upon the Bristol ship and thereafter expiated
their offense in holy and serviceable lives? But if such a thought
occurred to him, he put it by, knowing that the revelation of the
scarlet letter was inexorably demanded by the highest moral law.

We are now ready to understand the statement that fiction at its best
is much more true than such careless reports of actual occurrences as
are published in the daily newspapers. Water that has been distilled
is much more really H_{2}O than the muddied natural liquid in the
bulb of the retort; and life that has been clarified in the threefold
alembic of the fiction-writer's mind is much more really life than the
clouded and unrealized events that are reported in daily chronicles of
fact. The newspaper may tell us that a man who left his office in
an apparently normal state of mind went home and shot his wife: but
people don't do such things; and though the story states an actual
occurrence, it does not tell the truth. The only way in which the
reporter could make this story true would be for him to trace out
all the antecedent causes which led inevitably to the culminating
incident. The incident itself can become true for us only when we are
made to understand it.

Mrs. Isobel Strong, the devoted step-daughter and amanuensis of Robert
Louis Stevenson, once repeated to the present writer a conversation at
Vailima in which the novelist remarked that whenever, in a story by
a friend of his, he came upon a passage that was notably untrue, he
always suspected that it had been transcribed directly from actual
life. The author had been too sure of the facts to ask himself in what
way they were representative of the general laws of life. But facts
are important to the careful thinker only as they are significant of
truth. Doubtless an omniscient mind would realize a reason for every
accidental and apparently insignificant occurrence of actual life.
Doubtless, for example, the Universal Mind must understand why
the great musical-director, Anton Seidl, died suddenly of ptomaine
poisoning. But to a finite mind such occurrences seem unsignificant of
truth; they do not seem to be indicative of a necessary law. And since
the fiction-writer has a finite mind, the laws of life which he can
understand are more restrictedly logical than those undiscovered laws
of actual life which pass his understanding. Many a casual
occurrence of the actual world would therefore be inadmissible in the
intellectually-ordered world of fiction. A novelist has no right to
set forth a sequence of events which, in its causes and effects, he
cannot make the reader understand.

We are now touching on a principle which is seldom appreciated by
beginners in the art of fiction. Every college professor of literary
composition who has accused a student of falsity in some passage of a
story that the student has submitted has been met with the triumphant
but unreasonable answer, "Oh, no, it's true! It happened to a friend
of mine!" And it has then become necessary for the professor to
explain as best he could that an actual occurrence is not necessarily
true for the purposes of fiction. The imagined facts of a genuinely
worthy story are exhibited merely because they are representative of
some general law of life held securely in the writer's consciousness.
A transcription, therefore, of actual facts fails of the purposes of
fiction unless the facts in themselves are evidently representative
of such a law. And many things may happen to a friend of ours without
evidencing to a considerate mind any logical reason why they had to

It is necessary that the student should appreciate the importance of
this principle at the very outset of his apprenticeship to the art.
For it is only by adhering rigorously to the truth that fiction can
survive. In every period of literature, many clever authors have
appeared who have diverted their contemporaries with ingenious
invention, brilliant incident, unexpected novelty of character, or
alluring eloquence of style, but who have been discarded and
forgotten by succeeding generations merely because they failed to tell
the truth. Probably in the whole range of English fiction there is
no more skilful weaver of enthralling plots, no more clever master of
invention or manipulator of suspense, than Wilkie Collins; but Collins
is already discarded and well-nigh forgotten, because the reading
world has found that he exhibited no truths of genuine importance,
but rather sacrificed the eternal realities of life for mere momentary
plausibilities. Probably, also, there is no artist in French prose
more seductive in his eloquence than René de Chateaubriand; but
his fiction is no longer read, because the world has found that his
sentimentalism was to this extent a sham,--it was false to the nature
of normal human beings. "Alice in Wonderland" will survive the works
of both these able authors, because of the many and momentous human
truths that look upon us through its drift of dreams.

The whole question of the morality or immorality of a work of fiction
is a question merely of its truth or falsity. To appreciate this
point, we must first be careful to distinguish immorality from
coarseness. The morality of a fiction-writer is not dependent on the
decency of his expression. In fact, the history of literature shows
that authors frankly coarse, like Rabelais or Swift for instance, have
rarely or never been immoral; and that the most immoral books have
been written in the most delicate language. Swift and Rabelais are
moral, because they tell the truth with sanity and vigor: we may
object to certain passages in their writings on esthetic, but not on
ethical, grounds. They may offend our taste; but they are not likely
to lead astray our judgment:--far less likely than D'Annunzio, for
instance, who, although he never offends the most delicate esthetic
taste, sicklies o'er with the pale cast of his poetry a sad unsanity
of outlook upon the ultimate deep truths of human life. In the second
place, we must bravely realize that the morality of a work of fiction
has little or no dependence on the subject that it treats. It is
utterly unjust to the novelist to decide, as many unreasonable readers
do, that such a book as Daudet's "Sapho" must be of necessity immoral
because it exhibits immoral characters in a series of immoral acts.
There is no such thing as an immoral subject for a novel: in the
treatment of the subject, and only in the treatment, lies the basis
for ethical judgment of the work. The one thing needful in order that
a novel may be moral is that the author shall maintain throughout his
work a sane and healthy insight into the soundness or unsoundness of
the relations between his characters. He must know when they are right
and know when they are wrong, and must make clear to us the reasons
for his judgment. He cannot be immoral unless he is untrue. To make
us pity his characters when they are vile, or love them when they are
noxious, to invent excuses for them in situations where they cannot
be excused, to leave us satisfied when their baseness has been
unbetrayed, to make us wonder if after all the exception is
not greater than the rule,--in a single word, to lie about his
characters:--this is, for the fiction-writer the one unpardonable sin.

But it is not an easy thing to tell the truth of human life, and
nothing but the truth. The best of fiction-writers fall to falsehood
now and then; and it is only by honest labor and sincere strife for
the ideal that they contrive in the main to fulfil the purpose of
their art. But the writer of fiction must be not only honest and
sincere; he must be wise as well. Wisdom is the faculty of seeing
through and all around an object of contemplation, and understanding
totally and at once its relations to all other objects. This faculty
cannot be acquired; it has to be developed: and it is developed by
experience only. Experience ordinarily requires time; and though,
for special reasons which will be noted later on, most of the great
short-story writers have been young, we are not surprised to notice
that most of the great novelists have been men mature in years. They
have ripened slowly to a realization of those truths which later they
have labored to impart. Richardson, the father of the modern English
novel, was fifty-one years old when "Pamela" was published; Scott was
forty-three when "Waverley" appeared; Hawthorne was forty-six when he
wrote "The Scarlet Letter"; Thackeray and George Eliot were well on
their way to the forties when they completed "Vanity Fair" and "Adam
Bede"; and these are the first novels of each writer.

The young author who aspires to write novels must not only labor to
acquire the technic of his art: it is even more important that he
should so order his life as to grow cunning in the basic truths of
human nature. His first problem--the problem of acquiring technic--is
comparatively easy. Technic may be learned from books--the
master-works of art in fiction. It may be studied empirically. The
student may observe what the masters have, and have not, done; and
he may puzzle out the reasons why. And he may perhaps be helped by
constructive critics of fiction in his endeavor to understand these
reasons. But his second problem--the problem of developing wisdom--is
more difficult; and he must grapple with it without any aid from
books. What he learns of human life, he must learn in his own way,
without extraneous assistance.

It is easy enough for the student to learn, for instance, how the
great short-stories have been constructed. It is easy enough for the
critic, on the basis of such knowledge, to formulate empirically the
principles of this special art of narrative. But it is not easy for
the student to discover, or for the critic to suggest, how a man in
his early twenties may develop such a wise insight into human life
as is displayed, for example, in Mr. Kipling's "Without Benefit of
Clergy." A few suggestions may, perhaps, be offered; but they must be
considered merely as suggestions, and must not be overvalued.

At the outset, it may be noted that the writer of fiction needs
two different endowments of experience:--first, a broad and general
experience of life at large; and second, a deep and specific
experience of that particular phase of life which he wishes to depict.
A general and broad experience is common to all masters of the art
of fiction: it is in the particular nature of their specific and deep
experience that they differ one from another. Although in range and
sweep of general knowledge Sir Walter Scott was far more vast than
Jane Austen, he confessed amazement at the depth of her specific
knowledge of every-day English middle-class society. Most of the
great novelists have made, like Jane Austen, a special study of some
particular field. Hawthorne is an authority on Puritan New England,
Thackeray on London high society, Mr. Henry James on cosmopolitan
super-civilization. It would seem, therefore, that a young author,
while keeping his observation fresh for all experience, should devote
especial notice to experience of some particular phase of life. But
along comes Mr. Rudyard Kipling, with his world-engirdling knowledge,
to jostle us out of faith in too narrow a focus of attention.

Experience is of two sorts, extensive and intensive. A mere glance at
the range of Mr. Kipling's subjects would show us the breadth of his
extensive experience: evidently he has lived in many lands and looked
with sympathy upon the lives of many sorts of people. But in certain
stories, like his "They" for instance, we are arrested rather by the
depth of his intensive experience. "They" reveals to us an author who
not necessarily has roamed about the world, but who necessarily has
felt all phases of the mother-longing in a woman. The things that Mr.
Kipling knows in "They" could never have been learned except through

Intensive experience is immeasurably more valuable to the
fiction-writer than extensive experience: but the difficulty is that,
although the latter may be gained through the obvious expedients
of travel and voluntary association with many and various types
of people, the former can never be gained through any amount of
deliberate and conscious seeking. The great intensive experiences of
life, like love and friendship, must come unsought if they are to come
at all; and no man can gain a genuine experience of any joy or sorrow
by experimenting purposely with life. The deep experiences must be
watched and waited for. The author must be ever ready to realize them
when they come: when they knock upon his door, he must not make the
mistake of answering that he is not at home. But he must not make the
contrary mistake of going out into the highways and hedges to compel
them to come within his gates.

Undoubtedly, very few people are always at home for every real
experience that knocks upon their doors: very few people, to say the
thing more simply, have an experiencing nature. But great fiction may
be written only by men of an experiencing nature; and here is a basis
for confession that, after all, fiction-writers are born, not made.
The experiencing nature is difficult to define; but two of its most
evident qualities, at any rate, are a lively curiosity and a ready
sympathy. A combination of these two qualities gives a man that
intensity of interest in human life which is a condition precedent
to his ever growing to understand it. Curiosity, for instance, is the
most obvious asset in Mr. Kipling's equipment. We did not need his
playful confession in the "Just So Stories"--

  "I keep six honest serving-men
  (They taught me all I knew):--
  Their names are What and Why and When
  And How and Where and Who"--

to convince us that from his very early youth he has been an
indefatigable asker of questions. It was only through a healthy
curiosity that he could have acquired the enormous stores of specific
knowledge concerning almost every walk of life that he has displayed
in his successive volumes. On the other hand, it was obviously through
his vast endowment of sympathy that Dickens was able to learn so
thoroughly all phases of the life of the lowly in London.

Experience gravitates to the man who is both curious and sympathetic.
The kingdom of adventure is within us. Just as we create beauty in an
object when we look upon it beautifully, so we create adventure all
around us when we walk the world inwardly aglow with love of life.
Things of interest happened to Robert Louis Stevenson every day of his
existence, because he incorporated the faculty of being interested in
things. In one of his most glowing essays, "The Lantern-Bearers," he
declared that never an hour of his life had gone dully yet; if it had
been spent waiting at a railway junction, he had had some scattering
thoughts, he had counted some grains of memory, compared to which the
whole of many romances seemed but dross. The author who aspires to
write fiction should cultivate the faculty of caring for all things
that come to pass; he should train himself rigorously never to be
bored; he should look upon all life that swims into his ken with
curious and sympathetic eyes, remembering always that sympathy is a
deeper faculty than curiosity: and because of the profound joy of his
interest in life, he should endeavor humbly to earn that heritage of
interest by developing a thorough understanding of its source. In this
way, perhaps, he may grow aware of certain truths of life which are
materials for fiction. If so, he will have accomplished the better
half of his work: he will have found something to say.



Although all writers of fiction who take their work seriously and do
it honestly are at one in their purpose--namely, to embody certain
truths of human life in a series of imagined facts--they diverge into
two contrasted groups according to their manner of accomplishing this
purpose,--their method of exhibiting the truth. Consequently we find
in practice two contrasted schools of novelists, which we distinguish
by the titles Realistic and Romantic.

The distinction between realism and romance is fundamental and
deep-seated; for every man, whether consciously or not, is either a
romantic or a realist in the dominant habit of his thought. The reader
who is a realist by nature will prefer George Eliot to Scott; the
reader who is romantic will rather read Victor Hugo than Flaubert; and
neither taste is better than the other. Each reader's preference is
born with his brain, and has its origin in his customary processes
of thinking. In view of this fact, it seems strange that no adequate
definition has ever yet been made of the difference between realism
and romance.[2] Various superficial explanations have been offered, it
is true; but none of them has been scientific and satisfactory.

[Footnote 2: The theory which follows in this chapter was first
announced by the present writer in _The Dial_ for November 16, 1904.]

One of the most common of these superficial explanations is the one
which has been phrased by Mr. F. Marion Crawford in his little book
upon "The Novel: What It Is":--"The realist proposes to show men what
they are; the romantist (_sic_) tries to show men what they should
be." The trouble with this distinction is that it utterly fails to
distinguish. Surely all novelists, whether realistic or romantic,
try to show men what they are:--what else can be their reason for
embodying in imagined facts the truths of human life? Victor Hugo,
the romantic, in "Les Miserables", endeavors just as honestly and
earnestly to show men what they are as does Flaubert, the realist,
in "Madame Bovary." And on the other hand, Thackeray, the realist, in
characters like Henry Esmond and Colonel Newcome, shows men what they
should be just as thoroughly as the romantic Scott. Indeed, it is
hardly possible to conceive how any novelist, whether romantic or
realistic, could devise a means of showing the one thing without at
the same time showing the other also. Every important fiction-writer,
no matter to which of the two schools he happens to belong, strives
to accomplish, in a single effort of creation, _both_ of the purposes
noted by Mr. Crawford. He may be realistic or romantic in his way of
showing men what they are; realistic or romantic in his way of showing
them what they should be: the difference lies, not in which of the two
he tries to show, but in the way he tries to show it.

Again, we have been told that, in their stories, the romantics dwell
mainly upon the element of action, while the realists are interested
chiefly in the element of character. But this explanation fails
many times to fit the facts: for the great romantic characters, like
Leatherstocking, Don Quixote, Monte Cristo, Claude Frollo, are just as
vividly drawn as the great characters of realism; and the great events
of realistic novels, like Rawdon Crawley's discovery of his wife with
Lord Steyne, or Adam Bede's fight with Arthur Donnithorne, are just
as thrilling as the resounding actions of romance. Furthermore, if
we should accept this explanation, we should find ourselves unable to
classify as either realistic or romantic the very large body of novels
in which neither element--of action or of character--shows any marked
preponderance over the other. Mr. Henry James, in his genial essay on
"The Art of Fiction," has cast a vivid light on this objection. "There
is an old-fashioned distinction," he says, "between the novel of
character and the novel of incident which must have cost many a smile
to the intending fabulist who was keen about his work.... What is
character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the
illustration of character?... It is an incident for a woman to stand
up with her hand resting on a table and look out at you in a certain
way; or if it be not an incident I think it will be hard to say what
it is. At the same time it is an expression of character."

We have been told also that the realists paint the manners of
their own place and time, while the romantics deal with more remote
materials. But this distinction, likewise, often fails to hold. No
stories were ever more essentially romantic than Stevenson's "New
Arabian Nights," which depict details of London and Parisian life at
the time when the author wrote them; and no novel is more essentially
realistic than "Romola," which carries us back through many centuries
to a medieval city far away. Thackeray, the realist, in "Henry Esmond"
and its sequel "The Virginians," departed further from his own time
and place than Hawthorne, the romantic, in "The House of the Seven
Gables"; and while the realistic Mr. Meredith frequently fares abroad
in his stories, especially to Italy, the romantic Mr. Barrie looks
upon life almost always from his own little window in Thrums.

In his interesting and suggestive "Study of Prose Fiction," Professor
Bliss Perry has devoted a chapter to realism and another to romance;
but he has not succeeded in defining either term. He has, to be sure,
essayed a negative definition of realism:--"Realistic fiction is that
which does not shrink from the commonplace or from the unpleasant in
its effort to depict things as they are, life as it is." But we have
seen that the effort of all fiction, whether realistic or romantic,
is to depict life as it _really_ (though not necessarily as it
_actually_) is. Does not "The Brushwood Boy," although it suggests
the super-actual, set forth a common truth of the most intimate human
relationship, which every lover recognizes as real? Every great writer
of fiction tries, in his own romantic or realistic way, to "draw
the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are." We
must therefore focus our attention mainly on the earlier phrases of
Professor Perry's definition. He states that realistic fiction does
not shrink from the commonplace. That depends. The realism of Jules
and Edmond de Goncourt does not, to be sure; but most assuredly the
realism of Mr. Meredith does. You will find far less shrinking from
the commonplace in many passages of the romantic Fenimore Cooper than
in the pages of Mr. Meredith. Whether or not realistic fiction shrinks
from the unpleasant depends also on the particular nature of the
realist. Zola's realism certainly does not; Jane Austen's decidedly
does. You will find far less shrinking from the unpleasant, of
one sort, in Poe, of another sort, in Catulle Mendès--both of them
romantics--than in the novels of Jane Austen. What is the use, then,
of Professor Perry's definition of realism, since it remains open to
so many exceptions? And in his chapter on romance the critic does not
even attempt to formulate a definition.

We have now examined several of the current explanations of the
difference between romance and realism and have found that each is
wanting. The trouble with all of them seems to be that they attempt to
find a basis for distinguishing between the two schools of fiction in
the subject-matter, or materials, of the novelist. Does not the real
distinction lie rather in the novelist's attitude of mind toward his
materials, whatever those materials may be? Surely there is no such
thing inherently as a realistic subject or a romantic subject. The
very same subject may be treated realistically by one novelist and
romantically by another. George Eliot would have built a realistic
novel on the theme of "The Scarlet Letter"; and Hawthorne would have
made a romance out of the materials of "Silas Marner." The whole
of human life, or any part of it, offers materials for romantic
and realist alike. Therefore no distinction between the schools is
possible upon the basis of subject-matter: the real distinction must
be one of method in setting subject-matter forth. The distinction is
not external, but internal; it dwells in the mind of the novelist; it
is a matter for philosophic, not for literary, investigation.

If we seek within the mental habits of the novelist for a philosophic
distinction between realism and romance, we shall have to return to
a consideration of that threefold process of the fiction-making mind
which was expounded in the preceding chapter of this book. Scientific
discovery, philosophic understanding, and artistic expression of the
truths of human life are phases of creation common to romantics and
realists alike; but though the writers of both schools meet equally
upon the central ground of philosophic understanding, is it not
evident that the realists are most interested in looking backward over
the antecedent ground of scientific discovery, and the romantics
are most interested in looking forward over the subsequent ground of
artistic expression? Suppose, for the purpose of illustration,
that two novelists of equal ability--the one a realist, the other
a romantic--have observed and studied carefully the same events and
characters of actual life; and suppose further that they agree in
their conception of the truth behind the facts. Suppose now that each
of them writes a novel to embody this conception of the truth, in
which they are agreed. Will not the realist regard as most important
the scientific process of discovery by means of which he arrived at
his conception; and will he not therefore strive to make that process
clear to the reader by turning back to the point at which he began
his observations and then leading the reader forward through a similar
scientific study of imagined facts until the reader joins him on the
ground of philosophic understanding? And on the other hand, will
not the romantic regard as most important the artistic process of
embodying his conception; and will he not therefore be satisfied with
any means of embodying it clearly and effectively, without caring
whether or not the imagined facts which he selects for this purpose
are similar to the actual facts from which he first induced his
philosophic understanding? This thought was apparently in Hawthorne's
mind when, in the preface to "The House of the Seven Gables," he wrote
his well-known distinction between the Romance and the (realistic)

"When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed
that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and
material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had
he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is
presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible,
but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The
former--while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to
laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside
from the truth of the human heart--has fairly a right to present that
truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own
choosing or creation."

But Hawthorne's statement, although it covers the ground, is
not succinct and definitive; and if we are to examine the thesis
thoroughly, we had better first state it in philosophic terms and then
elucidate the statement by explanation and by illustration. So stated,
the distinction is as follows: _In setting forth his view of life, the
realist follows the inductive method of presentment, and the romantic
follows the deductive method._

The distinction between inductive and deductive processes of thinking
is very simple and is known to all: it is based upon the _direction_
of the train of thought. When we think inductively, we reason from the
particular to the general; and when we think deductively, the process
proceeds in the reverse direction and we reason from the general to
the particular. In our ordinary conversation, we speak inductively
when we first mention a number of specific facts and then draw from
them some general inference; and we speak deductively when we first
express a general opinion and then elucidate it by adducing specific
illustrations. That old dichotomy of the psychologists which divides
all men, according to their habits of thought, into Platonists
and Aristotelians (or, to substitute a modern nomenclature, into
Cartesians and Baconians) is merely an assertion that every man,
in the prevailing direction of his thinking, is either deductive or
inductive. Most of the great ethical philosophers have had inductive
minds: from the basis of admitted facts of experience they have
reasoned out their laws of conduct. Most of the great religious
teachers have had deductive minds: from the basis of certain sublime
assumptions they have asserted their commandments. Most of the great
scientists have thought inductively: they have reasoned from specific
facts to general truths, as Newton reasoned from the fall of an
apple to the law of gravitation. Most of the great poets have thought
deductively: they have reasoned from general truths to specific facts,
as Dante reasoned from a general moral conception of cosmogony to the
particular appropriate details of every circle in hell and purgatory
and paradise. Now is not the thesis tenable that it is in just this
way that realism differs from romance? In their endeavor to exhibit
certain truths of human life, do not the realists work inductively and
the romantics deductively?

In order to bring to our knowledge the law of life which he wishes to
make clear, the realist first leads us through a series of imagined
facts as similar as possible to the details of actual life which he
studied in order to arrive at his general conception. He elaborately
imitates the facts of actual life, so that he may say to us finally,
"This is the sort of thing that I have seen in the world, and from
this I have learned the truth I have to tell you." He leads us step by
step from the particular to the general, until we gradually grow aware
of the truths he wishes to express. And in the end, we have not only
grown acquainted with these truths, but have also been made familiar
with every step in the process of thought by which the author himself
became aware of them. "Adam Bede" tells us not only what George Eliot
knew of life, but also how she came to learn it.

But the romantic novelist leads us in the contrary direction--namely,
from the general to the particular. He does not attempt to show us how
he arrived at his general conception. His only care is to convey
his general idea effectively by giving it a specific illustrative
embodiment. He feels no obligation to make the imagined facts of his
story resemble closely the details of actual life; he is anxious
only that they shall represent his idea adequately and consistently.
Stevenson knew that man has a dual nature, and that the evil in him,
when pampered, will gradually gain the upper hand over the good. In
his story of the "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," he did not
attempt to set forth this truth inductively, showing us the kind of
facts from the observation of which he had drawn this conclusion. He
merely gave his thought an illustrative embodiment, by conceiving a
dual character in which a man's uglier self should have a separate
incarnation. He constructed his tale deductively: beginning with a
general conception, he reduced it to particular terms. "Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde" is, of course, a thoroughly true story, even though its
incidents are contrary to the actual facts of life. It is just as real
as a realistic novel; but in order to make it so, its author, because
he was working deductively, was not obliged to imitate the details
of actual life which he had studied. "I have learned something in the
world," he says to us: "Here is a fable that will make it clear to

This philosophic distinction between the methods of romance and
realism shows two manifest advantages over all the other attempts at a
distinction which have been examined in this chapter: first, it really
does distinguish; and secondly, it will be found in every case to fit
the facts. Furthermore, it is supported in an overwhelming manner by
the history of human thought. Every student of philosophy will tell
you that the world's thought was prevailingly deductive till the
days of Francis Bacon. Bacon was the first philosopher to insist that
induction, rather than deduction, was the most effective method of
searching for the truth. Science, which is based upon induction, was
in its infancy when Bacon taught: since then it has matured, largely
because he and his successors in philosophy pointed out the only
method through which it might develop. Deduction has of course
survived as a method of conducting thought; but it has lost the
undisputed empery which it held over the ancient and the medieval
mind. Now, if we turn to the history of fiction, we shall notice
the significant fact that realism is a strictly modern product.
All fiction was romantic till the days of Bacon. Realism is
contemporaneous with modern science and the other applications of
inductive thought. Romance survives, of course; but it has lost the
undisputed empery of fiction which it held in ancient and in medieval
times. If Bacon had written fiction, he would have been a realist--the
first realist in the history of literature; and this is the only reply
that is necessary to those who still maintain (if any do) that he was
capable of writing the romantic plays of Shakespeare.

If it be granted now that the realist, by induction, leads his reader
up from a consideration of imagined facts to a comprehension of truth,
and that the romantic, by deduction, leads his reader down from an
apprehension of truth to a consideration of imagined facts, we may
next examine certain advantages and disadvantages of each method in
comparison with the other.

In the first place, we notice that, while the imagined facts of the
romantic are selected merely to illustrate the truth he wishes to
convey, the imagined facts of the realist are selected not only to
illustrate, but also to support, the truth that lies inherent in them.
The realist, then, has this advantage over the romantic in his method
of expressing truth: he has the opportunity to prove his case by
presenting the evidence on which his truth is based. It is therefore
less difficult for him to conquer credence from a skeptical and wary
reader: and we must remember always that even though a story tells the
truth, it is still a failure unless it gets that truth believed. The
romantic necessarily demands a deeper faith in his wisdom than the
realist need ask for; and he can evoke deep faith only by absolute
sincerity and utter clearness in the presentation of his fable. Unless
the reader of "The Brushwood Boy" and "They" has absolute faith that
Mr. Kipling knows the truth of his themes, the stories are reduced to
nonsense; for they present no evidence (through running parallel to
actuality) which proves that the author _does_ know the truth. Unless
the reader has faith that Stevenson deeply understands the nature of
remorse, the conversation between Markheim and his ghostly visitant
becomes incredible and vain. The author gives himself no opportunity
to prove (through analogy with actual experience) that such a colloquy
consistently presents the inner truth of conscience.

But this great advantage of the realist--that he supports his theme
with evidence--carries with it an attendant disadvantage. Since he
lays his evidence bare before the reader, he makes it simpler for the
reader to detect him in a lie. The romantic says, "These things are
so, because I know they are"; and unless we reject him at once and in
entirety as a colossal liar, we are almost doomed to take his word in
the big moments of his story. But the realist says, "These things are
so, because they are supported by actual facts similar to the imagined
facts in which I clothe them"; and we may answer at any point in the
story, "Not at all! On the very basis of the facts you show us, we
know better than to take your word." In other words, when the reader
disbelieves a romance, he does so by instinct, without necessarily
knowing why; but when he disbelieves a realistic novel, he does so by
logic, with the evidence before him.

A great romantic, therefore, must have the wisdom that convinces
by its very presence and conquers credence through the reader's
intuition. Who could disbelieve the author of "The Scarlet Letter"?
We do not need to see his evidence in order to know that he knows.
A great realist, on the other hand, while he need not have the
triumphant and engaging mental personality necessary to a great
romantic, must have a thorough and complete equipment of evidence
discerned from observation of the actual. He must have eyes and ears,
though he need not have a soul.

A novelist of realistic bent is, therefore, almost doomed to confine
his fiction to his own place and time. In no other period or nation
can he be so certain of his evidence. We know the enormous labor with
which George Eliot amassed the materials for "Romola," a realistic
study of Florence during the Renaissance; but though we recognize the
work as that of a thorough student, the details still fail to convince
us as do the details of her studies of contemporary Warwickshire.
The young aspirant to the art of fiction who knows himself to be an
incipient realist had therefore best confine his efforts to attempted
reproduction of the life he sees about him. He had better accept the
common-sensible advice which the late Sir Walter Besant gave in his
lecture on "The Art of Fiction": "A young lady brought up in a quiet
country village should avoid descriptions of garrison life; a writer
whose friends and personal experiences belong to what we call the
lower middle class should carefully avoid introducing his characters
into society; a South-countryman would hesitate before attempting to
reproduce the North-country accent. This is a very simple rule, but
one to which there should be no exception--never to go beyond your own

The incipient realist is almost obliged to accept this advice; but the
incipient romantic need not necessarily do so. That final injunction
of Besant's--"never to go beyond your own experience"--seems somewhat
stultifying to the imagination; and there is a great deal of very wise
suggestion in Mr. Henry James' reply to it: "What kind of experience
is intended, and where does it begin and end?... The young lady living
in a village has only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost to make
it quite unfair (as it seems to me) to declare to her that she shall
have nothing to say about the military. Greater miracles have been
seen than that, imagination assisting, she should speak the truth
about some of these gentlemen." The romantic "upon whom nothing is
lost," may, "imagination assisting," project his truth into some other
region of experience than those which he has actually observed.
Edgar Allan Poe is indubitably one of the great masters of the art of
fiction; but there is nothing in any of his stories to indicate that
he was born in Boston, lived in Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York,
and died in Baltimore. "The Assignation" indicates that he had lived
in Venice,--where, in fact, he had never been; others of his stories
have the atmosphere of other times and lands; and most of them pass in
a dream-world of his own creation, "out of space, out of time."

So long as the romantic is sure of his truth and certain of his
power to convince the reader, he need not support his truth by
an accumulation of evidence imitated from the actual life he has
observed. But on the other hand, there is nothing to prevent his doing
so; and unless he be very headstrong,--so headstrong as to be almost
unreliable,--he will be extremely chary of his freedom. He will not
subvert the actual unless there is no other equally effective means
of conveying the truth he has to tell. Many times a close adherence
to actuality is as advisable for the deductive author as it is for the
inductive; many times the romantic writer gains as much as the realist
by confining his fiction to his own environment of time and place.
Scott, after all, was less successful with his medieval kings
and knights than with his homely and simple Scottish characters.
Hawthorne, in "The Marble Faun," lost a certain completeness of effect
by stepping off his own New England shadow. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,"
with its subversion of the actual, is the sort of story that might be
set out of space, out of time; but Stevenson enhanced the effect of
its imaginative plausibility by setting it in contemporary London.
More and more, in recent years, the romantics have followed the lead
of the realists in embodying their truth in scenes and characters
imitated from actuality. The early stories of the thoroughly romantic
Mr. Kipling were set in his own country, India, and in his own time;
and it was not until his actual experience had broadened to
other lands, that, to any great extent, his subjects broadened
geographically. In his stories of his own people, Mr. Kipling just as
faithfully portrays the every-day existence he has actually observed
as any realist. His method is romantic always: he deduces his details
from his theme, instead of inducing his theme from his details. He
is entirely romantic in the direction of his thought; but it is very
suggestive of the tenor of contemporary romance, to notice that he
has taken the advice of the realists and seldom gone beyond his own

The range of romance is therefore far wider than the range of realism;
for all that may be treated realistically may be treated romantically
also, and much else that may be treated romantically is hardly
susceptible of realistic treatment. Granted that a romantic have
truths enough in his head, there is scarcely any limit to the stories
he may deduce from them; while, on the other hand, the work of the
inductive novelist is limited by the limits of his premises. But
the greater freedom of romance is attended by a more difficult
responsibility. If it be easier for the romantic to tell the truth,
because he has more ways of telling it, it is surely harder for him to
tell nothing but the truth. More often than the realist he is tempted
to assert uncertainties--tempted to say with vividness and charm
things of which he cannot quite be sure.

But whatever may be the comparative advantages and disadvantages of
each method of exhibiting the truth, it is absolutely certain that
either method of presentment is natural and logical; and hence all
criticism that aims to exalt romance above realism, or realism above
romance, must be forever futile. Guy de Maupassant, in his valuable
preface to "Pierre et Jean," has spoken very wisely on this point. The
ideal critic, he says, should demand of the artist merely to "create
something beautiful, in the form most convenient to him, according to
his temperament." And he states further:--"The critic should appraise
the result only according to the nature of the effort.... He should
admit with an equal interest the contrasted theories of art, and
judge the works resultant from them only from the standpoint of their
artistic worth, accepting _a priori_ the general ideas from which they
owe their origin. To contest the right of an author to make a romantic
or a realistic work is to wish to force him to modify his temperament,
refuse to recognize his originality, and not permit him to employ the
eye and the intellect which nature has given him. Let us allow him the
liberty to understand, to observe, and to conceive in whatever way he
wishes, provided that he be an artist."

Surely this is the only sane view of the situation. Therefore, when
Mr. W. D. Howells, in his dexterous little book on "Criticism and
Fiction," pleads engagingly for realism as the only valid method for
the modern novelist, and when Stevenson, in many an alluring essay,
blows blasts upon the trumpet of romance, and challenges the realists
to show excuse for their existence, each is fighting an unnecessary
battle, since each is at the same time right and wrong. Each is right
in asserting the value of his own method, and wrong in denying the
value of the other's. The minds of men have always moved in two
directions, and always will; and as long as men shall write, we shall
have, and ought to have, both inductive and deductive fiction.

Neither of the two methods is truer than the other; and both are great
when they are well employed. Each, however, lends itself to certain
abuses which it will be well for us to notice briefly. The realist,
on the one hand, in his careful imitation of actual life, may grow
near-sighted and come to value facts for their own sake, forgetting
that his primary purpose in setting them forth should be to lead us
to understand the truths which underlie them. More and more, as the
realist advances in technic and gains in ability to represent the
actual, he is tempted to make photographs of life instead of pictures.
A picture differs from a photograph mainly in its artistic repression
of the unsignificant; it exhibits life more truly because it focuses
attention on essentials. But any novel that dwells sedulously upon
non-essentials and exalts the unsignificant obscures the truth. This
is the fallacy of the photographic method; and from this fallacy arise
the tedious minuteness of George Eliot in her more pedestrian moments,
the interminable tea-cups of Anthony Trollope, and the mire of the
imitators of Zola. Realism latterly, especially in France, has shown
a tendency to degenerate into so-called "naturalism," a method of art
which casts the unnatural emphasis of photographic reproduction upon
phases of actual life which are base in themselves and unsignificant
of the eternal instinct which leads men more naturally to look upward
at the stars than downward at the mud. The "naturalistic" writers
are deceived in thinking that they represent life as it really is.
If their thesis were true, the human race would have dwindled to
extinction long ago. Surely a photograph of a slattern in the gutter
is no more natural than a picture of Rosalind in the Forest of Arden;
and no accuracy of imitated actuality can make it more significant of

The romantic, on the other hand, because he works with greater freedom
than the realist, may overleap himself and express in a loose fashion
general conceptions which are hasty and devoid of truth. To this
defect is owing the vast deal of rubbish which has been foisted on us
recently by feeble imitators of Scott and Dumas père,--imitators who
have assumed the trappings and the suits of the accredited masters of
romance, but have not inherited their clarity of vision into the
inner truth of things that are. To such degenerate romance, Professor
Brander Matthews has applied the term "romanticism"; and though his
use of the term itself may be considered a little too special for
general currency, no exception can be taken to the distinction which
he enforces in the following paragraph. "The Romantic calls up the
idea of something primary, spontaneous, and perhaps medieval, while
the Romanticist suggests something secondary, conscious, and of recent
fabrication. Romance, like many another thing of beauty, is very
rare; but Romanticism is common enough nowadays. The truly Romantic is
difficult to achieve; but the artificial Romanticist is so easy as
to be scarce worth the attempting. The Romantic is ever young, ever
fresh, ever delightful; but the Romanticist is stale and second-hand
and unendurable. Romance is never in danger of growing old, for it
deals with the spirit of man without regard to times and seasons; but
Romanticism gets out of date with every twist of the kaleidoscope of
literary fashion. The Romantic is eternally and essentially true,
but the Romanticist is inevitably false. Romance is sterling, but
Romanticism is shoddy."

But the Scylla and the Charybdis of fiction-writing may both be
avoided. The realists gain nothing by hooting at the abuses of
romance; and the romantics gain as little by yawning over realism at
its worst. "The conditions"--to use a phrase of Emerson's--"are hard
but equal": and at their best, the realist, working inductively, and
the romantic, working deductively, are equally able to present the
truth of fiction.



We have now considered the subject-matter of fiction and also
the contrasted attitudes of mind of the two great schools of
fiction-writers toward setting forth that subject-matter. We must
next turn our attention to the technical methods of presenting the
materials of fiction, and notice in detail the most important devices
employed by all fiction-writers in order to fulfil the purpose of
their art.

Rhetoricians, as everybody knows, arbitrarily but conveniently
distinguish four forms, or moods, or methods, of discourse: namely,
narration, description, exposition, and argumentation. It may be
stated without fear of well-founded contradiction that the natural
mood, or method, of fiction is the first of these,--narration.
Argumentation, for its own sake, has no place in a work of fiction.
There is, to be sure, a type of novel, which is generally called in
English "the novel with a purpose," the aim of which is to persuade
the reader to accept some special thesis that the author holds
concerning politics, religion, social ethics, or some other of the
phases of life that are readily open to discussion. But such a novel
usually fails of its purpose if it attempts to accomplish it by
employing the technical devices of argument. It can best fulfil its
purpose by exhibiting indisputable truths of life, without persuasive
comment, _ex cathedra_, on the part of the novelist. In vain he
argues, denounces, or defends, appeals to us or coaxes us, unless his
story in the first place convinces by its very truthfulness. If his
thesis be as incontestable as the author thinks it is, it can prove
itself by narrative alone.

Exposition, for its own sake, is also out of place in fiction. The
aim of exposition is to explain,--an aim necessarily abstract; but
the purpose of fiction is to represent life,--a purpose necessarily
concrete. To discourse of life in abstract terms is to subvert the
natural mood of art; and the novelist may make his meaning just as
clear by representing life concretely, without a running commentary of
analysis and explanation. Life truly represented will explain itself.
There are, to be sure, a number of great novelists, of whom George
Eliot may be taken as the type, who frequently halt their story
to write an essay about it. These essays are often instructive in
themselves, but they are not fiction, because they do not embody their
truths in imagined facts of human life. George Eliot is at one moment
properly a novelist, and at the next moment a discursive expositor.
She would be still greater as a novelist, and a novelist merely, if
she could make her meaning clear without digressing to another art.

Description also, in the most artistic fiction, is used only
as subsidiary and contributive to narration. The aim of
description--which is to suggest the look of things at a certain
characteristic moment--is an aim necessarily static. But life--which
the novelist purposes to represent--is not static but dynamic. The aim
of description is pictorial: but life does not hold its pictures;
it melts and merges them one into another with headlong hurrying
progression. A novelist who devotes two successive pages to the
description of a landscape or a person, necessarily makes his story
stand still while he is doing it, and thereby belies an obvious law
of life. Therefore, as writers of fiction have progressed in art, they
have more and more eliminated description for its own sake.

Since, then, the natural mood, or method, of fiction is narration,
it is necessary that we should devote especial study to the nature
of narrative. And in a study frankly technical we may be aided at the
outset by a definition, which may subsequently be explained in all its

A narrative is a representation of a series of events. This is a
very simple definition; and only two words of it can possibly demand
elucidation. These words are _series_ and _event_. The word _event_
will be explained fully in a later section of this chapter: meanwhile
it may be understood loosely as synonymous with _happening_. Let us
first examine the exact meaning of the word _series_.

The word _series_ implies much more than the word _succession_: it
implies a relation not merely chronological but also logical; and
the logical relation it implies is that of cause and effect. In any
section of actual life which we examine, the events are likely to
appear merely in succession and not in series. One event follows
another immediately in time, but does not seem linked to it
immediately by the law of causation. What you do this morning does not
often necessitate as a logical consequence what you do this afternoon;
and what you do this evening is not often a logical result of what you
have done during the day. Any transcript from actual life that is not
deliberately arranged and logically patterned is therefore likely not
to be a narrative. A passage from a diary, for instance, which states
events in the order of their happening but makes no attempt to present
them as links in a chain of causation, is not, technically speaking,
narrative in method. To illustrate this point, let us open at random
the diary of Samuel Pepys. Here is his entry for April 29, 1666:--

"To Church, where Mr. Mills, a lazy sermon upon the Devil's having no
right to anything in this world. To Mr. Evelyn's, where I walked
in his garden till he come from Church, with great pleasure reading
Ridley's discourse, all my way going and coming, upon the Civil and
Ecclesiastical Law. He being come home, he and I walked together in
the garden with mighty pleasure, he being a very ingenious man; and,
the more I know him, the more I love him. Weary to bed, after having
my hair of my head cut shorter, even close to my skull, for coolness,
it being mighty hot weather."

There is no logical continuity in the worthy diarist's faithful
chronicle of actuality. What occasioned the weariness with which he
went to bed? It could not have been the company of Mr. Evelyn, whom
he loved; it could hardly have been the volume on the civil and
ecclesiastical law, though its title does suggest the soporific. Was
his strength, like Samson's, shorn away with the hair of his head;
or can it be that that lazy sermon of Mr. Mills' got in its deadening
effects at bed-time? We notice, at any rate, that the diarist's
remarks need considerable re-arrangement to make them really

Yet it is just in this way that commonly event succeeds event in the
daily life of every one. It is only in the great passionate crises of
existence that event treads upon event in uninterrupted sequence of
causation. And here is the main formal difference between life as
it actually happens and life as it is artistically represented in
history, biography, and fiction. In every art there are two steps:
first, the selection of essentials, and secondly, the arrangement
of these essentials according to a pattern. In the art of narration,
events are first selected because they suggest an essential logical
relation to each other; and they are then arranged along the lines of
a pattern of causation. Let us compare with the haphazard passage from
Pepys a bit of narrative that is artistically patterned. Here is the
conclusion to Stevenson's story of "Markheim." The hero, having slain
a dealer in his shop on Christmas day, spends a long time alone,
ransacking the dealer's effects and listening to the voice of
conscience. He is interrupted by a ringing of the door-bell. The
dealer's maid has returned from holidaying.--

"He opened the door and went downstairs very slowly, thinking to
himself. His past went soberly before him; he beheld it as it was,
ugly and strenuous like a dream, random as a chance-medley--a scene
of defeat. Life, as he thus reviewed it, tempted him no longer; but on
the further side he perceived a quiet haven for his bark. He paused in
the passage, and looked into the shop, where the candle still burned
by the dead body. It was strangely silent. Thoughts of the dealer
swarmed into his mind as he stood gazing. And then the bell once more
broke out into impatient clamor.

"He confronted the maid upon the threshold with something like a

"'You had better go for the police,' said he: 'I have killed your

The last sentence of this passage is an effect which is logically
led up to by many causes that are rapidly reviewed in the preceding
sentences. Stevenson has here patterned a passage of life along lines
of causation; he has employed the logical method of narration: but
Pepys, in the selection quoted, looked upon events with no narrative
sense whatever.

The narrative sense is, primarily, an ability to trace an event back
to its logical causes and to look forward to its logical effects.
It is the sense through which we realize, for instance, that what
happened at two o'clock to-day, although it may not have resulted
necessarily from what happened an hour before, was the logical outcome
of something else that happened at noon on the preceding Thursday, let
us say, and that this in turn was the result of causes stretching back
through many months. A well-developed narrative sense in looking on at
life is very rare. Every one, of course, is able to refer the headache
of the morning after to the hilarity of the night before; and even,
after some experience, to foresee the headache at the time of the
hilarity: but life, to the casual eye of the average man, hides in
the main the secrets of its series, and betrays only an illogical
succession of events. Minds cruder than the average see only a jumble
of happenings in the life they look upon, and group them, if at all,
by propinquity in time, rather than by any deeper law of relation.
Such a mind had Dame Quickly, the loquacious Hostess in Shakespeare's
"Henry IV." Consider the famous speech in which she accuses Falstaff
of breach of promise to marry her:--

"Thou didst swear to me upon a parcel-gilt goblet, sitting in
my Dolphin-chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire, upon
Wednesday in Wheeson week, when the prince broke thy head for liking
his father to a singing-man of Windsor, thou didst swear to me then,
as I was washing thy wound, to marry me and make me my lady thy wife.
Canst thou deny it? Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher's wife, come
in then and call me gossip Quickly? coming in to borrow a mess of
vinegar; telling us she had a good dish of prawns; whereby thou didst
desire to eat some; whereby I told thee they were ill for a green
wound? And didst thou not, when she was gone down stairs, desire me to
be no more so familiarity with such poor people; saying that ere long
they should call me madam? And didst thou not kiss me and bid me fetch
thee thirty shillings? I put thee now to thy book-oath: deny it, if
thou canst."

There are, of course, many deficiencies in Dame Quickly's mental
make-up; but the one for us to notice here is her utter lack of the
narrative sense. She would never be able to tell a story: because, in
the first place, she could not select from a muddle of events those
which bore an intelligible relation to one another, and in the
second place, she could not arrange them logically instead of
chronologically. She has no sense of series. And although Dame
Quickly's mind is an exaggeration of the type it represents, the type,
in less exaggerated form, is very common; and everybody will agree
that the average man, who has never taken pains to train himself in
narrative, is not able in his ordinary conversation to tell with ease
a logically connected story.

The better sort of narrative sense is not merely an abstract
intellectual understanding of the relation of cause and effect
subsisting between events often disparate in time; it is, rather, a
concrete feeling of the relation. It is an intuitive feeling; and,
being such, it is possessed instinctively by certain minds. There are
people in the world who are natural born story-tellers; all of us
have met with them in actual life: and to this class belong the
story-telling giants, like Sir Walter Scott, Victor Hugo, Dumas père,
Stevenson, and Mr. Kipling. Narrative is natural to their minds. They
sense events in series; and a series once started in their imagination
propels itself with hurrying progression. Some novelists, like Wilkie
Collins, have nothing else to recommend them but this native sense of
narrative; but it is a gift that is not to be despised. Authors with
something important to say about life have need of it, in order that
the process of reading their fiction may be, in Stevenson's phrase,
"absorbing and voluptuous." In the great story-tellers, there is a
sort of self-enjoyment in the exercise of the sense of narrative;
and this, by sheer contagion, communicates enjoyment to the reader.
Perhaps it may be called (by analogy with the familiar phrase, "the
joy of living") the joy of telling tales. The joy of telling tales
which shines through "Treasure Island" is perhaps the main reason for
the continued popularity of the story. The author is having such a
good time in telling his tale that he gives us necessarily a good time
in reading it.

But many of the novelists who have had great things to say about human
life have been singularly deficient in this native sense of narrative.
George Eliot and Anthony Trollope, for example, almost never evidence
the joy of telling tales. George Eliot's natural habit of mind was
abstract rather than concrete; she was born an essayist. But, largely
through the influence of George Henry Lewes, she deliberately
decided that fiction was the most effective medium for expressing her
philosophy of life. Thereafter she strove earnestly to develop that
sense of narrative which, at the outset, was largely lacking in
her mind. To many readers who are not without appreciation of the
importance and profundity of her understanding of human nature, her
stories are wearisome and unalluring, because she told them with
labor, not with ease. She does not seem to have had a good time with
them, as Stevenson had with "Treasure Island," a story in other ways
of comparative unimportance. And surely it is not frivolous to state
that the most profound and serious of thoughts are communicated best
when they are communicated with the greatest interest.

It could hardly be hoped that a person entirely devoid of the
narrative sense should acquire it by any amount of labor; but nearly
every one possesses it in at least a rudimentary degree, and any
one possessing it at all may develop it by exercise. A simple and
common-sensible exercise is to seize hold of some event that happens
in our daily lives, and then think back over all the antecedent events
we can remember, until we discern which ones among them stand in a
causal relation to the event we are considering. Next, if will be well
to look forward and imagine the sort of events which will logically
carry on the series. The great generals of history have won their most
signal victories by an exercise of the narrative sense. Holding at the
moment of planning a campaign the past and present terms of a logical
series of events, they have imagined forward and foreseen the probable
progression of the series. This may perhaps explain why the great
commanders, like Cæsar and Grant, have written such able narrative
when they have turned to literature.

The young author who is trying to develop his narrative sense may find
unending exercise in the endeavor to ferret out the various series of
events which lie entangled in the confused and apparently unrelated
successions of incidents which pass before his observation. When he
sees something happen in the street, he will not be satisfied, like
the casual looker-on, merely with that solitary happening; he will try
to find out what other happenings led up to it, and again what other
happenings must logically follow from it. When he sees an interesting
person in a street-car, he will wonder where that person has come from
and whither he is going, what he has just done and what he is about
to do; he will look before and after, and pine for what is not. This
exercise is in itself interesting; and if the result of it be written
down, the young author will gain experience in expression at the same
time that he is developing his sense of narrative.

It remains for us now to consider philosophically the significance of
the word _event_. Every event has three elements: the thing that is
done, the agents that do it, and the circumstances of time and place
under which it is done; or, to say the matter in three words,--action,
actors, and setting. Only when all three elements conspire can
something happen. Life suggests to the mind of a contemplative
observer many possible events which remain unrealized because only one
or two of the necessary three elements are present,--events that are
waiting, like unborn children on the other side of Lethe, until the
necessary conditions shall call them into being. We observe a man who
could do a great thing of a certain sort if only that sort of thing
were demanded to be done at the time and in the place in which he
loiters wasted. We grow aware of a great thing longing to be done,
when there is no one present who is capable of doing it. We behold
conditions of place and time entirely fitted for a certain sort of
happening; but nothing happens, because the necessary people are away.
"Never the time and the place and the loved one all together!" sang
Robert Browning; and then he dreamed upon an event which was waiting
to be born,--waiting for the imagined meeting and marriage of its

It is the function of the master of creative narrative to call events
into being. He does this by assembling and marrying the elements
without which events cannot occur. Granted the conception of a
character who is capable of doing certain things, he finds things of
that sort for the character to do; granted a sense of certain things
longing to be done, he finds people who will do them; or granted the
time and the place that seem expectant of a certain sort of happening,
he finds the agents proper to the setting. There is a conversation
of Stevenson's, covering this point, which has been often quoted. His
biographer, Mr. Graham Balfour, tells us: "Either on that day or about
that time I remember very distinctly his saying to me: 'There are, so
far as I know, three ways, and three ways only, of writing a story.
You may take a plot and fit characters to it, or you may take a
character and choose incidents and situations to develop it, or
lastly--you must bear with me while I try to make this clear'--(here
he made a gesture with his hand as if he were trying to shape
something and give it outline and form)--'you may take a certain
atmosphere and get action and persons to express it and realize it.
I'll give you an example--"The Merry Men." There I began with the
feeling of one of those islands on the west coast of Scotland, and I
gradually developed the story to express the sentiment with which the
coast affected me.'"

In other words, starting with any one of the three elements--action,
actors, or setting--the writer of narrative may create events by
imagining the other two. Comparatively speaking, there have been very
few stories, like "The Merry Men," in which the author has started
out from a sense of setting; and nearly all of them have been written
recently. The feeling for setting as the initial element in narrative
hardly dates back further than the nineteenth century. We may
therefore best consider it in a later and more special chapter, and
devote our attention for the present to the two methods of creating
narrative that have been most often used--that in which the author has
started with the element of action, and that in which he has started
with the element of character.

Very few of the great masters of narrative have, like Honoré de
Balzac, employed both one and the other method with equal success:
nearly all of them have shown an habitual mental predilection for the
one or for the other. The elder Dumas, for example, habitually devised
a scheme of action and then selected characters to fit into his plot;
and Mr. George Meredith has habitually created characters and then
devised the elements of action necessary to exhibit and develop them.
Readers, like the novelists themselves, usually feel a predilection
for one method rather than the other; but surely each method is
natural and reasonable, and it would be unjudicious for the critic to
exalt either of them at the expense of the other. There is plenty of
material in life to allure a mind of either habit. Certain things
that are done are in themselves so interesting that it matters
comparatively little who is doing them; and certain characters are in
themselves so interesting that it matters comparatively little what
they do. To conceive a potent train of action and thereby foreordain
the nature of such characters as will accomplish it, or to conceive
characters pregnant with potentiality for certain sorts of deeds and
thereby foreordain a train of action,--either is a legitimate method
for planning out a narrative. That method is best for any author which
is most natural for him; he will succeed best working in his own way;
and that critic is not catholic who states that either the narrative
of action or the narrative of character is a better type of work than
the other. The truth of human life may be told equally well by those
who sense primarily its element of action and by those who sense
primarily its element of character; for both elements must finally
appear commingled in any story that is real.

The critic may, however, make a philosophical distinction between the
two methods, in order to lead to a better understanding of them both.
The writers who sense life primarily as action may be said to work
from the outside in; and those who sense it primarily as character
may be said to work from the inside out. The first method requires the
more objective, and the second the more subjective, consciousness
of life. Of the two, the objective consciousness of life is (at its
weakest) more elementary and (at its strongest) more elemental than
the subjective.

Stevenson, in his "Gossip on Romance," has eloquently voiced the
potency of an objective sense of action as the initial factor in the
development of a narrative. He is speaking of the spell cast over him
by certain books he read in boyhood. "For my part," he says, "I liked
a story to begin with an old wayside inn where, 'towards the close of
the year 17--,' several gentlemen in three-cocked hats were playing
bowls. A friend of mine preferred the Malabar coast in a storm, with
a ship beating to windward, and a scowling fellow of Herculean
proportions striding along the beach; he, to be sure, was a pirate.
This was further afield than my home-keeping fancy loved to travel,
and designed altogether for a larger canvas than the tales that I
affected. Give me a highwayman and I was full to the brim; a Jacobite
would do, but the highwayman was my favorite dish. I can still hear
that merry clatter of the hoofs along the moonlit lane; night and the
coming of day are still related in my mind with the doings of John
Rann or Jerry Abershaw; and the words 'post-chaise,' the 'great north
road,' 'ostler,' and 'nag' still sound in my ears like poetry. One and
all, at least, and each with his particular fancy, we read story-books
in childhood, not for eloquence or character or thought, but for some
quality of the brute incident."--For the writer who works from the
outside in, it is entirely possible to develop from "some quality of
the brute incident" a narrative that shall be not only stirring in
its propulsion of events but also profound in its significance of
elemental truth.

The method of working from the inside out--of using a subjective
sense of character as the initial factor in the development of a
narrative--is wonderfully exemplified in the work of Ivan Turgénieff;
and the method is very clearly explained in Mr. Henry James' intimate
essay on the great Russian master. Mr. James remarks: "The germ of a
story, with him, was never an affair of plot--that was the last thing
he thought of: it was the representation of certain persons. The
first form in which a tale appeared to him was as the figure of an
individual, or a combination of individuals, whom he wished to see in
action, being sure that such people must do something very special and
interesting. They stood before him definite, vivid, and he wished
to know, and to show, as much as possible of their nature. The first
thing was to make clear to himself what he did know, to begin with;
and to this end he wrote out a sort of biography of each of his
characters, and everything that they had done and that had happened
to them up to the opening of the story. He had their _dossier_, as
the French say, and as the police has of that of every conspicuous
criminal. With this material in his hand he was able to proceed; the
story all lay in the question, What shall I make them do? He always
made them do things that showed them completely; but, as he said, the
defect of his manner and the reproach that was made him was his want
of 'architecture'--in other words, of composition. The great thing,
of course, is to have architecture as well as precious material, as
Walter Scott had them, as Balzac had them. If one reads Turgénieff's
stories with the knowledge that they were composed--or rather that
they came into being--in this way, one can trace the process in
every line. Story, in the conventional sense of the word--a fable
constructed, like Wordsworth's phantom, 'to startle and waylay'--there
is as little as possible. The thing consists of the motions of a group
of selected creatures, which are not the result of a preconceived
action, but a consequence of the qualities of the actors."--And yet,
for the writer who, like Turgénieff, works from the inside out, it
is entirely possible to develop from "the qualities of the actors" a
train of action that shall be as stirring as it is significant.

The main principle of narrative to bear in mind is that action alone,
or character alone, is not its proper subject-matter. The purpose of
narrative is to represent events; and an event occurs only when both
character and action, with contributory setting, are assembled and
commingled. Indeed, in the greatest and most significant events, it
is impossible to decide whether the actor or the action has the upper
hand; it is impossible, in regarding such events, for the imagination
to conceive what is done and who is doing it as elements divorced.
A novelist who has started out with either element and has afterward
evoked the other may arrive by imagination at this final complete
sense of an event. The best narratives of action and of character are
indistinguishable, one from another, in their ultimate result: they
differ only in their origin: and the author who aspires to a mastery
of narrative should remember that, in narrative at its best, character
and action and even setting are one and inseparable.

For the conveniences of study, however, it is well to examine the
elements of narrative one by one; and we shall therefore devote
three separate chapters to a technical consideration of plot, and
characters, and setting.



Robert Louis Stevenson, in his spirited essay entitled "A Humble
Remonstrance," has given very valuable advice to the writer of
narrative. In concluding his remarks he says, "And as the root of the
whole matter, let him bear in mind that his novel is not a transcript
of life, to be judged by its exactitude; but a simplification of some
side or point of life, to stand or fall by its significant simplicity.
For although, in great men, working upon great motives, what
we observe and admire is often their complexity, yet underneath
appearances the truth remains unchanged: that simplification was their
method, and that simplicity is their excellence." Indeed, as we have
already noted in passing, simplification is the method of every art.
Every artist, in his own way, simplifies life: first by selecting
essentials from the helter-skelter of details that life presents
to him, and then by arranging these essentials in accordance with
a pattern. And we have noted also that the method of the artist in
narrative is to select events which bear an essential logical relation
to each other and then to arrange them along the lines of a pattern of

Of course the prime structural necessity in narrative, as indeed in
every method of discourse, is unity. Unity in any work of art can be
attained only by a definite decision of the artist as to what he is
trying to accomplish, and by a rigorous focus of attention on his
purpose to accomplish it,--a focus of attention so rigorous as
to exclude consideration of any matter which does not contribute,
directly or indirectly, to the furtherance of his aim. The purpose of
the artist in narrative is to represent a series of events--wherein
each event stands in a causal relation, direct or indirect, to its
logical predecessor and its logical successor in the series. Obviously
the only way to attain unity of narrative is to exclude consideration
of any event which does not, directly or indirectly, contribute to
the progress of the series. For this reason, Stevenson states in his
advice to the young writer, from which we have already quoted: "Let
him choose a motive, whether of character or passion: carefully
construct his plot so that every incident is an illustration of the
motive, and every property employed shall bear to it a near relation
of congruity or contrast; ... and allow neither himself in the
narrative, nor any character in the course of the dialogue, to utter
one sentence that is not part and parcel of the business of the story
or the discussion of the problem involved. Let him not regret if this
shortens his book; it will be better so; for to add irrelevant matter
is not to lengthen but to bury. Let him not mind if he miss a thousand
qualities, so that he keeps unflaggingly in pursuit of the one he has
chosen." And earlier in the same essay, he says of the novel: "For
the welter of impressions, all forcible but all discreet, which life
presents, it substitutes a certain artificial series of impressions,
all indeed most feebly represented, but all aiming at the same effect,
all eloquent of the same idea, all chiming together like consonant
notes in music or like the graduated tints in a good picture. From
all its chapters, from all its pages, from all its sentences,
the well-written novel echoes and re-echoes its one creative and
controlling thought; to this must every incident and character
contribute; the style must have been pitched in unison with this; and
if there is anywhere a word that looks another way, the book would be
stronger, clearer, and (I had almost said) fuller without it."

The only way in which the writer of narrative may attain the unity
that Stevenson has so eloquently pleaded for is to decide upon a
definite objective point, to bear in mind constantly the culmination
of his series of events, and to value the successive details of his
material only in so far as they contribute, directly or indirectly, to
the progress of the series toward that culmination. To say the thing
more simply, he must see the end of his story from the beginning and
must give the reader always a sense of rigorous movement toward that
end. His narrative, as a matter of construction, must be finished,
before, as a matter of writing, it is begun. He must know as
definitely as possible all that is to happen and all that is not to
happen in his story before he ventures to represent in words the very
first of his events. He must not, as some beginners try to do,
attempt to make his story up as he goes along; for unless he holds the
culmination of his series constantly in mind, he will not be able to
decide whether any event that suggests itself during the progress of
his composition does or does not form a logical factor in the series.

The preliminary process of construction may be accomplished in either
of two ways. Authors with synthetic minds will more naturally reason
from causes to effects; and authors with analytic minds will more
naturally reason from effects to causes. The former will construct
forward through time, the latter backward. Standing at the outset of a
narrative, it is possible to imagine forward along a series of
events until the logical culmination is divined; or standing at the
culmination, it is possible to imagine backward along the series
to its far-away beginnings. Thackeray apparently constructed in the
former manner; Guy de Maupassant apparently constructed in the
latter. The latter method--the method of building backward from the
culmination--is perhaps more efficacious toward the conservation of
the strictest unity. It seems on the whole a little easier to exclude
the extraneous in thinking from effects to causes than in thinking
from causes to effects, because analysis is a stricter and more
focused mood of mind than synthesis.

But in whichever way the process of construction be accomplished, the
best stories are always built before they are written; and that is
the reason why, in reading them, we feel at every point that we are
getting somewhere, and that the author is leading us step by step
toward a definite culmination. Although, as is usually the case, we
cannot, even midway through the story, foresee what the culmination is
to be, we feel a certain reassurance in the knowledge that the author
has foreseen it from the start. This feeling is one of the main
sources of interest in reading narrative. In looking on at life
itself, we are baffled by a muddle of events leading everywhither;
their succession is chaotic and lacking in design; they are not
marshaled and processional; and we have an uncomfortable feeling
that no mind but that of God can foresee their veiled and hidden
culminations. But in reading a narrative arrangement of life, we have
a comfortable sense of order, which comes of our knowledge that the
author knows beforehand whither the events are tending and can make us
understand the sequence of causation through which they are moving
to their ultimate result. He makes life more interesting by making
it more intelligible; and he does this mainly by his power of

The simplest of all structures for a narrative is a straightway
arrangement of events along a single strand of causation. In such
a narrative, the first event is the direct cause of the second,
the second of the third, the third of the fourth, and so on to the
culmination of the series. This very simple structure is exhibited in
many of the tales which have come down to us from early centuries.
It is frequently employed in the "Gesta Romanorum," and scarcely less
frequently in the "Decameron" of Boccaccio. It has the advantage of
being completely logical and entirely direct. But we feel, in reading
stories so constructed, that the method of simplification has been
carried too far, and that simplicity has therefore ceased to be an
excellence. Such a story is in this way misrepresentative of life:--it
fails utterly to suggest "the welter of impressions which life
presents," the sudden kaleidoscopic shifts of actual life from one
series of events to another, and the consequent intricacy and
apparent chaos of life's successive happenings. The structure is too
straightforward, too direct, too unwavering and unhesitant.

The simplest way to introduce the element of hesitance and wavering,
and thereby make the story more truly suggestive of the intricate
variety of life, is to interrupt the series by the introduction of
events whose apparent tendency is to hinder its progress, and in this
way emphasize the ultimate triumph of the series in attaining its
predestined culmination. Such events are not extraneous; because,
although they tend directly to dispute the progress of the series,
they tend also indirectly to further it through their failure to
arrest it. The events in any skilfully selected narrative may,
therefore, be divided into two classes: events direct or positive, and
events indirect or negative. By a direct, or positive, event is meant
one whose immediate tendency is to aid the progress of the series
toward its predetermined objective point; and by an indirect, or
negative, event is meant one whose immediate tendency is to thwart
this predetermined outcome. It would be an easy matter, for example,
in examining "Pilgrim's Progress," to class as positive those events
which directly further the advance of Christian toward the Celestial
City, and to class as negative those events whose immediate tendency
is to turn him aside from the straight and narrow path. And yet both
classes of events, positive and negative, make up really only a single
series; because the negative events are conquered one by one by the
preponderant power of the positive events, and contribute therefore
indirectly, through their failure, to the ultimate attainment of the

When a straightway arrangement of positive events along a single
strand of causation is varied and emphasized in this way by the
admission of negative events, whose tendency is to thwart the progress
of the series, the structure may be made very suggestive of that
conflict of forces which we feel to be ever present in actual life.
This structure is exhibited, for example, in Hawthorne's little tale
of "David Swan." The point of the story is that nothing happens to
David; the interest of the story lies in the events that almost happen
to him. The young man falls asleep at noon-time under the shade of
a clump of maples which cluster around a spring beside the highroad.
Three people, or sets of people, observe him in his sleep. The first
would confer upon him Wealth, the second Love, the third Death, if he
should waken at the moment. But David Swan sleeps deeply; the people
pass on; and all that almost happened to him subsides forever to the
region of the might-have-been.

A simple series of this sort, wherein the events proceed, now
directly, now indirectly, along a single logical line, may be
succeeded by another simple series of the same sort, which in turn
may be succeeded by a third, and so on indefinitely. In this way is
constructed the type of story known as picaresque, because in Spain,
where the type was first developed, the hero was usually a _picaro_,
or rogue. The narrative expedient in such stories is merely to select
a hero capable of adventure, to fling him loose into the roaring and
tremendous world, and to let things happen to him one after another.
The most widely known example of the type is not a Spanish story, but
a French,--the "Gil Blas" of Alain René Le Sage. As soon as Gil Blas
arrives at the culmination of one series of adventures, the author
starts him on another. Each series is complete in itself and distinct
from all the rest; and the structure of the whole book may be likened,
in a homely figure, to a string of sausages. The relation between the
different sections of the story is not organic; they are merely tied
together by the continuance of the same central character from one to
another. Any one of the sections might be discarded without detriment
to the others; and the order of them might be rearranged. Plays, as
well as novels, have been constructed in this inorganic way,--for
example, Molière's "L'Etourdi" and "Les Facheux." If the actors, in
performing either of these plays, should omit one or two units of the
sausage-string of incidents, the audience would not become aware of
any gap in structure. Yet a story built in this straightforward and
successive way may give a vast impression of the shifting maze of
life. Mr. Kipling's "Kim," which is picaresque in structure, shows us
nearly every aspect of the labyrinthine life of India. He selects a
healthy and normal, but not a clever, boy, and allows all India to
happen to him. The book is without beginning and without end; but
its very lack of neatness and compactness of plan contributes to the
general impression it gives of India's immensity.

But a simple series of events arranged along a single strand of
causation, or a succession of several series of this kind strung
along one after the other, may not properly be called a plot. The
word _plot_ signifies a weaving together; and a weaving together
presupposes the co-existence of more than one strand. The simplest
form of plot, properly so called, is a weaving together of two
distinct series of events; and the simplest way of weaving them
together is by so devising them that, though they may be widely
separate at their beginnings, they progress, each in its own way,
toward a common culmination,--a single momentous event which stands
therefore at the apex of each series. This event is the knot which
ties together the two strands of causation. Thus, in "Silas Marner,"
the culminating event, which is the redemption of Marner from a
misanthropic aloofness from life, through the influence of Eppie, a
child in need of love, is led up to by two distinct series of events,
of which it forms the knot. The one series, which concerns itself with
Marner, may be traced back to the unmerited wrong which he suffered in
his youth; and the other series, which concerns itself with Eppie, may
be traced back to the clandestine marriage of Eppie's father, Godfrey
Cass. The initial event of one series has no immediate logical
relation to the initial event of the other; but each series, as it
progresses, approaches nearer and nearer to the other, until they meet
and blend.

A type of plot more elaborate than this may be devised by leading up
to the culmination along three or more distinct lines of causation,
instead of merely two. In the "Tale of Two Cities," Sydney Carton's
voluntary death upon the scaffold stands at the apex of several series
of events. And a plot may be still further complicated by tying the
strands together at other points beside the culmination. In "The
Merchant of Venice," the two chief series of events are firmly knotted
in the trial scene, when Shylock is circumvented by Portia; but they
are also tied together, though less firmly, at the very outset of
the play, when Antonio borrows from Shylock the money which makes it
possible for Bassanio to woo and win the Lady of Belmont. Furthermore,
any event in one of the main strands of causation may stand at the
culmination of a minor strand, and thus may form a little knot in the
general network of the plot. In the same play, the minor strand of the
elopement of Lorenzo and Jessica attains its culmination in a scene
which stands only midway along the progress of the two main strands,
that of the bond and that of the caskets, toward their common result
in the defeat of Shylock.

But however intricately woven a plot may be, and however many minor
knots may tie together the various strands which enter into it, there
is almost always one point of greatest complication, one big knot
which ties together all the strands at once, and stands as the common
culmination of all the series, major and minor. The story concerns
itself chiefly with telling the reader how the major knot came to be
tied; but in a plot of any complexity, the reader naturally desires
to be told how the knot became untied again. Therefore this point
of greatest complication, this culmination of all the strands of
causation which are woven in the plot, this objective point of the
entire narrative, is seldom set at the very end of a story, but
usually at a point about three quarters of the way from the beginning
to the end. The first three quarters of the story, speaking roughly,
exhibit the antecedent causes of the major knot; and the last quarter
of the story exhibits its subsequent effects. A plot, therefore, in
its general aspects, may be figured as a complication followed by an
explication, a tying followed by an untying, or (to say the same
thing in French words which are perhaps more connotative) a _nouement_
followed by a _dénouement_. The events in the _dénouement_ bear
a closer logical relation to each other than the events in the
_nouement_, because all of them have a common cause in the major knot,
whereas the major knot is the ultimate effect of several distinct
series of causes which were quite separate one from another at the
time when the _nouement_ was begun. For this reason the _dénouement_
shows usually a more hurried movement than the _nouement_,--one event
treading on another's heels.

Undoubtedly it was this threefold aspect of a plot--1. The
Complication; 2. The Major Knot; 3. The Explication--which Aristotle
had in mind when he stated that every story must have a beginning,
a middle, and an end. These words were not intended to connote a
quantitative equality. What Aristotle called the "middle" may, in a
modern novel, be stated in a single page, and is much more likely to
stand near the close of the book than at the center. But everything
that comes after it, in what Aristotle called the "end," should be an
effect of which it is the cause; and everything that comes before
it, in what Aristotle called the "beginning," should be, directly
or indirectly, a cause of which it is the effect. Only under these
conditions will the plot be, as Aristotle said it should be, an
organic whole. Only in this way can it conform to the principle of
unity, which is the first principle of all artistic endeavor.

Bearing the principle of unity ever in his mind, Stevenson, in a
phrase omitted for the moment in one of the quotations from "A Humble
Remonstrance" set forth at the beginning of this chapter, advised
the fiction-writer to "avoid a sub-plot, unless, as sometimes in
Shakespeare, the sub-plot be a reversion or complement of the main
intrigue." It seems safe to state that a sub-plot is of use in a novel
only for the purpose of tying minor knots in the leading strands of
causation, and should be discarded unless it serves that purpose.
There is no reason, however, why a novel should not tell at once
several stories of equal importance, provided that these stories be
deftly interlinked, as in that masterpiece of plotting, "Our Mutual
Friend." In this novel, the chief expedient which Dickens has employed
to bind his different stories together is to make the same person
an actor in more than one of them, so that a particular event that
happens to him may be at the same time a factor in both one and the
other series of events. Through the skilful use of this expedient,
Dickens has contrived to give his novel unity of plot, in spite of
the diversity of its narrative elements. But on the other hand, in
"Middlemarch," George Eliot has told three stories instead of one. She
has failed to make her plot an organic whole by deftly interweaving
the three strands which she has spun. And therefore this monumental
novel, so great in other ways, is faulty in structure, because it
violates the principle of unity.

According to the extent of complication in the plot, novels may be
grouped into two classes,--the discursive and the compacted. Thackeray
wrote novels of the former type, Hawthorne of the latter. In "Vanity
Fair" there are over half a hundred characters; in "The Scarlet
Letter" there are three, or possibly four. The discursive novel gives
a more extensive, and the compacted novel a more intensive, view
of life. English authors for the most part have tended toward the
discursive type, and Continental authors toward the compacted. The
latter type demands a finer and a firmer art, the former a broader and
more catholic outlook on the world.

The distinction between the two types depends chiefly upon how much or
how little of his entire story the author chooses to tell. In actual
life, as was stated in a former chapter, there are no very ends; and
it may now be added that also there are no absolute beginnings.
Any event that happens is, in Whitman's words, "an acme of things
accomplished" and "an encloser of things to be"; and in thinking back
along its causes or forward along its effects, we may continue
the series until our thought loses itself in an eternity. In any
narrative, therefore, we are doomed to begin and end in mid-career;
and the question is merely how extended a section of the entire
imaginable and unimaginable series we shall choose to represent to the
reader. For instance, it would be a very simple matter to trace the
composition of Rossetti's "House of Life" back along a causal series
to the birth of a boy in Arezzo in 1304; for it is hardly likely that
Rossetti would have written a cycle of love sonnets if many other
poets, such as Shakespeare and Ronsard, had not done so before him;
and Shakespeare and Ronsard, as Mr. Sidney Lee has proved, were
literary legatees of Petrarch, the aforesaid native of Arezzo. And
yet, if we were to tell the story of how Rossetti's sonnets came to be
composed, it is doubtful if we should go further back in time than
the occasion when his friend Deverell introduced him to the beautiful
daughter of a Sheffield cutler who became the immediate inspiration of
his poetry of love.

Dickens, in many novels, of which "David Copperfield" may be taken as
an example, has chosen to tell the entire life-story of his hero from
birth up to maturity. But other novelists, like Mr. Meredith in "The
Egoist," have chosen to represent events that pass, for the most part,
in one place, and in an exceedingly short stretch of time. It is by
no means certain that Mr. Meredith does not know as much about the
boyhood and youth of Sir Willoughby Patterne as Dickens knew about
the early years of David Copperfield; but he has chosen to compact his
novel by presenting only a brief series of events which exhibit his
hero at maturity. Surely Turgénieff, after writing out that _dossier_
of each of his characters to which Mr. Henry James referred, must have
known a great many events in their lives which he chose to omit from
his finished novel. It is interesting to imagine the sort of plot that
George Eliot would have built out of the materials of "The Scarlet
Letter." Probably she would have begun the narrative in England at
the time when Hester was a young girl. She would have set forth the
meeting of Hester and Chillingworth and would have analyzed the causes
culminating in their marriage. Then she would have taken the couple
overseas to the colony of Massachusetts. Here Hester would have met
Arthur Dimmesdale; and George Eliot would have expended all her powers
as an analyist of life in tracing the sweet thoughts and imperious
desires that led the lovers to the dolorous pass. The fall of Hester
would have been the major knot in George Eliot's entire narrative. It
would have stood at the culmination of the _nouement_ of her plot: the
subsequent events would have been merely steps in the dénouement. Yet
the fall of Hester was already a thing of the past at the outset of
the story that Hawthorne chose to represent. He was interested only in
the after-effects of Hester's sin upon herself and her lover and her
husband. The major knot, or culmination, of his plot was therefore the
revelation of the scarlet letter,--a scene which would have been only
an incident in George Eliot's _dénouement_. It will be seen from
this that any story which is extended in its implications may offer a
novelist materials for any one of several plot-structures, according
to whichever section of the entire story happens most to interest his

It will be seen, also, that much of the entire story must, in any
case, remain unwritten. A plot is not only, as Stevenson stated, a
simplification of life; it is also a further simplification of the
train of events which, in simplifying life, the novelist has first
imagined. The entire story, with all its implications, is selected
from life; and the plot is then selected from the entire story. Often
a novelist may suggest as much through deliberately omitting from
his plot certain events in his imagined story as he could suggest
by representing them. Perhaps the most powerful character in Mr.
Meredith's "Evan Harrington" is the great Mel, whose death is
announced in the very first sentence of the novel. Hawthorne, in
"The Marble Faun," never clears away the mystery of Miriam's shadowy
pursuer, nor tells us what became of Hilda when she disappeared for a
time from the sight and knowledge of her friends.

After the novelist has selected from his entire story the materials he
means to represent, and has patterned these materials into a plot,
he enjoys considerable liberty in regard to the point at which he
may commence his narrative. He may begin at the beginning of one or
another of his main strands of causation, as Scott usually does; or
he may adopt the Homeric device, commended by Horace, of plunging into
the midst of his plot and working his way back only afterward to its
beginning. In the first chapter of "Pendennis," the hero is seventeen
years old; the second chapter narrates the marriage of his father and
mother, and his own birth and boyhood; and at the outset of the third
chapter he is only sixteen years of age.

It is obvious that, so long as the novelist represents his events in
logical sequence, it is not at all necessary that he should present
them in chronological succession. Stories may be told backward through
time as well as forward. Thackeray often begins a chapter with an
event that happened one day, and ends it with an event that happened
several days before; he works his way backward from effects to causes,
instead of forward from causes to effects. In carrying on a plot
which is woven out of several strands, it is hardly ever possible to
represent events in uninterrupted chronological succession, even when
the author consistently works forward from causes to effects; for
after he has pursued one strand of his plot to a certain point
in time, he is obliged to turn backward several days or weeks, or
possibly a longer period, to pick up another strand and carry
it forward to the same point in time at which he left the first.
Retrogression in time, therefore, is frequently not only permissible
but necessary. But it is only common-sensible to state that
chronological sequence should be sacrificed merely for the sake of
making clear the logical relation of events; and whenever juggling
with chronology tends to obscure instead of clarify that logical
relation, it is evidence of an error of judgment on the part of the
narrator. Turgénieff is often guilty of this error of judgment. He has
a disconcerting habit of bringing a new character into the scene which
stands for the moment before the eye of the reader, and then turning
the narrative backward several years in order to recount the past
life of the newcomer. Frequently, before this parenthetic recital is
completed, the reader has forgotten the scene from which the author
turned to the digression.

In most plots, as has been stated, the _nouement_ is more significant
than the _dénouement_, and the causes leading to the tying of the
major knot are more interesting than the effects traced during the
process of untying it. This is the reason why the culmination is
usually set well along toward the conclusion of the story. Sometimes
even, when the major knot has been tied with a Gordian intricacy, the
author sets it at the very end of his narrative, and suddenly cuts it
instead of carefully untying it. But there is no absolutely necessary
reason why it should stand at the end, or, as is more frequently the
case, at a point about three quarters through the story. It may even
be set at the very beginning; and the narrative may concern itself
entirely with an elaborate _dénouement_. This is the case, for
example, in the detective story, where a very intricate knot is
assumed at the outset, and the narrative proceeds to exhibit the
prowess of the detective-hero in untying it.

A well-constructed plot, like any other sort of well-articulated
pattern, is interesting in itself; and certain novels and
short-stories, like Wilkie Collins' "Moonstone" and Poe's "Murders in
the Rue Morgue," maintain their interest almost through the element of
plot alone. But since the purpose of fiction is to represent reality,
a story will fail of the highest effect unless the people acting in
its pattern of events produce upon the reader the illusion of living
human beings. We must therefore turn our attention next to a study of
the element of character.



Before we proceed to study the technical methods of delineating
characters, we must ask ourselves what constitutes a character worth
delineating. A novelist is, to speak figuratively, the social sponsor
for his own fictitious characters; and he is guilty of a social
indiscretion, as it were, if he asks his readers to meet fictitious
people whom it is neither of value nor of interest to know. Since he
aims to make his readers intimate with his characters, he must first
of all be careful that his characters are worth knowing intimately.
Most of us, in actual life, are accustomed to distinguish people who
are worth our while from people who are not; and those of us who live
advisedly are accustomed to shield ourselves from people who cannot,
by the mere fact of what they are, repay us for the expenditure
of time and energy we should have to make to get to know them. And
whenever a friend of ours asks us deliberately to meet another
friend of his, we take it for granted that our friend has reasons for
believing that the acquaintanceship will be of benefit or of interest
to both. Now the novelist stands in the position of a friend who asks
us to meet certain people whom he knows; and he runs the risk of
our losing faith in his judgment unless we find his people worth our
while. By the mere fact that we bother to read a novel, thus expending
time which might otherwise be passed in company with actual people, we
are going out of our way to meet the characters to whom the novelist
wishes to introduce us. He therefore owes us an assurance that they
shall be even more worth our while than the average actual person.
This is not to say that they should necessarily be better; they may,
of course, be worse: but they should be more clearly significant
of certain interesting elements of human nature, more thoroughly
representative of certain phases of human life which it is well for us
to learn and know.

In deciding on the sort of characters that will be worth his readers'
while, the novelist must of course be influenced by the nature of the
audience he is writing for. The characters of "Little Women" may be
worth the while of children; and it is not an adverse criticism of
Louisa M. Alcott to say that they are not worth the while of mature
men and women. Similarly, it is not an adverse criticism of certain
Continental novelists to say that their characters are decidedly unfit
companions for adolescent girls. Our judgment of the characters in a
novel should be conditioned always by our sense of the sort of readers
to whom the novel is addressed. Mr. Henry James, in his later years,
has written for the super-civilized; and his characters should
be judged by different standards than the pirates of "Treasure
Island,"--a story which was written for boys, both young and old. One
reader may be bored by pirates, another by super-subtle cosmopolitans;
and each reader has the privilege of avoiding the society of the
characters that weary him.

But the very greatest characters of fiction are worth everybody's
while; and surely the masters need have felt no hesitancy in asking
any one to meet Sancho Panza, Robinson Crusoe, Henry Esmond, Jean
Valjean, or Terence Mulvaney. In fact, the most amazing thing about a
great fictitious figure is the multitude of very different people
that the character is capable of interesting. Many times we willingly
absent ourselves from actual society to pass an evening in the company
of a fictitious personage of a class with which we never associate
in actual life. Perhaps in the actual world we would never bother to
converse with illiterate provincial people; and yet we may not feel it
a waste of time and energy to meet them in the pages of "Middlemarch."
For my own part, I have always, in actual life, avoided meeting the
sort of people that appear in Thackeray's "Vanity Fair"; and yet I
find it not only interesting but profitable to associate with them
through the entire extent of a rather lengthy novel. Why is it that a
reader, who, although he has crossed the ocean many times, has never
cared to enter the engine-room of a liner, is yet willing enough to
meet on intimate terms Mr. Kipling's engineer, Mac Andrew? And why
is it that ladies who, in actual society, are fastidious of their
acquaintanceship, should yet associate throughout a novel with the
Sapho of Daudet? What is the reason why these fictitious characters
should seem, for nearly every reader, more worth while than the very
same sort of people in actual life?

The reason is that great fictitious characters are typical of their
class, to an extent rarely to be noticed in any actual member of the
class they typify. They "contain multitudes," to borrow Whitman's
phrase. All idealistic visionaries are typified in Don Quixote, all
misers in Harpagon, all hypocrites in Tartufe, all egoists in Sir
Willoughby Patterne, all clever tricksy women in Becky Sharp, all
sentimentalists in Mr. Barrie's Tommy. But the average actual man is
not of sufficient magnitude to contain a multitude of others; he is
comparatively lacking in typical traits; he is not, to such a great
extent, illustrative of life, because only in a small measure is he
representative of his class. There are, of course, in actual life,
certain people of unusual magnitude who justify Emerson's title of
"Representative Men." Benjamin Franklin, for example, is such a man.
He is the only actual person entirely typical of eighteenth-century
America; and that is the main reason why, as an exhibition of
character, his autobiography is just as profitable a book as the
master-works of fiction. But men so representative are rare in actual
life; and the chief business of fiction is therefore to supply them.

It is mainly by supplying this need for representative men and women
that the novelist can make his characters worth the while of every
reader. But after he has made them quintessential of a class, he must
be careful also to individualize them. Unless he endows them
with certain personal traits that distinguish them from all other
representatives or members of their class, whether actual or
fictitious, he will fail to invest them with the illusion of reality.
Every great character of fiction must exhibit, therefore, an intimate
combination of typical and individual traits. It is through being
typical that the character is true; it is through being individual
that the character is convincing.

The reason why most allegorical figures are ineffective is that,
although they are typical, they are not at the same time individual.
They are abstractly representative of a class; but they are not
concretely distinguishable from other representatives or members
of the class. We know them, therefore, not as persons but merely as
ideas. We feel very little human interest nowadays in reading over
the old morality plays, whose characters are merely allegorical
abstractions. But in criticising them we must remember that they were
designed not so much to be read as to be performed upon the stage;
and that the actors who represented their abstract and merely typical
characters must necessarily have endowed them with concreteness and
with individuality. Though a character in one of these allegorical
plays might be called "Everyman," it was one particular man who walked
and talked upon the boards; and he evoked sympathy not so much for the
type as for the individual. But allegory written to be read is
less likely to produce the illusion of reality; and it is only when
allegorical characters are virtually conceived as individuals,
instead of mere abstractions, that they touch the heart. Christian,
in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" is so conceived. He is entirely
representative of seventeenth-century Christianity; in a sense he is
all men of Bunyan's time and Bunyan's religion; but he is also one man
and one only, and we could never in our thought confuse him with any
other character in or out of fiction.

But just as a character may be ineffective through being merely
typical, so also a character may be unsignificant through being merely
individual. The minor figures in Ben Jonson's Comedies of Humours
are mere personifications of exaggerated individual traits. They are
caricatures rather than characters. Dickens frequently commits the
error of exhibiting figures devoid of representative traits. Tommy
Traddles is sharply individualized by the fact that his hair is always
standing on end; but he exhibits no essential truth of human nature.
Barkis, who is always willin', and Micawber, who is always waiting for
something to turn up, are emphatically distinguished from everybody
else in or out of fiction; but they lack the large reality of
representative characters. They are individualities instead of
individuals. They do not exhibit an agglomeration of many different
but consistent traits rendered unified and single by a dominant and
informing characteristic, such as ambition in Macbeth, senility in
Lear, or irresoluteness in Hamlet. A great fictitious character must
be at once generic and specific; it must give concrete expression to
an abstract idea; it must be an individualized representation of the
typical qualities of a class. It is only figures of this sort that are
finally worth while in fiction,--more worth the reader's while than
the average actual man.

But there is yet another reason why it is often more valuable for the
reader to meet fictitious characters than to meet people of the same
class in actual life; and this reason is that during the day or two
it takes to read a novel he may review the most significant events
of many years, and thus get to know a fictitious character more
completely in a brief space of time than he could get to know him,
if the character were actual, in several years of continuous
acquaintanceship. We meet two sorts of characters in the pages of
the novelists,--characters which may be called static, and characters
which may be called dynamic. The first remain unchanged throughout the
course of the story: the second grow up or down, as the case may be,
through the influence of circumstances, of their own wills, or of the
wills of other people. The recurrent characters of Mr. Kipling's early
tales, such as Mrs. Hauksbee, Strickland, Mulvaney, Ortheris, and
Learoyd, are static figures. Although they do different things in
different stories, their characters remain always the same. But Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza are dynamic figures; they grow and change
throughout the novel; they are, each in his own way, bigger and wiser
people when we leave them than they were when first we met them. To
show a character developing under stress or ripening easily beneath
beneficent influences is one of the greatest possibilities of fiction.
And to exhibit the gradual disintegration of a character, as George
Eliot does in the case of Tito Melema, is to teach us more of
the tragedy of life than we might learn in many years of actual

Only after the process of creation is completed, and a character
stands living in the mind of the novelist, need he consider the
various technical expedients which may be employed to make the reader
conscious of the character as a personal presence. These technical
expedients are many; but they may all be grouped as phases of one or
the other of two contrasted methods of delineating character, which
may be called, for convenience, direct and indirect. According to the
first method, traits of character are conveyed directly to the reader
through some sort of statement by the writer of the story: according
to the second method, characteristics are conveyed indirectly to the
reader through a necessary inference, on his part, from the narrative
itself. In employing the first, or direct, method, the author (either
in his own person or in that of some character which he assumes)
stands between the reader and the character he is portraying, in the
attitude, more or less frankly confessed, of showman or expositor.
In employing the second, or indirect, method, the author seeks
to obliterate himself as much as possible from the reader's
consciousness; and having brought the reader face to face with the
character he desires to portray, leaves the reader to make his own
acquaintance with the character. The indirect method is of course more
difficult, and, when successfully employed, is more artistic, than
the direct method. But seldom is either used to the exclusion of the
other; and it would be possible to illustrate by successive quotations
from any first-rate novel, like "The Egoist" for example, how the same
characteristics are portrayed first by the one and then by the other

And each of the two methods shows itself in many different phases.
There are several distinct ways of delineating character directly,
and also several distinct means of indirect delineation. It is perhaps
serviceable for the purposes of study to distinguish them somewhat
sharply one from another; but it must always be remembered that the
masters of fiction usually employ a commingling of them all, without
conscious awareness of any critical distinction between them. Bearing
this ever in mind, let us venture on a critical examination of some
of the most frequently recurrent phases, first, of the direct, and
secondly, of the indirect method.

The most obvious, and at the same time the most elementary, means
of direct portrayal is by a deliberate expository statement of the
leading traits of the character to be portrayed. Thus, at the outset
of "The Vicar of Wakefield," the author, writing in the person of the
Vicar, thus expounds the traits of Mrs. Primrose:--

"I was ever of opinion, that the honest man who married and brought
up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and
only talked of population. From this motive, I had scarce taken orders
a year before I began to think seriously of matrimony, and chose my
wife as she did her wedding-gown, not for a fine glossy surface,
but such qualities as would wear well. To do her justice, she was
a good-natured notable woman; and as for breeding, there were few
country ladies who could show more. She could read any English book
without much spelling; but for pickling, preserving, and cookery,
none could excel her. She prided herself also upon being an excellent
contriver in housekeeping; though I could never find that we grew
richer with all her contrivances."

This elementary means of portrayal has the obvious advantage of
succinctness. The reader is told at once, and with a fair measure of
completeness, what he is to think about the character in question.
For this reason the expedient is highly serviceable at the outset of
a story. So excellent an artist as Stevenson, in the "New Arabian
Nights," began each tale in the collection with a paragraph in
which he expounded the main traits of the leading character. But the
expedient has also several disadvantages. In the first place, being
expository, it is not narrative in mood; it savors of the essay rather
than the story; and if it be used not at the outset but during the
course of a narrative, it halts the progress of the action. In the
second place, it is abstract rather than concrete; it does not bring
the reader into the presence of a character, but merely into the
presence of an explanation; and it leaves the reader in an attitude
exactly like that which he holds toward certain actual people,
concerning whom he has been told a great deal by their friends, but
whom he has never met himself. The whole first chapter of "The Vicar
of Wakefield" is a series of little essays on the various members of
the Primrose family. Nothing happens in the chapter; the characters
never step bodily into view; and we feel at the end that we have heard
a great deal of talk about people whom we should like to meet but whom
as yet we have not seen.

It is therefore in certain ways more satisfactory to portray character
directly through a descriptive, rather than an expository, statement.
Thus, in the second chapter of "Martin Chuzzlewit," we are told of Mr.

"His very throat was moral. You saw a good-deal of it. You looked over
a very low fence of white cravat (whereof no man had ever beheld the
tie, for he fastened it behind), and there it lay, a valley between
two jutting heights of collar, serene and whiskerless before you. It
seemed to say, on the part of Mr. Pecksniff, 'There is no deception,
ladies and gentlemen, all is peace, a holy calm pervades me.' So did
his hair, just grizzled with an iron-gray, which was all brushed off
his forehead, and stood bolt upright, or slightly drooped in kindred
action with his heavy eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek
though free from corpulency. So did his manner, which was soft and
oily. In a word, even his plain black suit, and state of widower, and
dangling double eye-glass, all tended to the same purpose, and cried
aloud, 'Behold the moral Pecksniff!'"

This statement, being in the main concretely descriptive rather than
abstractly expository, brings us face to face with the character at
the same time that it tells us what to think of him. And whereas we
feel that we have merely heard about Mrs. Primrose, we feel that we
have really seen Mr. Pecksniff.

It was the custom of Sir Walter Scott, at the introduction of a
character, to furnish the reader with an elaborate set portrayal,
partly expository and partly descriptive of the traits and features of
the character; and to allow this initial direct statement to do duty
through the remainder of the novel. The trouble with this off-hand
expedient is that the reader inevitably forgets the set statement
of the author before the narrative has very far progressed. It is
therefore more effective to make a direct portrayal of character,
whether expository or descriptive, little by little rather than all in
a lump; and to present at any one time to the reader only such traits
or features as he needs to be reminded of in order to appreciate the
scene before him. Thus, in Mr. Kipling's masterpiece, called "They,"
we catch this initial glimpse of Miss Florence:--

"The garden door--heavy oak sunk deep in the thickness of the
wall--opened further: a woman in a big garden hat set her foot slowly
on the time-hollowed stone step and as slowly walked across the turf.
I was forming some apology when she lifted up her head and I saw that
she was blind.

"'I heard you,' she said. 'Isn't that a motor car?'"

And it is only after five pages of narrative that the writer deems it
the proper time to add:--

"She stood looking at me with open blue eyes in which no sight lay,
and I saw for the first time that she was beautiful."

The point that a direct statement of characteristics should preferably
be delivered to the reader little by little rather than all in a
lump is particularly patent when the statement is not external and
objective like those already quoted, but internal and subjective. In
a certain type of fiction, which is commonly called "the psychological
novel," the usual expedient for delineating character is a statement
partly narrative and partly expository of what is taking place within
the mind of the fictitious person, based upon an analysis of his
thoughts and his emotions, at important moments of the story. This
expedient of portraying character by mental analysis is George Eliot's
favorite technical device. Here is a typical passage, from "The Mill
on the Floss," Chapter V:--

"Maggie soon thought she had been hours in the attic, and it must be
tea-time, and they were all having their tea, and not thinking of her.
Well, then, she would stay up there and starve herself--hide herself
behind the tub, and stay there all night; and then they would all be
frightened, and Tom would be sorry. Thus Maggie thought in the pride
of her heart, as she crept behind the tub; but presently she began to
cry again at the idea that they didn't mind her being there. If she
went down again to Tom now--would he forgive her?--perhaps her father
would be there, and he would take her part. But then she wanted Tom to
forgive her because he loved her, not because his father told him.
No, she would never go down if Tom didn't come to fetch her. This
resolution lasted in great intensity for five dark minutes behind
the tub; but then the need of being loved, the strongest need in poor
Maggie's nature, began to wrestle with her pride, and soon threw it.
She crept from behind her tub into the twilight of the long attic, but
just then she heard a quick footstep on the stairs.

"Tom had been too much interested in his talk with Luke, in going
the round of the premises, walking in and out where he pleased, and
whittling sticks without any particular reason, except that he didn't
whittle sticks at school, to think of Maggie and the effect his anger
had produced on her. He meant to punish her, and that business
having been performed, he occupied himself with other matters, like a
practical person."--

And so on. It is only after four hundred words more of this sort of
analysis that the author tells us:--"It was Tom's step, then, that
Maggie heard on the stairs." This is George Eliot's way of portraying
the characters of two children who have quarreled.

Much is to be said in favor of this expedient of depicting character
by analysis. It is the only means by which the reader may be informed
directly of those thoughts and emotions of a character which are
the mainsprings of his acts. And since we cannot feel that we know
a person intimately unless we understand the workings of his mind
at characteristic moments, we derive a great advantage from this
immediate presentation of his mental processes. On the other hand,
the use of the expedient destroys the very desirable illusion that
the reader is an observer actually looking at the action, since the
details depicted do not happen to the eye but rather to the
analytic understanding. The expedient has the disadvantages of being
exceedingly abstract, and of halting happenings while the author tells
us why they happened. It is certainly unfortunate, for instance, that
it should take Tom a whole long page to get to Maggie after she
has heard his "_quick_ footstep on the stairs." Furthermore, this
expedient tends to destroy the illusion of reality by forcing the
reader into a mental attitude which he seldom assumes in looking on
at actual life. During actual occurrences people almost never pause to
analyze each other and seldom even analyze themselves. They act, and
watch other people act, without a microscopic insight into motives.
And surely the purpose of narrative should be to represent events as
they seem to occur in actuality, rather than to present a dissertation
on their causes in the manner of an essay.

An important point, however, remains to be considered. Events are of
two kinds, external and internal; things happen subjectively as well
as objectively: and in representing the sort of occurrence which takes
place only inside a person's mind, the expedient of analysis is by far
the most serviceable means of making clear the elements of character
that contribute to it. But if the same expedient be employed
habitually in the depiction of external events as well, it is likely
to give the impression of unwarrantable vivisection. There is a
certain falsity of mood in giving an objective event a subjective

When, therefore, it is desired to depict a character by direct comment
on his actions or his personality, there is a great advantage in
allowing the comment to be made by one of the other characters in
the story, instead of by the author himself in an attitude of assumed
omniscience. Jane Austen deftly exhibits this subtler phase of the
expedient in many admirable passages. For instance, in Chapter XXXIII
of "Emma," Mrs. Elton thus chatters to Emma Woodhouse:--

"'Jane Fairfax is absolutely charming, Miss Woodhouse.--I quite
rave about Jane Fairfax--a sweet, interesting creature. So mild and
lady-like--and with such talents!--I assure you I think she has
very extraordinary talents. I do not scruple to say that she plays
extremely well. I know enough of music to speak decidedly on
that point. Oh! she is absolutely charming! You will laugh at my
warmth--but upon my word, I talk of nothing but Jane Fairfax.'"

In Chapter XXI the same character has been thus commented on by Emma
Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley. Emma speaks first:--

"'Miss Fairfax is reserved.'

"'I always told you she was--a little; but you will soon overcome all
that part of her reserve which ought to be overcome, all that has
its foundation in diffidence. What arises from discretion must be

"'You think her diffident. I do not see it.'"

These passages not only serve to portray, more or less directly,
the personality of Jane Fairfax, but serve also at the same time to
portray indirectly the personalities of the people who are talking
about her. Mrs. Elton, in particular, is very clearly exhibited. And
this point leads us to an examination of one of the most effective
means of indirect delineation.

If the mere speech of a fictitious figure be reported with sufficient
fidelity to truth, it is possible to convey through this expedient
alone a very vivid sense of character. Consider the following bits of

"'You're not a gun-sharp? I am sorry. I could have surprised you.
Apart from my gun, my tale don't amount to much of anything. I thank
you, but I don't use any tobacco you'd be likely to carry ... Bull
Durham? _Bull Durham!_ I take it all back--every last word. Bull
Durham--here! If ever you strike Akron, Ohio, when this fool-war's
over, remember you've Laughton O. Zigler in your vest pocket.
Including the city of Akron. We've a little club there.... Hell!
What's the sense of talking Akron with no pants?'"

"'Did I talk? I despise exaggeration--'tain't American or
scientific--but as true as I'm sitting here like a blue-ended baboon
in a kloof, Teddy Roosevelt's Western tour was a maiden's sigh
compared to my advertising work.'"

"'But the general was the peach. I presume you're acquainted with the
average run of British generals, but this was my first. I sat on his
left hand, and he talked like--like the _Ladies' Home Journal_.
J'ever read that paper? It's refined, Sir--and innocuous, and full of
nickel-plated sentiments guaranteed to improve the mind. He was it.
He began by a Lydia Pinkham heart-to-heart talk about my health, and
hoped the boys had done me well, and that I was enjoying my stay in
their midst.'"

These passages are taken from Mr. Kipling's story called "The
Captive." The action is laid during the South-African war. Is it
necessary to add that the speaker is an American gun-inventor who has
fought upon the Boer side and has been captured by the British?

One point must be considered carefully. The art of these passages lies
mainly in the fact that we learn more about Zigler indirectly, from
his manner of talking, than directly, from the things which he tells
us of himself. His statement that he comes from Akron, Ohio, is less
suggestive than his fondness for Bull Durham. Any direct statement
made by a character concerning himself is of no more artistic value
than if it were made about him by the author, unless his manner of
making it gives at the same time an indirect evidence of his nature.

The subtlest phase of indirect delineation through speech is a
conveyance to the reader, through a character's remarks about himself,
of a sense of him different from that which his statement literally
expresses. Sir Willoughby Patterne, in "The Egoist," talks about
himself frequently and in detail; but the reader soon learns from the
tone and manner of his utterance to discount the high esteem in which
he holds himself. By saying one thing directly, the egoist conveys
another and a different thing indirectly to the reader.

But in fiction, as in life, actions speak louder than words: and
the most convincing way of delineating character indirectly is by
exhibiting a person in the performance of a characteristic action. If
the action be visualized with sufficient clearness and if its dominant
details be presented to the reader with adequate emphasis, a more
vivid impression of character will be conveyed than through any sort
of direct statement by the author. As an instance of characterization
through action only, without comment or direct portrayal, let us
consider the following passage from the duel scene of "The Master of
Ballantrae." Two brothers, Mr. Henry and the Master, hate each other;
they fall to altercation over a game of cards; and the scene is
narrated by Mackellar, a servant of Mr. Henry's.--

"Mr. Henry laid down his cards. He rose to his feet very softly, and
seemed all the while like a person in deep thought. 'You coward!' he
said gently, as if to himself. And then, with neither hurry nor any
particular violence, he struck the Master in the mouth.

"The Master sprang to his feet like one transfigured; I had never seen
the man so beautiful. 'A blow!' he cried. 'I would not take a blow
from God Almighty.'

"'Lower your voice,' said Mr. Henry. 'Do you wish my father to
interfere for you again?'

"'Gentlemen, gentlemen,' I cried, and sought to come between them.

"The Master caught me by the shoulder, held me at arm's length, and
still addressing his brother: 'Do you know what this means?' said he.

"'It was the most deliberate act of my life,' says Mr. Henry.

"'I must have blood, I must have blood for this,' says the Master.

"'Please God it shall be yours,' said Mr. Henry; and he went to the
wall and took down a pair of swords that hung there with others,
naked. These he presented to the Master by the points. 'Mackellar
shall see us play fair,' said Mr. Henry. 'I think it very needful.'

"'You need insult me no more,' said the Master, taking one of the
swords at random. 'I have hated you all my life.'

"'My father is but newly gone to bed,' said Mr. Henry. 'We must go
somewhere forth of the house.'

"'There is an excellent place in the long shrubbery,' said the Master.

"'Gentlemen,' said I, 'shame upon you both! Sons of the same mother,
would you turn against the life she gave you?'

"'Even so, Mackellar,' said Mr. Henry, with the same perfect quietude
of manner he had shown throughout."

It is not necessary for Mackellar to tell us that, whereas Mr. Henry
is phlegmatic and deliberate, the Master is impulsive and mercurial.
It is not necessary for him to attempt analysis of the emotions and
thoughts of the leading characters, since these are sufficiently
evident from what they do and say. The action happens to the eye and
ear, without the interpretation of an analytic intellect; but the
reader is made actually present at the scene, and can see and judge
it for himself. The method is absolutely narrative and not at all
expository,--entirely objective and concrete. Surely this is the
most artistic means of portraying those elements of character which
contribute to external, or objective, events: and even what happens
inside the mind of a character may often be more poignantly suggested
by a concrete account of how he looks and what he does than by
an abstract analytic statement of the movements of his mind. When
Hepzibah Pyncheon opens her shop in the House of the Seven Gables, her
state of feeling is indicated indirectly, by what she does and how she
does it.

Perhaps the most delicate means of indirect delineation is to suggest
the personality of one character by exhibiting his effect upon certain
other people in the story. In the third book of the "Iliad," there is
a temporary truce upon the plains of Troy; and certain elders of the
city look forth from the tower of the Scæan gates and meditate upon
the ten long years of conflict and of carnage during which so many of
their sons have died. Toward them walks the white-armed Helen, robed
and veiled in white; and when they mark her approach, they say to each
other (old and wise and weary with sorrows though they be):--

  "'Small blame is theirs, if both the Trojan knights
  And brazen-mailed Achaians have endured
  So long so many evils for the sake
  Of that one woman.'"
                              --(Bryant's Version.)

Perhaps the most remarkable instance in modern literature of the use
of this expedient is Mr. Kipling's tale of "Mrs. Bathurst." The story
is all about the woman from whom it takes its title; but she never for
a moment appears upon the scene of action, and is portrayed entirely
through her effect upon several different men. Here is a bit of
conversation concerning her. Note her effect upon the humorous and not
especially sensitive Pyecroft.--

"Said Pyecroft suddenly:--

"'How many women have you been intimate with all over the world,

"Pritchard blushed plum color to the short hairs of his seventeen-inch

"''Undreds,' said Pyecroft. 'So've I. How many of 'em can you remember
in your own mind, settin' aside the first--an' per'aps the last--_and
one more_?'

"'Few, wonderful few, now I tax myself,' said Sergeant Pritchard,

"'An' how many times might you 'ave been at Aukland?'

"'One--two,' he began. 'Why, I can't make it more than three times in
ten years. But I can remember every time that I ever saw Mrs. B.'

"'So can I--an' I've only been to Aukland twice--how she stood an'
what she was sayin' an' what she looked like. That's the secret.
'Tisn't beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It's just
It. Some women'll stay in a man's memory if they once walked down a
street, but most of 'em you can live with a month on end, an' next
commission you'd be put to it to certify whether they talked in their
sleep or not, as one might say.'"

Another very delicate expedient is to suggest a character through a
careful presentation of his habitual environment. We learn a great
deal about Roderick Usher from the melancholy aspect of his House.
It is possible to describe a living-room in such a way as to convey a
very definite sense of its occupant before he enters it. Notice, for
example, how much we learn about Mr. and Mrs. Boffin (especially the
latter) from this descriptive passage in Chapter V of "Our Mutual
Friend." Silas Wegg has come to fulfil his engagement to read aloud to
them the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."--

"It was the queerest of rooms, fitted and furnished more like a
luxurious amateur tap-room than anything else within the ken of Silas
Wegg. There were two wooden settles by the fire, one on either side of
it, with a corresponding table before each. On one of these tables the
eight volumes were ranged flat, in a row like a galvanic battery; on
the other, certain squat case-bottles of inviting appearance seemed to
stand on tiptoe to exchange glances with Mr. Wegg over a front row of
tumblers and a basin of white sugar. On the hob, a kettle steamed;
on the hearth, a cat reposed. Facing the fire between the settles, a
sofa, a footstool, and a little table formed a centerpiece devoted to
Mrs. Boffin. They were garish in taste and color, but were expensive
articles of drawing-room furniture that had a very odd look beside the
settles and the flaring gaslight pendant from the ceiling. There was a
flowery carpet on the floor; but, instead of reaching to the fireside,
its glowing vegetation stopped short at Mrs. Boffin's footstool, and
gave place to a region of sand and sawdust. Mr. Wegg also noticed,
with admiring eyes, that, while the flowery land displayed such hollow
ornamentation as stuffed birds, and waxen fruits under glass shades,
there were, in the territory where vegetation ceased, compensatory
shelves on which the best part of a large pie and likewise of a cold
joint were plainly discernible among other solids. The room itself was
large, though low; and the heavy frames of its old-fashioned windows,
and the heavy beams in its crooked ceiling, seemed to indicate that it
had once been a house of some mark standing alone in the country."

Neither Boffin nor Mrs. Boffin appears in this descriptive paragraph;
yet many of the idiosyncrasies of each are suggested by the
conglomeration of queer belongings that they have gathered round them.

The student of the art of fiction may find profitable exercise in
practising separately the various means of portraying character which
have been illustrated in this chapter; but, as was stated at the
outset, he should always remember that these means are seldom used
by the great artists singly, but are generally employed to complement
each other in contributing to a central impression. The character
of Becky Sharp, for instance, is delineated indirectly through her
speech, her actions, her environment, and her effect on other people,
and at the same time is delineated directly through comments made upon
her by the author and by other figures in the story, through analysis
of her thoughts and her emotions, through expository statements of her
traits, and through occasional descriptions of her. In all of these
ways does Thackeray exert himself to give the world assurance of a

It would, however, be extremely difficult to imagine Becky Sharp
divorced from her environment of London high society. She is a part of
her setting, and her setting is a part of her. We have just noticed,
in the case of that queer room of the Boffins', how the mere
representation of setting may contribute to the delineation of
character. But setting is important in many other ways; and it is to
a special consideration of that element of narrative that we must next
turn our attention.



In the history of figure painting it is interesting to study the
evolution of the element of background. This element is non-existent
in the earliest examples of pictorial art. The figures in Pompeiian
frescoes are limned upon a blank bright wall, most frequently deep
red in color. The father of Italian painting, Cimabue, following
the custom of the Byzantine mosaicists, whose work he had doubtless
studied at Ravenna, drew his figures against a background devoid
of distance and perspective and detail; and even in the work of his
greater and more natural pupil, Giotto, the element of background
remains comparatively insignificant. What interests us in Giotto's
work at Padua and Assisi is first of all the story that he has
to tell, and secondly the human quality of the characters that he
exhibits. His sense of setting is extremely slight; and the homely
details that he presents for the purpose of suggesting the time and
place and circumstances of his action are very crudely depicted. His
frescoes are all foreground. It is the figures in the forefront of
his pictures that arrest our eye. His buildings and his landscapes are
conventionalized out of any real reference to his people. These are
examples of the first stage of evolution,--the stage in which the
element of background bears no significant relation to the main
business of the picture.

In the second stage, the background is brought into an artistic, or
decorative, relation with the figures in the foreground. This phase
is exhibited by Italian painting at its period of maturity. The great
Florentines drew their figures against a background of decorative
line, the great Venetians against a background of decorative color.
But even in the work of the greatest of them the background exists
usually to fulfil a purpose merely decorative,--a purpose with
immediate reference to art but without immediate reference to life.
There is no real reason, with reference to life itself, why the Mona
Lisa of Leonardo should smile inscrutably upon us before a background
of jagged rocks and cloudy sky; and the curtains in Raphael's Sistine
Madonna are introduced merely as a detail of composition, and are not
intended as a literal statement that curtains hung upon a rod exist in

In the third stage, which is exhibited by later painting, the
background is brought into living relation with the figures of the
foreground,--a relation suggested not merely by the exigencies of
art but rather by the conditions of life itself. Thus the great Dutch
_genre_ painters, like the younger Teniers, show their characters in
immediate human relation to a carefully detailed interior; or if, like
Adrian van Ostade, they take them out of doors, it is to show them
entirely at home in an accustomed landscape.

This stage, in its most modern development, exhibits an absolutely
essential relation between the foreground and the background--the
figures and the setting--so that neither could be imagined exactly as
it is without the presence of the other. Such an essential harmony is
shown in the "Angelus" of Jean-François Millet. The people exist for
the sake of giving meaning to the landscape; and the landscape exists
for the sake of giving meaning to the people. The "Angelus" is neither
figure painting nor landscape painting merely; it is both.

In the history of fiction we may note a similar evolution in the
element of setting. The earliest folk-tales of every nation happen
"once upon a time," and without any definite localization. In the
"Gesta Romanorum," that medieval repository of accumulated narratives,
the element of setting is nearly as non-existent as the element of
background in the frescoes of Pompeii. Even in the "Decameron"
of Boccaccio the stories are seldom localized: they happen almost
anywhere at almost any time. The interest in Boccaccio's narrative,
like the interest in Giotto's painting, is centered first of all in
the element of action, and secondly in the element of character. But
his stories are all foreground. When the scene is out of doors, it is
set vaguely in a conventional landscape: when it is indoors, it is set
vaguely in a conventional palace. Because of this, his narrative is
lacking in visual appeal. Most of his _novelle_ read like summaries of
novels,--setting forth an abstract synopsis of the action rather than
a concrete representation of it. He _tells_ you what happens,
instead of _making_ it happen before the eye of your imagination.
His characters are drawn in outline merely, instead of being livingly
projected in relation to a definite environment. The defect of his
narrative, like the defect of Giotto's painting, is mainly lack of

Somewhat later in the history of fiction, as in the history of figure
painting, we find instances in which the element of setting is used
for a decorative purpose, and is brought into an artistic relation
with the elements of action and character. Such a use is made of
landscape, for example, in the "Orlando Furioso" of Ariosto and the
"Faerie Queene" of Spenser. The settings depicted by these narrative
poets are essentially pictorial, and are used as a decorative
background to the action rather than as part and parcel of it. If we
seek an example in prose rather than in poetry, we need only turn
to the "Arcadia" of Sir Philip Sidney. In this again the setting
is beautifully fashioned, but is employed merely for a decorative
purpose. The background of pastoral landscape bears no necessary
relation to the figures in the foreground. It exists for the sake of
art rather than for the sake of life. This employment of the element
of setting for a purpose essentially pictorial subsists in many
later works of fiction, like the "Paul and Virginia" of Bernardin de
Saint-Pierre. In this the setting is composed and painted for the sake
of its own sentimental beauty, and is obtruded even at the expense of
the more vital elements of character and action. The story is, as it
were, merely a motive for decorative composition.

It is only in fiction of a more modern spirit that the element of
setting has been brought into living relation with the action and the
characters; and it is only in the last century that the most intimate
possibilities of such a relation have been appreciated and applied.
Of course the most elementary means of making the setting "part and
parcel of the business of the story" is to employ it as a utilitarian
adjunct to the action. Granted certain incidents that are to happen,
certain scenery and properties are useful, in the novel just as in the
theater; and if these are supplied advisedly, the setting will, as it
were, become a part of what is happening instead of remaining merely
a decorative background to the incidents. The first English author to
establish firmly this utilitarian relation between the setting and the
action was Daniel Defoe. Defoe was by profession a journalist; and
the most characteristic quality of his mind was an habitual
matter-of-factness. Plausibility was what he most desired in his
fictions; and he discerned instinctively that the readiest means of
making a story plausible was by representing with entire concreteness
and great wealth of specific detail the physical adjuncts to the
action. The multitudinous particulars of Crusoe's island are therefore
exhibited concretely to the reader one by one, as Crusoe makes use of
them successively in what he does.

But though in Defoe the element of setting is merged with the element
of action, it is not brought into intimate relation with the element
of character. The island is a part of what Crusoe does, rather than
a part of what he is. But the dwelling-room of the Boffins, which was
described in the paragraph from "Our Mutual Friend" quoted toward
the end of the preceding chapter, is a part of what the Boffins are,
rather than of what they do. The setting in the latter case is used
as an adjunct to the element of character instead of to the element
of action. Fielding and his contemporaries were the first English
novelists to make the setting in this way representative of
personality as well as useful to the plot; but the finer possibilities
of the relation between setting and character were not fully realized
until the nineteenth century. The eighteenth-century authors, in so
far as they elaborated the element of setting, seem to have done so
mainly for the sake of greater vividness. The appeal of setting being
visual, the element was employed to illustrate the action and to make
the characters clearly evident to the eye. By rendering a story more
concrete, a definite setting rendered it more credible. This the
eighteenth-century novelists discerned; but only with the rise of the
romantic movement was the element applied to subtler uses.

A new and very interesting attitude toward landscape setting was
disclosed by Rousseau in the "Nouvelle Héloise" and developed by his
numerous followers in early nineteenth-century romance. The writers
who advocated a "return to nature" spelled nature with a capital N and
considered it usually as an anthropomorphic presence. As a result of
this, when they developed a natural background for their stories, they
established a sympathetic interchange of mood between the characters
and the landscape, and imagined (to use the famous phrase of Leibnitz)
a "pre-established harmony" between the shifting moods of nature and
of man. Thus the setting was employed no longer merely to subserve the
needs of action or to give a greater vividness of visual appeal, but
was used rather to symbolize and represent the human emotions evoked
in the characters at significant moments of the plot. When the hero
was suffering with sadness, the sky was hung with heavy clouds; and
when his mind grew illumined with a glimmering of hope, the sun broke
through a cloud-rift, casting light over the land.

Dickens is especially fond of imagining an emotional harmony between
his settings and his incidents. Consider for a moment the following
well-known passage from the funeral of Little Nell ("The Old Curiosity
Shop," Chapter LXXII):--

"Along the crowded path they bore her now; pure as the newly-fallen
snow that covered it; whose day on earth had been as fleeting. Under
the porch, where she had sat when Heaven in its mercy brought her to
that peaceful spot, she passed again; and the old church received her
in its quiet shade.

"They carried her to one old nook, where she had many and many a time
sat musing, and laid their burden softly on the pavement. The light
streamed on it through the colored window--a window where the boughs
of trees were ever rustling in the summer, and where the birds sang
sweetly all day long. With every breath of air that stirred among
those branches in the sunshine, some trembling, changing light would
fall upon her grave....

"They saw the vault covered, and the stone fixed down. Then, when
the dusk of evening had come on, and not a sound disturbed the sacred
stillness of the place--when the bright moon poured in her light on
tomb and monument, on pillar, wall, and arch, and most of all (it
seemed to them) upon her quiet grave--in that calm time, when outward
things and inward thoughts teem with assurances of immortality, and
worldly hopes and fears are humbled in the dust before them--then,
with tranquil and submissive hearts, they turned away, and left the
child to God."

Here the mood of the scene is expressed almost entirely through the
element of setting; and the human emotion of the mourners is realized
and represented by the aspect of the churchyard.

The excessive use of this expedient is deplored by John Ruskin in
a chapter of "Modern Painters" entitled "The Pathetic Fallacy." His
point is that, since concrete objects do not actually experience human
emotions, it is a violation of artistic truth to ascribe such emotions
to them. But, on the other hand, it is indubitably true that human
beings habitually translate their own abstract feelings into the
concrete terms of their surroundings; and therefore, in a subjective
sense at least, an emotional harmony frequently does exist between the
mood of a man and the aspect of his environment. The same place may at
the same time look gloomy to a melancholy man and cheerful to a merry
one; and there is therefore a certain human fitness in describing it
as gloomy or as cheerful, according to the feeling of the character
observing it. Doubtless to a man tremendously bereaved the very rain
may seem a weeping of high heaven; and surely there are times when it
is deeply true, subjectively, to say that the morning stars all
sing together. What we may call emotional similarity of setting is
therefore not necessarily a fallacy. Even when it subverts the actual,
as in the fable of the morning stars, it may yet be representative
of reality. In its commoner and less exaggerative phases it is very
useful for purposes of suggestion; and only when it becomes blatant
through abuse may it be said to belie the laws of life.

Frequently, however, emotional similarity between the setting and
the characters is less serviceable, for the sake of emphasis, than
emotional contrast. In the following passage from Mr. Kipling's
"Without Benefit of Clergy," the serene and perfect happiness of
Holden and Ameera is emphasized by contrast with the night-aspect of
the plague-infested city:--

"'My lord and my love, let there be no more foolish talk of going
away. Where thou art, I am. It is enough.' She put an arm round his
neck and a hand on his mouth.

"There are not many happinesses so complete as those that are snatched
under the shadow of the sword. They sat together and laughed, calling
each other openly by every pet name that could move the wrath of the
gods. The city below them was locked up in its own torments. Sulphur
fires blazed in the streets; the conches in the Hindu temples screamed
and bellowed, for the gods were inattentive in those days. There was a
service in the great Mahomedan shrine, and the call to prayer from the
minarets was almost unceasing. They heard the wailing in the houses of
the dead, and once the shriek of a mother who had lost a child and was
calling for its return. In the gray dawn they saw the dead borne
out through the city gates, each litter with its own little knot of
mourners. Wherefore they kissed each other and shivered."

An emotional contrast of this nature between the mood of the
characters and the mood of the setting may be pushed to the point
of irony. In a story by Alphonse Daudet, entitled "The Elixir of the
Reverend Father Gaucher," a certain monastery is saved from financial
ruin by the sale of a cordial which Father Gaucher has invented and
distilled. But the necessity of sampling the cordial frequently during
the process of manufacturing it leads the reverend father eventually
to become an habitual drunkard. And toward the end of the story an
ironic contrast is drawn between the solemn monastery, murmurous with
chants and prayers, and Father Gaucher in his distillery hilariously
singing a ribald drinking-song.

The uses of setting that have been thus far considered have been
artistic rather than philosophical in nature; but very recent writers
have grown to use the element not only for the sake of illustrating
character and action but also for the sake of determining them.
The sociologists of the nineteenth century have come to regard
circumstance as a prime motive for action, and environment as a
prime influence on character; and recent writers have applied this
philosophic thesis in their employment of the element of setting.

The way in which the setting may suggest the action is thus discoursed
upon by Stevenson in his "Gossip on Romance":--

"Drama is the poetry of conduct, romance the poetry of circumstance.
The pleasure that we take in life is of two sorts--the active and the
passive. Now we are conscious of a great command over our destiny;
anon we are lifted up by circumstance, as by a breaking wave, and
dashed we know not how into the future. Now we are pleased by our
conduct, anon merely pleased by our surroundings. It would be hard to
say which of these modes of satisfaction is the more effective, but
the latter is surely the more constant....

"One thing in life calls for another; there is a fitness in events
and places. The sight of a pleasant arbour puts it in our mind to sit
there. One place suggests work, another idleness, a third early rising
and long rambles in the dew. The effect of night, of any flowing
water, of lighted cities, of the peep of day, of ships, of the
open ocean, calls up in the mind an army of anonymous desires and
pleasures. Something, we feel, should happen; we know not what, yet we
proceed in quest of it. And many of the happiest hours of life fleet
by us in this vain attendance on the genius of the place and moment.
It is thus that tracts of young fir, and low rocks that reach into
deep soundings, particularly torture and delight me. Something must
have happened in such places, and perhaps ages back, to members of
my race; and when I was a child I tried in vain to invent appropriate
games for them, as I still try, just as vainly, to fit them with the
proper story. Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry
aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain
coasts are set apart for shipwreck. Other spots again seem to abide
their destiny, suggestive and impenetrable, 'miching mallecho.' The
inn at Burford Bridge, with its arbours and green garden and silent,
eddying river--though it is known already as the place where Keats
wrote some of his _Endymion_ and Nelson parted from his Emma--still
seems to wait the coming of the appropriate legend. Within these
ivied walls, behind these old green shutters, some further business
smoulders, waiting for its hour. The old Hawes Inn at the Queen's
Ferry makes a similar call upon my fancy. There it stands, apart from
the town, beside the pier, in a climate of its own, half inland, half
marine--in front, the ferry bubbling with the tide and the guardship
swinging to her anchor; behind, the old garden with the trees.
Americans seek it already for the sake of Lovel and Oldbuck, who
dined there at the beginning of the _Antiquary_. But you need not
tell me--that is not all; there is some story, unrecorded or not yet
complete, which must express the meaning of that inn more fully....
I have lived both at the Hawes and Burford in a perpetual flutter,
on the heels, as it seemed, of some adventure that should justify the
place; but though the feeling had me to bed at night and called me
again at morning in one unbroken round of pleasure and suspense,
nothing befell me in either worth remark. The man or the hour had not
yet come; but some day, I think, a boat shall put off from the Queen's
Ferry, fraught with a dear cargo, and some frosty night a horseman, on
a tragic errand, rattle with his whip upon the green shutters of the
inn at Burford."

In this way, the setting may, in many cases, exist as the initial
element of the narrative, and suggest an action appropriate to itself.
But it may do more than that. In certain special instances the setting
may not only suggest, but may even cause, the action, and remain
the deciding factor in determining its course. This is the case, for
example, in Mr. Kipling's story, "At the End of the Passage," which
opens thus:--

"Four men, each entitled to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness,' sat at a table playing whist. The thermometer marked--for
them--one hundred and one degrees of heat. The room was darkened till
it was only just possible to distinguish the pips of the cards and
the very white faces of the players. A tattered, rotten punkah of
whitewashed calico was puddling the hot air and whining dolefully at
each stroke. Outside lay gloom of a November day in London. There was
neither sky, sun, nor horizon,--nothing but a brown purple haze of
heat. It was as though the earth were dying of apoplexy.

"From time to time clouds of tawny dust rose from the ground without
wind or warning, flung themselves tablecloth-wise among the tops of
the parched trees, and came down again. Then a whirling dust-devil
would scutter across the plain for a couple of miles, break, and fall
outward, though there was nothing to check its flight save a long low
line of piled railway-sleepers white with the dust, a cluster of
huts made of mud, condemned rails, and canvas, and the one squat
four-roomed bungalow that belonged to the assistant engineer in charge
of a section of the Gaudhari State Line then under construction."

The terrible tale that follows could happen only as a result of the
fearful loneliness and, more especially, the maddening heat of such a
place as is described in these opening paragraphs. The setting in this
story causes and determines the action.

But in many other tales by recent writers the setting is used not so
much to determine the action as to influence and mold the characters;
and when employed for this purpose, it becomes expressive of one of
the most momentous truths of human life. For what a man is at any
period of his existence is largely the result of the interaction
of two forces,--namely, the innate tendencies of his nature and the
shaping power of his environment. Mr. Meredith, and more especially
Mr. Thomas Hardy, therefore devote a great deal of attention to
setting as an influence on character. Consider, for example, the
following brief passage from Mr. Hardy's "Tess of the D'Ubervilles":--

"Amid the oozing fatness and warm ferments of Froom Vale, at a season
when the rush of juices could almost be heard below the hiss of
fertilization, it was impossible that the most fanciful love should
not grow passionate. The ready hearts existing there were impregnated
by their surroundings."

Zola, in his essay on "The Experimental Novel," states that the proper
function of setting is to exhibit "the environment which determines
and completes the man"; and the philosophic study of environment
reacting upon character is one of the main features of his own
monumental series of novels devoted to the Rougon-Macquart family.
His example has been followed by a host of recent writers; and a
new school of fiction has grown up, the main purpose of which is to
exhibit the influence of certain carefully studied social, natural,
business, or professional conditions on the sort of people who live
and work among them.

If the setting be used both to determine the action and to mold the
characters, it may stand forth as the most important of the three
elements of narrative. In Victor Hugo's "Notre Dame de Paris," the
cathedral is the leading factor of the story. Claude Frollo would be
a very different person if it were not for the church; and many of the
main events, such as the ultimate tragic scene when Quasimodo hurls
Frollo from the tower-top, could not happen in any other place. In Mr.
Kipling's very subtle story entitled "An Habitation Enforced," which
appeared in the _Century Magazine_ for August, 1905, the setting is
really the hero of the narrative. An American millionaire and his
wife, whose ancestors were English, settle for a brief vacation in
the county of England from which the wife's family originally came.
Gradually the old house and the English landscape take hold of them:
ancestral feelings rise to dominate them; and they remain forever
after in enforced habitation on the ancient soil.

All that has been said thus far of setting in general applies of
course to one of the most interesting of its elements,--the weather.
In simple stories like the usual nursery tale, the weather may be
non-existent. Or it may exist mainly for a decorative purpose, like
the frequent golden oriental dawns of Spenser's poem or the superb
and colorful symphonies of sky and sea in Pierre Loti's "Iceland
Fisherman." It may be used as a utilitarian adjunct to the action:
at the end of "The Mill on the Floss," as we have already noted, the
rains descend and the flood comes merely for the purpose of drowning
Tom and Maggie. Or it may be employed to illustrate a character: we
are told of Clara Middleton, in "The Egoist," that she possesses the
"art of dressing to suit the season and the sky"; and therefore the
look of the atmosphere at any hour helps to convey to us a sense of
her appearance. Somewhat more artistically, the weather may be planned
in pre-established harmony with the mood of the characters: this
expedient is wonderfully used in the wild and wind-swept tales of
Fiona MacLeod. On the other hand, the weather may stand in emotional
contrast with the characters: the Master of Ballantrae and Mr. Henry
fight their duel on a night of absolute stillness and stifling
cold. Again, the weather may be used to determine the action: in Mr.
Kipling's early story called "False Dawn," the blinding sandstorm
causes Saumarez to propose to the wrong girl. Or it may be employed
as a controlling influence over character: the tremendous storm toward
the end of "Richard Feverel," in the chapter entitled "Nature Speaks,"
determines the return of the hero to his wife. In some cases, even,
the weather itself may be the real hero of the narrative: the great
eruption of Vesuvius in "The Last Days of Pompeii" dominates the
termination of the story.

Although the weather is a subject upon everybody's tongue, there are
very few people who are capable of talking about it with intelligence
and art. Very few writers of fiction--and nearly all of them are
recent--have exhibited a mastery of the weather,--a mastery based at
once upon a detailed and accurate observation of natural phenomena and
a philosophic sense of the relation between these phenomena and the
concerns of human beings. Perhaps in no other detail of craftsmanship
does Robert Louis Stevenson so clearly prove his mastery as in his
marshaling of the weather, always vividly and truthfully described, to
serve a purpose always fitting to his fictions.

Let us next consider the main difference between the merits of a good
romantic and a good realistic setting. Since the realist leads us to a
comprehension of his truth through a careful imitation of the actual,
the thing most to be desired in a realistic setting is fidelity to
fact; and this can be attained only by accurate observation. But since
the romantic is not bound to imitate the actual, and fabricates his
investiture merely for the sake of embodying his truth clearly and
consistently, the thing most to be desired in a romantic setting is
imaginative fitness to the action and the characters; and this can
sometimes be attained by artistic inventiveness alone, without display
of observation of the actual. Verisimilitude is of course the highest
merit of either sort of setting; but whereas verisimilitude with the
realist lies in resemblance to actuality, verisimilitude with the
romantic lies rather in artistic fitness. The distinction may perhaps
be best observed in the historical novels produced by the one and by
the other school. In the setting of realistic historical novels, like
George Eliot's "Romola" and Flaubert's "Salammbô," what the authors
have mainly striven for has been accuracy of detail; but in romantic
historical novels, like those of Scott and Dumas père, the authors
have sought rather for imaginative fitness of setting. The realists
have followed the letter, and the romantics the spirit, of other times
and lands.

As an example of a pure romantic setting, far removed from actuality
and yet thoroughly truthful in artistic fitness to the action and the
characters, we can do no better than examine the often-quoted opening
of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher:"--

"During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of
the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had
been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of
country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew
on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how
it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of
insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the
feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because
poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the
sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon
the scene before me--upon the mere house, and the simple landscape
features of the domain, upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eye-like
windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of
decayed trees--with an utter depression of soul which I can compare
to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the
reveler upon opium: the bitter lapse into every-day life, the hideous
dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening
of the heart, an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading
of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.... It
was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the
particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be
sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate, its capacity for
sorrowful impression; and acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to
the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled
lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down--but with a shudder even more
thrilling than before--upon the remodelled and inverted images of the
gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like

Certainly this setting bears very little resemblance to the actual;
but just as certainly its artistic fitness to the tale of terror which
it preludes gives it an imaginative verisimilitude.

As an example of a realistic setting, closely copying the actual, let
us examine the following passage from "Adam Bede" (Chapter XVIII):--

"You might have known it was Sunday if you had only waked up in the
farmyard. The cocks and hens seemed to know it, and made only crooning
subdued noises; the very bull-dog looked less savage, as if he would
have been satisfied with a smaller bite than usual. The sunshine
seemed to call all things to rest and not to labor; it was asleep
itself on the moss-grown cow-shed; on the group of white ducks
nestling together with their bills tucked under their wings; on the
old black sow stretched languidly on the straw, while her largest
young one found an excellent spring-bed on his mother's fat ribs; on
Alick, the shepherd, in his new smock-frock, taking an uneasy siesta,
half-sitting, half-standing on the granary steps."

There is no obvious imaginative fitness in this passage, since in the
chapter where it occurs the chief characters are going to a funeral;
but it has an extraordinary verisimilitude, owing to the author's
accurate observation of the details of life in rural England.

These two passages differ very widely from each other. In one thing,
and one only, are they alike. Each of them exhibits the subtle quality
called "atmosphere." This quality is very difficult to define, though
its presence may be recognized instinctively in any work of graphic
art, like a painting or a description. Without attempting to define
it, we may discover the technical basis for its presence if we seek
out the sole deliberate device in which these two passages, different
as they are in every other feature, are at one. It will be noticed
that in each of them the details selected for presentation have been
chosen solely for the sake of a common quality inherent in them--the
quality of somberness and gloom in the one case, and the quality of
Sabbath quietude in the other--and that they have been marshaled to
convey a complete sense of this central and pervading quality. It is
commonly supposed that what is called "atmosphere" in a description
is dependent upon the setting forth of a multiplicity of details; but
this popular conception is a fallacy. "Atmosphere" is dependent rather
upon a strict selection of details pervaded by a common quality, a
rigorous rejection of all others that are dissonant in mood, and an
arrangement of those selected with a view to exhibiting their common
quality as the pervading spirit of the scene.

This is obviously the technical basis for the "atmosphere" of a purely
imaginary setting like that of the melancholy House of Usher. The
effect is undeniably produced by the suppression of all details that
do not contribute to the central sense of gloom. But the same device
underlies (less obviously, to be sure) all such descriptions of actual
places as are rich in "atmosphere." What is called "local color"--the
very look and tone of a definite locality--is produced not by
photographic multiplicity of details, but by a marshaling of materials
carefully selected to suggest the central spirit of the place to
be depicted. The camera frequently defeats itself by flinging into
emphasis details that are dissonant with the informing spirit of the
scene it seeks to reproduce: so also does the author who overcrowds
his picture with multifarious details, however faithful they may be to
fact. The true triumphs of "local coloring" have been made by men who
have struck at the heart and spirit of a place--have caught its tone
and timbre as George Du Maurier did with the _Quartier Latin_--and
have set forth only such details as tingled with this spiritual tone.

We have studied the many uses of the element of setting, and have
seen that in the best-developed fiction it has grown to be entirely
co-ordinate with the elements of character and action. Novelists have
come to consider that any given story can happen only in a given set
of circumstances, and that if the setting be changed the action must
be altered and the characters be differently drawn. It is therefore
impossible, in the best fiction of the present day, to consider the
setting as divorced from the other elements of the narrative. There
was a time, to be sure, when description for its own sake existed in
the novel, and the action was halted to permit the introduction of
pictorial passages bearing no necessary relation to the business of
the story,--"blocks" of setting, as it were, which might be removed
without detriment to the progression of the narrative. But the
practice of the best contemporary novelists is summed up and expressed
by Mr. Henry James in this emphatic sentence from his essay on "The
Art of Fiction":--"I cannot imagine composition existing in a series
of blocks, nor conceive, in any novel worth discussing at all, of a
passage of description that is not in its intention narrative."



We have now examined in detail the elements of narrative, and must
next consider the various points of view from which they may be seen
and, in consequence, be represented. Granted a given series of events
to be set forth, the structure of the plot, the means of character
delineation, the use of setting, the entire tone and tenor of the
narrative, are all dependent directly on the answer to the question,
Who shall tell the story?

For a given train of incidents is differently seen and judged,
according to the standpoint from which it is observed. The evidence in
most important murder trials consists mainly of successive narratives
told by different witnesses; and it is very interesting to notice, in
comparing them, how very different a tone and tenor is given to the
same event by each of the observers who recounts it. It remains for
the jury to determine, if possible, from a comparison of the various
views of the various witnesses, what it was that actually happened.
But this, in many cases, is extremely difficult. One witness saw the
action in one way, another in another; one formed a certain
judgment of the character of the accused, another formed a judgment
diametrically different; each has his separate sense of the train
of causation that culminated in the act; the accused himself would
disagree with all the witnesses, if indeed he were capable of looking
on the facts without conscious or unconscious self-deception; and we
may be certain that an infallible omniscient mind, cognizant of all
the hidden motives, would see the matter differently still. The
task of the jury is, in the main, to induce from all these tragic
inconsistencies an absolute outlook upon the real truth that underlies
the facts so differently seen and so variously judged.

Such an absolute outlook is hardly possible to the finite mind of man;
and though it is often assumed by the writer of fiction in the telling
of his tale, it can seldom be consistently maintained. It is therefore
safer to acknowledge that the absolute truth of a story, whether
actual or fictitious, can never be entirely told; that the same train
of incidents looks different from different points of view; and that
therefore the various points of view from which any story may be
looked upon should be studied carefully for the purpose of determining
from which of them it is possible, in a given case, to approach most
nearly a clear vision of the truth.

The points of view from which a story may be seen and told are
many and various; but they may all be grouped into two classes, the
internal and the external. A story seen internally is narrated in the
first person by one of its participants; a story seen externally is
narrated in the third person by a mind aloof from the events depicted.
There are, of course, many variations, both of the internal and of
the external point of view. These in turn must be examined, for the
purpose of determining the special advantages and disadvantages of

First of all, a story may be told by the leading actor in its series
of events,--the hero, as in "Henry Esmond," or the heroine, as in
"Jane Eyre." This point of view is of especial value in narratives
in which the element of action is predominant. The multifarious
adventures of Gil Blas sound at once more vivid and more plausible
narrated in the first person than they would sound narrated in the
third. When what is done is either strange or striking, we prefer
to be told about it by the very man who did it. "Treasure Island" is
narrated by Jim Hawkins, "Kidnapped" by David Balfour; and much of the
vividness of these exciting tales depends upon the fact that they
are told in each case by a boy who stood ever in the forefront of
the action. The plausibility of "Robinson Crusoe" is increased by the
convention that the hero is narrating his own personal experience:
in fact Defoe, in all his fictions, preferred to write in the first
person, because what he sought primarily was plausibility of tone.

This point of view is also of supreme advantage in recounting
personal emotion. Consider for a moment the following paragraph from
"Kidnapped" (Chapter X):--

"I do not know if I was what you call afraid; but my heart beat like a
bird's, both quick and little; and there was a dimness came before my
eyes which I continually rubbed away, and which continually returned.
As for hope, I had none; but only a darkness of despair and a sort of
anger against all the world that made me long to sell my life as dear
as I was able. I tried to pray, I remember, but that same hurry of my
mind, like a man running, would not suffer me to think upon the words;
and my chief wish was to have the thing begin and be done with it."

Now, for the sake of experiment, let us go through the passage,
substituting the pronoun "he" for the pronoun "I." Thus:--

"He was hardly what is called afraid; but his heart beat like a
bird's, both quick and little; and there was a dimness came before his
eyes which he continually rubbed away, and which continually returned.
As for hope, he had none ..." and so forth. Notice how much vividness
is lost,--how much immediacy of emotion. The zest and tang of the
experience is sacrificed, because the reader is forced to stand aloof
and observe it from afar.

The point of view of the leading actor makes for vividness in still
another way. It necessitates an absolute concreteness and objectivity
in the delineation of the subsidiary characters. On the other hand, it
precludes analysis of their emotions and their thoughts. The hero can
tell us only what they said and did, how they looked in action and in
speech, and what they seemed to him to think and feel. But he cannot
enter their minds and delve among their motives. Furthermore he
cannot, without sacrificing naturalness of mood, analyze to any great
extent his own mental processes. Consequently it is almost impossible
to tell from the hero's point of view a story in which the main events
are mental or subjective. We can hardly imagine George Eliot writing
in the first person: the "psychological novel" demands the third.

But the chief difficulty in telling a story from the leading actor's
point of view is the difficulty of characterizing the narrator. All
means of direct delineation are taken from him. He cannot write essays
on his merits or his faults; he can neither describe nor analyze
himself; he cannot see himself as others see him. We must derive our
sense of who and what he is, solely from the things he does and says,
and from his manner of telling us about them. And although it is not
especially difficult, within a brief compass, to delineate a character
through his way of telling things [Notice Laughton O. Zigler, in Mr.
Kipling's "The Captive," whose speech has been examined in a former
chapter], it is extremely difficult to maintain this expedient
consistently throughout a lengthy novel.

Furthermore, an extended story can be told only by a person with a
well-trained sense of narrative; and it is often hard to concede to
the hero the narrative ability that he displays. How is it, we may
ask, that Jim Hawkins is capable of such masterly description as that
of "the brown old seaman, with the sabre cut," in the second paragraph
of "Treasure Island"? How is it that David Balfour, an untutored boy,
is capable of writing the rhythmic prose of Robert Louis Stevenson,
master of style? And in many cases it is also difficult to concede to
the hero an adequate motive for telling his own story. Why is it that,
in the sequel to "Kidnapped," David Balfour should write out all the
intimate details of his love for Catriona? And how is it conceivable
that Jane Eyre should tell to any one, and least of all to the general
public, the profound privacies of emotion evoked by her relation with
Mr. Rochester?

The answer is, of course, that such violations of the hard terms of
actuality are justified by literary convention; and that if the gain
in vividness be great enough, the reader will be willing to concede,
first, that the story shall be told by the leading actor, regardless
of motive, and second, that he shall be granted the requisite mastery
of narrative. But the fact remains that it is very hard for the hero
to draw his own character except in outline; and therefore if the
emphasis is to lie less on what he does than on the sort of person
that he is, the expedient will be ineffectual.

The main structural advantage of telling the story through the person
of the hero is that his presence as the central figure in every event
narrated makes for coherence and gives the story unity. But attendant
disadvantages are that it is often difficult to account for the hero's
presence in every scene, that he cannot be an eye-witness to events
happening at the same time in different places, and that it is hard to
account for his possession of knowledge regarding those details of
the plot which have no immediate bearing on himself. It seems always
somewhat lame to state, as heroes telling their own stories are
frequently obliged to do, "These things I did not know at the time,
and found out only afterwards; but I insert them here, because it is
at this point in the plot that they belong."

Many of these disadvantages may be overcome by telling the tale
from the point of view, not of the leading actor, but of some minor
personage in the story. In this case again, analysis of character is
precluded; but the narrator may delineate the leading actor directly,
through descriptive and expository comment. In stories where the hero
is an extraordinary person, and could not without immodesty descant
upon his own unusual capabilities, it is of obvious advantage to
represent him from the point of view of an admiring friend. Thus when
Poe invented the detective story, he wisely decided to exhibit the
extraordinary analytic power of Dupin through a narrative told not by
the detective himself but by a man who knew him well; and Dr. A. Conan
Doyle, following in his footsteps, has invented Dr. Watson to tell the
tales of Sherlock Holmes.

The actual instance of Boswell and Johnson substantiates the
possibility of a minor actor's knowing intimately all phases of
a hero's life and character. And since the point of view of the
secondary personage is just as internal to the events themselves as
that of the leading actor, the story may be told with an immediacy, a
vividness, and a plausibility approximating closely the effect derived
from a narrative told by the hero. And there is now less difficulty
in accounting for the narrator's knowledge of all the details of the
plot. He can witness minor necessary scenes at which the hero is not
present; he can know things (and tell them to the reader) which at the
time the hero did not know; and if his presence be withheld from an
important incident, the hero can narrate it to him afterward.

Nevertheless, it is often very difficult to maintain throughout a long
story the point of view of a minor actor in the plot. Thackeray breaks
down completely in his attempt to tell "The Newcomes" from the point
of view of Arthur Pendennis, the hero of a former novel. Stevenson
assigns to Mackellar the task of narrating "The Master of Ballantrae":
but when the Master disappears and Mackellar remains at home with Mr.
Henry, it is necessary for the author to invent a second personage,
the Chevalier de Burke, to tell the story of the Master's wanderings.

This last instance leads us to consider the possibility of telling
different sections of the story from the points of view of different
characters, assigning to each the particular phase of the narrative
that he is especially fitted to recount. Three quarters of the
"Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is narrated in the third
person, externally; but the final intimate vividness of horror is
gained by shifting to an internal point of view for the two concluding
chapters,--the first written by Dr. Lanyon, and the last by Jekyll
himself. Mr. Kipling has developed to very subtle uses the expedient
of opening a story from the point of view of a narrator who is named
simply "I" and who is not characterized in any way at all, and then
letting the story proper be told to this impersonal narrator by
several characters who are clearly delineated through their speech
and through the parts that they have played in the tale that they
are telling. This device is used in nearly all the stories of the
"Soldiers Three." The narrator meets Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd
under certain circumstances, and gathers from them bit by bit the
various features of the story,--one detail being contributed by one of
the actors, another by another, until out of the successive fragments
the story is built up. It is in this way also, as we have already
noted, that the tale of Mrs. Bathurst is set before the reader.

A convenient means of shifting the burden of the narrative at any
point to a certain special character is to introduce a letter written
by that character to one of the other people in the plot. This
expedient is employed with extraordinary cleverness by Mr. Meredith in
"Evan Harrington." Most of the tale is told externally; but every now
and then the clever and witty Countess de Saldar writes a letter in
which a leading incident is illuminated from her personal point of

Ever since the days of Richardson the device has frequently been used
of telling an entire story through a series of letters exchanged among
the characters. The main advantage of this method is the constant
shifting of the point of view, which makes it possible for the reader
to see every important incident through the eyes of each of the
characters in turn. Furthermore, it is comparatively easy to
characterize in the first person when the thing that is written is so
intimate and personal as a letter. But the disadvantage of the device
lies in the fact that it tends toward incoherence in the structure
of the narrative. It is hard for the author to stick to the point at
every moment without violating the casual and discursive tone that the
epistolary style demands.

Of course a certain unity may be gained if the letters used are all
written by a single character. The chief advantage of this method over
a direct narrative written by one of the actors is the added motive
for the revelation of intimate matters which is furnished by the fact
that the narrator is writing, not for the public at large, but only
for the friend, or friends, to whom the letters are addressed. But a
series of letters written by one person only is very likely to become
monotonous; and more is usually gained than lost by assigning the
epistolary role successively to different characters.

We have seen that, although the employment of an internal point of
view gives a narrative vividness of action objectivity of observation,
immediacy of emotion, and plausibility of tone, it is attended by
several difficulties in the delineation of the characters and the
construction of the plot. It is therefore in many cases more advisable
for the author to look upon the narrative externally and to write it
in the third person. But there are several different ways of doing
this; for though a story viewed externally is told in every case by
a mind distinct from that of any of the characters, there are many
different stations in which that mind may set itself, and many
different moods in which it may recount the story.

First of all (to start with a phase that contrasts most widely
with the internal point of view) the external mind may set itself
equidistant from all the characters and may assume toward them an
attitude of absolute omniscience. The story, in such a case, is told
by a sort of god, who is cognizant of the past and future of the
action while he is looking at the present, and who sees into the minds
and hearts of all the characters at once and understands them better
than they do themselves.

The main practical advantage in assuming the god-like point of view
is that the narrator is never obliged to account for his possession of
intimate information. He can observe events which happen at the same
time in places widely separated. Darkness cannot dim his eyes; locked
doors cannot shut him out. He can be with a character when that
character is most alone. He can make clear to us the thoughts that
do not tremble into speech, the emotions that falter and subside into
inaction. He can know, and can convey to us, how much of a person's
real thought is expressed, and how much is concealed, by the language
that he uses. And the reader seeks no motive to account for the
narrator's revelation of the personal secrets of the characters.

The omniscient point of view is the only one that permits upon a
large scale the depiction of character through mental analysis. It is
therefore usually used in the "psychological novel." It was employed
always by George Eliot, and has been selected almost always by Mr.
Meredith. It is, of course, invaluable for telling the sort of story
whose main events are mental, or subjective. A spiritual experience
which does not translate itself into concrete action can be viewed
adequately only from the god-like point of view. But when it is
employed in the narration of objective events, the writer runs the
danger of undue abstractness. A certain vividness--a certain immediacy
of observation--are likely to be lost, because of the aloofness from
the characters of the mind that sees them.

This point of view is at once the most easy and the most difficult
that the author may assume. Technically it is the easiest, because the
writer is absolutely free in the selection and the patterning of his
narrative materials: but humanly it is the most difficult, because it
is hard for any man consistently to play the god, even toward his own
fictitious creatures. Although George Eliot assumes omniscience of
Daniel Deronda, the consensus of opinion among men of sound judgment
is that she does not really know her hero. Deronda is in truth a
lesser person than she thinks him; and her assumption of omniscience
breaks down. In fact, unless an author is gifted with the god-like
wisdom of Mr. Meredith, he is almost sure to break down in the
effort to sustain the omniscient attitude consistently throughout a
complicated novel.

Therefore, in assuming a point of view external to the characters, it
is usually wiser for the author to accept a compromise and to
impose certain definite limits upon his own omniscience. Thus, while
maintaining the prerogative to enter at any moment the minds of one or
more of his characters, he may limit his observation of the others to
what was actually seen and heard of them by those of whose minds he is
omniscient. In such a case, although the author tells the story in the
third person, he virtually sees the story from the point of view of
a certain actor, or of certain actors, in it. The only phase of
this device which we need to examine is that wherein the novelist's
omniscience is limited to a single character.

This special point of view is employed with consummate art by Jane
Austen. In "Emma," for example, she portrays every intimate detail of
the heroine's thoughts and feelings, entering Emma's mind at will, or
looking at her from the outside with omniscient eyes. But in dealing
with the other characters, the author limits her own knowledge to what
Emma knew about them, and sees them consistently through the eyes of
the heroine. Hence the story, although written by Jane Austen in the
third person, is really seen by Emma Woodhouse and thought of in the
first. Similarly, in "Pride and Prejudice," Elizabeth Bennet is the
only character that the author permits herself to analyze at any
length: the others are seen objectively, merely as Elizabeth saw them.
The reader is made acquainted with every step in the heroine's gradual
change of feeling toward Mr. Darcy; but of the change in Darcy's
thoughts and feelings toward Elizabeth the reader is told nothing
until she herself discovers it.

Of course, in applying this device, it is possible for the author, at
certain points in the narrative, to shift his limited omniscience from
one of the characters to another. In such a case, although the story
is told throughout consistently in the third person, one scene may be
viewed from the standpoint of one of the characters, another from that
of another character, and so on.

Imagine for a moment two adjacent rooms with a single door between
them which is locked; and suppose a character alone in each of the
rooms,--each person thinking of the other. Now an author assuming
absolute omniscience could tell us what each of them was thinking at
the self-same moment: the locked door would not be a bar to him. But
an author telling the story from the attitude of limited omniscience
could tell us only what one of them was thinking, and would not be
able to see beyond the door. Whether or not he would find himself at
liberty to choose which room he should be cognizant of, would depend
of course on whether he was maintaining the same point of view
throughout his story or was selecting it anew for every scene. In the
first case, the one character whom he could see would be determined in
advance: in the other, he should have to decide from the point of view
of which of them that special scene could be the more effectively set

The attitude of limited omniscience is more easy to maintain than that
of a god-like mind intimately cognizant of all the characters at once;
and furthermore, the employment of the more restricted point of view
is more likely to produce the illusion of life. In actual experience,
we see only one mind internally,--our own; all other people we look
upon externally: and a story, therefore, which lays bare to us one
mind and only one is more in tune with life itself than a story in
which many minds are searched by an all-seeing eye. Also, a story told
in the third person from the point of view which has been illustrated
from Jane Austen's novels enjoys nearly every advantage of a
narrative told in the first person by the leading actor, without being
encumbered by certain of the most noticeable disadvantages.

For the sake of concreteness, however, it is often advisable for the
author writing in the third person to restrict his point of view still
further, and, foregoing absolutely the prerogative of omniscience, to
limit himself to an attitude merely observant and entirely external
to all the characters. In such a case the author wears, as it were,
an invisible cap like that of Fortunatus, which permits him to move
unnoticed among his characters; and he reports to us externally their
looks, their actions, and their speech, without ever assuming an
ability to delve into their minds. This rigidly external point of view
is employed frequently by Guy de Maupassant in his briefer fictions;
but although it is especially valuable in the short story, it is
extremely difficult to maintain through the extensive compass of
a novel. The main advantage of this point of view is that it
necessitates upon the part of the author an attitude toward his story
which is at all moments visual rather than intellectual. He does not
give a ready-made interpretation of his incidents, but merely projects
them before the eyes of his readers and allows to each the privilege
of interpreting them for himself. But, on the other hand, the reader
loses the advantage of the novelist's superior knowledge of his
creatures; and, excepting in dramatic moments when the motives are
self-evident from the action, may miss the human purport of the scene.

In employing every phase of the external point of view except the one
which has been last discussed, the author is free to choose between
two very different tones of narrative,--the impersonal and the
personal. He may either obliterate or emphasize his own personality
as a factor in the story. The great epics and folk-tales have all been
told impersonally. Whatever sort of person Homer may have been, he
never obtrudes himself into his narrative; and we may read both the
"Iliad" and the "Odyssey" without deriving any more definite sense of
his personality than may be drawn from the hints which are given us by
the things he knows about. No one knows the author of "Beowulf" or of
the "Nibelungen Lied." These stories seem to tell themselves. They are
seen from nobody's point of view, or from anybody's--whichever way
we choose to say it. Many modern authors, like Sir Walter Scott,
instinctively assume the epic attitude toward their characters and
incidents: they look upon them with a large unconsciousness of self
and depict them just as any one would see them. Other authors, like
Mr. William Dean Howells, strive deliberately to keep the personal
note out of their stories: self-consciously they triumph over self in
the endeavor to leave their characters alone.

But novelists of another class prefer to admit frankly to the reader
that the narrator who stands apart from all the characters and writes
about them in the third person is the author himself. They give a
personal tone to the narrative; they assert their own peculiarities
of taste and judgment, and never let you forget that they, and they
alone, are telling the story. The reader has to see it through their
eyes. It is in this way, for example, that Thackeray displays his
stories,--pitying his characters, admiring them, making fun of them,
or loving them, and never letting slip an opportunity to chat about
the matter with his readers.

Mr. Howells, in Section XV of his "Criticism and Fiction," comments
adversely on Thackeray's tendency "to stand about in his scene,
talking it over with his hands in his pockets, interrupting the
action, and spoiling the illusion in which alone the truth of art
resides"; and in a further sentence he condemns him as "a writer who
had so little artistic sensibility, that he never hesitated on any
occasion, great or small, to make a foray among his characters, and
catch them up to show them to the reader and tell him how beautiful
or ugly they were; and cry out over their amazing properties."
This sweeping condemnation of the narrative attitude of one of the
best-beloved of the great masters sounds just a little bigoted. It is
true, of course, that the strictest artists in fiction, like Guy de
Maupassant, prefer to tell their tales impersonally: they leave their
characters rigidly alone, and allow the reader to see them without
looking through the author's personality. But there is a type of
literature wherein the chief charm for the reader lies in the fact
that he is permitted to see things through the author's mind. When we
read Charles Lamb's essay on "The South Sea House," we read it not so
much to look at the deserted and memorable building as to look at Elia
looking at it. Similarly many readers return again and again to "The
Newcomes" not so much for the pleasure of seeing London high society
as for the pleasure of seeing Thackeray see it. The merit, or the
defect, of the method in any case is a question not of rules and
regulations but of the tone and quality of the author's mind. Whether
or not he may safely obtrude himself into his fictions depends
entirely on who he is. This is a matter more of personality than of
art: and what might be insufferable with one author may stand as the
main merit of another. For instance, the greatest charm of Mr. J. M.
Barrie's novels emanates from the author's habit of emphasizing the
personal relation between himself and his characters. The author's
many-mooded attitude toward Sentimental Tommy is a matter of human
interest just as much as anything that Tommy feels himself.

Let us admit, then, in spite of Mr. Howells, that the author of
fiction has a right to assert himself as the narrator, provided that
he be a person of interest and charm. It remains for us to consider
the various moods in which, in such a case, the writer may look upon
his story. The self-obliterating author endeavors to hide his own
opinion of the characters, in order not to interfere with the reader's
independence of judgment concerning them; but the author who writes
personally does not hesitate to reveal, nor even to express directly,
his admiration of a character's merits or his deprecation of a
character's defects. You will seek in vain, in studying the fictitious
people of Guy de Maupassant, for any indication of the author's
approval or disapproval of them; and there is something very admirable
in this absolute impassiveness of art. But on the other hand, there
is a certain salutary humanness about an author who loves or hates his
characters just as he would love or hate the same sort of people in
actual life, and writes about them with the glow of personal emotion.
Mr. Barrie often disapproves of Tommy; sometimes he feels forced to
scold him; but he loves him for a' that: and we feel instinctively
that the hero is the more truthfully delineated for being represented
by a friend.

It will be gathered from the foregoing discussion of the various
points of view in narrative that no one of them may be pronounced
absolutely better than the others. But this much may be said
dogmatically:--there is always one best point of view from which
to tell any given short-story; and although in planning a novel the
author works with far less technical restriction, there is almost
always one best point of view from which to tell a given novel.
Therefore, it is advisable for the author to determine as early as
possible, from a studious consideration of his materials, what is the
best point of view from which to tell the story he is planning, and
thereafter to contemplate his narrative from that standpoint and that
only. Furthermore, the interest of art demands that the point of view
selected shall, if possible, be maintained consistently throughout the
telling of the story. This, however, is a very difficult matter; and
only in very recent years have even the best writers grown to master
it. The novels which have been told without a single violation of
this principle are very few in number. But the fact remains that any
unwarrantable break-down in the point of view selected diseconomizes
the attention of the reader. It is unfortunate, for instance, that
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, in "Marjorie Daw," should have found it
necessary, after telling almost the entire tale in letters, to shift
suddenly to the external point of view and end the story with a few
pages of direct narrative. Such an unexpected variation of method
startles and to some extent disrupts the attention of the reader, and
thereby detracts from the effect of the thing to be conveyed.

Mr. Henry James and Mr. Kipling exhibit, in their several ways,
extraordinary mastery of point of view; and their works may very
profitably be studied for examples of this special phase of artistry
in narrative. The very title of Mr. James' "What Maisie Knew"
proclaims the rigidly restricted standpoint from which the narrative
material is seen. In Mr. Kipling's recent tale, "A Deal in Cotton,"
which appeared in _Collier's Weekly_ for Christmas, 1907, the interest
is derived chiefly from the trick of telling the story twice,--first
from the point of view of Adam Strickland, and the second time from
the point of view of Adam's native body-servant, who knew many matters
that were hidden from his master.

In certain special cases the point of view has been made, so to speak,
the real hero of the story. Some years ago Mr. Brander Matthews,
in collaboration with the late H. C. Bunner, devised a very clever
narrative entitled "The Documents in the Case." It consisted merely of
a series of numbered documents, widely different in nature, presented
with neither introduction nor comment by the authors. The series
contained clippings from various newspapers, personal letters,
I. O. U's, race-track reports, pawn-tickets, letter-heads, telegrams,
theater programs, advertisements, receipted bills, envelopes, etc. In
spite of the diversity of these materials, the authors succeeded in
fabricating a narrative which was entirely coherent and at all points
clear. The main interest, however, lay in the novelty and cleverness
of the point of view; and though such an exaggerated technical
expedient may be serviceable now and then for a special sort of
story, it is not of any general value. A point of view that attracts
attention to itself necessarily distracts attention from the story
that is being represented; and in a narrative of serious import, the
main emphasis should be thrown upon the thing that is told rather than
upon the way of telling it.



The features of any object that we contemplate may with intelligent
judgment be divided into two classes, according as they are inherently
essential, or else merely contributory, to the existence of that
object as an individual entity. If any one of its inherently essential
features should be altered, that object would cease to be itself
and would become another object; but if any or all of its merely
contributory features should be changed, the object would still retain
its individuality, however much its aspect might be altered. And in
general it may be said that we do not understand an object until we
are able to set intelligently in one group or the other every feature
it presents to our attention.

In contemplating natural objects, it is often difficult to distinguish
those features which are merely contributory from those which are
inherently essential; but it ought not to be difficult to do so in
contemplating a work of art. For it is possible for the artist--in
fact it is incumbent upon him--to help the observer to distinguish
clearly between the essential and the contributory details of the
object he has fabricated. By employing certain technical expedients in
exhibiting his work, the artist is able to communicate to the observer
his own intelligent distinction between its more important, and its
less important, features. He does this by casting emphasis upon the
necessary details and gathering out of emphasis the subsidiary ones.

The importance of the principle of emphasis is recognized in all the
arts; for it is only by an application of this principle that the
artist can gather and group in the background the subsidiary elements
of his work, while he flings into vivid relief those elements that
embody the essence of the thing he has to say. The halo with which the
Byzantine mosaicists surrounded the faces of their saints, the glory
of golden light that gleams about the figure of Christ in heaven in
Tintoretto's decorations, the blank bright walls of the Doge's palace
undermined by darkling and shadowy arcades, the refrain of a Provençal
song, the sharp shadow under the visor of Verrocchio's equestrian
statue, the thought-provoking chiaroscuro of Rembrandt's figure
paintings--these expedients are all designed to attract attention to
the essential elements of a whole of many parts. By technical devices
such as these, emphasis must be given to the central truth of a work
of art in order that the observer may not look instead at the mere
accidents of its investiture. Where many elements are gathered
together for the purpose of representing an idea, some of them must
be more important than the others because they are to a greater extent
imbued with it inherently; and the artist will fail of his purpose
unless he indicates clearly which elements are essential and which are
merely subsidiary.

Scarcely any other work of art, excepting a Gothic cathedral or a
theatrical performance, is made of elements more multifarious than
those of a fictitious narrative. The details of a novel are so many
and so various that the author needs at all times a nice understanding
and a careful application of the principle of emphasis. It is
therefore advisable that the present chapter should be devoted to the
enumeration and illustration of the different technical devices which
are employed by artists in narrative to cast the needed emphasis on
the essential features of their stories.

First of all, it is obviously easy to emphasize by position. In any
narrative, or section of a narrative, that is designed to be read in
a single sitting, the last moments are of necessity emphatic because
they are the last. When the reader lays the narrative aside, he
remembers most vividly the last thing that has been presented to his
attention; and if he thinks back to the earlier portions of the story,
he must do so by thinking through the concluding passage. Therefore,
it is necessary in the short-story, and advisable in the chapters of a
novel, to reserve for the ultimate position one of the most inherently
important features of the narrative; for surely it is bad art to
waste the natural emphasis of position by casting it upon a subsidiary

The importance of this simple expedient will readily be recognized if
the student will gather together a hundred short-stories written by
acknowledged masters and examine the last paragraph of each. Consider
for a moment the final sentences of "Markheim," which we have already
quoted in another connection:--

"He confronted the maid upon the threshold with something like a

"'You had better go for the police,' said he: 'I have killed your

The entire story is summed up in the concluding phrase; and the final
sentence rings ever after in the reader's memory.

Here, to cite a new example, is the conclusion of Poe's "The Masque of
the Red Death":--

"And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come
like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the
blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing
posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with
that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired.
And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion
over all."

The sense of absolute ruin which we derive from this impressive
paragraph is, to a considerable extent, due to the emphasis it gains
from its finality. The effect would unquestionably be subtracted from,
if another paragraph should be appended and should steal away its
importance of position.

In order to derive the utmost emphasis from the terminal position,
the great artist Guy de Maupassant, in his short-stories, developed a
periodicity of structure by means of which he reserved the solution
of the narrative, whenever possible, until the final sentences. This
periodic structure is employed, for example, in his well-known story
of "The Necklace" ("_La Parure_"). It deals with a poor woman who
loses a diamond necklace that she has borrowed from a rich friend in
order to wear at a ball. She buys another exactly like it and returns
this in its place. For ten years she and her husband labor day
and night to pay off the debts they have incurred to purchase the
substituted jewels. After the debts are all paid, the woman tells her
friend of what had happened. Then follows this last sentence of the

"'Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine were false. At most they were worth
five hundred francs!'"

Next to the last position, the most emphatic place in a brief
narrative, or section of a narrative, is of course the first. The
mind of the reader receives with an especial vividness whatever is
presented to it at the outset. For this reason it is necessary in the
short-story, and advisable in the chapters of a novel, to begin with
material that not only is inherently essential but also strikes
the key-note of the narrative that is to follow. Edgar Allan Poe is
especially artistic in applying this principle of emphasis by initial
position. We have already quoted, in another connection, the solemn
opening of "The Fall of the House of Usher," with its suggestion of
immitigable gloom of setting as the dominant note of the narrative. In
"The Cask of Amontillado," wherein the thing to be emphasized is
the element of action, Poe begins with this sentence: "The thousand
injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he
ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge": and we know already that the
story is to set forth a signal act of vengeance. In "The Tell-Tale
Heart," which is a study of murderous madness, and deals primarily
with the element of character, the author opens thus:--

"True!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am;
but why _will_ you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my
senses--not destroyed--not dulled them. Above all was the sense of
hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I
heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe
how healthily--how calmly I can tell you the whole story."

In general it may be said that any pause in a narrative emphasizes
by position whatever immediately precedes it, and also (though to a
considerably less extent) whatever immediately follows it. For this
reason many masters of the short-story, like Daudet and de Maupassant,
construct their narratives in sections, in order to multiply the
number of terminal and initial positions. Asterisks strung across the
page not only make the reader aware of the completion of an integral
portion of the story, but also focus his attention emphatically on the
last thing that has been said before the interruption. The employment
of _points de suspension_--a mark of punctuation consisting of a
series of successive dots ...--which is so frequent with French
authors, is a device which is used to interrupt a sentence solely for
the sake of emphasis by pause.

The instances which we have selected to illustrate the expedient
of emphasizing by position have been chosen for convenience from
short-stories; but the same principle may be applied with similar
success in constructing the chapters of a novel. Certain great but
inartistic novelists, like Sir Walter Scott, show themselves to be
singularly obtuse to the advantage of placing emphatic material in
an emphatic position. Scott is almost always careless of his chapter
endings: he allows the sections of his narrative to drift and
straggle, instead of rounding them to an emphatic close. But more
artistic novelists, like Victor Hugo for example, never fail to take
advantage of the terminal position. Consider the close of Book XI,
Chapter II, of "Notre Dame de Paris." The gypsy-girl, Esmeralda, has
been hanged in the Place de Grève. The hunchback, Quasimodo, has flung
the archdeacon, Claude Frollo, from the tower-top of Notre Dame. This
paragraph then brings the chapter to an end:--

"Quasimodo then raised his eye to the gypsy, whose body he saw,
depending from the gibbet, shudder afar under her white robe with the
last tremblings of death-agony; then he lowered it to the archdeacon,
stretched out at the foot of the tower and no longer having human
form; and he said with a sob that made his deep chest heave: 'Oh! all
that I have loved!'"

A chapter ending may be artistically planned either (as in the
foregoing instance) to sum up with absolute finality the narrative
accomplishment of the chapter, or else, by vaguely foreshadowing the
subsequent progress of the story, to lure the reader to proceed.
The elder Dumas possessed in a remarkable degree the faculty of
so terminating one chapter as to allure the reader to an immediate
commencement of the next. He did this most frequently by introducing
a new thread of narrative in a phrase of the concluding sentence, and
thereby exciting the reader's curiosity to follow up the thread.

The expedient of emphasis by terminal and by initial position cannot,
of course, be applied without reservation to an entire novel. The
last chapter of a novel with a complicated plot is often of necessity
devoted to tying or untying minor knots in the straggling threads of
the general network. Therefore, the most emphatic place in an extended
narrative is not at the very end, but rather at the close of the
chapter which sets forth the culmination. Also, although many great
novels, like "The Scarlet Letter," have begun at an emphatic moment
in the plot, many others have opened slowly and have presented no
important material until the narrative was well under way. "The
Talisman" of Scott, "The Spy" of Fenimore Cooper, and many another
early nineteenth-century romance, began with a solitary horseman whom
the reader was forced to follow for several pages before anything
whatever happened. Latterly, however, novelists have learned from
writers of short-stories the art of opening emphatically with material
important to the plot.

Another means of emphasis in narrative is by proportion. More time and
more attention should be given to essential scenes than to matters
of subsidiary interest. The most important characters should be given
most to say and do; and the amount of attention devoted to the others
should be proportioned to their importance in the action. Becky Sharp
stands out sharply from the half a hundred other characters in "Vanity
Fair," because more time is devoted to her than to any of the others.
Similarly, in "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice," as we have noted in
the preceding chapter, the heroine is in each case emphasized by the
fact that she is set forth from a more intimate point of view than
the minor people in the story. It is wise, for the sake of emphasis
by proportion, to draw the major characters more completely and more
carefully than the minor; and much may therefore be said, on this
ground, in defense of Dickens' habit of drawing humanly only the
leading characters in his novels and merely sketching in caricature
the subsidiary actors.

It is sometimes possible, in special cases, to emphasize ironically
by inverse proportion. An author may deliberately devote several
successive pages to dwelling on subsidiary matters, only to emphasize
sharply a sudden paragraph or sentence in which he turns to the one
thing that really counts. But this ironical expedient is, of
course, less frequently serviceable than that of emphasis by direct

Undoubtedly the easiest means of inculcating a detail of narrative
is to repeat it again and again. Emphasis by iteration is a favorite
device of Dickens. The reader is never allowed to forget the
catch-phrase of Micawber or the moral look of Pecksniff. In many
cases, to be sure, the reader wishes that he might escape the
constantly recurrent repetition; but Dickens occasionally applies the
expedient with subtle emotional effect. In "A Tale of Two Cities,"
for example, the repeated references to echoing footsteps and to the
knitting of Madame Defarge contribute a great deal to the sense of
imminent catastrophe.

Certain modern authors have developed a phase of emphasis by iteration
which is similar to the employment of the _leit-motiv_ in the
music-dramas of Richard Wagner. In the Wagnerian operas a certain
musical theme is devoted to each of the characters, and is woven into
the score whenever the character appears. Similarly, in the later
plays of Henrik Ibsen, certain phrases are repeated frequently,
to indicate the recurrence of certain dramatic moods. Thus, in
"Rosmersholm," reference is made to the weird symbol of "white
horses," whenever the mood of the momentary scene foreshadows the
double suicide which is to terminate the play. Students of "Hedda
Gabler" need not be reminded of the emphasis flung by iteration on the
phrases, "Vine-leaves in his hair," "Fancy that, Hedda!" "Wavy-haired
Thea," "The one cock on the fowl-roost," and "People don't do such
things!" The same device may be employed just as effectively in
the short-story and the novel. A single instance will suffice for
illustration. Notice, in examining the impressive talk of the old
lama in Mr. Kipling's "Kim," how much emphasis is derived from the
continual recurrence of certain phrases, like the "Search for the
River," "the justice of the Wheel," "to acquire merit," and so forth.

A narrative expedient scarcely distinguishable in effect from simple
iteration is the device of parallelism of structure. For example, in
Hawthorne's story of "The White Old Maid," the first scene and the
last, although they are separated in time by many, many years, take
place in the same spacious chamber, with the moonbeams falling in the
same way through two deep and narrow windows, while waving curtains
produce the same ghostly semblance of expression on a face that is

Emphasis in narrative is also attained by antithesis,--an expedient
employed in every art. In most stories it is well so to select the
characters that they will set each other off by contrast. In the great
duel scene of the "Master of Ballantrae," from which a selection has
been quoted in a previous chapter, the phlegmatic calm of Mr. Henry
is contrasted sharply with the mercurial hot-headedness of the Master;
and each character stands forth more vividly because of its opposition
to the other. Of the two women who are loved by Tito Melema, the
one, Tessa, is simple and childish, the other, Romola, complex and
intellectual. The most interesting stories present a constant contrast
of mutually foiling personalities; and whenever characters of varied
views and opposing aims come nobly to the grapple in a struggle that
vitally concerns them, the tensity of the situation will be augmented
if the difference between the characters is marked. This expedient
is therefore of especial importance in the drama. Othello seems more
poignantly emotional in the presence of the coldly intellectual Iago.
In "The School for Scandal," Charles and Joseph Surface are much
more effective together than either of them would be alone. The
whole-hearted and happy-go-lucky recklessness of the one sets off the
smooth and smug dissimulation of the other; the first gives light
to the play, and the second shade. Hamlet's wit is sharpened by
the garrulous obtuseness of Polonius; the sad world-wisdom of Paula
Tanqueray is accentuated by the innocence of Ellean. Similarly, to
return to the novel for examples, we need only instance the contrast
in mind between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, the contrast in mood
between Claude Frollo and Ph[oe]bus de Châteaupers, the contrast in
ideals between Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Grandcourt.

The expedient of antithesis is also employed effectively in the
balance of scene against scene. The absolute desolation which
terminates "The Masque of the Red Death" is preceded by "a masked ball
of the most unusual magnificence." In Scott's "Kenilworth," we pass
from the superb festivities which Leicester institutes in honor of
Queen Elizabeth, to the lonely prison where Amy Robsart, his discarded
wife, is languishing. Victor Hugo is, in modern fiction, the greatest
master of antithesis of mood between scene and scene. His most
emphatic effects are attained, like those of Gothic architecture, by a
juxtaposition of the grotesque and the sublime. Often, to be sure, he
overworks the antithetic; and entire sections of his narrative move
like the walking-beam of a ferry-boat, tilting now to this side, now
to that. But in spite of his excess in employing this device, his
practice should be studied carefully; for at his best he illustrates
more convincingly than any other author the effectiveness of emphasis
by contrast.

The subtlest way of employing this expedient is to present an
antithesis of mood within a single scene. Dame Quickly's account of
Falstaff's death touches at once the heights of humor and the depths
of pathos. At the close of "Mrs. Bathurst," the tragic narrative
is interrupted by the passage of a picnic-party singing a light
love-song. Shylock, in his great dialogue with Tubal, is at the same
moment plunged in melancholy over the defection of his daughter
and flushed with triumph because he has Antonio at last within his
clutches. Each emotion seems more potent because it is contrasted with
the other. In Mr. Kipling's "'Love-o'-Women,'" the tragic effect is
enhanced by the fact that the tale is told by the humorous Mulvaney.

"'An' now?' she sez, lookin' at him; an' the red paint stud lone on
the white av her face like a bull's-eye on a target.

"He lifted up his eyes, slow an' very slow, an' he looked at her long
an' very long, an' he tuk his spache betune his teeth wid a wrench
that shuk him.

"'I'm dyin', Aigypt--dyin',' he says; ay, those were his words, for I
remimber the name he called her. He was turnin' the death-color,
but his eyes niver rowled. They were set--set on her. Widout word or
warnin' she opened her arms full stretch, an' 'Here!' she sez. (Oh,
fwhat a golden mericle av a voice ut was.) 'Die here,' she sez; an'
Love-o'-Women dhropped forward, an' she hild him up, for she was a
fine big woman."

Another rhetorical expedient from which emphasis may be derived is,
of course, the use of climax. The materials of a short-story, or of a
chapter of narrative, should in nearly every case be assembled in an
ascending order of importance,--each incident carrying the interest
to a higher level than that of the preceding. The same is true of the
structure of a novel from the outset to the moment of the culmination;
but of course it is rarely possible in the _dénouement_ to carry
the interest any higher than the level it attained at the point of
greatest complication. Climacteric progressiveness of structure is
effectively exhibited in Mr. Henry James' tale of mystery and
terror, "The Turn of the Screw." The author on horror's head horrors
accumulates, in a steadily ascending scale. But, on the other hand,
many stories have been marred by the introduction of a very striking
scene too early in the structure, after which there has succeeded of
necessity an appreciable diminution in the interest. The reason why
sequels to great novels have rarely been successful is that it has
been impossible for the author in the second volume to sustain a
climacteric rise of interest from the level where he left off in the

A means of emphasis less technical and more psychological than those
which have been hitherto discussed is that which owes its origin to
surprise. Whatever hits the reader unexpectedly will hit him hard. He
will be most impressed by that for which he has been least prepared.
Chapter XXXII of "Vanity Fair" passes in Brussels during the battle of
Waterloo. The reader is kept in the city with the women of the story
while the men are fighting on the field a dozen miles away. All day a
distant cannonading rumbles on the ear. At nightfall the noise stops
suddenly. Then, at the end of the chapter, the reader is told:--

"No more firing was heard at Brussels--the pursuit rolled miles away.
Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for
George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his

This statement of George Osborne's death is emphasized in several ways
at once. It is made emphatic by position, since it is placed at the
very end of a long chapter; by inverse proportion, since it is set
forth in a single phrase after many pages that have been devoted to
less important matters; but most of all by the startle of surprise
with which it strikes the reader. Likewise, the last sentence of
de Maupassant's "The Necklace," quoted earlier in this chapter, is
emphatic by surprise as well as by position; and the same is true of
the clever and unexpected close of H. C. Bunner's "A Sisterly Scheme,"
in many ways a little masterpiece of art.

In tales of mystery, the interest is maintained chiefly by the deft
manipulation of surprise; but even in novels wherein the aim to
mystify is very far from being the primary purpose of the author, it
is often wise to keep a secret from the reader for the sake of the
emphasis by surprise which may be derived at the moment of revelation.
In "Our Mutual Friend" the reader is led for a long time to suppose
that the character of Mr. Boffin is changing for the worse; and his
interest is stimulated keenly when he discovers ultimately that the
apparent degeneration has been only a pretense.

In the drama this expedient must be used with great delicacy, because
a sudden and startling shock of surprise is likely to scatter the
attention of the spectators and flurry them out of a true conception
of the scene. The reader of a novel, when he discovers with surprise
that he has been skilfully deceived through several pages, may pause
to reconstruct his conception of the narrative, and may even re-read
the entire passage through which the secret has been withheld from
him. But in the theater, the spectators cannot stop the play while
they reconstruct in retrospect their judgment of a situation; and
therefore, in the drama, a moment of surprise should be carefully led
up to by anticipatory suggestion. Before Lady Macbeth is disclosed
walking in her sleep, her doctor and her waiting-gentlewoman are sent
on to tell the audience of her "slumbery agitation." This is excellent
art in the theater; but it would be bad art in the pages of a novel.
In a story written to be read, surprise is most effective when it is

An even more interesting form of emphasis in narrative is emphasis
by suspense. Wilkie Collins is accredited with having said that the
secret of holding the attention of one's readers lay in the ability to
do three things: "Make 'em laugh; make 'em weep; make 'em wait." Still
abide these three; and the greatest is the last. The ability to
make the reader wait, through many pages and at times through many
chapters, is a very valuable asset of the writer of fiction; but
this ability is applied to best advantage when it is exercised within
certain limitations. In the first place, there is no use in making the
reader wait unless he is first given an inkling of what he is to wait
for. The reader should be tantalized; he should be made to long for
the fruit that is just beyond his grasp; and he should not be left in
ignorance as to the nature of the fruit, lest he should long for it
half-heartedly. A vague sense of "something evermore about to be" is
not as interesting to the reader as a vivid sense of the imminence
of some particular occurrence that he wishes ardently to witness. The
expedient of suspense is most effective when either of two things and
only two, both of which the reader has imagined in advance, is just
about to happen, and the reader, desirous of the one and apprehensive
of the other, is kept waiting while the balance trembles. In the
second place, there is seldom any use in making the reader wait
unless he is given in the end the thing he has been waiting for. A
short-story may occasionally set forth a suspense which is never to be
satisfied. Frank R. Stockton's famous tale, "The Lady or the Tiger?",
ends with a question which neither the reader nor the author is able
to answer; and Bayard Taylor's fascinating short-story, "Who Was
She?", never reveals the alluring secret of the heroine's identity.
But in an extended story an unsatisfied suspense is often less
emphatic than no suspense at all, because the reader in the end feels
cheated by the author who has made him wait for nothing. There are, of
course, exceptions to this statement. In "The Marble Faun," Hawthorne
is undoubtedly right in never revealing the shape of Donatello's ears,
even though the reader continually expects the revelation; but, in
the same novel, it is difficult to see what, if anything, is gained by
making the reader wait in vain for the truth about the shadowy past of

Emphasis in narrative may also be attained by imitative movement.
Whatever is imagined to have happened quickly should be narrated
quickly, in few words and in rapid rhythm; and whatever is imagined
to have happened slowly should be narrated in a more leisurely
manner,--sometimes in a greater number of words than are absolutely
necessitated by the sense alone,--the words being arranged,
furthermore, in a rhythm of appreciable sluggishness. In "Markheim,"
the dealer is murdered in a single sudden sentence: "The long,
skewerlike dagger flashed and fell." But, later on in the story,
it takes the hero a whole paragraph, containing no less than three
hundred words, to mount the four-and-twenty steps to the first floor
of the house. In the following passage from "The Masque of the Red
Death," notice how much of the effect is due to imitative movement in
the narrative:--

"But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of
the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put
forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard
of the Prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one
impulse, shrank from the centers of the rooms to the walls, he made
his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step
which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber
to the purple--through the purple to the green--through the green to
the orange--through this again to the white--and even thence to the
violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was
then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the
shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six
chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that
had seized upon all." The specter and the Prince pass successively
through the same series of rooms; but it takes the former fifty-one
words to cover the distance, whereas it takes the latter only six.

In every story that is artistically fashioned, the methods of emphasis
enumerated in this chapter will be found to be continually applied.
Its essential features will be rendered prominent by position
(terminal or initial), by proportion (direct or inverse), by iteration
or parallelism, by antithesis, by climax, by surprise, by suspense,
by imitative movement, or by a combination of any or all of these.
The necessity of emphasis is ever present; the means of emphasis are
simple; and any writer of narrative who knows his art will endeavor to
employ them always to the best advantage.



Throughout the present volume, the word _fiction_ has been used with a
very broad significance, to include every type of literary composition
whose purpose is to embody certain truths of human life in a series
of imagined facts. The reason for this has been that the same general
artistic methods, with very slight and obvious modifications, are
applicable to every sort of narrative which sets forth imagined people
in a series of imagined acts. Nearly all of the technical principles
which have been outlined in the six preceding chapters apply not only
to the novel and the short-story, but likewise to the epic and the
lesser narrative in verse, and also (though with certain evident
limitations) to the drama. The materials and methods of fiction may be
studied in the works of Homer, Shakespeare, and even Browning, as well
as in the works of Balzac, Turgénieff, and Mr. Kipling. The nature of
narrative is necessarily the same, whatever be its mood or its medium.
The methods of constructing plots, of delineating characters, of
employing settings, do not differ appreciably whether a narrative be
written in verse or in prose; and in either case the same selection of
point of view and variety of emphasis are possible. Therefore, in this
volume, no attempt has hitherto been made to distinguish one type of
fictitious narrative from another.

Such a distinction, if it be attempted at all, should be made only
on the broadest and most general lines. First of all, it should be
admitted that, in an inquiry concerned solely with the methods of
fiction, no technical distinction is possible between the narrative
that is written in verse and the narrative that is written in prose.
The two differ in the mood of their materials and the medium through
which they are expressed; but they do not differ distinctly in
methods of construction. As far as plot and characters and setting are
concerned, Sir Walter Scott went to work in the Waverley Novels, which
are written in prose, just as he had gone to work in "Marmion" and
"The Lady of the Lake," which are written in verse. In his verse he
said things with the better art, in his prose he had more things to
say; but in each case his central purpose was the same: and nothing
can be gained from a critical dictum that "Ivanhoe" is fiction and
that "Marmion" is not. In the history of every nation, fiction has
been written earliest in verse and only afterwards in prose. What we
loosely call the novel was developed late in literature, at a time
after prose had supplanted verse as the natural medium for narrative.
Therefore, and therefore only, have we come to regard the novel as a
type of prose literature. For there is no inherent reason why a novel
may not be written in verse. There is a sense in which Mrs. Browning's
"Aurora Leigh," Owen Meredith's "Lucile," and Coventry Patmore's "The
Angel in the House," to mention works of very different quality and
caliber, may be regarded more properly as novels than as poems. The
story of "Maud" inspired Tennyson to poetic utterance, and he told the
tale in a series of exquisite lyrics; but the same story might have
been used by a different author as the basis for a novel in prose. The
subject of "Evangeline" was suggested to Longfellow by Hawthorne; and
if the great prose poet had written the story himself, it would not
have differed essentially in material or in structural method from the
narrative as we know it through the medium of the verse romancer. M.
François Coppée has composed admirable short-stories in verse as
well as in prose. "The Strike of the Iron-Workers" ("_La Grève des
Forgerons_"), which is written in rhymed Alexandrines, does not
differ markedly in narrative method from "The Substitute" ("_Le
Remplaçant_"), which is written in prose. To be sure, the former is a
poem and the latter is not; but only a very narrow-minded critic would
call the latter a short-story without applying the same term also to
the former. Therefore, the question whether a certain fictitious
tale should be told in verse or in prose has no place in a general
discussion of the materials and methods of fiction. It is a matter
of expression merely, and must be decided in each case by the
temperamental attitude of the author toward his subject-matter.

Eliminating, therefore, as unprofitable any attempt at a critical
distinction between fiction that is written in verse and fiction
that is written in prose, we may yet derive a certain profit from a
distinction along broad and general lines between three leading moods
of fiction,--the epic, the dramatic, and what (lacking a more precise
term) we may call the novelistic. Certain materials of fiction are
inherently epic, or dramatic, or novelistic, as the case may be. Also,
an author, according to his mental attitude toward life and toward
the subject-matter of his fictions, may cast his stories either in
the epic, the dramatic, or the novelistic mood. In order to understand
this distinction, we must examine the nature of the epic and the
drama, and then study the novel in comparison with these two elder
types of fiction.

The great epics of the world, whether, as in the case of the Norse
sagas and possibly of the Homeric poems, they have been a gradual and
undeliberate aggregation of traditional ballads, or else, as in the
case of the "Æneid" and "Paradise Lost," they have been the deliberate
production of a single conscious artist, have attained their chief
significance from the fact that they have summed up within themselves
the entire contribution to human progress of a certain race, a certain
nation, a certain organized religion. The glory that was Greece is
epitomized and sung forever in the "Iliad,"--the grandeur that was
Rome, in the "Æneid." All that the Middle Ages gave the world is
gathered and expressed in the "Divine Comedy" of Dante: all of
medieval history, science, philosophy, scholarship, poetry, religion
may be reconstructed from a right reading and entire understanding of
this single monumental poem. If you would know Portugal in her
great age of discovery and conquest and national expansion, read the
"Lusiads" of Camoëns. If you would know Christianity militant against
the embattled legions of the Saracens, read the "Jerusalem Liberated"
of Tasso. If you would know what the Puritan religion once meant to
the greatest minds of England, read the "Paradise Lost" of Milton.

The great epics have attained this resumptive and historical
significance only by exhibiting as subject-matter a vast and communal
struggle, in which an entire race, an entire nation, an entire
organized religion has been concerned,--a struggle imagined as so vast
that it has shaken heaven as well as earth and called to conflict not
only men but also gods. The epic has dealt always with a struggle,
at once human and divine, to establish a great communal cause. This
cause, in the "Æneid," is the founding of Rome; in the "Jerusalem
Liberated" it is the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre; in the "Faerie
Queene" it is the triumph of the virtues over the vices; in the
"Lusiads" it is the discovery and conquest of the Indies; in the
"Divine Comedy" it is the salvation of the human soul. Whatever
nations, whatever races, whatever gods oppose the founding of Rome or
the liberation of Jerusalem must be conquered, because in either case
the epic cause is righteous and predestined to prevail.

As a result of this, the characters in the great epics are memorable
mainly because of the part that they play in advancing or retarding
the victory of the vast and social cause which is the subject of the
story. Their virtues and their faults are communal and representative:
they are not adjudged as individuals, apart from the conflict in which
they figure: and, as a consequence, they are rarely interesting in
their individual traits. It is in rendering the more intimate and
personal phases of human character that epic literature shows itself,
when compared with the modern novel, inefficient. The epic author
exhibits little sympathy for any individual who struggles against
the cause that is to be established. Æneas' dallying with Dido and
subsequent desertion of her is of little interest to Virgil on the
ground of individual personality: what interests him mainly is that
so long as Æneas lingers with the Carthaginian queen, the founding
of Rome is being retarded, and that when at last Æneas leaves her,
he does so to advance the epic cause. Therefore Virgil regards the
desertion of Dido as an act of heroic virtue on the part of the man
who sails away to found a nation. A modern novelist, however (and this
is the main point to be considered in this connection), would conceive
the whole matter more personally. He would be far less interested at
the moment in the ultimate founding of Rome than he would be in the
misery of the deserted woman; and instead of considering Æneas as a
model of heroic virtue, would adjudge him as personally base. From
this we see that the novelistic attitude toward character is much more
intimate than the epic attitude. The wrath of Achilles is significant
to Homer, not so much because it is an exhibition of individual
personality as because it is a factor in jeopardizing the victory
of the Greeks. Considered as types of individual character, most of
Homer's heroes are mere boys. It is the cause for which they fight
that gives them dignity: embattled Greece must repossess the beauty
which a lesser race has reft away from it. Even Helen herself is
merely an idea to be fought for; she is not, as a woman, interesting
humanly. It is only in infrequent passages, such as the scene of
parting between Andromache and Hector, that the ancient epics
reveal the intimate attitude toward character to which we have grown
accustomed in the modern novel.

Because the epic authors have been interested always in communal
conflict rather than in individual personality, they have seldom made
any use of the element of love,--the most intimate and personal of all
emotions. There is no love in Homer, and scarcely any love in Virgil
and in Milton. Tasso, to be sure, uses a love motive as the basis for
each of the three leading strands of his story; but because of this,
his epic, though gaining in modernity and charm, loses something of
the communal immensity--the impersonal dignity--of the "Iliad" and the
"Æneid." On the other hand, novelistic authors, since they have been
interested mainly in the revelation of intimate phases of individual
personality, have seized upon the element of love as the leading
motive of their stories. And this is one of the main differences, on
the side of content, between epic and novelistic fiction.

Certain great works of fiction stand upon the borderland between the
epic and the novel. "Don Quixote" is, for instance, such a work. It is
epic in that it sums up and expresses the entire contribution of
Spain to the progress of humanity. It is resumptive of the nation
that produced it: all phases of Spanish life and character, ideals and
temperament, are epitomized within it. But, on the other hand, it is
novelistic in the emphasis it casts on individual personality,--the
intimacy with which it focuses the interest not so much upon a nation
as upon a man.

The epic, in the ancient sense, is dead to-day. Facility of
intercommunication between the nations has made us all citizens of
the world; and an increased sense of the relativity of national and
religious ideals has made us catholic of other systems than our own.
Consequently we have lost belief in a communal conflict so absolutely
just and necessary as to call to battle powers not only human but
divine. Also, since the French Revolution, we have grown to set the
one above the many, and to believe that, of right, society exists for
the sake of the individual rather than the individual for the sake of
society. Therefore the novel, which deals with individual personality
in and for itself, is more attuned to modern life than the epic, which
presents the individual mainly in relation to a communal cause which
he strives to advance or to retard.

The epic note, however, survives in certain momentous modern novels.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," for example, is less important merely as a novel
than as the epic of the great cause of abolition. Underlying many of
the works of Erckmann-Chatrian is an epic purpose to advance the cause
of universal peace by a depiction of the horrors of war. Balzac had
in mind the resumptive phase of epic composition when he planned his
"Human Comedy" (choosing his title in evident imitation of that of
Dante's poem), and started out to sum up all phases of human life in a
single monumental series of narratives. So also the late Frank Norris
had an epic idea in his imagination when he planned a trilogy of
novels (which unhappily he died before completing) to exhibit what the
great wheat industry means to the modern world.

In the broad and social sense, the epic is undeniably a greater type
of fiction than the novel, because it is more resumptive of life in
the large, and looks upon humanity with a vaster sweep of vision; but
in the deep and personal sense, the novel is the greater, because it
is more capable of an intimate study of individual emotion. And it is
possible, as we have seen, that modern fiction should be at once epic
and novelistic in content and in mood,--epic in resuming all aspects
of a certain phase of life and in exhibiting a social struggle, and
novelistic in casting emphasis upon personal details of character and
in depicting intimate emotions. Probably no other author has succeeded
better than Emile Zola in combining the epic and the novelistic moods
of fiction; and the novels in the Rougon-Macquart series are at once
communal and personal in their significance.

It is somewhat simpler to trace a distinction both in content and in
mood between novelistic and dramatic fiction, because the latter is
produced under special conditions which impose definite limitations
upon the author. A drama is, in essence, a story devised to be
presented by actors on a stage before an audience. The dramatist,
therefore, works ever under the sway of three influences to which the
novelist is not submitted:--namely, the temperament of the actors by
whom his plays are to be performed, the physical conditions of the
theater in which they are to be produced, and the psychologic nature
of the audience before which they are to be presented. The combined
force of these three external influences upon the dramatist accounts
for all of the essential differences between the drama and the novel.

First of all, because of the influence of his actors, the dramatist
is obliged to draw character through action, and to eliminate from his
work almost every other means of characterization. He must therefore
select from life such moments as are active rather than passive. His
characters must constantly be doing something; they may not pause for
careful contemplation. Consequently the novelist has a wider range of
subject than the dramatist, because he is able to consider life more
calmly, and to concern himself, if need be, with thoughts and feelings
that do not translate themselves into action. In depicting objective
events in which the element of action is paramount, the drama is more
immediate and vivid; but the novel may depict subjective events which
are quite beyond the presentation of actors in a theater. Furthermore,
since he is not obliged to think of actors, the novelist has a
greater freedom in creating characters than the dramatist. The great
characters of the drama have been devised by playwrights who have
already attained command of the theater of their place and time, and
who therefore have fashioned their parts to fit the individual actors
they have found ready to perform them. Consequently they have endowed
their characters with the physical, and even to some extent the
mental, characteristics of certain actual actors. M. Rostand's Cyrano
de Bergerac is not merely Cyrano, but also M. Constant Coquelin;
M. Sardou's La Tosca is not merely La Tosca, but also Mme. Sarah
Bernhardt; Molière's Célimène is not merely Célimène, but also Mlle.
Molière; Shakespeare's Hamlet is not merely Hamlet, but also Richard
Burbage. In working thus with one eye upon the actual, the dramatist
is extremely likely to be betrayed into untruthfulness. In the last
scene of "Hamlet," the Queen says of the Prince, "He's fat and scant
of breath." This line was of course occasioned by the fact that
Richard Burbage was corpulent during the season of 1602. But the
eternal truth is that Prince Hamlet is a slender man; and Shakespeare
has here been forced to belie the truth in order to subserve the fact.
On the other hand, the dramatist is undoubtedly aided in his great aim
of creating characters by holding in mind certain actual people who
have been selected to represent them; and what the novelist gains
in range and freedom of characterization, he is likely to lose in
concreteness of delineation.

Secondly, the form and structure of the drama in any age is imposed
upon the dramatist by the size and shape and physical appointments of
the theater he is writing for. Plays must be built in one way to fit
the theater of Dionysius, in another way to fit the Globe upon the
Bankside, in still another way to fit the modern electric-lighted
stage behind a picture-frame proscenium. The dramatist, in
constructing his story, is hedged in by a multitude of physical
restrictions, of which he must make a special study in order to
force them to contribute to the presentation of his truth instead of
detracting from it. In this regard, again, the novelist works with
greater freedom. Seldom is his labor subjected to merely physical
restrictions from without. Sometimes, to be sure, certain arbitrary
conditions of the trade of publishing have exercised an influence
over the structure of the novel. In England, early in the nineteenth
century, it was easier to sell a three-volume novel than a tale of
lesser compass; and many a story of the time had to be pieced out
beyond its natural and truthful length in order to meet the demands of
the public and the publishers. But such a case, in the history of
the novel, is exceptional. In general, the novelist may build as he
chooses. He may tell a tale, long or short, happening in few places or
in many; and is not, like the dramatist, confined in place to no more
than four or five different settings, and in time to the two hours'
traffic of the stage. The novel, therefore, is far more serviceable
than the drama as a medium for exhibiting the gradual growth of
character,--the development of personality under influences extending
over long periods of time and exerted in many different places.

Thirdly, the very content of the drama is determined by the fact
that a play must be devised to interest a multitude rather than an
individual. The novelist writes for a reader sitting alone in his
library: whether ten such readers or a hundred thousand ultimately
read a book, the author speaks to each of them apart from all
the others. But the dramatist must plan his story to interest
simultaneously a multitude of heterogeneous observers. The drama,
therefore, must be richer in popular appeal; but the novel may be
subtler in appealing to the one instead of to the many. Since the
novelist addresses himself to a single person only, or to a limitless
succession of single persons, he may choose the sort of reader he will
write for; but the dramatist must please the many, and is therefore at
the mercy of the multitude. He writes less freely than the novelist,
since he cannot pick his auditors. His themes, his thoughts, and his
emotions are restricted by the limits of popular appreciation.

This important condition is potent in determining the proper content
of dramatic fiction. For it has been found in practice that the
only thing that will keenly interest a crowd is a struggle between
character and character. Speaking empirically, the late Ferdinand
Brunetière, in his preface to "_Annales du Théatre et de la Musique_"
for 1893, stated that the drama has dealt always with a struggle
between human wills; and his statement, formulated in the
catch-phrase, "No struggle, no drama," has since become a commonplace
of dramatic criticism. The reason for this is simply that characters
are interesting to a crowd mainly in those crises of emotion that
bring them to the grapple. A single individual, like the reader of
a novel, may be interested intellectually in those gentle influences
beneath which a character unfolds itself as mildly as a blowing rose;
but to the gathered multitude a character does not appeal except
in moments of contention. Hence the drama, to interest at all, must
present its characters in some struggle of the wills,--whether it be
merely flippant, as in the case of Benedick and Beatrice, or gentle,
as in that of Viola and Orsino, or terrible, with Macbeth, or piteous,
with Lear. The drama, therefore, is akin to the epic, in that it must
represent a struggle; but it is more akin to the novel, in that
it deals with human character in its individual, rather than its
communal, aspects. But in range of representing characters, the drama
is more restricted than the novel; for though the novelist is at
liberty to exhibit a struggle of individual human wills whenever he
may choose to do so, he is not, like the dramatist, prohibited from
representing anything else. In covering this special province, the
drama is undeniably more vivid and emphatic; but many momentous phases
of human experience are not contentious but contemplative; and these
the novel may reveal serenely, without employment of the sound and
fury of the drama.

Since the mind of the multitude is more emotional than intellectual,
the dramatist, for his most effective moments, is obliged to set forth
action with emotion for its motive. But the novelist, in motivating
action, may be more considerate and intellectual, since his appeal is
made to the individual mind. In its psychologic processes, the crowd
is more commonplace and more traditional than is the individual. The
drama, therefore, is less serviceable than the novel as a vehicle for
conveying unaccustomed and advanced ideas of life. The crowd has no
speculation in its eyes: it is impatient of original thought, and of
any but inherited emotion: it evinces little favor for the original,
the questioning, the new. Therefore if an author holds ideas of
religion, or of politics, or of social law that are in advance of his
time, he will do better to embody them in a novel than in a drama;
because the former makes its appeal to the individual mind, which has
more patience for intellectual consideration.

Furthermore, the novelist need not, like the dramatist, subserve the
immediate necessity for popular appeal. The dramatic author, since
he plans his story for a heterogeneous multitude of people, must
incorporate in the same single work of art elements that will interest
all classes of mankind. But the novelistic author, since he is at
liberty to pick his auditors at will, may, if he choose, write only
for the best-developed minds. It is an element of Shakespeare's
greatness that his most momentous plays, like "Hamlet" and "Othello,"
are of interest to people who can neither read nor write, as well
as to people of educated sensibilities. But it is an evidence of Mr.
Meredith's greatness that his novels are caviare to the general. Mr.
Kipling's "They" is the greater story because it defends itself from
being understood by those it is not really for. In exhibiting the
subtler and more delicate phases of human experience, the novel far
transcends the drama. The drama, at its deepest, is more poignant; but
the novel, at its highest, is more exquisite.

The proper material for the drama is, as we have seen, a struggle
between individual human wills, motivated by emotion rather than by
intellect, and expressed in terms of objective action. In representing
such material, the drama is supreme. But the novel is wider in range;
for besides exhibiting (though less emphatically) this special aspect
of human life, it may embody many other and scarcely less important
phases of individual experience. Of late, an effort has been made to
break down the barrier between the novel and the drama: many stories,
which have been told first in the novelistic mood, have afterward been
reconstructed and retold for presentation in the theater. This attempt
has succeeded sometimes, but has more often failed. Yet it ought to be
very easy to distinguish a novel that may be dramatized from a novel
that may not. Certain scenes in novelistic literature, like the
duel in "The Master of Ballantrae," are essentially dramatic both in
content and in mood. Such scenes may be adapted with very little labor
to the uses of the theater. Certain novels, like "Jane Eyre," which
exhibit an emphatic struggle between individual human wills, are
inherently capable of theatric representment. But any novel in
which the main source of interest is not the clash of character on
character, in which the element of action is subordinate, or in which
the chief appeal is made to the individual (instead of the collective)
mind, is not capable of being dramatized successfully.

It is impossible to determine whether, at the present day, the novel
or the drama is the more effective medium for embodying the truths
of human life in a series of imagined facts. Dramatic fiction has the
greater depth, and novelistic fiction has the greater breadth. The
latter is more extensive, the former more intensive, in its artistry.
This much, however, may be decided definitely. The novel, at its
greatest, may require a vaster sweep of wisdom on the part of the
author; but the drama is technically more difficult, since the
dramatist, besides mastering all of the general methods of fiction
which he necessarily employs in common with the novelist, must labor
in conformity with a special set of conditions to which the novelist
is not submitted. Mr. Meredith may be a greater author than Mr. Arthur
Wing Pinero; but Mr. Pinero is of necessity more rigid in his mastery
of structure.



Turning our attention from the epic and the drama, and confining it
to the general type of fiction which in the last chapter was loosely
named novelistic, we shall find it possible to distinguish somewhat
sharply, on the basis of both material and method, between three
several forms,--the novel, the novelette, and the short-story. The
French, who are more precise than we in their use of denotative terms,
are accustomed to divide their novelistic fiction into what they call
the _roman_, the _nouvelle_, and the _conte_. "Novel" and "novelette"
are just as serviceable terms as _roman_ and _nouvelle_; in fact,
since "novelette" is the diminutive of "novel," they express even more
clearly than their French equivalents the relation between the two
forms they designate. But it is greatly to be regretted that we do not
have in English a distinctive word that is the equivalent of _conte_.
Edgar Allan Poe used the word "tale" with similar meaning; but this
term is so indefinite and vague that it has been discarded by
later critics. It is customary at the present day to use the word
"short-story," which Professor Brander Matthews has suggested
spelling with a hyphen to indicate that it has a special and technical

The French apply the term _roman_ to extensive works like "Notre Dame
de Paris" and "Eugénie Grandet"; and they apply the term _nouvelle_
to works of briefer compass but similar method, like the "Colomba"
and the "Carmen" of Prosper Mérimée. In English we may class as novels
works like "Kenilworth," "The Newcomes," "The Last of the Mohicans,"
"The Rise of Silas Lapham"; and we may class as novelettes works like
"Daisy Miller," "The Treasure of Franchard," "The Light that Failed."
The difference is merely that the novelette (or _nouvelle_) is a
work of less extent, and covers a smaller canvas, than the novel (or
_roman_). The distinction is quantitative but not qualitative. The
novelette deals with fewer characters and incidents than the novel;
it usually limits itself to a stricter economy of time and place; it
presents a less extensive view of life, with (most frequently) a
more intensive art. But these differences are not definite enough to
warrant its being considered a species distinct from the novel. Except
for the restrictions imposed by brevity of compass, the writer of
novelettes employs the same methods as the writer of novels; and,
furthermore, he sets forth similar materials.

More and more in recent years, the novel has tended to shorten to
the novelette. A stricter sense of art has led to the exclusion of
digressive and discursive passages; and the hurry and preoccupation of
contemporary readers has militated against the leisurely and rambling
habit of the authors of an earlier time. The lesson of excision
and condensation has been taught by writers as different in tone
as Mérimée, Turgénieff, and Stevenson. "The three-volume novel is
extinct," as Mr. Kipling stated in the motto prefixed to the poem
called "The Three-Decker," in which, with a commingling of satire and
sentiment, he chanted its requiem. It was nearly always, in the matter
of structure, a slovenly form; and there is therefore little cause
for regret that the novelette seems destined to supplant it. For the
novelette accomplishes the same purpose as the novel, with necessarily
a more intensive emphasis of art, and with a tax considerably less
upon the time and attention of the reader.

But the _conte_, or short-story, differs from the novel and the
novelette not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively, not only
in length, but also in kind. In such _contes_ as "The Necklace" of de
Maupassant and "The Last Class" of Daudet, in such short-stories as
"Ligeia," "The Ambitious Guest," "Markheim," and "Without Benefit
of Clergy," the aim of the author is quite distinct from that of the
writer of novels and of novelettes. In material and in method, as
well as in extent, these stories represent a type that is noticeably

The short-story, as well as the novel and the novelette, has always
existed. The parable of "The Prodigal Son," in the fifteenth chapter
of the Gospel according to Luke, is just as surely a short-story in
material and method as the books of "Ruth" and "Esther" are novelettes
in form. But the critical consciousness of the short-story as a
species of fiction distinct in purpose and in method from the novel
dates only from the nineteenth century. It was Edgar Allan Poe who
first designated and realized the short-story as a distinct form
of literary art. In the scholarly and thorough introduction to his
collection of "American Short Stories,"[3] Professor Charles Sears
Baldwin points out that Poe, more than any of his predecessors in
the art of fiction, felt narrative as structure. It was he who first
rejected from the tale everything that was, from the standpoint of
narrative form, extraneous, and made the narrative progress more
direct. The essential features of his structure were (to use Professor
Baldwin's words) harmonization, simplification, and gradation. He
stripped his stories of every least incongruity. What he taught by his
example was reduction to a straight predetermined course; and he made
clear to succeeding writers the necessity of striving for unity of
impression through strict unity of form.

[Footnote 3: A contribution to "The Wampum Library"; Longmans, Green &
Co., 1904.]

Poe was a critic as well as a teller of tales; and what he inculcated
by example he also stated by precept. In his now famous review of
Hawthorne's "Tales," published originally in _Graham's Magazine_ for
May, 1842, he thus outlined his theory of the species:--

"The ordinary novel is objectionable, from its length, for reasons
already stated in substance. As it cannot be read at one sitting,
it deprives itself, of course, of the immense force derivable from
_totality_. Worldly interests intervening during the pauses of
perusal, modify, annul, or counteract, in a greater or less degree,
the impressions of the book. But simple cessation in reading would,
of itself, be sufficient to destroy the true unity. In the brief
tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out the fulness of his
intention, be it what it may. During the hour of perusal the soul
of the reader is at the writer's control. There are no external or
extrinsic influences--resulting from weariness or interruption.

"A skilful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has
not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having
conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single _effect_
to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents--he then combines
such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived
effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the out-bringing
of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole
composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency,
direct or indirect, is not to the one preëstablished design. And by
such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted
which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred
art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has
been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end
unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here
as in the poem; but undue length is yet more to be avoided."

From the very outset, the currency of Poe's short-stories was
international; and his concrete example in striving for totality of
impression exerted an immediate influence not only in America but even
more in France. But his abstract theory, which (for obvious reasons)
did not become so widely known, was not received into the general body
of critical thought until much later in the century. It remained for
Professor Brander Matthews, in his well-known essay on "The Philosophy
of the Short-story," printed originally in Lippincott's Magazine for
October, 1885,[4] to state explicitly what had lain implicit in the
passage of Poe's criticism already quoted, and to give a general
currency to the theory that the short-story differs from the novel
essentially,--and not merely in the matter of length. In the second
section of his essay, Professor Matthews stated:--

[Footnote 4: This paper, later included in "Pen and Ink," 1888, has
since been published by itself in a little volume: Longmans, Green &
Co., 1901.]

"A true short-story is something other and something more than a
mere story which is short. A true short-story differs from the novel
chiefly in its essential unity of impression. In a far more exact and
precise use of the word, a short-story has unity as a novel cannot
have it. Often, it may be noted by the way, the short-story fulfils
the three false unities of the French classic drama: it shows one
action, in one place, on one day. A short-story deals with a single
character, a single event, a single emotion, or the series of emotions
called forth by a single situation. Poe's paradox that a poem cannot
greatly exceed a hundred lines in length under penalty of ceasing to
be one poem and breaking into a string of poems, may serve to suggest
the precise difference between the short-story and the novel. The
short-story is the single effect, complete and self-contained, while
the novel is of necessity broken into a series of episodes. Thus the
short-story has, what the novel cannot have, the effect of 'totality,'
as Poe called it, the unity of impression.

"Of a truth, the short-story is not only not a chapter out of a novel,
or an incident or an episode extracted from a longer tale, but at its
best it impresses the reader with the belief that it would be spoiled
if it were made larger, or if it were incorporated into a more
elaborate work....

"In fact, it may be said that no one has ever succeeded as a writer of
short-stories who had not ingenuity, originality, and compression; and
that most of those who have succeeded in this line had also the touch
of fantasy."

On the basis of these theories, the present writer essayed a few
years ago to formulate within a single sentence a definition of the
short-story. Thus: _The aim of a short-story is to produce a single
narrative effect with the greatest economy of means that is consistent
with the utmost emphasis._[5]

[Footnote 5: This definition was printed first in the _Bookman_ for
February, 1904, and later in the _Reader_ for February, 1906.]

Because of its succinctness, this sentence needs a little explanation.
A narrative effect necessarily involves the three elements of action,
characters, and setting. In aiming to produce a narrative effect, the
short-story, therefore, differs from the sketch, which may concern
itself with only one of these elements, without involving the other
two. The sketch most often deals with character or setting divested of
the element of action; but in the short-story something has to happen.
In this regard, the short-story is related more closely to the novel
than to the sketch. But although in the novel any two, or all three,
of the narrative elements may be so intimately interrelated that no
one of them stands out clearly from the others, it is almost always
customary in the short-story to cast a marked preponderance of
emphasis on one of the elements, to the subversion of the other two.
Short-stories, therefore, may be divided into three classes, according
as the effect which they purpose to produce is primarily an effect of
action, or of character, or of setting. "The Masque of the Red Death"
produces an effect of setting, "The Tell-Tale Heart" an effect of
character, and "The Cask of Amontillado" an effect of action. For the
sake of economy it is incumbent on the author to suggest at the outset
which of the three sorts of narrative effect the story is intended to
produce. The way in which Poe accomplished this in the three stories
just mentioned may be seen at once upon examination of the opening
paragraph of each. Having selected his effect, the author of a
short-story should confine his attention to producing that, and that
alone. He should stop at the very moment when his pre-established
design has been attained; and never during the progress of his
composition should he turn aside for the sake of a lesser effect
not absolutely inherent in his single narrative purpose. Stevenson
insisted on this focus of attention in a passage of a personal letter
addressed to Mr. Sidney Colvin:--

"Make another end to it? Ah, yes, but that's not the way I write;
the whole tale is implied; I never use an effect when I can help it,
unless it prepares the effects that are to follow; that's what a story
consists in. To make another end, that is to make the beginning all
wrong. The _dénouement_ of a long story is nothing, it is just 'a full
close,' which you may approach and accomplish as you please--it is a
coda, not an essential member in the rhythm; but the body and end of
a short-story is bone of the bone and blood of the blood of the

The phrase "single narrative effect," with all its implications,
should now be clear. The phrase "with the greatest economy of means"
implies that the writer of a short-story should tell his tale with
the fewest necessary number of characters and incidents, and should
project it in the narrowest possible range of place and time. If
he can get along with two characters, he should not use three. If a
single event will suffice for his effect, he should confine himself
to that. If his story can pass in one place at one time, he must not
disperse it over several times and places. But in striving always for
the greatest possible conciseness, he must not neglect the equally
important need of producing his effect "with the utmost emphasis." If
he can gain markedly in emphasis by violating the strictest possible
economy, he should do so; for, as Poe stated, undue brevity is
exceptionable, as well as undue length. Thus the parable of "The
Prodigal Son," which might be told with only two characters--the
father and the prodigal--gains sufficiently in emphasis by the
introduction of a third--the good son--to warrant this violation
of economy. The greatest structural problem of the writer of
short-stories is to strike just the proper balance between the effort
for economy of means--which tends to conciseness--and the effort for
the utmost emphasis--which tends to amplitude of treatment.

There can be no doubt that the short-story, thus rigidly defined,
exists as a distinct form of fiction,--a definite literary species
obeying laws of its own. Now and again before the nineteenth century,
it appeared unconsciously. Since Poe, it has grown conscious of
itself, and has been deliberately developed to perfection by later
masters, like Guy de Maupassant. But it must be admitted frankly that
brief tales have always existed, and still continue to exist, which
stand entirely outside the scope of this rigid and rather narrow
definition. Professor Baldwin, after a careful examination of the
hundred tales in Boccaccio's "Decameron," concluded that only two of
them were short-stories in the modern critical sense,[6] and that only
three others approached the totality of impression that depends on
conscious unity of form. If we should select at random a hundred brief
tales from the best contemporary magazines, we should find, of course,
that a larger proportion of them would fulfil the definition; but it
is almost certain that the majority of them would still be stories
that merely happen to be short, instead of true short-stories in
the modern critical sense. Yet these brief fictions, which are not
short-stories, and for which we have no name, are none the less
estimable in content, and sometimes present a wider view of life
than could be encompassed within the rigid limits of a technical
short-story. Hawthorne's tales stand higher in the history of
literature than Poe's, because they reveal a deeper insight into life,
even though the great New England dreamer often violates the
principle of economy of means, and constructs less firmly than the
mathematically-minded Poe. Washington Irving's brief tales, such as
"Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," which are not
short-stories in the technical sense of the term, are far more
valuable as representations of humanity than many a structural
masterpiece of Guy de Maupassant. "For my part," Irving wrote to one
of his friends, "I consider a story merely as a frame on which to
stretch the materials; it is the play of thought, and sentiment,
and language, the weaving in of characters, lightly yet expressively
delineated; the familiar and faithful exhibition of scenes in common
life; and the half-concealed vein of humor that is often playing
through the whole,--these are among what I aim at, and upon which I
felicitate myself in proportion as I think I succeed." There is much
to be said in favor of this meandering and leisurely method; and
authors too intent upon a merely technical accomplishment may lose
the genial breadth of outlook upon life which men like Irving have
so charmingly displayed. Let us admit, therefore, that the
story-which-is-merely-short is just as worthy of cultivation as the
technical short-story.

[Footnote 6: The second story of the second day, and the sixth story
of the ninth day. See "American Short Stories," p. 28.]

But if there exist many brief tales which are not short-stories, so
also there exist certain short-stories which are not brief. Mr. Henry
James' "The Turn of the Screw" is a short-story, in the technical
sense of the term, although it contains between two and three hundred
pages. Assuredly it is not a novelette. It aims to produce one
narrative effect, and only one; and it is difficult to imagine how
the full force of its cumulative mystery and terror could have been
created with greater economy of means. It is a long short-story.
Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," which is conceived, and for the
most part executed, as a short-story, is longer than the same author's
"The Beach of Falesá," which is conceived and executed as a novelette.
Dr. Edward Everett Hale's famous short-story, "The Man Without a
Country," is long enough to be printed in a little volume by itself.
The point to be remembered, therefore, is that the two different types
of brief fiction are to be distinguished one from the other not by
comparative length but by structural method. The critic may formulate
the technical laws of the stricter type; but it must not be forgotten
that these laws do not apply (and there is no reason whatever that
they should) to those other estimable narratives which, though brief,
stand outside the definition of the short-story.

Bearing in mind this limitation of the subject, we may proceed to a
further study of the strict short-story type. In an admirable essay
on "The Short Story,"[7] Professor Bliss Perry has discussed at
length its requirements and restrictions. Admitting that writers of
short-stories usually cast a marked preponderance of emphasis on one
of the three elements of narrative, to the subversion of the
other two, Professor Perry calls attention to the fact that in the
short-story of character, "the characters must be unique, original
enough to catch the eye at once." The writer does not have sufficient
time at his disposal to reveal the full human significance of the
commonplace. "If his theme is character-development, then that
development must be hastened by striking experiences." Hence this
class of short-story, as compared with the novel, must set forth
characters more unusual and unexpected. But in the short-story of
action, on the other hand, the plot may be sufficient unto itself, and
the characters may be the merest lay figures. The heroine of "The
Lady or the Tiger," for example, is simply _a_ woman--not any woman in
particular; and the hero of "The Pit and the Pendulum" is simply _a_
man--not any man in particular. The situation itself is sufficient to
hold the reader's interest for the brief space of the story. Hence,
although, in the short-story of character, the leading actor is likely
to be strikingly individualized, the short-story of action may content
itself with entirely colorless characters, devoid of any personal
traits whatever. Professor Perry adds that in the class of short-story
which casts the main emphasis on setting, "both characters and action
may be almost without significance"; and he continues,--"If the author
can discover to us a new corner of the world, or sketch the familiar
scene to our heart's desire, or illumine one of the great human
occupations, as war, or commerce, or industry, he has it in his power,
through this means alone, to give us the fullest satisfaction."

[Footnote 7: Published first in _The Atlantic Monthly_ for August,
1902, and since included, as Chapter XII, in "A Study of Prose
Fiction": Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.]

From the fact that the short-story does not keep the powers of
the reader long upon the stretch, Professor Perry deduces certain
opportunities afforded to short-story writers but denied to
novelists,--opportunities, namely, "for innocent didacticism,
for posing problems without answering them, for stating arbitrary
premises, for omitting unlovely details and, conversely, for making
beauty out of the horrible, and finally for poetic symbolism." Passing
on to a consideration of the demands which the short-story makes
upon the writer, he asserts that, at its best, "it calls for visual
imagination of a high order: the power to see the object; to penetrate
to its essential nature; to select the one characteristic trait by
which it may be represented." Furthermore, it demands a mastery of
style, "the verbal magic that recreates for us what the imagination
has seen." But, on the other hand, "to write a short-story requires no
sustained power of imagination"; "nor does the short-story demand of
its author essential sanity, breadth, and tolerance of view." Since he
deals only with fleeting phases of existence,--"not with wholes,
but with fragments,"--the writer of the short-story "need not be
consistent; he need not think things through." Hence, in spite of the
technical difficulties which beset the author of short-stories, his
work is, on human grounds, more easy than that of the novelist, who
must be sane and consistent, and must be able to sustain a prolonged
effort of interpretive imagination.

These points have been so fully covered and so admirably illustrated
by Professor Perry that they do not call for any further discussion
in this place. But perhaps something may be added concerning the
different equipments that are required by authors of novels and
authors of short-stories. Matthew Arnold, in a well-known sonnet,
spoke of Sophocles as a man "who saw life steadily and saw it whole";
and if we judge the novelist and the writer of short-stories by their
attitudes toward life, we may say that they divide this verse between
them. Balzac, George Eliot, and Mr. Meredith look at life in the
large; they try to "see it whole" and to reproduce the chaos of its
intricate relations: but Poe, de Maupassant, and Mr. Kipling aim
rather to "see steadily" a limited phase of life, to focus their
minds upon a single point of experience, and then to depict this
point briefly and strikingly. It follows that the novelist requires an
experience of life far more extensive than that which is required by
the writer of short-stories. The great novelists have all been men of
mature years and accumulated wisdom. But if an author knows one little
point of life profoundly, he may fashion a great short-story, even
though that one thing be the only thing he knows. Of life as it
is actually lived, of genuine humanity of character, of moral
responsibility in human intercourse, Edgar Allan Poe knew nothing; and
yet he was fully equipped to produce what remain until this day
the most perfect examples of the short-story in our language. It is
therefore not surprising that although the great novels of the world
have been written for the most part by men over forty years of age,
the great short-stories have been written by men in their twenties and
their thirties. Mr. Kipling wrote two or three short-stories which
are almost great when he was only seventeen. Steadiness of vision is
a quality of mind quite distinct from the ability to see things whole.
"Plain Tales from the Hills" are in many ways the better stories for
being the work of a lad of twenty: whatever Mr. Kipling saw at that
very early age he envisaged steadily and expressed with the glorious
triumphant strength of youth. But if at the same period he had
attempted a novel, the world undoubtedly would have found out how very
young he was. He would have been incapable of slicing a cross-section
clean through the vastitude of human life, of seeing it whole, and
of representing the appalling intricacy of its interrelations. On the
other hand, most of the mature men who have been wise enough to do
the latter, have shown themselves incapable of focusing their minds
steadily upon a single point of experience. Wholeness and steadiness
of vision--few are the men who, like Sophocles, have possessed them
both. The same author, therefore, has almost never been able to
write great short-stories and great novels. Scott wrote only one
short-story,--"Wandering Willie's Tale" in "Redgauntlet"; Dickens also
wrote only one that is worthy of being considered a masterpiece of
art,--"A Child's Dream of a Star"; and Thackeray, Cooper, George
Eliot, and Mr. Meredith have written none at all. On the other hand,
Poe could not possibly have written a novel; Guy de Maupassant shows
himself less masterly in his more extended works; and Mr. Kipling has
yet to prove that the novel is within his powers. Hawthorne is the
one most notable example of the man who, beginning as a writer of
short-stories, has developed in maturer years a mastery of the novel.

Unlike the short-story, the novel aims to produce a series of
effects,--a cumulative combination of the elements of narrative,--and
acknowledges no restriction to economy of means. It follows that
the novel, as a literary form, requires far less attention than the
short-story to minute details of art. Great novels may be written by
authors as careless as Scott, as lazy as Thackeray, or as cumbersome
as George Eliot; for if a novelist gives us a criticism of life which
is new and true, we forgive him if he fails in the nicer points of
structure and style. But without these nicer points, the short-story
is impossible. The economy of means that it demands can be conserved
only by rigid restriction of structure; and the necessary emphasis
can be produced only by perfection of style. The great masters of the
short-story, like Poe and Hawthorne, Daudet and de Maupassant, have
all been careful artists: they have not, like Thackeray, been slovenly
in structure; they have not, like Scott, been regardless of style. The
artistic instinct shows itself almost always at a very early age. If
a man is destined to be an artist, he usually exhibits a surprising
precocity of expression at a period when as yet he has very little to
express. This is another reason why the short-story, as opposed to the
novel, belongs to youth rather than to age. Though a young writer may
be obliged to acknowledge inferiority to his elders in maturity
of message, he may not infrequently transcend them in fineness of
technical accomplishment.

Another point that remains to be considered, before we relinquish this
general discussion in order to devote our attention more particularly
to a technical study of the structure of the short-story, is that,
although the novel may be either realistic or romantic in general
method, the short-story is almost of necessity obliged to be romantic.
In the brief space allotted to him, it is practically impossible for
the writer of short-stories to induce a general truth from particular
imagined facts imitated from actuality: it is far simpler to deduce
the imagined details of the story from a central thesis, held securely
in the author's mind and suggested to the reader at the outset. It is
a quicker process to think from the truth to facts than to think from
facts to the truth. Daudet and de Maupassant, who worked realistically
in their novels, worked romantically in their _contes_; and the great
short-stories of our own language have nearly all been written by
romantic authors, like Poe, Hawthorne, Stevenson, and Mr. Kipling.



Since the aim of a short-story is to produce a single narrative effect
with the greatest economy of means that is consistent with the utmost
emphasis, it follows that, given any single narrative effect,--any
theme, in other words, for a short-story--there can be only one best
way to construct the story based upon it. A novel may be built in any
of a multitude of ways; and the selection of method depends more upon
the temperament and taste of the author than upon inherent logical
necessity. But in a short-story the problem of the author is primarily
structural; and structure is a matter of intellect instead of a matter
of temperament and taste. Now, the intellect differs from the taste in
being an absolute and general, rather than an individual and personal,
quality of mind. There is no disputing matters of taste, as the
Latin proverb justly says; but matters of intellect may be disputed
logically until a definite decision is arrived at. Hence, although
the planning of a novel must be left to the individual author, the
structure of a short-story may be considered as a matter impersonal
and absolute, like the working out of a geometrical proposition.

The initial problem of the writer of short-stories is to find out by
intellectual means the one best way of constructing the story that
he has to tell; and, in order to solve this problem, there are many
questions he must take up and decide. First of all, he must conserve
the need for economy of means by considering how many, or rather,
_how few_, characters are necessary to the narrative, how few distinct
events he can get along with, and how narrow is the compass of time
and place within which he may compact his material. He must next
consider all the available points of view from which to tell the given
story, and must decide which of them will best subserve his purpose.
Next, in deciding on his means of delineating characters, of
representing action, of employing setting, he must be guided always
by the endeavor to strike a just balance between (on the one hand) the
greatest economy of means and (on the other) the utmost emphasis.
And finally, to conserve the latter need, he must, in planning the
narrative step by step, be guided by the principle of emphasis in all
its phases.

The natural emphasis of the initial and the terminal position is,
in the short-story, a matter of prime importance. The opening of
a perfectly constructed tale fulfils two purposes, one of which is
intellectual and the other emotional. Intellectually, it indicates
clearly to the reader whether, in the narrative that follows,
the element of action, or of character, or of setting is to be
predominant,--in other words, which of the three sorts of narrative
effect the story is intended to produce. Emotionally, it strikes the
key-note and suggests the tone of the entire story. Edgar Allan Poe,
in his greatest tales, planned his openings infallibly to fulfil these
purposes. He began a story of setting with description; a story of
character with a remark made by, or made about, the leading actor; and
a story of action with a sentence pregnant with potential incident.
Furthermore, he conveyed in his very first sentence a subtle sense of
the emotional tone of the entire narrative.

In opening his short-stories, Hawthorne showed himself far inferior to
his great contemporary. Only unawares did he occasionally hit upon the
inevitable first sentence. Often he wasted time at the beginning by
writing an unnecessary introduction; and frequently he began upon
the wrong track, by suggesting character at the outset of a story of
action, or suggesting setting at the outset of a story of character.
The tale of "The Gentle Boy," for instance, which was one of the
first to attract attention to his genius, begins unnecessarily with an
historical essay of three pages; and it is not until the narrative is
well on its way that the reader is able to sense the one thing that it
is all about.

Mr. Rudyard Kipling, in his earlier stories, employed a method of
opening which is worthy of careful critical consideration. In "Plain
Tales from the Hills" and the several volumes that followed it within
the next few years, his habit was to begin with an expository essay,
filling the space of a paragraph or two, in which he stated the theme
of the story he was about to tell. "This is what the story is to deal
with," he would say succinctly: "Now listen to the tale itself." This
method is extremely advantageous on the score of economy. It gives
the reader at the outset an intellectual possession of the theme; and
knowing from the very beginning the effect designed to be produced,
he can follow with the greater economy of attention the narrative that
produces it. But, on the other hand, the method is inartistic, in that
it presents explicitly what might with greater subtlety be conveyed
implicitly, and subverts the mood of narrative by obtruding
exposition. In his later stories, Mr. Kipling has discarded for the
most part this convenient but too obvious expedient, and has revealed
his theme implicitly through the narrative tenor and emotional tone of
his initial sentences. That the latter method of opening is the more
artistic will be seen at once from a comparison of examples. This is
the beginning of "Thrown Away," an early story:--

"To rear a boy under what parents call the 'sheltered life system'
is, if the boy must go into the world and fend for himself, not wise.
Unless he be one in a thousand he has certainly to pass through many
unnecessary troubles; and may, possibly, come to extreme grief simply
from ignorance of the proper proportions of things.

"Let a puppy eat the soap in the bath-room or chew a newly blacked
boot. He chews and chuckles until, by and by, he finds out that
blacking and Old Brown Windsor made him very sick; so he argues that
soap and boots are not wholesome. Any old dog about the house will
soon show him the unwisdom of biting big dogs' ears. Being young, he
remembers and goes abroad, at six months, a well-mannered little beast
with a chastened appetite. If he had been kept away from boots, and
soap, and big dogs till he came to the trinity full-grown and with
developed teeth, consider how fearfully sick and thrashed he would be!
Apply that notion to the 'sheltered life,' and see how it works. It
does not sound pretty, but it is the better of two evils.

"There was a Boy once who had been brought up under the 'sheltered
life' theory; and the theory killed him dead...."

And so on. At this point, after the expository introduction, the
narrative proper begins. Consider now the opening of a later story,
"Without Benefit of Clergy." This is the first sentence:--"But if it
be a girl?" Notice how much has already been said and suggested in
this little question of six words. Surely the beginning of this story
is conducted with the better art.

But, in the structure of the short-story, the emphasis of the terminal
position is an even more important matter. In this regard again
Poe shows his artistry, in stopping at the very moment when he has
attained completely his pre-established design. His conclusions remain
to this day unsurpassed in the sense they give of absolute finality.
Hawthorne was far less firm in mastering the endings of his stories.
His personal predilection for pointing a moral to adorn his tale led
him frequently to append a passage of homiletic comment which was not
bone of the bone and blood of the blood of the narrative itself. In
the chapter on emphasis, we have already called attention to Guy
de Maupassant's device of periodic structure, by means of which the
solution of the story is withheld till the concluding sentences. This
exceedingly effective expedient, however, is applicable only in the
sort of story wherein the element of surprise is inherent in the
nature of the theme. In no other single feature of construction may
the work of the inexperienced author be so readily detected as in
the final passage of his story. Mr. Kipling's "Lispeth" (the first of
"Plain Tales from the Hills"), which was written at a very early age,
began perfectly [the first word is "She"] and proceeded well; but when
he approached his conclusion, the young author did not know where to
stop. His story really ended at the words, "And she never came
back"; for at that point his pre-established design had been entirely
effected. But instead of closing there, he appended four unnecessary
paragraphs, dealing with the subsequent life of his heroine,--all of
which was, to use his own familiar phrase, "another story." Poe and
de Maupassant would not have made this mistake; and neither would Mr.
Kipling after he had grown into mastery of artistic method.

In his very interesting paper on "The Philosophy of Composition,"
Edgar Allan Poe outlined step by step the intellectual processes
by which he developed the structure of "The Raven," and fashioned
a finished poem from a preconceived effect. It is greatly to be
regretted that he did not write a similar essay outlining in detail
the successive stages in the structure of one of his short-stories.
With his extraordinarily clear and analytic intellect, he fashioned
his plots with mathematical precision. So rigorously did he work that
in his best stories we feel that the removal of a sentence would be an
amputation. He succeeded absolutely in giving his narrative the utmost
emphasis with the greatest economy of means.

If we learn through and through how a single perfect story is
constructed, we shall have gone far toward understanding the technic
of story-building as a whole. Let us therefore analyze one of Poe's
short-stories,--following in the main the method which he himself
pursued in his analysis of "The Raven,"--in order to learn the
successive steps by which any excellent short-story may be developed
from its theme. Let us choose "Ligeia" for the subject of this study,
because it is very widely known, and because Poe himself considered it
the greatest of his tales. Let us see how, starting with the theme of
the story, Poe developed step by step the structure of his finished
fabric; and how, granted his pre-established design, the progress of
his plan was in every step inevitable.[8]

[Footnote 8: The analysis of "Ligeia" which follows was printed in the
_Reader_ for February, 1906. It is here resumed with a few revisions
of detail.]

The theme of "Ligeia" was evidently suggested by those lines from
Joseph Glanvill which, quoted as a motto for the story, are thrice
repeated during the course of the narrative:--

"And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the
mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will,
pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield
himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the
weakness of his feeble will."

Poe recognized, with the English moralist, that the human will is
strong and can conquer many of the ills that flesh is heir to. If it
were still stronger, it could do more mighty things; and if it were
_very much_ stronger, it is even conceivable that it might vanquish
death, its last and sternest foe. Now it was legitimate for the
purposes of fiction to imagine a character endowed with a will
strong enough to conquer death; and a striking narrative effect could
certainly be produced by setting forth this moral conquest. This,
then, became the purpose of the story: to exhibit a character with
a superhuman will, and to show how, by sheer force of volition, this
person conquered death.

Having thus decided on his theme, the writer of the story was first
forced to consider how many, or rather, _how few_, characters
were necessary to the narrative. One, at least, was obviously
essential,--the person with the superhuman will. For esthetic reasons
Poe made this character a woman, and called her Ligeia; but it is
evident that _structurally_ the story would have been the same if he
had made the character a man. The resultant narrative would have been
different in mood and tone; but it would not have been different in
structure. Given this central character, it was not perhaps evident at
first that another person was needed for the tale. But in all stories
which set forth an extraordinary being, it is necessary to introduce
an ordinary character to serve as a standard by which the unusual
capabilities of the central figure may be measured. Furthermore, in
stories which treat of the miraculous, it is necessary to have at
least one eye-witness to the extraordinary circumstances beside
the person primarily concerned in them. Hence another character was
absolutely needed in the tale. This second person, moreover, had to
be intimately associated with the heroine, for the two reasons already
considered. The most intimate relation imaginable was that of husband
and wife; he must therefore be the husband of Ligeia. Beside these
two people,--a woman of superhuman will, and her husband, a man of
ordinary powers,--no other character was necessary; and therefore Poe
did not (and _could not_, according to the laws of the short-story)
introduce another. The Lady of Tremaine, as we shall see later on, is
not, technically considered, a character.

The main outline of the story could now be plotted. Ligeia and her
husband must be exhibited to the reader; and then, in her husband's
presence, Ligeia must conquer death by the vigor of her will. But in
order to do this, she must first die. If she merely exerted her will
to ward off the attacks of death, the reader would not be convinced
that her recovery had been accomplished by other than ordinary means.
She must die, therefore, and must afterwards resurrect herself by a
powerful exertion of volition. The reader must be fully convinced that
she did really die; and therefore, before her resurrection, she must
be laid for some time in the grave. The story, then, divided itself
into two parts: the first, in which Ligeia was alive, terminated
with her death; and the second, in which she was dead, ended with her

Having thus arrived at the main outline of his plot, Poe was next
forced to decide on the point of view from which the story should be
told. Under the existing conditions, any one of three distinct points
of view may have seemed, at the first glance, available: that of
the chief character, that of the secondary character, and that of an
external omniscient personality. But only a little consideration was
necessary to show that only one of these three could successfully be
employed. Obviously, the story could not be narrated by Ligeia: for it
would be awkward to let an extraordinary woman discourse about her own
unusual qualities; and furthermore, she could hardly narrate a story
involving as one of its chief features her stay among the dead
without being expected to tell the secrets of her prison-house. It
was likewise impossible to tell the tale from the point of view of
an external omniscient personality. In order that the final and
miraculous incident might seem convincing, it had to be narrated not
impersonally but personally, not externally but by an eye-witness.
Therefore, the story must, of course, be told by the husband of

At this point the main outline was completed. It then became necessary
for Poe to plan the two divisions of the story in detail. In the first
part, no action was necessary, and very little attention had to be
paid to setting. It was essential that all of the writer's stress
should be laid on the element of character; for the sole purpose of
this initial division of the story must be to produce upon the reader
an extremely emphatic impression of the extraordinary personality of
Ligeia. As soon as the reader could be sufficiently impressed with the
force of her character, she must be made to die; and the first part
of the story would be finished. But at this point Poe was obliged
to choose between the direct and the indirect means of delineating
character. Should Ligeia be depicted directly by her husband, or
indirectly, through her own speech? In other words, should this first
half of the story be a description or a conversation? The matter was
easy to decide. The method of conversation was unavailable; because
a dialogue between Ligeia and her husband would keep the attention of
the reader hovering from one to the other, whereas it was necessary
for the purpose of the tale to focus all of the attention on Ligeia.
She must, therefore, be depicted directly by her husband. Having
concluded that he must devote the entire first half of his story to
this description, Poe employed all his powers to make it adequate and
emphatic. The description must, of course, be largely subjective
and suggestive, and must be pervaded with a sense of something
unfathomable about the person described. In order that (reverting to
the language of Poe's own critical dictum) "his very initial sentence"
might "tend to the out-bringing of this effect," the author wrote, "I
cannot for my soul remember how, when, or even precisely where I first
became acquainted with the lady Ligeia": and the story was begun.

It was more difficult to handle the second division of the tale,
which was to deal with the period between Ligeia's death and her
resurrection. The main stress of the story now ceased to be laid on
the element of character. The element of action, furthermore, was
subsidiary in the second part of the tale, as it had been already in
the first. All that had to happen was the resurrection of Ligeia;
and this the reader had been forced by the very theme of the story to
foresee. The chief interest in the second part must therefore lie in
determining where and when and how this resurrection was accomplished.
A worthy setting must be found for the culminating event. Poe could
lose no time in preparing a place for his climax; and therefore he
was obliged, as soon as he had laid Ligeia in the grave, to begin an
elaborate description of the stage settings of his final scene. The
place must be wild and weird and arabesque. It must be worthy to
receive a resurrected mortal revisiting the glimpses of the moon. The
place was found, the time--midnight--decided upon: but the question
remained,--_how_ should Ligeia be resurrected?

And here arose almost an insuperable difficulty. Ligeia had been
buried (_must have been_ buried, as we have seen), and her body had
been given to the worms. Yet now she must be revived. And it would
not be sufficient to let her merely walk bodily into the fantastic
apartment where her husband, dream-haunted, was waiting to receive
her; for the point to be emphasized was not so much the mere fact of
her being once more alive, as the fact that she had won her way back
to life by the exertion of her own extraordinary will. The reader must
be shown not only _the result_ of her triumph over death, but _the
very process of the struggle_ through which by sheer volition she
forced her soul back into the bodily life. If only her body were
present, so that the reader could be shown its gradual obsession by
her soul, all would be easily accomplished; but, by the conditions of
the story, her body _could not_ be present: and the difficulty of the
problem was extreme.

But here Poe hit upon a solution of the difficulty. Would not another
dead body do as well? Surely Ligeia could breathe her life into any
discarded female form. Therefore, of course, her husband must marry
again, solely in order that his second wife should die. The Lady
Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine is, therefore, as I have already hinted,
not really a character, but only a necessary adjunct to the final
scene, an indispensable piece of stage property. In order to indicate
this fact, Poe was obliged to abstain carefully from describing her
in detail, and to seek in every possible way to prevent the reader's
attention from dwelling long upon her. Hence, although, in writing the
first part of the story, he devoted several pages to the description
of the heroine, he dismissed the Lady Rowena, in the second part,
with only two descriptive epithets,--"fair-haired and blue-eyed," to
distinguish her briefly from the dark-eyed and raven-haired Ligeia.

With the help of this convenient body, it was easy for Poe to develop
his final scene. The intense struggle of Ligeia's soul to win its way
back to the world could be worked up with enthralling suspense: and
when at last the climax was reached and the husband realized that his
lost love stood living before him, the purpose of the story would be
accomplished, Ligeia's will would have done its work, and there would
be nothing more to tell. Poe wrote, "These are the full, and the
black, and the wild eyes--of my lost love--of the Lady--of the
LADY LIGEIA": and the story was ended.

For it must be absolutely understood that with whatever may have
happened after that moment of entire recognition this particular
story does not, and cannot, concern itself. Whether in the next
moment Ligeia dies again irrevocably, or whether she lives an ordinary
lifetime and then ultimately dies forever, or whether she remains
alive eternally as a result of the triumph of her will, are questions
entirely beyond the scope of the story and have nothing to do with the
single narrative effect which Poe, from the very outset, was planning
to produce. At no other point does he more clearly display his mastery
than in his choice of the perfect moment at which to end his story.

It would, of course, be idle to assert that Poe disposed of all the
narrative problems which confronted him while constructing this story
precisely in the order I have indicated. Unfortunately, he never
explained in print the genesis of any of his stories, and we can only
imagine the process of his plans with the aid of his careful analysis
of the development of "The Raven." But I think it has been clearly
shown that the structure of "Ligeia" is at all points inevitably
conditioned by its theme, and that no detail of the structure could be
altered without injuring the effect of the story; and I am confident
that some intellectual process similar to that which has been outlined
must be followed by every author who seeks to construct stories as
perfect in form as Poe's.

The student of short-story structure is therefore advised to submit
several other masterpieces of the form to a process of intellectual
analysis similar to that which we have just pursued. By so doing he
will become impressed with the _inevitability_ of every structural
expedient that is employed in the best examples of the type. For a
further illustration of this inevitability of structure, let us look
for a moment at the parable of "The Prodigal Son" (Luke xv., beginning
with the eleventh verse), which, although it was written down many
centuries ago, fulfils the modern critical concept of the short-story,
in that it produces a single narrative effect with the greatest
economy of means that is consistent with the utmost emphasis. For the
purposes of this study, let us set aside the religious implications of
the parable, and consider it as an ordinary work of fiction. The story
should more properly be called "The Forgiving Father," rather than
"The Prodigal Son"; because the single narrative effect to be
wrought out is the extent of a father's forgiveness toward his erring
children. Two characters are obviously needed for the tale,--first a
father to exercise forgiveness, and second, a child to be forgiven.
Whether this child were a son or a daughter would, of course, have no
effect on the mere structure of the story. In the narrative as we know
it, the erring child is a son. In pursuance of the greatest economy of
means, the story might be told with these two characters only, because
the effect to be wrought out is based on the personal relation between
them,--a relation involving no one else. But fatherly forbearance
exercised toward an _only_ child might seem a trait of human weakness
instead of patriarchal strength; and the father's forgiveness will
be greatly accentuated if, beside the prodigal, he has other children
less liable to error. Therefore, in pursuance of the utmost emphasis,
it is necessary to add a third character,--another son who is not
allured into the way of the transgressor. The story must necessarily
be narrated by an external omniscient personality: it must be seen
and told from a point of view aloof and god-like. The father could
not tell it, because the theme of the tale is the beauty of his own
character; and neither of the two sons is in a position to see the
story whole and to narrate it without prejudice. The story opens
perfectly, with the very simple sentence, "A certain man had two
sons." Already the reader knows that he is to be told a story of
character (rather than of action or of setting) concerning three
people, the most important of whom is the certain man who has been
mentioned first. Consider, in passing, how faulty would have been such
another opening as this, for instance,--"Not long ago, in a city of
Judea".... Such an initial sentence would have suggested setting,
instead of suggesting character, as the leading element in the
story. Very properly, the first of the two sons to be singled out
specifically is the more important of the two, the prodigal: "And the
younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of
goods that falleth to me.'" Thus in only two sentences the reader is
given the entire basis of the story. The swift and simple narrative
that follows is masterly in absolute conciseness. The younger son
takes his journey into a far country, wastes his substance in riotous
living, begins to be in want, suffers and repents, and returns to seek
the forgiveness of his father. Wonderfully, beautifully, his father
loves and pities and forgives him: "For this my son was dead and is
alive again; he was lost, and is found." At this point the story would
end, if it were told with only two characters instead of three.
But emphasis demands that the elder son should now make an entirely
reasonable objection to the reception of the prodigal; because the
great love which is the essence of the father's character will shine
forth much more brightly when he overrules the objection. He does so
in the same words he had used in the first moment of emotion: "For
this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and
is found." These beautiful words, which now receive the emphasis of
iteration as well as the emphasis of terminal position, sum up and
complete the entire pre-established design.

This story, which contains only five hundred words, is a little
masterpiece of structure. It embodies a narrative theme of profound
human import; it exhibits three characters so clearly and completely
drawn that the reader knows them better than he knows many a hero of a
lengthy novel; and it displays an absolute adjustment between
economy and emphasis in its succinct yet touching train of incidents.
Furthermore, it is also, in the English version of the King James
translators, a little masterpiece of style. The words are simple,
homely, and direct. Most of them are of Saxon origin, and the majority
are monosyllabic. Less than half a dozen words in the entire narrative
contain more than two syllables. And yet they are set so delicately
together that they fall into rhythms potent with emotional effect. How
much the story gains from this mastery of prose may be felt at once
by comparing with the King James version parallel passages from the
standard French Bible. The English monosyllabic refrain, with its
touching balance of rhythm, loses nearly all of its esthetic effect in
the French translation: "_Car mon fils, que voici, était mort, mais il
est ressuscité; il était perdu, mais il est retrouvé._" And that very
moving sentence about the elder son, "And he was angry, and would not
go in: therefore came his father out and entreated him," becomes
in the French Bible, "_Mais il se mit en colère, et ne voulut point
entrer; et son père étant sorti, le priait d'entrer._" No especial
nicety of ear is necessary to notice that the first is greatly
written, and the second is not.

And this leads us to the general consideration that even a perfectly
constructed story will fail of the uttermost effect unless it be at
all points adequately written. After Poe had, with his intellect,
outlined step by step the structure of "Ligeia," he was obliged to
confront a further problem,--a problem this time more emotional than
intellectual--the problem of writing the story with the thrilling and
enthralling harmony of that low, musical language which haunts us like
the echo of a dream. It is one thing to build a story; it is quite
another thing to write it: and in Poe's case it is evident that
an appreciable interval of time must have elapsed between his
accomplishment of the first, and his undertaking of the second,
effort. He built his stories intellectually, in cold blood; he wrote
them emotionally, in esthetic exaltation: and the two moods are so
distinct and mutually exclusive that they must have been successive
instead of coexistent. Some authors build better than they write;
others write better than they build. Seldom, very seldom, is a man
equipped, as Poe was, with an equal mastery of structure and of style.
Yet though unity of form may be attained through structure alone,
unity of mood is dependent mainly upon style. The language should
be pitched throughout in tune with the emotional significance of the
narrative effect to be produced. Any sentence which is tuned out
of harmony will jangle and disrupt the unity of mood, which is as
necessary to a great short-story as it is to a great lyric poem.
Hawthorne, though his structure was frequently at fault, proved the
greatness of his art by maintaining, through sheer mastery of style,
an absolute unity of mood in every story that he undertook. Mr.
Kipling has not always done so, because he has frequently used
language more with manner than with style; but in his best stories,
like "The Brushwood Boy" and "They," there is a unity of tone
throughout the writing that sets them on the plane of highest art.



The element of style, which has just been touched upon in reference
to the short-story, must now be considered in its broader aspect as
a factor of fiction in general. Hitherto, in examining the methods of
fiction, we have confined our attention for the most part to the study
of structural expedients. The reason is that structure, being a
matter merely of the intellect, can be analyzed clearly and expounded
definitely. Like any other intellectual subject--geometry, for
instance--structure may be taught. But style, although it is in
fiction a factor scarcely less important, is not a matter merely of
the intellect. It is not so easily permissible of clear analysis and
definite exposition; and although it is true that, in a certain sense,
it may be learned, it is also true that it cannot be taught.

The word "style" comes trippingly to the tongue of every critic; but
it has never yet been satisfactorily defined. Famous phrases have been
made about it, to be sure; but most of these, like that corrupted
from Buffon's cursory remark in his discourse of reception into the
Academy--"_Le style est de l'homme même_,"--are lofty admissions of
the impossibility of definition. By this fact we are fortified in our
opinion that style is a matter of feeling rather than of intellect.
Avoiding, therefore, as unwise any attempt at definition, we may yet
succeed in clarifying our ideas regarding style if we circle round the

At the outset, in order to narrow the compass of the circle, let
us admit that the familiar phrase "bad style" is a contradiction of
terms. Basically, there is no such thing as good style or bad. Either
a literary utterance is made with style, or else it is made without
it. This initial distinction is absolute, not relative. It must,
however, be admitted that of two utterances made with style, the one
may be more imbued with that quality than is the other; but even this
secondary distinction is a matter of more and less, rather than of
better and worse. Style, then, is a quality possessed in a greater or
less degree, or else not possessed at all. This much being granted,
we may investigate with clearer minds the philosophic aspect of the

Language makes to the mind of the reader or the listener an appeal
which is twofold. First, it conveys to his intellect a definite
meaning through the content of the words that are employed; and
secondly, it conveys to his sensibilities an indefinite suggestion
through their sound. Consciously, he receives a meaning from the
denotation of the words; subconsciously, he receives a suggestion from
their connotation. Now, an utterance has the quality of style when
these two appeals of language--the denotative and the connotative, the
definite and the indefinite, the intellectual and the sensuous--are so
co-ordinated as to produce upon the reader or the listener an effect
which is, not dual, but indissolubly single. And an utterance is
devoid of the quality of style when, although it conveys a meaning to
the intellect through the content of the words, it does not reinforce
that conveyance of meaning by a cognate and harmonic appeal to the
senses through their sound. In the latter case the language produces
upon the recipient an effect which is, not single, but dual and

The matter may be made more clear by the examination of concrete
examples. The following sentence, for instance, is devoid of style:
"The square on the hypothenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to
the sum of the squares on the other two sides": for, although by its
content it conveys to the intellect a meaning which is entirely clear
and absolutely definite, it does not by its sound convey to the senses
a suggestion which is cognate. But, on the other hand, the following
lines from Tennyson's "The Princess" are rich in style, because the
appeals to the intellect and to the ear are so co-ordinated as to
produce a single simultaneous effect:--

  "Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn,
  The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
  And murmuring of innumerable bees."

In these lines, fully as much is conveyed to the reader by the mere
melody of m's and r's and l's as by the content, or denotation, of
the words. For instance, the word "innumerable," which denotes to the
intellect merely "incapable of being numbered," is in this connection
made to suggest to the senses the murmuring of bees. That one word,
therefore, accomplishes a dual service, and contributes to the
expression of the general idea in one way through its content and in
another through its sound.

This co-ordination of the two appeals is the origin and the essence
of the quality of style. But the question now demands to be
considered,--_how_ may this co-ordination be effected? The first
detail we must attend to is the choice of words. Tennyson's task, in
the lines that we have just considered, was comparatively easy. He was
writing about certain sounds; and it was not especially difficult for
him to imitate those sounds with the words that he selected to denote
them. His device was the obvious one which is called, by rhetoricians,
onomatop[oe]ia. In every language those words which are denotative of
sounds are nearly always also imitative of them. Such words, as, for
example, "whisper," "thunder," "rattle," are in themselves stylistic.
Alone, and apart from any context, they incorporate that cognate
appeal of significance and sound which is the secret of style. Thus
far the matter is extremely simple. But there are also many words
which denote other things than sounds and yet somehow convey subtly
to the ear a sensuous suggestion of their content. Such words, for
instance, are "mud," "nevermore," and "tremulous." Any child could
tell you that words like these "sound just like what they mean";
and yet it would be impossible for the critical intellect to explain
exactly wherein lies the fitness between sound and sense in such a
word as "mud." The fitness, however, is obviously there. If we select
from several languages words which are identical in denotation, we
are likely to find that, because of their difference in sound, they
connote different phases of the idea which they contain. For example,
the English word "death" has a spiritual sound; whereas the German
"_der Tod_" sounds terrible and grim, and the French "_la mort_"
sounds horrid and bizarre. In content, these three words are
indistinguishable; but in style they differ very widely. Their
diversity of connotation is obviously inherent in their sound; and
yet, though the difference may be heard at once, it seems inexplicable
by the intellect.

But by far the greatest number of stylistic words owe their
connotation not so much to their sound alone, as to their capacity for
evoking memories. They awake the psychologic process of association.
Such are the words which lie close to the heart of every one's
experience,--words like "home," "sorrow," "mother," "youth," and
"friends." Whenever such a word is used, it conveys to the reader or
the listener not only the specific meaning intended by the momentary
context, but also a subsidiary and subconscious recollection of many
phases of his personal experience. All of the indisputably magic words
possess this associative or _memorable_ quality. Saying one thing
definitely, they evoke a concordant harmony of subconscious and
shadowy suggestion. Expressing a message in the present, they recall
remembered beauty from the past. Thus it is with the words of those
two enchanted lines of Keats,--

  "Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
  Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."

They say much more than what they say. Conveying one meaning to the
reader, they remind him of many, many others.

But the choice of suggestive and memorable words is only the first
step toward mastery of style. The perfect marriage of significance and
sound is dependent not so much upon the words themselves as upon the
way in which they are arranged. The art of style, like every other
art, proceeds by an initial selection of materials and a subsequent
arrangement of them in accordance with a pattern. In style, the
pattern is of prime importance; and therefore, in order to understand
the witchery of writing, we must next consider technically the
patterning of words.

This phase of the subject has been clearly expounded and deftly
illustrated by Robert Louis Stevenson in his essay "On Some Technical
Elements of Style in Literature,"[9] This essay is, so far as I know,
the only existing treatise on the technic of style which is of any
practical value to the incipient artist. It should therefore be read
many times and mastered thoroughly by every student of the mystery of
writing. Since it is now easily accessible, it will not be necessary
here to do more than summarize its leading points,--stating them in a
slightly different way in order that they may better fit the present

[Footnote 9: First published in the _Contemporary Review_ for April,
1885; and now included in Volume XXII of the "Thistle Edition":
Charles Scribner's Sons.]

Every normal sentence, unless it be extremely brief, contains a
knot, or hitch. Up to a certain point, the thought is progressively
complicated; after that, it is resolved. Now, the art of style demands
that this natural implication and explication of the thought should be
attended by a cognate implication and explication of the movement of
the sentence. Unless the hitch in the rhythm coincides with the hitch
in the thought, the two appeals of the sentence (to the intellect and
to the ear) will contest against each other instead of combining to
accomplish a common effect. Therefore the first necessity in weaving
a web of words is to conquer an accordance between the intellectual
progression of the thought and the sensuous progression of the sound.
The appeal of rhythm to the human ear is basic and elemental; and
style depends for its effect more upon a mastery of rhythmic phrase
than upon any other individual detail. In verse, the technical problem
is two-fold: first, to suggest to the ear of the reader a rhythmic
pattern of standard regularity; and then, to vary from the regularity
suggested, as deftly and as frequently as may be possible without ever
allowing the reader for a moment to forget the fundamental pattern.
In prose, the writer works with greater freedom; and his problem is
therefore at once more easy and more difficult. Instead of starting
with a standard pattern, he has to invent a web of rhythm which
is suited to the sense he wishes to convey; and then, without ever
disappointing the ear of the reader by unnecessarily withholding an
expected fall of rhythm, he must shatter every inkling of monotony by
continual and tasteful variation.

But language, by its very nature, offers to the ear not only a pattern
of rhythm but also a pattern of letters. A mastery of literation is
therefore a necessary element of style. Effects indisputably potent in
suggestion may be gained by running a recurrence of certain
letters, deftly for a time withheld,--since blatancy must always be
avoided,--and yet triumphant in harmonious return. The great sentences
of literature which echo in our ears because their sound is married
to their meaning will be found upon examination to incorporate an
intricate pattern of tastefully selected letters. Thus it is with the
following sentence of Sir Thomas Browne's, wherein it is difficult
to decide whether the rhythm or the literation contributes the larger
share to its symmetry of sound:--"But the iniquity of oblivion
blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without
distinction to merit of perpetuity." Thus it is, again, with this
sentence from Ruskin's "Seven Lamps of Architecture":--"They are but
the rests and monotones of the art; it is to its far happier, far
higher, exaltation that we owe those fair fronts of variegated mosaic,
charged with wild fancies and dark hosts of imagery, thicker and
quainter than ever filled the depths of midsummer dream; those vaulted
gates, trellised with close leaves; those window-labyrinths of twisted
tracery and starry light; those misty masses of multitudinous pinnacle
and diademed tower; the only witnesses, perhaps, that remain to us
of the faith and fear of nations." So it is also with these sentences
from De Quincey's "The English Mail-Coach":--"The sea, the atmosphere,
the light, bore each an orchestral part in this universal lull.
Moonlight, and the first timid tremblings of the dawn, were by this
time blending; and the blendings were brought into a still more
exquisite state of unity by a slight silvery mist, motionless and
dreamy, that covered the woods and fields, but with a veil of equable

A more detailed study of style along these lines would lead us to
considerations too minutely technical for the purpose of the present
volume. Style, in its highest development, belongs only to the finest
art of literature; and it must be admitted that literature is not
always, nor even perhaps most frequently, a fine art. Of the four
rhetorical moods, or methods, of discourse, exposition lends itself
the least to the assistance of the quality of style. Explanations are
communicated from intellect to intellect. Words, in exposition, must
be chosen chiefly with a view to definite denotation. The expository
writer must be clear at any cost; he must aim to be precise rather
than to be suggestive. Style is considerably more important as an
adjunct to argumentation; since in order really to persuade, a writer
must not only convince the reader's intellect but also rouse and
conquer his emotions. But it is in narrative and in description that
the quality of style is most contributive to the maximum effect.
To evoke a picture in the reader's mind, or to convey to his
consciousness a sense of movement, it is advisable (I am tempted to
say necessary) to play upon his sensibilities with the sound of the
very sentences that are framed to convey a content to his intellect.

Since narrative is the natural mood of fiction, and since description
is more often introduced than either argument or exposition, it
follows that the writer of fiction must always reckon with the factor
of style. It is true that stories may be written without style; it is
even true that many of the greatest stories have been devoid of this
indefinable quality: but it is not therefore logical to argue that
the factor of style may be neglected. How much it may be made to
contribute to the attainment of the aim of fiction will be recognized
instinctively upon examination of any wonderfully written passage. Let
us consider, for example, the following paragraphs from "Markheim."
After Markheim has killed the dealer, and gone up-stairs to ransack
the belongings of the murdered man, he suffers an interval of quietude
amid alarms.--

"With the tail of his eye he saw the door--even glanced at it from
time to time directly, like a besieged commander pleased to verify the
good estate of his defenses. But in truth he was at peace. The rain
falling in the street sounded natural and pleasant. Presently, on the
other side, the notes of a piano were wakened to the music of a
hymn, and the voices of many children took up the air and words.
How stately, how comfortable was the melody! How fresh the youthful
voices! Markheim gave ear to it smilingly, as he sorted out the
keys; and his mind was thronged with answerable ideas and images;
church-going children and the pealing of the high organ; children
afield, bathers by the brookside, ramblers on the brambly common,
kite-fliers in the windy and cloud-navigated sky; and then, at another
cadence of the hymn, back again to church, and the somnolence of
summer Sundays, and the high genteel voice of the parson (which he
smiled a little to recall) and the painted Jacobean tombs, and the dim
lettering of the Ten Commandments in the chancel.

"And as he sat thus, at once busy and absent, he was startled to his
feet. A flash of ice, a flash of fire, a bursting gush of blood, went
over him, and then he stood transfixed and thrilling. A step mounted
the stair slowly and steadily, and presently a hand was laid upon the
knob, and the lock clicked, and the door opened."

Anybody who has ears to hear will immediately appreciate how much the
effect of this passage is enhanced by the masterly employment of
every phase of style which we have hitherto discussed. If, instead of
writing, "Presently the notes of a piano were wakened to the music of
a hymn," Stevenson had written, "Soon a piano began to play a hymn,"
he would have suggested to the ear a jangle like the banging of tin
pans, instead of the measured melody he had in mind. And let it be
particularly noted that the phrase suggested for comparison is, _in
intellectual content alone_, scarcely distinct from the original. How
little is the difference in denotation, how great the difference
in suggestion! The brief phrase, "Kite-fliers in the windy and
cloud-navigated sky," seems to blow us bodily upward into the
air:--here is mastery of rhythm. "The somnolence of summer Sundays,"
is whispery and murmurous with s's, m's and n's:--here (more
obviously) is mastery of literation. In the second paragraph, notice
how the rhythm suddenly hurries when Markheim is startled to his
feet; and in the last sentence, consider the monotonous and measured
slowness of the movement, ominous with pauses.

Every now and then a critic steps forward with the statement that
style in fiction is not a deliberate and conscious conquest, that the
sound of sentences is accidental and may therefore not be marshaled to
contribute to the sense, and that preoccupation with details of rhythm
and of literation is an evidence of a finical and narrow mind. To
such a statement no answer is necessary but the wholesome advice to
re-read, aloud and carefully, several passages on a par with that from
"Markheim" which we have just examined. Very evidently Stevenson knew
intuitively what he was about when he planned his rhythmic patterns
and his literate orchestral harmonies.

I say "intuitively"; because, as I admitted at the outset, style is,
with the author, a matter of feeling rather than of intellect. But
matters may be planned with sensibility as well as with intelligence.
The writer with the gift of style forehears a web of rhythm into which
he weaves such words as may be denotative of his thought; and all the
while that he is striving to be definite and clear, he carries in his
mind a subtle sense of the harmonic accompaniment of consonants, the
melodious eloquence of vowels.

By what means a writer may attain to mastery of style is a question
not to be answered by the intellect. Matters of sensibility are
personal, and every man must solve them for himself. The author of
"Markheim," as he tells us in his essay on "A College Magazine,"
taught himself to write by playing the sedulous ape to many masters;
and this method may be recommended to aspirants with an imitative ear.
But there can be no general rule; because, although in the process of
pure reason all men rightly minded think alike, each man differs from
every other in the process of emotion.

This is the reason why style, beside being (as we asserted at the
outset) an absolute quality, possessed or not possessed by any
literary utterance, is also in every case a quality personal to the
author who attains it. In this regard, Buffon was right in
stating that style is a phase of the man himself. Any work that is
accomplished by the intellect alone belongs to man in general rather
than to one man in particular; but any work that is accomplished by
the sensibilities incorporates those profounder qualities by virtue
of which each man stands distinct from every other. By studying the
structure of an author's work, we can estimate his intellect: by
studying the style, we can estimate that subtler entity which is the
man himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the close of our study of the materials and methods of fiction, it
is advisable that we should consider in general the relation between
form and content,--the respective value of methods and materials.
Primarily, there are two groups of worthy fiction,--that which is
great mainly on account of its content, and that which is great mainly
on account of its form. It would be unwise, of course, to overestimate
the single and inherent value of either material or method. Some
comparison, however, may be made between the merits of the one group
and the other.

In the first place, it must be noted that, as far as the general
reader is concerned, the appeal of any work of fiction depends far
more upon its content than upon its form. The average reader knows
little and cares less about the technical methods of the art. What
he demands above all is interesting subject-matter. He seeks, in
the popular phrase, "a good story"; he wishes to be told interesting
things about interesting people; and he does not feel especially
concerned about the question whether or not these things are told
him in an interesting way. The matter, rather than the manner, is the
element that most allures him.

There are many reasons that tempt the critic to accept without
reservation the general reader's view. For instance, many of the most
important works of fiction have been inefficient in mere art. The "Don
Quixote" of Cervantes is indubitably one of the very greatest novels
in all literature, for the reason that it contains so vast a world.
Yet it is very faulty both in structure and in style. The author seems
to have built it little by little, as he went along; and he changed
his plan so often during the process of construction that
the resultant edifice, like the cathedral of St. Peter's, is
architecturally incoherent. He showed so little regard for unity that
he did not hesitate to halt his novel for half a hundred pages while
he set before the reader the totally extraneous novelette of "The
Curious Impertinent," which he happened to find lying idle in his
desk. How little he was a master of mere style may be felt at once
by comparing his plays with those of Calderon. Yet these technical
considerations do not count against the value of his masterpiece. All
of Spain is there resumed and uttered, all pains that the idealist
in any age must suffer, all the pity and the glory of aspiration

Scott has no style, and Thackeray has no structure; but these
technical defects go down before their magnitude of message. Scott
teaches us the glory and the greatness of being healthy, young,
adventurous, and happy; and Thackeray, with tears in his eyes that
humanize the sneer upon his lips, teaches us that the thing we call
Society, with a capital S, is but a vanity of vanities. If we turn
from the novel to the short-story, we shall notice that certain themes
are in themselves so interesting that the resultant story could not
fail to be effective even were it badly told. It is perhaps unfair
to take as an example Mr. F. J. Stimson's tale called "Mrs. Knollys,"
because his story is both correctly constructed and beautifully
written; but merely in theme this tale is so effective that it
could have endured a less accomplished handling. The story runs as
follows:[10]--A girl and her husband, both of whom are very young, go
to the Alps for their honeymoon. The husband, in crossing a glacier,
falls into a crevasse. His body cannot immediately be recovered; but
Mrs. Knollys learns from a scientist who is making a study of the
movement of the ice that in forty-five years the body will be carried
to the end of the glacier. Thereafter she regards her husband as
absent but not lost, and lives her life in continuous imagined
communion with him. At the end of the allotted time, she returns and
finds his body. She is then a woman in her sixties; but her husband
is, in aspect, still a boy of twenty-one. She has dreamt of him as
growing old beside her: she finds him sundered from her by half
a century of change.--Even in a bald and ineffective summary the
interest of this narrative effect must be apparent. The story scarcely
needed to be told as well as Mr. Stimson told it.

[Footnote 10: "Mrs. Knollys" is now easily accessible in "The Short
Story: Specimens Illustrating Its Development." Edited by Brander
Matthews. American Book Company, 1908.]

We must admit, then, that, from the standpoint of the author as well
as from that of the general reader, material may often be regarded as
more important than method. But the critic is not therefore justified
in stating that style and structure may with impunity be dispensed
with. Other things being equal, the books that have lived the longest
are those which have been executed with admirable art. The decline
in the fame of Fenimore Cooper is a case in point. Merely in
subject-matter, his books are more important now than they were at the
time of their original publication; for the conditions of life in the
forest primeval must necessarily assume a more especial interest to a
world that, in its immediate experience, is rapidly forgetting them.
But Cooper wrote very carelessly and very badly; and as we advance
to a finer appreciation of the art of fiction, we grow more and more
distracted from the contemplation of his message by his preposterous
inequalities of craftsmanship.

Novels like the "Leatherstocking Tales" may be most enjoyed (I had
almost said appreciated best) by readers with an undeveloped sense of
art. This would seem a very strange admission at the close of a study
devoted to the art of fiction, were it not for the existence of that
other group of stories whose importance lies in method even more than
in material. A lesser thing done perfectly is often more significant
than a bigger thing done badly. Jane Austen is likely to live longer
than George Eliot, because she conveyed her message, less momentous
though it were, with a finer and a firmer art. Jane Austen's subjects
seem, at the first glance, to be of very small account. From English
middle-class society she selects a group of people who are in no
regard remarkable, and thereafter concerns herself chiefly with the
simple question of who will ultimately marry whom. But by sedulously
dwelling on the non-essentials of life, she contrives to remind the
reader of its vast essentials. By talking to us skilfully about the
many things that do not matter, she suggests to us, inversely and with
unobtrusive irony, the few things that really do. Her very message,
therefore, is immediately dependent upon her faultless art. If she had
done her work less well, the result would have been non-significant
and wearisome.

Poe and de Maupassant are shining examples of the class of authors who
are destined to live by their art alone. Poe, in his short-stories,
said nothing of importance to the world; and de Maupassant said many
matters which might more decorously have remained untalked of. But
the thing they meant to do, they did unfalteringly; and perfect
workmanship is in itself a virtue in this world of shoddy compromise
and ragged effort. Long after people have ceased to care for battle,
murder, and sudden death, the thrill and urge of buoyant adventure,
they will re-read the boyish tales of Stevenson for the sake of their
swiftness of propulsion and exultant eloquence of style.

And fully to appreciate this class of fiction, some technical
knowledge of the art is necessary. Washington Irving's efforts must,
to a great extent, be lost on readers who are lacking in the ear
for style. He had very little to say,--merely that the Hudson is
beautiful, that the greatest sadness upon earth arises from the early
death of one we love, that laughter and tears are at their deepest
indistinguishable, and that it is very pleasant to sit before the fire
of an old baronial hall and remember musingly; but he said this
little like a gentleman,--with a charm, a grace, an easy urbanity of
demeanor, that set his work forever in the class of what has been well
done by good and faithful servants.

There is a very fine pleasure in watching with awareness the doing of
things that are done well. Hence, even for the casual reader, it is
advisable to study the methods of fiction in order to develop a more
refined delight in reading. It would seem that a detective story, in
which the interest is centered mainly in the long withholding of a
mystery, would lose its charm for a reader to whom its secret has been
once revealed. But the reader with a developed consciousness of method
finds an interest evermore renewed in returning again and again to
Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue." After his first surprise has been
abated, he can enjoy more fully the deftness of the author's art.
After he has viewed the play from a stall in the orchestra, he may
derive another and a different interest by watching it from the
wings. To use a familiar form of words, Jane Austen is the novelist's
novelist, Stevenson the writer's writer, Poe the builder's builder;
and in order fully to appreciate the work of artists such as these, it
is necessary (in Poe's words) to "contemplate it with a kindred art."

But the critic should not therefore be allured into setting method
higher than material and overestimating form at the expense of
content. The ideal to be striven for in fiction is such an intimate
interrelation between the thing said and the way of saying it that
neither may be contemplated apart from the other. We are touching now
upon a third and smaller group of fiction, which combines the special
merits of the two groups already noted. Such a novel as "The Scarlet
Letter," such a short-story as "The Brushwood Boy," belong in this
third and more extraordinary class. What Hawthorne has to say is
searching and profound, and he says it with an equal mastery of
structure and of style. "The Scarlet Letter" would be great because
of its material alone, even had its author been a bungler; it would be
great because of its art alone, even had he been less humanly endowed
with understanding. But it is greater as we know it, in its absolute
commingling of the two great merits of important subject and
commensurate art.

But in studying "The Scarlet Letter" we are conscious of yet another
element of interest,--an interest derived from the personality of
the author. The same story told with equal art by some one else would
interest us very differently. And now we are touching on still another
group of worthy fiction. Many stories endure more because of the
personality of the men who wrote them than because of any inherent
merit of material or method. Charles Lamb's "Dream-Children; A
Revery," which, although it is numbered among the "Essays of Elia,"
may be regarded as a short-story, is important mainly because of the
nature of the man who penned it,--a man who, in an age infected with
the fever of growing up, remained at heart a little child, looking
upon the memorable world with eyes of wonder.

These, then, are the three merits to be striven for in equal measure
by aspirants to the art of fiction: momentous material, masterly
method, and important personality. To discover certain truths of human
life that are eminently worth the telling, to embody them in imagined
facts with a mastery both of structure and of style, and, behind and
beyond the work itself, to be all the time a person worthy of being
listened to: this is, for the fiction-writer, the ultimate ideal.
Seldom, very seldom, have these three contrarious conditions revealed
themselves in a single author; seldom, therefore, have works of
fiction been created that are absolutely great. It would be difficult
for the critic to select off-hand a single novel which may be accepted
in all ways as a standard of the highest excellence. But if the
term _fiction_ be regarded in its broadest significance, it may be
considered to include the one greatest work of art ever fashioned by
the mind of man. The "Divine Comedy" is supreme in subject-matter.
The facts of its cosmogony have been disproved by modern science, the
religion of which it is the monument has fallen into disbelief, the
nation and the epoch that it summarizes have been trampled under the
progress of the centuries; but in central and inherent truth, in its
exposition of the struggle of the beleaguered human soul to win its
way to light and life, it remains perennial and new. It is supreme
in art. With unfaltering and undejected effort the master-builder
upreared in symmetry its century of cantos; with faultless eloquence
he translated into song all moods the human heart has ever known.
And it is supreme in personality; because in every line of it we feel
ourselves in contact with the vastest individual mind that ever
yet inhabited the body of a man. We know (to quote the Poet's most
appreciative translator)--

    "from what agonies of heart and brain,
  What exultations trampling on despair,
  What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
  What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
  Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
  This medieval miracle of song."

His labor kept him lean for twenty years; and many a time he learned
how salt his food who fares upon another's bread,--how steep his
path who treadeth up and down another's stairs. But Dante saw and
conquered,--realizing what he had to do, knowing how to do it, being
worthy of his work. Therefore, singly among authors, he deserves the
sacred epithet his countrymen apply to him,--divine.

"The Divine Comedy" is the supreme epic of the world. The supreme
novel remains to be written. It is doubtful if human literary art may
attain completeness more than once. But as our authors labor to
embody truths of human life in arranged imagined facts, they should
constantly be guided and inspired by the allurement of the ultimate
ideal. The noblest work is evermore accomplished by followers of the
gleam. Let us, in parting company, paraphrase the sense of a remark
made centuries ago by Sir Philip Sidney,--that model of a scholar and
a gentleman:--It is well to shoot our arrows at the moon; for though
they may miss their mark, they will yet fly higher than if we had
flung them into a bush.


  _Adam Bede_, 18, 31, 113.

  Addison, Joseph, xi;
    _Sir Roger de Coverley_, xii.

  _Æneid, The_, 156, 157, 158.

  Alcott, Louisa M., 76;
    _Little Women_, 76.

  Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 134;
    _Marjorie Daw_, 134.

  _Alice in Wonderland_, 16.

  _Ambitious Guest, The_, 170.

  _American Short Stories_, 170.

  Amiel, Henri-Frédéric, 7.

  Andersen, Hans Christian, 9.

  _Angel in the House, The_, 154.

  _An Habitation Enforced_, 110.

  _Anna Karénina_, xviii.

  _Arcadia_, 100.

  Archer, William, 6.

  Ariosto, Ludovico, 99;
    _Orlando Furioso_, 99.

  Aristotle, 67, 68.

  Arnold, Matthew, 180.

  _Assignation, The_, 36.

  _As You Like It_, 10.

  _At the End of the Passage_, 108.

  Aubignac, Abbé d', xiv, xvi;
    _Pratique du Théâtre_, xiv.

  _Aurora Leigh_, 154.

  Austen, Jane, 4, 19, 26, 88, 127, 128, 215, 217;
    _Emma_, 88, 127, 143;
    _Pride and Prejudice_, 128, 143.

  Bacon, Francis, 32.

  Baldwin, Charles Sears, 170, 171, 176;
    _American Short Stories_, 170.

  Balfour, Graham, 52.

  Balzac, Honoré de, x, xii, xiii, 53, 56, 153, 160, 180;
    _Eugénie Grandet_, 168;
    _Human Comedy_, 160.

  Barrie, James Matthew, xx, 10, 26, 132, 133.

  _Beach of Falesá, The_, 178.

  _Beowulf_, 130.

  Bernhardt, Sarah, 162.

  Besant, Sir Walter, xxi, 35;
    _The Art of Fiction_, 35.

  Beyle, Henri, see Stendhal.

  Boccaccio, Giovanni, x, 62, 99, 176;
    _Decameron_, 62, 99, 176.

  Boswell, James, 122.

  Brontë, Charlotte, 11;
    _Jane Eyre_, 11, 118, 121, 166.

  Brougham, Lord, xx.

  Browne, Sir Thomas, 207.

  Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 154;
    _Aurora Leigh_, 154.

  Browning, Robert, 153.

  Brunetière, Ferdinand, x, 164;
    _History of Classical French Literature_, x.

  _Brushwood Boy, The_, 26, 33, 200, 217.

  Buffon, Comte de, 201, 212.

  Bunner, Henry Cuyler, 134, 148;
    _A Sisterly Scheme_, 148;
    _The Documents in the Case_, 134.

  Bunyan, John, 79;
    _Pilgrim's Progress_, 63, 79.

  Burbage, Richard, 162.

  Calderon, 213.

  Camoëns, 156;
    _The Lusiads_, 156.

  _Captive, The_, 90, 120.

  Carlyle, Thomas, 8;
    _Heroes and Hero-Worship_, 8.

  _Carmen_, 169.

  Carroll, Lewis, _Alice in Wonderland_, 16.

  _Cask of Amontillado, The_, 140, 174.

  Cervantes, x, 6, 213;
    _Don Quixote_, xxii, 159, 213;
    _The Curious Impertinent_, 213.

  Chateaubriand, René de, 16.

  _Child's Dream of a Star, A_, 182.

  Cimabue, 97.

  Collins, Wilkie, 16, 49, 73, 149;
    _The Moonstone_, 73.

  _Colomba_, 168.

  Colvin, Sidney, 175.

  Cooper, James Fenimore, xii, 26, 142, 182, 215;
    _Leatherstocking Tales_, 215;
    _The Last of the Mohicans_, 169;
    _The Spy_, 142.

  Coppée, François, 155;
    _The Strike of the Iron-Workers_, 155;
    _The Substitute_, 155.

  Coquelin, Constant, 162.

  Corneille, Pierre, xvi.

  Crawford, F. Marion, xxi, 24;
    _The Novel: What It Is_, 24.

  _Criticism and Fiction_, 38, 131.

  _Curious Impertinent, The_, 213.

  _Cyrano de Bergerac_, 162.

  _Daisy Miller_, 169.

  _Daniel Deronda_, 127, 146.

  D'Annunzio, Gabriele, 4, 16.

  Dante Alighieri, 30, 156, 219;
    _The Divine Comedy_, 156, 219.

  Daudet, Alphonse, 77, 105, 140, 170, 182, 183;
    _Sapho_, 17, 77;
    _The Elixir of the Reverend Father Gaucher_, 105;
    _The Last Class_, 170.

  _David Copperfield_, 70.

  _David Swan_, 63.

  _Deal in Cotton, A_, 134.

  _Decameron_, 62, 99, 176.

  Defoe, Daniel, xi, 101, 119;
    _Robinson Crusoe_, 101, 119.

  De Quincey, Thomas, 7, 208;
    _The English Mail-Coach_, 208.

  Dickens, Charles, xvii, 21, 68, 70, 79, 102, 143, 182;
    _A Child's Dream of a Star_, 182;
    _A Tale of Two Cities_, 66, 144;
    _David Copperfield_, 70;
    _Martin Chuzzlewit_, 84;
    _Our Mutual Friend_, 68, 94, 101, 149;
    _Pickwick Papers_, xxii;
    _The Old Curiosity Shop_, 102, 103.

  _Divine Comedy, The_, 156, 219.

  _Documents in the Case, The_, 134.

  _Don Quixote_, xxii, 159, 213.

  Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, 122, 145.

  _Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Strange Case of_, xix, 31, 36, 123, 178.

  Dryden, John, xvi.

  Dumas, Alexandre, père, xii, xx, 7, 40, 48, 142.

  Du Maurier, George, 115.

  Eckermann, J. P., xvi.

  _Egoist, The_, 70, 82, 90, 110.

  _Elia, Essays of_, 218.

  Eliot, George, xiii, xx, 4, 10, 18, 23, 27, 31, 34, 39, 43, 49, 68,
   70, 71, 81, 86, 87, 112, 120, 126, 127, 180, 182, 215;
    _Adam Bede_, 18, 31, 113;
    _Daniel Deronda_, 127, 146;
    _Middlemarch_, 68, 77;
    _Romola_, 25, 34, 112, 145;
    _Silas Marner_, 27, 65;
    _The Mill on the Floss_, 10, 86, 110.

  _Elixir of the Reverend Father Gaucher, The_, 105.

  Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 41, 78;
    _Representative Men_, 78.

  _Emma_, 88, 127, 143.

  _English Mail-Coach, The_, 208.

  Erasmus, x.

  Erckmann-Chatrian, 160.

  _Essays of Elia_, 218.

  _Esther, Book of_, 170.

  _Eugénie Grandet_, 168.

  _Evangeline_, 154.

  _Evan Harrington_, 71, 124.

  _Experimental Novel, The_, 109.

  _Faerie Queene_, 100, 157.

  _Fall of the House of Usher, The_, 94, 112, 115, 140.

  _False Dawn_, 111.

  Fielding, Henry, xi, 101;
    _Tom Jones_, xxii.

  Flaubert, Gustave, xiii, 23, 24, 112;
    _Madame Bovary_, 24;
    _Salammbô_, 112.

  Franklin, Benjamin, 78;
    _Autobiography of_, 78.

  Freytag, Gustav, xxi;
    _Technic of the Drama_, xxi.

  Froude, James Anthony, xx.

  Furetière, Antoine, xiii, xiv;
    _Roman Bourgeois_, xiii.

  _Gentle Boy, The_, 186.

  _Gesta Romanorum_, 62, 99.

  _Gil Blas_, 64, 119.

  Giotto, 97, 99.

  Glanvill, Joseph, 190.

  Goethe, J. W. von, xvi;
    _Conversations with Eckermann_, xvi.

  Goldsmith, Oliver, xi;
    _The Vicar of Wakefield_, 82, 83.

  Goncourt, Jules and Edmond de, 26.

  Greene, Robert, xx.

  Gummere, Francis B., xiii.

  Hale, Edward Everett, 178;
    _The Man Without a Country_, 178.

  _Hamlet_, xv, 6, 7, 80, 162, 165.

  Hardy, Thomas, 109;
    _Tess of the D'Ubervilles_, 109.

  Hawthorne, Nathaniel, xiii, 5, 13, 18, 19, 25, 27, 28, 29, 36, 63,
   69, 71, 144, 151, 154, 171, 176, 182, 183, 186, 188, 200, 217;
    _David Swan_, 63;
    _The Ambitious Guest_, 170;
    _The Gentle Boy_, 186;
    _The House of the Seven Gables_, 5, 25, 28;
    _The Marble Faun_, 36, 71, 151;
    _The Scarlet Letter_, xxii, 13, 18, 27, 34, 69, 70, 71, 142, 217;
    _The White Old Maid_, 144.

  _Hedda Gabler_, 144.

  Hegel, G. F. W., xvi.

  _Henry Esmond_, 25, 118.

  _Henry IV_, 47.

  _Heroes and Hero-Worship_, 8.

  Hervieu, Paul, xx.

  Homer, 72, 130, 153, 158;
    _The Iliad_, 93, 130, 156, 158;
    _The Odyssey_, 130.

  Horace, 72.

  _House of the Seven Gables, The_, 5, 25, 28.

  Howells, William Dean, 38, 130, 131, 132;
    _Criticism and Fiction_, 38, 131;
    _The Rise of Silas Lapham_, 169.

  Hugo, Victor, xii, xx, 23, 24, 48, 109, 141, 146;
    _Les Miserables_, 24;
    _Notre Dame de Paris_, 109, 141, 146, 168.

  _Human Comedy_, 160.

  Huxley, Thomas Henry, xvii.

  Ibsen, Henrik, 10, 144;
    _Rosmersholm_, 144;
    _Hedda Gabler_, 144.

  _Iceland Fisherman, The_, 110.

  _Iliad, The_, 93, 130, 156, 158.

  Irving, Washington, 4, 177, 216;
    _Rip Van Winkle_, 177;
    _The Legend of Sleepy Hollow_, 177.

  James, Henry, 19, 25, 35, 55, 70, 76, 116, 134, 147, 177;
    _Daisy Miller_, 169;
    _The Art of Fiction_, 25, 116;
    _The Turn of the Screw_, 147, 177;
    _What Maisie Knew_, 134.

  _Jane Eyre_, 11, 118, 121, 166.

  _Jerusalem Liberated_, 156.

  Johnson, Samuel, xi, xv, xvi, xx, 122.

  Jonson, Ben, 79.

  _Just So Stories_, 21.

  Keats, John, 205.

  _Kenilworth_, 146, 169.

  _Kidnapped_, 13, 119, 121.

  _Kim_, 65, 144.

  _King Lear_, 80.

  Kipling, Rudyard, 9, 20, 21, 33, 36, 37, 48, 65, 77, 80, 85,
   104, 108, 110, 111, 120, 123, 134, 144, 147, 153, 166, 169,
   180, 181, 182, 183, 186, 188, 189, 200;
    _A Deal in Cotton_, 134;
    _An Habitation Enforced_, 110;
    _At the End of the Passage_, 108;
    _False Dawn_, 111;
    _How the Elephant Got His Trunk_, 9;
    _Just So Stories_, 21;
    _Kim_, 65, 144;
    _Lispeth_, 188;
    "_Love-o'-Women_," 147;
    _Mrs. Bathurst_, 93, 124, 146;
    _Only a Subaltern_, 11;
    _Plain Tales from the Hills_, 181, 186, 188;
    _Soldiers Three_, 124;
    _The Brushwood Boy_, 26, 33, 200, 217;
    _The Captive_, 90, 120;
    _The Light that Failed_, 169;
    _They_, 20, 33, 85, 166, 200;
    _Thrown Away_, 187;
    _Without Benefit of Clergy_, 19, 104, 170, 187.

  _Kreutzer Sonata, The_, xviii.

  _Lady of the Lake, The_, 154.

  _Lady or the Tiger?, The_, 150, 179.

  Lamb, Charles, 132, 218;
    _Dream-Children_, 218;
    _Essays of Elia_, 218;
    _The South Sea House_, 132.

  _Last Class, The_, 170.

  _Last Days of Pompeii, The_, 111.

  _Last of the Mohicans, The_, 169.

  _Leatherstocking Tales_, 215.

  Le Breton, André, xi, xix.

  Lee, Sidney, 69.

  _Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The_, 177.

  Leibnitz, Baron G. W. von, 102.

  Leonardo da Vinci, 98.

  Le Sage, Alain René, 64;
    _Gil Blas_, 64, 119.

  _Les Facheux_, 64.

  _Les Miserables_, 24.

  _L'Etourdi_, 64.

  Lewes, George Henry, 49.

  _Ligeia_, 170, 189, 190, 196, 199.

  _Light That Failed, The_, 169.

  _Lispeth_, 188.

  _Little Women_, 76.

  Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 154, 219;
    _Evangeline_, 154.

  Loti, Pierre, 110;
    _The Iceland Fisherman_, 110.

  "_Love-o'-Women_," 147.

  Lowell, James Russell, xiii, 5.

  _Lucile_, 154.

  _Lusiads, The_, 156.

  _Macbeth_, 5, 80, 149.

  MacLeod, Fiona, 110.

  _Madame Bovary_, 24.

  _Man Without a Country, The_, 178.

  Manzoni, Alessandro, xii.

  _Marble Faun, The_, 36, 71, 151.

  _Marjorie Daw_, 134.

  _Markheim_, xix, 33, 46, 138, 151, 170, 209, 211.

  _Marmion_, 154.

  _Martin Chuzzlewit_, 84.

  _Masque of the Red Death, The_, 138, 146, 151, 174.

  _Master of Ballantrae, The_, 91, 111, 123, 145, 166.

  Matthews, Brander, 40, 134, 168, 172;
    _The Documents in the Case_, 134;
    _The Philosophy of the Short-Story_, 172.

  _Maud_, 154.

  Maupassant, Guy de, 38, 61, 131, 133, 139, 140, 148, 170, 176,
   177, 180, 182, 183, 188, 216;
    _Pierre et Jean_, 38;
    _The Necklace_, 139, 148, 170.

  Mendès, Catulle, 26.

  _Merchant of Venice, The_, 66.

  Meredith, George, 26, 53, 70, 71, 109, 124, 126, 166, 167, 180, 182;
    _Evan Harrington_, 71, 124;
    _The Egoist_, 70, 82, 90, 110;
    _The Ordeal of Richard Feverel_, 111.

  Meredith, Owen, 154;
    _Lucile_, 154.

  Merimée, Prosper, 169;
    _Carmen_, 169;
    _Colomba_, 168.

  _Merry Men, The_, 52.

  _Middlemarch_, 68, 77.

  Millet, Jean-François, 98.

  _Mill on the Floss, The_, 10, 86, 110.

  Milton, John, 156, 158;
    _Paradise Lost_, 156.

  _Modern Painters_, 103.

  Molière, J. B. P., xv, 64, 162;
    _Les Facheux_, 64;
    _Le Tartufe_, xv, 6;
    _L'Etourdi_, 64.

  _Moonstone, The_, 73.

  Motley, John Lothrop, xx.

  _Mrs. Bathurst_, 93, 124, 146.

  _Mrs. Knollys_, 214.

  _Murder in the Rue Morgue, The_, 73, 217.

  _Necklace, The_, 139, 148, 170.

  _New Arabian Nights_, 25, 83.

  _Newcomes, The_, 123, 169.

  _Nibelungen Lied_, 130.

  Norris, Frank, xix, 160.

  _Notre Dame de Paris_, 109, 141, 146, 168.

  _Nouvelle Héloise, La_, 102.

  _Novel, The: What It Is_, 24.

  _Odyssey, The_, 130.

  _Oedipus King_, xv.

  _Old Curiosity Shop, The_, 102, 103.

  _Only a Subaltern_, 11.

  _Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The_, 111.

  _Orlando Furioso_, 99.

  Ostade, Adrian van, 98.

  _Othello_, 145, 165.

  _Our Mutual Friend_, 68, 94, 101, 149.

  _Pamela_, 18.

  _Paradise Lost_, 156.

  Parkman, Francis, 8.

  Patmore, Coventry, 154;
    _The Angel in the House_, 154.

  _Paul and Virginia_, 100.

  Peele, George, xx.

  _Pendennis_, 72.

  Pepys, Samuel, 45.

  Perry, Bliss, xxi, 26, 27, 178, 179, 180;
    _A Study of Prose Fiction_, 26, 178.

  Petrarch, 69.

  _Philosophy of Composition, The_, 189.

  _Philosophy of the Short-Story, The_, 172.

  _Pickwick Papers_, xxii.

  _Pierre et Jean_, 38.

  _Pilgrim's Progress_, 63, 79.

  Pinero, Arthur Wing, 145, 167.

  _Pit and the Pendulum, The_, 179.

  _Plain Tales from the Hills_, 181, 186, 188.

  Plato, 7.

  Plutarch, 7.

  Poe, Edgar Allan, 26, 35, 73, 112, 122, 138, 140, 168, 170, 171,
   172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 180, 181, 182, 183, 185, 188, 189,
   190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 199, 200, 216, 217;
    _Ligeia_, 170, 189, 190, 196, 199;
    _The Assignation_, 36;
    _The Cask of Amontillado_, 140, 174;
    _The Fall of the House of Usher_, 94, 112, 115, 140;
    _The Masque of the Red Death_, 138, 146, 151, 174;
    _The Murders in the Rue Morgue_, 73, 217;
    _The Philosophy of Composition_, 189;
    _The Pit and the Pendulum_, 179;
    _The Raven_, 189, 196;
    _The Tell-Tale Heart_, 140, 174.

  _Pride and Prejudice_, 128, 143.

  _Princess, The_, 203.

  _Prodigal Son, The_, 170, 175, 196, 197.

  Rabelais, François, x, 16.

  Raphael, 98.

  _Raven, The_, 189, 196.

  _Redgauntlet_, 182.

  Rembrandt, 137.

  Richardson, Samuel, xi, 18, 124;
    _Pamela_, 18.

  _Rip Van Winkle_, 177.

  _Rise of Silas Lapham, The_, 169.

  _Robinson Crusoe_, 101, 119.

  _Romeo and Juliet_, 12.

  _Romola_, 25, 34, 112, 145.

  Ronsard, Pierre, 69.

  _Rosmersholm_, 144.

  Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 69, 70.

  Rostand, Edmond, 162;
    _Cyrano de Bergerac_, 162.

  Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 102;
    _La Nouvelle Héloise_, 102.

  Ruskin, John, 103, 207;
    _Modern Painters_, 103;
    _Seven Lamps of Architecture_, 207.

  _Ruth, Book of_, 170.

  Saint-Pierre, Bernardin de, 100;
    _Paul and Virginia_, 100.

  _Salammbô_, 112.

  _Sapho_, 17, 77.

  Sardou, Victorien, 162;
    _La Tosca_, 162.

  _Scarlet Letter, The_, xxii, 13, 18, 27, 34, 69, 70, 71, 142, 217.

  _School for Scandal, The_, 145.

  Scott, Sir Walter, xii, 18, 19, 23, 24, 36, 40, 48, 56, 72, 84,
   130, 141, 142, 146, 154, 182, 213;
    _Kenilworth_, 146, 169;
    _Marmion_, 154;
    _Redgauntlet_, 182;
    _The Lady of the Lake_, 154;
    _The Talisman_, 142;
    _Wandering Willie's Tale_, 182;
    _Waverley_, 18.

  _Seven Lamps of Architecture, The_, 207.

  Shakspere, William, xv, 7, 10, 11, 32, 47, 68, 69, 153, 162, 165;
    _As You Like It_, 10;
    _Hamlet_, xv, 6, 7, 80, 162, 165;
    _Henry IV_, 47;
    _King Lear_, 80;
    _Macbeth_, 5, 80, 149;
    _Othello_, 145, 165;
    _Romeo and Juliet_, 12;
    _The Merchant of Venice_, 66.

  Shaw, George Bernard, 7.

  Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 145;
    _The School for Scandal_, 145.

  Sidney, Sir Philip, 100, 220;
    _Arcadia_, 100.

  _Silas Marner_, 27, 65.

  _Sisterly Scheme, A_, 148.

  _Smoke_, xxii.

  Smollett, Tobias, xi.

  _Soldiers Three_, 124.

  Sophocles, xv, xvi, xvii, 180, 181;
    _Oedipus King_, xv.

  Spenser, Edmund, 100, 110;
    _The Faerie Queene_, 100, 157.

  Spielhagen, Friedrich, xxi;
    _Technic of the Novel_, xxi.

  _Spy, The_, 142.

  Steele, Sir Richard, xi.

  Stendhal, xiii.

  Sterne, Laurence, xi.

  Stevenson, Robert Louis, xvii, xviii, xix, 14, 21, 25, 31, 33,
   36, 38, 46, 48, 54, 58, 59, 60, 68, 71, 83, 106, 111, 169,
   174, 178, 183, 205, 217;
    _A College Magazine_, 211;
    _A Gossip on Romance_, 54, 106;
    _A Humble Remonstrance_, 58, 68;
    _Kidnapped_, 13, 119, 121;
    _Markheim_, xix, 33, 46, 138, 151, 170, 209, 211;
    _New Arabian Nights_, 25, 83;
    _On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature_, 206;
    _Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_, xix, 31, 36, 123, 178;
    _The Beach of Falesá_, 178;
    _The Lantern Bearers_, 21;
    _The Master of Ballantrae_, 91, 111, 123, 145, 166;
    _The Merry Men_, 52;
    _The Treasure of Franchard_, 169;
    _Treasure Island_, 49, 50, 76, 119, 121.

  Stimson, F. J., 214;
    _Mrs. Knollys_, 214.

  Stockton, Frank R., 150;
    _The Lady or the Tiger?_, 150, 179.

  _Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_, xix, 31, 36, 123, 178.

  _Strike of the Iron-Workers, The_, 155.

  Strong, Mrs. Isobel, 14.

  _Study of Prose Fiction, A_, 26, 178.

  _Substitute, The_, 155.

  Swift, Jonathan, xi, 16.

  _Tale of Two Cities, A_, 66, 144.

  _Talisman, The_, 142.

  _Tartufe, Le_, xv, 6.

  Tasso, Torquato, 156, 158;
    _Jerusalem Liberated_, 156.

  Taylor, Bayard, 150;
    _Who Was She?_, 150.

  _Tell-Tale Heart, The_, 140, 174.

  Teniers, David, the younger, 98.

  Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 154, 203;
    _Maud_, 154;
    _The Princess_, 203.

  _Tess of the D'Ubervilles_, 109.

  Thackeray, William Makepeace, xiii, 12, 19, 24, 25, 61, 69,
   72, 77, 96, 123, 131, 132, 182, 213;
    _Henry Esmond_, 25, 118;
    _Pendennis_, 72;
    _The Newcomes_, 123, 169;
    _The Virginians_, 25;
    _Vanity Fair_, xxii, 18, 69, 77, 96, 143, 148.

  Theocritus, x.

  _They_, 20, 33, 85, 166, 200.

  _Thrown Away_, 187.

  Tintoretto, 137.

  Tolstoi, Count Leo, xviii, 4;
    _Anna Karénina_, xviii;
    _The Kreutzer Sonata_, xviii;
    _War and Peace_, xxii.

  _Tom Jones_, xxii.

  _Tosca, La_, 162.

  _Treasure Island_, 49, 50, 76, 119, 121.

  _Treasure of Franchard, The_, 169.

  Trollope, Anthony, 39, 49.

  Turgénieff, Ivan, 55, 56, 70, 153, 169;
    _Smoke_, xxii.

  _Turn of the Screw, The_, 147, 177.

  _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, 159.

  _Vanity Fair_, xxii, 18, 69, 77, 143, 148.

  Verrocchio, Andrea, 137.

  _Vicar of Wakefield, The_, 82, 83.

  Virgil, 157;
    _The Æneid_, 156, 157, 158.

  _Virginians, The_, 25.

  Wagner, Richard, 144.

  _Wandering Willie's Tale_, 182.

  _War and Peace_, xxii.

  _Waverley_, 18.

  _What Maisie Knew_, 134.

  _White Old Maid, The_, 144.

  Whitman, Walt, 69, 77.

  _Who Was She?_, 150.

  _Without Benefit of Clergy_, 19, 104, 170, 187.

  Wordsworth, William, 56.

  Zola, Emile, 4, 26, 39, 109, 160;
    _The Experimental Novel_, 109;
    _The Rougon-Macquart Series_, 109, 160.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Materials and Methods of Fiction - With an Introduction by Brander Matthews" ***

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