mardi 11 octobre 2011

William Dean Howells, THE WORLD OF CHANCE, New York, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1893, 375 pages.

He put his manuscript on the seat in the elevated train, and partly sat upon it, that he might not forget it when he left the car. But as he read the professional opinions of it he wished the thing could lose him, and never find him again. No other novel, he thought, could ever have had such a variety of certain faults, together with the vague merit which each of its critics seemed to feel in greater measure or less. Their work, he had to own, had been faithfully done; he had not even the poor consolation of accusing them of a neglect of duty. They had each read his story, and they spoke of it with intelligence in a way, if not every way. Each condemned it on a different ground, but as it stood they all joined in condemning it; and they did not so much contradict one another as dwell on different defects ; so that together they covered the whole field with their censure. One of them reproached it for its crude realism, and the sort of helpless fidelity to provincial conditions which seemed to come from the author's ignorance of anything different. Another blamed the youthful romanticism of its dealings with passion. A third pointed out the gross improbability of the plot in our modern circumstance. A fourth objected to the employment of hypnotism as a clumsy piece of machinery, and an attempt to reach the public interest through a prevailing fad. A fifth touched upon the obvious imitation of Hawthorne in the psychical analyses. A sixth accused the author of having adopted Thackeray's manner without Thackeray's material.
Ray resented, with a keen sense of personal affront, these criticisms in severalty, but their combined effect was utter humiliation, though they were less true taken together than they were separately. At the bottom of his sore and angry heart he could not deny their truth, and yet he knew that there was something in his book which none of them had taken account of, and that this was its life, which had come out of his own. He was aware of all those crude and awkward and affected things, but he believed there was something, too, that went with them, and that had not been in fiction before.
(p. 160-161)

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