mardi 11 octobre 2011

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

" Is your novel a failure ?" she asked.
"Don't you know it is? It's been out three weeks, and nobody seems to know it. That's my grief, now; it may one day be my consolation. I don't complain. Mr. Brandreth still keeps his heroic faith in it, and even old Kane was trying to rise on the wings of favorable prophecy when I saw him just before dinner. But I haven't the least hope any more. I think I could stand it better if I respected the book itself more. But to fail in a bad cause — that's bitter." He stopped, knowing as well as if he had put his prayer in words, that he had asked her to encourage him, and if possible, flatter him.
"I've been reading it all through again, since it came out," she said.
"Oh, have you?" he palpitated.
"And I have lent it to the people in the house here, and they have read it. They are very intelligent in a kind of way" —
"And they have been talking to me about it; they have been discussing the characters in it. They like it because they say they can understand just how every one felt. They like the hero, and Mrs. Simpson cried over the last scene. She thinks you have managed the heroine's character beautifully. Mr. Simpson wondered whether you really believe in hypnotism. They both said they felt as if they were living it."
Ray listened with a curious mixture of pleasure and of pain. He knew very well that it was not possible for such people as the Simpsons to judge his story with as fine artistic perception as that old society woman who thought he meant to make his characters cheap and ridiculous, and in the light of this knowledge their praise galled him. But then came the question whether they could not judge better of its truth and reality. If he had made a book which appealed to the feeling and knowledge of the great, simply-conditioned, sound-hearted, common-schooled American mass whom the Simpsons represented, he had made his fortune. He put aside that other question, which from time to time presses upon every artist, whether he would rather please the few who despise the judgment of the many, or the many who have no taste, but somehow have in their keeping the touchstone by which a work of art proves itself a human interest, and not merely a polite pleasure. Ray could not make this choice. He said dreamily: "If Mr. Bran-dreth could only find out how to reach all the Simpsons with it! I believe a twenty-five-cent paper edition would be the thing after all. I wish you could tell me just what Mr. and Mrs. Simpson said of the book ; and if you can remember what they disliked as well as what they liked in it."
(p. 342-343)

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