mardi 11 octobre 2011

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

There was no immediate clamor over it. In fact, it was received so passively by the public and the press that the author might well have doubted whether there was any sort of expectation of it, in spite of the publisher's careful preparation of the critic's or the reader's mind. There came back at once from obscure quarters a few echoes, more or less imperfect, of the synopsis of the book's attractions sent out with the editorial copies, but the influential journals remained heart-sickeningly silent concerning A Modern Romeo. There was a boisterous and fatuous eulogy of the book in the Midland Echo, which Ray knew for the expression of Sanderson's friendship; but eager as he was for recognition, he could not let this count; and it was followed by some brief depreciatory paragraphs in which he perceived the willingness of Hanks Brothers to compensate themselves for having so handsomely let Sanderson have his swing. He got some letters of acknowledgment from people whom he had sent the book; he read them with hungry zest, but he could not make himself believe that they constituted impartial opinion; not even the letter of the young lady who had detected him in the panoply of his hero, and who now wrote to congratulate him on a success which she too readily took for granted. One of his sisters replied on behalf of his father and mother, and said they had all been sitting up reading the story aloud together, and that their father liked it as much as any of them; now they were anxious to see what the papers would say; had he read the long review in the Echo, and did not he think it rather cool and grudging for a paper that he had been connected with? He hardly knew whether this outburst of family pride gave him more or less pain than an anonymous letter which he got from his native village, and which betrayed the touch of the local apothecary; his correspondent, who also dealt in books, and was a man of literary opinions, heaped the novel with ridicule and abuse, and promised the author a coat of tar and feathers on the part of his betters whom he had caricatured, if ever he should return to the place. Ray ventured to offer a copy to the lady who had made herself his social sponsor in New York, and he hoped for some intelligent praise from her. She asked him where in the world he had got together such a lot of queer people, like nothing on earth but those one used to meet in the old days when one took country board; she mocked at the sufferings of his hero, and said what a vulgar little piece his heroine was; but she supposed he meant them to be what they were, and she complimented him on his success in handling them. She confessed, though, that she never read American novels, or indeed any but French ones, and that she did not know exactly where to rank his work; she burlesqued a profound impression of the honor she ought to feel in knowing a distinguished novelist. "You'll be putting us all into your next book, I suppose. Mind you give me golden hair, not yet streaked with silver."
(p. 330-333)

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