The Edwardian Literary Afternoon Part Two: Now Came Still Evening On

By Whittington-Egan, Richard | Contemporary Review, May 2000 | Go to article overview

The Edwardian Literary Afternoon Part Two: Now Came Still Evening On


Whittington-Egan, Richard, Contemporary Review


IT has in bitter truth to be admitted that a disconcertingly sizeable majority of Edwardian library readers rested content with the romantic scrivenings of Victorian lady writers of the calibre of Mrs. Henry Wood, n[acute{e}], in 1814, Ellen Price -- 'Dead! and [ldots] never called me mother.' (East Lynne, dramatised version), and M.E. Braddon, otherwise Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Maxwell (1837-1915), and the books published by the celebrated authors of the day sold better in post-Edwardian times.

For example: those of Conrad's novels which appeared in the Edwardian era sold notoriously badly. While those of the late-Victorian romantic Anthony Hope sold well. Galsworthy did not, until the First World War imported a mood of nostalgia for the good old days. E.M. Forster's sales were woefully slow, and, surprisingly, Conan Doyle did not begin to sell really well until Neo-Georgian times. Equally surprising, Morley's, from every standpoint ponderous, three-volume life of Gladstone (1903) had huge numbers of Edwardian readers delving deep into their purses.

The Edwardian lady novelists did well enough. Rita, nomme de plume of Mrs. W. Desmond Humphrey (1860-1938), was popular. Her 1903 contribution was The Jester, a story which had started off as a serial written for a magazine. Planning to re-publish it as a book, the author found that it fell some 20,000 words short of the necessary length; so, like a good sempster, she set to make up the deficit with tackings-on and embroideries of incident and description. These lenghtenings were effected so seamlessly that even when the author offered a substantial reward to anyone who could spot the importations, there were no takers. It went unclaimed.

Rita and Marie Corelli (1854-1924) made it their business to castigate the Smart Set, who 'boasted openly of having read the books their fathers had read by stealth.' As Shane Leslie adroitly put it: 'Up to 1900 everybody pretended that he had not read George Moore, while under King Edward all pretended they had.'

Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks (1907), following upon the scarlet-ish heels of her The Visits of Elizabeth, described by Gertrude Atherton as 'very naughty and very clever [ldots] and giving startling side-lights on country-house life in England', simply delighted the naive majority, the more sophisticated, however, dismissing it as mere Ouida r[acute{e}]eachauf[acute{e}]e.

The Farm Street Jesuits -- notably Father Bernard Vaughan and Father Martindale -- preached coruscant sermons denouncing the sins of society and their literary celebrants. Both the targeted -- sinners and celebrants -- basked in the titillatory publicity.

A strong lay critic of the prevailing, as he saw it, degeneration of the era, was T.W.H. Crosland. He consumed -- to allay his shock? -- vast amounts of whisky, in which in the end his considerable talents drowned, and was consumed by an immense bitterness, having, as he confided to his friend, that doughty Edwardian memorialist Edgar Jepson, spent two thousand pounds on a lady he loved, only to come home one night to find a strange cigar-butt in her bedroom. His investment had, it was his most reasonable contention, invested him with the right to find only his own cigar-butts in her bedside ashtray.

Crosland was, says Jepson, the English Bums, but the whisky 'often diluted his verse, as it did Henley's.' It was Crosland who made the shrewd observation regarding Frank Harris, 'Maybe you've noticed that all Frankie's great friends are dead.'

Crosland's somewhat tortured life, and a fair sampling of his verse, are preserved for posterity in W. Sorley Brown's The Life and Genius of T.W.H. Crosland (1928).

Crosland was critical of Rita. 'That charming Scotch lady [ldots] who apparently moves like a glistening planet in the very highest circles, has been at trouble to pourtray (sic) for us, in colours which glow and live, what she calls "the sin and scandal of the smart set". …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Edwardian Literary Afternoon Part Two: Now Came Still Evening On
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.