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Deronda, and some of her knowledge of inundations for The Mill on
the Floss, by vigorous search of libraries. While Scott's theory of his-
torical composition was that a period already familiar to the novelist
should be chosen, he apologizes for the errors in Anne of Geierstein on
the ground that he was away from his library. (Introduction of 1831.)
The fcource of the main theme of Ivanhoe the contrast of Celt and
Saxon was in an obscure drama, Logan's Runnimede. The novel-
ization of dramas has been much less common than the opposite
process. 1

Consultation with other persons has been a source of
material in many novels.

Scott observed and questioned many representatives of an earlier
generation, for legendary matter and local manners. Gogol consulted
his mother for peasant material, and Pushkin was indebted to his old
serf nurse for national songs and traditions. George Eliot sought pro-
fessional advice regarding the legal element in Felix Holt.

Travel, whether for general purposes or for the sake of
an individual novel, has long been a common method of
obtaining materials.

1 Professor C. F. McClumpha gives an extended comparison of Greene's
Alcida and Lyly's Love's Metamorphosis, on which it was founded, in The
Minnesota Magazine for October, 1899.



172 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

Browning's life of George Eliot mentions her visits to Cambridge,
Oxford, and Florence as yielding new fabric for novelistic weaving.
Scott records that his trip around the coast of Scotland, in 1814, was
for the purpose of gathering data for the Lord of the Isles, with a view
to prose fiction also. (Introduction to The Pirate, 1832.)

That method of observation which takes the form of
very exact intellectual attention to details reportage is
condemned by more than one critic.

Brunetiere writes : l " L'observation devient moins large a mesure
qu'elle devient plus exacte, plus precise, plus microscopique et, par con-
sequent, a mesure, s'e'loigne da vantage de la nature meme et de la ve'riteV'
Lanson comments on the note-taking habits of the Goncourt brothers
and Daudet. Scott in general followed an older method the method
which produced the Duddon River sonnets of Wordsworth "It was
not the purpose of the author to present a landscape copied from nature,
but a piece of composition, in which a real scene, with which he is already
familiar, had afforded him some leading outlines." (Introduction to
The Monastery, 1830. Compare Section 84.)

Many writers agree that the principal characters of a
novel are often modeled after real persons, but many also
insist that the ultimate portrait should bear slight resem-
blance to the original. Novelists have frequently com-
plained of the too curious attempt of readers to trace back
the artistic result to the real source.

As early as 1754, Sarah Fielding vigorously objected to this habit,
and, a century later, Spielhagen criticized the same false tendency.
Scott and Hawthorne received rebukes from persons connected with the
real models for certain idealized characters or places. Probably the
novelist is sometimes at fault, especially in the eighteenth century, when
" secret histories " and caricature of contemporaries were so common.

Among famous characters based to some degree on real models, out-
side of historical fiction, are Robinson Crusoe, Pamela, Amelia, The
Vicar of Wakefield, Meg Merrilies, Jeanie Deans, and Dinah Morris.

1 Roman Naturaliste, p. 129.



THE PROCESS OF COMPOSITION 173

142. The Time Perspective. Poe's theory for the ideal
short story, based on his general lyrical conception of art,
was that it should be written at a single sitting. The
novel more often has the contrasted interest of a prolonged
process. Probably few of the world's greatest novels have
occupied less than a year, from original plan to publica-
tion. Literature does not demand a difficult physical
execution, and it cannot rival the dignity of dramaturgy,
painting, or sculpture in this respect. Even the time
given to the Come'die Humaine sinks into insignificance,
compared with that required for the construction of
great cathedrals.

The rate of composition varies not only for individual
novelists, but for individual novels and passages. George
Eliot wrote the eighth chapter of Amos Barton at a sitting,
but at Dresden she produced little more than eight hun-
dred words a day on Adam Bede. There may possibly
be danger that too much time spent on a single work may
destroy the subtle unity of emotional tone ; but on the other
hand, a long process of thought may strengthen the
intellectual unity of structure. Scott defends rapid com-
position :

" The best authors in all countries have been the most voluminous.
. . . The works and passages in which I have succeeded, have uni-
formly been written with the greatest rapidity ; . . . the parts in which I
have come feebly off, were by much the more labored." (Introductory
Epistle, Fortunes of Nigel.)

The testimony of the author himself is not always final authority.
Beckford records of Vathek : " It took me three days and two nights of
hard labor. I never took my clothes off the whole time." But Gar-
nett, in the introduction to his edition of Vathek, shows that the actual
time, including the revisions, was a matter of years instead of days.



174 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

EXAMPLES

Adam Bede: story told by author's aunt, about 1840; retold to
Lewes, and he suggests it is good material for fiction, December, 1856 ;
writing begun, October 22, 1857 ; Chapter XIII finished, February 28,
1858 ; Vol. I finished in March ; Vol. II begun about the middle of
April ; Chapter XVIII completed, May 15 ; Chapter XX, May 26 ; the
fight " came to me as a necessity," May 30 ; Chapter XXI, June 10 ;
Chapter XXV, July 7 ; Vol. II finished, September 7 ; Chapter LII
finished, October 29 ; work finished, November 16 ; published (de-
layed on account of Bulwer's What will He do with It ?), February,
1859. Silas Marner : original conception, November, 1860; sixty
pages, November 28 ; 230 pages, February 15, 1861 ; finished March 10.

Wilhelm Meister Lehrjahre : planned in 1775; begun and Book I
finished, 1777 ; Books II and III, 1782 ; Book IV, 1783 ; Book V, 1784 ;
Book VI, 1785; some work done, 1786; finished and published, after
interval of no work, 1796. Wanderjahre: short stories written or
collected, 1794; work finished and published, after some years of labor,
1829.

Rasselas : the evenings and nights of a single week. Castle of
Otranto: about two months. Pamela : three months. Robinson Cru-
soe: April, 1719 to August, 1720 (planned long before). Gulliver:
"probable that the composition extended over a good many years"
(Gosse). Don Quixote : many years. Waverley : begun and a third
of first volume written, 1805; laid aside; last two volumes written in
three weeks, 1814. Gil Bias : 1715 to 1735.

143. Technic of the Process. Many of the great novel-
ists from early times have had a lively interest in the
technic of their art, but recently there has been unusual
emphasis laid on the necessity of technical mastery.
Such statements as the following are not exceptional : 1

Walter Besant : " For every art there is the corresponding science
which may be taught." Cody : " This foolish dictum . . . that < the best
writers believe that the art of fiction cannot be taught or analyzed.' "
Frank Norris : " Even a defective system is at any rate, in fiction
better than none."

1 These quotations arc from works listed in the bibliography.



THE PROCESS OF COMPOSITION 175

With the idea of technic is associated the idea of labor.
Many novelists and critics would agree in the main with
Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the " dignity of a work of art
depends on the amount and quality of mental labor em-
ployed in its production," 1 etc.

Balzac, Trollope, Spielhagen, and Howells are all exponents of the
doctrine of labor, both in their theory and their practise. Trollope
affirms, " there is no way of writing well, and also of writing easily." a
Spielhagen says the germinal idea of a composition may be the gift of
the gods, but after that, the rule is " diligence, diligence, diligence." 3

The labor of the novelist, roughly stated, consists in
planning, executing, and revising. The relations of these
three processes, in sequence and in amount, vary of course
with every novel. In general, it is probable that the
execution consumes more time than the other two tasks.
The fact that there is no artistic physical process may be
considered either an advantage or a disadvantage.

Spielhagen traces four steps in the composition of a
novel. 4

The attention to technical details is often larger than the average
reader might suppose. Richardson was fully conscious of the problems
of epistolary form. Scott gave thoughtful consideration to such matters
as titles, mottos, an$ dialogic connectives.) George Eliot was well
aware of the " two plots " in Middlemarch. The treatment of the chapter
as a perfectly distinct unit is carefully analyzed by Frank Norris. This
last critic agrees substantially with Poe, in a general formula for the
technical process " in a phrase one could resume the whole system of
fiction-mechanics preparation of effect."

The search for the mot propre on the part of certain French realistic
" artists " is an exacting one. Manzoni spent considerable time in im-
proving the dialect of I Promessi Sposi. The extensive revisions of

1 Opening of Fourth Discourse.

2 Barchester Towers, Vol I, Chapter XXX.

8 Technik des Romans, pp. 25, 33. * Ibid., p. 29.



176 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

Balzac after "copy" was sent in, were a terror to the printers. Scott
gave relatively little labor to revision. (See his general introduction to
the Waverley Novels, 1829.)

The method of publication may be worthy of note in many cases.
For some interesting details, see Cross 1 Life of George Eliot. Among
long and notable fictions first appearing as periodical serials, are Anna
Kardnina and War and Peace.

Other literary undertakings are frequently on hand while a novel is
being written. George Eliot writes of Silas Marner as " thrusting itself
between me and the other book [Romola] I was meditating."

The practical phases of mechanical method the time chosen for
writing, the physical environment preferred, the use of stimulants, the
preparation of copy, etc. have their interest, and may at times be
worth examination, in connection with the psychology of composition.

144. Psychology of the Process. The writing of a novel
may always be viewed as an artificial process, to some
degree, and it may involve considerable change of con-
sciousness in the author. Robiati 1 distinguishes the
" artistic personality " from the " human." It is said that
professional humorists are often sedate or even melan-
choly persons when free from literary pressure; and
Mackenzie, the author of one of the most lacrimose of
English fictions, was known as a cheerfully social being
in private life.

Some critics find in this transformation of the writer's
mind a tendency toward the abnormal, or even the patho-
logical. Nordau, in Degeneration, includes several novel-
ists among his studies of literary degenerates. Rousseau
had a theory that the novel in general was the product of
degenerate conditions, and Carlyle at times held with more
or less seriousness the idea that silence was an eminent
characteristic of perfect sanity.

In such authors as Swift, Gogol, Maupassant, and Nietzsche, the
question merges into the larger one of the general relations of genius

1 II Romanzo Contemporaneo in Italia.



THE PROCESS OF COMPOSITION 177

and insanity. There are many less tragic examples of abnormal con-
dition associated with literary labor. Scott was seriously affected by
the excitement and fatigue of composition. Beckford states that the
labor on Vathek made him " very sick." Cross, in his Life of George
Eliot, speaks of Romola as " ploughing into " the author, and her own
summary is, " I began it a young woman I finished it an old woman."
In spirit if not in letter, some of the greater novelists might describe
their masterpiece as

" . . . il poema sacro,
Al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra,
Si che m' ha fatto per piu anni macro." l

Even the " cielo," broadly interpreted, is not always inappropriate to
the novelist. Flaubert's "art was his religion." (Lanson; Gilbert.)
Of the failure to combine the secular duty with the religious aspiration,
George Eliot speaks bitterly, in Silly Novels by Lady Novelists : " as
a general rule, the ability of a lady novelist to describe actual life and
her fellow-men is in inverse proportion to her confident eloquence
about God and the other world, and the means by which she usually
chooses to conduct you to true ideas of the invisible is a totally false
picture of the visible."

During composition, a novelist may be conscious of his
material, form, or purpose ; of the reader or of himself. He
may concentrate his mind on one of these interests as a
central point, or wander unsteadily from one to another.
Completely developed realistic theory allows the author
scarcely a standing-place, in his private personality. He
must either lose himself in his characters and plot, or hold
aloof from them, as impartial philosopher or pure " artist."
These views of the relation of a novelist to his work sug-
gest an interesting comparison with theories of histrionic
art.

The following notes may indicate the vast variety of
data which could easily be collected on the matter of the
author's center of consciousness (compare Section 129):

1 Paradise, XXV, opening lines.



178 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

Compare the use of the word " puppet " for the dramatis personae,
with the statement that to Balzac his characters were " more real than
persons of flesh and blood."

Scherer gives as the essence of George Eliot's method, "artistic
inspiration, rapid work, and sense of compulsion." The last element
is often mentioned as an essential in true artistic creation. Novelists
also note that the unexpected is to be expected.

Zola's theory of plot-composition as a kind of scientific experiment.

According to Spielhagen, the novelist should work in an atmosphere
of "ruhige Objektivitat."

Scott testified that he "repeatedly laid down . . . future work to
scale, divided it into volumes and chapters," etc., but that when the
creative fever developed, he abandoned conscious plan for spontaneous
imagination.

Gilbert: 1 " Le grand dogme du rdalisme c'est Pimpersonnalitd "
(p. 161). "L'art pour Tart" is discussed in Gilbert (pp. 122, 162),
and Lanson 1 (p. 998).

George Eliot is severe on those novelists who embody personal
experience in their work, without great transformation. (Lady Nov-
elists.)

Cody: 1 " Self-consciousness during writing is most dangerous. No
better way of escaping it than by a rigorous course of self-conscious
preparation " (p. 40) .

Frank Norris : r " The moment, however, that the writer becomes
really and vitally interested in his purpose, his novel fails." But if the
purpose is part of the general philosophy of the novelist, it is not easily
escaped. Gilbert notes that the theme of Madame Bovary is almost an
idee fixe " toujours la disproportion entre le reve et Pexistence."

Trollope criticizes the Radcliflfian habit of mystification, and gives
his own doctrine, " that the author and the reader should move along
together in full confidence with each other." (Barchester Towers, Vol.
I, Chapter 15.)

The preceding paragraphs consider composition mainly
from a statical point of view. It is much more complex
when viewed as a continual though irregular development.
It is doubtless impossible for any one not a novelist to

1 Reference is to works listed in the bibliography.



THE PROCESS OF COMPOSITION 179

realize this aspect of composition adequately. Theoreti-
cally, some important phases of development are new con-
ception or observation, selection, contraction, expansion,
verification, movement from the concrete to the general
and vice versa, analysis and synthesis. The largest func-
tion of synthesis is to unify the entire plan of the novel.
The introduction of every new element modifies the value
of all that precedes, and partially determines all that fol-
lows.

Rejection of much material is imperative. Only a small part of what
is conceived or imagined is embodied in the novel. In the words of
Walter Besant, " thousands of scenes which belong to the story never
get outside the writer's brain." (Compare Section 44.)

Expansion may appear in simple enlargement of plan, or in increased
seriousness of purpose. In writing Joseph Andrews, Fielding largely
outgrew his original idea of parody. In Don Quixote, " Cervantes set
out to write a comic short story, and the design grew under his hand
until at length it included a whole Human Comedy." (Fitzmaurice-
Kelly.)

In genuine artistic composition, there is probably marked
development of illusion. Yet the process may be compli-
cated throughout by changes from imaginative warmth to
cold-blooded critical scrutiny and verification. In histori-
cal fiction, there is the special problem of subordinating
the contemporaneous sense to the historical imagination.
To the layman, illusion seems more imperative in some
elements than in others. It is difficult to conceive success-
ful conversation written without a lively sense of its reality,
but a fairly good description of character or landscape might
be achieved simply by force of will.

The psychology of composition is so closely connected
with style that it may often be advisable to combine the
two into one topic of study.



180 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

145. Collaboration. 1 In the usual sense of the word,
collaboration is less common in the novel than in the
drama. Any form of plot-literature, however, is better
adapted for cooperation than the lyric, in which the unity
is so personal and emotional. Literature does not offer
the spectacle of a combination of artists, one producing the
mental plan, others undertaking the physical execution, as
in dramaturgy, architecture, and orchestral music.

Examples of novelistic collaboration occur in some works of Steven-
son, in the Erckmann-Chatrian partnership, and in the frequent prac-
tise of Dumas pere.

Collaboration in the form of consultation, or in the unin-
vited assistance of individuals or the public, is not uncom-
mon. (Compare Section 141.) The publisher often has
some influence on the composition of a novel. Occasion-
ally the reading public has influenced alteration of titles
or catastrophes.

Pushkin suggested subjects and titles to Gogol. Of Dead Souls the
author says : " Pushkin was its inspiration ; and to him I owe the idea
and plan." All the copy was submitted to him. 2 Goethe undertook
the Wanderjahre upon the advice of Schiller. Oroonoko is said to have
been suggested by Charles the Second. George Eliot records the
influence of Lewes' advice, sometimes in considerable detail.

146. Fragments. The study of a fragment, whether it
is a continuous part of the text, or composed of discon-
nected portions, or mere notes, has special interest in rela-
tion to the process of composition. Stevenson left some
interesting fragments, and Hawthorne's Dolliver Romance
and Septimius Felton make valuable studies of this kind.
Note also, Dead Souls, Edwin Drood, and Pausanias.

1 See the essay by Brander Matthews, The Art and Mystery of Collaboration,
in The Historical Novel ; and Walter Besant's article in The New Review.

2 Turner, p. 162 ff.



CHAPTER X
THE SHAPING FORCES

147. General Conception. Purely aesthetic criticism may
perhaps neglect the causes that produce a novel, ex-
cept the individuality of the author, but to historical and
sociological criticism these are very important interests.
While it is impossible to attain complete scientific analysis,
it is always possible to reach some definite results, and
speculation as to probable influences at least develops an
intimacy with the novel and the environment in which
it appeared. In many cases specific lines of influence may
be traced, as in the imitation of incident, character, or
style in one novel from another ; but often one must rest
satisfied with more vague conception of large moral and
social forces, moulding the general spirit of a work. The
influences most readily perceived are not always the most
significant.

The immediate cause of every novel is the author as an
individual, through whom all other forces operate, modified
by his character and art. The more remote causes include
national and racial spirit, the Zeitgeist, and human nature
in general. The author is not necessarily conscious of the
chief influences shaping his novel, whether they belong
within his own individuality or outside it. Often, however,
he is fully aware of them, either allowing them complete
sway, or vainly striving^to escape them. A reaction against
a force is one form of the effect of that force, and examina-

181



1 82 THE STUDY OF A NOVEL

tion of literary revolt affords good opportunity for a study
of this principle. Few of the early realists, for example,
escaped a considerable influence, in this manner, from the
romantic movement.

The modern Russian novelists seem at times to have an almost morbid
sense of nationality and race. American novelists are aware of the
national quality in certain types of humor, and in materialistic tendency.
It is possible that the moral hate of injustice, the vvilfulness, and the
temperamental melancholy in Thomas Hardy are more racial than he
himself recognizes. Probably the critics of the present day see more
clearly than the authors saw, the influence of early evangelical belief
on George Eliot, and of Puritan inheritance on Hawthorne.

148. The Data. The present study involves a com-
parison of the content and form of a novel with the nature
of the forces known or supposed to influence it. The
greater the intimacy with the novel, the greater probability
of correct tracing of influences, provided that too minute
analysis does not destroy general impressions of moral and
mental tone. On the other hand, the deeper the acquaint-
ance with the shaping forces, as they operate in all do-
mains, the greater the probability of discovering their effect
on an individual novel. Familiarity with the process of
composition, and with the author's outer and inner history
is clearly requisite. Often the author's own testimony
yields direct evidence of influences not otherwise easily
detected. The histories of fiction record innumerable ex-
amples of the specific influence of one novel or school
of novelists on another. Criticism often points out the
exact source of details in character, incident, motivation,
syntax, rhythm, and vocabulary. Some definite formulas
of inheritance have long been established for the greater
novels of Europe, but in few cases has the study been
exhaustive. There may be a fresher interest, at times,



THE SHAPING FORCES 183

in the examination of a novel whose lineage is still prob-
lematic.

As suggested in the preceding section, one outside the immediate
field of a given influence may sometimes note its working more clearly
than one within that field. The student may do well to consult Eng-
lish criticism for the French quality in Balzac, French criticism for the
Russian element in Gogol, etc. But there is also a particular interest
in tracing the effect on the novel, of forces which are daily moulding
one's own ideas and emotions.

149. Individuality of the Author. In comparison with
a lyric, a novel usually embodies the general, persistent
temperament, character, and philosophy of the author.
These influences are perhaps seen most clearly in generic
type of subject and in major modes of treatment the
specific themes and the details of form may change with
the passing years. Capacity for large generalization, im-
aginative power, optimistic or pessimistic tendency, sanity
or morbidity, misanthropy or warm human sympathy, in-
tellectual or emotional emphasis, and similar characteristics,
if not innate, are generally well determined by the time a
great novel is produced. These qualities of character have
intimate relation to temperament, and temperament under-
goes no radical change during a lifetime. A great novel
is rarely written before an accumulation of experience so
large that little less than a catastrophe can essentially alter
its complexion ; or before the method of reaction upon
experience is well established.

Sterne was personally melancholy, abstracted, nervous, "indulging


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