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Mrs. Falchion   By: (1862-1932)

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MRS. FALCHION

By Gilbert Parker

INTRODUCTION

This novel was written in the days of the three decker, and it went out to sea as such. Every novel of mine written until 1893 was published in two or three volumes, and the sale to the libraries was greater than the sale to the general public. This book was begun in 1892 at the time when the Pierre stories were being written, and it was finished in the summer of 1893. It did not appear serially; indeed, I made no attempt at serial publication. I had a feeling that as it was to be my first novel, it should be judged as a whole and taken at a gasp, as it were. I believe that the reader of Messrs. Methuen & Company was not disposed to publish the book, but Mr. Methuen himself (or Mr. Stedman as he was then called) was impressed by it and gave it his friendly confidence. He was certain that it would arrest the attention of the critics and of the public, whether it became popular or not. I have not a set of those original three volumes. I wish I had, because they won for me an almost unhoped for pleasure. The 'Daily Chronicle' gave the volumes over a column of review, and headed the notice, "A Coming Novelist." The 'Athenaeum' said that 'Mrs. Falchion' was a splendid study of character; 'The Pall Mall Gazette' said that the writing was as good as anything that had been done in our time, while at the same time it took rather a dark view of my future as a novelist, because it said I had not probed deep enough into the wounds of character which I had inflicted. The article was written by Mr. George W. Stevens, and he was right in saying that I had not probed deep enough. Few very young men and I was very young then do probe very deeply. At the appearance of 'When Valmond Came to Pontiac', however, Mr. Stevens came to the conclusion that my future was assured.

I mention these things because they were burnt into my mind at the time. 'Mrs. Falchion' was my first real novel, as I have said, though it had been preceded by a short novel called 'The Chief Factor', since rescued from publication and never published in book form in England. I realised when I had written 'Mrs. Falchion' that I had not found my metier, and I was fearful of complete failure. I had come but a few years before from the South Seas; I was full of what I had seen and felt; I was eager to write of it all, and I did write of it; but the thing which was deeper still in me was the life which 'Pierre and His People', 'The Seats of the Mighty', 'The Trail of the Sword', 'The Lane That Had no Turning', and 'The Right of Way' portrayed. That life was destined to give me an assured place and public, while 'Mrs. Falchion', and the South Sea stories published in various journals before the time of its production, and indeed anterior to the writing of the Pierre series, only assured me attention.

Happily for the book, which has faults of construction, superficialities as to incident, and with some crudity of plot, it was, in the main, a study of character. There was focus, there was illumination in the book, to what degree I will not try to say; and the attempt to fasten the mind of the reader upon the central figure, and to present that central figure in many aspects, safeguarded the narrative from the charge of being a mere novel of adventure, or, as one writer called it, "an impudent melodrama, which has its own fascinations."

Reading Mrs. Falchion again after all these years, I seem to realise in it an attempt to combine the objective and subjective methods of treatment to combine analysis of character and motive with arresting episode. It is a difficult thing to do, as I have found. It was not done on my part wholly by design, but rather by instinct, and I imagine that this tendency has run through all my works. It represents the elements of romanticism and of realism in one, and that kind of representation has its dangers, to say nothing of its difficulties. It sometimes alienates the reader, who by instinct and preference is a realist, and it troubles the reader who wants to read for a story alone, who cares for what a character does, and not for what a character is or says, except in so far as it emphasises what it does... Continue reading book >>




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