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Spring Days   By: (1852-1933)

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Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.




When Henry Vizetelly, that admirable scholar, historian, and journalist, was sent to prison for publishing Zola's novels mine were taken over by Walter Scott, and all were reprinted except "Spring Days." This book was omitted from the list of my acknowledged works, for public and private criticism had shown it no mercy; and I had lost faith in it. All the welcome it had gotten were a few contemptuous paragraphs scattered through the Press, and an insolent article in The Academy , which I did not see, but of which I was notified by a friend in the Strand at the corner of Wellington Street.

"Was the article a long one?"

"No, I don't think they thought your book worth slashing. All I can tell you is that if any book of mine had been spoken of in that way I should never write another."

I left my friend, hoping that the number of The Academy would not fall into the hands of the editor of the great London review, to whom I had dedicated the book after a night spent listening to him quoting from the classics, Greek, English, and Latin. "A very poor testimony, one which he won't thank me for," I muttered, and stopped before St. Clement Danes to think what kind of letter he would write to me. But he did not even acknowledge through his secretary the copy I sent to him, and I accepted the rebuff without resentment, arguing that the fault was mine. "The proofs should have been submitted to him, but the printers were calling for them! There's no going back; the mischief is done," and I waited, putting my trust in time, which blots out all unfortunate things, "even dedications," I said.

Three months later, on opening my door one day, I found him standing with a common friend on the landing. I remember wondering what his reason was for bringing the friend, whether he had come as a sort of chaperon or witness. He left us after a few minutes, and I sat watching the great man of my imagination, asking myself if he were going to speak of "Spring Days," hoping that he would avoid the painful subject. The plot and the characters of my new book might please him. If he would only allow me to speak about it he might be persuaded to accept a second dedication as some atonement for the first.

"You were kind enough to dedicate your novel "

"'Spring Days'?"

"Yes, 'Spring Days.' I know that you wished to pay me a compliment, and if I didn't write before it was because "

"Was it so very bad?"

A butty little man raised Oriental eyes and square hands in protest.

"You have written other books," he said, and proposed that we should go out together and walk in the Strand.

"Yes, 'The Confessions of a Young Man' was much liked here and in France. Will you let me give it to you?" We stopped at a book shop. "It will please you and help you to forget 'Spring Days.'" He smiled. "Never mention that book again," I added. "I wonder how I could have written it."

We were in a hansom; he turned his head and looked at me without attempting to answer my question; and from that day till six months ago my impulse was to destroy every copy that came my way. A copy of "Spring Days" excited in me an uncontrollable desire of theft, and whenever I caught sight of one in a friend's house I put it in my pocket without giving a thought to the inconvenience that the larceny might cause; the Thames received it, and I returned home congratulating myself that there was one copy less in the world of "Spring Days."

When the Boer War drove me out of London I said: "Dublin doesn't contain a copy of that book;" and for nearly eight years I was left in peace, only Edward Martyn teasing me, saying that one of these days he must read the book.

"R always says, 'I like "Spring Days".'"

"Insolent little ass," I answered, "I'll cut him dead when we meet again."

But Edward was not joking as I thought he was, and some time afterwards he told me that after a good deal of advertising he had succeeded in obtaining a copy of "Spring Days... Continue reading book >>

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