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The Collaborators 1896   By: (1864-1950)

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By Robert S. Hichens



"Why shouldn't we collaborate?" said Henley in his most matter of fact way, as Big Ben gave voice to the midnight hour. "Everybody does it nowadays. Two heads may be really better than one, although I seldom believe in the truth of accepted sayings. Your head is a deuced good one, Andrew; but now don't get angry you are too excitable and too intense to be left quite to yourself, even in book writing, much less in the ordinary affairs of life. I think you were born to collaborate, and to collaborate with me. You can give me everything I lack, and I can give you a little of the sense of humour, and act as a drag upon the wheel."

"None of the new humour, Jack; that shall never appear in a book with my name attached to it. Dickens I can tolerate. He is occasionally felicitous. The story of 'The Dying Clown,' for instance, crude as it is it has a certain grim tragedy about it. But the new humour came from the pit, and should go to the Sporting Times ."

"Now, don't get excited. The book is not in proof yet perhaps never will be. You need not be afraid. My humour will probably be old enough. But what do you y to the idea?"

Andrew Trenchard sat for awhile in silent consideration. His legs were stretched out, and his slippered feet rested on the edge of the brass fender. A nimbus of smoke surrounded his swarthy features, his shock of black hair, his large, rather morose, dark eyes. He was a man of about twenty five, with an almost horribly intelligent face, so observant that he tried people, so acute that he frightened them. His intellect was never for a moment at rest, unless in sleep. He devoured himself with his own emotions, and others with his analysis of theirs. His mind was always crouching to spring, except when it was springing. He lived an irregular life, and all horrors had a subtle fascination for him. As Henley had remarked, he possessed little sense of humour, but immense sense of evil and tragedy and sorrow. He seldom found time to calmly regard the drama of life from the front. He was always at the stage door, sending in his card, and requesting admittance behind the scenes. What was on the surface only interested him in so far as it indicated what was beneath, and in all mental matters his normal procedure was that of the disguised detective. Stupid people disliked him. Clever people distrusted him while they admired him. The mediocre suggested that he was liable to go off his head, and the profound predicted for him fame, tempered by suicide.

Most people considered him interesting, and a few were sincerely attached to him. Among these last was Henley, who had been his friend at Oxford, and had taken rooms in the same house with him in Smith's Square, Westminster. Both the young men were journalists. Henley, who, as he had acknowledged, possessed a keen sense of humour, and was not so much ashamed of it as he ought to have been, wrote very occasionally for Punch , and more often for Fun , was dramatic critic of a lively society paper, and "did" the books in a sarcastic vein for a very unmuzzled "weekly," that was libellous by profession and truthful by oversight. Trenchard, on the other hand, wrote a good deal of very condensed fiction, and generally placed it; contributed brilliant fugitive articles to various papers and magazines, and was generally spoken of by the inner circle of the craft as "a rising man," and a man to be afraid of. Henley was full of common sense, only moderately introspective, facile, and vivacious. He might be trusted to tincture a book with the popular element, and yet not to spoil it; for his literary sense was keen, despite his jocular leaning toward the new humour. He lacked imagination; but his descriptive powers were racy, and he knew instinctively what was likely to take, and what would be caviare to the general.

Trenchard, as he considered the proposition now made to him, realized that Henley might supply much that he lacked in any book that was written with a view to popular success... Continue reading book >>

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