An excerpt from "Harper's Magazine," Volume 128: SINCLAIR LEWIS in his novel, "Our Mr. Wrenn," proves himself one of the most skillful in portraying ordinary, normally alive and enthusiastic people, as they are and feel: he is one of those, also, who find both amusement and optimistic refreshment in the study of character--values which he passes ...
An excerpt from "Harper's Magazine," Volume 128: SINCLAIR LEWIS in his novel, "Our Mr. Wrenn," proves himself one of the most skillful in portraying ordinary, normally alive and enthusiastic people, as they are and feel: he is one of those, also, who find both amusement and optimistic refreshment in the study of character--values which he passes on to the reader. Through the story of cheerful, plucky, commonplace Mr. Wrenn he makes us feel the charm of adventure, the joy of breaking loose from habitual restraints, the pleasure of knowing people; and in much larger measure than would be possible if his hero were one of those with a capital "H," he gives us the humor which arises from the meetings of persons of opposite types and of inconsistent worlds. "Our Mr. Wrenn" was a clerk in the Souvenir and Art Novelty Company, a diligent and more or less respected employee, who preserved a certain boyishness in his humdrum life. He was breathlessly avid of moving pictures, and the dream of his life was foreign travel. In fact he spent most of his leisure studying steamship folders or mooning about the piers, and he knew all about travel but the traveling. One would not expect to find Mr. Wrenn crossing the ocean on a cattle-ship among a lot of roughs (his most impressive exclamation was "Gee!") nor discussing English antiquities with the very learned Dr. Mittyford in a vernacular more or less sprinkled with West Sixteenth Street slang. Still less would one think to see him the petted favorite of such a sophisticated and disillusioned young woman as Istra Nash. Yet he had these notable experiences. His fight with Petie the tough, on the way over, made him more of a man for the rest of his life; he learned to know himself and gained some of the conceit that stiffens character. Dr. Mittyford's patronage did him no harm; and Istra took him to her heart and into Bohemian circles, where he met "interesting people." She educated his unspoiled emotions, keeping him nicely in hand, and stimulated his mind to the point of making the following epigram about the "interesting people" who so wearied her: "I guess they're like cattlemen-the cattle-ier they are, the more romantic they are, and then when you get to know them the chief trouble with them is that they're cattlemen." It cannot be said that Mr. Wrenn obtained much of the usual cultured profit from his trip to England-he was rather vague as to just what he had seen- but he had his romance and was the better for it all his days. On his return he found within himself courage to hold up his employer for a raise of salary; he freed himself from the tyranny of his oppressively genteel landlady, and made a whole circle of new friends. Also his instinct led him to the right woman. All this goes to show that one shouldn't be afraid of experiences which keep the blood moving, for one never knows what new brain cells will develop as the result of a pleasantly accelerated circulation. The whole experience was delightful to Mr. Wrenn, except when he was lonesome, but to the reader who accompanies him in spirit it is still more delightful. Mr. Lewis brings the most ill-assorted people together with the greatest pleasure in their incongruities and finds the human note in them all-which is to say that he has a gift for true comedy. Few writers, one supposes, would have dared to portray Istra as a guest at Mr. Wrenn's New York boarding-house, where also dwelt the girl who had begun to win his heart; yet Mr. Lewis does this very thing-and does not overdo it. He has written an ingenious, witty, sympathetic book, which for all its humor suggests the pleasure that is got by earnestness and receptiveness of spirit.
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