"IT is a novel," quoth the publisher or the publisher's man, "that must be read not only for its intensely moving story, but for its sweeping power, its uplifting inspiration, its overmastering sense of inevitability." It may be so, for those who have eyes to see. Pity the poor blind. Far be it from me to deny that it is a novel; for what isn't? But an intensely moving story I have not found it. Rather it strikes me as one of those ingenious fantasies or stunts of the fancy which every current novelist permits himself at ...
"IT is a novel," quoth the publisher or the publisher's man, "that must be read not only for its intensely moving story, but for its sweeping power, its uplifting inspiration, its overmastering sense of inevitability." It may be so, for those who have eyes to see. Pity the poor blind. Far be it from me to deny that it is a novel; for what isn't? But an intensely moving story I have not found it. Rather it strikes me as one of those ingenious fantasies or stunts of the fancy which every current novelist permits himself at some time or other. Pleasant to abandon interpretation or ingenuity for dealing in the business of minor prophecy. Day after to-morrow is fair game for us all. But minor prophecy isn't story-telling. The author of Jacob Stahl, like H. G. Wells and Jack London and the vast company of their successors at this kind of thing, really creates nothing. All he does is to put an interesting speculation in narrative form. After the subtitle of the book, one may be puzzled by the author's "Foreword to American Edition." He is a little hurt that English reviewers have taken his forecast seriously. "I do not," he says, "anticipate a bloody revolution in England either on the lines indicated or on any other; but I do, nevertheless, hold myself committed definitely to a prophecy." This prophecy is nothing less than that "European civilization has passed its highest point of development and will gradually decline; that the conflict between Capital and Labor in Europe may be ultimately settled on some more or less reasonable basis, but that in the process our civilization, as such, will cease to be a world-influence; and that, finally, we must look to the United States of America for the development of a new world-order, which I sincerely hope and pray may be greater and better than the one it will supersede." Well, this news has its cheery aspect - for Americans; it must surely have been a Yankee who is cited as having called the book "the first counterblast to present pessimism." Europe's burning, and Merrie England goeth to pot before our eyes: but it's an ill wind.... And there is some fun ahead for the dog that hasn't yet had his day. To be serious, we owe to Mr. Beresford's book such attention as a soberly conceived and ingeniously contrived fable of the future deserves. He sees (for the purpose of his fable) an England of 1923 in which Labor at last achieves its "direct action" of the General Strike. Organized production and transportation cease with organized government. The working class becomes theoretically the dominating class; and the country goes to pieces. Presently time and occasion are ripe for a successful coup by the reactionaries, and not without violence the old regime sweeps back into power. But this is not the end. To the fabulist's eye revolution and reaction are alike symptoms of mortal disease. The triumph of the old governing class is followed by a reckless throwing overboard of ballast. Society pursues more feverishly than ever the new sensation, the stinging moment of intoxication which shall dull, for the moment, its obscure fear. All human forces are forces of decline, "a frivolous and worthless aristocracy, a dishonest Government, a crass and self-seeking middle-class, a discontented and resentful body of workmen." What then? Where is our counterblast against pessimism? Not, according to the text of the story, in any clear enunciation of a new spirit moving upon the waters, in America or elsewhere; but, at best, in the dim faith that such a spirit will somehow manifest itself for the regeneration (not reformation) of the world. Here before us is civilization "dying full of sin and splendor, of fierce uncompleted desires and glorious accomplishments." Her light flickers and wanes: "All human life was but a little candle burning in the great dark house of the world, a trembling light of aspiration and endeavor that would presently be quenched by the coming of the dawn...".."
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