Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Herbert Jenkins Wireless magazine

·                                 Title: The Herbert Jenkins' Wireless.
·                                 Publication Details: London 
·                                 Uniform Title: The Herbert Jenkins' Wireless (London, England : 1919) 
·                                 Place Name: London 
·                                 Identifier: System number 013929218 
·                                 Notes: A monthly book-list and book review issued by Herbert Jenkins Ltd. 
·                                 Creation Date: 1919 
·                                 Holdings Notes: 1919 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 611 [1919] 

 1920 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 715 [1920] 
 1921 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 689 [1921] 
 1922 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 369 [1922] 
 1923 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 561 [1923] 
 1924 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 680 [1924] 
 1926 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 548 [1926] 
 1927 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 586 [1927] 
 1928 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 620 [1928] 
 1929 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 754 [1929] 
 1930 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 572 [1930] 
 1931 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 766 [1931] 
 1932 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 370 [1932] 
 1933 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 245 [1933] 
 1934 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 71 [1934] 
 1935 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 122 [1935] 
 1936 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 361 [1936] 
 1937 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 334 [1937] 
 1938 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 399 [1938] 
 1939 General Reference Collection LOU.LON 510 [1939] 


The Lobster at Home

By Grant Allen
From Longman’s Magazine, July 1896.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, Feb. 2017.

IT was, you will remember, the erroneous opinion of Alice (in Wonderland) that whiting were fish with their tails in their mouths. That biological mistake was a natural result of the culinary or purely domestic conception of animal life. In like manner, I believe, a great many people are still of opinion that lobsters are habitually and normally red—which is a rudimentary blunder of the same character as if one were to suppose that chickens swam in a sea of onion sauce as their native element, or that turkeys were infested with parasitic truffles. To combat such insufficient notions of crustacean life in the shallow seas it may be well to attend a lobster At Home off the coasts of Britain.
The common lobster who receives you in his rocky house is a ten-legged crustacean, with a large, powerful, and very muscular tail. This tail it is which marks off most distinctly the lobster group (including the crayfish, prawn, and shrimp) from their degenerate relations the mere crawling crabs, which are practically tailless. The difference in shape, again, is ultimately dependent upon a profound difference of habit and manner. All the lobster kind are more or less of swimmers, and they use their powerful tail with immense effect for jumping or darting through the water when disturbed, as well as for a gentler method of propulsion by fin-like flappers, to which I shall recur a little later. They may be regarded, in fact, from the point of view of habit, as great marine fleas; and this power of jumping or bounding through the sea is their most marked characteristic. The crabs, on the other hand, do not leap or swim in the adult condition; they merely crawl with a rather awkward motion along the bottom. Hence they have walking legs more developed than the lobster’s; their body is round, flat, and compressed; but the little shrivelled tail, reduced in their case to a bare shrunken relic, is doubled up under the body so inconspicuously that it probably altogether escapes the notice of the purely culinary or Epicurean observer. Both groups are descended from a common ancestor; but the crabs have taken so exclusively to walking that their tails have atrophied till they are reduced at last to mere sheaths for the eggs and other reproductive organs; while the lobsters and prawns have taken to jumping freely on the open, and used their tails so much that these leaping organs have at last developed into the largest and most important part of the animal.
Our English lobster is a beautiful, glossy, bluish-black creature, of iridescent sheen, with a scheme of colour not remotely reminding one of the mingled hues on the back of the swallow. Even when taken from the water his melting tints are very remarkable: but when seen at home, among his rocky haunts, and with the glaucous green glow of the sea shed lustrously over him, he is as magnificent a creature of his sort as nature has developed. When boiled, indeed, he turns at once to the vulgar and uniform red of the British soldier; but in his native state he is subtly and indescribably mottled with patches of dark blue and of cloudy black, which merge by imperceptible degrees into one another. Looked down upon through the water from above, he is seen among the crags as a black lurking mass, just projecting from a tunnel or crevice of the serpentine stacks, which he fits to a shade; whilst his front claws or crushers, his head and stalked eyes, and his tremulous antennae alone stand out on the watch for prey beyond the general surface of his sheltering rock-wall. But beheld on the level, as one sees him in the aquarium (which is, of course, the only fair way to judge the charms of submerged animals), he becomes at once a far more imposing creature. His hues are then even more vivid than those of the burnished swallow’s back; and his great black eyes gleam out from his lair with the watchful intelligence of the patient hunter.
Your lobster is an athlete of no small pretensions. He has three distinct modes of progression, and at least three sets of locomotive organs adapted to them. He walks or crawls on the sea bottom; he swims on the open; and he darts or jumps backward with his powerful tail muscles. Each of these modes requires at our hands a separate consideration.
The lobster’s legs, all told, are ten in number. But only eight of these are largely used for walking. The front pair, or big claws, have been specialised, as in the crab and most others of the higher crustaceans, into prehensile organs for catching and crushing the prey. Their use is obvious. Lobsters feed largely off mollusks of various sorts, and other hard-shelled marine animals; in order to be able to break or crush the shells of these, and so get at the softer flesh within, they have acquired such large and very muscular nippers or pincers. That is not all, however; not only have the two front legs been differentiated and specialised from the eight others in this manner, but also, by a rare exception to the symmetry of the body, the right claw has been specialised from the left, each being intended to perform a distinct function. One is a scissors; the other is a mill: one is a cutter; the other is a cracker. As a rule the right claw is the slenderer and longer; it has tooth-like projections or serrated edges on its two nipping faces, and it is rather adapted for biting and severing than for crushing or grinding. The left claw, on the other hand, is usually thicker, heavier, and rounder; its muscles are more powerful; and in place of sharp teeth it has blunt tubercles or hammers of different sizes; it acts, in fact, more like a nut-cracker than like teeth or a saw; it is a smashing organ. Nevertheless you will find it interesting to observe, by noting the lobsters served to you at table, that this differentiation has hardly as yet become quite constant; for sometimes it is the right claw that displays the hammer-like nut-cracker type, and the left that acts as nipper and biter; while sometimes no difference occurs at all, both claws alike being sharp-toothed or blunt-hammered in the same specimen.
Behind these two specialised forelegs or claws, which are really connected with the mouth and the capture of food rather than with the process of locomotion, come the eight true legs, employed in walking. On shore, indeed, or as you see the lobster lie on the smooth flat slab of a fishmonger’s shop, these legs are truly but feeble members. At home in the salt water, however, for which, of course, they are primarily adapted, they present a very different appearance. The buoyant medium supports and floats the heavy body and claws, and the animal moves along on the tips of his eight feet with a peculiarly graceful gliding motion. He hardly walks: he seems rather to slip through the yielding water. His nimbleness under such circum­stances surprises those who think of him only as a weighty and armour-clad creature, forgetting that in his own atmosphere (if I may venture on the phrase) he is buoyed and upheld by the sea that surrounds him on every side. When walking on the bottom in this way, in search of prey, he extends his big front claws obliquely before him, so as to offer the least possible resistance to the mass of water; six of his legs he uses as true legs alone; the last pair of all he employs rather as picks or stilts, if I may use such a metaphor, pushing them firmly into the sand or pebbles on the bottom, and steadying by their aid his forward motion.
The second set of locomotive organs are the swimmerets, or fin-like appendages under the animal’s tail, each of which acts as an oar or paddle. They consist of a short stalk or handle, fitted with two flat wide blades. When the lobster walks on the bottom, he extends his tail unfolded behind him, and gently waves these swimmerets like a fish’s fins to assist and guide his forward movement. They thus play the part at once of oar and rudder, though the latter function is still more efficiently per­formed by the expanded organs which terminate the tail. But the lobster can also use the swimmerets to swim with alone, independently of the crawling or creeping legs; and though this motion is but slow and slight it has a peculiarly graceful and mysterious appearance. A swimming lobster seems to glide through space with fairy elegance. As a rule, however, the lobster sticks to the bottom, and only swims obliquely downward for very short distances from its home in the rock to the sands beneath it. Nor is this the only function of the swimmerets. Nature, we all know, is economical of organs; and therefore we need not be surprised to learn that in the female lobster the swimmerets are further utilised to serve as supports for the eggs, or ‘berry,’ in a way which will arrest our attention a little later.
And now we come to the third and by far the most powerful organ of locomotion in the lobster, the large and very muscular tail. Strange to say, however, this organ acts in the opposite direction from the other two; by its aid the animal is able to spring rapidly, not forward, but backward. Why backward? Well, the tail is not used as an ordinary means of locomotion at all, but is reserved for purposes of sudden retreat and defensive action. As the lobster walks about over the hunting-grounds near his lair (for of course he has preserves of his own around his estate), he keeps his long antennae, or feelers, constantly waving up and down before him, so as to give him warning of the approach of a dainty morsel or a stronger enemy. On these rather than on his imperfect stalked eyes he seems to rely most for information and for danger signals. If the offending object be not big enough or active enough to frighten him, he stands up menacingly on his walking legs and puts himself in the exact attitude of a boxer. One large claw he holds for defence in front of his head; with the other he strikes out against the hostile object, and strives to crush or kill it. Fishermen sometimes draw lobsters from their holes by presenting them in this way with a blade of an oar; the un­suspicious crustacean seizes it with his claw and refuses to let go, sometimes even permitting himself through pure obstinacy to be drawn out of the water. But when the enemy is one of whom the lobster is afraid he retreats precipitately by bending his big tail with a spasmodic jerk, which drives him backwards through the water at the rate of twenty-five feet in a second. In clear water you can see them dart past like lightning when disturbed or terrified. In this peculiar backward jump the animal is also largely aided by the fan-shaped, rudder-like organs at the end of the tail.
As a rule, when thus alarmed, the lobster darts away backward into deeper water, where he is not likely to hurt himself by knocking against hard foreign bodies. But he has also no small delicacy of adjustment in this matter of jumping, and if near his own home—for every lobster has a recognised house of his own in some cranny of the rocks—he will fling himself into it backward with an accuracy of aim like that of a swallow or sand martin swooping down upon its nest from a considerable distance. The tail is thus an organ of defensive retreat, and its large size is the index of its use to its possessor.
It may be interesting to the culinary naturalist to observe in passing that this distribution of the locomotive organs is mainly answerable for the varieties and disposition in the flesh of the lobster. The large crushing claws, constantly used in feeding, have firm but not hard or stringy flesh, and are much more digestible than the other portions. The small walking legs, having relatively little work to do, are supplied with smaller muscles, dis­tributed in an intricate and peculiar network of thin shelly material. But the big and powerful tail, employed for the violent act of leaping, and constantly exerted in the state of nature, has correspondingly hard and strong muscles, which form the mass of the edible portion, but are relatively indigestible through their closeness and toughness. In the crab, on the other hand, which merely crawls, we eat mainly the claws and the lesser leg-muscles.
Lobsters are essentially nocturnal animals, lurking for the most part in their holes during the day, and coming out to feed on the sands by night. It is for this reason, no doubt, that they depend so little upon their imperfect eyes, all the more so as they inhabit a depth of water where light becomes of very slight importance. On the other hand, it is probable that the antennae end in organs of smell of a delicately discriminative sort, and that by their aid the lobster knows friend from foe and food-stuff from enemy.
Our crustacean not only roams the sea bottom in search of food, but also digs and burrows in the sand and mud, like a maritime mole, in pursuit of shell-fish. These he catches and crushes with his hammer-like claw, extracting the soft parts to eat at leisure. But he is also an angler after fish, which form, perhaps, the chief portion of his diet; and he preys to a great extent upon his cousins the crabs, whose thinner shells and more exposed habits make them an easy booty. In aquariums lobsters also clearly display cannibal habits; if one lobster loses a claw his neighbours unanimously turn and rend him. That this evil habit exists still more abundantly in the native state we have unfortunately more than ample evidence, for in the stomachs of old specimens the shells of their juniors and even of hen lobsters have been frequently recognised. Such ungallant conduct almost seems to justify the extreme sentence of boiling alive, to which lobsters caught by man are usually subjected. As to the question whether their prey is living or dead, lobsters are far from particular. All is fish that comes to their net. They rank, in fact, among the chief scavengers of the sea, and though they habitually catch and eat living animals they do not despise dead and decaying specimens. They are at once the tigers and the hyenas of their world; they double the parts of the eagle and the vulture.
The early history of the lobster is full of interest. He undergoes in his infancy a series of metamorphoses at least as curious, as varied, and as instructive as those of the frog and the butterfly. The eggs, which are deep semi-transparent green in the living animal, not bright red, as we see them when boiled, are laid in early autumn. But the careful mother does not turn her offspring loose at once on a cold and unfeeling world; she fastens the ‘berry’ sedulously to her own swimmerets, by means of gummy adhesive threads, and carries it about on her journeys for several months thus closely attached to her own person. Meanwhile the motion of the swimmerets assists in aerating the eggs and promoting maturation. By June or July of the succeeding summer the young fry are hatched out, being rather less than half an inch long at the moment of escape from the leathery egg-shell. The hen lobster lays from 2,000 to 12,000 of these little round eggs; but out of that large family only about 1,000 usually hatch out, while not more than three or four of the whole brood in all probability ever arrive at maturity. The rest are killed by natural causes in infancy, or devoured by their own kind and other enemies.
And here we get a measure of the ferocious cannibalism which, I grieve to say, prevails among our subjects. Young crayfish, first cousins of the lobsters, have hooked forceps claws, as Huxley pointed out, by means of which they cling, after hatching, in little colonies to their mother’s swimmerets. Thus the maternal crayfish crawls about her native stream, like the kangaroo, carrying her young ones with her; while the baby crayfish, good brothers and sisters, derive shelter and food from this motherly solicitude. But the bloodthirsty young lobsters, as soon as hatched, instantly disperse themselves with a sort of natural repulsion, after the curious fashion of a brood of baby spiders, and for the selfsame reason. As Dr. Herrick, the author of a learned and exhaustive work on the American lobster (a species which differs but little from our own), rightly remarks, ‘a swarming or gregarious habit would be fatal to this creature, on account of its inborn pugnacity and cannibalism.’ The family disperses to avoid being eaten by its unnatural brothers.
Our young lobster, once more, emerges from the egg not lobster-like in form, but as a lobster tadpole or larva. In this its earlier avatar it is an active, free-swimming pelagic creature, not unlike, in general look at a first rough glance, to the familiar mosquito larva—with which, of course, I need hardly say it has no real affinity. Its early history, which has only of late been traced in detail, is far too varied and minute for popular appre­hension; it must suffice to say that the baby lobster swims openly on the surface of the water, and undergoes several moults, each accompanied by marked changes of structure and appearance, before attaining its adult form and its final walking and leaping habits. In the earliest stage our larva is quite transparent, about half an inch long, and possessed of grotesquely big eyes, such as befit a free-swimming, surface-haunting animal; at this level it nearly approaches a much lower and presumably ancestral form of crustacean development. Very young lobsters subsist mainly upon killing and eating one another, which is the survival of the fittest reduced to its simplest and most naked terms. The family utilises its less active members for the development of the more powerful. At each moult, however, the animal grows more and more lobster-like in shape, while recapitulating, as it seems, the various stages in the evolution of its kind from a very primitive crustacean progenitor. During all this time our larvae are diurnal not nocturnal in habit; they therefore depend more largely upon sight than upon smell as the leader among the senses.
Even when the young lobster reaches the full lobster form, however, he is still far from adult; he goes on growing for many months, or even years. But he now quits the surface and takes entirely to a nocturnal life on the ill-lighted sea bottom, for which his existing locomotive organs and his adult senses are specially adapted. Still he continues to moult or cast his outer shell— many times yearly in the very young, once a year in the adult, less frequently still in old and thoroughly hardened specimens. This moulting is, of course, necessitated by the very conditions of growth themselves, for an animal encased in such a coat of solid armour must either not grow at all or else cast off its mail and renew it periodically. Naturally the lobster follows the last of these two plans; his moulting is a result and accompaniment of growth.
Odd as it may sound to say so, the animal grows before, not after, he casts his old hard shell—that is to say, he makes new cells and tissues, which are not at once filled out, but which are intended to plim to their full dimensions as soon as he has got rid of his binding and confining external skeleton. When the critical moment at last arrives, a new soft shell grows entire within the older and harder one; and the animal then withdraws himself, leg by leg, claw by claw, and swimmeret by swimmeret, out of the enveloping coat of mail which covers him. The shedding of the old coat is complete and absolute; not a fragment remains; even the apparently internal hard portions are cast off with the rest, for the entire covering forms one continuous piece, the interior por­tions being really, so to speak, folds of the skin inserted inward. An entire new skeleton has already grown within the old one, but exceedingly soft and flexible in texture, and the body becomes so almost fluid or jelly-like (not in structure, but in power of compression and extension) that even the big claws are drawn out through the narrow apertures of the joints in a perfectly marvellous manner. After a longer or shorter period of muscular paroxysm, the soft lobster at last disengages itself entirely from the dead shell, and emerges upon the world a new and defenceless fleshy creature. The whole cast skeleton, unruptured in any part, but disengaged by lifting up the body-piece where it joins the tail, looks exactly like an entire dead lobster.
Immediately after the moult the apparent growth takes place with extraordinary rapidity. Recent investigators have shown that this rapid growth depends upon the absorption of water into the blood and tissues through the soft new shell. For at the moment when the lobster emerges from his old coat the new one is already fully formed in every part beneath it; the skeleton needs only hardening matter in order to solidify it into a complete suit of armour, like the old one, but larger. So far as its living matter is concerned the lobster is now really bigger than before; he requires just water to fill him out and lime to harden his newer and larger shell; but when these have done their respec­tive work he has completed his growth till the next moulting period. He thus grows, as it were, by fits and starts at measured intervals.
Moulting, however, is both dangerous and expensive. Many lobsters die naturally in the process; others are eaten up by unkindly neighbours of their own species or by foreign enemies during their defenceless convalescence. It is commonly said by fishermen and others that lobsters after moulting retire to their lairs, and pass through a period of complete inactivity till their shell has hardened. This idea, however, is probably due to the misconception that the new shell is formed after, not before, the shedding of the old one. As a matter of fact the soft lobster does really retire as far as possible from vulgar observation and too curious inquiry during his softest time; but he nevertheless ventures out by night to feed, a point rendered certain by the comparative frequency with which soft specimens are caught round the coasts in lobster pots. But the new shell hardens rather rapidly, partly because the lobster has providently laid by in readiness in his body a supply of lime in easily soluble forms, and partly because the neophyte swallows fragments of shells and other calcareous matter, as Dr. Herrick points out, which he dis­solves in his stomach and uses up in hardening the new coat of mail. Thus in a few days the fresh shell has acquired a leathery consistency, and by the end of six weeks it is as hard as the old one.
Closely connected with this habit of moulting is the still more peculiar power known as ‘recrescence’—the faculty of reproducing lost limbs and organs. Lobsters and crabs, as we have seen, are highly pugnacious and aggressive creatures, which fight to the death with one another and with alien enemies; but if seized by the nipper claws they seem instinctively to recognise, that further fighting is useless, and instead of continuing the hopeless battle they cast off the offending limb and retreat with­out it, thinking it better to lose one claw than life and freedom. Nature provides beforehand, in fact, a definite place where such sacrifices should be made, by making a break at the base of the leg; the ruptured surface hardly bleeds at all, while in a short time a new claw buds forth from the severed end and replaces the old one. The antennae and small legs also grow again when broken off by accidental injury.
This fact of recrescence, found also in lizards and some other animals, and common in plants, is of profound interest in philoso­phical biology, as Mr. Herbert Spencer was the first to point out; for it suggests the idea that the formative material or protoplasm in every organism has a natural tendency to reproduce in its entirety the native form of the original creature, much as crystals have a tendency to precipitate from their mother liquid in certain characteristic or specific shapes. When this ideal entire form is mutilated the common plasm rebuilds the broken part; and Mr. Spencer struck out the luminous idea that just in the same way the egg or germ tends to rebuild by its own internal energies the shape of such a body as that from which it was originally derived. The mystery of birth becomes thus to some extent a mere special case of the mystery of the rebuilding or recrescence of the body. Assimilated matter, once taken into the organism, has the power either of restoring that organism complete or of forming new organisms essentially similar. This is the most pregnant hint as to the true nature of heredity that has yet been thrown out by any biologist.
Only two other species of true lobster beside our own are ‘known to science’—the American and the Cape lobsters. They differ in petty details alone from the European form; the American kind is noticeable chiefly for the much larger size of its crushing claws, a fact which may have struck the prudent housewife in the course of opening and currying the tinned lobster of commerce. I apologise, however, for the obtrusion of such a fact in the present article, for I am prepared to admit that no crustacean is really at home when boiled and potted. I think the reason for this abnormal development of the crushing claws in the American species must probably be sought in the generally harder nature of the solid mollusks on which it feeds. Our English species seems to live mainly on true fish, soft crabs, and such relatively thin-shelled mollusks as mussels, razor fish, and cockle-like forms. But the American lobster, a great borrower after buried sand mollusks, makes a large part of his living out of the very hard clams and other solid-shelled mollusks of the western shore, exposed to the terrible roll of the Atlantic waves on the exposed coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia. He therefore needs larger and more powerful claws in order to crush these very tough food-stuffs. Huge heaps of clam shells are often observed at the end of the lobsters’ burrows in the West, as are the remains of our less pro­tected English shell-fish at the mouths of the holes frequented by our own species.
The so-called Norway lobster, occasionally taken on the British coast, is a much more distant cousin, belonging to a separate genus, Nephrops, with slenderer claws, well adapted for picking food out of crannies in rocks, and is distinguished by a somewhat more prawn-like and graceful aspect. As to the spiny lobster, or langouste, dignified by science with the imposing classical title of Palinurus, he is still less of a relation, more South European in type, and found in Britain only on our southern shores. He poses as a sort of sea hedgehog, being covered all over his body with projecting spines, and adapted rather for defence than defiance. His marked peculiarity lies in the fact that he has no crushing claws at all, being content with ten almost similar walking legs, the first pair of which scarcely differ in any way from the others. In this curious form we may probably recognise the modern representative of some primitive and less developed ancestor, little given to attacking hard food or enemies, and therefore unprovided with fighting or crushing members. In the more advanced lob­sters, on the other hand, the front claws have been progressively modified and specialised for this important function. The spiny coat of Palinurus points, no doubt, in the same direction. For animals which can fight, like the lion or the bull, do not generally need such passive protections; it is usually skulkers and belated relics, like the porcupine and the hedgehog, which have survived by acquiring these unwarlike armours.
The true lobsters are thus seen on the whole to be the princes and heads of crustacean nature. In a single word, they are a dominant family. Where they live they rule. Few enemies can tackle them; their most dangerous foes are those of their own household. Armed offensively with their mighty claws, armed defensively with their impenetrable carapace, they attack boldly, and fear or shrink from few hostile creatures. Yet they have the power, when alarmed, of beating a rapid and effective retreat with their muscular tails, or of leaving their claws, when necessary, behind them. They can either carry out a strategic movement to the rear into deeper water, or dart back with a bound to the safety of their rock shelter, where, with body protected and only the armoured head, spiked frontlet, and huge claws projecting, they present a terrific face to the most determined aggressor. No creature of their size is more formidable or better armed. They represent in our seas the highest result of natural selection in the crustacean line, perhaps even the most splendid development of the mailed soldier type now living on our planet. And when seen by the proper light in their native element they are as beautiful in hue and as graceful in movement as they are wonderful in shape and terrible in fighting.

Grant Allen.

Novels Without a Purpose

'Brain for brain, in no market can you sell your abilities to such poor advantage. Don't take to literature if you've capital enough in hand to buy a good broom, and energy enough to annex a vacant crossing' (1892)
The North American Review, Vol. 163, No. 477 (Aug., 1896), pp. 223-235

The nineteenth century has tolerated to some extent that inartistic and jejune gaud, the novel without a purpose: the twentieth century, holding higher and truer conceptions of art, will soon outgrow it.
I am well aware that to many readers at the present day this forecast will sound like a wild paradox. It is the novel with a purpose that they have heard decried as puerile and inartistic. But what is a paradox? In nine cases out of ten, is it not the bold statement of an obvious but neglected truth, too long obscured by blatant iteration of a clamorous falsehood? Now, in this matter of the object and function of fiction, a certain dominant, (though retrogressive and obscurantist) school of critics has for some twenty years been dinning into our ears a dogma wholly alien to the real tendencies which this age has displayed for at least a century. It has been preaching and vociferating its poor little formula of  “Art for Art’s sake,” in season and out of season, till most people at last have almost begun to believe it for its much speaking. It has essayed to convince us that the childish desire for a story which is no more than a story ought somehow to rank above the adult preference for a story which points a moral, besides adorning a tale. And it has done this in spite of the patent fact that all the most successful novels of the last half century, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Jude the Obscure, have been novels with a purpose; that the tendency to write and to read such novels with a purpose has steadily increased throughout the whole of this period; and that the purpose itself has become with each decade more and more important, relatively to the mere infantile pleasure of telling or hearing a story of adventure. In short, our critics have set out with a false theory of art, and then have attempted to twist plain facts into accordance with their theory.
In opposition to this obsolescent school of criticism I wish to show here two things: first, that as a matter of fact the tendency of the higher fiction, from beginning to end, has been all in the direction of a constantly deeper and more plainly avowed purpose; and second, that as a matter of principle the highest and truest art is and must be the art with a purpose. And I shall further suggest as a corollary the conclusion that the twentieth century—presumably one in which the ethical impulse will have even a stronger hold than it has had in the nineteenth—is likely to demand a still larger amount of purpose in its art, and a deeper conception of what purpose is adequate.
I begin with the matter of fact. I think it undeniable, to anybody who examines as a whole the fiction of the nineteenth century, compared with that of the eighteenth, that the ethical element in the newer work far outweighs that in the older. In England, especially, most of the fiction of the Georgian period precisely mirrors the essentially unprogressive thought of the epoch in which it was produced. It is either decorously dull and conventional, like Richardson; or else boisterously vulgar and human, like Fielding. It lacks inner meaning. True, in certain of its outcomes, such as Clarissa Harlowe, an attempt is made at a certain impression of a supposed moral lesson; but this moral lesson is almost always trite and commonplace—a lesson of the most trivial copybook order: Be virtuous as your grandmother understood virtue! It marks no advance in the ethical thought of the race; it is statical, like Adam Bede, not dynamical, like Eousseau, Shelley, Tolstoi, Ibsen. In this half-and-half category, I would place those eighteenth-century works, such as The Vicar of Wakefield, or Pamela, or even Paul et Virginie, in whose pages the accepted code of morals is enforced and accentuated by means of a story whose main interest depends upon its character and incident, or its descriptive passages, not on its position as marking progress for humanity. The literature of the eighteenth century in England knows nothing of problems.
In France, the impulses which went to make up the nine­teenth century awoke and realized themselves earlier than elsewhere. Therefore it is in France that we find the novel with a purpose already becoming a weapon of progressive thought in the powerful hands of Voltaire and Rousseau. This it is, I think, which gives to such sketches as Candide and the Nouvelle Heloise their universal and lasting value. Outside England and English-speaking America, how many people know anything of Tom Jones or of Sir Charles Grandison? But all the world, from St. Petersburg to Lima, knows Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot. And why? Because these French thinkers (oh! yes, I know that Rousseau was Swiss)—these French thinkers represent a moment in the development of human thought; they mark time for the race; what they had to say was new and interesting in all countries equally. The nineteenth century had its precursors in the eighteenth, especially in France, and it is those precursors who speak to us still with most world-wide authority.
In England, the novel with a purpose began its course feebly with Sandford and Merton and Miss Edgeworth’s stories. I acknowledge that these examples are damaging to my cause; but I have confidence enough in my case to expose them frankly to the barbed shaft of the enemy. During the early half of the present century, the movement towards purposive fiction did not make much headway either in Britain or America. Its place was taken, as we shall see a little later, by the purposive poetry of Shelley, Keats, and Wordsworth. Godwin’s Caleb Williams, however, is an example to the contrary; and so are a few others like the curious romances of Thomas Love Peacock. Yet on the whole, it must be confessed, the essentially reactionary Romanticist school, represented early by Byron, Scott, and Chateaubriand, later by Bulwer Lytton, Victor Hugo, and Tennyson (I am speaking very broadly) carried the day for awhile both in England and France as against the newer purposive and ethical literature heralded by Shelley. It is noteworthy that the dogma of “Art for Art’s sake” derives its origin from this romantic school—from Gautier and Baudelaire: it is, in fact, a legacy of the reaction of Waterloo and the evil days before 1830.
As the nineteenth century progressed, however, it became abundantly clear that the novel without a purpose was ceasing to engage the best intellects of the nations. Gradually fiction began to think and to teach, instead of merely amusing. In England Charlotte Bronte, that double-dyed Celt—half Irish, half Cornish—raised the true Celtic dragon-standard of revolt in Jane Eyre and elsewhere. The purpose as yet was not indeed obtrusive; but it was there undeniably, and it had germinal value; it set people thinking. The function of the Celt in literature, indeed, is always the same. Have ye a government?” he asks. Thin I’m agin it.” He is the preacher of upheaval. The popular novelists of the mid-century, it is true—Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope—did not try to think, or to make others think, either. They were content with mere passive delineation of character. But while they were in the zenith of their fame, a new and revolutionary school, beginning with the Brontes, was slowly working its way upward into favor. George Eliot did think, though in a formless way, and often with strangely reactionary results; her whole literary work seemed to those who knew her like a deliberate contradiction of the aspirations for freedom in her life and conduct; it is wonderful how a woman, who felt and acted as she did, could have stooped to write novels so unworthy of her place as a pioneer in the movement for the emancipation of women. George Meredith also dates back his beginnings to this formative period; and anyone who follows him from The Shaving of Shagpat and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel down to Diana of the Crossways, One of Our Conquerors, and Lord Ormont and his Aminta, cannot fail to observe the constant growth in import­ance of the underlying purpose. Nor is it immaterial to observe that the same world which devoured The Newcomes and Nicholas Nickleby took little note at the time of Meredith’s masterpieces.
The last decade or two in particular have given us increasing proof of the growth in popularity of the novel with a purpose, and the consequent relegation of the novel without a purpose to its proper place—the school-room or the nursery. We have been overwhelmed by stories like Mrs. Humphry Ward’s—instinct with moral lessons. Now, I do not for a moment mean to imply that Mrs. Humphry Ward’s moral lessons commend themselves to my soul. The popularity of Robert Elsmere is a marvel to those who had outgrown Robert Elsmerism before they were born; while the popularity of David Grieve, a smug exhibition of the British sense of moral superiority to those vicious Continentals, is an insult to the ethical tone of France and of enlightened England. Still, the fact remains that these essentially purposive books, be they good, bad, or mediocre, have attained an enormous circulation in our own time, and have done so mainly on the strength of their purposes. Another similar instance was that ponderous John Inglesant. Later still, the chief successes of the decade have been made by The Heavenly Twins, The Yellow Aster, Keynotes, Tess, and a dozen more equally purposive stories. Miss Marie Corelli and Edna Lyall, each in her own way, illustrate the same tendency. Even Trilby owes part at least of its singular popularity to what it may contain of widening and expanding power—it is largely accepted as a covert protest against prevalent English and American Puritanism.
If one sets against these distinctly purposive successes the success of such other writers as Rider Haggard, Anthony Hope, Stanley Weyman, and Conan Doyle, it will be clear, I think, that the former class as a whole mark the taste of adult men and women, of the more thoughtful and progressive, of the makers and moulders of the coming century; while the latter class as a whole mark the taste of boys and girls and casual readers, of the survivors from the past, of the conservative and reactionary as against the progressive and ascending element. I do not mean that Doyle and Weyman have not done admirable work of its kind; I merely mean that their work (as a rule) does not aim at the highest audience. (Even this is not true of Doyle’s work in all cases.) Books, on the other hand, like Hardy’s Tess and Jude, like Olive Schreiner’s Story of an African Farm, strike the keynote of our century. They are instinct with our hopes, our fears, our problems. They could not have been written in any age save this; while She and A Gentleman of France might almost equally have stepped out of some other century. I do not deny, of course, that the romantic temperament and the love for books of adventure (especially among the young) will always live on; but I believe that side by side with these the taste for books of thought and ethical teaching will always increase, and in an accelerated ratio. I think men and women will less and less be content, like children, with mere hearing of a story; they will demand from their novelists something that at the same time instructs and elevates them.
But where do you put Stevenson in this gallery of recent writers?” Ah, Stevenson is—Stevenson. A great artist in his way—perhaps even more of an artist in fibre than Meredith and Hardy, though less of a thinker—he was an artist alone, and little beyond it. He had his ideas, it is true, his aperçus, his rebellions, his fancies; and those who can look an inch below the surface may often read them. Yet, on the whole, I am prepared to give Stevenson over as a free gift to the enemy—to treat him rather as a survivor from the early nineteenth than as a precursor and herald of the twentieth century. He was a semi-barbaric Scandinavian-Celt of the Western Islands, at home at Skerryvore, among the foam of the Atlantic. His boyishness, indeed, with its natural concomitant in love of adventure, was one of his most charming and lovable characteristics. Great craftsman of words as he was, he never quite grew up; he loved to sleep out in a sack in the Cevennes, to canoe on French rivers, to fraternize with Samoans on the beach of Falesá; and the childish side in him endeared him to all of us. But I cannot help thinking the adult and virile temperament of Meredith, the adult and civilized temperament of Hardy, is higher and deeper than the untamable boyishness and delicious waywardness of the hermit of Samoa.
Kipling again? Well, Kipling is undoubtedly a real force in our literature, a typical embodiment of the bulldog instincts of the Englishman. But he stands somewhat aside from either of the main currents of the day. Nor do I desire to class all writers as better or worse, simply in so far as they happen to represent or not to represent purpose in fiction. Nevertheless, I would say that, in a wider sense, Kipling too is purposive. His aim is exegetical. He does not merely put before us vivid and graphic pictures of Anglo-Indian society, of the jungle world, of military or seafaring life, of the East End of London. He has a mission of his own, in a globe that is daily becoming more and more complex. It is the mission of interpretation. He set out to a great extent as the literary exponent of the Romance of the Clash of Races. Our planet is daily shrinking—and also expand­ing. Shrinking as regards distances, and the time taken to traverse them; expanding as regards the number of nations, races, creeds, and moral codes which the average citizen now be­gins to cognize or to come in contact with. East and West have joined hands; Egypt, Japan, South Africa are part of us. Kipling has made himself, on one side of his work, the laureate of the resulting strife and intermixture. In this direction, many other writers of the day may be fairly classed with him—Stevenson in his Pacific stories; Rider Haggard in his wild South African tales; Hall Caine in his Morocco romance; Gilbert Parker in his admirable Canadian episodes. I am not here classing these writers together, of course, as regards literary merit; their planes are various; I am merely huddling them into the same rough category as exponents, each on his own plane, of the cosmopolitan ideas necessarily engendered by an age of rapid European and American expansion. For to make us grasp in its totality the vast and varied world in which we live and move and have our being is surely in itself an adequate purpose.
Closely allied with this group of quasi-purposive authors, whose vogue shows at least the interest felt by the general reading public in the wider world around them, I would place the other and overlapping or partially coincident group of authors who deal with outlying factors or minor elements in our own more domestic western civilization. Time was when English and American fiction dealt mainly with the ladies and gentlemen of England, the cultured New Englanders, the polite society of New York or Philadelphia; if more than that, then at best it concerned itself with the farmers of the Midland Counties, the rough Yorkshire moorlanders, the miners of the Western States, the grangers of the prairies. But nowadays, that intense desire of half the world to know how the other half lives has produced a new type and crop of fiction. We want to hear of kings and tinkers. Thrums and Donegal have begun to find voice. Tommy Atkins himself is no longer mute. Zangwill tells the West End all about the Jews in the slums of Whitechapel. Miss Murfree tells the North and East all about the ins and outs of life in the Tennessee mountains. We are familiar with Cape Cod and Simla, with “Brer Fox ” and “Brer Rabbit,” with Cablets Creoles, and Rolf Boldrewood’s Australians. Amelie Rives introduces us to West Virginian ginseng diggers. Thomas Hardy transports us to the old-world cabins of Wessex peasants and woodlanders; William Black to the bothies of Highland crofters. “Q,” with his Cornishmen, Mrs. Field with her Moonlighters, are other instances. There is no part of Connemara, no district of the Sierras or the Canadian West, which now lacks its vates sacer, its inspired illustrator. And I hold that this tendency to minute specialization and localization is closely bound up with the purposive tendency in fiction; both because the same men and women are engaged in either type, and because the delineation of strange undercurrents and phases of human life is in itself educational.
Hardy, for example, who gave us Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding Crowd, is also Hardy who gave us Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure. Hall Caine, who sets before us the Isle of Man and its Deemsters, is Hall Caine who though from the conservative side (as I take it), approaches those same underlying problems of sex which form the main theme of Hardy and Meredith. Moreover, the passion for the description of local, rural, and distinctively tribal or provincial life is closely bound up with the revolt of race, the seething and pervasive democratic movement which in Europe at least is bringing the Celt, the Slav, the Czech, and the Magyar to the front, as against the old dominant English, German, and Latin elements. The dregs and the scum will have their innings. Hence the modern Celtic revival in Scotland, represented by Fiona Macleod, William Sharp, Patrick Geddes, and their compeers; hence the Celtic revival in Ireland, represented by Yeats, Nora Hopper, and so many other vigorous new writers; hence the Scandinavian outburst, the fresh young Russian literature; hence Jokai and Maeterlinck; hence the flowering of the Breton in Renan, Guy de Maupassant, and seafaring Pierre Loti—the latter of whom represents for France the same roving or specializing tendencies as are represented for England by Stevenson and Kipling, for America by Bret Harte, Miss Murfree, and Cable. (I need hardly say I am speaking again not as to style but as to subject-matter.) Nay, is it not even a significant fact in the same direc­tion that England has read with deep attention Miss Mary Wilkins’s New England tales and Mr. Harold Fredericks Illumination—in which forcible story we are transported on the enchanted carpet of fiction to a village in Northern New York, where mention of Europe is not, yet where the self-same problems of faith and life meet the local minister which meet every thinker in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna? It is the purpose that makes such localized work universally interesting.
If we take Europe as a whole, I do not think we can doubt the constant progress of its literature in purposiveness during the past half-century. Even Hugo, prince and false prophet of romanticists—poor fallen god, whom all may now rail at—showed in his own way the prevailing tendency. For what is Les Misérables but a sermon on the underlying text of socialism? What are Le Roi s’amuse, and Les Travailleurs de la Mer, but disguised social and political pamphlets? With the younger generation, however, the tendency has been still more marked. Even Alexandre Dumas fils showed it. In Zola purposiveness reigns supreme—a cold, scientific, plodding purposiveness, as wooden as French scientific work in general; yet full of meaning in every line and touch and incident. A careless reader might deny the same note to Guy de Maupassant and Bourget, who, indeed, fall largely into the same wide category as our own Stevenson. (I hope it will be borne in mind that I am everywhere dealing with all these writers from a single standpoint only—not that of technical literary criticism.) But Maupassant and Bourget themselves—especially the latter—have an underlying purposiveness that cannot be masked by their artistic conscience. As for the North, the case is clear. Ibsen more than any other man stands out for us to-day as the accepted pioneer of the twentieth century; and Ibsen never writes except because he has something in his soul to teach us. The Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Master Builder—what does the outcry against them signify save that Ibsen had an original idea to impose upon the world, and that the world as yet was not ready to accept it? Only new principles can ever rouse such virulent opposition. And similarly with the Russians. Tolstoi’s ideas do not seem to me the ideas that are likely to rule the coming world; but at any rate they are ideas; and it is for the sake of the ideas that Tolstoi writes, not merely to give us passing pleasure.
Taking the world round, then, I say (and omitting on purpose America, with which I do not feel myself competent to deal), I see one truth standing out quite clearly. From first to last, the nineteenth century has constantly demanded, and has constantly been supplied with, more and more purposive fiction. The demand and the supply still continue to increase. Therefore I infer that the literature of the twentieth century in turn will be increasingly purposive.
And in being so, it will also be right. It will follow a law of all literary development from the beginning of all things. A broad survey of the progress of literature from its outset will show us that purpose has ever played a larger and larger part in literary work with each age in each nation.
Every literature begins with naive and somewhat childish narration—the myth, the epic, the fairy-tale, the saga. As it progresses, it grows deeper, more philosophic, more ethical, more purposive. The best never comes out of a civilized man, save when he is profoundly stirred by some overpowering social or moral emotion. Our test of the higher as opposed to the lower art is just, other things equal, the proportion of this philosophic and ethical interest to the mere aesthetic element. I do not mean to say, of course, that the highest literature, as literature, is the scientific treatise, the philosophic essay, the ethical pamphlet. To guard against that misconception, I insert above on purpose the saving clause, other things equal.” Literature must needs above all things be literary—it must have grace of style, beauty and aptness and novelty of wording; it must appeal first of all to the aesthetic sense, not to the pure reason or the moral nature. But granting the presence of these purely literary qualities, that literature is highest which most combines with them a deeper philosophic and moral value. Why do we all feel Shelley to be far and away the greatest of English poets? (I exclude Shakespeare, who is the first of English novelists and dramatists, but not quite the first of English poets.) Clearly because we all feel that Shelley touched heights of philosophic thinking and of moral beauty never elsewhere combined with such exquisite imagery, such poetic imagination, such immortal melody. Why do we all feel Keats to stand just one degree beneath Shelley’s level? Clearly because Keats, in other respects the most poetical of English poets, the finest example of pure poetic temperament, falls short of philosophic and moral height; he is merely the perfection of the artistic nature. Why do we think Hamlet, again, a greater play than Romeo and Juliet? Clearly because we feel the deeper and more purposive thought in Hamlet. What makes Faust the chief crown of glory in German literature? Clearly, the breadth of its philosophic outlook, the vastness of its aim, the profound moral vistas of which it allows us here and there to catch passing glimpses. Height may be measured, other things equal, by the greatness of the philosophic and ethical admixture.
Take in detail a few examples. Hellenic literature begins, like all other literatures, with the mere heroic story. We admire in its first efforts the Homeric ring, the full-mouthed sonorousness; we are captivated by the remoteness from our world and its problems—by the clash of bronze arms, the naïveté and simplicity of the domestic relations, the clang of the Iliad, the roar and thunder of the Odyssey.” We listen open-mouthed to the doughty deeds of Diomede, the song of the Sirens, the tale of Calypso, the ravings of Polyphemus. But we feel to the end that, strange and beautiful and weird as are these old-world imaginings, with their vivid pictures and their rolling music, they are childish at heart with the childishness of the barbarian; they do not in any way satisfy the longings and aspirations of civilized humanity; their interest is largely fictitious and archaeological. Indeed, it is as a relief and refuge from our obstinate questionings of invisible things” that we most enjoy the change from our own literature to the purely objective and barbaric atmosphere of the Homeric poems.
Very different is the tone of the great Athenian tragedians. There we feel at once the conservative grandeur and solemnity of Eschylus; the philosophic doubt and ethical inquiry of Sophocles; the frank scepticism and human reconstruction in many plays of Euripides. What a gulf between the quarrels of the gods in the Iliad and the sublime suffering and patience of the bound Prometheus! What a gulf between the despotic tone of the Homeric Agamemnon or the Homeric Odysseus, say in the incident of Thersites and the paean of triumphant freedom in the Persae, the outburst of human passion in the Antigone or the Bacchae! Greek literature grows steadily from the descriptive and interesting to the profound and purposive; it finds its culminating point at last in the reasoned philosophic and ethical thinking of the Attic tragedians.
Take the three other great epics of the world, again—the AEneid, the Divina Commedia, and Paradise Lost; what comfort can the advocates of the novel or poem without a purpose derive from those great works? They must be clever indeed if they can wriggle round them. Look at the AEneid first. What made a brother bard break forth beforehand in that enthusiastic declaration,
Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii, Nescio quid majus nascitur Iliade?
Was it not his consciousness that the AEneid was the worthy and fitting epic of a great unifying and cosmopolitanizing movement—that movement which made Rome not so much the mistress as the embodiment of a pacified and unified world, and which enabled a later poet to apostrophize her with truth in that eloquent pentameter,
Urbem fedsti quod prius orbis erat?”
It is this overpowering sense of the majesty and the moral destiny of Rome—this conception of the organic evolution of a world-city from a small beginning—that inspired Virgil so high above even the level of the Second Georgic. This it is that makes him recur so often to the mighty future of the race of AEneas and to set in the very forefront of his noble exordium the stirring line:
Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem.”
Or, look at Dante again. Can anybody deny that the main inspiring idea of Dante’s colossal work is the true mundane order, the proper relation of Church and State, of Priest and Prince, of Pope and Emperor? There, as on the frescoed wall of Santa Maria Novella, we behold the crystallized concept of the great European party to which the poet belonged—the concept of a well-organized and well-governed Europe, still regulated by the splendid Roman and Virgilian ideal, plus the new feature of the Christian religion. Whether we agree with this ideal or not, it was, at least, a large and liberal conception; it was vital in its day, and it dominates every line of the Tuscan poet’s thinking.
As for Milton, he pleads guilty to purposiveness from the very beginning—pleads guilty, and glories in it. To vindicate the ways of God to man” is the expressed purpose of the argument in his epic. And every word the mighty Puritan wrote is intensely purposive. Paradise Lost is a theory of theology—and heretical at that. Samson Agonistes is a political pamphlet, Comus is a singularly unconvincing though beautiful and fanciful tract on the ascetic side of the question of sex—just as the essay on Freedom of Divorce is a later expression of mature opinion in favor of a particular form of laxity. From beginning to end, Milton was a glorified and ennobled pamphleteer; he wrote his pamphlets with a purpose first and a divine beauty second, for without the purpose they would never have been written.
Every other literature tells us the same tale. We start in all with sagas, stories, folk-songs, marchen. We progress to the drama and novel of character; we end with the Euripideses, the Ibsens, the Merediths. Chancer and Boccaccio form the first term in a series which goes steadily on to Shelley and Goethe. And we all instinctively feel that the greatest and truest poets and romancers are those who have taught their age somewhat: Wordsworth, not Scott; Shelley, not Byron. Even outside the more definitely purposive work, we also feel that relative height may best be gauged by intensity of purpose. Keats himself, when judged by this standard, is really purposive; for in a world too dead to the worth of pure beauty, he revived the naked Greek ideal of the simply beautiful. With Tennyson, the highest work is surely that which, like In Memoriam, Maud, and such lyrics as Wages, or The Higher Pantheism, strives to realize some aspect of the philosophic and religious thought of the epoch he mirrored. Anybody who looks for the keynote in Bossetti and Swinburne will similarly find it in the love sonnets and in such poems as The Blessed Damosel, the Ode to Victor Hugo, Hertha, the Lines to a Crucifix, the Hymn to Proserpine, and Dolores—all of which image forth some thought of the period. I end where I began. The greatest novels and the greatest poems are thus clearly seen to be those which most mark time for humanity.
A work of art, I admit, is not a pamphlet or a proposition in Euclid, but it must enclose a truth, and a new truth, at that, if it is to find a place permanently in the front rank of its own order. Even of other arts than literature this is essentially true—as witness Botticelli, Burne Jones, Donatello, Wagner. Painting, sculpture, music, to be truly great, must crest the wave of their own epoch. In literature, however, no work can be considered as really first-rate unless it teaches us somewhat—not merely pleases us. The critic who insists on absence of purpose is shown by the greatest examples of the past, and by the working of the time-spirit, to be merely a belated and antiquated anachronism.
Thus the novel without a purpose stands condemned on its very face as belonging inherently to the second class, and to the infancy of humanity. It will continue to be written, no doubt, for the younger generation, and the inferior minds; but in the twentieth century, I venture to believe, the adult and educated public will more and more demand from its literary caterers adult interests, adult sympathies, a philosophic aim, an ethical purpose.

Grant Allen.

Blog Archive

Countries we have visited

About Me

My photo

As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.