It is because so great a part of the book is written in a narrative form, also, that there is only now and then occasion for anything more than the plain, straightforward, vigorous style than counts for so much in the admirableness of the whole work; but when there is occasion for a dramatic scene, it is always drawn with power and truth and (notwithstanding the appearance sometimes of gracefulness sacrificed for strength) secundum artem. In fact, the novel is sterling throughout. It is good in plot and workmanship, and in the portrayal and conception of character; it is natural and lifelike, and it is interesting. It is all this not now and then merely, but continually, and with an even, level temper which looks as if the writer had kept carefully within the limits of what was positively attainable. One gets an idea, that is to say, that the next novel one may have the good fortune to receive from the same hand will be even better than this one.
Note and Comment.
The "Nation" criticises Prof. Royce's recent novel as follows: "The opportunities which a reader of current fiction may have of giving an hour or two of his time to the work of other than unskilled and frequently presumptuous writers, are, relatively speaking, only too rare. The immense quantity of trash that is thrown into the form of novels, and in some way provided with publisher and audience, is so noticeable that to even speak of it seems commonplace. It is not at all wonderful that we should have this vast stream of fiction, which can in no way be classed as literature, constantly flooding the book-stalls; yet, like some other plainly visible and unremarkable aspects of the time, it is regrettable, and must be to some who look to fiction to become a great teacher, discouraging. To these latter, and to all who care for good work, "The Feud of Oakfield Creek' will appeal strongly. Prof. Royce has made his novel one of California life, concerning which he can speak from the chair; and while the scenes and the mechanism of the story are so perfectly flavored with the soil that one feels distinctly enough the impossibility of detaching the lives of Escott and Eldon, of Margaret and. Harold, from their environment, yet one at the same time realizes, even more distinctly, that the passions and natures of these people are true to humanity. What is better still, they are true to a phase of humanity which is neither degraded nor trivial, but which, though of necessity marked with error, is nevertheless essentially noble and high. We know of no instance in fiction where a love between man and woman, which could not exist and be given expression to within the bounds of honor, has been depicted with the quiet strength and delicacy, and with the entire absence of anything vicious or demoralizing, that characterizes the history of Margaret and Harold. Without sentimentality, one pities the pair, and looks on them leading their separate, sorrowful lives as creatures of an inevitable fate - too strong to be rolled in the mire, and only strengthened and chastened by their past. The story is not altogether sombre, however, though one might reasonably ask that a little more cheerfulness had been scattered here and there throughout a tale essentially sad. Alf Escott is the only really cheerful figure, and what one sees of him at first hand is very telling in its lightening effects; but the book is so largely a narrative in the past tense, and the incidents in Escott's life are so persistently unfortunate, that one thinks more on his broken existence and wasted talents than on the bravery, modesty and evenness-almost recklessness-of temper with which he bears ill-luck. But, for all that, there is a very strong personality about the man, a genuine integrity and independence that makes one have a kindly feeling toward him, even as a mere acquaintance.