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THE SAINT. By Conrad Ferdinand Meyer. Translated by Edwin Franklin Hauch. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1930. Price: $2,00.

By R. W. P.

MEYER, Swiss master-writer of the late nineteenth century, combined delicacy of art with a decisive, compact handling of his historical subjects that is all too often lacking in German authors, especially when they find the whole vista of a past civilization spread before them. Meyer is rarely discursive; he possesses startling dramatic sense, a passionate feelings for the great individual; these a translation can reproduce, but the perfection of style that marks the original it was not in the power of Professor Hauch to give again in his translation. It is to his credit that he has captured any of the elusive refinement of the author.

The story narrates, with the complete self-identification with his characters of which Meyer was capable--through he troubles himself little with archaeological preciseness--the conflict between Thomas a Becket and King Henry II, from the time when the King himself disturbed the serene sway of his chancellor by creating him Archbishop of Canterbury, through the conversion of Becket into a meek exponent of passive resistance, a Mahatma-like figure who led his Saxon beggar-followers with the sign of the Cross. At length he so maddened the King that four Norman nobles took the royal wrath as a pretext for slaughtering this enemy of their oligarchy. The narrator is one John, the Crossbowman, Swabian body-servant of the King.

The effects of mighty tragedy, of the inscrutably deep character of the chancellor, all are obtained without the use of clumsy mass-action: no wielder of rhetorical thunders. Meyer concentrates, impresses with fine delineation rather than overwhelms with sheer quantity and force. His is the method of the finished artist: but he does not let artistry crowd out the living appeal of his work, and the latter has by no means lost its vigor in the English Version.

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