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Mr. Hall Caine
by [?]

August 11, 1894. “The Manxman.”

Mr. Hall Caine’s new novel The Manxman (London: William Heinemann) is a big piece of work altogether. But, on finishing the tale, I turned back to the beginning and read the first 125 pages over again, and then came to a stop. I wish that portion of the book could be dealt with separately. It cannot: for it but sets the problem in human passion and conduct which the remaining 300 pages have to solve. Nevertheless the temptation is too much for me.

As one who thought he knew how good Mr. Hall Caine can be at his best, I must confess to a shock of delight, or rather a growing sense of delighted amazement, while reading those 125 pages. Yet the story is a very simple one–a story of two friends and a woman. The two friends are Philip Christian and Pete Quilliam: Philip talented, accomplished, ambitious, of good family, and eager to win back the social position which his father had lost by an imprudent marriage; Pete a nameless boy–the bastard son of Philip’s uncle and a gawky country-girl–ignorant, brave, simple-minded, and incurably generous. The boys have grown up together, and in love are almost more than brothers when the time comes for them to part for a while–Philip leaving home for school, while Pete goes as mill-boy to one Cæsar Cregeen, who combined the occupations of miller and landlord of “The Manx Fairy” public-house. And now enters the woman–a happy child when first we make her acquaintance–in the shape of Katherine Cregeen, the daughter of Pete’s employer. With her poor simple Pete falls over head and ears in love. Philip, too, when home for his holidays, is drawn by the same dark eyes; but stands aside for his friend. Naturally, the miller will not hear of Pete, a landless, moneyless, nameless, lad, as a suitor for his daughter; and so Pete sails for Kimberley to make his fortune, confiding Kitty to Philip’s care.

It seems that the task undertaken by Philip–that of watching over his friend’s sweetheart–is a familiar one in the Isle of Man, and he who discharges it is known by a familiar name.

“They call him the Dooiney Molla–literally, the ‘man-praiser’; and his primary function is that of an informal, unmercenary, purely friendly and philanthropic match-maker, introduced by the young man to persuade the parents of the young woman that he is a splendid fellow, with substantial possessions or magnificent prospects, and entirely fit to marry her. But he has a secondary function, less frequent, though scarcely less familiar; and it is that of a lover by proxy, or intended husband by deputy, with duties of moral guardianship over the girl while the man himself is off ‘at the herrings,’ or away ‘at the mackerel,’ or abroad on wider voyages.”

And now, of course, begins Philip Christian’s ordeal: for Kitty discovers that she loves him and not Pete, and he that he loves Kitty madly. On the other hand there is the imperative duty to keep faith with his absent friend; and more than this. His future is full of high hope; the eyes of his countrymen and of the Governor himself are beginning to fasten on him as the most promising youth in the island; it is even likely that he will be made Deemster, and so win back all the position that his father threw away. But to marry Kitty–even if he can bring himself to break faith with Pete–will be to marry beneath him, to repeat his father’s disaster, and estrange the favor of all the high “society” of the island. Therefore, even when the first line of resistance is broken down by a report that Pete is dead, Philip determines to cut himself free from the temptation. But the girl, who feels that he is slipping away from her, now takes fate into her own hands. It is the day of harvest-home–the “Melliah”–on her father’s farm. Philip has come to put an end to her hopes, and she knows it. The “Melliah” is cut and the usual frolic begins: