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PAGE 2

The Clothes Of Fiction
by [?]

But to confine ourselves to the season novel, it is strange that some one has not invented the patent adjustable story that with a slight change would do for summer or winter, following the broad hint of the publishers, who hasten in May to throw whatever fiction they have on hand into summer clothes. The winter novel, by this invention, could be easily fitted for summer wear. All the novelist need do would be to change the clothes of his characters. And in the autumn, if the novel proved popular, he could change again, with the advantage of being in the latest fashion. It would only be necessary to alter a few sentences in a few of the stereotype pages. Of course this would make necessary other slight alterations, for no kind-hearted writer would be cruel to his own creations, and expose them to the vicissitudes of the seasons. He could insert “rain” for “snow,” and “green leaves” for “skeleton branches,” make a few verbal changes of that sort, and regulate the thermometer. It would cost very little to adjust the novel in this way to any season. It is worth thinking of.

And this leads to a remark upon the shocking indifference of some novelists to the ordinary comfort of their characters. In practical life we cannot, but in his realm the novelist can, control the weather. He can make it generally pleasant. We do not object to a terrific thunder-shower now and then, as the sign of despair and a lost soul, but perpetual drizzle and grayness and inclemency are tedious to the reader, who has enough bad weather in his private experience. The English are greater sinners in this respect than we are. They seem to take a brutal delight in making it as unpleasant as possible for their fictitious people. There is R–b–rt ‘lsm–r’, for example. External trouble is piled on to the internal. The characters are in a perpetual soak. There is not a dry rag on any of them, from the beginning of the book to the end. They are sent out in all weathers, and are drenched every day. Often their wet clothes are frozen on them; they are exposed to cutting winds and sleet in their faces, bedrabbled in damp grass, stood against slippery fences, with hail and frost lowering their vitality, and expected under these circumstances to make love and be good Christians. Drenched and wind-blown for years, that is what they are. It may be that this treatment has excited the sympathy of the world, but is it legitimate? Has a novelist the right to subject his creations to tortures that he would not dare to inflict upon his friends? It is no excuse to say that this is normal English weather; it is not the office of fiction to intensify and rub in the unavoidable evils of life. The modern spirit of consideration for fictitious characters that prevails with regard to dress ought to extend in a reasonable degree to their weather. This is not a strained corollary to the demand for an appropriately costumed novel.