By A. L. POLLARD, M. A. (OXON)
Henri Vetch, Publisher, at the French Bookstore , Peiping. pp. 438. $ 4.JJ Mex. 1933.
The Chinese title of this book 《西洋小说史略》( literally, "A Brief History of the Development of Western Novel") which is written by Prof. Wu Mi in austere, four-square characters, is slightly misleading. The book covers a much narrower field than its Chinese title implies. American novelists, for example, fall beyond its scope. There is Henry James, of course; but then, James, though born an American, died an Englishman. German novels receive no treatment, with the outstanding exception of "Sorrows of Young Werther" a book which, with its water-mellonish sentiments, has been the formative influence in the character of many a Chinese young man. Indeed, Prof. Pollard lays the whole emphasis upon French, English and Russian writers; because, to quote the Preface, the novels of these countries seem to be more universally read. Thus I think the English title describes more adequately the lop-sided character of this book. It must also be mentioned that this book stops short at the pre-war novelists like Wells and Bennett, Loti and Bourget. The omission of contemporary writers, about whom even the most hardboiled literary historian feels sometimes nervous, is a proof of Prof. Pollard's tactfulness.
This book is primarily a text for student' use, and as such, it is admirable. It is almost unique in China and will likely remain so for a long while yet. The style is very smooth and limpid, unperturbed by irrelevant flashes of wit or flourishes of rhetoric, and moves without haste and without rest. To be sure, Prof. Pollard does not pretend to lead us voyaging through uncharted oceans of literature, and contents himself with merely giving an account of well-known novels and short descriptions of their plots— but how competently this is done! With an infallible sense of hitting the nail on its head, Prof. Pollard always emphasises the right persons and says the right things about them in the right words. Indeed, he is annoyingly orthodox and sound in his judgments: one almost wishes that he would be a little more idiosyncratic and wayward for the reviewer's benefit. Perhaps Prof. Pollard thinks that Chinese students who come across a book of this kind, presumably for the first time, would not be able to appreciate his critical heresies and would blandly accept his startling paradoxes as if they were only platitudes, and thus give him little encouragement to be original and eccentric. If so, then Prof. Pollard ought to refer back to their loci the quotations he has aptly made from an imposing array of authorities like Miss Rebecca West, Prof. Saintsbury, Sir Leslie Stephen, Sir Walter Raleigh, Mr. Jusserand, Mr. Murry, Mr. Forster, Mr. le Breton and Mr. Orlo Williams, (the last named, by the way, is missing in the Index). A bibliography should also be supplied.
Considering the amateurish efforts that have been made to father the Conscious Stream' method in fiction on some philosophical theory, it might be well to take what Prof. Pollard says about Marcel Proust as a jumping-off place for a little digression. Prof. Pollard says the usual thing about the influence of Bergson and Freud on the technique of Proust. But the method of Proust seems to me to have more affinity with Hume's philosophy than with Bergsonism or Freudian psychology in its stress on association and its atomistic or cinematographic view of personality. Psychological atomism and associationism are really the working hypotheses of Proust, and the Freudian wish and Bergsonian duree furnish but materials for him to work upon. Bearing in mind Humian philosophy, and what Otto Weininger says about woman, and what English traits are, I venture to think it is not mere chance that an English woman (Mrs. Virginia Woolf) should be the consummate mistress of this method. Mr. W. B. Yeats in his Foreword to a book on Berkeley by Hone and Rossi observes that the "Conscious Stream" method in fiction is at bottom the inverse of Zola's naturalism and to some extent the counter part of new realism in philosophy. Had Mr. Yeats taken pains to probe more deeply into new realism, he would see his indebtedness to Hume: Does not Russell hold all experience to be analyzable into sensations? Have not American neo-realists made handsome acknowledgments to Hume (see, e.g. Perry: "Present Philosophical Tendencies," p. 307)?
Revenons a mos moutons. The most puzzling thing in this excellent book is the list of the tides of the novels that have been translated into Chinese. The list is almost—well, illiterate. Of course, there are more versions and perversions of European novels than one cares to recall, but to mention only thirty-six translations — and that not on any selective policy—is really curious. The list is not even exhaustive with regard to the translations of those novels mentioned. It gives only one translation of " Madame Bovary, while there are at least two. And the excellent translation of "Candide" published serially in the "Critical Review” (学衡) certainly deserves mention beside Hsu Tsu-mo's.
I detect only three typographical errors. For the first word "the" of the first sentence of the Preface, read " this." For the word "has" in the last line of the third paragraph on p. 207, read "have. For the word "lead ' in the second sentence of the second paragraph on p. 359, read either "leads" or "led."