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A Change of Air

Anthony Hope Other

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In his speech at the annual banquet of the
Royal Academy in 1894, among many other good
things, Mr. Andrew Lang said:
"The thrifty plan of giving us sermons, politics,
fiction, all in one stodgy sandwich, produces
no permanent literature, produces but temporary
'tracts for the times.' Fortunately we
have among us many novelists-young ones,
luckily-who are true to the primitive and
eternal, the Fijian canons of fiction. We have
Oriental romance from the author of 'Plain
Tales from the Hills.' We have the humor and
tenderness-certainly not Fijian, I admit-which
produces that masterpiece 'A Window
in Thrums'; we have the adventurous fancy that
gives us 'A Gentleman of France,' 'The
Master of Ballantrae,' 'Micah Clarke,' 'The
Raiders,' 'The Prisoner of Zenda.'"
The last of these books was by Anthony
Hope Hawkins, whom Mr. Lang thus classed
among potential immortals. This romance
has made him within the last three months
fairly famous. Walter Besant, too, has stamped
it with his high approval, and the English
and American press have been unusually
unanimous in their praise.
Its hero is a rare and striking figure, and
thoroughly represents the ideal soldier of our
Anglo-Saxon race. He faces great dangers
and does brave deeds, quietly and quickly. He
suffers and loves deeply, but says little. In his
portrayal, the possibilities of "repressed emotion"
have been startlingly indicated. He appeals
to Americans and English far more than
the swaggering and loquacious, though more
historic heroes of Dumas and his school ever
can.
Much curiosity has been excited regarding
"Anthony Hope."
The author's methods of composition and what
may have suggested the very original plot are as
yet unknown. Besides what we may get from
his portrait, we are told that he is "a tall, thin,
dark man, with a face that would be ascetic if
it were not bubbling with humor." He is a
lawyer, as other good romancers have been before
him, and has chambers in the Middle
Temple, a place made famous in fiction by
Thackeray and on the stage by Pinero. His
profession and politics are his chief concerns,
and literature a diversion in his leisure hours.
He is an extremely modest man, and in response
to a request from his American publishers
for autobiographical matter, gave the barest
facts of his life. He expressed absolutely no
opinion on literary canons or on his own work.
There was, however, a rare sincerity and cordiality
in his letters.
Anthony Hope Hawkins was born in 1863,
his father being the Rev. E. C. Hawkins of St.
Brides, Fleet Street, London. He was educated
at Marlborough, and at Balliol College, Oxford,
of which he was a scholar. At Oxford, he was
a hard worker and obtained first classes in
Classical Moderations and in the School of
Litter Humaniores, commonly known as
"Greats." At this university, where he attained
the degree of M. A. some eight years ago, he
began to show an aptitude for public life, was a
striking figure among his contemporaries, and
became president of the Union. In 1892 he
stood as a Liberal candidate for a seat in Parliament
from the southern division of Buckinghamshire,
but was defeated by Viscount Curzon.
His first book, "A Man of Mark," was published
in 1890, and was followed next year by
"Father Stafford," an interesting study of an
Anglican priest's struggles between love and
sense of obligation to his vow of celibacy.
The pictures of his cheerless ascetic life are
marked by the sincerity conspicuous in Mr.
Hawkins' later books. Some very thoughtful
conversations on art and on religion are introduced.
In 1892 appeared "Mr. Witt's Widow, a
Frivolous Tale" of a lady who had "harmonious
contrasts," such as dark eyes and golden hair.
It foreshadows the power in plot-making that
characterizes our author's later works.
In the spring of 1893 appeared "Sport Royal,"
a collection of Mr. Hawkins' short stories,
mostly from the St. James' Gazette.
In "Half a Hero," published last year, there
are several foreshadowings of "The Prisoner of
Zenda." In both stories the scene is imaginary,
but given realism by characteristics respectively
of New Zealand and of Germany; in both
intrigues and heroism are conspicuous, though
in the latter the author did not adopt the old
device of giving his hero some bad qualities to
make him human. "Half a Hero" contains
much firm, crisp character-drawing, and a strong
love interest, but has the slight taint of the
"purpose novel," already noted in Father Stafford;
in this case, the discussion being politics,
especially the "labor" element.
Anthony Hope inherited refinement through
a father in an exalted calling; he used his
college advantages to the utmost, and now his
interests are in living public affairs, and in his
chosen calling as a lawyer, he has good opportunities
to study life, and seems already to have
well mastered the best elements of Anglo-Saxon
character. From his work, he appears
to have read widely and with a sympathetic eye
for the merits of markedly diverse writers,
which he seems to make his own. His style
has the terseness and suggestiveness characteristic
of Kipling, but without his harshness, and
at times he shows a sense of beauty almost
worthy of our own Hawthorne, and withal the
military dash and snap of Lever. It would be
strange if the foundation for the remarkably
life-like colonists of "Half a Hero," and the German
officers of "The Prisoner of Zenda," had
had not been laid by travel and the observation
of their more or less remote prototypes.
"A Change of Air," while containing much
of its humor and snap, furnishes a marked contrast
to "The Prisoner of Zenda," and is in a
more serious vein, having a strong and tragic
undercurrent, and not without an element of
peril. Confining its occurrences pretty severely
to the possible and generally probable, it nevertheless
is highly original. Dale Bannister, the
wild young poet, who commences by thoroughly
scandalizing Market Denborough, is a most
picturesque and uncommon character. The
effect of his early principles on his later life is
deftly indicated. The story moves on steadily,
and while it teaches a lesson of moderation and
charity, it does so entirely by the acts and
thoughts of the characters without any sermonizing
on the part of the author. Some good
authorities that have seen this book place it
even above "The Prisoner of Zenda," which we
probably shall see on the stage next year, as
the author has a friend busily engaged on its
dramatization.
R. H.
July, 1894.

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