Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Rubicon

Fiction ~ novel
Published 9th April 1894
73,900 words


Mr Benson's very clever and deeply interesting novel ~ a novel far superior to Dodo.
~Sussex Daily News, quoted in newspaper ad of 12/06/1894
Mr Benson's second novel is better artistically than his first. The character-drawing is excellent.
~The Globe, quoted in newspaper ad of 12/06/1894
Without inquiring into the causes of the notorious success of Mr Benson's first novel, it is at least fair to say that it was not for any phenomenal exhibition of imaginative or descriptive power that his book became the comet of a season for the circulating libraries. Dodo could hardly be hailed as a sign that a new sun was rising in English fiction, and The Rubicon affords no reason for any belief that another name has been or will be added to the rolll of notable novelists. The faultlessly beautiful Eva, who very deliberately barters her attractions for wealth and position, and who, neither loving nor beloved by her husband, seduces the affections of a 'clean', handsome, and abnormally innocent youth, already engaged to someone else, is no new figure in fiction. She has done duty in hundreds of romances of that well-known class in which sin is invariably associated with diamonds in the women and immaculate evening-dress in the men. In fact, The Rubicon would not have been out of place in that imaginary publication which Mr George Moore, in a book to be presently noticed, describes as the Family Reader. Lady Hayes (Eva) is an extremely selfish person, who nevertheless does two 'sublimely unselfish things' in her short life. She gives up a lover who has discovered the wickedness of her intentions, but who is none the less bound in her chains; and she ultimately takes prussic acid as the best means of retrieving the evil she has wrought. But Mr Benson's chief object is not, one may fairly suppose, to teach us high moral lessons, and those who read his novel will look for momentary pleasure rather than for permanent profit. This being so, it must be allowed that the wit ~ such as it was ~ of Dodo, was far superior in quality to the wit of the book now before us. It is unsatisfactory as a rule to extract isolated specimens of 'humour', but we may make one or two quotations, showing the kind of thing that Mr Benson is capable of presenting to his readers. We are told that a guest at Eva's wedding, “in spite of his strawberry leaves and his pedigree and his frock-coat, trembled in his patent leather shoes, and in his confusion was vividly impressed at the idea that his Prayer-book consisted entirely of the Service for the visitation of those of riper years to be used at sea on the occasion of the Queen's accession.” Among the characteristics of '[illegible: 'the best'?] London houses' we are elsewhere informed [illegible: 'that'?] “a couple of dozen large square windows looking out on to what is technically known as 'the [illegible] garden', partly because it is round, and partly because it is sparsely planted with sooty, stunted [illegible: 'bushes'?], scattered about on what courtesy interprets to be grass.” These things may not be [illegible: 'intelligent'?] wit, but if they are not, what they meant for, and if they are, even 'the new humour' will hardly acknowledge them as its own. But in spite of its many bad qualities, The Rubicon will no doubt give pleasure to scores of [illegible: 'those'?] of the undiscriminating sort.
~The Morning Post, 11/04/1894
The author of the much talked of Dodo has followed up its success by the publication of a fresh novel, The Rubicon. Mr E F Benson is, as all the world now knows, the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but a critic of The Rubicon unhesitatingly avers that if the book has any purpose at all, it is so written as to ridicule virtue, and to applaud vice. It is perhaps as well there is in the English Church no 'Index Expurgatorius'.
~leader column of The Evening Telegraph and Star [Sheffield], 10/04/1894
We congratulate Mr Benson upon an exceptional achievement. He has conceived and executed successfully an analytical study of modern life, in which a certain salt of humour serves to keep the pages wholesome. The book is a notable advance upon Mr Benson's previous work.
~National Observer, quoted in a newspaper ad of 14/05/1894

No comments:

Post a Comment