Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Valkyries

Subtitled A Romance
Fiction ~ novel
Published July 1903
Approx. 36,000 words 

The Valkyries: A Romance is Benson's rendering into prose of Richard Wagner's opera Die Walküre (1870), the second instalment in his famous Ring cycle.

And that's the only kind thing I can say about it, I'm afraid.

Unspeakable tosh and twaddle, strictly for fans of Wagner's original or of other preposterous shite in this vein.  It's available online here.  Wear a gasmask. 


[…] Mr Benson has tried “to render as closely as possible into English narrative prose the libretto of Wagner's 'Valkyries',” and, in its new dress, it makes an effective story, which has been admirably illustrated by T [illegible] Lewis. Readers cannot but sympathise with the sorrows of Brunnhilde, and they will eagerly await the sequel which shall tell of the coming of the hero who awakens her.
~The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 01/07/1903
To those who are familiar with the writings of the author of Dodo, this latest romance of Mr E. F. Benson will, in some ways, come as a surprise. [...] here we discover another side of him. This romance, The Valkyries, is founded on Wagner's opera of that name, and Mr Benson has followed the libretto fairly closely. Although the story is little known to English readers, it would be impossible to give even a bare outline of it without doing Mr Benson a great injustice. For he has woven the gigantic story into a beautiful romance in prose, and an attempt to sift romance of this kind would probably lead to a violation of the artistic sense, and even to unmitigated failure. The scale of the original is huge, and the force of it overwhelming. The whole scheme is so magnificent that only music is able to interpret it. And that it is exactly the point Mr Benson has aimed at. All through the story can be heard the thrilling, sonorous music: from the opening of the drama to its end. The lurid, crashing storm, and all the range of passion and death and the dark stir of forces beneath the earth, mingle in one huge wave of music that sweeps away the puny sons of men and leaves the gods triumphant. So Mr Benson shows with a deep reverence the greatness of the master mind of Wagner. As an illustration of the music prose of Mr Benson, the following extract from the chapter of the loves of Siegmund and Sieglinde will serve:~ [there follows an inordinately long quote, beginning “Even as they stood thus” and ending with “and spring is here.”] The treatment that the story receives from Mr Benson is artistic and adequate, and, above all, most sympathetic. The publishers (Messrs Dean and Sons, Ltd) announce that this volume is the first of a series of romances founded on the themes of the grand operas which they have in preparation. It is sincerely to be hoped that Mr Benson may be entrusted with at least one other.
~The Western Daily Press, 20/07/1903
The attempt is justified by the result. So well, indeed, has Mr Benson done his work that even to those unacquainted with this episode in the story of the Nieblungen Ring the book makes fascinating reading. In style it could hardly be bettered, and in places it is written with thrilling dramatic force. It is a book that all admirers of Wagner should read. As a fair sample of Mr Benson's diction the following description of the Valkyries themselves may be taken [there follows a prodigiously long quote, at least several hundred words, which I can't be arsed to reproduce].
~The Cheltenham Looker-On, 25/07/1903
This attempt to turn into English prose the subject of Wagner's opera The Valkyries is decidedly well done. The story loses somewhat in the translation, but it is written in quaint, attractive style, and the many admirers of Wagner will agree that the task is a difficult one. The strange love of Sieglinde and Siegmund, with its consequences, is well set forth, as is also the picture of Brunnhilde, the Valkyrie maden, who defended the two against her father, the god Wotan.
~The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 31/07/1903
An attempt has been made to render as closely as possible into English narrative prose the libretto of Wagner's Valkyries.
~The Grantham Journal, 05/09/1903
Mr. Benson calls his text 'halting' and 'homely.' It does not deserve these adjectives. Sonorous and powerful with passion, it breathes only the spirit of genuine and spontaneous poetry. Even Wagner's monumental text hardly describes better those
elemental forces which underlay the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde.
~The Outlook (US), 23/09/1905

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