Lucas, E. V.
E. V. Lucas 1868-1938
(Full name Edward Verrall Lucas) English essayist, editor, biographer, novelist, critic, journalist, poet, autobiographer, short story writer, playwright, and satirist.
Lucas achieved success as a prolific author of light, entertaining popular nonfiction and novels. He was best known as a witty and observant essayist whose interests ranged from sports and domestic life to fine art and literature. His notable products in other genres include travel guides, literary anthologies, and an acclaimed series of scholarly works on the writer Charles Lamb.
Lucas grew up in a middle-class Quaker family in Brighton. After an early apprenticeship to a bookseller, he worked as a journalist, eventually moving to London, where he joined the staff of the newspaper the Globe and, later, the literary journal the Academy and the humor magazine Punch. He also established himself as a respected reader and editor for the publishers Grant Richards and Methuen. In addition to his regular employment, he wrote or edited over one hundred books. He became a prosperous and well-regarded figure in the London literary community, associating with writers such as Max Beerbohm, Arnold Bennett, and James M. Barrie.
Lucas's flexibility and high productivity as a writer and editor enabled him to have an unusually varied career, as, among other things, a humorist, essayist, novelist, anthologist, literary biographer, travel writer, and art critic. One of his earliest successes as a humor writer was Wisdom While You Wait (1902), a parody of advertisements for the Encyclopedia Brittanica written in collaboration with Charles Larcom Graves, with whom he cowrote the popular "By the Way" column for the Globe. As an essayist, Lucas retained an appreciative following for four decades with his ability to write amusingly and engagingly about a wide variety of topics chosen to appeal to general readers. His essays, many of them written for periodicals such as the London Times, Spectator, Pall Mall Gazette, and Punch, were reprinted in numerous collections, including Domesticities (1900), Fireside and Sunshine (1906), One Day and Another (1909), The Phantom Journal (1919), Giving and Receiving (1922), Visibility Good (1931), and Pleasure Trove (1935). Reviewers compare his novels, such as Listener's Lure (1906) and Over Bremerton's (1908), with his essays for their easygoing, anecdotal style. With his two-volume Life of Charles Lamb (1905), he established himself as a respected expert on Lamb, later compiling his own editions of The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb (1903-05) and The Letters of Charles Lamb (1935). Lucas's work as a travel writer includes Highways and Byways in Sussex (1904) and the Wanderer series, which offer his impressions on traveling in England and other parts of Europe. Fine art is a frequent topic in Lucas's travel books and essays, and he wrote several works on the subject of art, including a set of monographs on European masters such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci, a biography of the painter Edwin Austin Abbey, and The British School (1913), a guide to paintings in London's National Gallery. In addition to his original writings, Lucas edited several anthologies of prose and verse, each centering on a particular subject. Among these are the bestselling The Open Road (1899), about travels in the countryside; The Friendly Town (1905), about London; and The Hambledon Men (1907), which contains material by Lucas and others about his favorite sport, cricket.
Critics describe Lucas as a genial entertainer, witty and capable of unusual insights, but reluctant to offer self-revealing thoughts that might have given his writings deeper significance. During his lifetime, Lucas enjoyed the respect of many of his most distinguished peers, including Edmund Gosse, who called him the best living essayist since Robert Louis Stevenson. After World War I, however, Lucas's light, impersonal style was less in tune with literary fashions, and after his death interest in his work among critics and readers waned. As for his works on Lamb, which once confirmed his literary prestige, more recent scholarship has greatly lessened their importance.
Sparks from a Flint: Odd Rhymes for Odd Times [as E. V. L.] (poetry) 1891
Songs of the Bat (poetry) 1892
Bernard Barton and His Friends (biography) 1893
A Book of Verses for Children [editor] (poetry) 1897
Charles Lamb and the Lloyds (biography) 1898
Willow and Leather: A Book of Praise (poetry and prose) 1898
The Open Road: A Little Book for Wayfarers [editor] (prose and poetry) 1899
Domesticities: A Little Book of Household Impressions (essays) 1900
What Shall We Do Now? A Book of Suggestions for Childen's Games and Enjoyment [with Elizabeth Lucas] (nonfiction) 1900
Wisdom While You Wait [with Charles Larcom Graves] (satire) 1902
The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. 7 vols, [editor] (prose, poetry, and drama) 1903-05
*Highways and Byways in Sussex (travel essay) 1904
The Friendly Town: A Little Book for the Urbane [editor] (prose and poetry) 1905
The Life of Charles Lamb. 2 vols. (biography) 1905
A Wanderer in Holland (travel essay) 1905
Change for a Halfpenny [with Charles Larcom Graves] (satire) 1906
Fireside and Sunshine (essays) 1906
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SOURCE: "The Swan of Lichfield," in Spectatorial Essays, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1964, pp. 28-33.
[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1907, Strachey delivers an appreciative review of A Swan and Her Friends.]
Miss Seward's name is a familiar one to readers of eighteenth-century memoirs and letters, though doubtless in the majority of cases the familiarity does not extend further than to the name. She appears somewhat dimly in Boswell; she flits for a minute or two through Fanny Burney's diary; she is mentioned more than once by Horace Walpole, and always with a laugh. Her own letters, published after her death, in accordance with the directions of her will, in six bulky volumes, are certainly not calculated to inspire a closer acquaintance; and her collected poems—'a formidable monument of mediocrity', which Scott found himself obliged to edit—could hardly fail to freeze the zeal of the most intrepid explorer. Mr E. V. Lucas, however, is endowed with an intrepidity very much above the common—a light-hearted intrepidity, which has not only carried him successfully through the desert of Miss Seward's writings, but has even enabled him to bring back from his journey a collection of relics and curiosities [A Swan and Her Friends] for which every reader will be grateful. 'The Swan of Lichfield', as her contemporary admirers called her, belongs to that...
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SOURCE: "Chesterton and Lucas," in Books and Persons: Being Comments on a Past Epoch 1908-1911, George H. Doran Company, 1917, pp. 153-54.
[In the following excerpt from an article originally published in 1909, Bennett offers positive commentary on Lucas in a short review of One Day and Another.]
Mr. Lucas … is a highly mysterious man. On the surface he might be mistaken for a mere cricket enthusiast. Dig down, and you will come, with not too much difficulty, to the simple man of letters. Dig further, and, with somewhat more difficulty, you will come to an agreeably ironic critic of human foibles. Try to dig still further, and you will probably encounter rock. Only here and there in his two novels does Mr. Lucas allow us to glimpse a certain powerful and sardonic harshness in him, indicative of a mind that has seen the world and irrevocably judged it in most of its manifestations. I could believe that Mr. Lucas is an ardent politician, who, however, would not deign to mention his passionately held views save with a pencil on a ballot-paper—if then! It could not have been without intention that he put first in [One Day and Another] an essay describing the manufacture of a professional criminal. Most of the other essays are exceedingly light in texture. They leave no loophole for criticism, for their accomplishment is always at least as high as their ambition. They are serenely well done....
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SOURCE: "Mr. E. V. Lucas," in Tradition and Changes: Studies in Contemporary Literature, Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1919, pp. 292-98.
[In the following essay, Waugh commends Lucas's abilities as a writer in a review of Cloud and Silver.]
It is quite like old and happier days to find the gentle genius of Mr. E. V. Lucas still fresh and flowering [in Cloud and Silver], unchanged by all the changes of this devastating time. I say "unchanged" but, of course, no man, save one of the purely "turnip" type, can really escape the tyranny of his days. In one particularly personal essay Mr. Lucas reminds us that, at the time he wrote it, a couple more "singles" past Old Father Time at cover-point would bring him to the uncoveted half-century; and though it may be true, as the poet says, that
No bat awaits us in Life's game,
When we have scored our fifty,
it is at least certain that many other gifts have accrued to us by that time, which separate us inevitably from the dreams and fancies of our youth. Maturity comes, and with it a deeper sense of the pathos of little things, not altogether divorced, perhaps, from an increasing dependence upon creature comforts. The foot "less prompt to meet the morning dew" is no longer content to tramp the open road; and we get suggestions'of taxis extravagantly ticking-off the passing...
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SOURCE: '"E. V.' and Proust," in More Prejudice, William Heinemann Ltd., 1923, pp. 52-5.
[In the following excerpt, Walkley offers positive comments on Genevra's Money.]
There is one saying that I often wish Elia had added to his essays on Popular Fallacies: Easy writing makes hard reading. In the long run, if a man writes easily, it is because he is, like the M.P. who introduced the Liquor Bill, full of his subject; or, even if he be full of emptiness, he is in a blithe mood. In either case the reader profits; he will have gained something, either knowledge or, what is much better, happiness. No easy writings make more happy readings for me than do those of Mr. E. V. Lucas. (It is easy to see why, with E.V.L. at the back of my head, my thoughts turned to Lamb.) I have never seen Mr. Lucas write, but I am sure that he does it easily. (If you come to that, one never does, in actual life, see an author writing. One reads how Flaubert did it—seeking le mot juste in agony and then erasing the whole sentence in despair—it must have been deadly to watch. I have seen Shakespeare writing on the stage, with his eyes cast up to Heaven and swinging a formidable quill pen as though it were a mashie, and I have seen Mr. Shaw—or was it Mr. Zangwill?—writing, like mad, on the film; and in neither case was seeing believing.) Mr. Lucas cannot but write easily because he writes so much. I have counted over...
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SOURCE: "E. V. Lucas," in The Glory That Was Grub Street: Impressions of Contemporary Authors, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1928, pp. 191-201.
[In the following essay, Adcock gives a laudatory overview of Lucas's career.]
For the last half-hour I have been sitting with a sheet of paper in front of me urging myself to start writing about E. V. Lucas, but quite unable to make up my mind where I ought to begin or when and where I ought to leave off. For he has written fifty or sixty books—of travel, of stories, of art criticism, of essays, of biography, one play and half a dozen books for children; and this says nothing of six anthologies he has compiled, nor of books he has edited. Also there is his very first book, a book of verses all about cricket, called Songs of the Bat, which I fancy he must have called in and suppressed, for it no longer appears in lists of his works. How many of his miscellaneous contributions to Punch, and of those charming little essays he has for some years past been writing every week for the Sunday Times, still remain uncollected I do not know. On top of all these and other activities, he was for many years reader and adviser to the publishing house of Methuen & Co., and is now Chairman of its board of directors.
I have met him only twice: once when we were both of a small party that dined at the house of Thomas Seccombe,...
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SOURCE: "E. V. Lucas," in The Sewanee Review, Vol. 42, April, 1940, pp. 221-35.
[In the following essay, Smith offers a reservedly positive assessment of Lucas.]
In these hectic days, when the attitudinizing writer has invaded the pages of even the most conservative of our American magazines, it is a pleasure to find among the L's on the shelf of the public library a half dozen loose-leaved, dog's-eared volumes, essay novels or, as he himself styled them, "entertainments" from the pen of E. V. Lucas. A fashion more than a quarter of a century out of use, and staled by the great publishing houses, he still holds his own in quiet reading rooms, where middle-aged librarians mention him with respect. It is difficult to account for a popularity, moderate though it undoubtedly is, which continues to defy the laws of probability. Lucas, downright Quaker and unswerving democrat that he was, never called to his aid any kind of art to catch the public eye. He never even advertised. Henry James, as in The Wings of the Dove, might challenge attention by an all-star cast moving in aristocratic circles; his background might be rich (he himself would have said "stupendous") and his pages no stranger to the risqué situation. E. V. Lucas, on the other hand, introduced middle-class people in ordinary surroundings into books which could be read aloud in mixed company without fear of bringing the blush to the cheek...
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SOURCE: An introduction to Selected Essays of E. V. Lucas, Methuen Ltd., 1954, pp. v-x.
[In the following essay, Wethered describes Lucas as a writer and a person.]
E. V. Lucas subtitled one of his best known anthologies, The Friendly Town, an opposite number, mainly in prose, to The Open Road, with the words 'A Little Book for the Urbane'. Apart from the witticism there was much in it that was characteristic of the writer: for Lucas was not only courteous and urbane but wrote particularly for urbane readers. He studiously avoided ever being didactic, sedulously avoiding any taint of the instinct for teaching. Everything that mattered was to pass on what was 'interesting' to himself—(he actually wrote an essay on the word saying what would he do without it)—pictures, places, books (to which his numerous anthologies bear witness), not to mention the pleasures of the table, on which he could dilate, cricket, and London clubs in considerable variety. Was he not known as the six-club man? All these things definitely intrigued him. What was more, he was always ready to enter into other people's enthusiasms as well as his own, and able to transmit them to others with a lightness of touch eminently suited to a widely read column on successive Sundays. He suffered no doubt from his addiction to ephemeral journalism which was the more paying proposition open to him. His taste did...
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SOURCE: "E. V. Lucas," in Figures in the Foreground: Literary Reminiscences 1917-1940, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963, pp. 82-8.
[In the following essay, Swinnerton reflects on his personal acquaintance with Lucas.]
Friendship with Lucas, though it could be both fluent and free, called for tact. While on the surface equable, he suffered from sensitiveness which could twist a chance inattention into a deliberate affront, or an ironic comment into an accusation. Personally a wit, he belonged, I always thought, to the days of the hansom cab and the historic Café Royal; and it was unquestionable that he remembered those days, or believed he remembered them, with affection.
He had been 'reader', not indeed for John Lane, the publisher around whom Beardsley, Richard le Gallienne, and Max Beerbohm revolved, but for Grant Richards when that bold fellow went into business at the end of the 'nineties; and he claimed to have brought to the Richards list authors as diverse as Richard Whiteing (Number 5 John Street) and Ernest Bramah, who wrote The Wallet of Kai Lung. The Dumpy Books for Children, which included the immortal Little Black Sambo, were also made while he was with Richards.
Lucas spoke slowly, hardly moving his lips, in a deep voice like the meditative song of the bumble bee. His manner was benign. A smile, indulgent yet thoughtful, hardly...
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SOURCE: "E. V. Lucas: Prince of Essayists," in Calcutta Review, Vol. 1ll , No. 4, April-June, 1972, pp. 315-20.
[In the following essay, Chatterjee describes Lucas's style as an essayist]
As Virginia Woolf truly says, the essayist must know—that is the first essential—how to write. 'There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay. Somehow or other, by dint of labour or bounty of nature, or both combined, the essay must be pure—pure like water or pure like wine, but pure from dullness, deadness, and deposits of extraneous matter.' ('The Modern Essay', The Common Reader, First Series). The essays of E. V. Lucas have this purity about them, for he knows, if any-body does, how to write.
'Essay' comes from the French word for 'attempt' and is, by its very nature, tentative. It has a certain kind of incompleteness about it. But what it lacks in finality is more than compensated by the charm of the essayist. E. V. Lucas is an essayist of great charm and is distinguished for his graceful style and quiet humour.
Edward Verrall Lucas was born at Eltham in Kent on 12th June, 1868. He and the classical scholar, A. W. Verrall, belonged to the same Quaker family. After various schools at Brighton Lucas was apprenticed to a local bookseller. From 1889 to 1892 Lucas was a reporter on the Sussex Daily News. Then he was at University College, London,...
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SOURCE: "Edward Verrall Lucas," in The Charles Lamb Bulletin, No. 8, October, 1974, pp. 157-62.
[In the following essay, Prance presents an overview of Lucas's work as a writer and editor.]
On E V Lucas as a man I cannot comment because we never met, but as a writer he seems to have been an old friend for almost as long as I can remember. We have so many interests in common: old Brighton, Sussex, London, cricket, Charles Lamb and England, to say nothing of painters and picture galleries.
After a day of difficulty and stress, or even after reading a book which requires more than usual concentration, it is a relief and a relaxation to turn to one of Lucas's many volumes of delightful essays which require no particular effort to enjoy their full flavour, or even to divert the mind with one of his stories—they are not quite novels—some he called entertainments.
It was with great pride that Lucas recorded in his autobiography his feelings on reading in a letter from Lord Grey of Fallodon to his brother-in-law that he liked Listeners' Lure so much he had resolved to buy and read all that E V Lucas had ever written or would write in the future. No small undertaking, for Lucas was responsible for considerably more than 100 books. Essays, stories, travel books, art criticism, biographies, anthologies: Lucas distinguished himself in all these, as well as being...
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Prance, Claude A. E. V. Lucas and His Books. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1988, 243 p.
Annotated listing of writings by and about Lucas.
Morley, Christopher. "In Memoriam." In The Ironing Board, pp. 166-78. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1949.
Short obituary tribute to Lucas.
Swinnerton, Frank. "Literary Men: E. V. Lucas, Edward Garnett, Ford Madox Hueffer, C. E. Montague, Max Beerbohm, Middleton Murry, and Katherine Mansfield." In The Georgian Scene: A Literary Panorama, pp. 231-52. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1934.
Brief appreciation of Lucas as an author and editor.
Barnett, George Leonard. "A Critical Analysis of the Lucas Edition of Lamb's Letters." Modern Language Quarterly 9, No. 3 (September 1948): 303-14.
Presents examples of Lucas's editorial errors and omissions.
Quennell, Peter. A review of Reading, Writing, and Remembering. In Life and Letter 8, No. 44 (1932): 471-76.
Very brief, dismissive commentary on Lucas's autobiography.
Additional coverage of Lucas's life and career is contained in the following source published by Gale Research: Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 98.
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