Frank Swinnerton H. W. Boynton - Essay

H. W. Boynton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Nocturne] is neither grey nor gay, neither realism in its docket nor romance in its pigeon-hole. It is a book of fact but also of arrangement, of insight as well as observation; of dramatic action as well as sympathy. In short, it is a work of imaginative art, holding its magic mirror (and not a mere reflector) up to nature. To this roundness and fulness within its slender bounds [H. G.] Wells is paying tribute when he writes to Mr. Bennett, "You know, Arnold, he achieves a perfection in Nocturne that you and I never get within streets of." Mr. Wells enlarges upon his enthusiasm in his Introduction. "This is a book that will not die," he concludes. "It is perfect, authentic, and alive." Authentic or artistic—we may use either word in the effort to express our sense of this story as "the real thing." But I think the main point, which does not seem to be altogether clear to Mr. Wells, is that this is the real thing as a story. The Cockney family: Jenny, the milliner's girl; Emmy, the domestic slave; Pa Blanchard, the paralytic remnant of a reckless fellow … Alf, the vague satellite…. These people with their dingy surroundings fairly offer themselves to the grey method of a Gissing or the jaunty method of a Bennett or the inquisitive method of a Wells. The Swinnerton method is none of these. It is the method of the interpreter who frankly makes truth salient by his skilful manipulation of facts. Here, for example, it is his...

(The entire section is 460 words.)