Hall Caine Criticism - Essay

The Nation (essay date 1909)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of My Story, by Hall Caine, Vol. 88, No. 2280, 1909, pp. 256-57.

[In the following review, the critic offers a favorable assessment of Caine's autobiography.]

It is a curious commentary on the literary life that the one chapter of Hall Caine's memoirs [My Story] to rouse wide discussion in England was the account of his income at the beginning of his career. One would never guess, from this discussion of pounds and pence, that the heart of the book was an intimate story of Rossetti's life in that muffled house at No. 16 Cheyne Walk and of his two incursions into the country for health. These memoirs, in fact, are merely the outcome, as Mr. Caine states in his introduction, of a desire to enlarge the little volume of recollections of Rossetti published immediately after the poet's death. Mr. Caine was a young clerk in Liverpool when he first attracted Rossetti's attention by a printed lecture in support of the morals of Rossetti's verse—just then a tender point with the author. A brisk correspondence ensued, chiefly on literary topics, half of which we shall no doubt have in print some day. For Rossetti's letters are preserved and make a bulk of writing greater than all his published works. Then the younger man went to live with the elder and was at his side through all the trying months until Rossetti's death.

There is little that is new in the picture of Rossetti as we now get it. He was ailing in body, suffering from his chloral habit, convinced of a general conspiracy against him, a melancholy recluse, yet still showing on occasions those flashes of intellectual power that...

(The entire section is 688 words.)

William Morton Payne (essay date 1913)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

A review of The Woman Thou Gavest Me in The Dial, Vol. LV, No. 657, November 1, 1913, pp. 358-61.

[In the excerpt below, Payne derides Caine's novels as “slimy emotionalism, spiced as it is with bits of description as salacious as he dares to make them.”]

Mr. Hall Caine requires nearly six hundred pages in which to tell the story of Mary O’Neill, the heroine of The Woman Thou Gavest Me. One hundred would have sufficed for all the story he has to tell, but the greater number permits him to slobber over his theme in the unrestrained and nauseating fashion that somehow seems to secure him a large following of readers. He draws his support from that subterranean or submerged public that is an eternal mystery to the critical intelligence, the public that is swayed by crude emotionalism, and upon which it seems possible to inflict any form of literary atrocity without incurring its resentment. Here is a book that will probably prove a “best seller,” along with the lucubrations of Miss Corelli, Mr. Wright, and Mr. Chambers, and yet a book so offensive to anyone having the rudiments of good literary taste that its popular acceptance presents a problem in psychology that would have baffled even the comprehensive sympathies of William James. In its essence, the story seems to be a plea for the sanctity of illicit love, a brief for adultery, and an argument against the salutary laws by which church and state protect the marriage...

(The entire section is 616 words.)

P. Morton Shand (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sir Hall Caine and the Greatest Public,” in The London Mercury, Vol. XIV, No. 80, June, 1926, pp. 156-69.

[In the following essay, Shand discusses the defining characteristics of Caine's fiction.]

It is often one of the most baffling tasks for criticism to discover wherein lies the wider appeal of a book, and especially of those modern novels which, though they sell in hundreds of thousands, are usually considered rank outlaws from the province of fine literature. The problem, if not altogether new, is as recent as the coming of age of that vast body of potential readers enfranchised by the passing of the Education Acts. There have been many “popular”...

(The entire section is 7508 words.)

John Steuart (essay date 1931)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sir Hall Caine,” in The Bookman, Vol. LXXI, No. 483, December, 1931, pp. 166-67.

[In the following essay, Steuart reminisces about his relationship with Caine and assesses the author's place in contemporary English literature.]

When I first knew him Hall Caine was already in the full blaze of his remarkable popularity; that is to say, he was the most popular novelist-of the day. For a little while Miss Marie Corelli was a hot rival; but her rivalry, if exciting and spectacular, was brief. With readers in general Meredith was not in the running; nor was Hardy, at any rate until Tess unexpectedly boomed; and that was but a single success out of a series of...

(The entire section is 1292 words.)

Malcolm Elwin (essay date 1939)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chapter Nine Best Sellers: Hall Caine and Others,” in Old Gods Falling, The Macmillan Company, 1939, pp. 290-328.

[In the following excerpt, Elwin derides Caine's work for its “morbid gloom, sentimentality, and sanctimony.”]

Symons's definition of symbolism, “a representation which does not aim at being a reproduction,” could easily be distorted into Haggard's working axiom that impossibility does not matter, “provided it is made to appear possible.” George Moore's pro-Zola campaign in the ’eighties, and the trend of Hardy's work, suggested an imminent adoption of realism in fiction, but the banning of Zola placed realism definitely beyond...

(The entire section is 4836 words.)

N. N. Feltes (essay date 1993)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Process of Literary Capital in the 1890's: Caine, Corelli, and Bennett,” in Literary Capital and the Late Victorian Novel, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1993, pp. 103-39.

[In the following essay, Feltes places Caine within the literary context of early twentieth-century English romance authors.]

[Despite the] empirical details of publishing history and literary ideology, the meanings of these materials clearly do not reside in them, there for the picking; their “meaning,” … is dialectical, symptomatic of determinate historical processes. From time to time, following Bourdieu, I have introduced “objectivist” generalizations,...

(The entire section is 16172 words.)