(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Lucian Taylor, son of an Anglican rector in a rural parish, was an extraordinary lad, even before he went to school. He was both studious and reflective, so much so that he was not accepted readily by the boys of the neighborhood. When Lucian went away to school, he did very well in his studies, but he formed an acute dislike for athletics and for social life with his fellow students. In his studies, he turned toward the less material and preferred to learn of the dim Celtic and Roman days of Britain, of medieval church history, and of works in magic.

When he was fifteen years old, Lucian returned to his home during the August holidays and found it quite changed. His mother had died during the previous year, and his father’s fortunes had sunk lower and lower. As a result, his father had become exceedingly moody, and Lucian spent much of his time away from the house. His habit was to wander through the rolling countryside by himself.

One bright summer afternoon, he climbed up a steep hillside to the site of an old Roman fort. The site was at some distance from any human habitation, and Lucian felt quite alone. Because of the heat, he had an impulse to strip off his sweaty clothing and take a nap. He did, only to be awakened by someone kissing him. By the time he had fully regained his senses, the unknown person had disappeared. Lucian was not sure whether some supernatural being or Annie Morgan, daughter of a local farmer, had awakened him.

Soon afterward, Lucian went back to school. At last, the rector told his son that he could no longer afford to send him to school and that matriculation at Oxford was out of the question. Lucian was disappointed, but he settled down to studying in his father’s library or wandering about the countryside in solitary fashion as he had done during his vacations from school.

As the elder Taylor’s fortunes had declined, his popularity in the parish had diminished. Lucian’s own reputation had never been high, and his failure to take a job in some respectable business establishment turned the local gentry against him. Everyone felt that his studies and his attempts to write were foolish, since they brought in no money. Nor could the people understand Lucian’s failure to maintain their standards of respectability in dress and deportment.

Lucian, however, felt that he could stand beyond such criticism of his habits, but his self-respect suffered a blow when he tried to sell some of his writings. Publishers refused to accept his work and pointed out to him that what they wanted was sentimental fiction of a stereotyped kind. Not wishing to cheapen himself or his literary efforts, Lucian refused to turn out popular fiction of the type desired. He felt that he had to express himself in a graver kind of literature.

Lucian’s social and intellectual loneliness preyed upon him, plunging him at times into the deepest...

(The entire section is 1192 words.)