New Grub Street
There had been three Yule brothers. John, the oldest, had gone into a profitable paper manufacturing business; he abhorred the relatively impoverished state of his brother Alfred, a writer. Edmund Yule, the third brother, died, leaving only a small income to his wife, his daughter Amy, and his son John. Amy married Edwin Reardon, a man with much promise as a writer but who had little success after his first book. Jasper Milvain was Edwin’s friend. Jasper spent most of his time writing small pieces for different publications and making friends among people who counted in the world of letters. He believed, as Amy did, that Edwin would some day become financially successful in his work.
Alfred Yule had married a poor woman of a lower class. Her limited education and intelligence made her a drawback to his career. An unfortunate quarrel with an editor named Fadge had caused Alfred to hate Fadge and those associated with him. When Jasper Milvain accepted his first literary appointment from Fadge, Alfred did not want to invite the young man to call at his home in London, although Marian, his daughter, wished him to do so.
Jasper’s mother died, leaving his two sisters, Dora and Maud, with no means of support; so Jasper brought the girls to live with him in London. When his sisters arrived in London, Jasper called at Alfred Yule’s home to ask Marian if she would become friends with them. Marian was happy to meet Dora and Maud, as she had no close friends of her own.
Because of her calls on his sisters, Jasper was able to see Marian frequently. Dora and Maud were aware of their brother’s selfishness, and they viewed their new friend’s affection toward Jasper with trepidation. He was looking for a rich wife to support him while he made his way in the world of letters. If Marian suspected Jasper’s mercenary motives, she did not admit them to herself. Her great sorrow was that her father hated Jasper along with his enemy, Fadge. Edwin Reardon’s personality was such that he succumbed easily to adversity. Amy loved her husband; when he became discouraged, she tried to push him back to work. Edwin became irritable and depended more and more for inspiration on Amy’s love. They began to quarrel until they spoke few civil words to each other.
One day, Amy and Edwin realized that they would be starving within a month, for there was no hope that Edwin could produce a profitable story in time to save them. Edwin felt he could no longer write. He had been a clerk in a charitable institution before his marriage and now resumed his former occupation as a means of saving himself from ruin, both spiritual and financial. Amy was furious to think her husband would degrade himself by accepting the position of a mere clerk. She had believed that she had married a clever writer; as a clerk, Edwin did not appeal to her. Finally, they parted. Amy returned to her mother’s home, and Edwin assumed his clerical job.
Jasper hesitated to become too much involved with Marian Yule. Although he found her well-suited to himself in temperament and intellect, he could not marry her because she was poor. Suddenly, fortune fell upon all these confused people. John Yule died, leaving a large sum of money to his nieces, Amy and Marian. Jasper immediately proposed to Marian. Convincing herself that Jasper’s proposal came from the love he bore her rather than from her new wealth, Marian promised to marry him. Her greatest problem was to reconcile Alfred to his future son-in-law.
Amy was so stunned by the money that John had left her that at first she failed to realize her problems were at an end. The legacy would make it possible for her to return to Edwin, who could now write with no fear of poverty resulting from literary failure. Edwin, however, refused her aid. First, he was sure he had lost his ability to write. Second, his pride would not allow him to accept Amy’s kindness, since he felt he had lost her love. His health broke. When he retired at last to his bed because of a serious congestion in his lungs, he would not allow his friends to tell Amy of his condition. He did not want her to come to him out of pity or through a sense of duty.
Marian soon saw Jasper’s love put to a test when she learned that because of unfortunate investments she could receive only a small part of the original inheritance. Hearing the news, Jasper said they should not consider marriage until he could establish himself. Meanwhile, Alfred Yule learned his eyesight was failing; in a short while, he would be blind and incapable of earning enough money to support his wife and his daughter. Planning to retire to a small institution with his wife, he called Marian to him and told her that henceforth she must try to earn her own income in anticipation of the time when he could no longer support her.
Edwin received a telegram from Amy, asking him to come to her immediately because their son, Willie, was sick. Edwin went back to his wife. The two, in their sorrow over their son’s ill health, were reconciled. Willie died, and Amy went with Edwin to nurse him in his own illness. His last few days were lightened by her cheerfulness and devotion. Jasper’s situation became more uncomfortable; without her money, Marian was a luxury impossible for him to contemplate. While his sister Dora disdainfully looked on, Jasper secretly proposed to another woman of his acquaintance, a woman who had both money and connections. When the woman refused his proposal, Jasper went to Marian and insisted that she marry him immediately. Marian’s blind father was now totally dependent upon her for support, so Jasper hoped to break the engagement by forcing Marian to make a decision between him and her parents. Marian desperately tried to hold the love she had always imagined that Jasper had for her. At last, however, she saw him as he really was and broke their engagement.
A posthumous publication of the works of Edwin Reardon occasioned a very...
(The entire section is 2455 words.)