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the experience of reading in Britain, from 1450 to 1945...

Reading Experience Database UK Historical image of readers

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Herbert Grey


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Herbert Grey : Three Paths, The

'As you ask me for my opinion I shall try and give it as truly as I can; otherwise it will be of no use [...] In the first place you say you do not call The 3 paths a novel; but the work is in the form which always assumes that name, nor do I think it is one to be quarrelled with. I suppose you mean that you used the narrative form merely to {convey} introduce certain opinions & thoughts. If so you had better have condensed them into the shape of an Essay. Those in Friends in Council &c. are admirable examples of how much may be said on both sides of any question without any {dogma} decision being finally arrived at, & certainly without any dogmatism. [Gaskell then discusses the merits of the concise essay form] But I believe in spite of yr objection to the term 'novel' you do wish to 'narrate', - and I believe you can do it if you try, - but I think you must observe what is [italics] out [end italics] of you, instead of examining what is [italics] in [end italics] you. [Gaskell explains the merits of this at length]. Just read a few pages of De Foe &c - and you will see the healthy way in which he sets [italics] objects [end italics] not [italics] feelings [end italics] before you. [She advises Grey to use what he observes through every day contact with real people] Think if you can not imagine a complication of events in their life which would form a good plot. (Your plot in The Three paths is very poor; you have not thought enough about it - simply used it as a medium. [She discusses the advantages of tight plotting and advises] Don't intrude yourself into your description. If you but think eagerly of your story till [italics] you see it in action [end italics], words, good simple strong words will come. [she then criticises his overuse of epithets, overlong conversations and allusions, concluding] You see I am very frank-spoken. But I believe you are worth it.'

Century: 1850-1899     Reader/Listener/Group: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell      


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