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BOOKS AND BOOKMEN

"The Wife of Sir Isaac Hanran.' By H. G. Wells. London: Macmillan and Co.

It is exciting to open a new novel by Mr H. G. Wells, even in times of war, for he has a knack of never repeating his main theme, while, on the other hand, remaining so very much himself that all hia books become "linked into one work. In this new novel, which is far from faultless, and much inferior,to each works as 'Tono Bungay' and 'The New Machiavelli,' which made Mr Wells's reputation, he retrieves n good deal of the ground he lost after publishing 'Marriage' and, especially. 'The Passionate Friends.' Those two were the work of a, tired man, and for a moment it was to be feared that Mr Wells had come to the end of his tother; but 'The Wife of Sir Isaac Barman' shows that this was only a moment of sterility. Sir Isaac, who has made an enormous fortune in the teashop trade, is in possession of a beautiful wife whom ho idohees, but controls as closely .is if sha were a prize .Pekinese. Her letters are opened; her friendships are censored; chauffeur and servants set as guards. But Lady Harman, after having given Sir Isaac four children, seems suddenly to wake up, owing to a certain extent to the influence of Mi- Brumley, a novelist, and of some of his queer friends. She takes an interest in suffrage; she goes out alone to lunch, defying bix Isaac: revolt of woman. This, of course, ends in a frightful clash with her tyrant, and matter!* arc not improved when"Lady Harman, little by little, begins to realise*that her fortune is reared upon tho sweated labor of ill-housed, ill-fed teagirls. The crisis comes when, as a sort of protest, Lady Ilarman breaks a window in a post office a>nd goes to gaol for a month. She wins. Sir Isaac, unable to control his wife and at tho same time retain the affection shs gives him, surrenders, and the rest of the book is concerned with Lady Harman desperately trying to make hostels for her tea-girls—homes and not institutions. She is not very successful, even though Mr Brumley helps her, for the systems of the world are very strong. Besides, with inimitable fairness, Mr Wells shows that there is quite a good deal of vu'garity, narrowness, and other ugly traits in tho people she wants to help; indeed, this impartiality is the best part of the book, bir Isaao is a brute, but still he is a leader: ho can do things that aniiable people cannot do. Likewise Lady Harman, with all her sweetness and her charm, must face her own igmorancc and weakness. As foe Mr Brumley, he is a strange and not very successful' figure. Beginning as one of those humorous and sentimental ncvelists in which modern England is ttill rich, the love ho bears Lady Harman develops i:i him a social sense, until, at the end, he is a thoroughgoing reformer who talbi Wellsism by ths yard. It is not very convincing; a man who. in Mr Wells's beautiful phrase, produced writings that were a sort of tigleaf placed over tho world, can hardly evolve m> much even by loving. And Mr Wells, especially in the first hundred pages, pokes too much firci at his characters; anxious to be fair to them, ho makes them rather too absurd. One laughs, but somehow one regrets the days when Mr Wells was still a very serious young man; nowadays his novel "suggests frivolous middle-age. Ho is as wide as over and far more just than he was seven or eight years ago, but, then, those of us who are human are not perhaps much in love with justice. Amusing and stimulating as 'Tho Wife of Sir Isaac Harman' is, one cannot help hoping that tho man who to-day.*asily stands first in English literature .may once again treat one of the great'themes that he alone knows how to handle. The European War, and its great reactions, may very well inspire him to this in a few years. W. L. Gkokgk.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141219.2.77

Bibliographic details

BOOKS AND BOOKMEN, Issue 15680, 19 December 1914

Word Count
689

BOOKS AND BOOKMEN Issue 15680, 19 December 1914

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