Queed is an excellent novel for class study. From the time of its first appearance, it has received a full measure of appreciation from critics and readers as an example of modern American fiction at its best. It has won for itself a permanent place among works of recognized excellence, and, as such, is worthy of careful study. For these reasons, Queed is now included in the Riverside Literature Series with full teaching equipment.
To adapt the phrases of one of its earliest reviewers, Queed may be described as a “capital newspaper story with a dash of practical politics thrown in; a sympathetic picture of the development of the New South, with one of her gayest, brightest, bravest daughters as heroine; a leisurely, fascinating love-story, with not a single questionable suggestion or problem on one of the pages; a story of an odd and original character, developing an intensely narrow young student of sociology into a hero better entitled to the name that ninety-nine out of a hundred that one meets with in modern fiction.”
There are two objectives toward which the teacher must direct the pupil in his study of Queed. The first of these is pleasure in the story itself. With this end in view there should be fostered a constantly growing appreciation of the skill which the author has shown in handling situation, iv character, setting, and of his understanding of men and women as shown in dialogue and descriptions.
The second objective to be sought is the development of an intelligent understanding of the growth and structure of a novel. The pupil should study the influence of environment and the play of motives as they affect the growth or deterioration of character, and see for himself how the author molds a compact plot into which each situation and character fits perfectly with a definite purpose. The technique of the novel should be discussed briefly so that the pupil may become familiar with such terms as plot, suspense, climax, characterization, setting, and local color, and be able to use them accurately in his own critical comments.
The history of the novel as a literary form will be found valuable in placing Queed in its proper literary background. The pupil who understands the general development of this form of fiction will regard each novel he reads as an illustration of the general type rather than as an isolated story having no relation to any other he has read. This knowledge of literary form and history lends unity to the pupil’s whole reading program. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that it should never become so burdensome as to dwarf the story that is being read.
Finally, Queed offers the discerning teacher an opportunity to show pupils the relation of fiction to life and the ennobling possibilities of a good story. Such a story kindles in its readers worthy emotions, quickens their understanding of different types of people, and gives them clear pictures of places that they might otherwise never know. This enrichment of life is the great function of creative literature.
After his graduation from the University, young Harrison assisted as a teacher in the Latin School until his father’s death, which occurred three years later. The family now moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Henry found himself able to gratify his desire to enter business. He went into partnership with a man who was manufacturing bamboo furniture. The enterprise lasted about a year, cost a great deal of money, and cured Mr. Harrison of all liking for a business life.
At this time, Mr. John Steward Bryan, whose family owned the Richmond Times-Dispatch, invited the young man to join the staff of that paper as a book reviewer, and Harrison accepted the invitation. He included in his field of activities the writing of verses and saucy squibs for the paragrapher’s column. Before long, however, he was writing editorials, and soon he was devoting all his time to that task.
In November, 1908, at the reorganization of the newspaper staff, he was appointed chief editorial writer. This was a desirable position, but two years later Harrison resigned from it. He had long wished to write books, and now vi at length he decided to give himself a trial in authorship. His impulse to write had come early. At nineteen he had sold a short story to the New York Sunday Herald, and a year or two later two of his stories had been accepted by the Editor’s Drawer Department of Harper’s. He now moved to Charlestown, West Virginia; in that ancient and aristocratic town his mother, brother, and sister were already residing. His efforts to establish himself as a writer bore fruit in 1911, when his first novel, Queed, appeared; he was instantly hailed as the most promising of the twentieth-century American authors.
When Harrison was writing Angela’s Business, he planned to take a vacation as soon as the work was done. But when that time came, in 1915, the Great War was in full swing, and instead of going off on a holiday the writer entered the service of the Red Cross, driving an American ambulance in France and Belgium for six months. His experiences as an ambulance driver are recorded in letters to his friends. From 1917 until 1919, after America’s entry into the conflict, he was a member of the Naval Reserve Force.
Mr. Harrison is not the long-haired, eccentric author of tradition. He is a practical, up-to-date Southern gentleman, a bachelor, with a pleasant manner and a winning personality. Tennis, golf, and motoring are among his favorite diversions, and one of his most striking attributes is a distinct modesty on the subject of his own literary ability. Harrison is a firm believer in optimism as a constructive force, and to those pessimists who see nothing lovely in the ordinary world he maintains stoutly that, beyond doubt, beauty and enjoyment are to be found all through everyday life and among human relationships. In common with many other Southerners he belongs to the Episcopal Church and the Democratic party. His present home is a 59 Gramercy Park, New York City. In that great city of writers he is a member of the Century and Players Clubs and of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Harrison is best known as a novelist, although from time vii to time he has published short stories in magazines. He sprang from obscurity in 1911 with Queed — one “of the finest achievements,” it has been called, “in the whole history of first novels.” The book was written in a little over four months, the author working eight hours a day every day in the week. That record testifies how much splendid work can be accomplished in a few months by this author when he sets himself determinedly to the task. In the same year Captivating Mary Carstairs was published under a pseudonym; the book had been accepted shortly after Queed was in the hands of the publishers. It is a unique novelist who has two “first novels” to his credit. In 1913 appeared V.V.’s Eyes, a dramatic and convincing story. Since then there has been a succession of novels from his pen: Angela’s Business (1915), When I Come Back (1919), Saint Teresa (1922), and Andrew Bride of Paris (1925).
Harrison ranks high among contemporary novelists. He is a skillful story-teller, constructing his plots well, and handling every detail with exquisite care. His interpretation of character in all its phases of emotion is remarkable for its penetration and its sympathetic insight. He writes with freshness, originality, and spontaneous charm. His humor is lively and wholesome, and the purity of his English style is refreshing in a generation when the written word fares badly at the hands of many authors. While some of his later novels vary in the degree of their excellence, Harrison never fails to command and hold the attention of the reading public.
His first novel, Queed, has won for itself a permanent place among works of literary merit. Pathos and humor mingle as the story progresses logically and naturally against a delightful background of the New South. Queed, the quaint central figure, is conceived with striking originality. The reader follows with interest the spiritual development of the narrow young sociologist whom Sharlee Weyland called “the saddest little man in the world.” It is safe to maintain that long after much of our contemporary fiction viii has gone its evanescent way, Henry Sydnor Harrison’s Queed will be remembered with pleasure and admiration. The book has literary qualities that cannot perish.
Before the novel reached its present form of a prose narrative, in which the three elements of plot, character, and setting are mingled with varying degrees of emphasis, it passed through several centuries of development. In the Middle Ages these elements of the novel were found, in a confused and indistinct mass without the important element of form, in the popular romances. The romance was a highly imaginative, and usually most impossible, story of ideal love and extraordinary adventure. Of these popular romances, the stories of chivalry, such as are found in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, were the most significant because they grew to express national ideals and characteristics. There arose among writers a tendency to make the heroes of such tales more like the people of the period in which the author or story-teller lived. This is especially noticeable in the English stories of King Arthur and his knights, for the Anglo-Saxon mind gave these stories a natural setting and centered them about a national figure. There is evidence of this increasing realism, too, in the tales of Robin Hood, which reflect the lives of the common people. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the tendency toward realism is further ix seen, for in these the characters are eminently true to life, and the time and customs are clearly pictured. Chaucer’s effort to produce a connected plot adds interest not only to the individual Tales but to the whole sequence.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the idea of the novel developed. More’s Utopia (1516) and Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627) -- both of which discuss social conditions and picture an ideal land -- while not really novels, are interesting because they make use of a story to teach a lesson and to bring about reforms. This is, of course, an important device of the modern problem novel. Influences from other countries crept in, too. From Italy came an interest in pastoral settings -- reflected in Sidney’s Arcadia (1580) -- and in plot, as shown in Lodge’s Rosalynde, from which Shakespeare drew material for As You Like It. From Spain came the picaresque novel, the story of the adventures of a rogue or of some other scoundrel, which developed a much greater interest in incidents than in character; this form of literature was the forerunner of the modern adventure story, which is not a novel in the true sense. The influence of the picaresque novel is seen in the works of Nash (sixteenth century) and of Smollett (eighteenth century). There was also at this period a tendency toward the historical novel; it is easy to trace in some of the stories of the time the attempt to introduce scenes or events taken from history. In the Puritan Age special emphasis was laid on character, and most of the stories that appeared then had a moral purpose. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) shows keen insight into character and emphasizes the struggles of human life and the importance of the individual.
The eighteenth century was a period of tremendous vitality, for in that period the modern novel made its real beginning. By a novel we mean a tale in which the elements of plot, character, and setting are combined to relate, with fidelity to nature, the story of a human life, and in which the stress is laid not on adventure for adventure’s sake, but on the men and women characters in all their realistic struggles x and reactions. In the early part of this century the growing interest in character and life was clearly evidenced by the sketches written for the Tatler and the Spectator by Addison and Steele -- sketches that show English country life as it really was in the eighteenth century and that give us the unforgettable figure of Sir Roger de Coverley, the typical English country gentleman of that era. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, often credited with being the first real novel, is largely an adventure story, but, because it is extraordinarily faithful to real life and reflects the morals of the middle class of Defoe’s day, it marks an advance from the idealism of the romance toward the realism of the modern novel. With the appearance of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, in 1740, the modern novel had its true beginning. This novel, in the form of an endless series of letters (four volumes) about the life of a young girl, though oversentimental and slow in movement, lays stress on character development and shows the author’s understanding of the human heart. It was read by all classes, and it aroused an eager interest in literature and in the life of the individual human being. Other writers seized upon this idea of picturing realistic men and women. Fielding (Joseph Andrews, 1742), Smollett (Roderick Random, 1748), and Sterne (Tristram Shandy, 1760-67), in their coarse but vivid pictures of the age, contributed much to the early growth of the novel. Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield, which appeared in 1766, showed a marked development in story form and introduced into the novel a refining and elevating influence. This tale combines sentimentalism and humor, handles form artistically, and extols the sacredness of simple family life. In Dr. Primrose, with his strong, unshaken faith in God and man, Goldsmith gave us a character that will live indefinitely.
In the nineteenth century, the novel as a form of literature reached a high point of development. Conforming with the general trend of the age, it had a definite purpose -- to depict life with realism and at the same time offer a solution for many moral and social problems. Much attention was xi paid to plot structure and to the development of character; the fiction of the day not only presented a broad and complex picture of the life of the period, but also exercised a great influence in guiding public opinion. At the beginning of the century the romantic revival in poetry found expression in the novel also, when in 1814 Scott brought out Waverley, the first of a succession of romantic historical novels. Scott blended realism with romanticism by peopling his stories of the past not with vague creatures of the imagination, like those that filled the old romances, but with living men and women, and by making the setting of the novel an important element in the action. Faulty as his works may be, he was able to establish the historical novel as a permanent literary type. Under his influence nearly every writer of the nineteenth century attempted at least one historical novel. Quite different from Scott was Jane Austen, who did much to bring the novel back to realism and to make it an exponent of human life. Her range of subjects was limited to the narrow fields of the country parish, but her novels, of which Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the greatest, reflect with delicate humor and matchless charm the characters and feelings of persons of that day in the ordinary walks of life. The so-called problem novel was developed by Charles Dickens (1812-70), who used this device as an agent of reform. Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Pickwick Papers, and the historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, exhibit strikingly the author’s blending of humor and seriousness, his picturesque style, his method of caricature, and his genius in handling well a large number of characters. These books reflect, too, the developing humanitarian interests of the century. Dickens was by no means alone in the field of the problem novel. While he wrought improvements by drawing attention to the sufferings of the lower classes, William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63) called attention with the utmost frankness to the life of the upper classes, depicting its evils with no uncertain touch. Vanity Fair, Pendennis, and The Newcomes express genial but satirical views of the xii social life about him, and Henry Esmond, an excellent historical novel and his most beautiful work, reproduces with great exactness the manners and the language of the period represented. This tendency to analyze life was followed still further by George Eliot (1819-80); her novels not only depict the manners of the time but describe the struggles of the human soul. Her style is best exemplified in Silas Marner, a novel which clearly reveals her realistic touch in drawing scenes and characters, her psychological interest in the analysis of character and motives, and her power of pointing out a moral by depicting the inevitable consequences of man’s act.
The other novelists of this century reflect to a great degree the influences of the writers already mentioned. Dickens’s influence is seen in the work of Charles Reade, who is best known for his historical novel The Cloister and the Hearth. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope, is a reflection of Thackeray, whose influence in painting realistic pictures of life among the upper classes is also seen in Charlotte Bront‘’s Jane Eyre. Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii, and Kingsley’s Westward Ho!, in portraying history through the novel are suggestive of Scott’s work. In Mary Barton Mrs. Gaskell uses the novel as Dickens did, to bring about social reform; while her Cranford gives us a delightful picture of small-town affairs comparable with those scenes painted by Jane Austen. George Meredith, who belongs to the twentieth century as well, evinces in his work the same interest in psychology that George Eliot showed in hers, though not Eliot’s power of handling tragedy or her naturalness in drawing character. Thomas Hardy, who belongs even more to the twentieth century than Meredith, is a powerful but gloomy realist who uses his backgrounds as a strong element in his study of character and development of plot. The romanticism of Scott was revived at the end of the century in Blackmore’s Lorna Doone and the delightful romances of Robert Louis Stevenson.
In the twentieth century the novel has continued to be an xiii outstanding form of literature and to achieve great popularity among all classes of readers. There is no longer a fine distinction made between romanticism and realism. An author may combine both methods if he will. There is today, perhaps, a particularly strong tendency to depict the life of the common people; this tendency is an outgrowth of the humanitarian movement which began in the nineteenth century. Problem novels abound. At the same time the historical novel, of the type that Sabatini has been writing during the past few years, has become tremendously popular, and has roused an interest in romantic tales which is encouraged and fostered by the moving-picture industry.
There are to-day many prosperous writers who are turning out, with great versatility and enthusiasm, works of fiction which cannot always be classified as novels in the truest sense. The old picaresque novel has appeared again in the countless numbers of adventure stories which are at present popular with many readers. No books comparable to the enduring works of the nineteenth-century novelists are being produced. The reason may be that this age is so full of feverish hustle and bustle and of demand for quick work that there is no time for the leisurely creation of what is enduringly artistic.
It is very hard to select from among the writers of this period those who may achieve permanent fame. Much interesting work is being done, and many tendencies of the nineteenth century are finding expression in the work of our present-day authors. At the beginning of the century the romantic revival evidenced in Stevenson’s work led to the production of a number of historical romances -- such, for example, as Stanley Weyman’s Under the Red Robe and Mary Johnston’s To Have and to Hold. After that came a return to realism and the study of character. Joseph Vance, by De Morgan (1906), written in the autobiographical form employed by Thackeray in Henry Esmond, gives an authentic representation of life and character that reminds us of Dickens’s novels, and in its minute observation and developxivment of character recalls those of Thackeray and Trollope. John Galsworthy, best known for his Forsyte Saga, analyzes human emotions and, in the manner of Dickens and Thackeray, attacks through his works the landed estates and property-owners. Joseph Conrad has followed in Stevenson’s footsteps with powerful and realistic stories of the sea -- Typhoon and The Nigger of the Narcissus. Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence shows life in New York during the eighties in much the same way that Thackeray depicted society of his time in Vanity Fair. Arnold Bennett’s The Old Wives’ Tale is convincingly realistic and is permeated with a depressing atmosphere that is characteristic of some of the realistic novels of to-day. H. G. Wells, the reformer and philosopher, has turned out scientific romances which carry on the humanitarian purpose of the novel as it was employed by Dickens.
Harrison’s Queed offers a fine example of the development of the modern novel. This story has an excellent plot, a factor often lacking in novels of to-day. The author’s grasp of human psychology is strongly shown in the way he analyzes his characters and shows their development under the stress of circumstances. In this respect the book resembles George Eliot’s Silas Marner. Harrison’s interest in the individual is clearly an outcome of the tendency to observe characters that took its rise early in the eighteenth century. The exact reproduction here of the manners and spirit of the New South reminds the reader irresistibly of Thackeray’s art in Henry Esmond. Again, in blending the plot of his novel with the background, Harrison makes use of the method developed by the great historical novelists of the nineteenth century.
Here have been mentioned but a few of the present-day writers who show tendencies of the past. While we are too near the twentieth century, and too much engrossed in it, to see its literature in a fair perspective, its ever-increasing list of splendid books furnishes the student with interesting material for studying the development of the novel.