The Old Madhouse

The Old Madhouse

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HERE we have 'a De Morgan, ' as all competent judges would sagely affirm if this posthumous novel were a picture in a gallery. That is to say, it is quite satisfyingly just what one expects from the pen that wrote the others, from Joseph Vance to When Ghost Meets Ghost - always excepting An Affair of Dishonor, which is a thing apart, and seems almost to have been its author's notable tour de force to prove that he was not, after all, so helplessly mid-Victorian as he was said to be. The Old Madhouse is one more application of the lavish and perennially unfailing De Morgan formula. A mystery suspended through almost the whole extent of the narrative; a house with a touch of the sinister about it; some pairs of young lovers, not too wisely assorted to begin with; some young persons who think their parents are children, and some parents who think their children will never grow up; a hint of science and invention; a hint of ghostly visitation; an absentminded and facetious professor; a young girl who is all athletics and sense, another who is all languor and seductiveness and danger; a baby; a dachshund; a bit of good-humored satire on the pompousness of institutions, Scotland Yard for instance; the proper number of Cockney grotesques, suitably deaf or tipsy or lazy or bellicose -- these are some of the typical ingredients. More important, they are all alike suspended in a rich warm solution of the De Morgan humaneness, edged with the De Morgan whimsicality, and tinctured with the De Morgan humor -- a humor shading oil' at one side into grimness and at the other into pathos. The Old Madhouse is hardly the greatest book in its own kind, but it is inferior only as Hard Times is inferior to Dombey and Son. No one else could have written anything like it. Shortly after Mr. De Morgan died, there was printed a whimsical attempt to express the quality of his genius by addressing to him a remonstrance on his never having undertaken to furnish the missing conclusions of Denis Duvaland The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The Old Madhouse is his own Duval, his own Drood, completed only in the detailed synopsis of the closing chapters which Mrs. De Morgan was able to supply. His failure quite to bring it to an end himself is the final and capping evidence of his kinship with the Victorians. Their task was to get all of themselves wrought out while yet there was light - and it was a task in which they were foredoomed to failure because they were inexhaustible selves. They were bound to leave unfinished books; and the unfinished books were bound to express them as perfectly as their finished ones. It was simply a matter of so much more Dickens, or Thackeray, or De Morgan. The novel of this generation, which is 'art, ' expresses nothing whatever until it is done. Incomplete, it is like a wheel before the rim is on; it can get you nowhere. But the great Victorian novels, including De Morgan's, are at every point like a woven fabric, which is as definitive of the weaver in any one square inch as in the length of a whole Bayeux tapestry. The warp and the woof of De Morgan's achievement was the spontaneous expression of himself. No English writer in this century has done so much to take the novel away from dilettanti and give it back to the public; to rescue it, in Mr. Wells' words, from 'the posings and pretensions of "art," and restore it to literature.' -The Atlantic, Volume 124 [1919]show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 572 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 32.77mm | 948g
  • Createspace
  • United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 1507723075
  • 9781507723074