The Green Mouse

Robert W. Chambers

       It was Mr. Chambers himself who wrote of the caprices of the Mystic Three--Fate, Chance, and Destiny--and how it frequently happened that a young man "tripped over the maliciously extended foot of Fate and fell plump into the open arms of Destiny." Perhaps it was due to one of the pranks of the mystic sisters that Mr. Chambers himself should lay down his brush and palette and take up the pen. Mr. Chambers studied art in Paris for seven years. At twenty-four his paintings were accepted at the Salon; at twenty-eight he had returned to New York and was busy as an illustrator for Life, Truth, and other periodicals. But already the desire to write was coursing through him. The Latin Quarter of Paris, where he had studied so long, seemed to haunt him; he wanted to tell its story. So he did write the story and, in 1893, published it under the title of "In the Quarter." The same year he published another book, "The King in Yellow," a grewsome tale, but remarkably successful. The easel was pushed aside; the painter had become writer. 

      Writing of Mr. Chambers's novel of last fall 
      in The Bookman, Dr. Frederic Taber Cooper said, "In this last field (the society novel) it would seem as though Mr. Chambers had, at length, found himself; and the fact that the last of the four books is the best and most sustained and most honest piece of work he has yet done affords solid ground for the belief that he has still better and maturer volumes yet to come. There is no valid reason why Mr. Chambers should not ultimately be remembered as the novelist who left behind him a comprehensive human comedy of New York." 
      This is another novel of society life like "The Fighting Chance" and "The Firing Line." The chief characters in the story are a boy and a girl, inheritors of a vast fortune, whose parents are dead, and who have been left in the guardianship of a large Trust Company. They are brought up with no companions of their own age and are a unique pair when turned out, on coming of age, into New York society--two children educated by a great machine, possessors of fabulous wealth, with every inherited instinct for good and evil set free for the first time. The fact that the girl has acquired the habit of dropping a little cologne on a lump of sugar and nibbling it when tired or depressed gives an indication of the struggle that the children have before them, a struggle of their own, in the midst of their luxurious surroundings, more vital, more real, perhaps, than any that Mr. Chambers has yet depicted. It is a tense, powerful, highly dramatic story, handling a delicate subject without offense to the taste or the judgment of the most critical reader. 

      Mr. Chambers's third novel of society life is 
      Its scenes are laid principally at Palm Beach, and no more distinct yet delicately tinted picture of an American fashionable resort, in the full blossom of its brief, recurrent glory, has ever been drawn. In this book, Mr. Chambers's purpose is to show that the salvation of society lies in the constant injection of new blood into its veins. His heroine, the captivating Shiela Cardross, of unknown parentage, yet reared in luxury, suddenly finds herself on life's firing line, battling with one of the most portentous problems a young girl ever had to face. Only a master writer could handle her story; Mr. Chambers does it most successfully. 

      is the second of Mr. Chambers's society novels. It takes the reader into the swirling society life of fashionable New York, there to wrestle with that ever-increasing evil, the divorce question. As a student of life, Mr. Chambers is thorough; he knows society; his pictures are so accurate that he enables the reader to imbibe the same atmosphere as if he had been born and brought up in it. Moreover, no matter how intricate the plot may be or how great the lesson to be taught, the romance in the story is always foremost. For "The Younger Set," Mr. Chambers has provided a hero with a rigid code of honor and the grit to stick to it, even though it be unfashionable and out of date. He is a man whom everyone would seek to emulate. 

      The earliest of Mr. Chambers's society novels is 
      It is the story of a young man who has inherited with his wealth a craving for liquor, and a girl who has inherited a certain rebelliousness and a tendency toward dangerous caprice. The two, meeting on the brink of ruin, fight out their battles--two weaknesses joined with love to make a strength. 
      It is sufficient to say of this novel that more than five million people have read it. It has taken a permanent place among the best fiction of the period. 

      is the title of Mr. Chambers's novel just preceding "The Danger Mark." It is the romance of a young woman spy and scout in the Civil War. As a special messenger in the Union service, she is led into a maze of critical situations, but her coolness and bravery and winsome personality always carry her on to victory. The story is crowded with dramatic incident, the roar of battle, the grim realities of war; and, at times, in sharp contrast, comes the tenderest of romance. It is written with an understanding and sympathy for the viewpoint of the partisans on both sides of the conflict. 

      is a novel of the Revolutionary War. It is the fourth, chronologically, of a series of which "Cardigan" and "The Maid-at-Arms" were the first two. The third has not yet been written. These novels of New York in the Revolutionary days are another striking example of the enthusiasm which Mr. Chambers puts into his work. To write an accurate and successful historical novel, one must be a historian as well as a romancer. Mr. Chambers is an authority on New York State history during the Colonial period. And, if the hours spent in poring over old maps and reading up old records and journals do not show, the result is always apparent. The facts are not obtrusive, but they are there, interwoven in the gauzy woof of the artist's imagination. That is why these romances carry conviction always, why we breathe the very air of the period as we read them. 

      Another splendid example of the author's versatility is this farcical, humorous satire on the art nouveau of to-day, Mr. Chambers, with all his knowledge of the artistic jargon, has in this little novel created a pious fraud of a father, who brings up his eight lovely daughters in the Adirondacks, where they wear pink pajamas and eat nuts and fruit, and listen to him while he lectures them and everybody else on art. It is easy to imagine what happens when several rich and practical young New Yorkers stumble upon this group. Everybody is happy in the end. 

      One might run on for twenty books more, but there is not space enough more than to mention "The Tracer of Lost Persons," "The Tree of Heaven," "Some Ladies in Haste," and Mr. Chambers's delightful nature books for children, telling how Geraldine and Peter go wandering through "Outdoor-Land," "Mountain-Land," "Orchard-Land," "River-Land," "Forest- Land," and "Garden-Land."  They, in turn, are as different from his novels in fancy and conception as each of his novels from the other. 
      Mr. Chambers is a born optimist. The labor of writing is a natural enjoyment to him. In reading anything he has written, one is at once impressed with the ease with which it moves along. There is no straining after effects, no affectations, no hysteria; but always there is a personality, an individuality that appeals to the best side of the reader's nature and somehow builds up a personal relation between him and the author. Perhaps it is this consummate skill, this remarkable ability to win the reader that has enabled Mr. Chambers to increase his audience year after year, until it now numbers millions; and it is only just that critics should, as they frequently do, proclaim him "the most popular writer in the country." 


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