Presses Universitaires du Nouveau Monde

 

JOHN TREVENA

HIS WEST COUNTRY NOVELS

 

 

 

 

by

GERALD MONSMAN

(University of Arizona, USA)

 

Cover Design by Ector Sandoval  ©

Photo of Dartmoor (United Kingdom) by An Monsman ©

ISBN: 978-1-937030-32-2

 2013

 

Dartmoor Forest Rocks
       (2012)
      An Monsman

The English “West Country” author, Ernest Henham (1870-1948), whose pseudonym was “John Trevena,” is an ideal candidate for literary reclamation. The early critical reception of Trevena’s novels had been enthusiastic. When Furze the Cruel appeared in 1907, The Academy found Trevena “as cruel as his own Furze; he is relentless in the grim matter-of-fact horror of his art. . . It is always difficult to define what constitutes greatness in any form of art; but when greatness exists it is easy to discover. ‘Furze the Cruel’ is undoubtedly a great book.” The Dundee Advertiser prognosticated that “‘Furze the Cruel’ will rank in the forefront of modern fiction.” A reviewer in The New York Times (1908) hailed his heroines as triumphs of characterization; and a subsequent review in the same paper found Trevena “unquestionably one of the most notable of living writers,” a sentiment the paper then repeated two years later. The time is right–ambitious though it may seem–to argue that Trevena may be profitably read alongside such another West Country novelist as Thomas Hardy, although Trevena may be the more-recondite writer.

Many years ago now, Paul Jordan-Smith, the literary editor of the Los Angeles Times, said that “a full-scale ‘analysis’” of Trevena would reveal to us “one of the most painfully interesting figures of this century.” Two chapters in this critical biography explore the unusual events and turbid lineaments of his life–of which little until now has been known. The other chapters will take up a critical analysis of his most outstanding novels and some short fiction with the goal of innovative canon revision. Trevena once remarked of his readers: “We are not to meet personally, yet we cannot pass as strangers, for the intimate condition of speaker and listener is established between us. It is one of the sorrows of an author’s life, that he cannot meet those who appreciate his writings, because they are exactly the people he was meant to know.”  This study makes the case for knowing, appreciating, and adding a new “intellectual novelist” to the canon.

 

GERALD MONSMAN is Professor of English and former Head of the English Department at the University of Arizona, where he specializes in nineteenth-century British and Anglo-African literature. He has been a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and has twice won the Blackwood Prize for Fiction from Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh). In the area of South African literature, Gerald Monsman has written Olive Schreiner's Fiction: Landscape and Power (Rutgers, 1991) and H. Rider Haggard on the Imperial Frontier (ELT, 2006). Most recently he has edited several novels by Anglo-African authors as well as two hitherto unpublished short story fragments by Walter Pater.   University Press of the South published his highly acclaimed book, Colonial Voices. The Anglo-African High Romance of Empire, in 2010.

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