Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle, Part I

April 22, 2019

Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle  Part I

G.W.M. Reynolds and Charles Dickens

The study of social progress is today no less needed in literature than is the analysis of the human heart. We live in an age of universal investigation and exploration of the sources of all movements. France, for example loves at the same time history and drama, because the one explores the vast destinies of humanity, and the other the individual lot of man. These embrace the whole of life. But it is the province of religion, of philosophy, of pure poetry only, to go beyond life, beyond time, into eternity.

Alfred de Vigny, Cinq Mars, 1826

I have reached the time in life when it’s time to travel back through the years to review my life. While my corporeal years are few compared to eternity my mental psychological and historical life goes back thousands of years but more specifically the last three or four hundred. I am no St. Germain, I don’t claim to have actually experienced those earlier centuries but I have made an attempt to recreate them in my mind. Looking back I find that mankind has made no emotional progress. As my ancestors were so am I, so are we all. If one can’t empathize and sympathize with them one is being snobbish.

I don’t mean to bore you with a mere lineal presentation to the evolution of the human, specifically the European mind, over three centuries. I intend to roam back and forth linking and combining.

In today’s mental climate some may be furious that I would specify the European mind but it is the mind in which my own mind has developed. I have little empathy for the Asian mind, for instance, except as represented by the European experience of it. Nor am I particularly interested in learning another racial mindset when there is so much to be learned of my own.

As a base of reference I have chosen the 1840s and 1850s, a time of great discoveries just before the Darwinian and psychological explosions that were a quantum leap from the past to the present. A leap which in my own time we are in the midst of experiencing. The future will bear little resemblance to the past.   Western Civilization is on the brink of extinction and has no desire to live. The Asian mindset seems poised to be its replacement. Both the US and Europe are on the brink of disintegration. Asian hordes are at the door and breaking it down. Kaiser Wilhelm was right about the Yellow Peril. Thus, it seems that I’m taking a sentimental journey.

The journey will be a literary one for the 1840s and 50s were years of great writers and even greater literary masterpieces.

The decades before the before the 60s and the annunciation of Darwin played John the Baptist to Christ. My life has been lived mostly in the literature of that period. The great predecessor to the period was the beautiful time called the Romantic era. The French and Industrial Revolutions had put a period to what had gone before. Man hadn’t changed but the circumstances of life had. Steam power had entered the picture and with it the coming of the railroads and iron ships, those great dividers between the medieval past and the present. Electricity, the telegraph and photography made their appearance. Between the moveable type developed in the fifteenth century and photographic pictures the past could be captured as it was forever. The movies of the twentieth century, even more effective, were an improvement in film technology.

Science destroyed the belief in supernatural beings, the fairies, the elves, the elementals and, yes, even the gods. To destroy the foundations of their belief was easy but to destroy the need for them has proven difficult. Hence the Romantic era when the mind groped to reconcile fancy with science and created beautiful literary effects. It was then that genre literature began to appear alongside so-called literary novels. Genres were considered inferior to literary novels and still are although why isn’t clear. What is clear is the genre novels rule modern literature.

Perhaps literary novels disguise reality under the appearance of things creating an artificial world that doesn’t exist except in the minds of the believers and they don’t want their illusions disturbed. Hence, the popularity of Charles Dickens for nearly two hundred years. Dickens is no Shakespeare but perhaps even better read. Dickens can make grim facts seem palatable, perhaps because of Dickens authorial and censorial distance from the facts diminishes the reality and more genteel and respectable minds can handle the unpleasantness, which is quite grim, because it is happening to different people under different conditions that bear no relationship to their own lives except to be pitied. Dickens specifically writes for the self-satisfied and well to do. Dickens pretties his characters up.

But for every Dickens who has survived the ravages of time there are many, many more who have sunk beneath the waves remembered only by those who think of a vanished Atlantis. Amazingly one of these writers who crashed beneath the waves during WWI, an English contemporary of Dickens, who was as or more popular than he at the time was forgotten after WWI. I don’t know large the market for Reynolds was on the eve of the Great Destruction but I have a copy of The Rye House Plot bound with Omar. It was advertised as rare but it should have been unique. One Norman Hartley Rickard went out and bought the parts for The Rye House Part one and two on 5/13/14 and the two parts for Omar on 6/16/14 then went to the trouble of having them bound together receiving the bound volume back on 7/22/14. He thought that much of Reynolds on the eve of the war. The novels themselves were printed sometime after 1880 by John Dicks as they advertise General Wallace’s Ben Hur. Both books are more obscure Reynold’s titles so that if they were available at the late date of 1914 indicates fair interest in Reynolds. And then the war came.

During a time of prolific writers Reynolds was extraordinary. He not only wrote at least 43 novels, the novels themselves were of extraordinary length. Of his two masterpieces the first, Mysteries of London runs to 2500 pages of smaller type in the current Valancourt Press edition. His master work, Mysteries of the Court of London is ten volumes running to 5000 pages. He has numerous works running to 1500-2000 pages. These were not merely rambling stories but tight and compact, serious sociological and psychological studies with strong historical connections.

While Dickens and Reynolds represent the English contribution to the period, Reynolds, while being English, was also a Francophile. His writing style is a combination of the English and French psychologies. His is such an interesting case that I might as well devote a little space to it indeed these rambles will center on his career.

Reynolds was born in 1814, being two years younger than Dickens. He came from Kent in the South East of England. Much of the scenery takes place there, especially around Canterbury, in his earlier novels. His home town was called Eastry. His father was a naval officer who died in 1822 when Reynolds was eight; at fourteen he was placed in the Sandhurst Military College by his mother apparently to follow in the footsteps of his father. His mother died in early 1830 leaving Reynolds a complete orphan at the age of fifteen. How this affected his situation is not clear but he either chose to leave Sandhurst or was encouraged to seek a career elsewhere sometime in late July as he turned sixteen. His formal schooling ended there. He was one hellacious reader though.

Some say he inherited twelve thousand pounds, some dispute this, but, at sixteen he must have had had enough money to encourage him to emigrate to a new country with a tender age and no skills. He seems to have existed reasonably well. His inquisitive nature led to him to examine all levels of society. His Pickwick Abroad demonstrates this.

There were large numbers of English people who either moved to France, spent long absences there of fled England for legal reasons. It is this society he depicts there in Pickwick Abroad. There are opinions that he was not a stranger to illegal activities there. Pickwick himself, in the novel, dwelt at the Meurice Hotel. The Meurice was begun by a Frenchman who realized that with the number of English in France they needed a home away from home. He therefore created the Meurice to cater strictly to English tastes. Reynolds seems to have been familiar with both residential customs there and the riff raff who lived off the legitimate residents. One wonders what his exact situation was,did he live or perhaps prey on those who did. He was obviously very intelligent and studious. He must have had abilities because he was able to earn money as a journalist becoming familiar with newspaper practices. On his return to England at merely twenty-three years of age he was entrusted to edit the Monthly Review which he revived and set back on its feet.

There is a question of how long he was in France. The general opinion is from 1830 to 1837. Dick Collins in his introduction to Reynolds’ The Necromancer as published by Vallancourt thinks he arrived there in 1835. That doesn’t seem quite right as Reynolds’ experiences would likely take more time to acquire. Reynolds himself says he lived in France for ten years. To justify that he must mean that he arrived in 1830, left physically in 1837 and lived on mentally for another three years while physically being in England. The extra three years would coincide with his writing which is French oriented through is Master Timothy’s Bookcase. This book would be his mental transitioning from France back to England making up the ten years.

At any rate his knowledge of France and French literature would indicate a seven year residence. He returned to England just as Dickens’ Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was being published in parts- that is in installments published monthly or weekly. Reynolds had had an active journalistic and literary career in France publishing his first book there in 1935 at the age of 21 and editing an English oriented magazine.

Rather startlingly, even as Dickens’ Pickwick Papers was still in progress Reynolds began a continuation of the novel called Pickwick Abroad that took place, naturally, in France. As might be expected this plagiarism caused an uproar that would mar his career. Nothing daunted by the uproar Reynolds next appropriated the idea of Dickens’ Master Humphrey’s Clock with his own title Master Timothy’s Bookcase. Both plagiarisms were notably better than Dickens’ originals. The Bookcase took place in France and then in a weak conclusion, one supposes, mirroring reality, shifted to England to end with another Pickwick story, The Marriage Of Mr. Pickwick, and several representations of Mortimer’s, the narrator, life in England. As Bookcase appeared at the end of the ten years this might be what Reynolds termed his ten years stay in France.

Then comes a two year hiatus in which Reynolds wrote nothing. Reynolds was well read. He frequently references his reading including Homer’s Iliad, probably Mallory’s King Arthur, Walter Scott much of the Gothic period and the Romantic Era, most especially Byron. Byron’s poems the Corsair and Giaour made a great impression on him and indeed the next couple generations. He was well versed in French literature. Dick Collins in his introduction makes a very telling point for Frederic Soulie (accent aigu over the e) being a direct influence on Reynolds in his introduction to The Necromancer. Reynolds put together a two volume survey of the literature of France published in 1938 composed mainly of extracts with introductions to the authors. I reproduce the intro for Soulie here in full from Collins which fairly accurately portrays Reynolds approach to writing:

Quote:

Frederic Soulie

Turn we now to that young and successful writer, who descends into the vault of the dead and snatches the cold corse from the tomb, to introduce it into his tale, who calls in the assistance of plague and fire to add fresh horrors to his romances; and who delights more in the violated sanctuary of Death than in the splendor and gaiety of the drawing-room. Turn we to him who has revived the midnight terrors, the phantoms, the robbers, the murderers, the executioners, and the violaters of virgin innocence, that were wont to dwell in the legends of the olden times, or in the folios of a German library; whose patrons were Maturin, Lewis and Radcliffe; and whose readers were timid school-girls and affrighted nursery maids. Turn we to him who has regenerated that school of horror which had nearly exploded within the dozen years;–yes, let us turn to him whose favourite subjects are those which we have dreaded to think of at night in the days of our childhood.

The writer of an ordinary novel may possess a weak, pusillanimous and feeble mind, yet produce an amusing tale. His book may be called a good one; and he himself may pass as a man of talent and capacity. But the author of a romance…must own a powerful mind a vivid imagination and a fertile brain; or else his lucubrations will be vain and futile.

His murders must not be told with the coolness of a newspaper report: they must seem as if they were written in letters of blood themselves. The very page, which narrates their tale, must be surveyed with awe and a species of pleasing and fascinating abhorrence—if the reader can comprehend the antithesis—which create much more than a common interest in the mind. The romance writer must indulge in nothing puerile; no tame or vapid description will be pardoned in him: his work must be all fire, all vigour, all energy and capable of producing a species of electric interest throughout.

Such is the system of M. Frederic Soulie exemplified in his Deux Cadavres. This awe-inspiring romance, which seems as if it had been written in a charnel-house, by the light of those flickering candles that in Catholic countries surround the corpse, and by an iron pen dipped in human gore, in the most extraordinary creation of the brain that ever was yet, in the guise of a historical tale, presented to the world. Let the superstitious and the timid beware of it: they would not forget its terrible incidents for many a long night, after they had once perused it. It is a romance which haunts its reader as a man is haunted by a phantom of the victim whom he has slain: it is a book so full of horrors—and all those horrors so natural and so probable—not once exaggerated by the assistance of powers from beyond the tomb—that he, who reads it, lays it aside with the impression that such things might have been, and interrogates himself whether he be just awakened from a nightmare dream, or whether he have witnessed a series of terrible realities.

The scene is laid in England; and the epoch of the tale is the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. The work commences with the execution of Charles the First, which is described with painful accuracy. This is the first horror. Then comes the desecration of a grave in Westminster Abbey—the parade of a corpse through the streets of London—the hideous ceremony of presenting a jug of beer to the motionless lips of the dead thing, as the procession moves up the Poultry—the visit of two adventurous men to the Chapel in Windsor Castle at midnight—the exhuming of a coffin—the circumstance of one of those men putting his hand to the dead body which that coffin contained and finding by the disserved head that it was the corse of the late King—the journey through dark and dismal roads with that coffin upon a sledge drawn by dogs—rape of a beautiful girl by her lover in an hour of madness—the progress of the plague—murders, duels, riots and deaths—and then the horrid agonies endured by that young girl, who lingered through all the stages of starvation, tied to a tree, till she was wasted away, expired, and found a fleshless skeleton some time afterwards? This is the brief analysis of Les Deux Cadavres: this is the frame-work of the book upon which was built the reputation of M. Frederic Soulie.

Unquote.

This pretty well expresses the style Reynolds adopted combined with his reading of the Marquis de Sade. Reynolds used the episode of the woman tied to tree in Robert Macaire. Unfortunately Frederic Soulie has no translations into English so we can’t enjoy his spectacular style directly.

It appears that this part of quote is an analysis of Dickens:

Quote:

The writer of an ordinary novel may possess a weak, pusillanimous and feeble mind, and yet produce an amusing tale. His book may be called and good one; and he may pass for a man of talent and capacity but an author of a romance…must own a powerful mind, a vivid imagination and a fertile brain; else his lucubrations will be vain and futile….

Unquote.

That sums up Dickens as accurately as possible. If Dickens read this then one can imagine that he would be incensed and develop a deep seated aversion to Reynolds. Indeed, he would many years later say that Reynolds was a despicable person. The quote also expresses a certain amount of envy in his dismissal of Dickens from whom he had just appropriated the format of Pickwick Papers for his own Pickwick Abroad. At the same time the quote illustrates the difference between Dickens and himself.

Reynolds was apparently a theater goer in Paris becoming familiar with the plays of Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, both of whom would be major influences of the period 1840-60 and beyond. Dumas, of course, exists today through his incredible novels, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Hugo lives on through his work Les Miserables, recently a very successful stage musical in the US as a revolutionary play. Also making a most profound effect on Reynolds was another extremely prolific author, the great Eugene Sue. In 1843, two years before Soulie died, the parts for Sue’s Mysteries of Paris began appearing and that would galvanize Reynolds back into activity. He immediately began his own first masterpiece, The Mysteries of London. A French writer by the name of Paul Favel also wrote a work titled Les Mysteres De Londres at the time also inspired by Sue. Favel was an excellent crime writer detailing the activities of organized crime through his Blackcoats series. Written sometime after Reynold’s Robert Macaire or the French Bandit in England that mentions Macaire as the leader of a nationwide loose organization of criminal revolutionaries. It begins the story of the great worldwide criminal organizations of today as well as the US’ Statewide and national criminal organizations. The Revolution released them, and Democracy allowed them to prosper.

Reynolds while bursting with ideas seemed unable to express them without a format provided by someone else, hence his use of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and Master Timothy’s Bookcase as wells as Sue’s Mysteries of Paris—he had to have a format to follow. When Sue’s Mysteries of Paris appeared the plan for Mysteries of London appeared. The basic premise had evolved in Reynolds’ mind, that of two brothers connected to two trees who go separate ways, one of crime and one of rectitude, who then reunite to compare the results of their systems.

This notion may have evolved from Reynolds’ reading of Justine and Juliette by the Marquis de Sade. In de Sade Justine who follows a life of rectitude ends up trashed and her sister Juliette who followed a life license ends up rich and happy. Reynolds reverses the results, complaining that such may be case in individual situations but certainly not systemic.

That is not to say his novels are slavish copies of other men’s work. Oh no, they are amplifications and extensions, completely original alternate versions. Sue, himself had just entered his masterpiece period with The Mysteries of Paris and its successor, the marvelous Wandering Jew. For my tastes The Wandering Jew far surpassed the great Mysteries of Paris and that is saying something in a long way. All these works are massive while the successor to Reynolds’ Mysteries of London, The Mysteries of the Court of London is twice as long as any other novel of the period while its intensity lifts one into the stratosphere. By the time of Mysteries of London Dickens was pursuing Reynolds in an effort to keep up. Reynolds by that time was more successful than Dickens so the latter had even more reason to be bitter.

The novel took four years of serialization to be completed and in that time both Mysteries of Paris and The Wandering Jew by Sue had appeared. The Wandering Jew in 1845, the year Soulie died, so both novels would have had an influence of Reynolds’ novel. For myself, as great as Mysteries of Paris is, I prefer The Wandering Jew. Its style may be offensive and off putting to today’s readers but the book has nothing to do with Jews; it is rather an anti-Jesuit story with the greatest villain ever, the Jesuit priest Rodin and his Invisible Hand.

The story involves a fabulous inheritance due to a number of inheritors including two children from Germany. In order to claim the inheritance they must be in Paris for the reading of the will on a certain date. If they fail to appear the fabulous fortune will fall to the Jesuits. It is Rodin’s task then to prevent the inheritors from reaching Paris. Simply killing them would arouse suspicions hence he has to engineer delays and obstacles hence the Invisible Hand. While without being apparent Rodin’s schemes are always at work.

Here we are introduced to the concept of rather than outright assassination it is better to exploit the weaknesses of the individuals so that they destroy themselves. Hence for one claimant Rodin easily leads him into a life of dissipation in which the man essentially drinks himself to death.

The closer the children get to Paris the more intensely the climax resolves into a final Armageddon in which all of the participants including Rodin and his Invisible hand are killed. The only claimant left standing is a good priest and he of course is a very charitable guy with no other use for the money. With such a model before him Reynolds digs deep keeping his own story racing along but to a relatively weak ending, a slight disappointment very poorly handled. He does much better in Court of London which ends in a real Armageddon.

Even as Mysteries Of London was drawing to a close Reynolds began the eight years of weekly installments of The Mysteries of the Court of London. The latter was a grandiose and magnificent structure. At the time England was only short of a fifty percent literacy rate. So a pretty good living could be made by organizing a group to read these stories to. Thus a man could gather a reading group of perhaps thirty people to whom he read the weekly installment. A really primitive radio setup, eh? I suppose one could organize two or three groups and live rather comfortably. I am not aware of what the readers charged but the penny was divided into half-pennies and even farthings or quarter pennies. For eight years people set aside an hour or two to be read to. This is not unlike todays filmed episodes that go on for years like the Game of Thrones. This is quite marvelous. Reynolds would have been the talk of the town for eight years, actually, combined with The Mysteries of London, twelve years. That’s something of an achievement.

His writing style then was conceived as to sound like he was talking directly to these hearers while always being so intense that their attention did not waver, and he succeeded. One can’t be sure but perhaps the memory of this success drove Dickens wild so that he himself devoted the last years of his life reading from his novels, especially Oliver Twist, to audiences.

Now, Reynolds had a particularly capacious and powerful mind. While he was writing Court of London over eight years he also wrote eighteen additional novels nearly all of which were 600 to 1500 pages. The ability to keep weekly installments in mind and while either consciously or sub-consciously planning several others is beyond phenomenal. While these were coterminous the variety of incident had to be kept fresh throughout the corpus or all would fail. Reynolds was capable of doing that while pacing his novels with fast flowing action. At the same time he is keeping up with social and scientific developments and raising a numerous family. His psychology is usually thoughtful and spot on. He refers, for instance, to Anton Mesmer and his Animal Magnetism that moved toward perfection as hypnotism. While revealing the unconscious, the realization of which would dominate psychology through the system of Sigmund Freud about far off 1920. The unconscious still remains misunderstood.

He makes reference to Franz Joseph Gall’s much misunderstood theory of phrenology, the forerunner of the discovery of the function of brain localities.

His corpus is perhaps too large to be read in full except by the most dedicated scholar, and I mean that in the singular, who would receive no reward for his efforts. The additional reading necessary to understand the full import and value of Reynolds is even more daunting.

The discovery of influences, for instance, and familiarizing oneself with them is a monumental task. Reynolds was born under Romaticism and began his career on the cusp of the Positive period of August Comte and Herbert Spencer.

Indeed Romanticism has never left us. A Romantic revival occurred post-Positivism and the then emerging scientific revelations. Literary styles were changing or evolving through the decades and the epigone of the 1840s and 50s were shadows of their forerunners while still better than the pulp writers they engendered. One of the finest of these was the Anglo-French writer George du Maurier who wrote three classics, almost a trilogy: Peter Ibbetson, Trilby (Svengali) and the Martian. While not as towering as The Mysteries of the Court of London, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Mysteries of Paris and The Wandering Jew they are astonishing works of art.

One of the great journalistic successes of all time, Punch or The London Charivari, the famous humor magazine, was founded in 1842. The magazine remained until the 60s of the twentieth century. During mid-nineteenth century Du Maurier was a regular contributor with both drawings and texts. He probably would have continued with the magazine until his death had not he been rejected for the editorship when it became available. Fortunate for us, for then he turned to writing his novels which were fabulous successes being reprinted until recent times. Like Reynolds his mind was divided between his French and English heritages. Born in France, he was removed to England in his teen years. This was a traumatic experience for him as the cultures of the French and English were so different. Reynolds had the advantage of developing an affection for French culture before he removed from England and although an orphan of only sixteen years he appears to have thought he was moving to a wonderland and was never disappointed. He had the misfortune to have expended his resources, bankrupting himself, thus expediting his return to England.

Du Maurier’s first novel, Peter Ibbetson, would detail his conflict with the English mentality in a beautiful story. As part of the Romantic revival Du Maurier combines the fairy world with proto-science fiction and fantasy. His French childhood in the novel is involved with fairies and his little girl friend Seraskier who reappears in England as the adult Duchess of Towers. Not only that his next novel Trilby is built on a character and situation created by the French Romanticist, Charles Nodier. In his novel also named Trilby, Trilby was a male Scottish fairy. Du Maurier transposes sexes and makes Trilby a woman in his title of the same name.

In Peter Ibbetson, Peter is in the care of his uncle who, upon defaming Peter’s mother, is murdered by him, justifiable homicide by another name; nevertheless he is convicted and sentenced to death but spared hanging through the intercession of the fairy Duchess of Towers.

Languishing in prison he goes bonkers and is transferred to an insane asylum. There he finds that while sleeping he can unlock a door and enter the dreams of the Duchess of Towers. A beautiful hundred pages follows.

Trilby, his second novel, is in one respect a very long fairy tale masquerading as real life. The novel records a fantasy of Du Maurier’s experiences as an aspiring artist in Bohemian Paris. A real font of pleasant memories for George. He remained a Bohemian all his life and made the most of enjoying that life. Trilby was a runaway smash hit equaling in impact Dickens Pickwick Papers.

There is a marked difference between the romanticism of Du Maurier and his contemporary William Morris. Morris writes in an Arthurian mode of pure fantasy while Du Maurier was affected not only by science but the so-called occult world of the founder of Theosophy, Madame Helena Blavatsky. Her The Veil of Isis published in 1873 may very well had had an influence on him. I have as yet no real proof that he read Blavatsky, other than the dream world of Ibbetson and the Duchess, but Theosophy is something that Punch would have been ribald about as well as the Spiritualist Movement.

While Comte’s Positivism did intervene between Romanticism and the Revival the whole fabric of the evolving mindset was blown apart by the issuance of Darwin’s Origin of Species . The Earth trembled beneath the feet of the Victorians and was further shifted by the rapid emergence of psychological analysis. Between Evolution and the developing knowledge of psychology that solidified with Freud’s pronouncements after the turn of the century. The ancient supernatural and fairy mentality had to be reconciled with the new scientific mentality; Mankind would not give up the concepts of the supernatural so easily.

To travel back in time again to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution: by the time of that revolution the Scientific Revolution had been under steam for some little time. Thus, the European mind was developing rapidly. There are some, blind to reality, who will object to such a fact as racist. Associated with race, it may well be, however the fact is that science developed as with no other race on earth. This is fact. So, the European mind was solving nature’s mysteries. As simple as these solutions were they were mind boggling at the time. The very notion that air has weight is incredible to the mind. Even today no child believes air can be weighed until he is so instructed. The fact that air is made up of many gases and that these gases can be separated and that one of these, Oxygen, was the substance of life must have been just too astounding.

By the late eighteenth century then other mysteries could be explained in other ways than the supernatural. All those wonderful fairies, elves and elementals could be demystified and explained naturally. Thus the Gothic novel came into existence and the Gothic novelists made it a point to explain supernatural beliefs as perfectly natural. Thus, the transition from the Medieval world to the modern or rational world progressed. Lyell challenged the supernatural belief that God had created the Earth four or five thousand years previously. He presented the monstrous belief that the planet was immeasurably much older and that it developed under natural processes.

Inevitably these incipient sciences were primitive and left more unexplained that they explained. Resistance to all scientific revelations was strenuous, the European mind having been deeply corrupted by Biblical superstitions. Slowly the superstitious was being rejected. The wonderful and beautiful Romantic period was a confusion of the natural and supernatural as the supernatural was gradually disproved.

Reynolds, Dickens, Dumas, Sue and many others were born into the Romantic Age, experienced and moved out of it as society evolved. Byron was only one important Romanticist but one who influenced that generation experiencing the revelations of science and technological inventions, such as applications like railroad and iron steam ships and the telegraph.

By 1830 science had a firm hold on the imagination and European society was ready to advance to the Positivism of August Comte who organized the loose sciences into specific groupings or disciplines. Thus, writers, who are on the cutting edge of developments, began to amalgamate these developments. Reynolds wrestles to get all these literary genres that affected him into a coherent whole; no easy problem. He and Eugene Sue were prime examples of making order of European intellectual developments. Reynolds especially was a prominent primitive sociologist and psychologist. This makes his work extremely compelling.

The generation born into the Romantic Age and are bound into the transition from the Romantic to the Positivist were passing their prime and from the stage by the 1860s when their influences were being eclipsed by he march of time and a generation was emerging that handled the same material in a different manner.

In 1859, as the style of writing was changing, Darwin’s Origin of Species was published and that put a definite term to the Middle Ages. It was a new world from the 1860s on. Evolution was the issue while in France Jean-Martin Charcot was making great inroads in the study of psychology. The world could never be seen through the eyes of previous years again. In literature the giants had left the earth, their epigone would be much smaller.

Moving across the water to the New World of the nineteen twenties and thirties we have a strange phenomenon in the career of the short story writer, Damon Runyon. Something that emerged out of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era that wasn’t so obvious before was the rise of Organized Crime. Dickens touched on it in the career of Fagin/Sikes in Oliver Twist. Reynolds, Paul Favel and Sue developed the phenomenon but by the nineteen twenties and thirties in NYC organized crime was virtually an alternate government. Democracy had no idea how to control it. Frank Costello, a leading Mafioso, wanted to make organized crime a legitimate form of business. In his way Damon Runyon aided and abetted Costello.

Runyon, after a terrible childhood in Colorado was brought East to NYC by W.R. Hearst as a sportswriter for his papers. Runyon because of his childhood had an affinity for the outcasts and outlaws. Once in NYC he made Satan’s Square Mile centered on 42nd and Broadway, known also as the Tenderloin, his ‘home.’ He took up a station at a deli called Lindy’s that his stories made famous as Mindy’s.

He sat and observed this immigrant store of criminals during the twenties, committing their antics to print in his short stories. Not really a very good writer other than that of this criminal milieu, he turned rather gruesome situations into charming stories for the uninstructed; the stories got grimmer as time wore on.

Without his knowledge of the actuality of his stories, as I say, one is charmed. The stories are written in the illiterate immigrant jargon of the times, a weak understanding of tenses and so forth that some, the New York newspaperman, Jimmie Breslin who was there at the time but wrote in the 60s, think that Runyon invented. I have actually heard people speak that way so I think it was the lingua franca of Satan’s Square Mile.

At the time I am writing, the American past of 1900-1950 has completely disappeared. At the time Runyon was writing in NYC, Jewish, Italian and Irish colonies were well defined and not yet Americanized except in a very superficial way. After all, unlimited immigration was only suspended in 1924 so that there were hordes of unassimilated immigrants clustered in their colonies. Dialects were heard constantly. Dialect humor didn’t disappear until after the 1950s. My aunt’s had heavy German accents until they died in the fifties or sixties.

In other words, there were still large populations that hadn’t learned English at all and many, many who had a flimsy grasp of it.

At any rate, Runyon uses this immigrant dialect as the basis of his stories, and it is that that really gives his stories interest. No matter, he sat with these criminals ona daily basis and mostly all day at Lindy’s. Without that there isn’t much there. However, he sat with these criminals as a very successful ‘real’ American. He gradually insinuated himself into the underworld as a sort of consiglieri. He was an important advisor within the underworld. He, really became one of them protected by his association with Hearst.

The stories are entertaining enough but then Runyon tried to make romantic characters of these thugs on the stage and in the movies. The effort revealed the situation as it was without the glamour. In what was supposed to be a comedy Runyon filmed a movie called A Slight Case Of Murder with Edward G. Robinson playing a very convincing Mafia Don. It isn’t charming on film.

Runyon contracted Cancer in the thirties dying in 1946. His era died with him. Organized Crime had become Murder Inc. and there was nothing funny about it anymore. The sort of last gasp for Runyon came in 1955 when a big budget movie in striking technicolor (the movies lost something when technicolor was discontinued) called Guys and Dolls was released glorifying the Underworld. Brando and Sinatra starred. The movie didn’t make it.

It would take the horror film, Coppola’s Godfather to put a romanticized Mafia over a decade or so on.

To slide back a century and a half ago I will now review Reynold’s novel Robert Macaire or, The French Bandit In England.

To be continued in Time Traveling With R.E. Prindle, Part II, Robert Macaire.

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