Review of PRINCE ZALESKI
The Manchester Guardian, 26 March 1895, p. 10
Prince Zaleski, by M. P. Shiel (Keynote Series, John Lane, octavo, pp. 163, 3s 6d), strikes one as the first attempt of a writer possessed of some power of imagination but no skill as yet to use that power to the best advantage. The style, too, is so lacking in the elementary virtue of simplicity as to be occasionally ridiculous. Take, for instance, the following mystic saying: "He (Prince Zaleski) was nothing if not superlative; his diatribes, now culminating in a very extravaganza of hyperbole, now sailing with loose wing through the downy, witched, Dutch cloud-heaps of some quaintest tramontane Nephelococcugia" (we were obliged to copy that word very closely) "of thought, now laying down law of the Medes for the actual world of today, had ofttimes the strange effect of bringing back to my mind the very singular old epic epithet ήνεμόεν --airy--as applied to human thought." One wonders, after reading such a sentence, if Mr. George Meredith realizes for what "extravaganzas of hyperbole" -- we thank thee, Mr. Shiel, for teaching us this word -- he is responsible in the aspiring young writer.
Prince Zaleski himself is a kind of sublimated Sherlock Holmes, who solves problems, not so much by more vulgar inductive reasoning as by intuition and a certain hyper-sensitiveness to impressions. This being the case, perfect accuracy in matters of detail is not so essential to his method. Nevertheless, we would respectfully call Mr. Shiel's attention to a statement which we cannot help thinking would have proved misleading even to a Prince Zaleski. If he will examine the genealogy of the Owen family on page 53, he will find, as not the least among the remarkable traits of that aristocratic race, that the third Earl was born when his father was only ten years of age, and the fourth Earl, going "one better," appeared upon this earthly scene just one year before his father did the same. This, we admit, is a mere sordid detail, but nevertheless we feel bound to draw attention to it. The best story in the book is the last, "The S. S.," which, though grim and disagreeable in theme, shows distinct power and promise of a somewhat Poe-like kind.
Transcribed by Victor A. Berch
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