Novel 054: W.E. Norris, Thirlby Hall (1884)

John Lavery, A Conquest, a Heart for a Rose

John Lavery, A Conquest, a Heart for a Rose


A young man becomes entangled with a scapegrace cousin and a charming adventuress.

This was Norris’s fourth novel, and like his third, No New Thing (see Post 002)—and like the author’s 60-some other novels and story collections—it features a witty, lucid style and carefully defined, memorable characters.  So by 1884 the most prestigious critics are already getting tired of him.  “Exceedingly tedious,” says the Athenaeum; the Academy finds only the first volume meritorious; the Saturday Review dismisses the whole as “too clever.”  Nothing annoys professional critics so much as the consistent excellence that explains itself, doesn’t develop into something new, and so leaves them nothing to say. 

“It is distinguished by a singular mellowness of tone and perfection of style, as well as by its power to enchain the reader’s interest from first to last.  The author’s way of regarding society is agreeably dispassionate; he is satirical without being sardonic, and treats wrongdoing with a severity that is free from despair.”  Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1884

"Easy description, keen observation of the foibles of people, and presentment of characters in excellent relief." New York Times, February 11, 1884

"One of the most interesting novels that we have come across for a long time, pleasant to read as regards both substance and style, clear and fresh in its delineations of character, and thoroughly healthy in tone throughout....  Mr Norris’s finished sketches are not less accurate than easy, and...have a vigour and originality not often traceable in the fiction of the day."  Observer, May 18, 1884.

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