Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 July 2010
“Scenes of Low Life: Strong Characters and Incidents Depicted by Stephen Crane in George's Mother.” New York Herald, June 6, 1896, p. 13
A very clever writer is Stephen Crane, and he has written nothing more clever than “George's Mother,” which has just been published by Edward Arnold. A small book it is, and the story is a simple one. The characters in it are not attractive, and the incidents are vulgar, and will to some hypersensitive readers seem repulsive. Mr. Crane has drawn the characters and described the incidents with considerable skill, and if workmanship alone is to be considered “George's Mother” is in some degree a work of art. But workmanship is not the only factor in a literary production, and more than faultless workmanship is needed if a book is to have enduring vitality. Great works of fiction endure from generation to generation, because their characters are either true to life or are stamped with an individuality which renders it impossible for us to forget them. Mr. Crane may some day give us one or two such characters, but I see no trace of them in “George's Mother.” As an authority on slum life he takes high rank, but is it necessary to tell us so very much about life in the slums? Zola has treated this subject with unparalleled skill, and yet at times we even weary of Zola.