New Grub Street (2 of 226)
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'Is his wife the kind of person to grumble?' asked Mrs Milvain.
'Well, yes, I suspect that she is. The girl wasn't content to go into modest rooms--they must furnish a flat. I rather wonder he didn't start a carriage for her. Well, his next book brought only another hundred, and now, even if he finishes this one, it's very doubtful if he'll get as much. "The Optimist" was practically a failure.'
'Mr Yule may leave them some money,' said Dora.
'Yes. But he may live another ten years, and he would see them both in Marylebone Workhouse before he advanced sixpence, or I'm much mistaken in him. Her mother has only just enough to live upon; can't possibly help them. Her brother wouldn't give or lend twopence halfpenny.'
'Has Mr Reardon no relatives!'
'I never heard him make mention of a single one. No, he has done the fatal thing. A man in his position, if he marry at all, must take either a work-girl or an heiress, and in many ways the work- girl is preferable.'
'How can you say that?' asked Dora. 'You never cease talking about the advantages of money.'
'Oh, I don't mean that for ME the work-girl would be preferable; by no means; but for a man like Reardon. He is absurd enough to be conscientious, likes to be called an "artist," and so on. He might possibly earn a hundred and fifty a year if his mind were at rest, and that would be enough if he had married a decent little dressmaker. He wouldn't desire superfluities, and the quality of his work would be its own reward. As it is, he's ruined.'
'And I repeat,' said Maud, 'that you enjoy the prospect.'
'Nothing of the kind. If I seem to speak exultantly it's only because my intellect enjoys the clear perception of a fact.--A little marmalade, Dora; the home-made, please.'
'But this is very sad, Jasper,' said Mrs Milvain, in her half- absent way. 'I suppose they can't even go for a holiday?'
'Quite out of the question.'
'Not even if you invited them to come here for a week?'
'Now, mother,' urged Maud, 'THAT'S impossible, you know very well.'
'I thought we might make an effort, dear. A holiday might mean everything to him.'
'No, no,' fell from Jasper, thoughtfully. 'I don't think you'd get along very well with Mrs Reardon; and then, if her uncle is coming to Mr Yule's, you know, that would be awkward.'
'I suppose it would; though those people would only stay a day or two, Miss Harrow said.'
'Why can't Mr Yule make them friends, those two lots of people?' asked Dora. 'You say he's on good terms with both.'
'I suppose he thinks it's no business of his.'
Jasper mused over the letter from his friend.
'Ten years hence,' he said, 'if Reardon is still alive, I shall be lending him five-pound notes.'
A smile of irony rose to Maud's lips. Dora laughed.
'To be sure! To be sure!' exclaimed their brother. 'You have no faith. But just understand the difference between a man like Reardon and a man like me. He is the old type of unpractical artist; I am the literary man of 1882. He won't make concessions, or rather, he can't make them; he can't supply the market. I-- well, you may say that at present I do nothing; but that's a great mistake, I am learning my business. Literature nowadays is a trade. Putting aside men of genius, who may succeed by mere cosmic force, your successful man of letters is your skilful tradesman. He thinks first and foremost of the markets; when one kind of goods begins to go off slackly, he is ready with something new and appetising. He knows perfectly all the possible sources of income. Whatever he has to sell he'll get payment for it from all sorts of various quarters; none of your unpractical selling for a lump sum to a middleman who will make six distinct profits.
Now, look you: if I had been in Reardon's place, I'd have made four hundred at least out of "The Optimist"; I should have gone shrewdly to work with magazines and newspapers and foreign publishers, and--all sorts of people. Reardon can't do that kind of thing, he's behind his age; he sells a manuscript as if he lived in Sam Johnson's Grub Street. But our Grub Street of to-day is quite a different place: it is supplied with telegraphic communication, it knows what literary fare is in demand in every part of the world, its inhabitants are men of business, however seedy.'