Leonard Merrick: A Forgotten Novelist's Novelist

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1st Edition

Hardback, 240 x 160 mm. 226pp ...
In stock in Australia, for immediate despatch

This critical study draws upon previously unpublished materials and is the first comprehensive, full-length account of the works of the Anglo-Jewish author Leonard William Merrick (formerly Miller), 1864-1939. It covers not only Merrick's novels, but his short stories, plays, and contributions to motion pictures.

Famous authors such as Barrie, Chesterton, Howells, Orwell, Pinero, Wells, and Woolf admired Merrick's fiction. Several of his works were made into films and television productions starring such great actors as Charles Boyer and Ronald Coleman. Merrick's daughter edited a posthumous collection of his short stories in 1950. Some of Merrick's novels were reprinted during the 1960s and again in 2004-5. But his life and work have fallen from the critical radar.

A former actor, Merrick often wrote about struggling actors; Orwell regarded Merrick's fiction about the theatre as the best of its time, especially The Position of Peggy Harper (1911). Merrick also wrote about impoverished novelists, playwrights, painters, clerks and typists, Jewish financiers, etc. His works veer between naturalism, satire, farce, and romance. They are characterised by an obsession with style. His sparsely written short stories are often wry fables, or spoofs of romanticism. His typical themes are adultery, artistic ambition, shattered ideals, the conflict between reality and illusion, self-making, poverty, and prejudice based on class, disability, age, and race.

H. G. Wells applauds Merrick's depiction of racism in The Quaint Companions (1903), which features a black opera singer, a mulatto poet, and a physically challenged woman painter. It is odd that though race and disability have become staples of literary criticism, Quaint Companions has not been discussed. Another variety of prejudice - anti-Semitism - is shown in Violet Moses (1891), a rare study of Jewish life in late-Victorian London. The rise of postcolonial criticism makes Merrick's works set in South Africa timely, too, as he had worked as an overseer of African workers in the Kimberly mines, and as a clerk.

His earliest novel, Mr. Bazalgette's Agent (1885), is the first one in English to star a lady detective with a woman's struggles to establish a career; in such works, Merrick portrays the newly independent 'New Woman' who interests feminists of today. In addition, the metafictional aspects of Merrick's works deserve attention. Merrick is a pioneer in questioning the opposition of reality and illusion.

William Baker is Distinguished Research Professor, Professor of English and Professor, University Libraries at Northern Illinois University. Jeanette Roberts Shumaker is a professor of English at San Diego State University.


SKU 9780838642504
Barcode # 9780838642504
Brand AUP
Artist / Author William BAKER & Jeanette Roberts SHUMAKER

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