Introduction
 

The Translation of a Savage was written in the early autumn of 1893, at Hampstead Heath, where for over twenty years I have gone, now and then, when I wished to be in an atmosphere conducive to composition. Hampstead is one of the parts of London which has as yet been scarcely invaded by the lodging-house keeper. It is very difficult to get apartments at Hampstead; it is essentially a residential place; and, like Chelsea, has literary and artistic character all its own. I think I have seen more people carrying books in their hands at Hampstead than in any other spot in England; and there it was, perched above London, with eyes looking towards the Atlantic over the leagues of land and the thousand leagues of sea, that I wrote 'The Translation of a Savage'. It was written, as it were, in one concentrated effort, a ceaseless writing. It was, in effect, what the Daily Chronicle said of 'When Valmond Came to Pontiac', a tour de force. It belonged to a genre which compelled me to dispose of a thing in one continuous effort, or the impulse, impetus, and fulness of movement was gone. The writing of a book of the kind admitted of no invasion from extraneous sources, and that was why, while writing 'The Translation of a Savage' at Hampstead, my letters were only delivered to me once a week. I saw no friends, for no one knew where I was; but I walked the heights, I practised with my golf clubs on the Heath, and I sat in the early autumn evenings looking out at London in that agony of energy which its myriad lives represented. It was a good time.

The story had a basis of fact; the main incident was true. It happened, however, in Michigan rather than in Canada; but I placed the incident in Canada where it was just as true to the life. I was living in Hertfordshire at the time of writing the story, and that is why the English scenes were worked out in Hertfordshire and in London. When I had finished the tale, there came over me suddenly a kind of feeling that the incident was too bold and maybe too crude to be believed, and I was almost tempted to consign it to the flames; but the editor of 'The English Illustrated Magazine', Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke, took a wholly different view, and eagerly published it. The judgment of the press was favourable,--highly so--and I was as much surprised as pleased when Mr. George Moore, in the Hogarth Club one night, in 1894, said to me: "There is a really remarkable play in that book of yours, 'The Translation, of a Savage'." I had not thought up to that time that my work was of the kind which would appeal to George Moore, but he was always making discoveries. Meeting him in Pall Mall one day, he said to me: "My dear fellow, I have made a great discovery. I have been reading the Old Testament. It is magnificent. In the mass of its incoherence it has a series of the most marvellous stories. Do you remember--" etc. Then he came home and had tea with me, revelling, in the meantime, on having discovered the Bible!

I cannot feel that 'The Translation of a Savage' has any significance beyond the truthfulness with which I believe it describes the transformation, or rather the evolution, of a primitive character into a character with an intelligence of perception and a sympathy which is generally supposed to be the outcome of long processes of civilisation and culture. The book has so many friends--this has been sufficiently established by the very large sale it has had in cheap editions--that I am still disposed to feel it was an inevitable manifestation in the progress of my art, such as it is. People of diverse conditions of life have found in it something to interest and to stimulate. One of the most volcanic of the Labour members in the House of Commons told me that the violence of his opposition to me in debate on a certain bill was greatly moderated by the fact that I had written 'The Translation of a Savage'; while a certain rather grave duke remarked to me concerning the character of Lali that "She would have been all right anywhere." I am bound to say that he was a duke who, while a young man, knew the wilds of Canada and the United States almost as well as I know Westminster.