The Trespasser by Gilbert Parker
While I was studying the life of French Canada in the winter of 1892, in the city of Quebec or in secluded parishes, there was forwarded to me from my London home a letter from Mr. Arrowsmith, the publisher, asking me to write a novel of fifty thousand or sixty thousand words for what was called his Annual. In this Annual had appeared Hugh Conway's 'Called Back' and Anthony Hope's 'Prisoner of Zenda', among other celebrated works of fiction. I cabled my acceptance of the excellent offer made me, and the summer of 1893 found me at Audierne, in Brittany, with some artist friends--more than one of whom has since come to eminence--living what was really an out-door literary life; for the greater part of 'The Trespasser' was written in a high-walled garden on a gentle hill, and the remainder in a little tower-like structure of the villa where I lodged, which was all windows. The latter I only used when it rained, and the garden was my workshop. There were peaches and figs on the walls, pleasant shrubs surrounded me, and the place was ideally quiet and serene. Coffee or tea and toast was served me at 6.30 o'clock A.M., my pad was on my knee at 8, and then there was practically uninterrupted work till 12, when 'dejeuner a la fourchette', with its fresh sardines, its omelettes, and its roast chicken, was welcome. The afternoon was spent on the sea-shore, which is very beautiful at Audierne, and there I watched my friends painting sea-scapes. In the late afternoon came letter-writing and reading, and after a little and simple dinner at 6.30 came bed at 9.45 or thereabouts. In such conditions for many weeks I worked on The Trespasser; and I think the book has an outdoor spirit which such a life would inspire.
It was perhaps natural that, having lived in Canada and Australia, and having travelled greatly in all the outer portions of the Empire, I should be interested in and impelled to write regarding the impingement of the outer life of our far dominions, through individual character, upon the complicated, traditional, orderly life of England. That feeling found expression in The Translation of a Savage, and I think that in neither case the issue of the plot or the plot--if such it may be called --nor the main incident, was exaggerated. Whether the treatment was free from exaggeration, it is not my province to say. I only know what I attempted to do. The sense produced by the contact of the outer life with a refined, and perhaps overrefined, and sensitive, not to say meticulous, civilisation, is always more sensational than the touch of the representative of "the thousand years" with the wide, loosely organised free life of what is still somewhat hesitatingly called the Colonies, though the same remark could be applied to all new lands, such as the United States. The representative of the older life makes no signs, or makes little collision at any rate, when he touches the new social organisms of the outer circle. He is not emphatic; he is typical, but not individual; he seeks seclusion in the mass. It is not so with the more dynamic personality of the over-sea citizen. For a time at least he remains in the old civilisation an entity, an isolated, unabsorbed fact which has capacities for explosion. All this was in my mind when The Trespasser was written, and its converse was 'The Pomp of the Lavilettes', which showed the invasion of the life of the outer land by the representative of the old civilisation.
I do not know whether I had the thought that the treatment of such themes was interesting or not. The idea of The Trespasser was there in my mind, and I had to use it. At the beginning of one's career, if one were to calculate too carefully, impulse, momentum, daring, original conception would be lost. To be too audacious, even to exaggerate, is no crime in youth nor in the young artist. As a farmer once said to me regarding a frisky mount, it is better to smash through the top bar than to have spring-halt.
The Trespasser took its place, and, as I think, its natural place, in the development of my literary life. I did not stop to think whether it was a happy theme or not, or whether it had popular elements. These things did not concern me. When it was written I should not have known what was a popular theme. It was written under circumstances conducive to its artistic welfare; if it has not as many friends as 'The Right of Way' or 'The Seats of the Mighty' or 'The Weavers' or 'The Judgment House', that is not the fault of the public or of the critics.
TO DOUGLAS ROBINSON, Esq.,
FRANK A. HILTON, Esq.
My dear Douglas and Frank:
I feel sure that this dedication will give you as much pleasure as it does me. It will at least be evidence that I do not forget good days in your company here and there in the world. I take pleasure in linking your names; for you, who have never met, meet thus in the porch of a little house that I have built.
You, my dear Douglas, will find herein scenes, times, and things familiar to you; and you, my dear Frank, reflections of hours when we camped by an idle shore, or drew about the fire of winter nights, and told tales worth more than this, for they were of the future, and it is of the past.
Always sincerely yours,