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Critical Studies
written by "Ouida, 1839-1908"
...y be thoroughly appreciated by those who know intimately Italian character and habits; but they abound, and show so much of fine observation and delicate discernment in the author that one cannot forgive him for ever beating the big drum of florid sensation. Let me not be understood to mean that crime, or the impulse of crime, is not a perfectly legitimate subject for the novelist; both can be made so, but they are only so when treated as Mr Crawford himself treats them in Marzio's Crucifix. When treated as he treats them in To Leeward and Greifenstein and Casa Braccio they are merely coarse and inartistic. He has a leaning towards melodrama which is chiefly to be regretted because it mars and strains the style most natural to him, and does not accord with his way of looking at life, which is not either poetic or passionate, but slightly sad, and slightly humorous, modern and instinctively[Pg 88] superficial, superficial in that sense in which modern society itself is so. In Marzio's Crucifix he is perfectly natural, and one cannot but wish that he had never left that manner of treatment. Every motive therein is natural, every character consistent with itself. This naturalness in his characters is Mr Crawford's greatest attraction, and when he departs from it, as he does in such detestable melodramas as the Witch of Prague and Greifenstein, he is no longer himself. It is hard to understand that the same author can create the most delicate of aquarelles and the most glaring of posters, or why one who can draw so well and finely in silver-point can descend to daub with brooms in such gross distemper. If this be the price of versatility, it were best not to be versatile. But it is not versatility, because true versatility consists in possessing a many-sided power which flashes like a jewel of which all the facets are equally well cut. True versatility, moreover, does not consist in the mere change of subject, but in the change of style...

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