The Sea Wolf by Jack London

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

W. Heinemann

Mr. Jack London's The Sea Wolf is the kind of book that is generally over-praised, and we shall try not to over-praise it.

But, with something of vigorous over-emphasis, it has yet remarkable freshness and vivacity, and the "Wolf" himself is a strong conception, a cruder and harder specimen of a range of characters of which Turgenieff's Bazaroff is the greatest. He is a ferocious sea captain, and the chance arrival of the narrator on his vessel exposes the soft town dweller to his dreadful brutalities.

This rough apprenticeship on a seal-hunting schooner does, however, make a man of a mere literary man, and in the end he is able to accomplish labours that might almost be compared to those of Gilliatt on the rock. In these he is aided by a woman who comes into the story very opportunely and aptly softens its asperities.

It may seem to indicate some youthfulness of handling to say that

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"Wolf Larsen" reads Browning and De Quincey in the intervals of maltreating or murdering his crew, and that he has many philosophic discussions with the stranger whom on occasion he tries to kill. Yet the man's frightful, arid materialism, groping instinctively for the comfort that he scorns, impresses us, and many phases of his brutal egoism are true and good. Much of the life in shipboard, too, is very well described, and several of the sailors are excellent.

Perhaps it is well that in this stage of his work Mr. London should not be deterred by any fear of the vigour that overpowers distinction. We should fear for his talent the tendency to overdraw and emphasise, though he has a sufficiency of natural force. he is capable of refinements, and in refinement is safety and the best kind of success. The illustrations to the story, by Mr. W. J. Aylward, are good, but they do not always correspond to the text.


Category: Review

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