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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Francis Marion Crawford (1854–1909)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ANDREW LANG has justly called Crawford the “most versatile and various of modern novelists.” Since the appearance of ‘Mr. Isaacs’ in 1882, he has written nearly thirty novels, distinguished for their variety of subject and treatment. He belongs to the race of cosmopolitan Americans; men who, having no mental boundaries, accept for their literary inheritance the romantic traditions and customs of all nationalities. This natural taste, quickened by European education and extensive travel, has made him swift to comprehend all lands and races, with their types of character developed by social or national conditions. His adaptability of mind is partially explained by him in ‘The Three Fates,’ supposed to be autobiographic, which describes the career of an author. “The young man’s true talent,” he says, “lay in his ready power of assimilating unfamiliar knowledge by a process of intuition which escapes methodical learners.”  1
  Crawford was born in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, August 2d, 1854. He is of mingled ancestry. His father, Thomas Crawford the sculptor, was a native of Ireland, and his mother was an American. He spent his early childhood in New York. After studying at Cambridge, Heidelberg, Carlsruhe, and Rome, he went to India in 1879 and edited the Indian Herald at Allahabad. There he became acquainted with a Persian jewel merchant who suggested the mysterious personality of ‘Mr. Isaacs.’ Returning to America in 1881, he wrote the romance which bears this title. The fantastic creation, with its Oriental flavor, its hints of Anglo-India, the introduction of Ram Lal, the shadowy adept of occultism, and the striking figure of Mr. Isaacs, with his graceful languor, Iranian features, blazing eyes, and luxurious tastes, bestowed immediate celebrity upon its author. This was followed by ‘Dr. Claudius,’ which, although less romantic, showed increase in constructive skill. This became more marked in ‘To Leeward,’ the unlovely and tragic story of a wife’s infidelity and of society in Rome. The tale of a peasant boy who became a famous tenor is the theme of ‘A Roman Singer,’ issued in 1884; and in the same year he published ‘An American Politician,’ in which are discussed the party spirit and corruption of American politics. In 1885 ‘Zoroaster’ was issued, a story of ancient Persia, introducing the court of King Darius and the aged prophet Daniel. After ‘A Tale of a Lonely Parish,’ a sketch of rural life in England, one of his most popular books appeared—‘Saracinesca,’ which with ‘Sant’ Ilario’ and ‘Don Orsino’ forms a trilogy describing the history of an Italian noble family of that day, and indeed forms a complete study of Rome from 1865 to 1887. Cardinal Antonelli is brought upon the scene, and the bewildered and stormy period of the last struggles of the Papacy for temporal power are painted with vigorous skill and rapid generalization, until at last, as he says in ‘Don Orsino,’—
          “Old Rome is dead, never to be old Rome again. The last breath has been breathed, the aged eyes are closed forever; corruption has done its work, and the grand skeleton lies bleaching upon seven hills, half covered with the piecemeal stucco of a modern architectural body.”
  2
  ‘Marzio’s Crucifix’ (1887) is the tale of an atheistic artisan who carves in silver. This possesses a psychological interest, and that element deepens in the ‘Witch of Prague’ (1892), a bold and thrilling tale of hypnotism. ‘Paul Patoff’ (1887) relates personal experiences of a visit to Turkey; ‘With the Immortals’ (1888) is an attempt to reanimate dead celebrities. ‘Greifenstein’ is a tragedy which takes place in the Black Forest, and tells the fortunes of two noble German families. It is valued for its accurate descriptions of the Korps Studenten, with their extraordinary ideals of romance and honor, tempered with foaming beer and sabre-cuts. ‘The Cigarette Maker’s Romance’ is a pathetic story of the madness of Count Skariatine; ‘Khaled’ a fanciful tale of a genie, who is promised a soul if he can gain a woman’s love. From romance and fancy, Mr. Crawford turns to New York life in ‘The Three Fates,’ and in ‘Katharine Lauderdale’ with its sequel ‘The Ralstons.’ ‘Marion Darche’ is also an American story. ‘Adam Johnston’s Son’ depends upon a simple tale of love for its interest; in ‘Casa Braccio,’ ‘The Children of the King,’ and his last book ‘Taquisara’ (1896), the author returns again to his familiar milieu, Italy.  3
  To this list of extraordinary variety and voluminousness, he continued to add volume after volume until the year of his death. ‘Via Crucis’ (1899), ‘In the Palace of the King’ (1900), and ‘A Lady of Rome’ (1906) are among the more popular of his later novels. He also published historical works: ‘Ave Roma Immortalis’ (1898), ‘Rulers of the South’ (1900), and ‘Gleanings from Venetian History’ (1905). In 1902 his play ‘Francesca da Rimini’ was produced in Paris by Sarah Bernhardt. His works have been translated into various languages.  4
  Crawford’s own creed and practice are indicated in his essay ‘The Novel: What It Is.’ There he defines the novel as an “intellectual artistic luxury … which in itself and in the manner of telling it shall appeal to the intellect, shall satisfy the requirements of art, and shall be a luxury, in that it can be of no use to a man when he is at work, but may conduce to a peace of mind and delectation during his hours of idleness.” After 1884, he lived near Sorrento until his death, April 9th, 1909.  5
 
 
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