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Old 08-22-2008, 04:05 PM   #1
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Davis, Richard Harding: Gallegher and Other Stories (Illustrated). v1.00. 22-Aug-08

This is the 3rd volume in a 12-volume set of Davis' short stories and novels, based on the Scribner's Crossroads Edition, but with some additional material and a lot of illustrations not included in that edition. I've already posted Vols 1and 2, and the rest of the set is coming shortly.

This material is all PD in the US, as it was originally published between 1891 and 1917.

From the Editor's Note I wrote for this book, a quick preview:

This book gives us stories about newspapermen and princesses, kings and painters; it gives us a crime story, a romantic comedy, and the drama of a revolutionary _coup_; but these wildly disparate stories are bound by a common thread. One of the recurring themes of Davis' fiction is the juxtaposition of the old aristocracy--the European nobility and part of the American upper classes--with a new aristocracy of ability. Davis loved to write about energy, initiative, insight and leadership, and his best stories celebrate all of these. All three novelettes in this volume show off different facets of this interest.

The decay of the European nobility was a common theme in 19th century literature; Anthony Hope's _Prisoner of Zenda_ is a famous example, in which the kidnapped dissolute king of Ruritania is temporarily impersonated by a serendipitously similar-looking Englishman in an effort to fend off social collapse. Hope's hero would be a far better man to lead Ruritania, but his own sense of honor constrains him to be no more than a placeholder for the "rightful" king.

We see a similarly disreputable monarch in Davis' novelette _The King's Jackal_, but where Hope gives us a comfortable if vital middle-class Englishman, Davis gives us a rambunctious American war correspondent, with the savvy, experience and energy to unearth and short circuit a nasty conspiracy. And where Hope's romantic heroine is another old-school aristocrat--Ruritania's Queen Flavia--Davis' is an American industrial heiress trying to use her inheritance for a worthy cause. At the end of Hope's novel, it is conventional if decadent aristocracy that must be allowed to triumph: Ruritania's king is restored and Flavia is duty-bound to marry him. In Davis' world, the king ends in exile, while the Americans carry the field and help revitalize the moribund monarchy.

Davis paints his own version of Hope's passive Queen Flavia in _The Princess Aline_, a romantic comedy contructed around the title figure's pursuit by an American, Morton Carlton. Carlton, a rising painter, represents the new aristocracy of ability, an active man of talent making his way in both American and European society; his weakness is a serial romantic fascination with beautiful women that reaches a humorous climax in his efforts to meet and woo the elusive Princess Aline of Hohenwald. If you think this obsession makes little sense in a man of such ability, you will not be surprised that here, too, it is not the old aristocracy that will win the day.

And the title novelette, _Gallegher_, is all about savvy and initiative--there is no time for the Old World. Gallegher is Davis' version of Victor Hugo's Gavroche: an impudent street-wise urchin who knows how to look for a murderer on the lam, where to find an illegal fight, and how to drive a cab. But Gavroche is trapped in Hugo's recreation of 19th-century Paris in _Les Miserables_; he has no future in that world, and dies fighting for a stillborn revolution. Gallegher lives in New York City in the 1890's and runs errands for a newspaper, and there is no limit to the opportunities around him, and very little limit to his ability to seize them and nail a front page story.

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