Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/16

This page has been validated.

x

INTRODUCTION

"The Spring Flight," by Inez Haynes Irwin; "Margaret Blake," by Chester T. Crowell; "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell; "The Courier of the Czar," by Elsie Singmaster; and "Uriah’s Son," by Stephen Vincent Benet—held high place on all lists. "The Spring Flight" had first place on the lists of two judges, second place on another, and ranked among the three highest on a third list. One judge argued tentatively that an episode in the life of Shakespeare is opposed to the spirit of the American short story, to which another replied that it is so much more than an episode and that any subject is subject for the American writer. Perhaps, too, the use of historical material is largely a matter of fashion. Another of the committee thought the story over-long for the content, the author having too generously endowed it with details of fact or apparent fact. Perhaps there may be too many men in the tavern scene; but, as the writer saw it, they were all men who helped to make Shakespeare what he was; every one of them helped to make the mood in which he found himself. Someone advanced that what the reader brings to a story of Shakespeare gives it apparent greatness. To which the obvious answer was that any story gains—or loses—by what the reader brings; he may bring so much, conceivably, as to throw most tales about the Man of Avon into the discard, whereas this particular one richly satisfies the reader’s demands. Not in Warwickshire had the weary writer been able to set in motion his "diamond sharp creative wheels"; to London he rode. Not at Montjoy's, hearing much of plays and players from his garrulous hostess; not at the Mermaid, among his familiars; not at John Harvard's home. But in the theatre—whither, after he confessed himself beaten, his feet bore him—he heard from a carpenter the small narrative which set those creative wheels turning. Whoever reads the story will feel the discouragement, prolonged sense of struggle to crystallize the drama in solution, the despair—"The game was up"—and will know when the ex-sailor tells of his voyage with Sir George Summers that the crystallizing agent has been found. Who reads will feel, too, Mrs. Irwin's insight into the great dramatist’s soul—who can analyze and dramatize better than a writer the struggle of a writer? Further, after the slowly moving action so harmonious with the deadlock of the mind, the reader with a