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A Tribute

by Agnes Repplier

That very popular and successful story-writer Anna Katharine Green is reported to have said to a recent interviewer: “I am just simple enough in my hero-worship to feel satisfied that I have been able to distinguish myself sufficiently to have received heart letters from such masters as Gladstone and Wilkie Collins.”

This is an interesting statement. Gladstone and Wilkie Collins were not precisely twins of the intellect; and the author of The Woman in White (which may heaven make immortal!) might have been not unnaturally drawn to unbosom himself to the author of The Leavenworth Case. But a “heart letter” from Mr. Gladstone was more than an honor; it was an international episode, which no simplicity of hero-worship can lessen into insignificance. What wonder that the agitated reviewer, contemplating this phenomenon, should reverently exclaim: “How serious is the influence of such a writer in the destinies of men!”

We wish the world could know how far Mr. Gladstone was influenced by Anna Katharine Green. Fiction is a power in the land, and Mr. Lang has just confessed that the book which came nearest to molding his early career was Oliver Twist. “Captivated in extreme youth by the Dodger and Charlie Bates, I once very nearly yielded to the temptation to relieve an elderly gentleman of his pocket-handkerchief.” If Mr. Gladstone learned from The Leavenworth Case and its successors how to commit crime and conceal it; if he applied the test of these remarkable stories to human nature, and read by their help the habits and thoughts of men, some sidelights might be thrown upon his political tactics. Under any circumstances, a heart-letter from his pen must have been in the nature of a sorely needed revelation. The faculty of concealing his thoughts in words, of separating conviction from argument, was not the least striking of the great statesman’s talents.