Borlase and Son by T. Baron Russell
'Borlase and Son' has the merit, first of all, of actuality'. As the preface is dated for May last, one may credit the author with prophetic power, or at least with that special affinity for the actual, the engrossing topic, which is a very necessary quality in the melodramatist. The scene of the story is the suburban district about Peckham Rye, where the Armenians have just fought out a quarrel, and, moreover, the epitasis (as Ben Jonson would call it) of the story dates from fall of stocks incident upon a revolution among the Latin peoples of America.
But the author has an interest beyond that derivable from such allusions. He has been called the Zola of Camberwell, and, inappropriate as the pepithet is, it is to Zola we must turn for what is, perhaps, the supreme achievement in that class of fiction of which 'Borlase and Son' is a type. In 'Au Bonheur des Dames' Zola has set forth the intimate glories and shames of the great warehouse – has, in fact, written an epic for drapers; and in 'Borlase and Son', a much smaller canvas, our author has drawn very faithfully the picture of the smaller 'emporium', with its sordid avarice, its underpaid labour, its intrigue, its 'customs of trade'.
The suburban mind is not invariably beautiful, and its working is here delineated with unsentimental vigour. Perhaps the unctuousness of old Borlase is somewhat overstated, and the landladies may be reminiscent of Dickens. In spite of its 'double circle' plot, 'Borlase and Son' has much original merit, and the story, a little slender starveling of a story, is told very-neatly and often very humorously. For the rest, the binding of the book is as ugly as one could reasonably expect.
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