Columbia Library columns (v.28(1978Nov-1979May))

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  v.28,no.3(1979:May): Page 13  


Henry Harland: The Man
and the Masks


REPARING to leave New York to setde in England with
his wife for at least a year, the American novelist Henry
Harland wrote to his godfather, the poet and banker
Edmund Clarence Stedman: "Very suddenly Aline and I have
made up our minds to sail with my mother and father for England
on the 24th [of July, 1889]." Unlike Joyce's Stephen Dedalus,
who felt the need to reject family, country, and religion in order
to become an artist, or those Americans who, after World War I,
became the "Lost Generation" in their rejection of American val¬
ues, Harland chose to leave New York for other reasons. Indeed,
as his letters among the Stedman papers at Columbia reveal, he was
not leaving in the heat of anger or rejection: "Of course," he
wrote to Stedman, "we may be unable to bear the lonesomeness,
and so come back sooner. ... I promise you, our hearts are heavy
at the prospect; but it seems to us expedient and wise."

Nor was Harland's decision to leave America (he would not re¬
turn for thirteen years) the result of his failure as a writer. Success¬
ful in the publication of five novels and a volume of short stories
under the pseudonym of "Sidney Luska," he was, at the age of
twenty-eight, respected by critics and general readers alike. His
adoption of a Jewish-sounding pseudonym (he was himself raised
as a Unitarian) and his use of Jewish characters resulted from a
driving desire to succeed as a writer with what he called-in a let¬
ter to Stedman before the publication of his sensational As It Was
Written: A Jewish Musician's Story (1885) —"new" matetial con¬
sisting of ethnic and supernatural elements.

With the publication of his third novel. The Yoke of the Thorah
(1887), a significant turn of events occurred. In the novel, the

  v.28,no.3(1979:May): Page 13