2012年11月10日 星期六

Gilbert Cannan


by Romain Rolland
Translated by Gilbert Cannan

"Jean-Christophe" is the history of the development of a musician of genius. The present volume comprises the first four volumes of the original French, viz.: "L'Aube," "Le Matin," "L'Adolescent," and "La Révólte," which are designated in the translation as Part I—The Dawn; Part II—Morning; Part III—Youth; Part IV—Revolt. Parts I and II carry Jean-Christophe from the moment of his birth to the day when, after his first encounter with Woman, at the age of fifteen, he falls back upon a Puritan creed. Parts III and IV describe the succeeding five years of his life, when, at the age of twenty, his sincerity, integrity, and unswerving honesty have made existence impossible for him in the little Rhine town of his birth. An act of open revolt against German militarism compels him to cross the frontier and take refuge in Paris, and the remainder of this vast book is devoted to the adventures of Jean-Christophe in France.
His creator has said that he has always conceived and thought of the life of his hero and of the book as a river. So far as the book has a plan, that is its plan. It has no literary artifice, no "plot." The words of it hang together in defiance of syntax, just as the thoughts of it follow one on the other in defiance of every system of philosophy. Every phase of the book is pregnant with the next phase. It is as direct and simple as life itself, for life is simple when the truth of it is known, as it was known instinctively by Jean-Christophe. The river is explored as though it were absolutely uncharted. Nothing that has ever been said or thought of life is accepted without being brought to the test of Jean-Christophe's own life. What is not true for him does not exist; and, as there are very few of the processes of human growth or decay which are not analysed, there is disclosed to the reader the most comprehensive survey of modern life which has appeared in literature in this century.
To leave M. Rolland's simile of the river, and to take another, the book has seemed to me like a, mighty bridge leading from the world of ideas of the nineteenth century to the world of ideas of the twentieth. The whole thought of the nineteenth century seems to be gathered together to make the starting-point for Jean-Christophe's leap into the future. All that was most religious in that thought seems to be concentrated in Jean-Christophe, and when the history of the book is traced, it appears that M. Rolland has it by direct inheritance.
M. Rolland was born in 1866 at Clamecy, in the center of France, of a French family of pure descent, and educated in Paris and Rome. At Rome, in 1890, he met Malwida von Meysenburg, a German lady who had taken refuge in England after the Revolution of 1848, and there knew Kossuth, Mazzini, Herzen, Ledin, Rollin, and Louis Blanc. Later, in Italy, she counted among her friends Wagner, Liszt, Lenbach, Nietzsche, Garibaldi, and Ibsen. She died in 1908. Rolland came to her impregnated with Tolstoyan ideas, and with her wide knowledge of men and movements she helped him to discover his own ideas. In her "Mémoires d'une Idéaliste" she wrote of him: "In this young Frenchman I discovered the same idealism, the same lofty aspiration, the same profound grasp of every great intellectual manifestation that I had already found in the greatest men of other nationalities."
The germ of "Jean-Christophe" was conceived during this period—the "Wanderjahre"—of M. Rolland's life. On his return to Paris he became associated with a movement towards the renascence of the theater as a social machine, and wrote several plays. He has since been a musical critic and a lecturer on music and art at the Sorbonne. He has written Lives of Beethoven, Michael Angelo, and Hugo Wolf. Always his endeavor has been the pursuit of the heroic. To him the great men are the men of absolute truth. Jean-Christophe must have the truth and tell the truth, at all costs, in despite of circumstance, in despite of himself, in despite even of life. It is his law. It is M. Rolland's law. The struggle all through the book is between the pure life of Jean-Christophe and the common acceptance of the second-rate and the second-hand by the substitution of civic or social morality, which is only a compromise, for individual morality, which demands that every man should be delivered up to the unswerving judgment of his own soul. Everywhere Jean-Christophe is hurled against compromise and untruth, individual and national. He discovers the German lie very quickly; the French lie grimaces at him as soon as he sets foot in Paris.
The book itself breaks down the frontier between France and Germany. If one frontier is broken, all are broken. The truth about anything is universal truth, and the experiences of Jean-Christophe, the adventures of his soul (there are no other adventures), are in a greater or less degree those of every human being who passes through this life from the tyranny of the past to the service of the future.
The book contains a host of characters who become as friends, or, at least, as interesting neighbors, to the reader. Jean-Christophe gathers people in his progress, and as they are all brought to the test of his genius, they appear clearly for what they are. Even the most unpleasant of them is human, and demands sympathy.
The recognition of Jean-Christophe as a book which marks a stage in progress was instantaneous in France. It is hardly possible yet to judge it. It is impossible to deny its vitality. It exists. Christophe is as real as the gentlemen whose portraits are posted outside the Queen's Hall, and much more real than many of them. The book clears the air. An open mind coming to it cannot fail to be refreshed and strengthened by its voyage down the river of a man's life, and if the book is followed to its end, the voyager will discover with Christophe that there is joy beneath sorrow, joy through sorrow ("Durch Leiden Freude").
Those are the last words of M. Rolland's life of Beethoven; they are words of Beethoven himself: "La devise de tout âme héroïque."
In his preface, "To the Friends of Christophe," which precedes the seventh volume, "Dans la Maison," M. Rolland writes:
"I was isolated: like so many others in France I was stifling in a world morally inimical to me: I wanted air: I wanted to react against an unhealthy civilization, against ideas corrupted by a sham élite: I wanted to say to them: 'You lie! You do not represent France!' To do so I needed a hero with a pure heart and unclouded vision, whose soul would be stainless enough for him to have the right to speak; one whose voice would be loud enough for him to gain a hearing, I have patiently begotten this hero. The work was in conception for many years before I set myself to write a word of it. Christophe only set out on his journey when I had been able to see the end of it for him."
If M. Rolland's act of faith in writing Jean-Christophe were only concerned with France, if the polemic of it were not directed against a universal evil, there would be no reason for translation. But, like Zarathustra, it is a book for all and none. M. Rolland has written what he believes to be the truth, and as Dr. Johnson observed: "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it…."
By its truth and its absolute integrity—since Tolstoy I know of no writing so crystal clear—"Jean-Christophe" is the first great book of the twentieth century. In a sense it begins the twentieth century. It bridges transition, and shows us where we stand. It reveals the past and the present, and leaves the future open to us….

Gilbert Cannan

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Gilbert Cannan (25 June 1884 – 30 June 1955) was a British novelist and dramatist.


Early life

Born in Manchester of Scottish descent, he got on badly with his family, and in 1897 he was sent to live in Oxford with the economist Edwin Cannan. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and King's College, Cambridge; he started on a legal career, but turned to writing in 1908, after a short spell as an actor.


Cannan worked first as a translator, and reviewed in London publications. Many of his novels are in part autobiographical, and fit into a novel sequence the Lawrie Saga, around the character Stephen Lawrie. Samuel Butler was a major influence on his fiction. In 1914, the novelist Henry James in an article in The Times named Cannan as one of four significant up-and-coming authors, alongside D.H. Lawrence, Compton Mackenzie and Hugh Walpole.[1]
He was employed as a secretary by J. M. Barrie, working with him in their efforts against censorship of the theatre by the Lord Chamberlain. A relationship developed in 1909 between Cannan and Barrie's wife Mary (née Ansell), a former actress who felt neglected in her marriage. Cannan had been wooing Kathleen Bruce, who at the same time was receiving advances from explorer Robert Falcon Scott. When Bruce decided to marry Scott, Mary Barrie's sympathy for Cannan developed a momentum of its own. Her husband sought to be reconciled, but relented and divorced her in a high-profile case, and she and Cannan were married in 1910. Cannan was caricatured as Mr. Gunn, a minor character in George Bernard Shaw's 1911 drama Fanny's First Play.
Gilbert Cannan at his Mill by Mark Gertler
During World War I he was a pacifist and then conscientious objector, and was involved in the National Council Against Conscription. He used his experiences in later novels, making the character Melian Stokes in Pugs and Peacocks a portrait of Bertrand Russell. He had known Ottoline Morrell from before the war. During it he moved in her circle, introducing her to D.H. Lawrence, and knew also Dora Carrington, Dorothy Brett and the artist Mark Gertler. Cannan's book Mendel was based on Gertler's early life (Mendel being his Yiddish given name), and explored his relationships with C.R.W. Nevinson and Carrington. Gertler painted Gilbert Cannan and his Mill; the picture is now in the Ashmolean Museum. The mill was at Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire, where Cannan was living in 1916, and which attracted a number of his intellectual circle (including Lawrence and his wife Frieda, and Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry). The picture also shows the Cannan's two dogs, Sammy on the left and a Newfoundland dog Luath whose coat was copied for Nana, the dog who served as the Darling children's nurse in Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up.[2] In 1916, partly in response to the devastating effects of the war and the threat of conscription, Cannan suffered a mental breakdown, an experience which he vividly described in his book, The Release of the Soul.[3]
His marriage ended in 1918 when he had an affair with Gwen Wilson. However, she married Henry Mond in 1920 while Cannan was lecturing in the United States. Exotically for the time, Cannan lived with her and her new husband in a ménage à trois in their home, Mulberry House, in Smith Square, Westminster.
After the war Cannan devoted himself to writing, translation work and travel but another mental breakdown in 1923 proved untreatable. He became a mental patient at The Priory Hospital, Roehampton. He then spent the rest of his life confined to Holloway Sanatorium near Virginia Water where he died of cancer on 30 June 1955.[4]


The poet May Wedderburn Cannan and her sister, writer Joanna Cannan, were cousins of his, daughters of the academic Charles Cannan (Dean of Trinity College, Oxford, and Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press); as was Professor Edwin Cannan, the noted LSE economist (and brother of Charles Cannan); Joanna's daughter Diana Pullein-Thompson was his biographer. Joanna Cannan's son, Denis Cannan also followed in his footsteps, becoming a dramatist in his own right.


  • Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland (1910–1913) translator
  • Peter Homunculus (1909) first novel
  • Heinrich Heine's Memoirs, edited by Gustav Karpeles (1910) translator
  • Devious Ways (1910) novel
  • Little Brother (1912) novel
  • The Joy of the Theatre (1913) essays
  • Four Plays (1913)
  • Round The Corner (1913) novel
  • Love (1914)
  • Old Mole (1914) novel
  • Old Mole's Novel (1914) novel
  • Satire (1914)
  • Young Earnest – The Romance Of A Bad Start In Life (1915)
  • Samuel Butler: A Critical Study (1915)
  • Windmills: A Book of Fables (1915) fantasy
  • Three Pretty Men (1916) novel
  • Mendel: a story of youth (1916) novel, closely based on Mark Gertler's early life
  • Everybody's Husband (1917) play, performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre with incidental music by Maurice Besly
  • The House with the Mezzanine, and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov (1917) translator with S. S. Koteliansky
  • The Stucco House (1917) novel
  • Freedom (1917)
  • The Anatomy of Society (1919)
  • Time and Eternity (1919)
  • Pink roses (1919)
  • My Life (1920)
  • Pugs and Peacocks (1921)
  • Sembal (1922)
  • Annette and Bennety (1922)
  • Noel – An Epic in Seven Cantos (1922)
  • Seven Plays (1923)
  • House of Prophecy (1924)
  • Diary of A.O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud, translator


  1. ^ Haycock, A Crisis of Brilliance (2009), 182.
  2. ^ Birkin, Andrew, J. M. Barrie and The Lost Boys, Constable & Co, 1979
  3. ^ Haycock, A Crisis of Brilliance (2009), 254.
  4. ^ http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTcannanG.htm Spartacus Educational


  • Gilbert Cannan: a Georgian prodigy (1978) Diana Farr (Diana Pullein-Thompson)
  • Haycock, David Boyd (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. London, Old Street Publishing. ISBN 978-1-905847-84-6.

External links