"The Fortunate Youth" was a book reluctantly accepted as deserving its praise. Most critics characterized it as a being "in Locke's best manner" (1), but do not fail to praise him as "the great wizard of plausibility," (2) in a backhanded type of compliment. There are no negative reviews for this book. Although most observe, with an ironic tone, how Paul Kegsworthy, the main character, has "the beauty of a young Greek god," (3) "which is destined to be a big asset." (2)
"Mr. Locke's 'Fairy Tale'" (3) as it is nicknamed, supports itself purely through the popular acceptance of the time. The Publishers' Weekly predicts that it will succeed through its charm:
"The situation is ingenious, without, perhaps the originality of 'Stella Maris,' 'Simon the Jester' or 'The Glory of Clementina.' Yet in general popularity the book might well outstrip any of these stories for there is vigor, wholesomeness and humanity in the tale - something of 'The Happy Warrior' spirit." (4)
It is precisely this humanity that will sell the book. It is the lack of originality which will prevent it from staying on the shelves.
Many reviewers discussed Locke's lack of credibility in his story. However, this was generally accepted as simply being part of Locke, and therefore, not viewed very negatively:
"Of course, if is all quite preposterous and fantastic, but then, fantasy and preposterousness are Mr. Locke's chief stock-in-trade; and so long as he can thus achieve the impossible, restore the dethroned romance to her rightful heritage, and cheerfully and unblushingly convince us that white is black and blue is green in the full light of day, it would be ungrateful to do less than recognize him as the magician of words that he is and one of the princes of modern entertainers." (2)
Not all reviews agreed on Locke's skills as a magician, but all accepted his book freely.
The easy going nature of the book certainly contributed to its short popularity. "The defect of this story is that it is an unmitigated fairy story, and a fairy story ought to be mitigated occasionally by a little touch of adversity." (5) By being entirely positive, entirely straightforward, without allowing for conflict, Locke gave his audience of the time what it wanted: a fairy tale. But he did not create a piece of literature with continuing value.
So, despite a warm welcome, the subtle ironic contempt shown by the reviewers was justified. They simply could not vocalize their feelings before the book rose and fell from its success.
Quoted Review Sources:
(1) Saturday Review, 3/28/1914, 117:407, quoted in 1914 Book Review Digest
(2) Bookman, April, 1914, 39:217
(3) New York Times Review of Books, 3/29/1914: 19:141
(4) The Publishers' Weekly, 3/21/1914, 85:1062
(5) The Outlook, 5/30/1914, 107:264
- Book Review Digest, 1914
- Review of Reviews, May, 1914, 49:627
- The Dial, 5/16/1914, 56:423
- Literary Digest, 5/9/1914, 48:1119
- A. L. A. Booklist, 5/14/1914, 10:372
- Athenaeum, 3/28/1914, 1:sup467
- Boston Transcript, 3/25/1914, p24
- Independent, 7/13/1914, 79:73
- Spectator, 5/16/1914, 112:837
- Springfield Republican, 4/16/1914, p5