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Translation of a Savage The Complete by Gilbert Parker


The Translation of a Savage was written in the early autumn of 1893, at Hampstead Heath, where for over twenty years I have gone, now and then, when I wished to be in an atmosphere conducive to composition.  Hampstead is one of the parts of London which has as yet been scarcely invaded by the lodging-house keeper.  It is very difficult to get apartments at Hampstead; it is essentially a residential place; and, like Chelsea, has literary and artistic character all its own.  I think I have seen more people carrying books in their hands at Hampstead than in any other spot in England; and there it was, perched above London, with eyes looking towards the Atlantic over the leagues of land and the thousand leagues of sea, that I wrote 'The Translation of a Savage'.  It was written, as it were, in one concentrated effort, a ceaseless writing.  It was, in effect, what the Daily Chronicle said of 'When Valmond Came to Pontiac', a tour de force.  It belonged to a genre which compelled me to dispose of a thing in one continuous effort, or the impulse, impetus, and fulness of movement was gone.  The writing of a book of the kind admitted of no invasion from extraneous sources, and that was why, while writing 'The Translation of a Savage' at Hampstead, my letters were only delivered to me once a week.  I saw no friends, for no one knew where I was; but I walked the heights, I practised with my golf clubs on the Heath, and I sat in the early autumn evenings looking out at London in that agony of energy which its myriad lives represented.  It was a good time.

The story had a basis of fact; the main incident was true.  It happened, however, in Michigan rather than in Canada; but I placed the incident in Canada where it was just as true to the life.  I was living in Hertfordshire at the time of writing the story, and that is why the English scenes were worked out in Hertfordshire and in London.  When I had finished the tale, there came over me suddenly a kind of feeling that the incident was too bold and maybe too crude to be believed, and I was almost tempted to consign it to the flames; but the editor of 'The English Illustrated Magazine', Sir C. Kinloch-Cooke, took a wholly different view, and eagerly published it.  The judgment of the press was favourable,—­highly so—­and I was as much surprised as pleased when Mr. George Moore, in the Hogarth Club one night, in 1894, said to me:  "There is a really remarkable play in that book of yours, 'The Translation, of a Savage'." 

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 Additional Info
 No. 303
 Posted on 8 June, 2006
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