Dullness in defense of marriage: The Common Law

The Common Law is treatise in defense of marriage masquerading as a romance novel. Robert W. Chambers intertwines the two themes  but never succeeds in blending them.

Artist Louis “Kelly” Neville, a facile and prolific artist, is at work when Valerie West knocks at his door seeking modeling work. Neville hires her, finding her intellect, youth, and enthusiasm for life as enchanting as her form.

Valerie adores Neville, but enjoys the company of other creative people of her age as well. The artists all want to sleep with the lovely lass, but she’s giving nothing away.

Neville proposes marriage, but Valerie won’t have it. She thinks, rightly, Neville’s social set would snub him if he married a model. She offers to become his mistress instead. Neville won’t have that.

The characterizations don’t work, the implausible plot plods, and the philosophical discourse is depressing.

All the while they are bickering over whether they will or won’t marry, Valerie confines her caresses to the cat and Neville gives his kisses to his mother. I’ve seen more passionate displays by people selecting mangoes in the grocery produce department.

Finally Chambers resorts to drastic action in the form of two attempted rapes to wrap things up so his characters can live happily ever after and readers can find something more interesting to read.

The Common Law
by Robert W. Chambers
Illustrations by Charles Dana Gibson
D. Appleton, 1911
Project Gutenberg e-book #13813
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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