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Выпуск: №9 (50) октябрь 2014  Рубрика: Филологические науки

The place of «Three loves» among other literary works by archibald Joseph Cronin

Т.С. Бурыгина, аспирант,
кафедра мировой литературы и методики ее преподавания,
Красноярский государственный педагогический университет им. В.П. Астафьева,
г. Красноярск, Россия
Статья посвящена второму роману Арчибальда Джозефа Кронина (1896–1981) – известного шотландского писателя-реалиста XX века. Его первая книга «Замок Броуди», вышедшая в 1931 году, стала триумфом, который трудно было повторить. Второй роман «Три любви» не имел успеха у читателей и критики, хотя сам А.Дж. Кронин был о нем высокого мнения. Заметное влияние на творчество писателя оказала его первая профессия врача. Некоторые книги обнаруживают глубокий интерес автора к патопсихологии. Так, например, в «Замке Броуди» представлена яркая картина бреда величия, а в романе «Три любви» описаны эротомания и сужение поля сознания. В данной статье предлагается новый взгляд на произведения А.Дж. Кронина и подчеркивается необходимость учитывать при их анализе психопатологический аспект. В противном случае поведение персонажей и их действия кажутся лишенными мотивации с точки зрения здравого смысла. Помимо профессиональных знаний и опыта, источником вдохновения писателю служила собственная биография. В романе «Три любви» идиостиль автора предстает уже сформированным и узнаваемым. В статье высказывается и доказывается оригинальное предположение о том, что в некотором смысле не «Замок Броуди», а «Три любви» можно считать отправной точкой творческого пути писателя, поскольку именно в этом романе впервые проявились особенности, характерные для последующих произведений А.Дж. Кронина.
Ключевые слова: английская литература XX века, реализм, идиостиль, врач-писатель, патопсихология, собственническая любовь, эротомания, бредовые расстройства

In 1932, a year after a successful debut, the promising talented writer (and a doctor by profession) Archibald Joseph Cronin released his second novel «Three Loves». According to the author, the second book was better than the first one, «Hatter’s Castle»: «I know it’s a better book than «HC» and makes a definite advance ...»1. A.J. Cronin needed to strengthen his reputation of a new bright star in the world of literature. However, those readers who had been looking forward to an exciting narrative with a fascinating plot and vivid (and sometimes grotesque) characters were disappointed with «Three Loves». Nevertheless, this book is really interesting for researchers of A.J. Cronin’s literary career. The novel contains autobiographical details repeatedly used by the author in his later works. In our opinion, the reason of such repetitions was not the lack of ideas (A.J. Cronin had a brilliant imagination and erudition) but the importance of details and events in the author’s life. It should be added that in his novels and the autobiography «Adventures in Two Worlds» A.J. Cronin used fictional place names for real toponyms, and the latter ones can be traced easily2.

The plot of «Three Loves» covers the nineteen years’ period from the end of the XIXth century till the beginning of the XXth century. In the fictional Scottish town Ardfillan (meaning the actual town Helensburgh3) there lived a happy family: Lucy Moore, 26 years old, Lucy’s husband Frank, 30, and their son Peter, aged eight. The fate of Lucy Moore, a strongwilled and obstinate woman, is in the centre of the story. Lucy’s words, claiming her three loves, explain the title of the book: «I have my husband. And my son. And my religion»4. Frank’s cousin, Anna Galton, mocked these words (and opposed social values at the same time): «The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen»5.

«You may kill yourself looking after your nice little son and in the end he’ll turn and spit in your eye. And that last piece of clap-trap. The immortality of the soul! Wait till you die - then you’ll find out you’ve been chasing balloons. <…> You squeeze the balloon that hard you’re going to burst it one of these days - then you’ll find your fancy notions up in the air, like smoke»6. Anna turned out to be right. Three parts of the novel are devoted to «bursting balloons»: loss of the husband (the first part), disappointment with the son (the second part), and disenchantment with the religion (the third part).

According to N.I. Weissman, a Soviet researcher of literature, the main themes raised in the novel, are: «the critical image of the selfish bourgeois morality, the tragic fate of a woman, the formation of a young person, the terrible loneliness in the proprietary world, and disillusionment»7. N.I. Weissman focused on the social aspect of the book. We can partly agree with this interpretation of the novel. N.I. Weissman sympathized with the main character, and saw her as a victim of circumstances «thrown in a whirlpool of life, faced with a world of injustice»8. «Soon the chain of misfortunes destroys the illusory prosperity of the bourgeois family. <...> The heroine’s images of love, happiness, and the perfect human relations die when faced with the tough reality, the lie and deceit of the world around her»9. However, N.I. Wiseman ignored the fact that this «chain of misfortunes», beginning with the infidelity and death of Lucy’s husband, was caused by Lucy’s actions «minutely examined» by A.J. Cronin10. Lucy was responsible for everything that happened to her; she herself made her choice and took decisions. It was impossible neither to persuade her to consider an alternative nor to see the other’s viewpoint. So the novel can be seen as a series of decisions and actions contrary to reasonable arguments.

At the beginning of the novel, despite her husband’s objections, Lucy invited his cousin Anna. After Frank’s death, despite the objections of her husband’s relatives and her own doubts, Lucy came to live at Miss Hocking’s place. Lucy’s ex-boss Lennox wanted to marry Lucy but she rejected his proposal because she relished the prospect of living with her son Peter. Despite the arguments of her brother Richard, Lucy insisted that her son enter the university to become a doctor. Actually, this was the only right Lucy’s step, the triumph through her own sacrifice. Then Lucy tried to interfere with Peter’s life and upset his marriage but she failed. And finally, despite Canon Edward’s warning of hardship and humiliation of monastic life11, Lucy left for a cloister in Switzerland only to find her last frustrating experience there.

The explanation of Lucy’s pertinacity lies in her selfishness, her egoism. Even her sacrifice for Peter was a kind of investment in her own future. When the prospect of a cozy life with the son collapsed, Lucy escaped into religion with a vague and unstable wish to serve God. Edward’s suggestion to «serve God outside, in the world» was rejected by Lucy with the argument: «It’s all or nothing with me. I’ve had the call»12. During the conversation with Lucy the Canon gave her a precise characterization: «I only want to save you from being stupid. You’re rather obstinate - I will not say wrong-headed, but you do take the bit between your teeth. Every logical person will tell you as I do»13.

Three years in the cloister spent, Lucy left it, ill and weak, despite the warning of complications, ignoring the advice of her doctor and nuns asking her to stay until the recovery. Having arrived in London, waiting for her son at the station, Lucy lost consciousness and was taken to hospital, where she died of pneumonia, lonely and unknown. N.I. Weissman blamed Peter unjustly for «not showing up on his mother’s deathbed call»14. It was clearly stated that the son knew nothing about Lucy’s arrival of his mother: being away from home, he received neither a letter nor a telegram15. However, «she might have set out alone for her son’s house; but a sort of powerlessness prevented her» and Lucy went on waiting for Peter at the station16. The author pointed to Lucy’s wrong behaviour: «The situation was of her making, the blame entirely her own. She should have remained at Sentiens until she was stronger; until she had heard from him; until all arrangements had been made for her return. But that was not she! And so she had come; she was here; waiting»17. The fatal end was logical and inevitable.

The novel was partly based on the writer’s biography, and some characters were borrowed from real life. «Lucy Moore was unquestionably modeled on his mother. Thankfully, unlike Lucy, Jessie did not pay the ultimate price, but lived to enjoy her son’s success, receive her due gratitude and die in the knowledge that her sacrifice had been appreciated»18. Jessie Montgomerie and Lucy Moore were Scottish Protestants and defied their families by marrying Irish Catholics. Both A.J. Cronin’s father Patrick and Peter’s father Frank were salesmen. Patrick Cronin died of tuberculosis when his son Archibald was seven. Lucy’s husband was killed in an accident when Peter was about eight years old. Both Jessie and Lucy started working hard to support themselves and their sons. A.J. Cronin said in the autobiography: «For two years my mother struggled to make ends meet; then, inexorably, through sheer necessity, she was forced to return to the paternal roof»19. Unlike Jessie, Lucy did not return to her relatives even in dire straits. Both Archibald Cronin and Peter Moore entered Glasgow University to study medicine and received a scholarship to pay for their education. After the successful introduction in «Three Loves», the autobiographical resources were used by A.J. Cronin in his literary work to compose stories and create characters.

The author’s idiostyle appeared fully formed in «Three Loves». According to A.J. Cronin, his «second book ... is more even, less exaggerated <...> I think that I got rid of the ponderous verbosity of «Hatter’s Castle»20. «The Republican» noted the improvement of the author’s technique and his ability to create images21. A.J. Cronin used various expressive means and stylistic devices (irony, repetitions, inversion etc.). Thus, describing the speech manner of hypocritical Richard’s wife Eva, the author repeated the word «lisp»22. Describing Canon Edward, Lucy’s brother-in-law, the author repeated the word «spasmodic», e.g., Edward was «spasmodically generous»23, and he showed «spasmodic interests in her affairs»24. Inverted syntax performs the emphatic function: «Oh, she is a queer enough, is Anna!»25, «She found herself hurrying - hurrying she knew not why»26, «She knew her power over Frank; and use that power she would»27, «She was not much, of course, was Alice»28, «They won, did Rose and he»29. Besides that, A.J. Cronin made extensive use of free indirect speech, and inner monologues, and the author’s descriptions which are sometimes too long and tedious. Some critics noted that the novel «would have been better for being shorter»30. N.I. Weissman added: «In the novel there are some episodes (e.g. the scenes with Miss Hocking) that are absolutely irrelevant to the development of the artistic ideas»31. The researcher was right in a way. Figuratively speaking, the participation of Ms. Hocking costs the book almost fifty pages (pages 177–221 are dedicated to Lucy’s living with Miss Lucy Hocking, to say nothing of several other scenes), and if one omits them, the novel loses nothing.

It is obvious that A.J. Cronin was professionally attracted by psychiatric conditions, especially by delusional disorders (James Brodie, the protagonist of «Hatter’s Castle», had the delusion of grandeur). In «Three Loves» the writer described the delusion of erotomanic type. The writer did not lose his interest in this type of disorder and returned to it in «A Song of Sixpence» (a partially autobiographical novel, published in 1964). Commenting on «Three Loves», «The Manchester Guardian» wrote: «None of the story makes pleasant reading, for the characters are never allowed any of the virtues, even if they manage in an aimless way to avoid the vices. The abnormal may be of absorbing interest to the student, but the amateur may be pardoned for wishing for more frequent opportunities for studying the normal»32.

Indeed, «Three Loves» is the only book by Cronin where there are no good characters (some of them can at most be described as neutral ones). And the mad Miss Hocking, being the brightest and the most vivid person in «Three Loves», may as well be pointed out as one of the most curious characters created by A.J. Cronin. In this regard, we agree with the American reviewer Basil Davenport, who said: «It almost seems as if Mr. Cronin were more at home with abnormal psychology than with sanity»33.

In fact, Dr. Cronin described mental disorders in progress with professional accuracy. The cases of erotomania, or de Clerambault’s syndrome, were presented in every detail. Miss Hocking from «Three Loves» and the spinster lady Miss Greville from «A Song of Sixpence» had much in common: both women were physically strong and active, both were connoisseurs of fine arts, both developed erotomania, and local clergymen became objects of their affection. In a paroxysm of rage Miss Pinkie Hocking attacked Lucy and tried to strangle her. By the way, the protagonist of «The Adventures in two worlds» while working at an asylum in Lochlea was nearly strangled by a patient34. Both Miss Hocking and Miss Greville were taken to psychiatric clinics and degrade irreversibly. Lucy was forced to move out of Miss Hocking’s home, and the Carrolls had to leave the apartment of the hospitable Miss Greville. The cases veraciously described, it can be assumed that Dr. Cronin was not only inspired by the writings of the outstanding psychiatrists G. de Clerambault35, E. Kraepelin, and E. Kretschmer who studied erotomania among other disorders, but he might have dealt with mental disorders personally.

The mental state of Lucy Moore was also transformed in the course of the story. Gradually the author was revealing Lucy’s stubbornness and egocentrism, lack of self-criticism and progressive narrowing of consciousness up to a dominating idea (monoidea). The aim chosen, Lucy made every effort to pursue it. Lucy believed that the leading force of all her actions was love though this possessive love of hers could destroy lives and disfigure personalities (The theme of abnormal, possessive love was raised once again in Cronin’s novel «The Spanish Gardener» in 1951). As for Lucy’s religious feelings, there was no real devotion towards God as Lucy never thought of serving Him in the world, e.g. by volunteering and helping people in need. In a way the novel «Three Loves» forestalls and illustrates Erich Fromm’s conceptions expressed in «The Art of Loving» (1956), such as: «Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one «object» of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism»36; «In motherly love, two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child’s separation. It is only at this stage that motherly love becomes such a difficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give everything and to want nothing but the happiness of the loved one»37.

Thus, beginning with «Three Loves», A.J. Cronin made extensive use of autobiographical details and facts in his literary work. Besides, the novel demonstrated the author’s keen interest in mental disorders and the doctor’s professional competence. While «Hatter’s Castle» gave a precise record of the delusion of grandeur, the second book filled A.J. Cronin’s gallery of pathological characters with the cases of erotomania and narrowing of consciousness. In addition to that, «Three Loves» is the only novel by A.J. Cronin with a complete lack of good characters. Some characters and events described in the novel recurred slightly changed in later works by A.J. Cronin.


1. Davies, Alan. A.J. Cronin. The Man Who Created Dr Finley. London: Alma Books, 2011. P. 105.
2. Ibid. P. 10.
3. Ibid.
4. Cronin, A.J. Three Loves. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1956. P. 107.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Weissman N.I. A.J. Cronin – Romanist (Evolutsiya tvorchestva) [A.J. Cronin – novelist]: Dis. … Cand. Philol. Moscow, 1966. (in Russian). P. 58.
8. Ibid. P. 59.
9. Ibid. P. 91–92.
10. Davies, Alan. A.J. Cronin. The Man Who Created Dr Finley. London: Alma Books, 2011. P. 113.
11. Cronin, A.J. Three Loves. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1956. P. 377.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid. P. 378.
14. Weissman N.I. A.J. Cronin – Romanist (Evolutsiya tvorchestva) [A.J. Cronin – novelist]: Dis. … Cand. Philol. Moscow, 1966. (in Russian). P. 97.
15. Cronin, A.J. Three Loves. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1956. P. 443.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid.
18. Davies, Alan. A.J. Cronin. The Man Who Created Dr Finley. London: Alma Books, 2011. P. 113.
19. Cronin, A.J. Adventures in Two Worlds. London: New English Library, 1987. P. 238.
20. Salwak, Dale. A.J. Cronin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985. P. 32.
21. Ibid.
22. Cronin, A.J. Three Loves. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1956. Pp. 38, 39, 41, 254, 303.
23. Ibid. P. 199.
24. Ibid. P. 280.
25. Ibid. P. 61.
26. Ibid. P. 126.
27. Ibid. P. 128.
28. Ibid. P. 311.
29. Ibid. P. 315.
30. Salwak, Dale. A.J. Cronin. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1985. P. 32.
31. Weissman N.I. A.J. Cronin – Romanist (Evolutsiya tvorchestva) [A.J. Cronin – novelist]: Dis. … Cand. Philol. Moscow, 1966. (in Russian). P. 106.
32. Davies, Alan. A.J. Cronin. The Man Who Created Dr Finley. London: Alma Books, 2011. P. 112.
33. Davenport, Basil. Chasing Balloons. The Saturday Review of Literature, April 2, 1932. P. 633. Available at: http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1932apr02-00633a02 (accessed 09.08.2014).
34. Cronin, A.J. Adventures in Two Worlds. London: New English Library, 1987. P. 21–22.
35. Signer, S.F. “Les psychoses passionnelles” reconsidered: a review of de Clerambault’s cases and syndrome with respect to mood disorders. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. July 1991; 16(2): 81–90. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1188298/pdf/jpn00038-0039.pdf (accessed 09.08.2014).
36. Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving. New York, 1956. P. 46. Available at: https://archive.org/details/TheArtOfLoving (accessed 09.08.2014).
37. Ibid. P. 51–52.