I have read Pointed Roofs three times.

The first time it came to me with its original wardrobe, a different dress for every mood; and in some places the handwriting of the manuscript clothed the thought with the ragged urgency of haste; and in others it wore an aspect incredibly delicate and neat, as if the writer had caressed each word before setting it down. I decided then that Pointed Roofs was realism, was objective. The influence of the varying moods I inferred from the vagaries of the holograph, inclined me to believe that the book presented the picture of a conscious artist, outside her material, judging, balancing, selecting.

The second time the novel came to me in typescript, in the formal, respectable dress of the applicant for a clerkship. It was there to answer questions; willing to be examined but replying always in a single manner. I changed my opinion after that interview. I thought that I had a clearer sight of the method and I swung round to a flat contradiction of my earlier judgment. This, I thought, is the most subjective thing I have ever read. The writer of this has gone through life with eyes that looked inward; she has known every person and experience solely by her own sensations and reactions.

And, now, I have read Pointed Roofs a third time in the form of a printed book; suddenly ranged alongside all the other books, little and great, and challenging comparison with them. I am no longer prejudiced by the guise in which it comes; I have been able, within my limits, to judge it as I would judge any other novel.⁠ ⁠…

That final judgment I hesitate to set down in any detail. I do not wish to annoy either critic or public by a superabundant eulogy. I have too great faith in the worth of Miss Richardson’s work to fall into that extravagant praise which might well be understood as the easy escape of the bored friend taking the line of least resistance⁠—mainly in clichés.

But there is another side to the question due to the fact that Pointed Roofs cannot be ranged either with its contemporaries or with the classics in this kind. And I have volunteered to prepare the mind of the reader for something that he or she might fail otherwise properly to understand, even as I, myself, twice failed.

This statement need not provoke alarm. The possible failure to understand will not arise from any turgid obscurity of style, but only from a peculiar difference which is, perhaps, the mark of a new form in fiction. In the past, we have attempted a separation of two main categories in fiction, and in most cases the description of realist or romantic has been applicable enough. Neither can be applied in their ordinary usage to Miss Richardson. The romantic floats on the surface of his imaginings, observing life from an intellectual distance through glasses specially adapted to his own idiosyncrasies of taste. The realist wades waist-deep into the flood of humanity, and goes his way peering and choosing, expressing himself in the material of his choice and not in any distortion of its form.

Miss Richardson is, I think, the first novelist who has taken the final plunge; who has neither floated nor waded, but gone head under and become a very part of the human element she has described.

The “Miriam” of this book may be defined as a keen observer, even as I defined her after reading that holograph. Or she may figure, as I saw her in typescript, as a blind creature feeling her way with sensitive fingers and reading the unseen by the emotions of her mind. The very contradiction implies that the truth will be found in neither verdict. Miriam is, indeed, one with life; and the unexpectedness, the unanalysable quality of that fact may annoy the superficial critic and prejudice him to the point of forcing Pointed Roofs into some hard-and-fast category.

And it is only that one peculiarity for which I wish to prepare the readers of this book. It is a new attitude towards fiction, and one that I could not hope to explain in an introduction⁠—even if I could explain it at all; for explanation in this connection would seem to imply a knowledge that only the mystics can faintly realise.

Pointed Roofs is, I hope, but the first of many volumes which will express the passage of Miriam through life; and I leave all further praise of it to those who may have the insight to comprehend it.

For myself, as I have said, I have read it three times; and presently I shall certainly read it again.